Tag Archives: Councilmember Eric Ulrich

Parking problems persist at Lindenwood Shopping Center


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

QUEENS COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

Bobby Patel, owner of Village Card and Gifts, said during busy times of year — like during the holidays or when school is in session — it is not uncommon to see cars blocking the fire lane in the parking lot of the Lindenwood Shopping Center.

About twice a year, he said there will be an accident because a driver might be going the wrong way.

Parking, misdirection and the need for better-drawn lines are some of the problems residents run into when using the lot, despite a strict policy from law enforcement on fire lane parking.

One Lindenwood resident said people parking in the fire lane can affect drivers trying to pull in or out of handicapped spots.

“For the senior citizens it’s not good,” he said, motioning toward a section of handicapped spots not far from the fire lane. The resident said he had witnessed several incidents in which an elderly person tried to get out of a spot but couldn’t because of someone parked in the nearby fire lane.

Police from the 106th Precinct are not allowed to enforce moving violations in the private parking lot, an NYPD spokesperson said. They are only allowed to ticket drivers for illegally parking in handicapped spots or in the fire lane. The number of calls for fire lane violations was undetermined but prominent, the spokesperson said. No matter the amount of time parked, or the reason, the spokesperson said, there is a zero tolerance policy for leaving a car in the fire lane, which runs the length of the strip mall.

The Lindenwood Alliance has recommended several options to better the parking situation, said Joann Ariola, president of the organization. One idea is to hire a private enforcement company to monitor the violations in the parking lot.

The center’s management company, Howard Plaza Realty, has been working with the civic group to address these concerns. Ariola said the company plans to repave the parking lot, put up more signs and make sharper lines for the fire lanes and parking spaces.

Joe Trotta, a manager at the company, said paving for the parking lot is planned for September, with new parking lines and one way arrows on the pavement.

“Hopefully with the paving and the new striping and the arrow directions will help to alleviate this problem,” he said.

Private enforcement, however, is not something the company has looked into at this time, Trotta said.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder has also contacted the management company regarding the parking and direction issues in the shopping center. The shopping center was an ideal location that well-served the community, Goldfeder said, but the fading lines and signage needed to be corrected to avoid further problems.

“These problems are simple to fix and should be addressed as soon as possible,” Goldfeder said. “Owners and management at the shopping center have been great community partners and I am confident that they will do everything they can to ensure that shoppers are safe while visiting local stores.”

Calls to Councilmember Eric Ulrich’s office and the Department of Transportation were not returned.

Despite getting ticketed, sometimes numerous times, Patel said some people get used to parking in the lane and continue to do so, no matter what.

“They don’t want to walk,” he said.

15th State Senate District endorsements rolling in


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

In the race for the 15th State Senate District, candidates have been garnering certain key endorsements.

Congressmember Bob Turner endorsed City Councilmember Eric Ulrich — as the Ozone Park native will face off in a primary against former mayoral aide Juan Reyes. The winner of the race will then go up against incumbent State Senator Joseph Addabbo.

 

 

 

 

 

“Eric is part of a new era of leadership that will make state government work again,” Turner said. “I have the great fortune of serving alongside him and I’ve seen first-hand his commitment to the community. He understands the kitchen-table issues that Queens families are facing and he is by far the most qualified candidate to bring New York out of its economic decline and put people back to work.”

Both represent the same area in their respective government bodies.

This endorsement comes after the 27-year-old councilmember got backing from the Queens Conservative party last week, and then the Independent Pary on June 4 — an endorsement given to Addabbo in 2010.

In order to run against Addabbo, however, Ulrich must first beat Reyes, a formal mayoral aid, in the June 26 primary. Reyes, a Forest Hills lawyer, received an endorsement from the Queens GOP.

The GOP choice has not affected the Ulrich campaign; rather, its members say a primary would strengthen the camp. Supporters of Ulrich are confident he will come out the victor of the primary, said Bill O’Reilly, his campaign spokesperson.

“Sometimes a primary can work out the kinks in a campaign,” O’Reilly said. “It’s a good practice-run for a general election.”

Ulrich — whose current city council district comprises a big chunk of the senate district — has the support of many party members in his zone, which includes Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Lindenwood, O’Reilly said.

“We think that’ll be an advantage going into election day,” he said. “Both in the primary and the general election.”

State Senator Joseph Addabbo has received endorsements from the United Federation of Teachers and other unions. While it is still early in the election, Addabbo said he has been focusing on business in Albany and meeting with his district’s constituents.

Walmart grant will boost One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center


| sarahyu@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center

Simcha Waisman has 10,000 more reasons to smile.

The president of the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center was pleased to learn that Walmart has given them $10,000 in funding, through Councilmember Eric Ulrich.

“We’re proud of our track record of philanthropy in the city and are always looking for new opportunities to support programs that are making a difference,” said Steven Restivo, Senior Director of Community Affairs for Walmart, who noted that the company has contributed about $13 million to New York City-based nonprofits since 2007. “The ARISS program at the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center helps area youth become excited about science and engineering and we hope our contribution will help the organization reach its goals.”

Waisman shared that the funds will go toward a summer camp that will be held for two weeks relating to the Center’s science and technology program.

Recently, the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center hosted another videoconference with NASA, during which the educators there showed kids what it is like to live in space.

The children learned what kind of food they eat, what happens when you let an object go in space and also got a glimpse of the solar neighborhood.

Waisman said that getting funds is a jump-start and the beginning of the future because, with more funding and donations from the city and state, they will be able to reopen programs that were forced to close down due to financial difficulties.

Once they receive more funding from the city, Waisman explained, the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center will be able to hold more videoconferences, the next of which will take place next week at P.S. 90.

 

Queens GOP big wig involved in ‘shakedown’


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

A Board of Elections (BOE) employee trying to make a quick buck has instead found himself in hot water.

The BOE has suspended Stephen Graves – who is also a top official in the Queens Republican Party – after he was allegedly caught on tape soliciting a $25,000 “finder’s fee” from a company competing for a multi-million dollar contract in 2009.

According to published reports, Graves, who is the first vice chairman of the Queens GOP, requested money from Dominion Voting Systems – a Denver-based company – while it was contending against Nebraska’s Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) for a $65 million contract to sell the city its first electronic voting machines. The Department of Investigation (DOI) reportedly provided information to the BOE regarding Graves’ actions.

Both the BOE and DOI declined to comment, as the investigation is ongoing.

Graves allegedly wanted the fee in return for recommending a particular lobbyist to Dominion.

Dominion denied Graves’ request, however, and the contract went to ES&S.

Attempts to reach Graves were unsuccessful, but reports claimed he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights while being questioned by DOI.

Dominion officials reportedly filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and submitted their recorded conversations with Graves. The matter has now been brought to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, according to the accounts.

Attempts to reach Dominion went unreturned as of press time.

Graves, who also was the GOP candidate for Congress against Gary Ackerman in 2004, has reportedly been a systems analyst at the BOE since 2007.

Phil Ragusa, chair of the Queens Republican GOP, would not comment on the charges, but called Graves “absolutely honest” in his work.

“His work was always exemplary for the Queens County Republican Party,” Ragusa said.

Republican Councilmember Eric Ulrich admitted he was not surprised by the news, and expressed disapproval of both Graves’ actions and Ragusa’s stance.

“I was appalled, but not shocked, by the revelations about Queens GOP Vice-Chair Stephen Graves and his shameful attempt to ‘shakedown’ a vendor trying to sell the city new voting machines,” Ulrich said. “For Phil Ragusa, as head of the county organization, to defend Graves as ‘honest’ even after Graves refused to cooperate fully with the DOI is a slap in the face to the rank and file members of the Republican Party.”

Homeowners get free tree help


| chudson@queenscourier.com

Tree Sidewalks Photow

Thanks to a $1.1 million grant from Councilmember Eric Ulrich, 317 people are going to get brand new sidewalks for free.

The Trees and Sidewalks program, started in 2005 by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, repairs sidewalks throughout the city that have been damaged by overgrown tree roots. The Parks Department will be focusing its repair efforts on 317 sites throughout Ulrich’s district, thanks to the grant he provided.

Owners of one-, two- and three-family dwellings are eligible for repair assistance under the program. Homeowners can call 3-1-1 to request an inspection of sidewalk damage by a Parks Department forester.

In 2009 testimony before the city council, N.Y.C. Assistant Commissioner for Forestry and Horticulture Fiona Watts explained how sidewalk damage is assessed.

“Inspectors quantify the damage to the sidewalk at each site by rating the site according to a number of criteria. These criteria include vertical lift, number of damaged flagstones, the volume of pedestrian usage, passable sidewalk width, and the condition of the tree.”

Damage is graded from 1 to 100, with repairs slated for areas scoring over 60, “based on available funding.” Unfortunately, once funds are exhausted, homeowners can be left with sidewalks in a state that is equal parts headache and hazard.

“[Homeowners have] been waiting on a list for a number of years to get their sidewalks fixed through the program,” Ulrich explained. “In the meantime, it’s been a tripping hazard, it’s a liability for them and if they have to pay for it on their own, it could be $1,000 or more to repair.”

Thanks to the funding from Ulrich’s office, work has already begun at designated locations, which were all scored at 65 or higher or the Parks Department damage scale. Ulrich estimates that all repairs could be completed within eight weeks.

 

Will Forest Park Senior Center close its doors for good?


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Another round of budget cuts may force the Forest Park Senior Center — along with five others in the borough — to close its doors for good.

The Woodhaven-based center narrowly escaped the chopping block last year, after it received $120,000 in funding — half from the City Council and the other half from the Borough President — at the last minute.

But it faces the threat of potential closure once again this year.

“Every year at this time, I feel like I’m Chicken Little,” said Donna Caltabiano, the center’s executive director.

Marshall and the Borough Board — made up of the borough president, district council members and chairs of each of the borough’s 14 Community Boards — approved a $258.6 million budget priorities package on March 13.

“This priorities package, which will now be sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council, is meant to build our borough,” Marshall said.

Heading the top of the list, Marshall said, is restoring $1.6 million in discretionary funding to keep the Forest Park Senior Center, the Kew Gardens Senior Center, SAGE/Queens Senior Center, Korean-American Senior Center, Bell Park Senior Center and LeFrak Senior Center up and running.

“If it wasn’t for the borough president and Councilmember Eric Ulrich, we wouldn’t be open this year, and we won’t be open next year if they don’t help us again. We need them even more than ever,” Caltabiano said. “Last year, we really felt like it was the end. We were actually in a closed-down mode, and we already broke the news to our seniors.”

Caltabiano said the center — which has been in existence since 1979 — is home to the 40 to 45 seniors who use the facility daily.

“They will not go to another place. They will not. This is their home. Their friends are here. They even have a certain seat that they sit in every day. For the majority of them, this is their center,” she said.

To keep their home, the seniors — and Caltabiano — are prepared to fight for it once more.

While Caltabiano has personally lent the center $20,000 — until it receives Marshall’s secured funding from last year — seniors, like one who goes by the name of “Joe,” gave the center $5,000 and lent $30,000. The others also raised $11,000, thanks to Joe who matched the donations, Caltabiano said.

“That’s how much they want to keep the place running,” she said.

Ulrich said he would try and pull through for the center again this year.

“This is déjà vu all over again. Every year, we seem to be in the same predicament,” he said. “The Forest Park Senior Center does a wonderful job of providing services to the senior population in Woodhaven and Forest Park. I’ll do everything I can to fight and keep it open.”

Meanwhile, Caltabiano said she and the seniors can only cross their fingers and hope for the best.

“I’m hoping for another miracle. I’m hoping for Christmas in June,” she said.

Parents vote down school ‘Choice’ in District 27


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A unanimous vote overwhelmingly turned down one city proposal that would switch up the middle school enrollment process within District 27.

Following a 7-0 vote, board members of the district’s Community Education Council (CEC) defeated the city Department of Education’s (DOE) “Middle School Choice” plan, which would have allowed students to apply to attend almost any middle school in the district.

“From the very beginning, ‘Middle School Choice’ was a severely misguided attempt to address the issue of middle school enrollment in District 27, which would have resulted in a very confusing process that parents clearly did not understand or want,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich, a staunch advocate throughout the proposal’s community input phase.

DOE and District 27 CEC officials had discussed the possibility of implementing “Middle School Choice” for the district, which includes Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Broad Channel, Belle Harbor, Rockaway Park, Far Rockaway and parts of Jamaica, back in October 2011.

Under the plan, students would be eligible to attend better schools outside of their zoned residential areas, and DOE officials said the program would provide students and parents with more educational options.

While the ‘Choice’ proposal stated that zoned students would still have first priority for admission to their zoned middle schools, it had garnered much opposition throughout the affected southern Queens communities — especially from parents who were worried their children would lose seats in their zoned schools.

“I want to thank the CEC members for casting their votes according to the will of the parents they represent. They showed tremendous courage in standing up to the DOE bureaucrats who sought to impose this mandate on our district,” Ulrich said.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich tapped for Romney campaign


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Eric Ulrich

Councilmember Eric Ulrich has been named chair of Republican and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in New York City.

“I’m honored because I believe Governor Romney stands the best chance at defeating Barack Obama, and I know that he’ll make an excellent president during a very challenging time in our nation,” Ulrich told The Courier.

Born and raised in Ozone Park, Ulrich, 26, was first elected to the council when he was 24 and now represents Ozone Park and Howard Beach — serving as Minority Whip of the Republican delegation.

When Romney’s representatives reached out to him about three weeks ago to get on board the campaign, Ulrich said he happy to take on the leadership role.

“I’m not getting any financial compensation for this,” Ulrich said. “I’m doing this for the country because I believe he is prepared to take us in a better direction. The country needs Governor Romney’s leadership.”

Ulrich will be working with Guy Molinari, Romney’s New York state chairman and former Staten Island borough president.

“Since being elected in 2009, Eric Ulrich has emerged as one of the rising stars in the Republican Party,” said Molinari. “I am honored that he has agreed to work with me to ensure that Governor Romney assembles a formidable organization here in New York City for our party’s primary and we return New York to the Republican column next November.”

Currently, Ulrich is assisting the campaign by selecting delegates and alternate delegates from various districts throughout the city for next year’s Republican National Convention. He said he is also helping with fundraising and lining up additional support from civic and political leaders across the city.

Ozone Park Fall Festival of fun


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

Kids picked and painted free pumpkins, took home free candy apples and jumped around in a giant bouncy castle during the fall festival in Ozone Park on Saturday, October 15. The event in Tudor Park was sponsored by Councilmember Eric Ulrich and was hosted by the Parks Department.

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Ozone Park Fall Festival this Saturday


| brennison@queenscourier.com

NEWS YOU CAN USE:

Ozone Park Fall Festival this Saturday

A Fall Festival will be held between noon and 3 p.m. this Saturday at Addabbo Playground on North Conduit Avenue between 81st and 82nd streets.

The festival is sponsored by Councilmember Eric Ulrich.

There will be face painting, a pumpkin patch, fall crafts and a bounce house.

For more information call 718-318-4000.

Queens GOP leadership in question


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

With the Queens political world already rattled, a storm has begun brewing on the horizon of the borough’s Republican Party.

Two organizational meetings were held on September 28, during which two different men claim to have been elected Queens County Republican GOP leader.

According to Robert Hornak, spokesperson for the Queens Republican Party, current chair Phil Ragusa was re-elected, receiving the support of every voter who attended his meeting – amounting to 62 percent of the total voting strength.
Former Councilmember Thomas Ognibene also claims he was elected at a meeting called by Bart Haggerty, who works for Councilmember Eric Ulrich, which was held on the same date and time as Ragusa’s gathering.

Hornak says that GOP Chair Ed Cox called to congratulate Ragusa on September 29, although Ognibene claims he received a similar phone call from Cox.

“Obviously this is an internal political dispute,” said Ognibene. “I believe I am the one that has been elected, and we submitted our certification of the election to the Board of Elections.”

The GOP leader is chosen by county committee members – elected officials in local parties – who frequently have state committee members hold proxy votes for them. In the September 13 Primary, the two party factions battled for a number of state committee member positions.

There were recent published reports that Ognibene would oppose Ragusa for GOP leader, although Hornak does not believe the challenge to be a legitimate one.

“We knew we were going to win, so they held another meeting to pretend they wouldn’t lose,” said Hornak. “They held a competing meeting without authorization. Bart Haggerty sent out a fraudulent notice saying he was the chair and called a meeting. Only the official chairman can call a meeting. This is all just nonsense to confuse people because they have lost.”

Ragusa’s campaign filed a restraining order that demanded the cancellation of the opposing meeting – a demand Haggerty and Ognibene ignored.

“They tried to take us to court today and tried to stop our meeting last night and couldn’t,” Ognibene said. “I guess we will just have to proceed and I’m sure there may be legal challenges. We were in court on September 29 and we will have to go to court on October 4.”

Ognibene says he is proceeding as if he was elected and will perform all the requirements of the GOP leader until a resolution is reached. He believes that Ragusa has been ineffective and has not done enough to advance the success of the borough’s Republican Party.

“Dealing with Mr. Ragusa is impossible,” said Ognibene. “They haven’t done anything and they haven’t supported any candidates. They are into self-aggrandizement instead of helping the Republican Party. He has done nothing to move the Republican Party forward. We have done it ourselves in southwest Queens.”

Ragusa says his opponent’s accusations are unjustified and unsupported, and that Ognibene’s interest in the position is for his own personal gain.

“We’ve run Bob Turner, Jane Deacy and even Ognibene himself,” said Ragusa. “Everyone that ran with the Republican designation ran because of us. In my four-and-a-half years we’ve run more candidates than they did in the last 10 years. We have done everything a party is supposed to do. I think these are blind accusations. I haven’t seen Mr. Ognibene at a county event since I’ve been chairman. He doesn’t do anything to support the county. I think he spends most of his time on a golf course.”

If the current hearing does not settle the dispute between the party’s two factions, Ragusa says his campaign will file a separate action to invalidate Ognebene’s filing with the Board of Elections.