Tag Archives: Councilmember James Gennaro

Costa Constantinides sworn in as District 22′s new councilmember


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Costa Constantinides' Office

Councilmember Costa Constantinides is ready to work for his community.

The freshman legislator celebrated his inauguration Sunday at Long Island City High School as the new District 22 councilmember, representing Astoria, and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

Constantinides was sworn in by former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., and Councilmember James Gennaro was the emcee of the ceremony. Constantinides previously served as deputy chief of staff for Gennaro.

“Today marks not just a transfer in power, but an inauguration of a new era in our city, an era that will be defined by a revitalized sense of civic participation and engagement,” said Constantinides. “We will ensure that the levers of city government are once again working to lift up our homeowners, tenants, small business owners, and everyone struggling to get by.”

During his inaugural address, Constantinides spoke about his goals for the district, including cleaner and safer streets, better health care, more transportation options. The councilmember also shared his stories on growing up in Astoria, from playing basketball with State Senator Michael Gianaris, back in the day, to meeting his wife on Steinway Street.

The inauguration ceremony also featured the LIC High School JROTC Color Guard, the high school’s marching band, dance class, chamber choir and refreshments by the culinary class and greek restaurant Zenon Taverna. The Greek-Cypriot Dance Pancyprian Association Youth Dance Division also performed.

“All that I have I owe to the combined efforts and the sterling example of our community, without which the course of my life would have been profoundly different,” said Constantinides. “I know that we can accomplish great things when we come together because I have lived it my entire life.”

 

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Costa Constantinides sworn into City Council


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Costa Constantinides' Facebook

Councilmember Costa Constantinides was officially sworn into the City Council Tuesday by City Clerk Michael McSweeney. He will begin his term Jan. 1

Constantinides, who represents District 22, was joined by Councilmember James Gennaro.

The date for his inauguration ceremony in Astoria is still to be determined.

 

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Mayor Bloomberg signs law to raise cigarette purchase age to 21


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Nikki Djokovich

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has signed a law making New York the first major U.S. city to have a minimum cigarette purchase age of 21.

Bloomberg signed the law on Tuesday, raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products, as well as e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21.

The law, which Bloomberg said “will prevent young people from experimenting with tobacco when they are most likely to become addicted,”will take effect in 180 days. The mayor has previously spearheaded measures such as banning smoking in bars and restaurants.

“Any person operating a place of business where cigarettes, tobacco products, or electronic cigarettes are sold or offered for sale will be prohibited from selling such products to anyone under the age of twenty-one and they will be required to post a sign in a conspicuous location stating the new law,” said Bloomberg.  “Sales of these products shall be made only to an individual who demonstrates, through a driver’s license or other photographic identification card issued by a government entity or educational institution, that the individual is at least twenty-one years of age.”

The City Council voted to raise the minimum age in October. It passed by a 35-10 vote.

“…Our city is sending a powerful signal to the tobacco industry and its allies that hooking our kids on nicotine will no longer be a viable business model,” said Councilmember James Gennaro, one of the law’s sponsors, after the October 31 vote.

Eighty percent of the city’s adults who become daily smokers start smoking before reaching the age of 21, according to the City Council.

The same day, the City Council also passed legislation which attempts to limit access to illegal tobacco products and strengthens enforcement against illegal cigarette dealers.

 

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Pols call for traffic calming measures in Fresh Meadows


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A group of leaders in Fresh Meadows are trying to put the brakes on lead-footed drivers who they say whiz down a stretch of homes daily.

The speeding motorists use 75th Avenue, a residential road, to bypass traffic on Union Turnpike, according to Councilmember James Gennaro.

For about one mile, between Utopia Parkway and 164th Street, drivers need only slow down twice for a speed bump and a stop sign, local leaders said.

“It’s a straight run” otherwise, Gennaro said. “It creates a very dangerous situation for people living in and around 75th Avenue on this particular stretch.”

At least four people were injured near 75th Avenue and 172nd Street between 2007 and 2011, according to the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), though none were severely hurt.

That number jumped to 14 in 2012, according to a spokesperson for Gennaro, who said crashes and near collisions are increasing as more drivers discover the detour.

Assemblymember Nily Rozic said she recently saw a speeding driver jump the curb in an attempt to avoid hitting another car.

“It missed and parked on top of a lawn,” she said. “It’s actually not the first time that I’ve seen that on 75th Avenue. Enough is enough. We really need to figure out a strategic and innovative way to calm the neighborhood to speeding traffic.”

Gennaro said his office has made three requests for traffic studies since 2011. The calls for an all-way stop sign at 172nd Street and 75th Avenue were all denied by the DOT, the councilmember said.

“It’s frustrating,” Gennaro said. “The Department of Transportation has to figure something out. This situation may not lend itself to some kind of cookie cutter solution, but there has to be some sort of solution.”

DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said the location did not meet federal guidelines for more traffic controls. However, he said the department is looking into other measures.

The legislators proposed putting speed bumps instead of stop signs in problematic parts of 75th Avenue. A DOT feasibility study for the measure is not slated to be finished until October.

“A speed bump is a true traffic calming device,” Gennaro said. “That’s what it’s made for, to slow traffic down and make it a less desirable alternative to Union Turnpike.”

Principal Mary Scheer of nearby Holy Family School said traffic along 75th Avenue will only increase in the meantime.

“They want to keep speeding. I’ve seen cars pass each other on this road. It’s very dangerous,” she said. “There’s total neglect of any of the rules of the road on this street.”

 

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Costa Constantinides wins 22nd Council District primary race


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos By Angy Altamirano

After months of campaigning, Costa Constantinides is one step closer to filling Peter Vallone Jr.’s seat in City Council District 22 and representing Astoria, Long Island City and parts of Jackson Heights.

Together with his wife, 4-year old son, mother, family, friends and supporters Constantinides celebrated his victory as the Democratic candidate in the Primary elections on September 10 at Raven’s Head Public House in Astoria. He won the race with 4,295 votes, holding onto 55.8 percent of the votes.

“I’m humbled by the faith people in this district have put in me,” said Constantinides. “I look forward to having a discussion about the issues that matter to people in the general election, but tonight I’m still celebrating and so proud of the people I worked with, our campaign team.”

The lifelong Astoria resident was joined by Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, State Senator Michael Gianaris and District 24 Councilmember James F. Gennaro during his celebration.

“I’m excited, but at the same time I understand the faith and the gravity of what they’ve [the people] asked me to do,” said Constantinides. “They’ve asked me to represent them in city government, to stand up for them, to make sure they have a voice and I’m looking forward to being that voice for them and making my case in the general election on why I have the best vision to move our district forward.”

Before running for City Council, Constantinides was elected as the Democratic District Leader for the 36th Assembly District, Part A in 2009. He was also Deputy Chief of Staff for Gennaro.

“Costa is all heart, this is what he is, this is what he’s about,” said Gennaro. “He’s all love, love for his family, love for his community, love for his work, he’s passionate about it.”

Some of the main issues on Constantinides’ campaign include improving education, healthcare, public safety and improving Astoria.

In the primary race Constantinides was running against long time community board 1 member Constantinos “Gus” Prentzas and attorney John Ciafone, who ran against Vallone in 2001.

“In a three month period that we had, I think we ran an extremely well campaign,” said Prentzas, who took in 1,701 votes. “We were able to put out the message that we are very concerns about Astoria. I wish Costa the best and I’m to continue being a voice and more active, more now to make sure the people that supported me have their concerns heard.”

Constantinides will now run against Republican Daniel Peterson, Green Party candidate Lynne Serpe and Independent Danielle De Stefano in the general election on November 5.

Whoever wins the seat for District 22 in November, will mark the first time since 1974 that a member of the Vallone family does not hold the position. Before current Councilmember and term-limited Peter Vallone Jr. was elected to represent the district, his father, former Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. held the seat.

 

City Council District 24 candidate Andrea Veras kicks off campaign


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Andrea Veras

City Council candidate Andrea Veras kicked off her campaign with dozens of supporters on August 3.

The Briarwood activist and paralegal is vying to replace term-limited Councilmember James Gennaro in the 24th District, which stretches from Fresh Meadows to Jamaica.

“Improving the living conditions of my community has always been my passion,” Veras said, “and I want to bring a fresh perspective to city management, transparency and leadership to all the communities comprised in District 24.”

Veras, a single mother of three, immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 1990.

She said she wants to get youngsters interested in their education and community events and create affordable housing and healthcare programs.

Veras will run against former Assemblymember Rory Lancman and Mujib Rahman in the Democratic primary on September 10. The winner will face off with Republican candidate Alex Blishteyn in the general election.

 

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More security cameras coming to Queens


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Police will install new sets of eyes in parts of Briarwood, Jamaica and Pomonok, according to a Queens lawmaker.

Seventeen NYPD security cameras are coming to the area’s high-traffic locations thanks to $600,000 in funding secured by Councilmember James Gennaro.

They can be found around Rufus King Park in Jamaica, near Archbishop Molloy High School and along Hillside Avenue, Jamaica Avenue and Parsons Boulevard, officials said.

“I am proud to have been a strong supporter of the use of these cameras,” Gennaro said.

Installation is slated to be completed by the city’s police department within two years.

The legislator said the cameras “are an essential part of the NYPD’s crime-fighting and counterterrorism efforts.”

Another 57 security cameras are coming to Queens, Borough President Helen Marshall announced last month.

 

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Astoria lawyer John Ciafone enters 22nd Council District race


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

John J. Ciafone has announced he will be running to fill Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.’s spot in the 22nd Council District.

“I’m running for Council in the 22nd District because our community is facing serious problems,” said Ciafone. “Until we change these issues, our community will continue to suffer and we will lose our friends, businesses, neighbors and families to other cities.”

Ciafone has been a lawyer based on Steinway Street for the past two decades. The Astoria native was the former president and treasurer of Community School Board 30. He currently serves as the executive officer of the Aldo’s Democratic Club and is counsel to the New York State Fraternal Order of Police Big Apple Lodge.

Ciafone will run against Democrats Tony Meloni, the founder and executive director of the New York Anti-Crime Agency and Costa Constantinides, deputy chief of staff for Councilmember James Gennaro.

 

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Doe Fund coming to Union Turnpike


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Fresh Meadows restaurant owner Ed Moore said the excessive litter and overflowing garbage cans along Union Turnpike were more than a mess — they were an embarrassment.

“It’s an eyesore, especially when St. John’s had their graduation, which was on Mother’s Day. There are 20,000 people coming to see their kids graduate from all over the country, and they’re going to come here and see this? That’s a reflection on us as New Yorkers,” said Moore, owner of the Sly Fox Inn.

Moore said the repulsive refuse problem along the area’s key commercial corridor was caused by too many fast food restaurants on the retail strip and not enough city sanitation pickup.

But residents and business owners can breathe easy after Councilmember James Gennaro allocated $30,000 to bring the Doe Fund to the garbage-strewn major street.

The Doe Fund employs homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals as part of a program fostering private employment and independent living, said Ray Damm, director of the fund’s community improvement project. Workers usually focus on litter removal from sidewalks and gutters.

“This is the great opportunity for people to build work experience while helping our neighborhood look its best,” Gennaro said.

The allocations also include an additional “green function,” the councilmember said, which allows workers to mulch and maintain sidewalk tree pits and collect used cooking oil from two local restaurants for recycling into biodiesel.

“We’re helping people who are looking for work. It’s such a great example of what New York City is about — focusing on local and helping people who need a little extra help. To me, it’s so symbolic of what has made this city great,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Doe Fund services will cover the commercial district between 188th Street and Utopia Parkway, Gennaro said. The area will be cleaned three times a week in addition to already established city sanitation services.

“There will never be litter on the streets of Union ever again,” Gennaro said.

Parking just got more pleasant


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Newly approved legislation is providing drivers with peace of mind by curbing unfair parking fines.

Councilmember James Gennaro joined community leaders and residents to celebrate the passage of a law requiring any parking ticket to be cancelled upon the presentation of a valid muni-meter receipt no later than five minutes after the violation is issued. Under the current law, tickets cannot be cancelled once issued by a traffic enforcement agent, even if a driver shows a valid muni-meter receipt – forcing citizens to appeal the violation in court or pay the fine.

“This is a common-sense law,” said Gennaro, who sponsored the bill. “If you park your car at a metered spot and you walk to the muni-meter to pay for it, you’re playing by the rules. And if there’s a parking agent close by, or you’re elderly and walk slowly or there’s someone in front of you at the muni-meter terminal, you shouldn’t be penalized as if you were trying to cheat the system.”

The City Council initially passed the bill in January, but it was vetoed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg a month later. The mayor’s veto was ultimately overruled by the council on March 28 by a vote of 47 to 2. The law will officially take effect on September 24, allowing the city 180 days to change its parking scanners to be able to cancel violations immediately.

“This law is great news for small business owners in Queens and throughout the city,” said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “When drivers are unfairly ticketed for parking on the street, small businesses suffer, too. The shoppers effectively blame the merchant – they don’t come back.”

Business owners echoed Friedman, emphasizing that parking tickets may deter patrons from returning to certain areas.

“It’s going to make a difference,” said Wendy Marsh, owner of Marsh Optical and former president of the Union Turnpike Merchants Association. “It’s enough that they get tickets all the time here anyway. People get tickets, they don’t want to shop here.”

Drivers have also expressed relief that they no longer have to fret about being hit with a ticket.

“I think it’s only reasonable to extend the five minutes to people. It was unfair that they previously didn’t do this,” said John Sotirakis, a resident of Bayside who frequently uses muni-meter parking spots on Bell Boulevard. “I was lucky that it never happened to me, but sometimes I’d have to stop and speak to a parking agent when they were lingering around so that they wouldn’t give me a ticket while I was going to the meter. This is much better now – there is less pressure.”

Candidates pick up political endorsements


| mchan@queenscourier.com

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently picked up the endorsement of the New York State Democratic Committee for her try at re-election.

The senator, whose term expires this year, is running for her first full six-year term.

Vying for her seat, George Maragos — the current elected comptroller of Nassau County — gained the support of Queens County GOP Chair Phil Ragusa.

Maragos said he was “deeply honored and humbled by the endorsement” and decried the existing senator’s alleged inability to man her post.

Conservative lawyer Wendy Long and Congressmember Bob Turner are also in the running to try and defeat Gillibrand.

As for the congressional race, Assemblymember Grace Meng was recently endorsed by Councilmember James Gennaro to replace retiring U.S. Representative Gary Ackerman.

Meng was designated by the Queens County Democratic Organization on Monday, March 19 to contend for the recently vacated seat in the 6th Congressional District race.

“I unreservedly and wholeheartedly pledge my support to her candidacy for Congress,” Gennaro said. “Grace has terrific support in the community and the universal admiration of her colleagues for good reason — she is deeply committed, incredibly effective and a joy to work with.”

During the June 26 primary, Meng will face off with Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Assemblymember Rory Lancman, who formally announced his candidacy on the same day Meng officially received the support of Democratic leaders.

Councilmember Mark Weprin, who had previously expressed interest in making his own run at the seat, also said he backs Meng. Weprin had received the endorsement of former mayor Ed Koch to join the race, but said he decided, after further considerations, to stand down and support Meng instead.

No ticket while getting your ticket


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

New legislation is aiming to please drivers by “parking” many of their muni-meter tickets.

The City Council recently passed a bill that will spare commuters the stress of receiving a parking ticket while retrieving their muni-meter receipt. Prior to the bill, if a driver presented a valid receipt to a traffic enforcement agent, there was no way for the agent to revoke the ticket.

The legislation, which was introduced by Councilmember James Gennaro, requires a ticket to be cancelled if a valid receipt is shown no later than five minutes after the issuance of the violation. The canceled ticket would read, “Valid muni-meter receipt shown, ticket canceled,” and would include the number printed on the muni-meter receipt — sparing drivers the inconvenience of appealing the ticket by appearing in court.

“New York City drivers feel enough anxiety every day already without having to worry about getting a ticket while they’re walking to the muni-meter,” Gennaro said. “By ensuring that premature violations are canceled if a receipt is shown within five minutes of the ticket being written, my bill will bring a little peace of mind to residents who are trying to do the right thing and pay for their parking.”

The bill was co-sponsored by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who also supported approved legislation declaring the presentation of a valid muni-meter receipt as a viable defense for the failure to display the voucher on a dashboard.

“It’s absurd to think that they could place a muni-meter a half block from where you’ve parked, force you to walk to obtain a receipt, and then ticket you as you’re returning to your car — but it happens,” Vallone said. “Once again, we had to write legislation to combat something that should never have been occurring in the first place.”

Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, praised the bill for the positive effects it will have on small businesses.

“Allowing a ticket to be canceled upon the showing of a valid receipt no later than five minutes after the issuance of the ticket is both fair and reasonable,” Friedman said in a letter to Gennaro. “Before the introduction of this law, even people attempting to comply with the law were penalized. Small business owners have enough to contend with in today’s economy. Scaring consumers from metered spots certainly didn’t help.”

Drivers shared feelings of frustration that the legislation was not in place from the start, while also expressing relief for no longer being at risk of receiving an unjustified ticket.

“It has been a horror because I have received a couple tickets while I was walking to the meter,” said Antonietta Mandione, a Bayside resident. “I tried to fight them in court and I never won. I always had to pay the ticket, and it wasn’t fair. If it is raining or snowing someone could slip, and I have to drag my kids with me and run back to my car. The parking agents are fast in giving out tickets. This new law will save us a lot of time in running to the meter. It is going to be a big improvement because we won’t have to kill ourselves to get back to the car. The city [didn’t have this law from the beginning] because it wants to collect more money from us.”

Flushing school gets new technology


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember James Gennaro

Students from P.S./I.S. 499 recently marveled at their school’s new media lab.

Second, fifth and seventh graders joined parents, faculty and Councilmember James Gennaro at the school, located at 148-20 Reeves Avenue in Flushing, for a ribbon cutting ceremony on January 13 held to officially unveil the center.

The media lab, made possible through Resolution A funding procured by Gennaro’s office, comes complete with Smart Boards, laptop computers, desktop computers, a server, a teacher’s station and two carts to transport the laptops from class to class.

“I think talent plus tools equal success,” Gennaro told the students during the ceremony. “You never know where life is going to take you, but if you use your talent to the best of your ability and really believe in yourself, you can make amazing things happen.”

During the ceremony, several of the school’s 480 students expressed their appreciation to the councilmember by reading thank you letters they wrote.

Parents in attendance joined their children in expressing astonishment and gratitude for the lab.

“The official title for the school is the Queens College School for Math, Science, and Technology, and the new media center really puts a capital “T” in technology,” said Wayne De La Roche, whose daughter is a third grader at the school. “The children are going to learn skills that are going to give them a new life, and they could not be more excited. When the center was opened, the children were seated for the first time in this media center, and I asked them if they were excited, and their eyes widened as though they were opening a present on Christmas morning.”

 

Local official team up to help during Holiday Toy, Coat and Food Drive


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember James Gennaro

A joint effort across eastern Queens is attempting to provide children and their families with warm bodies, full stomachs and plenty of presents to open on Christmas.

Councilmember James Gennaro united with New York Cares service events manager Joseph Salas, Marine Corps Staff Sergeants Daniel Sweeney and David Bonney of the Sixth Communications Battalion and other community leaders on December 2 to initiate his annual Holiday Toy, Coat and Food Drive.

“It seems like this is the least we can do, particularly when times are very tough,” said Gennaro, whose drive will last through December 16. “We feel the people who give get more out of it than those who receive.”

During the event, the Marines delivered collection boxes for their Toys for Tots program to the councilmember’s office, where coats are also being gathered for donation to New York Cares.

“I’d like to thank the councilmember for his continued support,” said Salas. “We have partnered with the councilmember for quite a few years and to see the continued support is inspiring.”

Food is also being collected at Gennaro’s office, located at 185-10 Union Turnpike in Fresh Meadows, for donation to St. Nicholas of Tolentine Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica and the Samuel Field Y in Little Neck.

“Even in these very difficult and challenging times, it’s very comforting and reassuring to know our community is a responsive, caring community and our elected officials take a role in making sure needs are met,” said Steven Goodman, executive vice president of the Samuel Field Y.

Along with Gennaro’s office, donations can also be made at Senator Toby Ann Stavisky’s office, located 144-36 Willets Point Boulevard in Flushing, Assemblymember Rory Lancman’s office, at 159-16 Union Turnpike in Hillcrest, or the headquarters of Community Board 8, located at 197-15 Hillside Avenue in Hollis.