Tag Archives: Congresswoman grace meng

Flushing elementary school awarded national Blue Ribbon

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo via Google Maps

The U.S. Department of Education designated Flushing’s P.S. 244 as a Blue Ribbon School this morning for its rigorous academic curriculum.

The National Blue Ribbon program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools across the country for achieving high learning standards or improvement in closing achievement gaps. P.S. 244 is one of only 335 schools that received the designation.

Principal Robert Groff thanked the secretary of education for the recognition. He said the school—which opened in 2008—hopes to continue its success and looks forward to excelling in the future.

“This clearly illustrates the hard work of our staff and families each day,” Groff said. “We have been able to build a community of learners for both students and adults alike that makes TALES a truly special place.”

Congresswoman Grace Meng said she was extremely proud of Principal Groff and all of the school’s students, teachers and staff, and congratulated all on achieving the national honor.

“Naming P.S. 244 as a Blue Ribbon School is great news,” said Meng. “This is a tremendous achievement and it further illustrates the great work of the entire school team.”

P.S. 244—also known as The Active Learning Elementary School (TALES)—is located at 137-20 Franklin Ave. and serves children from pre-kindergarten to third grade. According to Meng, the rigorous curriculum has an emphasis on social development and a focus on health and nutrition.

On Nov. 9 and 10, representatives from the school will be formally recognized in a special Washington, D.C. ceremony and presented with an award plaque and flag.


Op-ed: Congress must do more for consumer safety

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File Photo


Teething products causing gagging, dolls presenting choking hazards, toys containing excessive amounts of lead — these represent just some of the harrowing cases of dangerous imported consumer products of the past year. As global trade accelerates inexorably, we must be more vigilant than ever about the quality and safety of imported products. Fortunately, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has developed a new, state-of-the-art risk assessment program that has proven itself capable of protecting Americans from unsafe imported consumer products. But Congress is woefully underfunding the program, imperiling the safety of American families.

In 2013, more 235,000 importers brought a total of $723 billion worth of consumer products into the United States, an average of about $2 billion per day. And in that year, more than 80 percent of consumer product recalls involved an imported product.
In response to the rise in consumer product dangers and recalls in the past decade, the CPSC developed a Risk Assessment Methodology (“RAM”) pilot program for identifying dangerous imported consumer products. Through the program, the CPSC has stationed more inspectors at ports, and it has developed a risk-scoring software that identifies potentially problematic consumer products and the containers on which they are traveling.

This pilot program has proven effective. In 2013, CPSC conducted 26,491 screenings at U.S. ports — screenings which led to more than 12.5 million units of violative imports being prevented from reaching the hands of consumers. But the RAM pilot program is relatively small, with funding enabling surveillance on only 1 to 2 percent of imported goods within CPSC jurisdiction. Due to resource constraints, the CPSC has only been able to staff about 5 percent of the more than 300 U.S. ports.

Notwithstanding the great success of the RAM pilot and the low levels of funding, the budget proposed by the House Republicans could result in even lower funding for this valuable program and its software development. House Democrats should therefore seek revision of the CPSC funding bill in order to strengthen the RAM program and set it on a sustainable, long-term course. I will also be introducing legislation that would authorize a small CPSC user fee at our ports, bringing in significant resources for the RAM program at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.
The evidence is clear: put import surveillance on a sustainable course, and the country will be safer.

Congresswoman Meng represents the Sixth Congressional District covering much of northeastern and central Queens.


Senator Gillibrand visits Elmhurst to call for healthier school meals

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

As the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) is set to expire at the end of next month, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Elmhurst on Monday to call for its renewal and defend the availability of healthy breakfasts and lunches at public schools across America.

Gillibrand, along with Congresswoman Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and hunger advocates, came to I.S. 5 seeking greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables at schools, as well as expanding the amount of students eligible for a summer meal program.

“Class hasn’t started yet but we are already hard at work to make sure our children receive nutritious meals they need to thrive, both during the school year and during summer break,” Gillibrand said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure our children are well-fed.”

The HHFKA will expire on Sept. 30, and as Congress prepares to debate renewing the programs within the act, Gillibrand is advocating for preserving the existing nutrition standards including the requirement of fresh fruits vegetables every day; improving student participation rates in the School Breakfast Program; strengthening the ties between farmers, producers and meal service providers by bolstering farm-to-school programs; and helping school nutrition professionals meet their standard requirements, support peer mentorship programs and provide grants for improved kitchen equipment.

The HHFKA was a landmark piece of legislation that required school lunches to contain at least a one-half cup serving of fresh fruit and vegetables in order to be eligible for federal reimbursement.

“As a mother of two young boys who attend public school in Queens and as founder and co-chair of the Congressional Kids Safety Caucus, I know firsthand how important the fight for accessible and proper nutrition is,” Meng said.

In addition, Gillibrand is advocating to give more children the ability to access healthy summer meals by expanding access to the USDA Summer Food Service Program, as well as reducing barriers and making it easier for existing afterschool meal providers to sponsor Summer Meal Programs.

“Here in New York there are 1.7 million children who rely on this school meal,” Gillibrand said. “And over the summer, less than one-third of our kids can actually access those meals.”

Gillibrand’s Summer Meals Act would lower the threshold to allow areas with 40 percent or more of students receiving free or reduced lunch to be eligible for the program, down 10 percent from the current threshold of 50 percent. This would add 3.2 million children into eligibility.

“Our free summer meals program provides every child in the city the chance to eat healthy, nutritious food every day and that is critical for their development,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement. “By offering meals free of charge at accessible locations throughout the five boroughs, we are meeting families where they are and helping children continue good habits over the summer.”

Gillibrand’s legislation would provide children with transportation to summer meal sites, offer the option of an additional meal to children who attend evening programs, as well as reducing the paperwork for meal program sponsors that want to participate in the program.

“What the senator is doing here is bringing national attention to the fact that if you don’t have the tools to succeed, if we don’t give children the tools that they need, and those tools are more than books and pens and a classroom with wonderful teachers,” Katz said. “Those tools are also the nutrition that children need in order to focus, in order to have attention, in order to be able to succeed in life.”


Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus looking for airplane noise mitigation

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

File photo

Several local Congress members are continuing their fight to keep the skies over Queens — and communities across the country — quiet.

The Quiet Skies Caucus, whose membership includes Congresswoman Grace Meng and Congressman Joseph Crowley, as well as representatives from several different states, sent a letter to Bill Shuster, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (HTIC) chairman, and Peter DeFazio, HTIC ranking member, with a list of recommendations they would like to see added to the 2015 Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act.

This act would help address the harmful impacts of aircraft noise over Queens, Long Island and many other communities across the country.

The first recommendation is to mandate a robust community engagement process, including pre-decisional public hearings, for new flight paths or procedures or changes to existing flight paths and procedures.

“Meaningful, two-way communication with our communities is vital to ensuring that the concerns of residents are heard and incorporated into the final design of new airspace,” the letter stated.

The Quiet Skies Caucus hopes to require the FAA to use supplemental noise metrics when considering the impact of aviation noise on affected communities and lower the acceptable noise threshold for affected homes and businesses.

“[The] FAA should lower the current threshold from 65 to 55 DNL [Day-Night Average Sound Level] to reflect the fact that this standard, first established in the 1970s, is arbitrary and does not align with current health research and the lived experience of families in our congressional districts,” the caucus wrote.

“My district in Queens — and many other communities across the country — continue to suffer from the blistering sounds of airplanes, and that excessive noise is negatively impacting the quality of life in the neighborhoods we represent,” Meng said. “Many of the recommendations we outline in our request are measures that I‘ve pushed for since I was elected to Congress, and incorporating our suggestions into this broad FAA bill would be the most effective legislative vehicle to address the problem of aircraft noise. Relief can’t come soon enough for those affected by the barrage of airplanes. I respectfully ask the committee to include our recommendations in the bill.”

A third recommendation made is to clarify that airport operators are legally allowed to implement — and should strongly consider — noise mitigation options in communities experiencing aircraft noise levels below the current noise threshold.

They also hope to reform Section 213(c)(2) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which allows FAA to short-circuit the environmental review process when implementing new flight paths and to mandate independent research on the health impacts of aviation noise.

“For too long, the deafening roar of aircraft noise has burdened the communities that surround our airports — posing health risks, disrupting student learning and deteriorating their quality of life,” said Crowley. “Our airports can never be perfect neighbors, but we can take steps to make them better ones. Engaging our community, adequately studying the impact of aircraft noise, and implementing mitigation measures for affected residents are key steps in this process, and I’m proud to join my fellow caucus members in calling for these recommendations as part of the FAA Reauthorization Act.”


Free Juniper Valley Park concert series lineup announced

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of Juniper Park Civic Association

Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village will be rocking this summer with four free concerts as part of the 2015 Juniper Valley Park Summer Concert Series.

The concert series kicks off on July 14 with “Swing Night,” featuring music from the Gerard Carelli Orchestra (GCO). Gerard Carelli, a trombonist and vocalist, leads the GCO, which is one of New York’s most popular ensembles. The GCO has performed at many special events including the late actor Christopher Reeve’s 50th birthday; fundraisers hosted by former president Bill Clinton; and parties for celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito and restaurateur Drew Nieporent of Tribeca Grill and Nobu.

Carelli has also toured the world with famous musicians such as Ray Charles, and has two CDs to his name.

The three other free concerts in the series will be: Italian Night on July 21, featuring music from Elio Scaccio and Tony Valente Trio; ’80s Tribute Night on July 28, featuring the White Wedding Band playing popular hits from the 1980s; and, on Aug. 4, the NYPD Night Out Against Crime, where the band Generations will be playing classic rock ‘n’ roll music.

The 2015 Juniper Valley Park Free Summer Concert Series is sponsored by NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA). Co-sponsors include the Juniper Valley Park Conservancy, Crifasi Real Estate, O’Neill’s Restaurant, Queensboro UNICO and Rep.Grace Meng.

All concerts are free to the public and begin at 7 p.m. Concertgoers are invited to bring their own lawn chairs to comfortably view each performance.

Concert schedule and acts subject to change. For latest concert information and weather updates, call 718-651-5865 or visit the JPCA website.


Seven Queens students accepted to the US service academies

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of Congresswoman Grace Meng's office

Seven recent high school graduates from Queens will be all they can be in their college years after being accepted into various U.S. military service academies with the assistance of Congresswoman Grace Meng.

The academies consist of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland; U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado; U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point; and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy at New London, Connecticut.

Kate Gerodias from Middle Village graduated from Forest Hills High School and will be attending the Naval Academy; Zachary Kurre from Glendale graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School and will attend West Point this summer; Selah Cho of Fresh Meadows finished school at Marion Military Institute in Alabama and will attend West Point; Kevin Guo from Rego Park graduated from Hunter College High School and will be continuing his education at the Naval Academy; Julia Hsu from Flushing graduated from West Point Prep School and will go on to West Point this summer; John Makiling of Flushing graduated from Naval Academy Prep School and will continue on to the Naval Academy; and Daniel Zakrevski from Richmond Hill graduated from Bronx High School of Science and will be attending the Merchant Marine Academy.

“I am honored to congratulate these seven exceptional students,” Meng said. “All are outstanding individuals who will be future military leaders of our country. I have no doubt that they’ll make Queens and the nation proud.”

Students looking to attend the service academies are required to be nominated by their Congress member. The institutions then evaluate the nominations from across the nation and decide which nominees to accept.

The students nominated by Meng compete against students from across the country and must meet the highly competitive educational, physical and extracurricular standards set by the institutions. Meng’s Academy Review Board, which is a panel of local community leaders, assists Meng in the nomination process for students looking to attend the academies.

This year, a total of 33 students applied to be nominated by Meng. Of those 33 students, 20 were nominated by the Congresswoman.

To congratulate the students for being accepted to the service academies, Meng hosted a reception for them and their families at her office in Flushing. She also presented each student with a certificate of Congressional recognition.

Meng plans to continue her “U.S. Service Academy Information Night” for Queens students who are interested in applying to the U.S. Service Academies. The day and location will be announced in the near future.


Flushing rejoices for new affordable residential tower

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre  

In a city where rental rates are astronomical in most areas, housing salvation came to 143 families in the form of a partnership between the legendary Flushing Macedonia AME Church and developer BRP Companies.

The two-century-old religious institution and builder — along with all the Flushing politicos — praised the completion of the nearly $50 million, 143-unit affordable housing development named Macedonia Plaza in a ceremony on Friday.

The 14-story building at 37-08 Union St. replaced a municipal parking lot that the city transferred to BRP Companies at a reduced cost. Macedonia gave unused air rights from its adjacent building for the project, maximizing the height of the affordable housing tower.

“The mission of Macedonia AME Church is to minister to the social, spiritual and physical development of all people,” said Rev. Richard McEachern, senior pastor of the church. “We are grateful to God for the opportunity to provide much needed affordable housing to this community.”

Macedonia Plaza has 161,720 square feet of space, which includes a 9,000-square-foot ground level retail space that will be occupied by grocery store Tree of Life NY.

It has numerous green features as well, including a co-generation facility, and has earned a LEED Silver ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council. The co-generation system will use natural gas to generate electricity for the commercial and common space areas.

More than 30,000 people applied to live in Macedonia Plaza when the lottery for units in the building opened about two years ago. In December residents began moving into the building and now all units are fully leased.

The apartments were reserved for people and families earning from $19,063 to $59,820 annually. The building is broken into 27 studios, and 58 one-bedrooms, 55 two-bedrooms, and two three-bedroom units.

Amenities include a bike storage area on the ground floor, a common terrace on the second floor, a party room and a laundry room.

The building’s completion closes a chapter in plans to construct over Flushing municipal parking lots to feed the ever-exploding community’s population. The other chapters include One Flushing and Flushing Commons, which will be directly behind Macedonia Plaza.



Renovated Rego Park Social Security office reopens

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Property Shark/Scott Bintner

The Social Security office in Rego Park is up and running once again.

Renovations to the office located at 63-44 Austin St. forced its closure last December, making the hundreds of daily visitors have to travel to other offices around Brooklyn and Queens – including Jamaica, Flushing and Bushwick.

“The reopening of the Social Security facility in Rego Park is great news,” U.S. Rep. Grace Meng said. “I’m pleased that the facility has been modernized and I hope these improvements will allow its staff to better serve our borough.”

All 32 employees stationed at the Rego Park office prior to the renovation returned upon the office’s reopening. The full-service facility handles all matters including retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for qualified individuals.

The office is open five days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Click here for more information.


New law permits schools to close for more religious and cultural holidays

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo via UrbanUrban_ru/Flickr

For decades, the city closed schools for Christian and Jewish holidays but other religions’ holidays — like Eid al-Fitr and Diwali — didn’t receive the same benefit. But the passage of a new law backed by elected officials in Flushing is changing that.

Assemblyman Ron Kim introduced the legislation, and it was passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 17. The law allows the Department of Education to consider closing schools on days where large student absences are expected due to religious or cultural days of observance.

“This is about making sure that all Americans, regardless of where we come from, are institutionally recognized as first-class citizens,” Kim said. “Our strength as a democratic society lies in our ability to appreciate diversity and grow together by learning from each other.”

During a press conference, Kim explained that schools in Flushing will now be able to suspend classes for the Lunar New Year, which traditionally occurs in late January or early February. Lunar New Year is one of the most significant holidays for many Chinese, Korean, Japanese and other Asian ethnic groups, all of which are represented in the Flushing community.

The law calls for school districts to consider closing schools on holidays that are important to groups that account for at least 7.5 percent of the local population. In Flushing, 57 percent of the population is of Asian ancestry.

The new law will also affect students of Muslim or Hindu backgrounds, who account for a large share of students in many Queens school districts.

The passage of the bill marks the end of a long struggle that started with Congresswoman Grace Meng when she was a state assemblywoman in 2009 and first introduced a similar bill.

“Clearly, the time has come for our school system to recognize important holidays such as Lunar New Year, Diwali, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha just as it rightly does for holidays of other cultures and ethnicities,” Meng said. “We now need school districts around the country to follow New York’s lead, and I will continue my efforts on the federal level to accomplish that goal.”


Bramson ORT College expanding main Forest Hills campus

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

A small two-year college in Forest Hills has signed a lease for more space nearby to expand its facilities as part of a plan to become a larger institution.

Bramson ORT College, which currently enrolls 610 students, is renting 8,000 square feet of additional space at 68-80 Austin St. — a block away from the school’s main building at 69-30 Austin St.

The school hopes to build a new library, a student lounge, a bookstore, faculty offices and some new classrooms in the new space, which is under construction and will be completed by early 2015, according to school President Dr. David Kanani. Kanani said the expansion is part of a full reconstruction of the school to hopefully become a full four-year institution.

“We are restructuring the school, we are restructuring our staff, we are restructuring our facilities, we are adding new programs. We are really intent to make this one of the best two-year, career-oriented, post-secondary junior colleges in Queens, if not the state,” Kanani said. “And then after that, once we put that in good working order, then we will hopefully go for a four-year college.”

Recently, Congresswoman Grace Meng helped Bramson ORT from losing federal funds, which caused a difficult financial situation for the small school. The U.S. Department of Education was delaying financial aid for the school, and Meng intervened to bring both sides together and hasten the delivery of the funds to the institution.

Bramson ORT College, which has a campus in Brooklyn, has a history that stretches back to 1942. The school was originally established to serve refugees and immigrants during World War II.

Today it provides students with degrees in accounting, business management, computer technology, electronics, graphics and web design, paralegal, pharmacy technician and programming, among other subjects. Kanani hopes the expansion and reconstruction of the school will attract better students as well.

“I believe that when you improve the quality of the school as a whole, automatically you attract better students,” Kanani said. “Better students for us means students that want to learn.”


Local congress members endorse John Liu in state Senate race

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

In his bid to unseat state Sen. Tony Avella, former City Comptroller John Liu picked up another round of support from local congressional members.

Liu received endorsements on Monday from congress members Grace Meng, Gregory Meeks and Joseph Crowley, who cited his achievements as a councilman and the financial leader of the city.

“John has proven himself to be an outstanding public servant and I’m happy to support his candidacy for the New York State Senate,” Meng said. “His experience as our comptroller and as a Queens councilman make him well prepared to tackle the important issues in Albany, and I look forward to working with him to make our city, state and borough an even better place to live.”

The congress members add to a list of Liu supporters in the District 11 race, which already include Borough President Melinda Katz, numerous unions and city lawmakers.

Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his support of Avella. The incumbent also received an endorsement from the Communications Workers of America, District 1.



Street co-named for longtime Bayside school teacher

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Office of Councilmember Paul Vallone

Family, friends and former students of longtime P.S. 41 science teacher Geri Cilmi attended a street co-naming in her honor outside the Bayside school on Friday.

The new Mrs. Geri Cilmi Place street sign was unveiled at 214th Lane behind the school. Cilmi, who died in 2011 after battling cancer for four years, taught at the school for about 25 years and was a teacher in city schools for about four decades.

During her time at P.S. 41 she was loved by colleagues and students for her extraordinary effort as a teacher. Cilmi hosted science nights in the school, where parents and students were able to do a variety of experiments. She applied for numerous grants for the school, including one from NASA for a weather station. She also set up the school’s garden, was vice president of the Elementary School Science Association (ESSA), and made various science presentations for children.

Photo courtesy Tom Cilmi

Cilmi lived in Flushing with her husband, Tom, and her son. Various elected officials, including Councilmember Paul Vallone, Borough President Melinda Katz and Congresswoman Grace Meng, were in attendance for the street co-naming ceremony.

“Mrs. Cilmi’s life was dedicated to teaching and showing her students that science was beyond the classroom,” Vallone said. “To co-name the street in front of the school where she spent over a decade is a fitting tribute to her career and tells the community Mrs. Cilmi will forever be in our hearts.”



Queens Bangladeshi community mourns victims of factory collapse on anniversary

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre


Gone, but not forgotten.

Congresswoman Grace Meng organized a vigil on Thursday for 1,129 Bangladeshi garment workers, who perished when a faulty building collapsed a year ago, to honor their memory and call for an increase in occupational safety and compensation.

“No one should go to work every day fearing for their life, because the building they work in is not structurally sound,” Meng said.

The Rana Plaza factory collapse occurred near the capital city of Dhaka last year due to safety conditions with the building.

Cracks were discovered in the eight-story building, but were not repaired and employees were ordered to work in the structure. More than 2,500 people were injured after the collapse.

Many other buildings in the garment industry in Bangladesh share safety concerns, according to union representatives. Some of those buildings produce goods for major American retailers, including Walmart and the Gap, just to name a few.

A coalition of politicians and labor union officials that were present at the vigil hope to bring awareness to the issue and want American companies to pledge to increase safety measures.

Little has been done to relieve working conditions, according to union representatives, and they want to prevent another tragedy.

“I think they are more concerned about the bottom line than they are concerned about the workers who have made them so successful,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “The way we make change is by increasing public awareness of what happened and why it happened.”