Tag Archives: Councilmember Dan Halloran

Jimmy Meng pleads guilty to federal wire fraud charges


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Former Queens Assemblymember Jimmy Meng pleaded guilty Wednesday afternoon to federal wire fraud charges, according to the FBI.

Meng, the father to newly elected Congressmember and current Assemblymember Grace Meng, reportedly entered the plea on November 14 at around 2 p.m. He was arrested on July 24 for attempting to scam $80,000 in cash from a state court defendant, federal officials said.

“I am deeply saddened by the events surrounding my father the last several months,” the congressmember-elect said in a statement. “Today, he has taken full responsibility for his actions and I support his decision. This has been a difficult time for our family and we continue to pray for guidance in the coming months. My family hopes to continue to move past this chapter in their lives.”

The disgraced ex-legislator allegedly promised the defendant — who sought the former elected official’s help after being charged with state tax crimes — that his sentence would be reduced to one year if he paid prosecutors $20,000 each in bribes, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Federal prosecutors said Meng offered to be the middle man, instructing the individual to conceal and deliver the $80,000 payout in a fruit basket. The government investigation, however, uncovered no evidence the past politician even contacted prosecutors, and officials said Meng planned to keep the bribe money for himself.

“Give it to me and I will give it to them,” Meng allegedly told the defendant during a July 17 recorded telephone call, according to a criminal complaint.

Meng was caught red-handed on July 24 at his Flushing lumber yard accepting the fruit basket, which held thousands of dollars in cash from the defendant, who was cooperating with FBI special agents, authorities said. He was immediately placed under arrest and was released the following day on a $1 million bond secured by his two homes in Bayside and Flushing, said Bob Nardoza, spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.

Assemblymember Grace Meng, who has held her father’s old Flushing seat since 2008, was elected to Congress last week in a 2-to-1 landslide.

The then-congressional candidate originally distanced herself from her father in July when news broke of his arrest, saying in a statement she was “independent” of him and “always have been, always will be.”

She is not accused of any wrongdoings and is not tied to her father’s case.

Donate blood and receive free Mets tickets


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


On Tuesday, August 21, there will be a blood drive at the Bay Terrace Shopping Center, where donors will receive free Mets tickets.

The drive, organized by the New York Blood Center and Councilmember Dan Halloran, will take place from 4:00 to 8:30 p.m. at 211-39 26th Avenue in Bay Terrace.

To make an appointment, visit www.nybc.org.

6th District candidates debate hot-button issues


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The six 6th District congressional candidates mildly duked it out for the first time during a forum in Flushing — addressing hot-button city, state and national issues, like plans to fix the flailing economy and stances on immigration reform.

The hopefuls — Green Party’s Evergreen Chou, Democratic primary runners Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Assemblymember Grace Meng and Dr. Robert Mittman, and Republican contender Councilmember Dan Halloran — split the roughly two-hour meeting, held at Flushing Library on May 21, to introduce themselves and explain the platforms for which they are running.

Each lauded his or her experience, with the elected officials pointing to their plans on advocating for the middle class and improving education, Social Security and the job market, while the two citizen candidates — Chou and Mittman — respectively pushed for peace and change.

The forum was hosted by the MinKwon Center for Community Action. The congressional contenders remained civil, with minor disagreements stemming mostly from the differences between Republican and Democratic philosophies on the economy.

Halloran said the key to reviving the economy and creating jobs is making sure the government “stays out of the way of businesses.” Citing that 98 percent of small businesses in New York have disappeared between 1840 and 2011, he said government should decrease the number of agencies businesses are held accountable to, re-evaluate its tax roles to make sure businesses that are job creators aren’t overtaxed and give incentives to businesses to hire more employees.

Lancman respectfully disagreed, saying deregulating government led to the Wall Street meltdown. He said Wall Street first needs to be reformed — “making it an engine of economic growth, not a potential minefield that could blow up the economy once again” — and small businesses should be provided support and access to credit.

Meng took a different approach and said she believes improving mass transit, highways, roads and bridges would help increase jobs for Queens residents. She also said maintaining “better and closer” partnerships with universities and hospitals would help make Queens a “technology hub” and would stem job growth.

Chou said building more hospitals and engaging in government programs would revive the economy, while Crowley said pulling government spending on Afghanistan would give the country more money to use. Mittman backed Halloran, saying government should be limited and small business should not be overtaxed.

Questions on immigration reform and enforcement directly tied into talks about racial discrimination, when candidates addressed the efficiency of Secure Communities — a federal program that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens and repeat immigration violators — and the recent controversial stop and frisk policy.

Crowley — who said she believes in comprehensive immigration reform — said there is a fine line drawn if the illegal immigrant questioned is not a threat. She said she supported a local law passed in the City Council that prevented the Department of Corrections from imposing immigration detainers “on those that were not convicted of any crime and were not doing anything that was considered a serious crime.”

However, Halloran said “being in the country illegally is a crime” itself.

“You cannot reward someone who came here illegally with citizenship, but you can give them a path to permanent residency,” he said.

According to Halloran, illegal immigrants should fill out paperwork, pay the fees and be checked up on 10 years after they are granted permanent status to see that they are paying their taxes and not engaged in criminal activity. In regards to the stop and frisk policy and concerns of racial profiling, he said there is more of a correlation between economics and socio status than race.

While Lancman agreed people who commit serious crimes should not be welcomed in the country and said he is for comprehensive immigration reform, he said Secure Communities became “a mechanism for detaining and deporting” mostly law-abiding citizens and “created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust in immigrant communities.”

All six candidates opposed using local law enforcement to deal with immigration issues and said the role should lie in the federal government. They each also expressed support for pulling U.S. troops from overseas — however Halloran and Lancman raised serious concerns over whether or not doing so would gravely impact national security.

Crowley was recently endorsed by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 and New York City Building and Construction Trades Council, while Meng picked up support from ATU Local No. 1056 and Lancman from the New York State Public Employees Federation.

Water rate hike would soak residents


| brennison@queenscourier.com


Politicians and residents are worried that another year of swelling water bills will leave denizens drowning.

For the 16th consecutive year, New York City residents will be paying more for their water bill if the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed rate increase is adopted.

Assemblymember David Weprin called the hikes “déjà vu all over again,” comparing them to an additional property tax.

“Our proposed seven percent rate increase is the lowest increase in seven years and shows that DEP is doing everything in our power to try and keep rates in check while still delivering a product that city residents can take pride in every time they turn on the tap,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “Though any rate increase is difficult in these economic conditions, we are clearly moving in the right direction.”

The seven percent hike will add more than $60 per year to the average one-family home’s water bill.

“When an agency is proud that you only have to raise your rates by seven percent, then we know we have a problem,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder during a sparsely-attended public hearing on the rate hikes at Christ the King High School on Thursday, April 26.

Goldfeder authored a bill to cap annual water rate increases at four percent a year for cities with populations over 1 million.

A Weprin-sponsored bill, also in the Assembly, would limit increases to no more than five percent annually, or the rate of inflation.

A DEP representative at the hearing said that capping increases was not an option because of the many costs that are beyond the agency’s control.

The DEP blamed much of the rate hikes on mandated projects from the state and federal government that require the agency to perform projects despite receiving no funds.

This fiscal year, those mandates cost homeowners $253, according to the DEP.

Edward Schubert, an Ozone Park resident who bought a house in the neighborhood in 2005, was one of the few residents to speak at the hearing.

“The middle class is really suffering right now,” Schubert told the water board. “It’s the wrong time for these increases.”

In the seven years since moving into his house, Schubert has seen his water rates almost double.

The seven-member water board, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will vote on the increase on Friday, May 4. If approved, it will go into effect on July 1.

“There has to come a time where even a city agency or a board of mayoral appointees says ‘I think we’ve pushed out citizens a little too far,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran.  “Maybe it’s time to give them a break for a change.”

Vandalized fence in Whitestone to be replaced


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Dan Halloran

A graffiti-splattered construction fence in Whitestone will soon plague homeowners no more.

According to Councilmember Dan Halloran, the eyesore at 24-19 Francis Lewis Boulevard that infested the neighborhood for years will be replaced with a six-foot chain-link fence within a week. The councilmember said he struck a deal with Robin Singh, the new property owner, and he said he has also gained approval from the Department of Buildings (DOB).

“One of the problems is that this lot has changed hands several times recently,” Halloran said. “The new owner is anxious to be a good neighbor, and we are pleased to work with him on behalf of the community.”

The new fence will be higher by two feet and will no longer be slatted, Halloran said, which he hopes will deter graffiti vandalism, dumping and trespassing.

“[Singh and I] both had the same idea of sowing wildflower seeds on the property in the hope that after all these years, our neighbors deserve some beauty, instead of a ghastly eyesore,” Halloran said.

The once-abandoned property sat idle for over a decade after former property owners failed to pay taxes, the councilmember said. Local leaders said the plot had become a dumping ground for garbage and out-of-service construction equipment over the years.

College Point kids may get back on the bus


| mchan@queenscourier.com

school buses3w

A bi-partisan bill could see full school buses pulling away from J.H.S. 194 once again.

Legislation passed by the State Senate and Assembly — that now awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sign-off — would allow seventh and eighth grade students in the city to regain eligibility for school bus service.

In May 2010, the city Department of Education (DOE) announced it would end yellow school bus service for more than 4,000 seventh and eighth grade students throughout the city, as part of a “cost-saving measure.”

Community leaders said the move crippled neighborhoods like College Point, where they said there is no local middle school. Students at J.H.S. 194 in Whitestone, they said, were then forced to travel on city buses to get to and from school — their commute often totaling two hours.

Now, the new law initiated by Senator Andrew Lanza — named “Aniya’s Law,” after a 13-year-old Staten Island girl who was killed last June while crossing an intersection to catch a city bus after school — could restore yellow school bussing to city middle schoolers.

“It’s about time that we see a common sense solution to a ridiculous problem,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran. “The city literally left these kids out in the dark, adding hours to their commute to school.”

In 2010, Staten Island legislators instantly took the issue to state court due to their lack of public transportation services. State Supreme Court Justice John Fusco ruled the decision to eliminate school buses in Staten Island — as well as College Point — was made “without concern for the welfare and safety of the affected students,” according to a December 2010 report.

City officials took that ruling to Federal Court where Fusco’s decision was overturned on the basis that each student throughout the five boroughs must be treated equally. Due to a miscommunication in the DOE, parents and students at J.H.S. 194 were not informed that bus service was cut until 24 hours before the first day of the school year. The message was delivered by phone in an automated message, according to parents.

“Students in College Point were forced to spend up to an hour-and-a-half taking two or three city buses just to get to and from school. We can’t expect junior high school students to make two bus transfers to get to school every morning,” Halloran said. “It’s not safe, and it’s not fair to them. These are 11-year-old kids.”

If the governor approves the bill, the changes are slated take effect this September.

– Additional reporting by Bob Doda

Halloran is Republican Party pick for Ackerman’s seat


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Councilmember Dan Halloran has officially joined the race to vie for the newly-redrawn 6th Congressional District seat.

The Republican runner announced his intent to run on March 26 at Flushing’s Bowne Park.

“I am running for Congress because the president and the Democrats’ policies have failed, and New Yorkers need a new voice,” Halloran said. “Democrats in Washington, led by President Obama, have spent us into financial ruin. They have failed to grow our economy and have led us deep into a harrowing recession.”

Halloran — who was elected to the City Council in 2009 — said he would make reinforcing support for Israel and creating jobs and energy alternatives to reduce gas prices his top priorities.

“These three issues are at the heart of the problems that this country needs to solve,” he said. “I know we have a chance now to make a change. It’s time to send citizen politicians to Washington, not career ones. It’s time to talk about our values in our community. We need to start moving in the right direction on those issues.”

Halloran was nominated to run by the Queens Republican Party two days before his formal campaign kick-off. He was also nominated as the candidate of the Conservative Party.

He is expected to run unopposed in the June 26 primary, said officials at the Queens Republican Party. Without a current primary challenger, he will likely be pitted against one of the three Democratic primary runners, Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Assemblymember Grace Meng — who received the Queens Democratic Party bid.

All four candidates entered the race after the announcement that 15-term Congressmember Gary Ackerman would not seek re-election.

“The Sixth Congressional District deserves to have a fighter like Dan Halloran representing them in Washington,” said former Congressmember Rick Lazio, who endorsed the councilmember and publicly vowed to campaign door to door to ensure the win. “This is a gentleman that knows how to forge solutions. He has principles. He’s hard working. He’s got guts, and he’s doing this for the right reasons.”

Halloran already began receiving flak from Democratic opponents, not even 24 hours after the campaign launch.

Lancman lashed out saying the policies of former Republican leaders “brought our country to the brink of ruin.”

“We’re not going back to the failed Bush/Cheney policies which helped crash our economy, strain our military, threaten social security and put a woman’s health at the mercy of others,” he said.

However, Halloran said the race would “not be distracted by non-issues at any time.”

“We will stick to the message,” Halloran said. “We will stick to the things the people want addressed in Washington, and we will not lose focus.”

 

Historic street names restored in Douglaston


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Recently approved city legislation will restore six historic street names in the center of Douglaston.

The amended map will change 240th Street to Prospect Avenue, 242nd Street to Hamilton Place, 243rd Street to Orient Avenue, 42nd Avenue to Poplar Street, 43rd Avenue to Pine Street and 44th Avenue to Church Street, officials said.

“Douglaston is one of the most unique neighborhoods in our city,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran, who introduced the bill. “Its history and heritage are well worth remembering. This bill pays homage to the neighborhood’s history by restoring street names to the way they were hundreds of years ago.”

According to Halloran, residents of Douglaston and local civic leaders have fought for decades to keep their historic street names, despite the city’s push to make most roads numerical.

“To walk the streets of Douglaston is to step back into our city’s rich history,” Halloran said. “Everything from the original cobblestone curbs to massive tree canopies reminds visitors of a much simpler time.”

The city council voted to pass the bill on March 15.

“At a miniscule cost to the city, this law preserves our community’s heritage and history,” Halloran said.

With additional reporting by Alexa Altman

 

Ticker-tape parade planned for Tuesday to celebrate Giants Super Bowl win


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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New York Giants fans are getting ready to party like it’s 2008.

After defeating the New England Patriots 21-17 in a rematch of Super Bowl 42, the Giants will parade up the Canyon of Heroes to celebrate their Super Bowl championship for the second time in four years.

“Big Blue gave us a game to remember, and on Tuesday we’re going to give them a parade to remember,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The parade will begin at Battery Place and Washington Street at 11:00 a.m. and continue northbound up the Canyon of Heroes to Worth Street. The parade will be followed by a ceremony at City Hall Plaza, at which the mayor will present the champion Giants with keys to the city.

The win capped a run that featured the Giants going from 7-7 to Super Bowl champs, a feat that impressed Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“I congratulate the New York Giants on beating the odds and winning Super Bowl XLVI,” the governor said.  “After nearly missing the playoffs, the Giants have made history by becoming the first NFL team to win the Super Bowl after going 9-7 in the regular season. I look forward to celebrating this victory with all New Yorkers.”

Following the game, which was the rare sequel that was just as good as the original, many local politicians took to social media to congratulate the team.

Councilmember Dan Halloran tweeted, “Giants Win!!!!! Go New York – Big Blue!!!!!!”

The Giants two-time Super Bowl MVP inspired Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer to tweet, “Eli Manning does it again. Amazing win. Congrats @Giants#goblue #SuperBowl #manning #manningham.”

Campaign cash filling coffers


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


If forced to go to “war,” Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. would have the funds to flaunt the biggest arsenal in Queens.
According to recent filings with the city’s Campaign Finance Board, Vallone has a current balance of more than $850,000 — after receiving contributions totaling $1,049,819 — placing him first among the council’s Queens delegation.

“I’m really humbled by the amount of borough-wide support I have,” said the councilmember. “As you can see by the numbers of other elected officials, raising money is very difficult to do. To have this kind of support is really humbling.”

Despite Vallone’s affection for his city council position, he admits he has grander aspirations.

“I would love to stay as a councilmember,” he said. “It is a gratifying position, and it is the closest position to the people. But with term limits, if I want to stay in public service, I have to look at other positions. I am taking a serious look at borough president in two years.”
Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley and Mark Weprin are a distant second and third on the list, with balances of $92,114 and $90,627 respectively.
Crowley, like Vallone and numerous other Queens politicians, filed in the “undeclared” category, allowing for fundraising for city-wide and borough-wide offices, as well as re-election to their council seats.

“I take my responsibility to serve my constituents and the City of New York in the council very seriously, and my recent filing shows I have strong support within the community to continue my work,” Crowley said. “I look forward to years of continuing this service and am optimistic about the future.”
Weprin, who is rumored to be interested in the Council Speaker spot once Christine Quinn’s term has ended, says he has raised most of his money in the past six months.
“I’m running for re-election in 2013, so I’m raising money to make sure I am fully prepared to run,” Weprin said. “I’m enjoying my time in the council, and I hope my constituents think I have been doing a good job. I am just trying to prepare early because I believe it is good to be armed from early on. It is way too early to discuss leadership in the City Council. First I have to be re-elected.”

 

District 26 Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer is fourth, raising $70,230 and spending $39,279.

Despite filing under the “undeclared category,” Van Bramer says he plans to run only for re-election of his council seat.
“I am really grateful for all of the support that I have been shown by people who believe in the work that I am doing,” he said. “I have heard my name bandied about for other things, and I find that flattering. But I really love my job, and I fully expect to continue doing that. For me, [filing under “undeclared”] is meaningless.”
Councilmember Dan Halloran ranks seventh – behind Councilmembers Daniel Dromm and Julissa Ferreras – with a remainder of $6,463.

Halloran also filed “undeclared,” fueling speculation that he may have plans to make a run at Senator Tony Avella’s seat.

Bayside kicks off holiday season


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Bayside residents and community leaders rang in the holiday season by lighting up the neighborhood.

The Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) and Bayside Business Association (BBA) hosted their annual Holiday Tree and Menorah Lighting ceremony on November 29 at the BBA headquarters, located at 41-16 Bell Boulevard.

“This marks the start of the holiday season for Bayside,” said Judith Limpert, president of the BBA. “It is a beautiful village atmosphere here. I think today we are all way too dispersed and focused on things that aren’t relevant. Community and family are very important. We also hope to get people to understand that Bayside has a beautiful shopping strip. They should come here first, because they can probably get everything they need for their holiday shopping. The point of this event is to attract Baysiders to come out.”

Holiday lights were also recently installed by the Bayside BID above all the blocks of Bell Boulevard.

“This event only comes once a year, and it really is the beginning of the holiday season and the biggest season for businesses and restaurants here on Bell Boulevard,” said Gregg Sullivan, executive director of the Bayside BID. “Events like this and our street lights really improve business enormously and highlight Bayside.”

The neighborhood organizations were joined at the event by Councilmember Dan Halloran, Assemblymember Edward Braunstein, Father Brosnan from Sacred Heart Church, Father Byrnes from All Saints Episcopal Church and of course, Santa Claus.

“The celebration of light over darkness is what these holidays are all about,” said Halloran. “These lights symbolize that.”

During the ceremony, visitors were serenaded with Christmas carols, and children had the opportunity to tell Santa what gifts they wanted waiting for them under their tree this year. After the lighting, attendees were invited out of the cold and inside the BBA headquarters for hot chocolate and snacks.

“This is a wonderful event for [my goddaughter] to see the tree with all of this nice lighting,” said Rose Lynch, a Bayside resident for 45 years, who brought her goddaughter, Ashley, to the lighting ceremony. “It is a nice introduction to the holidays with spirit. I think this is a cute idea to come and meet Santa in a unique way, which is individual and small. It is delightful.”

Rally to reform zoning variances


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Councilmember Dam Halloran Elected officials rallied to reform to the City’s Board of Standards Appeals (BSA), the unelected body that grants zoning variances.

Elected officials headlined a press conference to call on reform to the City’s Board of Standards Appeals (BSA), the unelected body that grants zoning variances.
On Monday, October 31, Councilmembers Dan Halloran and Mark Weprin spoke in front of 50-20 216th Street in Bayside Hills, where a developer was granted a variance to build a two-bedroom home on a lot that is zoned R2A for low-rise, single-family homes. This building will ignore the back and side yard requirements that are the hallmarks of R2A zoning and will open the door for more overdevelopment in low-density areas, they say.
The corner lot on 216th Street was purchased two years ago by Chapel Rock Realty, a developer, and then divided into two zoning lots. The developer rents the existing home and will rent the new home if the project moves forward.
Halloran has introduced two pieces of legislation, which Weprin is co-sponsoring, that would empower the community and elected leaders on all levels of city government. Variances must be approved by the Board of Standards and Appeals with advisory input from both the community board and the Borough President.
In the Bayside Hills case, both the community board and Borough President advised against granting this variance.
“Residents should have the right to appeal decisions by the Board of Standards and Appeals to the City Council when they believe a wrong has been committed,” Weprin said.
The first bill would give the community board and Borough President the power to appeal decisions of the BSA. If either opposed a variance application that was later passed by the BSA, the appeal would be heard by the full City Council, which would then vote on whether to grant the variance. As the law currently stands, the decision of the BSA is final.
The second bill is aimed at ensuring that commercial properties abide by variances that they are granted. Presently, there is no penalty to a property operating with an expired variance. This is a loophole and leaves both the community and the community board virtually powerless.
The new law would require the BSA to notify the property owner that they must apply for a new variance six months before the current variance expires. After six months operating without the variance, the BSA would have the power to issue fines. This gives owners a one-year period to get their paperwork in order, apply for a new variance and go before both the community board and the Borough President, thus allowing input to the process.
“Our city’s charter put the Council, not an unelected board, in charge of land use decisions,” said Halloran. “These laws would give the land use authority in New York City back to the City Council, and would increase the vital role that the community board plays in the process.”
Halloran and Weprin are each members of the City Council’s Land Use Committee, and Weprin chairs the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. Both bills have bi-partisan support and are co-sponsored by City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera of the Bronx and Minority Leader James Oddo of Staten Island.