Tag Archives: Councilman Mark Weprin

Celia Dosamantes, former Meng and Weprin aide, officially seeking City Council seat


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Celia Dosamantes

A former aide to Assemblyman David Weprin will run for his brother’s vacant City Council seat.

Celia Dosamantes confirmed to The Courier that she will run in the upcoming special election for the 23rd District seat, which covers Bellerose, Glen Oaks, Queens Village, Oakland Gardens and other eastern Queens neighborhoods. Councilman Mark Weprin vacated the seat Friday to begin a new role with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Dosamantes, the youngest candidate for the seat thus far at 24 years old, grew up in Bellerose, and has lived in the district for most of her life. Because of this she believes she knows much of the problems the area faces.

“The reason why I’m running for this seat is because I grew up in this area. I love this community,” she said. “It gives me an opportunity to help grow and strengthen this community.”

Dosamantes is leaving her current role as deputy chief of staff for Assemblyman Philip Ramos. Before that she served as the executive assistant for Rep. Grace Meng and, prior to that, a communications and legislator director for David Weprin. She has also served as executive director of the Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group.

If elected, she intends to support senior services, transportation, job creation and increasing resources for schools. She hopes to be on the education committee as Dosamantes comes from a family with a background in education. Her mother, grandmother and aunt were all schoolteachers.

Dosamantes has already taken the lead on one key issue in the community, organizing a protest with residents against the recently announced juvenile jail in Queens Village.

She also wants to create a task force against domestic violence, and hopes to fight for another precinct in the area to share responsibilities with the 105th Precinct, which she believes is overburdened.

“An officer died in our area,” she said, referring to P.O. Brian Moore. “There is no reason why our district shouldn’t have the best policing services.”

In entering the race, Dosamantes faces a potentially crowded field that includes lawyer and activist Ali Najmi; former Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik; and Rebecca Lynch, a de Blasio administration staffer.

Dosamantes said she has a lot of support from people in the neighborhood and many volunteers. She also may have the support of the large Hindu population in the area. An example of Queens diversity, Dosamantes has an Indian mother and a Mexican father, as well as some other influences, and speaks four languages including English, Hindi, Bengali and Spanish.

Dosamantes recognizes that winning the seat will be an uphill battle as the youngest candidate, but she thinks she has a chance.

“I think it’s up for grabs,” Dosamantes said. “I am the underdog, but I also represent the people’s candidate because I come from the district.”

Mark Weprin has yet to endorse a candidate running for his seat. Reached by phone, he didn’t want to comment specifically about Dosamantes either.

“I will make an endorsement eventually,” Weprin said. “I have worked with her. But I’d rather not comment on any one candidate at this time.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to schedule a date for the special election, which by law must take place within 60 days.

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Photos: Queens honors and remembers soldiers with Memorial Day parades


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Dominick Totino Photography/Gallery by Robert Pozarycki, Anthony Giudice, Liam La Guerre

Nearly a dozen Memorial Day parades were held in Queens over the weekend as the borough paid tribute to military men and women who protect the freedoms residents enjoy today.

Mayor Bill de Blasio marched in the Little Neck/Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, which began at 2 p.m. on Northern Boulevard and Jayson Avenue, alongside U.S. Representative Grace Meng, Borough President Melinda Katz, Public Advocate Letitia James, Councilmen Paul Vallone and Mark Weprin and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein.

Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Loree Sutton, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs, served as the parade’s grand marshal. Sutton hailed Memorial Day as a sacred time.

“It is a day that we come together to commemorate and remember and to think about all that we share in this great country and to remind ourselves that the cost and price of freedom is never free,” Sutton said. “That we are so blessed to be in the land of the free because of the brave.”

Parades were held in Woodside/Sunnyside, Whitestone, Laurelton, Howard Beach, Glendale/Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village, Forest Hills, College Point and Woodhaven.

New military recruits, veterans in vintage cars, fire fighters, police officers, JROTC members, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and marching bands participated in the borough’s parades while parents and children donned red, white and blue and waved the stars and stripes from sidewalks.

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Controversial Bayside elementary school to start construction this summer


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy the Department of Education 

The School Construction Authority is collecting bids to find a company to construct a controversial four-story, 468-seat elementary school in Bayside on the former Keil Brothers Garden Center and Nursery site.

The school, P.S. 332, will cost between $46.2 to $48.6 million and should be open for students from pre-K through fifth grade in September 2017, according to a Department of Education representative. Although a specific time wasn’t given, construction on the nearly 80,500-square-foot facility is expected to start in the late summer, the spokesperson said.

Dozens of residents held a rally two years ago in front of the site at 210-07 48th Ave. to protest the new school. Homeowners nearby said it would impact parking and present dangerous traffic problems for students.

The City Council gave the green light for the project in November 2013 after a vote. Councilmen Mark Weprin and Peter Vallone Jr. were the only legislators who voted against it. However, state Sen. Tony Avella, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and Community Board 11 also opposed the project.

Supporters of the plan said it would relieve congestion from the district’s schools, which, like schools in many other parts of the borough, are suffering from overcrowding.

That could be the reason why the size of the proposed school inflated over the years. Original plans were for a 456-student institution.

Construction companies have until May 22 to submit their bids.

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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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Bellerose library to reopen after $1.66M renovation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Queens Library


The Bellerose branch of the Queens Library will reopen Wednesday following a $1.66 million facelift and technological additions.

The revitalization features fresh decor, a new teen area with computers, self service check out and fully automated 24/7 self check-in, so members can return books at any time.

Library officials will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, with face painting and balloon animals for kids.

Funding for the project was allocated by Councilman Mark Weprin, Assemblywoman Barbara Clark and state Sen. Tony Avella.

 

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Five city trees illegally chopped at former Bayside Hills gardening center site


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Updated Saturday, July 27, 11:40 a.m.

The former site of the Keil Brothers gardening center in Bayside Hills isn’t a place for timber anymore.

Five city-owned trees with an estimated value of more than $340,000 saw the buzzer last week, resulting in complaints from residents and possible criminal charges and fines from the Parks Department.

Four ash trees and one American sycamore were killed. The trees were estimated to be at least 30 years old. The Parks Department is working with police to investigate the killing of the trees.

“Arborcide is a serious crime that deprives communities of the cleaner air, cooler streets and additional oxygen that trees provide,” Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said. “NYC Parks is working with the NYPD to investigate the arborcide of these five Bayside trees, and will pursue full replacement value.”

The Keil Brothers merged with Garden World in Flushing earlier this year, and sold part of the site to the Department of Education and the section in question to 48 Garden Realty LLC in July, city filings show.

Trees on both the 48th Avenue side of the property and the 210th Street side were cut. However, only the saplings on 210th Street were privately owned, while the sprawling 50- to 60-foot-tall city trees on 48th Avenue belong to the city.

Representatives for 48 Garden Realty LLC could not be reached for comment as there is no contact email or number listed for the the firm.

Residents weren’t happy about the landscape change and Councilman Mark Weprin promised charges would come.

“Arborcide is a criminal offense, and I will be working to support the Parks and Police Departments to see that the perpetrators are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Weprin said.

Photo courtesy of John Richard

Although leaders at Community Board 11 said they hope new trees will be replanted, and the Parks Department is promising to seek full replacement, residents are still troubled by the loss.

“It was devastating. Instead of an empty lot, I was looking at a forest,” said John Richard, who lives across the street. “It’s sad because it takes 45 years to grow those things, but a day to cut them down.”

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article stated the trees were cut by the lot’s current owner, 48 Garden Realty LLC, based on misinformation. The Parks Department confirmed that the NYPD investigation is still ongoing.

 

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