Tag Archives: Councilman Eric Ulrich

20-year-old Rockaway man among seven dead in Amtrak derailment


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook

Updated Thursday, May 14 10:43 a.m. 

A 20-year-old naval midshipman from Rockaway Beach, who was on his way home, is among the seven people killed after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia Tuesday night, according to reports.

Justin Zemser, who was on leave, as a cadet at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland was on his way home to visit family in Rockaway.

The academy confirmed the death of Zemser, who was a sophmore midshipman third class. He was a member of the 17th Company at the academy, an English major and academic honor student. Zemser was also on the Navy Sprint Football Team, the Jewish Midshipman Club, and the Semper Fi Society.

“Justin was a talented, highly respected young man with a tremendously bright future. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the Zemser family, and our extended USNA family, during this very difficult time,” said Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Walter “Ted” Carter.

Zemser’s parents released a statement on a Facebook page created in memory of their son, who was valedictorian at Channel View High School and finishing his second year at the academy. The page, titled “RIP Justin Zemser” garnered over 3,000 likes and features a profile photo of the young man with his mother, who lost her only child.

“He was a loving son, nephew and cousin, who was very community minded,” the statement said. “This tragedy has shocked us in the worst way and we wish to spend this time grieving with out close family and friends.”

State Senator Joseph Addabbo, whose district covers the Rockaways, sent out his condolences to Zemser’s family and called the young man  a “good Rockaway neighbor.”

“My deepest condolences and prayers go out to the family of Justin Zemser, a Rockaway resident who passed away as a result of the Amtrak train derailment Tuesday night. News of his passing was reported by the media. I understand Justin was returning home from his studies at the U.S. Naval Academy,” Addabbo said. “Many in Rockaway, including my staff member Sandee Doremus, had known Justin since he was a child and knew him to be a good Rockaway neighbor. Justin’s commitment to serve our country is still and always will be greatly appreciated.”

Councilman Eric Ulrich, who represents the Rockaways, also sent out his condolences to the family of the cadet, who was a former intern at his office.

“Today, the Rockaway community mourns the death of Justin Zemser, a local resident and former intern in my office, who lost his life last night in the tragic Amtrak train derailment. Justin was truly a bright, talented and patriotic young man,” Ulrich said. “My deepest prayers and sympathy go out to his family and friends who are grieving during this very difficult time. He will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him.”

Zemser was also an intern at Councilman Donovan Richards’s office, who expressed his sadness upon hearing the news of his death.

Justin Zemser and Councilman Donovan Richards. (Photo courtesy of Councilman Richard's office)

Justin Zemser and Councilman Donovan Richards. (Photo courtesy of Councilman Richard’s office)

“I was greatly pained by last night’s train derailment, a pain that quickly intensified when I recognized one of the victims,” Richards said. “Justin Zemser showed great commitment and initiative as an intern in our office, well before he dedicated his life to our country by joining the U.S. Naval Academy. He was a rising star that will be greatly missed by the Rockaway community. His family is in my prayers and my office is always open if there is any way in which we can help.”

According to reports, the Amtrak train, which had left Washington and was heading to New York, derailed around 9:30 p.m. in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia.

More than 200 people were wounded, including the train’s conductor.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life from Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 that derailed north of Philadelphia Tuesday evening,” Amtrak said in a statement.

Emergency responders are on scene and the investigation is still ongoing to determine the cause of the derailment.

The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed Wednesday the train was traveling at more than 100 mph, double the speed limit, as it was entering a sharp curve before derailing. Before entering the curve, the speed limit is reportedly 70 mph.

Service will be provided between Washington and Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and New York and Boston, according to Amtrak. There will be no Amtrak service between New York and Philadelphia, but New Jersey Transit will honor Amtrak tickets between New York City and Trenton.

Anyone with questions about friends or family on the train can call the Amtrak Incident Hotline at 800-523-9101.

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Howard Beach boardwalk needs handicapped-accessible ramp, additional lighting


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER / Photo by Angela Matua

BY ANGELA MATUA

The Howard Beach boardwalk has been the cause of many headaches in the community and after a reconstruction, some are looking to further improve the 2,000-foot-long cement walkway.

The boardwalk, which begins in Coleman Square in Howard Beach and ends in Hamilton Beach, was in disrepair for many years. After Hurricane Sandy damaged the boardwalk further, residents were no longer allowed to use it.

Repairs were made to the walkway, which was converted from a wooden boardwalk, and finished during the first week of December of last year.

But repairs took longer than anticipated after a dispute broke out between the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) over who owned the land.

DCAS eventually took responsibility and Councilman Eric Ulrich pressed the agency to make repairs.

Salvatore Simonetti, chief of staff for the councilman’s office, is now pushing for more lighting to be installed to make the walkway safer and for a handicapped-accessible ramp to be built at the Coleman Square entrance.

According to Hamilton Beach Association President Roger Gendron, the original scope of the project was just to repair the wooden boardwalk. But when they installed a concrete walkway instead, stairs were constructed on the Howard Beach side. Hamilton Beach’s entrance is a ramp.

Simonetti has reached out to local officials and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to alleviate the problem, but the dispute over who owns that part of the boardwalk has come up again and is making it harder to pinpoint who claims the responsibility of the additional lighting and ramp.

He recently met with DOT officials to walk across the boardwalk and point out where additional lighting can be placed. According to Simonetti, the DOT will work to install lighting, but there is not an exact timeline as to when this project will be completed.

“If someone goes there and realized that it’s not ADA-compliant, they have to turn around and come back and I’m not sure there is much room,” Simonetti said. “It’s difficult to maneuver a wheelchair, even a stroller or a baby carriage if you’re moving in and out to come back.”

Though the process to fully complete the boardwalk has been long and “draining,” Simonetti said the people of Hamilton Beach and Howard Beach have been patient.

“They know that we’re working on it,” Simonetti said. “They’re a wonderful group of people … they’ve been very patient with us and understanding.”

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Participatory budgeting extends to more Queens council districts


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photos

Residents in nine Queens City Council districts will be given the power this year to decide where and how their tax dollars will be spent in their communities.

Last spring, community members in three Queens council districts – Councilman Mark Weprin’s District 23, Councilman Donovan Richard’s District 31 and Councilman Eric Ulrich’s District 32 – were given the opportunity to vote on community projects that would benefit from one million dollars of each council member’s capital discretionary funds.

This year joining those three districts are six new Queens council districts including Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ District 21, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz’s District 29, Councilman I. Daneek Miller’s District 27, Councilman Paul Vallone’s District 19, Councilman Costa Constantinides’ District 22 and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s District 26.

The overall process begins in the fall when residents suggest ideas and choose budget delegates during public meetings. Those volunteers then develop proposals based on the suggestions which are presented to the public before the voting occurs.

Voting this year will take place between April 11 and April 19 and each voter, ages 16 and up, can chose up to five projects. A total of 24 council members throughout the city are participating in this year’s voting.

“Participatory budgeting has been rewarding for our entire district. This entire process has featured ideas generated by members of the community,” Constantinides said. “It has provided an opportunity for residents to become engaged with the civic process through events and meeting. Everyone has shared their common love of their neighborhood and become more interconnected.”

Projects being voted on in Constantinides’ district include renovations at local schools, such as sound proofing P.S. 122’s cafeteria, redesigning the streetscape on Newtown Avenue between 32nd and 22rd streets to construct a pedestrian plaza, turning unused lots into dog runs in Astoria and Jackson Heights, and renovating the basketball court at the Astoria Houses.

In Councilman Miller’s district, residents will be able to vote on 23 projects which include improvements at local parks, technology upgrades at schools and enhancing cultural facilities such as upgrading the Jamaica Performing Arts Center.

The $1 million in projects that residents in District 19 can vote on include creating a $400,000 state-of-the-art music studio at Bayside High School, funding three NYPD security cameras, and installing real time passenger countdown clocks along the Q12 and Q13 bus routes.

“With a wide range of voting locations throughout northeast Queens, we encourage and hope to see everyone come out and vote for the projects that they believe will have the best impact on the community,” Vallone said.

In District 23, voters can choose projects such as upgrades to the Queens Village and North Hills libraries, fitness equipment at Alley Pond Park, technology upgrades at local schools and portable security cameras at three sites.

Residents in Councilman Ulrich’s district that encompasses Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park can vote on projects such as renovating the Forest Park Dog Park, refurbishing the 9/11 memorial in Forest Park and installing emergency call boxes in Forest Park. For residents living in the councilman’s district in the Rockaway peninsula, projects include a $500,000 repair of center medians along Cross Bay Boulevard, upgrades to local schools, and the construction of a rock climbing wall in Rockaway Beach adjacent to the new boardwalk.

For more information on the projects and where to vote, click here.

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NYFAC pays tribute to seven honorees at 17th annual dinner dance


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

The New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC) foundation has been serving families in southern Queens for almost 20 years, but they could not do it without the help of people from the community, said Andrew Baumann, president of the board of trustees for the foundation.

And NYFAC held an award ceremony on Thursday to honor those special people who have helped the organization grow.

“We started off with five families,” said Baumann. “But with your help we’ve been able to grow and help more children around our area.”

Over 300 people came out to Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach as NYFAC honored six people for their involvement in the foundation. They gave awards for man of the year, community service, advocate of the year, the hero award, community partnership award and the guardian angel award. Along with a trophy, each person received a proclamation from the state Assembly, a citation from the state Senate and a proclamation from the City Council.

“Folks like Andrew and his wife are what makes a community great,” said Borough President Melinda Katz, who accepted the guardian angel award.

Katz also named Feb. 26 “NYFAC Day” in the borough of Queens after her acceptance.

Baumann was elated because of the honor and said he was so happy he has been able to help so many children throughout the years. He showed a commercial he had made for the foundation, which gave statistics of autism cases such as how one in every 68 children is diagnosed on the spectrum.

The video ended with what Baumann said is the sole purpose of NYFAC: “Helping parents help their children, one family at a time.”

Councilman Eric Ulrich was one of the people in attendance and was grateful for all NYFAC has done in the community.

“This is the only organization in this part of Queens to provide these great services,” he said. “They inspire children to work towards their full potential and help people live good and happy lives.”

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New Hamilton Beach playground has its grand opening ceremony


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

It was a fun-filled day for the residents of Hamilton Beach on Sunday, as the neighborhood’s brand-new playground was officially opened to the public.

“It’s almost two years to the day that this community, along with many others, was hit with Hurricane Sandy. Not long after Sandy, I was contacted about the playground in Hamilton Beach,” said Roger Gendron, president of the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “After many months of planning, I’m happy to say that the children in this community now have a new playground.”

The grand opening event consisted of a bouncy castle, pumpkin patch, balloon clown, popcorn and cotton candy makers and a station for children to paint Stars of Hope, which were displayed all around the neighborhood of Hamilton Beach after Hurricane Sandy struck.

The playground set and project funds were donated by Resorts World Casino. In total, the cost was $40,000 to take down the old Sandy-stricken set, replace it with the new one, add two new benches to the play area, take off the old matting and replace it with new matting.

Gendron was contacted by Councilman Erich Ulrich, who told him Resorts World wanted to come in and rebuild the playground, soon after Sandy virtually destroyed it. They then got together with Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and state Sen. Joe Addabbo, who worked with the National Parks Service and Local 1010 of the Pavers and Road Union to have the playground built.

The project was started in mid-August and was totally finished just last week, but Gendron and the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association wanted to hold a grand opening to thank all those who helped make the project possible.

On behalf of our entire community, I want to thank Resorts World for everything you’ve done for us,” Gendron said. “Resorts World has shown their generosity to Hamilton Beach over and over again and I just want them to know that we truly appreciate everything they’ve done for us.”

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Street name mishaps in Hamilton Beach cause serious problems for residents


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

Hamilton Beach — where the streets have two names.

While it sounds like a U2 spoof, the dually-named streets make it difficult for people to find addresses but more importantly, cause serious problems for first-responders heading toward emergency scenes.

Twice this year, an ambulance responding to a Hamilton Beach resident with diabetes was delayed because the dispatchers failed to recognize her street, Burlingame Court, a local leader alleged. Only the street’s other name, 163rd Road, rang any bells.

“It’s unbelievable that in this day and age we have this problem,” said Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “It is something that could lead to a really serious issue down the line.”

Hamilton Beach has historically been off the city numerical mapping grid, and the streets all originally had names instead of numbers.

In 2007, the city decided to make it part of the grid, following street numbers and avenues from Old Howard Beach, just to the west.

City officials changed some of the street names to numbers but one year later decided to de-map the proposed grid and keep the original names along with the new numbered street names.

The names versus numbers issue has arisen before.

In 2007, a fire broke out on one of the newly numbered Hamilton Beach streets, but fire trucks responded instead to the Old Hamilton Beach side of Hawtree Creek and the house burnt down, Gendron said.

After that, the civic association requested that the streets revert to their original names. But officials instead combined the old and new, leaving many streets with dual names, such as 163rd Drive and James Court or 163rd Road and Burlingame Court.

Councilman Eric Ulrich said he has been working with the 106th Precinct to figure out whether the recent screw-ups were human error or a system problem.

As the precinct investigated the 911 mapping system, they found that both Burlingame Court and 163rd Road showed up. Officials came to the conclusion that it was most likely an issue with the dispatchers and ambulance drivers not being familiar with the neighborhood, according to a representative from Ulrich’s office.

But Gendron is afraid next time may be too late.

“Thankfully they got there in time,” Gendron said. “But something has to be done.

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New shuttle bus coming to Catholic Charities centers in southern Queens


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Senior citizens may find it difficult to navigate around southern Queens, but that will soon change for many.

A new shuttle bus has been funded by Councilman Eric Ulrich to transport the elderly to and from their homes to five Catholic Charities senior centers throughout the 32nd Council District.

A total of $25,000 was allocated from Ulrich’s discretionary fund to pay for a driver, insurance and other vehicle-related expenses.

“This is important for senior citizens in this district,” Ulrich said. “[The bus] will be a lifeline for them.”

Along with transportation to and from the senior centers, where residents can participate in a variety of classes and workshops, the shuttle will provide rides to shopping centers and other local activities spots.

Ulrich hopes to extend the service to more of his constituents in the future.

“If this bus is successful now, I will do everything I can to extend it,” he said.

Residents and Catholic Charities officials thanked Ulrich for the allocation.

“We cannot tell you how much we appreciate this,” said Debra Hoffer, director of field operations for Catholic Charities. “Seniors will finally have the door-to-door service they need.”

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First 500 feet of new Hamilton Beach ‘boardwalk’ constructed


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

The repair work on the Hamilton Beach walkway connecting the town to the Coleman Square train station is making strides.

The first 500 feet of the now-concrete walkway has been built and officials hope the nearly 2,000-foot path will be fully constructed by the end of September, said Sal Simonetti, chief of staff for Councilman Eric Ulrich, at the Hamilton Beach Civic Association meeting on Aug. 14.

The concrete walkway is expected to be a bit wider than the original wooden boardwalk and will have handrails and lighting, according to Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association.

Work began on May 17, nearly two and a half years after the bridge was rendered too dangerous to use because of damage from Superstorm Sandy.

A look at what the boardwalk looked like after Superstorm Sandy (Photo courtesy of Roger Gendron)

What the boardwalk looked like after Superstorm Sandy (Photo courtesy of Roger Gendron)

Part of the delay was attributed to uncertainty as to which city agency was responsible for the repairs. Ultimately, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services took responsibility and started the repair.

The walkway allows residents a straight path from the train station to Hamilton Beach. Residents have had to take a circuitous route into Hamilton Beach, which included a trek down Russell Street, which lacks an adequate sidewalk.

Even though the plans are mapped out to have the walkway finished by the end of September, Simonetti made it clear that this date was not set in stone.

But Gendron said he was happy that Hamilton Beach is finally starting to get some of its biggest issues addressed.

“This walkway is crucial for the residents of our neighborhood who need access to the Coleman Square train station,” Gendron said. “This will give our neighbors easier access into town and make for safer conditions while doing so.”

 

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City Council honors Woodhaven-based karate team for national, international wins


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

BENJAMIN FANG

Councilman Eric Ulrich and the City Council presented a proclamation to the Woodhaven-based Falcon International Karate Do Association (FIKA) United States team at City Hall today for its success this past March.

FIKA USA won three gold, eight silver and thirteen bronze medals at the 2013 USA Open Karate Championships and Junior International Cup in Las Vegas. The team has represented New York City and the United States in national and international tournaments since 2006.

FIKA promotes the traditions and values of Karate Do, including respect, loyalty, honor and discipline. It has been providing instruction since 2004.

 

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