Tag Archives: Councilmember Mark Weprin

Second Courier ‘Power Breakfast’ informs seniors


| mchan@queenscourier.com

DSC_0495

Seniors looking for another leg up in the extensive world of elder law got a second boost of knowledge during a recent Courier-hosted lecture.

During a “Power Breakfast” — the second one hosted by The Courier this year — held on May 4 at North Shore Towers in Floral Park, Ann-Margaret Carrozza, an elder law attorney, equipped seniors with crucial advice on updating their wills, while other leaders in the field armed them with tips on avoiding scams.

“When you hear horror stories that someone’s mother’s brother-in-law lost their assets because of a long-term care illness, it’s because they didn’t have a little mental game plan,” Carrozza said. “Sometimes that’s all that’s necessary.”

According to Carrozza, seniors should consider redoing their wills in the event that an unforeseeable crisis occurs in the family — specifically stating that all assets will be left in a lifetime trust. Doing so, she said, makes sure spouses will be able to benefit from assets without “somebody putting a claim on it for long-term care expenses.”

Jim Morin, a representative from Flushing Bank, also warned seniors to be cautious of an ongoing scam that targets the elderly. Scammers, Morin said, will often send letters in the mail or make phone calls telling unsuspecting victims they won a prize.

“If you get something in the mail like that, it’s dangerous,” he said, adding that recipients should not give the organization any money or personal information.

Guest speaker, Councilmember Leroy Comrie, also addressed the city budget’s recent cuts to senior centers and programs and urged residents to speak up and join the fight against them. Comrie said seniors in northeast Queens could contact Councilmember Mark Weprin at 718-468-0137 to voice their concerns, and those in southern Queens could call his own district office at 718-776-3700.

Before the lecture began, seniors had a chance to mingle with leading businesses in the industry, including vendors Sinai Chapels, Royal Health Care Services, FCE Group, RBC Wealth Management, The Bristal Assisted Living, Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation, Oyster Bay Manor and Harbor House Assisted Living, Flushing Bank, Sunrise Senior Living, Dignity Home Care, Riis Financial and Caring People Home Health Care Agency.

Pols argue over whose co-op/condo legislation is best


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A coalition of co-op and condo owners in northeast Queens had one message for its elected officials after arguments erupted over whose bill was best: no more lip service.

“What you see is the dysfunction in Albany. This isn’t a Republican-Democrat issue. It’s about homeowners who don’t want to be pushed out of their homes,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners, Inc. and cofounder of the President’s Co-op Council.

The Council — which represents about 100,000 co-op shareholders — joined close to one dozen elected officials and more than 900 concerned Queens residents at North Shore Towers on April 12 to rally for action against the city for another year of property tax spikes.

While Friedrich said a solution could not be reached without the cooperation of state lawmakers, some electeds — with pointed fingers — turned the meeting into a heated political debate.

“There’s been a little too much lip service tonight. I sat here and got madder and madder as I listened to every speaker,” said Senator Tony Avella. “We had an opportunity last year, and we blew it because of politics on both sides of the aisle.”

Currently, there are three bills on the table in Albany on how to address the issue, which Avella said is a clear sign of disconnect between state leaders who he said may each be pushing for their own legislation to pass.

“It’s not that the Republicans don’t want to move the bill to address this — it’s which bill should they support? Which one gets passed? This has to stop. I don’t care if it’s my bill or somebody else’s bill, but this has got to stop. We’re not working together,” he said.

Avella’s own bill, which he called the “best solution,” would create a new property tax class — called Class 1A — for co-op and condo owners. He said the bill would provide the same protections that exist for Class 1 properties, capping any single yearly tax increase at 6 percent and 20 percent over a five year period.

An earlier law put forth by Assemblymember David Weprin would propose similar provisions, classifying co-ops as Class 1 and capping increases at the same percentage, while other legislation by Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein would see co-ops paying only 75 percent of their legal fees in a successful certiorari suit. They said the law would also stabilize assessments for two years following a successful challenge, capping spikes at 3 percent to prevent the necessity of an additional proceeding.

Councilmember Mark Weprin fired back, saying each elected official was in fact “working hard” together to create a solution by this year.

“With all due respect, you’re the one who hasn’t been to most of the meetings,” Weprin said. “This is a very delicate situation, but to say that people here are just giving lip service is just nonsense. This is not about whose bill we’re going to sponsor. We’re all trying to solve a problem here, and I think we’re all open to whatever solution we can get adopted that will save co-op owners. That’s the goal here, and that’s why I took a lot of offense.”

Senate and Assembly officials have only until the end of June this year to agree on one single bill and have it passed by both Houses, Weprin said. While the City Council is not directly involved in the legislation process, Weprin said councilmembers have an upper hand in trying to get the mayor on board.

“I’ve seen bills drafted, signed and passed in 12 hours. We just have to work together,” Weprin said. “I thought [the meeting] was a good case of democracy in action.”

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.

Strong support for united districts in eastern Queens


| dbeltran@queenscourier.com


Civic leaders, city officials, and residents came to the Eastern Queens United rally recently in support of new district lines to keep eastern queens communities united and maintain a strong voice in politics.

Every 10 years after the census is complete, district lines must be re-drawn. Many residents and civic leaders said that because of the increased diversity, district lines should keep the community united in order to have a strong voice.

“Our collective power is diluted if we’re chopped up, our arguments are less relevant,” said Ali Namji, lawyer and resident of Glen Oaks village.

Several elected officials attended the rally on Thursday, January 12, including Assemblymember David Weprin, Councilmember Mark Weprin and Senator Tony Avella. They all said they were in support of keeping the community united.

“I will vote no,” said Avella. “It’s more important that the community stay together more than my own political aspirations. You have my support no matter what happens.”

Dianna Dalton, who lives on the Queens/Nassau border, said she has trouble proving she lives in New York City when calling for services and said she’s worried about possibly being redistricted into Nassau County.

“I was upset when I heard that. Nassau County isn’t going to care who we are or what we need. We want to stay with the neighborhoods that we border so we have some say in what we need,” Dalton said.

Those living well within eastern queens though are concerned about minority groups having a voice. Jamilla Uddin of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor organization, which works in collaboration with Eastern Queens United, said their main goal is to have a bigger voice for the Southeast Asian community. Uddin said that by having the community united, they will become a majority that can have an effect.

Although no district lines have been drawn up yet by legislators, Namji said that when they are, the people of eastern queens must show up.

“We have to continue to be united, we have to continue to come together. They’re compelled by law to have a hearing in every county with those draft maps. All of us have to be at that hearing. We have to be there in force.”

Councilmember Mark Weprin Op Ed: Emphasize learning, not testing


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Weprin Headshot 5w

BY CITY COUNCILMEMBER MARK WEPRIN

The news that New York City students’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are basically flat may come as a blow to those who are still under the illusion that the Department of Education (DOE) has brilliantly revolutionized public education in recent years. But it is no surprise to those of us who abandoned that wishful notion long ago. Parents in neighborhoods across the city — who long held fast to a glimmer of hope about this administration’s education reforms — are now resigned to the fact that the DOE’s data-driven policies have failed to deliver on their promise for most city students.

What’s wonderful about the NAEP is that, unlike city and state tests, there is no classroom time devoted to preparing for it. That is because NAEP results are based on representative samples of students at grades four, eight and 12, and NAEP does not report scores for individual students or schools. So to whatever extent tests are capable of measuring overall student achievement, NAEP is just about the fairest and most accurate gauge we have. The test is consistent from year to year and, because neither principals’ positions nor teachers’ jobs are on the line, there is no incentive for cheating.

In contrast, city and state tests, increasingly used to evaluate teachers and administrators instead of students, have motivated some unscrupulous educators to provide a little more “guidance” than they should when their students are taking the test. There have even been publicized cases in which principals changed students’ answers after a test in order to yield results that would cast the school in a more favorable light. Furthermore, the difficulty level of the test varies significantly from one year to the next, so a child who is progressing steadily in school might see wild fluctuations in his standardized test scores.

For all of these reasons, city and state tests – so often cited by the DOE as unassailable evidence of the success of its policies – tell us next to the nothing. Meanwhile, the NAEP scores are much more revealing about the state of learning in our schools, and the results are far from flattering.
So why don’t we scrap DOE’s Office of Accountability and use the NAEP to find out how the school system is doing overall? Use city and state tests to evaluate individual students, but never to judge their teachers and principals. Eliminate all test preparation from city curricula and replace it with what we have lost in the past decade: science, technology, history, civics, art, music and physical education. Start making use of our city’s unrivaled cultural resources and shift the obsession from testing to learning. That’s a formula for success.

Fairway supermarket opens in Queens


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/PHOTOS

Foul weather did not dampen the excitement on the lines of eager customers awaiting the grand opening of the long-anticipated Fairway Market.

“It’s been so long since we had a nice, big [food] store like this,” said Doris Mayne of Douglaston.  “It’s about time.”

Customers lined up over an hour before the doors first opened, anxiously awaiting the store that has been over two years in the making.

“I love Fairway, I used to have to travel to the one in Long Island,” said Martin Hoffman, one of the first customers to enter the 56,000-square-foot market.  “Their aisles are wide and their selection is superb.”

Fairway – located at 242-02 61st Avenue in the Douglaston Plaza Shopping Center’s Lower Level – held its ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday, November 16 with politicians, residents and Fairway officials on hand.

“We’re really delighted for the people of eastern Queens,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin.  “It really is a very big anchor in this community.”

The Douglaston Fairway is the first to open within Queens and is the largest of the nine in the city.

“The Douglaston area is, what I call, a food desert,” said Howie Glickberg, Fairway’s third-generation CEO. “For whatever reason, there are just not a lot of food stores in that area. We are really going to shake everybody up.”

The grand opening has been a process long in the making after some zoning issues and a full renovation and expansion of the Waldbaum’s building.

While local residents have been waiting for a market in the area, this is not just an average food store.

The aisles are filled floor to ceiling with not only typical supermarket fare, but specialty, imported, organic and exotic items.

The store will include a full kosher bakery featuring artisanal breads and New York City-style bagels made daily, a wide array of organic produce, a seafood department, butcher and cheese counter featuring over 600 cheeses.

Also featured in the market is a café that can seat 60 customers and will offer sushi, salad, yogurt and dozens of hot foods prepared fresh on premise that many customers eagerly sampled.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on hand for the ceremony and spoke about the economic boost the store will provide.

“This is exactly what New Yorkers are looking for, jobs in these tough economic times,” Bloomberg said.

Fairway has hired more than 450 employees in the store that covers more than one acre of land.

Bloomberg also noted that Fairway has made a commitment to employ veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I’m not supposed to give plugs for one company over another, but you could do a lot worse than buying all your stuff here,” Bloomberg said, who also has a Fairway coffee named after him, Gotham Blend, which Glickberg described as all business with spicy undertones.

Fairway is open daily from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m.

– Additional Reporting By Bob Doda

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.

News Briefs: Small Business Workshop in L.I.C.


| bdoda@queenscourier.com


LONG ISLAND CITY –

The Queens Economic Development Corporation will offer workshops and clinics for small business owners this fall. While the clinics are free, workshops will cost $25 in order to cover costs.

Topics covered will include networking, taxes, pricing and compliance with city regulations. The workshops and clinics will take place at the Entrepreneur Space at 36-46 37th Street in Long Island City from 6 to 8 p.m.

Speakers include Bianco Di Salvo, a professor in the marketing department at Fordham University, Gail Roseman, a partner at Sholom & Zuckerbrot Realty, LLC, and Susan Harkavy, an instructor on guerilla marketing at New York Designs.

For more information regarding scheduling, call 718-263-0546 or visit www.queensny.org.

Family Fright Night

FLUSHING –

The Flushing YMCA will hold their Family Fright Night on Friday, October 28 at 138-46 Northern Boulevard. Activities will include a haunted house, costume contest, face painting, dancing, spooky stories, carnival games and more. Call 718-961-6880 for more details.

Fall Festival

FLUSHING –

Councilmember Peter Koo and the Parks Department recently announced this year’s Fall Festival on Saturday, October 29 from 1 until 5 p.m. at the P.S. 20 playground (Union Street and Barclay Avenue). Activities will include free rides, games, pumpkin patch, live entertainment, karaoke and more. To sponsor this event, contact Judy Chen at 718-888-8747.

I.S. 178Q celebrates 16th Anniversary

FRESH MEADOWS –

Councilmember Mark Weprin addressed the students, parents, teachers, and fellow alumni who gathered at P.S./I.S. 178Q, the Holliswood School located at 189-10 Radnor Road in recognition of the school’s 60th anniversary.

“The Holliswood School has provided students with an outstanding education for six decades, and I know that it will continue to shine,” said Weprin.

Talent showcase at Cross Island Y

BELLEROSE –

Auditions are still open for this year’s “Y Kids Got Talent” live event to be held on Saturday, October 22 at 6 p.m. at the Cross Island YMCA, located at 238-10 Hillside Avenue. Anyone with acting, singing, dancing, acrobatics, marital arts or musical talent is encouraged to contact Jamé Cohn at 718-551-9314 or by email at jcohn@ymcanyc.org for audition scheduling information.

Chancellor speaks to ACA

ASTORIA –

New York City Public Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott was the featured speaker at the monthly Astoria Civic Association meeting.

Walcott answered a number of questions from teachers, students and parents from Astoria and other parts of Queens during the hour-long meeting, ranging from the Department’s no tolerance policy for bullying to exploring the possibility of implementing additional gifted and talented programs at Astoria’s middle schools.

The association meets on the first Tuesday of every month at Riccardo’s and features a new speaker and topic. The meeting time has changed to 7 p.m. For more information visit the Astoria Civic Association Facebook page, or call 718-545-5353.