Tag Archives: Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer

CB1 chair, district manager to retire in the summer after almost four decades of service


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Map via CB1 Website

Astoria will soon say goodbye to two Community Board 1 leaders as they get ready to retire from their posts after nearly eight decades of combined service to the area.

Vinicio Donato, chair of CB1, and Lucille Hartmann, district manager of the board, have announced they will both be retiring. Donato will stay on the board until August, while Hartmann will remain until July. 

Donato has been chair of the community board, which covers all of Astoria, and parts of Long Island City and Woodside, since 1979 and in January was re-elected to the position without any opposition. 

Hartmann has been on the board for about 38 years, during which she left for a brief period of time to work for the mayor’s office. 

However, the decision to announce their retirement at the same time was a coincidence and was made because it was just time for both of them to make the move, according to a community board representative. 

Lucille Hartmann (File Photo)

Lucille Hartmann (File Photo)

Local elected officials thanked both Donato and Hartmann for their service and dedication to the community.

“Vinny and Lucille deserve our thanks for their long and dedicated service to our neighborhood,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said. “I have worked hand in hand with both of these community leaders throughout my career in public service and am proud to have stood side by side with them as we fought to make Astoria the wonderful place it is today. I wish both Vinny and Lucille the best in all that they do in the future.”

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer also thanked both of the community leaders for their commitment over the years.

“I thank Vinicio Donato for his four-plus decades of public service with Community Board 1 and acknowledge him for his commitment as an educator while at IS 10 where I attended as a kid,” Van Bramer said. “I commend Lucille Hartmann for her dedication to the communities of Community Board 1. Together, Vinny and Lucille cared deeply about the communities they served and worked hard every day to make western Queens a better place.”

Community Board 1 is expected to elect a new chairman at its September meeting after returning from the summer break.

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Sunnyside playground unveils renovations, months ahead of schedule


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Children and families in Sunnyside will now have a new place to enjoy the warm weather.

Local elected officials, community leaders and Parks Department representatives joined families on Tuesday morning to unveil the newly-renovated Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan Playground located at the intersection of 43rd Street and Greenpoint Avenue.

The $2 million makeover, which was funded by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, was completed two months ahead of schedule and features new accessible play equipment, more swings, a play area for children from 2 to 5 years old and another for children 5 to 12 years old, and a new rainbow spray shower.

“The improvements to Noonan Playground are a perfect example of our community coming together and developing a project that all residents can enjoy,” Van Bramer said. “Between new plantings, additional play equipment, a new and improved Rainbow sprinkler as well as a one-of-a-kind historic memorial for our local veterans, we have solidified Noonan Playground as one of the borough’s top destinations to spend an afternoon with the family.”

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's office

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s office

The renovations also include additional planted areas created within the playground, along Greenpoint Avenue and 43rd Street, improvements in site drainage and lighting, and new bike racks, benches, paving and fencing. The main entrance to the playground was also reconstructed.

“Just in time for spring, kids of all abilities will be able to enjoy this new play space with more swings, a separate area for toddlers, and new spray showers,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver. “When the sun comes out in Sunnyside, this is sure to be a popular destination.”

Along with redesigning and expanding the playground, a monument was built to commemorate Sunnyside Vietnam veteran Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan.

A plaque was also installed honoring local veterans from the neighborhood, such as Donald C. Breuer, who was killed in action in 1972 at 26 years old during the Vietnam War. Breuer’s name is also included on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.

“I am thrilled that Sunnysiders will get to enjoy the new and improved Thomas P. Noonan playground ahead of schedule, and just in time for spring,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris. “This park is not only a monument to veterans and a Sunnyside hero, but also an escape from city life that provides local children with the open space they desperately need.”

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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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First phase of $100M Queens Boulevard redesign to be implemented by August


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of the Department of Transportation

The voices of a concerned community have been heard, and by August, the first segment of the redesign of what is known as the “Boulevard of Death” is expected to be implemented to make it safer.

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Tuesday that it would be releasing a detailed preliminary plan to redesign a 1.3-mile portion of Queens Boulevard. The plan is based on community input gathered during a safety workshop held on Jan. 22 in Woodside.

This project, which will be reviewed by Community Board 2 and is expected to be implemented in August, launches the start of the DOT’s $100 million Green Streets initiative, which will cover all seven miles of Queens Boulevard.

The agency plans to hold more public workshops during the fall and winter for the future phases of the initiative, from 73rd Street to Eliot Avenue and from Eliot Avenue to Union Turnpike.

“After decades of crashes, many of them fatal, this corridor has been reimagined and will be redesigned to become a safer, greener and more attractive corridor for residents and businesses, suitable to traverse through the World’s Borough,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.

The first phase of the redesign, which includes the installation of a protected bike lane, covers the 1.3-mile stretch of the thoroughfare between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street.

The agency previously said it decided to focus on this section first because statistics showed there have been six fatalities since 2009 in that particular area.

Some of the features of the first redesign segment include safer crossings, increased pedestrian space and improved intersections. The preliminary plan also looks to calm the traffic on service roads and try to reduce the number of times drivers move between the main line and service roads.

Unique redesigns include a protected bike lane integrated into a widened service road median, with new pedestrian space and median-to-median crossings that “allow for a linear park-like experience,” according to the DOT.

“This work represented a major advancement in the efforts to achieve Vision Zero throughout our city,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “Thanks to the work of the DOT, we are seeing significant improvements in traffic safety in western Queens, and we look forward to seeing Queens Boulevard safety improvements thanks to this $100 million capital investment.”

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New citywide campaign calls for over $1B investment in libraries


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's Office

A citywide campaign is looking to reach city leaders and call on them to invest in and fund public libraries.

The campaign “Invest in Libraries,” which was launched on Friday, is a partnership among library supporters, the Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library and Queens Library.

“Invest in Libraries” calls for a $65 million increase in operating expenses in this year’s budget in order to provide to the programs and services offered at the three library systems. It also calls for $1.1 billion in capital funding for critical renovations and maintenance.

Along with launching the campaign, a new report called “Long Overdue: NYC’s $1.1 Billion Library Fine,” was also released, sharing examples of branches that are in need of capital funding.

“Our city’s library branches are literally crumbling,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “This report highlights the tremendous need and maintenance crisis that is plaguing our city’s neighborhood library branches. Without increasing the operating and capital budgets for the city’s three library institutions, millions of New Yorkers will continue to lose access to the very resources and programs that are pulling them into the middle class. Now is the time to act.”

In the report it says the city’s libraries are facing a “maintenance crisis” with problems such as overcrowding, chronic water damage, broken elevators, heating and cooling problems, and other issues. In some cases, because of inadequate funding, some libraries have been forced to make temporary fixes such as painting over leaks instead of replacing declining roofs, the report said.

The campaign also launched the website investinlibraries.org where people can “take action” and stay updated.

“In the first half of Fiscal Year ’15, visitorship at Queens Library is up. Attendance at free library programs is up 6.7 percent over the past 6 months, and up 43 percent over the past five years. We now have the opportunity and ability to do better for the people of this city — as the economy grows, so should the investment in libraries,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, interim president and CEO of the Queens Library. “Together we can ensure all of our residents and communities grow and thrive.”

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Queens World Film Festival celebrates fifth year’s opening night


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

With the luck of the Irish, the Queens World Film Festival kicked off its fifth year of helping bring independent films to the big screen.

The six-day festival, which gives international and local filmmakers the opportunity to screen their films in Queens, celebrated its opening night on St. Patrick’s Day at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

Opening night featured five films, including two from local Queens filmmakers Jamil Lahham and Lisa Melodia. The films ranged from animation to short narratives. The night also included a bonus screening of Sundance Film Festival-winning film “World of Tomorrow,” which filled the room with laughter.

“I love this film festival because I love Queens, and everything and anything that is good starts right here in my home borough of Queens County. We do it right,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “I admire and respect and really have come to love Don and Katha Cato because you can tell they pour everything, their heart and soul, into this festival.”

The Queens World Film Festival, which will run through March 22, is organized by husband-and-wife duo of Don and Katha Cato, and this year will feature a total of 117 films, with 19 works from Queens. The films include feature narratives, documentaries and LGBT pieces.

Through the week, the films will be sorted out into different blocks based on subject and will be shown at venues such as The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights and the Museum of the Moving Image.

“[Katha and Don] have literally catapulted this festival to heights that not many folks could have foreseen when they first started this,” said Borough President Melinda Katz. “Katha and Don and all the folks that are involved in the arts have truly been using the diversity that we bring to this borough to catapult us in tourism.”

Opening night also recognized director Leon Ichaso, known for movies such as “El Cantante,” “Ali” and “Hendrix,” as a “Spirit of Queens” honoree. Don Cato said Ichaso, who has been called the “poet of Latin New York,” was receiving the awards for his artistry, integrity and humanity.

The festival will also present Ichaso’s film “Bitter Sugar” on Wednesday at the Museum of the Moving Image.

“To all the filmmakers that are here please don’t lose the hope, it’s a hard world making movies,[but] it’s worth it,” Ichaso said. “It is festivals like this that in that journey we can take a rest, we can show what we do, we can meet each other and thank God they exist and thank God for the Queens World Film Festival.”

Closing night of the festival will feature a screening of the film “Dukhtar (Daughter)” by Afia Nathaniel, followed by an award ceremony at the Museum of the Moving Image.

“Experience these films during our festival, talk about them,” said Don at the end of the night. “The films are the stars of this festival.”

For a full schedule of the festival and to purchase tickets, visit www.queensworldfilmfestival.com.

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7 line is ‘endless nightmare’ for western Queens community


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The western Queens community is demanding that the MTA make drastic changes in hopes of soon waking up from the “endless nightmare” that the 7 train has become.

Local elected officials, community leaders and residents gathered Wednesday morning underneath the elevated 7 train at the 40th Street station in Sunnyside to rally against the MTA and the deteriorating service of the subway line.

Along with ongoing weekend disruptions, in the past months the 7 line has seen trains breaking down, constant signal malfunctions and overcrowded platforms.

“We as a community are trapped in a bad dream that never seems to end, but worse than not ending, it has gotten much worse,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “This bad dream has turned into an endless nightmare, one that we cannot wake up from.”

During the rally, which comes a little over a week before the MTA base fare increases to $2.75 a ride, commuters shared their stories of riding the subway line and its impact on their daily lives.

“I am just very concerned. I understand that it must not be an easy job for the MTA, but on the other hand we need to get to work,” said Charlotte Neuhaus, a lifelong Sunnyside resident who uses the 7 line almost every day. “I hope that [the MTA] makes changes. They seem to come in, make some changes, but they aren’t dealing with the core problem. The fundamental problem is not being solved.”

Neuhaus said she has dealt with numerous train delays, signal problems, and long waiting periods.

Fellow subway rider Linda Burns said that for the 10 years she has lived in Sunnyside, almost every year has been met with deteriorating service on the 7 line. Some days instead of waiting for the train she decides to take a bus and walk to her job in Manhattan.

“[The MTA] keeps saying they are making these improvements but in fact the service has gotten worse,” Burns said. “It doesn’t really feel like they’re being honest with us.”

Van Bramer called the subway service problems “painful” not only for riders but also local businesses and communities.

“My question to the MTA, if you are spending billions and if you are forcing us to have no train service on the weekend for the purpose on improving 7 train service reliability, why is it that in the past four months service has sunk to lows we’ve never seen before?” Van Bramer said. “It has been outrageous, it is potentially dangerous, [and] the level of service is disgraceful. Why is it getting worse and not better?”

At the rally, riders and local leaders asked the MTA to be more transparent in their decisions and to open communication with the communities being affected by the 7 line subway disruptions and service issues.

“Unacceptable just isn’t the word with what is going on with the delays, overcrowding and maintenance issues,” said Patrick O’Brien, chair of Community Board 2. “The MTA might call it the 7 line but for those of us who live here, it’s the lifeline that gets you back and forth to work, kids to school, doctor’s appointments, all the activities of daily life that are essential to the quality of life.”

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Selling point: Joe Abbracciamento site sells again and more big sales


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The closing and sale of the nearly seven-decade-old Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant in Rego Park caused an emotional stir in the neighborhood last year.

The buyer, Criterion Group, had plans to demolish and build on the property, but nearly one year after the eatery closed, the new owner has sold the property. That transaction is just one of the big sales in the borough over the week.

Address: 62-98 Woodhaven Blvd., Rego Park
Price: $10,850,000

Plans to transform the former site of Rego Park’s beloved Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant haven’t gone anywhere. The restaurant and adjoining buildings were sold to 62-98 Realty LLC, a firm based in Flushing, for $10.8 million, according to city records filed on Friday.

After the family-owned eatery closed and was sold along with the adjoining buildings on the block for $9 million to Criterion Group, according to property records, permits were filed by the new owners to demolish the buildings and build a seven-story residential building on the lots with nearly 120 apartments and 60 parking spaces. The stores attached to the restaurant were closed last year for the impending demolition, which has not occurred as yet.

Address: 39-34 43rd St., Sunnyside
Price: $8,100,000

This warehouse building near Torsney/Lou Lodati Playground traded hands for $8.1 million, according to city records filed on Tuesday. Jay Kestenbaum is the buyer.

Last year, the FDNY tried to acquire this site to store about 100 spare and reserve fire engines, according to published reports. The plan needed Uniform Land Use Review Procedure approval from the city. Although it was approved by Community Board 2, the plan was met with some opposition. Residents cited potential problems of increased traffic and noise. The FDNY withdrew its application and plans for the site in August.

Address: 39-50 24th St., LIC
Price: $5,675,000

Greiner-Maltz Investment Properties closed on this apartment building on Tuesday. The four-story, 30-unit building has 21,680 square feet of space. There are also two vacant retail spaces in the building on the ground floor. The sale has yet to hit city property records.

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NYPD’s first deputy commissioner honored at Black History Month celebration


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy the office of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer

Members of the NYPD, including First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, and local community leaders were honored for all their achievements during an annual Black History Month celebration in Long Island City.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer hosted his fifth annual Black History Month Celebration and Awards Night on Thursday night at the Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House, located at 10-25 41st Ave. within the Queensbridge Houses.

During the event, attended by over 250 guests, Van Bramer presented a Distinguished Public Service Award to Tucker, who serves as the first deputy commissioner for the NYPD.

Other honorees of the night included Dolores Chauncey from Friends of Queensbridge Park; Captain Mark Simmons, commanding officer of PSA-9; Jacqueline Williams from the Ravenswood Senior Center; Judith Mitchell of NYCHA Family Services; Brian McMichael, owner of Miriam’s Restaurant in LIC; Vanessa Hayes; Daniel Taylor, treasurer of the Queensbridge Old Timers; and Dionne Jaggon, principal of P.S. 111 in LIC.

The celebration also featured performances by ELSCO Dance, the Queensbridge Senior Shakers and the Bryant High School Dance Company.

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City collecting proposals for Sunnyside Yards feasibility study


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYCEDC Sunnyside Yards Feasibility Study RFP

Mayor Bill de Blasio is moving full steam ahead with his plan to create 11,250 housing units over Sunnyside Yards, although Gov. Andrew Cuomo has voiced opposition to it.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC)  announced Friday a request for proposals for a yearlong comprehensive feasibility study for building over the rail yards. The agency is collecting proposals until March 20.

The study will examine the prospect of decking the enormous rail yard, and building homes, schools, open spaces and community facilities for the neighborhood as well as improving public transportation and infrastructure, while not interfering with train operations in the yards.

“This is the first step in understanding whether development of the Sunnyside Yards is possible, and what it could contribute to the city and surrounding communities,” de Blasio said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to deliver on our vision of a more affordable city and smart development that responds to the needs of surrounding neighborhoods.”

De Blasio first announced his plan for the yards during his second State of the City address in January, but hours later Cuomo disagreed with using the yards because of long-term plans for it.

But Cuomo is not the only politician to oppose developing Sunnyside Yards. When an idea to build a new Jacob Javits Center over the rail yards surfaced last year, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan didn’t immediately respond favorably to that plan.

Both shared concerns of major development in the area without first addressing issues current residents are facing, including lack of sufficient public services. State Sen. Michael Gianaris addressed Community Board 2 earlier this month about the proposal as well, and stated similar concerns.

“Any talk of thousands of new housing units at Sunnyside Yards should be secondary to meeting our significant existing infrastructure needs,” Senator Gianaris said. “Western Queens is already in need of many more schools, parks and open spaces, and vastly improved mass transit, particularly on the 7 line. As this process unfolds, I look forward to working with the community to ensure our voices are heard loud and clear when it comes to Sunnyside Yards.”

Building over the yards is a key part to de Blasio’s goal of building and preserving 200,000 affordable housing units — 80,000 of which will be new construction — in the next 10 years.

There are nearly 200 acres of land at the site, 113 acres that are owned by Amtrak, 66 by the MTA and the remainder by private owners, according to the EDC’s request for proposals.

The EDC is working with Amtrak, which is in favor of development over its section of the yards.

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Free legal clinic services to be offered for NYCHA residents


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's office

NYCHA residents are getting a helping hand to make their lives easier.

The Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer launched free legal clinic services on Monday that will serve residents of the New York City Housing Authority.

“NYCHA residents deserve stability and the right to live in dignity,” said Van Bramer, who helped allocate $50,000 toward the services. “Through these services thousands of NYCHA residents will be given the legal resources they need to fight against wrongful evictions and poor living conditions that have plagued so many families for far too long.”

Known as the “NYCHA Dignity Campaign,’’ legal clinics will be made available to residents at the Jacob A. Riis Settlement House, located at 10-25 41st Ave., in the Queensbridge Houses on the first and third Tuesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On the second and fourth Friday of each month clinics will be available on the fourth-floor conference room at Councilman Donovan Richards’ Rockaway office located at 19-31 Mott Ave.

“This free service will be vital service for all NYCHA residents,” said April Simpson-Taylor, president of the Queensbridge Tenants Association. “A lot of the residents will use this service because of the issues they face with housing. Whether they are with repairs in apartments, pending evictions or termination of their leases, these free legal services will give a voice to residents when it comes to fighting for the issues they care deeply about.”

The clinics will be offered by a team of attorneys, advocates, researchers and operations staff who will provide help with public assistance benefits, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, shelter applications for homeless families and adult couples, and also public housing issues.

“I have nothing but great hope for this program and we hope it [goes] on to make the lives of NYCHA residents better,” Simpson-Taylor said.

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Construction set to start on Hunters Point Community Library


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of the Queens Library

The Long Island City community celebrated Thursday morning the beginning of construction of a new waterfront library set to have the best view in Queens.

Local elected officials, community leaders, students from P.S./I.S. 78 and residents of the western Queens neighborhood came together for the start of the construction phase for the Hunters Point Community Library, which will be located at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue, right next to Gantry Plaza State Park.

“This is an amazing historic day for Hunters Point, Long Island City,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who helped secure $30 million to begin construction of the new branch. “For so many folks here who may have thought, ‘Is it really ever going to happen?’ today we are here to say it is, it’s happening, it’s real, this is a huge victory.”

The state-of-the-art library, set to break ground in the spring and be completed in 2017, was designed by architect Steven Holl.

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

“The great struggle of a neighborhood like this which has buildings going up by the day and thousands of people moving in, is making sure the infrastructure keeps up,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris, who provided $500,000 in state funding for the library. “To be able to say…we are going to have this landmark that people will look at from Manhattan and be jealous of is a testament to all the hard work that everyone has been doing.”

The 21,500-square-foot facility will feature a reading garden, rooftop terrace, reading rooms for all ages, a gallery, a performance space and a children’s area. It will overlook the Manhattan skyline across the East River.

“It will absolutely be the best view of any library in Queens. We are excited to see that start to rise and to know that we are providing a new library for this community that so desperately wants and needs it,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, interim president and CEO of the Queens Library. “The library is in a great place for 2015 and beyond and projects like this really show how we can come together with our communities to provide what you need in a library.”

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Police officers honored for saving man’s life in LIC


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's office

Two local police officers were honored Thursday for their heroic actions that saved a life in Long Island City last month.

Police Officers William Caldarera and Corey Sarro of the 108th Precinct were given a proclamation on behalf of the City Council for saving the life of a 66-year-old man who was found motionless in front of LaGuardia Community College in December.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who was joined by Mayor Bill de Blasio, presented the honor to Caldarera and Sarro.

On Dec. 16, the officers saw a crowd of people gathering around a man lying motionless on the sidewalk in front of the college. Caldarera approached the elderly man and discovered he did not have a heartbeat and was not breathing.

Sarro then began to conduct chest compressions, while an ambulance was requested. Using a defibrillator provided by a public safety officer, Caldarera and Sarro attached the machine to the man’s chest, according to police. After a second shock, the man’s heartbeat returned and he began breathing again.

The man was taken to Elmhurst Hospital in stable condition.

Although both Caldarera and Sarro had experience with CPR while off duty, this incident was their first time having to use a defibrillator.

Both officers said it felt great once they were able to revive the man and get him to breathe again.

“There is really no feeling to describe it,” Sarro said at the time. “It was a relief to be able to save him.”

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Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer returns $20K of extra pay he gets for majority leader role


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

One local elected official is saying no thank you to a $20,000 annual stipend from the City Council.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, the second-highest ranking member of the Council as majority leader, has decided to return his annual stipend, also known as a lulu, to taxpayers. He is eligible for the extra pay, in addition to his $112,500 salary, for his leadership post.

“Returning my $20,000 stipend as majority leader of the New York City Council is the right thing to do for me,” Van Bramer said. “While donating the stipend to charity may be noble, not taking it at all is consistent with a pledge I made when I first ran for the City Council in 2009. I serve in government out of a desire to help others and to build up the people and the neighborhoods I serve. That is what drives me to work hard and it always will.”

Lulus are given to members of the City Council for leadership posts or committee assignments. According to the NY Daily News, 47 of 51 members are given the additional pay ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

The other Queens lawmaker to renounce the extra pay was Councilman Rory Lancman, who declined $8,000, joining 10 other Council members in the other boroughs who decided not to take the money, the Daily News said.

Base pay for a member of the City Council was raised from $90,000 to $112,500 in 2006. But the job is technically part-time, allowing lawmakers to earn outside income.

Good government groups have argued that lulus undermine the independence of individual lawmakers because, they say, the committee posts are handed out by the City Council speaker based on loyalty or other political considerations.

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LIC Partnership awarded $100K grant for comprehensive neighborhood study


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

As the housing and rental market continues to explode in Long Island City, the transformation of this former industrial-focused community to a mixed-use residential area has been a major topic in recent years.

To maintain the community’s industrial roots — which still supply many jobs for the city’s manufacturing workforce — while preparing for possible changes in other sectors, the nonprofit Long Island City Partnership is hoping to conduct a comprehensive study of the neighborhood and create a plan for the future.

The LIC Partnership study is close to realization as the advocacy group announced Monday it was awarded a $100,000 grant from the New York City Regional Economic Development Council to create a comprehensive plan of the future of the neighborhood. The group hopes to use this plan to guide LIC and maximize the benefits of its growth from all aspects, which on top of industrial and residential also includes the expansion of the commercial and tech markets as well.

“Currently experiencing a period of explosive transformation, much of it 30 years in the making, Long Island City, Queens, is now ready for its own, comprehensive look,” LIC Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin said. “Funding for this study will allow us to work to set a vision and priorities consonant with the neighborhood’s goals.  We hope to guide city, state and federal action based upon an in-depth studied assessment of the facts and current conditions.”

The LIC Partnership applied for the grant with support from local community leaders and politicians. The state had to review about 2,600 projects that requested funding.

The study was selected among 71 projects in New York City, where a total of $61.2 million was awarded.

The plan, which was discussed at the partnership’s 27th annual trade show and luncheon in November, would for example help the community navigate through the wave of major residential developments planned for the area while learning how to improve the quality of life for current and future residents.

A wave of national retail and commercial investments is also expected to hit LIC in the future as well as a tech boom fueled by the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, and the partnership’s study will be necessary to examine these changes as well.

“The $100,000 grant from the Regional Economic Development Council is not only a recognition of the stellar work of this organization,”Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said, “but begins the real work of completing  a comprehensive study on how to get LIC to reach new and even greater heights.”

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