Tag Archives: Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer

NY Comptroller DiNapoli: ‘Queens is a New York success story’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Queens is on a roll and isn’t stopping any time soon, according to New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“Queens is a New York success story,” DiNapoli said. “Superstorm Sandy impacted thousands of Queens residents, but the borough is on the recovery path. With a strong economy, a fast growing and diverse population, and several large projects on the horizon, Queens is booming.”

DiNapoli gathered with local elected officials and community leaders at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City Friday to release an economic snapshot of Queens, revealing how the borough has made an economic comeback over the past two years since the Great Recession.

According to the report, since 2012 the borough has had the highest level of employment among all the boroughs outside of Manhattan as private sector employment reached its highest recorded level of 486, 160 jobs. The largest employment sectors in Queens include health care, social assistance, transportation and, warehousing and retail trade.

“A look around the communities of Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Astoria show what Comptroller DiNapoli’s excellent report illustrates – that the economy of Queens is back on track,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

The borough’s population has also grown by 20 percent over the past three decades, more than the citywide growth rate, according to the report.

The state comptroller’s economic snapshot also found that Queens is the most diverse large county in the United States, with immigrants from more than 120 countries making 48 percent of residents, with not a single dominant ethnic group.

In 2011, the borough had 44,070 business establishments with small businesses leading in the area, according to the report.

The report also found unemployment to be lower in the borough compared to the rest of the city. The unemployment rate averaged 8.3 percent in 2012 and in the first eight months of 2013 dropped to 7.8 percent.

“These numbers show that Queens has weathered the worst of the storm,” said Queens Borough President-elect Melinda Katz. “With nearly half a million Queens workers fueling growth and innovation in the private sector, our borough has moved past the Great Recession that gripped the entire country in recent years, As Borough President, I will build on the successful work of state leaders like Comptroller DiNapoli to ensure we continue creating jobs and growing the economy for all New Yorkers.”

Together with the number of jobs and low unemployment rate, film and television production have both been thriving in the borough. Silvercup Studios, with 410,000 square feet of space and 19 soundstages, is the biggest studio space in the city and Kaufman Astoria Studios has seven soundstages and the city’s only outdoor movie set.

“I just think that film and television production is a mutual part of New York and Queens and of surrounding areas and it provides jobs,” said actor Michael J. Fox, who is filming “The Michael J. Fox Show” at Silvercup Studios. “I want to voice whatever support I can to continue nurturing film and television production in New York, it’s a big part of the city. “

 

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Pols call for redesign of Queensboro Bridge exit ramp after deadly accident


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Senator Michael Gianaris' Office

After an off-duty NYPD officer was killed when her car smashed into an exit ramp off the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, local elected officials are calling for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to put an end to deadly accidents.

Elisa Toro, 36, a 10-year NYPD veteran who was assigned to Manhattan’s 17th Precinct, was heading off the bridge’s exit ramp around 1:50 a.m. on Tuesday when she struck a guardrail, then a cement barrier, said police. The car then flipped onto its passenger side, hitting a vacant storefront on Queens Plaza South at Crescent Street.

Toro, a Bronx resident, was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was injured in the accident, said police. The investigation is ongoing.

Following a series of accidents at the same site in 2011, State Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and Assemblymember Catherine Nolan sent a letter to the DOT demanding the agency redesign the ramp and continue to improve temporary safety measures. These procedures would include higher barriers and other measures that could help lessen the danger for pedestrians and storefront, until the exit ramp is redesigned.

“No one else should have to die before the city realizes that this exit ramp is fundamentally unsafe,” said Gianaris. “We stood here two years ago asking for a complete redesign of the off ramp, and instead we got new signs and a couple barriers. The time for half measures is gone. We need a safer exit ramp before another tragedy occurs.”

Gianaris asked the DOT to improve traffic safety in the area and redesign the bridge’s exit ramp, after a series of accidents in 2011. But a redesign of the exit ramp was “ignored” and only “additional signage and minimal barriers” were added, according to Gianaris. The barrier, which was destroyed in a 2011 crash, was never replaced, he said, and could have protected the storefront in Tuesday’s accident.

“The east bound off ramp of the Queensboro Bridge is clearly a death trap,” said Van Bramer. “Cars are still flying off this bridge, into store fronts, and putting the lives of pedestrians and motorists in jeopardy. It is clear that the Department of Transportation has not done enough.”

 

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Long Island City lights up for the holidays


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer's Office

The Long Island City community came together to welcome the holidays and make the season bright.

Over 100 residents young and old gathered with local elected officials and community leaders on Tuesday night to celebrate the holidays by lighting festive snowflakes along Vernon Boulevard.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer worked together with JetBlue to a secure a $5,000 grant to bring the holiday lights to the thriving neighborhood.

The holiday celebration included Christmas carols sung by students from P.S. 78, led by Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, owner of Manducatis Rustica located at 46-33 Vernon Boulevard.

The night also included readings of special Christmas stories by the fireplace of LIC BAR, located at 45-58 Vernon Boulevard, and a performance by local jazz group, The Charlie Brown Christmas Trio.

 

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Kaufman Astoria Studios opens NYC’s first outdoor film set


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Queens is on its way to becoming the next Hollywood.

Kaufman Astoria representatives, local and state elected officials, community leaders and the beloved Grover from Sesame Street gathered on Tuesday to cut the ribbon on New York City’s first outdoor film set at the Kaufman Astoria Studios on 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenue.

“Today is the celebration of a vision coming true, it is why I’m smiling,” said Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman Astoria Studios. “The backlot is an exciting new development for the film and television industry in New York as well as for this area of Astoria.”

The grand opening also revealed a brand new gated entrance, designed by David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group, located at 35th Avenue.

The 40-foot high steel gate, which can be used as a catwalk for productions, serves as an identifiable iconic symbol in the community and also welcomes visitors into the block-long 34,800-square-foot outdoor lot.

“As the first dedicated backlot in the five boroughs, film and television productions are now more likely to yell ‘action’ and choose Kaufman Astoria Studios and New York City as a location for filming,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “It’s great to say that Kaufman Astoria Studios is now ready for its close up. We’re rolling out the red carpet for the studio’s brand new lot. It’s a game changer for New York. I like to see New York be number one in everything and we are getting there. Hollywood watch out.”

The brand new outdoor lot is expected to bring in more movie and TV producers because it would allow them to shoot outdoors, special effects shots, and leave up sets for extended periods of time. It is located adjacent to the sound stages, allowing access to dressing rooms, production office and set building workshops.

“The addition of New York City’s first-ever outdoor sound stage puts Astoria on the map when it comes to producing blockbuster movies in the United States,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “From a dormant industrial building, Kaufman Astoria Studios has built a world-class institution that has helped Western Queens become ‘Hollywood East.’”

Together with this new expansion, Kaufman Astoria Studios hopes to continue working on the vision George Kaufman, real estate developer and studio chairman, of growing the arts and culture in Astoria and bringing the neighborhood together.

“When I first came here in the early 1980s, I know that we had the potential to turn this neighborhood into a thriving production, arts and cultural district for the City and I am proud to see that vision is a reality today.”

Current productions at Kaufman Astoria Studios include television shows such as Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” and Amazon’s “Alpha House.”

 

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Astoria teen juggles way to becoming pediatrician


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Natalia Piskorski

Even with a lot on her plate, Natalia Piskorski is on the right path to success.

The 16-year-old junior at Information Technology High School in Long Island City is working hard in hopes of getting into a good university and one day become a pediatrician. She is currently eyeing schools like Columbia and New York University, where she plans to study medicine.

“I’ve always had this love for kids, and I didn’t want to become a teacher,” said Piskorski.

At first, Piskorski, born and raised in Astoria, wanted to go into criminal justice and political science.

While maintaining a 97 grade point average, becoming the student government junior representative and being inducted into the National Honor Society, Piskorski is also interning for Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

She began her internship in February, after hearing about it from her global teacher. As an intern, she works behind the scenes of local politics — something she said she really enjoys. That motivated her to join her own student government.

As an elected representative, Piskorski represents her junior class and the school. In her position, she gets to plan all school events, plan spirit weeks, help pick senior trips and prom locations, and arrange school activities.

“I’m balancing everything. It gets pretty hectic but it’s totally worth it at the end,” she said.

Piskorski said her family is very supportive of her decision to become a pediatrician. She hopes to volunteer at a hospital, if time permits, participate in a pre-med program for pediatricians, and then go to medical school.

“They are all for it. They’d love to see a doctor in the family,” she said. “They support me in whatever I want to do.”

Even as a 13-year-old middle school student, Piskorski achieved success and was recognized by her school, winning a women’s leadership award signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“It felt amazing, it made me feel like I’m on a high point [at] some level,” she said. “I know I’ve done something right.”

Living near Kaufman Astoria Studios, Piskorski said she loves seeing her neighborhood blossom and enjoys spending her time at local restaurants and museums.

 

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Sunnyside kicks off season with Holiday Lighting Ceremony


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

The holidays have officially begun in Sunnyside.

The Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District, Sunnyside Chambers of Commerce, local elected officials and community members gathered on Tuesday for the Sunnyside Holiday Lighting Ceremony.

Residents of all ages got the chance to meet and take picture with Santa and listen to the Sunnyside Drum Corps while they sipped hot chocolate provided by White Castle. Bing’s Hallmark, located at 45-15 Greenpoint Avenue, also provided holiday ornaments to hang during the ceremony.

Photo courtesy of Luke Adams

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer led the countdown with the community to light up the holiday lights.

After the lighting ceremony some attendees got together for an Italian dinner at Dazies Restaurant located at 39-41 Queens Boulevard.

Photo courtesy of Luke Adams

 

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Woodside gets more room to learn


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of SCA

Shovels full of dirt hit the ground to alleviate overcrowded classrooms in Woodside.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer gathered with city officials and the community on November 15 at the corner of 58th Street and 39th Avenue to break ground on the construction of P.S. 339.

“This new school is going to help so much here in Woodside,” said Van Bramer. “Here in Woodside, in our district, we have a serious overcrowding situation and I’m so thrilled that we’ve had a lot of these groundbreakings and that we’re building a lot of new schools in our district. The children of Woodside, Sunnyside and Long Island City deserve nothing but the very best.”

P.S. 339 is one of six new schools expected to be fully operational by 2016 in western Queens. Located at 39-07 57th Street, it will serve 472 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

The new five-story building will feature 22 standard classrooms, two special-education classrooms, multiple resource rooms, a music classroom, art classroom and “gymatorium.” The school will also have a library, cafeteria, kitchen, a community room, a general use and early childhood playground, and administrative, guidance and medical offices.

P.S. 339 is slated to open September 2015, with the facility fully operational by 2016.

Along with the new school, Van Bramer also announced the construction of a state-of-the-art extension to nearby P.S. 11, located at 54-25 Skillman Ave, which will add 350 seats and is expected to be open by 2016.

“I am so excited that this is happening,” said Anna Efkarpides, principal of P.S. 11. “It’s for our community. It’s not my school, your school, it’s a school for Woodside children.”


Members of the Woodside community, School Construction Authority representatives and local elected officials broke ground on the construction of P.S. 339, which is expected to be fully operational by 2016. (THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano)

 

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Slow zones coming to western Queens


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Johann Hamilton

Residents in western Queens will soon be able to cross their streets more safely.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) will install slow zones in Sunnyside Gardens, Woodside, and Sunnyside south of Queens Boulevard, according to Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. The slow zones, set for 2015, will be designed through input from the community.

“By installing these two slow zones in western Queens, we will have tremendous impact on improving the safety of pedestrians who walk along heavily trafficked corridors in our neighborhoods,” said Van Bramer. “I believe it is vital to use every tool we have to protect the lives of residents on our city’s streets.”

The locations, which are part of 15 communities chosen to receive slow zones over the next three years, were selected based on the DOT’s evaluation on crash history, community support, the proximity of schools and seniors and day care centers, along with other data.

The Sunnyside slow zone would be bordered by 36th Avenue, Queens Boulevard, Greenpoint Avenue, 49th Street and parts of the Long Island and Brooklyn-Queens Expressways. The Sunnyside Gardens and Woodside Slow Zone would be surrounded by 43rd Street, Barnett Avenue, 58th Street and a part of Queens Boulevard.

The goal of the Neighborhood Slow Zone program is to lower the number of crashes and “to enhance quality of life by reducing cut through traffic and traffic noise in residential neighborhoods,” according to the fact sheet.

Slow zones are marked with high-visibility blue signs that warn drivers at all streets entering the zones. Each area has a speed limit of 20 mph and includes speed bumps and eight-foot-high letters on the road that read “20 MPH.”

“Speeding is the single greatest contributing factor in traffic fatalities in our city,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last month. “Slow zones have shown proven results in curbing dangerous driving and we want more neighborhoods to benefit from the program.”

According to the DOT, a slow zone has also been proposed for Jackson Heights in 2014.

 

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Woodside residents put up community stop sign to demand safer streets


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer’s Office

Woodside residents are taking matters into their own hands to make it safer to cross their streets.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer gathered with residents young and old on October 25 to rally against the dangerous traffic conditions along 47th Avenue in Woodside. The group then also put up their own community-made stop sign at the intersection of 47th Avenue and 60th Street.

“The reckless speeding and steady traffic along 47th Avenue presents serious safety hazards to countless young school children and seniors who cross the street every single day,” said Van Bramer. “We are taking matters into our own hands.”

The surrounding community is home to two Big Six Towers co-op apartment buildings and the Towers Play and Learn nursery school, bringing large numbers of children and seniors crossing 47th Avenue to get to school or the co-op’s senior program.

Van Bramer’s office has been contacting the Department of Transportation (DOT) since 2010 asking for traffic calming measures, like speed bumps and stop signs, to be installed along 47th Avenue between 59th and 61st Streets.

According to the councilmember, the DOT has said that based on their studies such additional measures were not necessary in the area.

“The time to act is now,” said Van Bramer. “Without a stop sign at this heavily trafficked intersection or speed humps along this street, the chances of an accident happening will continue to escalate.”

Based on the latest data available, between 2001 and present day, there have been no fatalities at the intersection and one reported pedestrian injury.

“Safety is DOT’s top priority,” said spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera. “While the agency’s recent study of this location last winter found that it did not meet the federal guidelines for additional stop signs, DOT will review the location to see what potential enhancement can be made, including adding a temporary speed board at the location to remind drivers of the safety reasons for adhering to the speed limit.”

 

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Queens pols face Bronx rivals in first Battle of the Boroughs Bowl


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Politicians turned into playmakers for a special touch football game.

Queens and Bronx politicians faced off in the first ever Battle of the Boroughs Bowl at Monsignor McClancy High School in East Elmhurst Sunday.

The touch football event was organized to raise money by collecting donations, with all proceeds going to the United Service Organizations (USO) and the Wounded Warriors Project.

“At the heart, the core of this little fun outing that we are having, where hopefully no one will be hurt, is a really serious intent, and that intent is to help our veterans,” said Assemblymember Mike Benedetto, who is chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The lawmakers in attendance ranged from all levels of government, including City Comptroller John Liu, State Senator Mike Gianaris, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., Assemblymember Mike DenDekker and many more.

“Off the field and out of the office it’s good to have a personal relationship with your colleagues,” said DenDekker, who helped organize the event.

In addition to playing for a good cause, many of the politicians competed for city bragging rights.

“It’s friendly, it’s a fundraiser for our veterans, but its also serious business,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “We’re obviously competitive people, we are used to winning. And I am anxious to demonstrate to the people of my district that I can play football even though it’s been 20 years.”

In the end, Queens lost to the Bronx, 20-19.

 

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5Pointz to become apartment complex after final vote


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Developers have reached the final step in seeing the Long Island City graffiti mecca, known as 5Pointz, become two apartment towers.

The City Council voted on Wednesday, October 9 to approve the land use application that would allow the Wolkoff family, owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, and developer G&M Realty to build apartment towers to larger dimensions than allowed by current zoning rules.

One tower would reach 47 stories and the other 41 stories, with close to 1,000 rental apartments, 32,000 square feet of outdoor public space and 50,000 square feet of retail space between them.

According to Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, developers agreed to build and staff the two buildings with 100 percent union workers, bringing more than 1,000 jobs to Long Island City, and also increase the number of affordable housing units from 75 to 210.

“The concessions provided under the compromise will give Western Queens residents as well as artists a wide variety of interactive amenities future generations will benefit from,” said Van Bramer.

As a “commitment to the arts in this building,” Van Bramer said the developers agreed to keep the altered plans they made in July after listening to comments from Community Board 2, which voted against the application.

G&M Realty’s plan will now include an addition of 10,000 square feet to the initial 2,000 square feet planned for artists’ studios. Borough President Helen Marshall approved the application in July.

Van Bramer said the Wolkoffs have also given a written agreement to offer Jonathan Cohen, widely known as Meres and curator of 5Pointz, the chance to select art on the new building’s walls and panels.

“It was important for me to honor the history of the building over the last 20 years and to recognize what it had become to the graffiti and aerosol art world,” said Van Bramer.

However, according to Marie Cecile Flageul, 5Pointz artists are furious a second hearing, previously promised by Van Bramer, never happened and although 40 speakers stood up to speak at the October 2 public hearing, no one really listened.

“It was a beautiful horse and pony show,” said Flageul. “About half way through the testimonies, almost every council person had left the room. Every single person that took the day off to come and speak, wasted their time because there has been no follow up.”

Flageul also said to date no 5Pointz artists have been contacted or offered to work within the art studios or be featured on the art panels. There have also been no commitments in writing stating everything promised would actually take place once the towers come up.

“[The artists] feel disrespected, they feel profiled,” said Flageul. “We’re all volunteers. We all work our butts off.”
Although the artists have until December 1 to leave the property, Flageul said business will continue as usual with artists from around the world currently putting up their work and more making the trip to the borough.

“We’re going to continue doing what we’re doing. That’s the beauty of art, no matter how much corruption or unfairness there might be, right now we’re continuing what we have been doing for 11 years. We are going to continue the beautification of Long Island City,” said Flageul. “We’re never making the move. We’re here till the end.”

Community pushes for pedestrian safety in western Queens


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Update Tuesday, October 1, 6:00 p.m. 

After three pedestrians were struck in the last three months — two fatally and one left in critical condition — the western Queens community is asking for safer traffic measures. 

According to police, on Friday, September 13 a woman was struck and killed as she was crossing Queens Plaza North and 27th Street. Just two month before, on July 2, another woman was struck and critically injured on 29th Street, just two blocks down. 

“We have a growing epidemic where pedestrians are not safe on the sidewalks and the streets of Queensboro Plaza,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who recently helped bring improvements to an intersection in front of LaGuardia Community College where a 16-year-old high school student was struck and killed in March. “Dutch Kills and Long Island City are home to thousands of new residents as well as hundreds of growing businesses. More and more people are crossing through Queensboro Plaza every single day.”

Van Bramer gathered along with other elected officials and residents on Friday, September 27 at the intersection of Queens Plaza North and 27th Street to ask the Department of Transportation (DOT) for street safety enhancements to the busy plaza near the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. 

The changes to increase pedestrian safety at Queensboro Plaza include extending the current 20 second countdown clocks at the crosswalks to give pedestrians more time to cross the congested streets and installing more street signage allowing pedestrians to be more alert of bicycle lanes.

“Crossing Queens Plaza should not be like playing Frogger,” said Noah Budnick, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. “We’re sending the message that traffic crashes are preventable.”

According to the DOT, between 2007 to 2011, there has been one reported pedestrian injury at the intersection of Queens Plaza North and 27th Street and from 2007 to present, there has been one fatality.

“Safety is DOT’s top priority and the agency is currently reviewing the location to see if there are ways to further enhance safety at this intersection and the surrounding area for all street users, including possible upgrades to signage,” said Nicholas Mosquera, DOT spokesperson.

A day after the call for safety measures in Queens Plaza, 19 year old Luis Bravo lost his life in a hit-and-run along Broadway in Woodside.

“Yet another person has been killed here in western Queens as a result of a vehicular collision,” said Van Bramer. “For over a year now the Department of Transportation has not done anything about motorists speeding along Broadway here in Woodside. Every time a pedestrian is struck and dies as a result of a vehicular collision we will speak out against it.”

Photo Courtesy Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer

The councilmember gathered with local officials and residents on October 1 at the corner of 58th Street and Broadway where Bravo was struck and the vehicle fled the scene, to ask the DOT to bring safety measures to that area as well.

“It is heartbreaking anytime a young person’s life is lost, but this instance hurts because it was so sudden and the driver who killed Luis and sped off is still at large,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “I urge everyone in our community to join together to bring this hit-and-run driver to justice, and I urge the DOT to do everything it can to make our streets safer.”

Anyone with information on the hit-and-run is encouraged to contact NYPD’s Crime Stoppers by calling 800-577-TIPS.

 

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No. 7 train service to be suspended in LIC for five weekends this fall


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

The number seven is proving to be an unlucky number for Long Island City.

Once again, the No. 7 train will not run in the area for multiple weekends, starting next month.

For the October 12-13, October 19-20, October 26-27, November 9-10 and November 23-24 weekends, there will be no service on the subway line between the Times Square-42nd Street and Queensboro Plaza stations from 12:01 a.m. on Saturday to 5 a.m. on Monday, according to the MTA.

During these weekends, there will be a free shuttle running during between the Vernon-Jackson and Queensboro Plaza stops. The MTA is also increasing Astoria line service during the shutdowns.

But the alternative service isn’t enough for residents and business owners who say they’ve suffered through too many No. 7 train weekend shutdowns.

There will also be weekend suspensions in early 2014, but no dates have been set yet, said an MTA spokesperson.

In early 2013, the train was suspended between the same stations for 13 weekends in a row, and five weekends in fall 2012.  But there have been No. 7 line suspensions in the area on a regular basis for well over 10 years, according to Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

The continuing shutdowns are so the MTA can do track, tunnel and other maintenance in the Steinway Tunnel, which connects Queens and Manhattan.

According to the MTA, “Service changes, including the weekend suspension of service between Queens and Manhattan, are being planned as the project is scheduled to be completed in 2016.”

The shutdowns not only mean extra commute time, but also a financial hit to local businesses.

Shelia Lewandowski, executive director and founder of The Chocolate Factory Theater, spoke to The Courier earlier this year, before the 13-weekend shut down. At the time, she said she feared artists would have a difficult time getting her Long Island City theatre company and attendance would drop.

She was right.

“It was a difficult January,” said Lewandowski.

Van Bramer said the MTA hasn’t been very responsive to other requests, including offering a bus shuttle between Hunters Point and Midtown Manhattan, minimizing the number of consecutive weekend closures and not suspending service in the winter.

 

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Sunnyside Gardens residents don’t want aluminum house in neighborhood


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of Campani and Schwarting Architects

Sunnyside Gardens residents and local officials are saying no to an aluminum exhibition house and residential development looking for a new site to call home.

The Aluminaire House – an all-aluminum, historic home built in 1931 for a New York City exhibition – is proposed to be relocated to the corner of 39th Avenue and 50th Street in the landmarked district of Sunnyside Gardens. The house would be surrounded by an eight-unit apartment building which property owner Harry Otterman is also looking to construct.

Although architects Michael Schwarting and Frances Campani of Campani and Schwarting Architects, who run the Aluminaire House Foundation, believe the house would be a “positive contribution to the cultural milieu of the historic district,” many of those opposed say the structure is out of character with the neighborhood’s brick homes.

“The Aluminaire House is wrong for our neighborhood and quite frankly the town housing is all inconsistent with the historic district,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who lives in the area.

“The consistency in the colors and in the materials is essential to what creates that sense of place, and while the Aluminaire House is terrific and interesting, it is not the right neighborhood [for it].”

The nearly 23’ wide by 29’ deep aluminum house was dismantled and is currently in storage on Long Island. If constructed in Sunnyside Gardens, it would serve as a museum and gallery open to the public.

Yet, many residents do not believe a museum is appropriate for the area and would only promote vandalism.

The Sunnyside Gardens property was previously used as an outdoor nursery and playground, one of the few Depression Era play areas left in the city. The property was sold in 2007 after it became a part of the historic district. Residents hope to bring the park back to life to be used by future generations.

“The playground has been used by the community for generations, just as it was intended, and it can continue to serve for the community as a play area and community garden,” said Herbert Reynolds of the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance.  “It [the Aluminaire House] would deserve a far better future with more forethought than to force it upon our neighborhood where it’s not only out of place, but it’s simply unwanted by the great majority of our neighbors.”

The City’s Historic Districts Council met with Campani and Schwarting Architects on September 12 and did not support the plan. On September 19, Community Board 2 voted against the proposal to bring both the Aluminaire house and the residential development to the neighborhood stating it “contrasts to the surrounding community.”

Although the opposition from the community has been heard, Schwarting said they are still looking to bring the Aluminaire House to the area and will wait to see what the Landmarks Preservation Commission decides on October 15.

“We understand the community is concerned, but I feel that everyone had already made up their mind and I was not able to convince them that this will be a very positive contribution to the neighborhood visually and culturally,” said Schwarting. “It will not be an ugly duckling that everyone is worried about once it is there. We will see what Landmarks thinks.”

 

LaGuardia Community College Library gets an upgrade


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy LaGuardia Community College

LaGuardia Community College’s library is getting a modern update to provide students and faculty with more room to research and learn.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer gathered with students and school administration on Thursday, September 19 to announce he had secured $2 million in funds to renovate and update the first floor of the institute’s library. The funding will improve the space and also bring an open plan to give faculty and students better access.

“LaGuardia Community College has continued to play a tremendous role in the lives of countless New York City residents for over four decades,” said Van Bramer. “By investing in LaGuardia’s infrastructure [it] will provide students and faculty with a state-of-the-art facility that will expand the availability of educational resources offered at the library.”

During the renovations, which are expected to be completed by the fall of 2016, 17,000 square feet of the library’s 31,000-square-foot first floor will be rebuilt and the remaining space will be upgraded.

Students and faculty will be able to walk through a new entrance into an open space where natural light will be allowed to shine into the building.

Among the upgrades and renovations are expanded circulation, reference and periodical areas. There will also be a new 1,600-square-foot information commons to help visitors access information with printed materials and technology. The library will also feature four brand new 800-square-foot open study rooms and a 450-square-foot meeting room. Two new 1,200-square-foot access computer labs will be added to the current 750-square-foot lab.

“The renovation of the first floor will be a great gift for our students, who have always used the library and depend on us for help, resources and study spaces,” said Jane Devine, LaGuardia’s chief librarian.

“This is a wonderful way for us to say to them, ‘thank you for your support.’”

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer

 

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