Tag Archives: Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer

Hundreds celebrate Taste of Sunnyside’s fifth year


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THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Stomachs were smiling under the elevated 7 train in Sunnyside on Tuesday night, as 28 local businesses came out to give the borough a taste of what they have to offer.

The Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District celebrated its 2015 Taste of Sunnyside, a one-of-a-kind culinary event highlighting local businesses, under the subway line at 46th Street and Queens Boulevard.

“This is our biggest event of the year. We try to promote Sunnyside and all the great local restaurants and other businesses,” said Rachel Thieme, executive director of Sunnyside Shines.

The festival, which was sold out, featured sample treats and beverages from 28 Sunnyside establishments. Cuisines ranged from various countries around the world including Tibet, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Italy and Paraguay.

Bites and beverages were also provided by event sponsors Associated Marketplace, Fresh n Save Marketplace, Lowery Wines and Liquors, Queens Brewery and SingleCut Brewery.

“Queens is moving and shaking. Folks are coming here to the borough of Queens to build and open their restaurants, to open their stores. We are in our core a borough of neighborhoods and those neighborhoods are sustained by our restaurants and our businesses and all of the community that comes out to support Sunnyside,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “Enjoy the fact that Sunnyside is on the move, Queens is on the move.”

The night also featured a full lineup of performers including local group Sunnyside Social Club – which filled the tent with mixes of folk, punk and jazz – and a presentation from the Thalia Spanish Theatre with Danza España and flamenco dancers.

“Sunnyside is an amazing place to live and work, start a business, raise a family, and I am so grateful every day to be a Sunnysider,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said.

Van Bramer also told the crowd that after tasting what the restaurants and establishments have to offer, they should go back out and “spend a lot of money” to support the businesses until next year’s Taste of Sunnyside.


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LIC community celebrates groundbreaking of Hunters Point library


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THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

After 15 years, the wait is finally over for the Long Island City community, which worked hard to bring a new waterfront library to the neighborhood.

On Saturday, local elected officials, community leaders and residents gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Queens Library at Hunters Point, which will be located at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue, right next to Gantry Plaza State Park.

“Hunters Point is a rapidly growing community of young families and has a demonstrated need for a library community hub,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “The Hunters Point Library will be a modern and green facility that will serve as a center of learning, literacy and culture for residents of all ages.”

The state-of-the-art library, expected to be completed by the fall of 2017, was designed by architect Steven Holl. Its main interior circulation route will be cut into the west façade, opening up views to the East River and Manhattan skyline.

The 22,000-square-foot facility will feature a reading garden, a rooftop terrace, reading rooms for all ages, a gallery, a performance space and a children’s area.

Rendering courtesy of Queens Library

Rendering courtesy of Queens Library

“There’s a famous saying that it takes a village to raise a child. In this case, it took a village to raise a library,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who has been working on the project since 1999 and allocated $4 million for the library. “We are here because no one gave up on the project. I was never ever going to let this fail. It was too important. This community deserves a state-of-the-art community library that will be the envy of the entire city and now you have it, you’re going to get it.”

Mark Christie, president of the group Friends of the Hunters Point Library, has been working on the idea of the library since 1998 and during the groundbreaking quoted former President John F. Kennedy.

“This will be a building that brings our community together,” Christie said. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country — and you will see what a big difference just coming together will make in each and every one of our lives.”

Along with the construction of the library, the project will also include the construction of the permanent 1,260-square-foot ranger station at Gantry Plaza State Park. The building will include a reception area, a park manager’s office and bathrooms for the public.

Saturday’s groundbreaking celebration also featured a street fair where members of the community enjoyed carnival games, entertainment, family-friendly activities and food.

Until the Hunters Point library is constructed, a mobile library will be parked each Saturday at Gantry State Park from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to offer books and other material for all ages. The Friends of Hunters Point Library are also supporting a “pop-up” library on Saturdays offering reading and activities starting at 11 a.m.

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BP secures $250K for new pre-K program at Queens Library in Ravenswood Houses


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of BP Melinda Katz's office

More than 30 seats are being added to School District 30, as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz secured funding for a new pre-K program at a Queens Library branch at one Astoria housing development.

Katz announced Tuesday she will be allocating discretionary capital funding to create a new, free, full-day pre-K program at the Ravenswood library located within the NYCHA Ravenswood Houses at 35-32 21st St.

This new program will add 36 seats to District 30, which is known for being overcrowded and having one of the largest pre-K seat shortages in the borough for the upcoming school year. The Ravenswood site was approved last year by the Department of Buildings to operate a pre-K program.

“Addressing the pre-K seat shortage for the upcoming school year has been a priority, especially in Districts 30 and 24,” Katz said. “The Queens Library has taken one of the more creative initiatives we’ve seen to launch pre-K programs at our beloved libraries throughout the borough. Our libraries are treasured, safe community hubs for enrichment and lifelong learning, and starting the educational pathway from pre-K here is a natural fit.”

The cost to modify the Ravenswood library into the new pre-K program is estimated at $572,000, according to the Department of Design and Construction. An initial $250,000 was committed by the Shoolman Foundation, as well as $72,000 from the Department of Education.

Katz will be securing the remaining $250,000 allowing the program to become a reality.

“This funding is great news for the Ravenswood community and for the children of western Queens,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris. “We know that pre-K makes a huge difference in the lives of our young students and I am glad that we are adding space in an area that so desperately needs more school seats.”

The Ravenswood library’s entire space will be used to run the pre-K program from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays. During non-school hours, the library will be used as a Family Literacy Learning Center, offering ESL courses and other classes for adults.

“The Ravenswood library is a prime location to house and expand our city’s already successful universal pre-kindergarten program,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “With the addition of two UPK classes we can provide more children a head start in getting the education they rightfully deserve.”

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LPC votes unanimously to landmark LIC Clock Tower


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Cristabelle Tumola

The decision is finally in, and the beloved Clock Tower in Long Island City is not going anywhere.

On Tuesday the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to landmark the 11-story tower in Queens Plaza, formerly the Bank of the Manhattan Company building.

“For nearly a century, the Queens Clock Tower building has been one of Long Island City’s most recognizable structures, greeting hundreds of thousands of commuters as they enter the borough,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. “The commission is proud to recognize this iconic building, which represents a significant period of development in Long Island City.”

Designed by Queens-born architect Morrell Smith, the tower, located at 29-27 Queens Plaza North, was built in 1927 and at the time was described as “the first skyscraper in Queens.”

According to the LPC, in 1927 the building’s design received first prize from the Queens Chamber of Commerce as the borough’s best business building.

The decision to landmark the site comes as residents have been speaking out and calling for the LPC to make the decision that would keep the tower in the community.  A petition was also started on change.org and signed by 1,606 supporters.

“This is a tremendous victory for New York City preservationists and local residents who contacted my office to convey their overwhelming support to retain the character of this great neighborhood,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “I was proud to help give this community coordinated grassroots campaign the additional pressure it needed to ensure the Clock Tower Building stands for another 90 years.”

The building, which is now owned by Property Markets Group, will be surrounded by a 70-story 930-apartment building at 29-37 41st Ave. – expected to be the tallest building in Queens.

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City to deploy ‘shelter repair squad’ to fix homeless shelter issues


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Five city agencies are coming together to investigate and solve the issues faced at over 500 homeless shelters throughout the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that the city will deploying hundreds of “special SWAT teams” — made up of employees from the FDNY, Department of Buildings, Department of Homeless Services, Department of Health and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development — to accelerate the process of repairs at homeless shelters all over New York City.

“These SWAT teams are necessary because we aren’t dealing with a problem that just started in the last year or two, we’re dealing with a problem that is decades old and has gotten worse for several reasons,” de Blasio said. “This city has seen a homelessness crisis that in the last decade went from a very troubling level to an absolutely unacceptable level.”

According to the mayor, 56,000 people are currently living in shelters, and although that number is down from 59,000 people a few months ago, there is still much more to be done.

The implementation of the inter-agency shelter repair squad comes after de Blasio received a report from the Department of Investigation two months ago that put forth the unhealthy conditions at the city shelters. The DOI found 25 shelters that required immediate attention, and those have since had almost all violations addressed.

One of those shelters included the Corona Family Residence, where de Blasio made the announcement Monday afternoon. This facility had violations such as smoke detector problems and rodent infestations.

The squads will go out to individual shelters, identify the problems and solutions to them, then reach out to various departments and agencies that could find the resources to correct the conditions. Typical violations — such as broken or missing smoke detectors — will be expected to be fixed within a seven-day period after being identified. Some of the more complicated capital repairs will begin in about 30 days with a plan of completion within the calendar year.

Along with the squad, there will also be an accountability system put into place where members of the public will be able to track the city’s progress through online scorecards.

“Every effort is being made to reduce the number of health and safety violations within DHS shelters, and the creation of the shelter repair squad will provide immeasurable support to us in these efforts,” DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor said. “This engagement is truly reflective of our city’s collective responsibility, serving our most vulnerable New Yorkers. These measures will indeed help DHS to overcome the many years of neglect that our city shelter system has been subjected to.”

Last week, de Blasio also announced that in the city’s 2016 $78.3 billion budget $100 million will go toward homeless prevention and assistance, including rental support, anti-eviction and legal services, and more. The budget will also include $4.7 million to expand the number of shelter beds for runaway and homeless youth by another 100, while enhancing mental health services.

For Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who attended the Monday announcement, the issues residents have to live with at these homeless shelters hit close to his heart because his family once lived in a shelter. Van Bramer said that many of the issues the families are facing are the same as those his family faced years ago.

“Every family that comes to [a] shelter is in a state of crisis in one way or another, but the fact that they found shelter means that they are on the path to recovery, like my family. So going to [a] shelter is the first step, in many cases, to making it out of [the] shelter,” Van Bramer said. “But when you get to that shelter, it should be a place where any New Yorker could live because it’s about dignity and it’s about knowing that you matter, your lives matter, your children matter.”

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City to spend $300M over next three years on NYCHA housing roof replacements


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) announced a new initiative that will benefit thousands of residents, including those at the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, in the upcoming years.

The city officials announced Saturday that $100 million will be going toward addressing the issue of mold at NYCHA housing developments. This funding comes from the mayor’s pledge to match the state’s $100 million investment in NYCHA.

In addition to this initial funding, over the next two years the city will continue to invest $100 million a year for roof replacements – totaling $300 million over three years.

“Years of federal and state disinvestment have led to deteriorating buildings, depriving tenants of the level of housing they deserve,” de Blasio said. “By making these critical investments in our aging NYCHA buildings, we are both protecting our residents – many of whom are children – and saving money spent on repairing these buildings.”

The first year’s funding, which is expected to begin construction next month, will cover the roof replacement on 66 buildings throughout the city, benefiting about 13,000 residents. These buildings were selected because they have the highest number of maintenance repair requests such as leak and painting repair, and mold work orders.

Included in these buildings are the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, which will see 14 buildings on both the south and north sides of the development get roofs replaced.

The funding will replace the roofs and parapets, which are the protective walls along the roofs. This replacement is expected to eliminate core symptoms of mold, reduce operating expenses and preserve the structures by safeguarding them from moisture.

“This is a welcome announcement to the residents of the Queensbridge Houses who have waited many years for the completion of these critical repairs,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “This responsible investment will benefit thousands of New Yorkers and allow NYCHA to dedicate scarce resources to other essential improvements citywide.”

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Participatory budgeting winners announced in western Queens


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

The residents of western Queens have spoken and the results are in regarding where they would like to see $1 million spent in each community.

Councilmen Costa Constantinides and Jimmy Van Bramer announced the winning projects of this year’s participatory budgeting process, where residents in each individual district were able to cast their vote on where they want city funding to be spent.

In Constantinides’ District 22, which covers Astoria and parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, 2,204 residents came out to vote last month and three projects were chosen as the winners.

A total of 825 residents voted on the first project that will spend $245,000 in district-wide public school technology upgrades. Through this project, $35,000 will be spent each for P.S. 84, P.S. 122, P.S. 234, I.S. 235, P.S. 17, P.S. 2 and I.S. 141.

The second project, which brought in 773 votes, is $500,000 to go toward turning a lot under the RFK Bridge, located at Hoyt Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets, which is currently empty, into a dog run.

The final project, with 715 votes, will transform I.S. 126’s parking lot in Astoria into a recreational playground for the school and community.

With the third project the total comes out to $1,245,000, so Constantinides plans to allocate more funding from his discretionary budget to fully support the projects.

“The entire process has been community-driven, inclusive, and engaging. I am excited to see the strong voter response that gave everyone a voice in the city budgeting process,” Constantinides said. “The technology upgrades across the district, a new dog run in a neighborhood that currently lacks even one, and a playground [where] students have no official schoolyard will enrich the lives of families and children throughout Astoria.”

Photo via Twitter/@JimmyVanBramer

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announced the results of this year’s participatory budgeting process for District 26 on Wednesday night at LIC Bar. (Photo via Twitter/@JimmyVanBramer)

In Van Bramer’s District 26, covering Woodside, Sunnyside, LIC and parts of Astoria, the winning projects include a Long Island City Bikeway, a 10-person van for the Jacob Riis Settlement House for seniors and a playground upgrade at Queensbridge.

A total of $500,000 would go toward the Long Island City Bikeway, which would be an improved, safe and reliable bikeway system in the neighborhood. The Jacob Riis Settlement House van is a $55,000 project that would help transport seniors to and from programs. The third project is a $500,000 upgrade at a playground in the Queensbridge housing development that would replace rubber matting in five jungle gym areas.

During the announcement of the winners Wednesday night, Van Bramer also announced that because of the large voter turnout his office would be funding five more projects. These include $50,000 in accessibility improvements each for the Sunnyside and Woodside libraries, $200,000 for the Woodside Reforestry project, $100,000 for district-wide real-time passenger bus countdown clocks and $75,000 in technology upgrades for P.S./I.S. 78 in LIC.

In total, Van Bremer will be dedicating over $1.5 million in funding for projects chosen by the community.

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Woodside intersection, prone to accidents, gets new traffic safety measures


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Woodside residents are showing that with determination and perseverance, changes can be made to prevent tragedies from occurring.

Civic activists, students from P.S. 11 and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer gathered on Monday morning at the corner of 51st Street and Skillman Avenue to announce the installation of a new traffic signal at the intersection.

“We’re here today to celebrate a huge victory, a monumental victory for this community because it’s the small things that really matter in the daily lives of everyday people and that stop light has been something we have all worked for for years,” Van Bramer said.

The call for the stop light came after a pedestrian was hit at the intersection and community members including Arthur Ferguson, who started a petition that gathered 265 signatures, and Van Bramer reached out to the Department of Transportation.

“This stop light is a great victory and a great sign of what a community can do to make its streets safer,” Van Bramer said. “This would not have happened without a communitywide effort and never giving up because we heard no several times but we knew that this stop light was needed. We knew that it was too dangerous.”

Ali Mamun, who has owned Woodside Super Convenient at 51-01 Skillman Ave. for 20 years, said that he has seen numerous vehicle collisions at the intersection and down Skillman Avenue, so he hopes the new light will help prevent any future accidents.

“It’s excellent,” Mamun said about the traffic signal installation. “We are so happy for it. Hopefully the light will help everyone now.”

Along with the installation of the traffic signal, a slow zone is in the process of being implemented in the Sunnyside Gardens-Woodside neighborhood. It is expected to be completed by the end of the spring.

The parameters of the slow zone are Queens Boulevard/Roosevelt Avenue as the southern border, 43rd Street as the western border, 58th Street to the east and 38th Avenue/Barnett Avenue to the north.

“Our students walk back and forth to school and it’s a safer neighborhood now. It just became so much better,” said Elizabeth Pena-Jorge, principal at P.S. 11, located just blocks away from the intersection. “Woodside, and Sunnyside, just became a better place.”

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CB 1 chair, district manager to retire in the summer after almost four decades of service


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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 CB 1, 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 I.S. 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


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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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