Tag Archives: Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer

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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Talk of Sunnyside Yards mega development chugging along  


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jim Henderson/ Wikipedia Commons

Proposals to redevelop the massive Sunnyside Yards are building up steam after decades of discussion as more key players in the rail yard’s future are weighing in with some specific ideas for what can be built there.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan was the latest to express her ideas about what to do with the massive 160-acre rail yard.

Nolan said upgrading the existing community must be considered first when developing the rail yard, referring to an ambitious plan by former Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and SHoP Architects to build a massive convention center and housing complex over the site.

Developing the Sunnyside Yards has historically been a touchy subject — one that began heating up recently after then Community Board 2 Chair Joseph Conley introduced the idea to conduct a publicly-funded feasibility study to figure out what could be done with the yards, which was first reported by The Courier in October.

Last month Doctoroff penned an editorial in the New York Times about his plan, which includes moving the 1.8-million-square-foot Jacob Javits Convention Center over the rail yards and expanding it to 3.1 million square feet, while also creating 14,000 new housing units — 50 percent of which would be set aside as affordable —  and adding an office and retail complex and public green spaces.

Rendering courtesy of SHoP Architects 

Rendering courtesy of SHoP Architects

But Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has not stood behind the plan, and instead voiced concern for current residents.

“What we need is more green space. We need a lot more schools, we need more [school] buildings, already based on the number of kids we have today, and not including any new kids,” Van Bramer said. “We need better transportation options — the 7 train is already over capacity. And yes we need affordable housing and we are very supportive of more affordable housing being built, but it can’t come at the expense of the quality of life that the people experience in the neighborhood today.”

Many of his constituents have opposed development of the yards. A petition against a development project at the site started by locals following the Doctoroff editorial has garnered about 250 signatures.

But industry experts seem to think not using the land would be a waste.

“I think that Sunnyside Yards represents an enormous opportunity for Queens and for the city and one that is certainly worth exploring more closely,” said former city Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, who is now a vice president at RXR Realty. “The big challenge will be to figure out how to get the right mix of uses. It’s too big an opportunity to ignore.”

Although he has not shown support for it, Van Bramer said if the project is to move further  a study must first be done on the proposed usage of the land.

“I think that if there is a next step the city might want to take a look at some feasibility issues and see what’s possible,” Van Bramer said. “I’m not sure anything needs to be done quite frankly.”

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LaGuardia Community College breaks ground on library expansion


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's Office

LaGuardia Community College has launched a project that will give students at the Long Island City campus more room to conduct research and study.

Representatives of LaGuardia Community College and CUNY, as well as faculty and students, gathered on Dec. 5 to break ground on a project to renovate and expand the college’s library.

“LaGuardia Community College has a successful track record improving the lives and economic opportunities for countless sons and daughters of immigrants who continue to attend this world-class institution,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who secured $2 million in funding for the library expansion. “Together with this significant investment we will ensure more students are given a state-of-the-art facility they need to enhance their academic experience.”

Van’s Bramer’s funding will help renovate, expand and modernize the library by creating an open plan allowing better access for students and faculty.

During the renovations, which are expected to be completed by the fall of 2016, 17,000 square feet of the library’s 31,000-square-foot first floor will be rebuilt and the remaining space will be upgraded.

Students and faculty will be able to walk through a new entrance into an open space where natural light will be allowed to shine into the building.

The renovation will expand the library to the E-Building’s second floor. The college’s Humanities Department was moved to the C-Building to make room for the expansion.

Rendering courtesy of LaGuardia Community College

Rendering courtesy of LaGuardia Community College

“We are excited to embark on the construction project that will expand the existing library space,” said Shahir Erfan, LaGuardia’s vice president of administration. “The new space will leverage architectural/engineering design to promote learning and student engagement and the technology upgrades will enhance the student experience.”

Among the upgrades and renovations are expanded circulation, reference and periodical areas. There will also be a new 1,600-square-foot information commons to help visitors access information with printed materials and technology. The library will also feature four brand-new 800-square-foot open study rooms and a 450-square-foot meeting room. Two new 1,200-square-foot  computer labs will be added to the current 750-square-foot lab.

“To us students, the library is our sanctuary, to study, do homework and be academically active,” said Katherine Gutierrez, a student at LaGuardia and Student Government Association governor of political awareness. “More books and more space is what we need. We have waited for this renovation, and it will provide us exactly that.”

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Sunnyside community calls for arrests in violent mugging of 81-year-old


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A Sunnyside community is outraged and looking for justice after an 81-year-old legally blind man was brutally punched and robbed inside a bank during broad daylight.

On Oct. 26 at about 9:23 a.m., William Eichhorn was approached by two suspects after he withdrew money from an ATM at the Chase bank at 46-10 Queens Blvd. The suspects, described as two heavy-set black men in their 20s to 30s, “brutally punched” Eichhorn in the face and stole $100 in cash and a debit card before fleeing the scene, authorities said.

The surrounding community, Eichhorn’s family and local officials are now asking for the public’s help in identifying and catching the suspects.

“This community is united in making sure we catch these two vicious criminals and lock them behind bars because if they would dare to attack Mr. Eichhorn in broad daylight in this bank and knock him to the ground, in a crime that could have been much worse than it was, they would do this to anybody,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer in front of the Chase bank after he helped the 108th Precinct hand out flyers with surveillance photos of the suspects.

According to police, surveillance footage shows the suspects following Eichhorn inside the bank that Sunday morning.

“I had a wonderful life here before this event and I hope to continue to have one in the future, and I hope we don’t have any more incidents like this,” said Eichhorn, who has frequented the bank without any issues in the past. 

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Photos courtesy of NYPD

According to family members, after Eichhorn was attacked, an unidentified “good Samaritan” heard his cries for help and came to his aid, calling 911 and escorting him to the precinct.

“What is important to note is that this is a racially diverse community, it’s a community that is just a community of good people that stand by one another and this is not something that normally happens here and the entire community is outraged,” said MaryAnn Gasparro, Eichhorn’s daughter.

Police are offering a reward of up to $2,000 for any information leading to the arrests of the suspects. Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

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Slow zones rolling into Sunnyside


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Just days before the citywide speed limit will be decreased to 25 mph, the Sunnyside community celebrated the news that it will soon be home to two new slow zones.

The slow zones, which will be launched in Sunnyside Gardens, Woodside and Sunnyside, were designed through input from the community, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Community Board 2 (CB 2).

“There’s nothing more important than keeping our children safe,” Van Bramer said during the announcement on Monday afternoon in front of P.S. 199 in Sunnyside. “The single most important thing for the parents in our district is keeping traffic slow, calm, manageable and keeping their children safe.”

As part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative, the neighborhoods that will be included in these two slow zones were selected based on the transportation agency’s evaluation on crash history, traffic fatalities, community support, and the closeness of schools, senior centers and day care centers.

Slow zones are marked with high-visibility blue signs that warn drivers at all streets entering the zones. Each area has a speed limit of 20 mph and includes speed bumps and eight-foot-high letters on the road that read “20 MPH.”

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has already started to set up the Sunnyside Slow Zone, which is expected to be completed before the end of the year. The borders will be 36th Street, Queens Boulevard, 51st Street and part of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The area is split diagonally by Greenpoint Avenue, which is not part of the slow zone, according to the DOT.

Since 2007 there have been four fatalities in the proposed zone and, since 2008, there have been three severe pedestrian injuries and five severe injuries involving vehicle occupants.

The Sunnyside Slow Zone, which covers an area with four schools including P.S. 199, will be made up of 20 speed bumps, in addition to the current eight bumps, and 31 neighborhood slow zone gateways.

“One thing we have in our community is a lot of traffic. We have a lot of traffic that comes through our neighborhood very fast so this is what it’s about. It’s about saving lives and about improving the quality of our life in the community,” said Joseph Conley, chair of CB 2.

The Sunnyside Gardens-Woodside Slow Zone, which DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall said would begin to be implemented in spring 2015, will be bordered by 43rd Street, 38th Avenue, Barnett Avenue, 58th Street, Queens Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue. There are three schools and three daycare/pre-K centers in the area.

According to the DOT, since 2007 there has been one death in the zone and three severe pedestrian injuries.

This slow zone was proposed to include 18 speed bumps, added to the already existing 12 bumps, and 19 neighborhood slow zone gateways.

“We are committed to Vision Zero, and Vision Zero starts with our children. It starts with young people. We have to make sure that not one young person ever loses their life on the streets of New York,” Van Bramer said.

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