Tag Archives: Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

Green Party candidate Lynne Serpe enters 22nd Council District race

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com


Green Party candidate Lynne Serpe has announced she will be run to fill departing Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.’s seat in the 22nd Council District.

“I think I offer a combination of independence and also vision,” Serpe said. “I have a very clear idea of how Astoria can become even better. What I loved about it 20 years ago, I still love about it today.”

Serpe ran against Vallone for City Council in 2009. She is currently the project consultant for the Greening Libraries Initiative at Queens Library and an independent election administrator. She is also an active member of Two Coves Community Garden and the co-founder of Triple R Events: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Lynne was the voting system reform coordinator for the New Zealand Parliament. She was also deputy director of the Political Reform Program of the New America Foundation and senior analyst for FairVote.

Running with the slogan “Vote Green, Not Machine,” Serpe’s platform calls for sustainable development, expanded compost and recycling programs, opportunities with healthy food and energy efficiency.

“Green economy is the future of the city,” she said. “I think I’m the complete package.”

Serpe will run against attorney John Ciafone, Democratic District Leader Costa Constantinides, Independent Party member and Monsignor McClancy High School volleyball Coach Danielle De Stefano, and Republican and Former New York Young Republican Club President Daniel Peterson.



Dad arrested for allowing kids to shoot BB guns in Astoria park

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com


An Astoria dad may receive more than just a slap on the wrist after allowing his children to play with loaded BB guns at a local park.

According to District Attorney Richard A. Brown, Zbigniew Pawlowski, 54, allegedly went to Ditmars Park in Astoria on Tuesday, May 7 with his two children—the elder of whom is five years old—and two BB guns.

At the park, Pawlowski allegedly loaded the guns with plastic pellets and shot one at a tree.

He then handed the guns to his children and allowed them to shoot. He also allegedly permitted his five-year-old daughter to run around the park with the BB gun, which she waved at other children, according to the DA.

“Illegal firearms, whether they be a spring-powered pistol or a more conventional deadly firearm, are a serious threat to public safety,” said Brown. “By allowing a five-year-old child to play with the loaded BB gun as if it was just a toy, the defendant is accused of recklessly endangering lives by creating a scenario that could have led to serious injury not just to his own children but innocent others who may have come in contact with the weapon.”

Pawlowski was arraigned on May 9 on charges of first- and second-degree reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, resisting arrest and violation of a New York City Administrative Code through possession of the BB gun.

Pawlowski is due to return to court in July and if convicted, the father faces up to seven years in prison.

“Times are not the same as when we grew up,” said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. “With events like Sandy Hook, something like this can cause a panic.”



Call to reinstate Peter F. Vallone Scholarship

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

With no agreement on a state Dream Act, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. is calling to re-establish the Peter F. Vallone Scholarship, the “original” New York City Dream Act.

On Thursday, April 25 Vallone gathered with mayoral candidates, fellow councilmembers and education and immigration advocacy groups to call on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to reinstate the scholarship.

The Vallone Scholarship, instituted by the City Council in 1997, was awarded to students based only on academic performance and was made available to full-time students who enrolled in a City University of New York (CUNY) college within a year of graduating from a city high school. This scholarship was available to all students, regardless of their immigration status.

“The Vallone Scholarship was New York City’s Dream Act, it was a reality here when the state and federal acts were just dreams,” said Vallone.

Vallone has been fighting to reinstate the scholarship ever since its removal in 2012.

“It was a promise we made to our hardest working kids, that we would help them achieve their dreams of a college education, and it was a promise that was broken,” said Vallone.

According to Vallone, there were close to 15,000 students receiving assistance when the scholarship was eliminated.




Fake website takes aim at Astoria community board members

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via cb1queens.org

A website passing itself off as the site for Astoria’s Community Board 1 is claiming its board members are out of touch with the community it serves.

Cb1queens.org” is a parody website that at first glance can be mistaken to be the official website address for Community Board 1 with its “formal” design and information, but is not associated with the board. Amid the various claims, the website states the Community Board “is proud to represent the interests of business and property owners” and the only way to truly become a member is to “know somebody.”

Although requesting to remain anonymous, the website designer stressed through an email that everything on the website is true and mostly comes from the Community Board’s official website or actual quotes said by board members. The designer said no quotes are attributed to any board members to not seem like individuals were being picked on.

“The main purpose of the website is to highlight what the board says and does,” the designer said. “I’m sure many of them [board members] mean very well. The site isn’t vindictive. It’s humorous. But it’s only funny because it’s true.”

But for Lucille Hartmann, district manager of Community Board 1, and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., this is no laughing matter.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion but the way it is being presented is underhanded,” said Hartmann. “They put their spin on it, that doesn’t mean that it’s right.”

Hartmann said the City Council is looking into the issue and that the recently added statement at the bottom of the website saying the site is “a parody and does not have any relation to any Community Board or governmental agency” does not suffice as a disclaimer.

As of Thursday, a message posted on the site said that it has temporarily been taken down due to “threat of legal action from the City of New York.”

Although Vallone has not seen the site himself, he looks down upon the creators who attack the Community Board online and says he wouldn’t dignify anything they say anonymously.

“I think it’s a shame that this very hardworking volunteer board can get attacked by anonymous cowards on the Internet,” he said. “Anyone who has a complaint should feel free to come to me or the Community Board and we would handle it like we do all complaints.”




Astoria Park pool to become performance space

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the NYC Parks & Recreation

With its local arts community booming, the Astoria Park pool will now take a dive into becoming the first outdoor performance space in the neighborhood.

“Artists in Astoria will finally have a fitting performance space,” said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., a musician himself who is glad the plan is finally moving forward and has provided over $4.5 million in funding for this project.

Plans to convert the neglected and deteriorating diving pool into an amphitheater began around two years ago when Vallone and Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski announced the transformation. “It will be one of the most beautiful in New York overlooking the river and skyline,” said Vallone.

The amphitheater will be located at the Astoria Park diving pool and will evoke ancient Rome and Greece with outdoor performances surrounded by nature and monuments.

“Astoria has been lacking in performance spaces for a long time, but turning this eyesore into a beautiful amphitheater will give our Queens artists a backdrop to match their talents,” said Vallone during a community board meeting last week.

Construction of the outdoor performing arts space is said to begin in about a year-and-a-half and will include pouring concrete into the pool, creating a new main entrance, installing new security fencing and gates, and other improvements. The diving board will remain and be refurbished.

The new space, which is located next to Astoria Park’s Olympic-sized swimming pool, will be open to theater groups, schools and community organizations. Along with this new outdoor space, Vallone is now looking for available indoor space in Astoria where artists’ works can call home in a creative and professional environment.




Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Wednesday: Partly cloudy. High of 82. Winds from the ENE at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the SE in the afternoon. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 72. Winds from the South at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the WNW after midnight

EVENT of the DAY: Family Karaoke Night at Manducatis Rustica

At this Long Island City restaurant’s karaoke night there are over 40,000 songs to choose from plus $5 specialty drinks for adults and gelato for kids of all ages. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Brazen thief steals 2 silver Torah crowns from Queens synogogue during evening services

Two valuable silver Torah crowns were stolen from a Queens synagogue during evening prayer services, police said Tuesday. Read more: New York Daily News

Councilman proposes emergency lane along Queens Boulevard

While traffic on Queens Boulevard can be frustrating for drivers, one official says it may be causing bigger problems. Read more: NY1

Cagey peacock ruffles Queens cops’ feathers

They can rappel down skyscrapers, rescue plane-crash survivors from an icy river, and go toe-to-toe with terrorists.But elite NYPD Emergency Service Unit cops were outsmarted yesterday by a plucky peacock that has made a Queens neighborhood his home away from home for the past week. Read more: New York Post

Busted pipe slowly turning freshwater ponds salty in Broad Channel

A busted drain pipe and valve system is slowly ruining the ecology of Jamaica Bay, driving away birds that usually breed along two freshwater ponds. Read more: New York Daily News

Sources: U.S. Open ref arrested in connection with husband’s death

Sources say that police arrested a U.S. Open tennis referee Tuesday who is a suspect in her husband’s death. Read more: NY1

NYPD: Muslim spying led to no leads, terror cases

In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday. Read more: AP

Blasting goes awry along 2nd Avenue subway; buildings, sidewalk damaged

Blasting along Manhattan’s still-under-construction 2nd Avenue subway line caused some damage Tuesday afternoon. Now, authorities want to know if human error was to blame. Read more: CBS New York

Searching for a new neighbor on ‘Sesame Street’

“Sesame Street” held its first-ever open casting call in New York this week to find its newest neighbor — a Hispanic character to reflect the long-running show’s increasingly diverse audience. Read more: Wall Street Journal 

BC/WSJ poll: Heading into conventions, Obama has four-point lead 

After Mitt Romney selected his vice presidential running mate, and just days before the political conventions kick off next week, President Barack Obama maintains his advantage in the race for the White House, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Read more: NBC news

Macy’s, local pols to meet about moving fireworks back to East River

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

liducks fireworks2

Macy’s executives are planning on meeting with local politicians, including Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., to discuss moving its Fourth of July fireworks back to the East River. The meeting was scheduled for today, but was cancelled, said Vallone.

This July 4 was the fourth year in a row that the Macy’s fireworks display was on the Hudson River, leaving nowhere in Queens to see fireworks on the holiday.

Joining Vallone will be New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and State Senator Daniel Squadron of Brooklyn. To help their case, they will present Macy’s with a petition to return the fireworks to the East River. Since it was launched on June 28, over 3,000 people have signed the petition, said Squadron spokesperson Amy Spitalnick.

Vallone has been urging the department store to return the fireworks to the East River for years, but with de Blasio and Squadron’s help, Macy’s has finally agreed to sit down and discuss the move. “The East River is the heart of New York City and the people of Queens and Brooklyn should have front row seats,” he said. “Having it here on the East River helps Queens and Brooklyn businesses.”

Though Vallone would prefer that the fireworks were on the East River each year, Macy’s is likely to agree to alternating them between the Hudson and East rivers.


Free Breast Cancer Screening

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

The American Italian Cancer Foundation and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. will co-host a free breast-cancer screening event in Astoria on Tuesday, April 17. A mobile van will be parked outside the councilmember’s office, located at 22-45 31stStreet. Medical services will be provided by Multi-Diagnostic Service. Eligible women must be at least 40 years old, have a New York mailing address and have not had a mammogram in the past 12 months. Appointments are necessary. To sign up or for more info, call 877-628-9090 or 718-274-4500.

Eye in the sky

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

One Astoria legislator is keeping an eye on crime – literally.

Following the violent mugging of a neighborhood deli owner in a local parking lot – which went undetected due to a broken Department of Transportation (DOT) surveillance camera – Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. has installed his own recording device overlooking the area, located at 33rd Street between 23rd Avenue and Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria.

Vallone, who is the chair of the public safety committee, was unable to convince the DOT to repair its recorder, and instead, had the NYPD’s Technical Assistance Response Unit install a camera on the side of his district office.

“When DOT admitted ownership, their first response was, ‘It doesn’t work and we are going to remove it immediately,’ instead of ‘We will fix it immediately.’ It was then removed without telling us. I decided I wasn’t going to deal with the bureaucracy, and I’d put a camera here on the side of my office. We are trying to prevent people from pulling stupid stunts, but if they insist, we will capture it on camera, they will get their 15 minutes of fame and hopefully 15 days in jail.”

To alert patrons and criminals alike that they are being taped, Vallone also installed a humorous sign next to the device which reads, “Smile You’re on Council Camera” – a reference to the television show “Candid Camera.”

The councilmember’s actions were prompted by the vicious attack on Rosario DiMarco, who owns Rosario’s Deli, located on 22-55 31st Street in Astoria.

DiMarco was beaten and mugged by two men in the municipal lot on December 21 of last year. The 54-year-old father of three was sprayed in the eyes with mace and struck multiple times with a stick. He also severely strained a ligament in his right hand when he was knocked to the ground.

“I’ve been doing physical therapy for three months,” he said. “[My hand] is at about 75 to 80 percent now.”

DiMarco was “pretty furious” upon learning that the DOT’s camera was unable to capture the criminals.

“Why do they have a camera if it doesn’t work,” he said. “The city doesn’t care about the outer boroughs like Queens – only Manhattan. If this was a camera in Manhattan it would have been working. They have money to change the signs for the names of bridges, why don’t they protect the people?”

The deli owner, who is concerned about the camera’s fate after Vallone’s council term ends, is pleased someone is now paying attention.

Vallone – who also had an NYPD recording device installed on Ditmars Boulevard and 31st Avenue – is hoping the camera will dissuade deviants from preying on people in the poorly-lit lot, which he says has an “occasional homeless population.”


Tech thieves targeting iPhones on subway

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by David Beltran

Residents of Astoria refuse to be frightened by fleeing thieves aiming to filch their phones.

Police say nine iPhones have been stolen along the “N” and “R” train lines since late December, with the most recent incident occurring on February 8. Five of the thefts have occurred in Astoria – three at the 36th Avenue station and two at the neighboring stop on 39th Avenue. Young women were victims in eight of the nine cases, police said.

The NYPD currently has descriptions of three of the suspects involved in the thefts – all black males in their 20s, roughly 6 feet tall and approximately 200 pounds.

A number of residents admitted they were unaware of the trend in their neighborhood, but were not nervous about losing their phones to the bandits.

“I heard that was going on in the city and other places but not here,” said Leticia Huero, a 20-year-old iPhone owner who uses the 36th Avenue station daily. “I’m not really worried about it though – you just have to be careful. I’m not going to be any more vigilant because people should already be vigilant. I might use it a little less now while I’m on the train, but I’ll probably end up still using it after a while.”

Others view the crimes as inevitable, considering the volume of phones out in the open at any given time.

“Yeah, I can see how that happens. People are on their phones all the time and they don’t notice who’s around them,” said Mujammil Ali, 22, who visits the 36th Avenue station twice a day. “People just need to be more careful. They buy these expensive phones but they don’t watch out for thieves.”

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who represents Astoria and is the chair of the Public Safety Committee, says many of the incidents occur above ground, prior to the train leaving the stations – when thieves snatch a phone and dash out seconds before the doors close.

According to Vallone, the police have responded to the recent rash in iPhone thefts by increasing their subway presence and instituting sting operations designed to nab phone snatchers.

Officers of the 114th Precinct have advised riders to use their phones sparingly, and to hide them whenever they do.

“If you have electronic devices while you are in transit, try not to have them visible. Be aware of your surroundings,” said an officer of the 114th Precinct’s Crime Prevention Unit. “Unfortunately, when you are using an iPhone or iPod, you tend to pay attention to that instead of what’s going on around you, which increases the chances of you becoming a victim. Perpetrators prey on people who aren’t paying attention.”

Additional reporting by David Beltran

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.

Vallone’s trash talk

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. is telling illegal garbage dumpers where they can stick their trash.

Vallone, who observed personal garbage in a public receptacle outside his office, is outraged that some citizens view the city as their private dumping ground.

“I was walking into my office in the rain and I noticed one of the garbage cans outside was stuffed up with personal garbage. I passed it and got angry,” said Vallone. “This is something a lot of people are not aware of, but they see these overflowing garbage cans and a lot of times they assume it’s because they haven’t been emptied. But a lot of times it’s because pigs think they can dump their garbage in public property.”

Vallone proceeded to remove the refuse and inspect it in search of the “swine’s” identity. He says he found a magazine with a name and address, which he has passed on to the Department of Sanitation for enforcement.

“I have your last name and address. Expect a visit from Sanitation to your pigsty,” Vallone posted on his Facebook page on January 17.

Beyond singular civilians, Vallone also believes businesses are dumping their trash in public cans for financial benefits.

“Businesses try to avoid paying for a private trash removal company by emptying into public dumpsters,” said the councilmember. “Private people who do it are either too lazy or too stupid to figure out pick up days. But either way it causes our neighborhood to look dirty.”

According to the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), 793 fines were issued for illegal dumping of residential garbage in street bins in Queens in 2011 – down from 887 violations in 2010. Fines increased by roughly 47 percent citywide, however, from 2,512 in 2010 to 3,681 in 2011.

DSNY spokesperson Kathy Dawkins says the city is doing whatever it can to enforce what is considered a “well-known law.”

“It is important to know that people are not supposed to put their household trash in the litter baskets,” Dawkins said. “We are responding to commercial areas where merchants are concerned about this problem, as well as to complaints by politicians.”

To discourage dumpers, Vallone said he has introduced legislation that would increase the fine for a first offense from $100 to $200.

According to the councilmember, the key to cutting down the dumping is notifying the city by registering complaints with 3-1-1.

“Enforcement is complaint driven,” said Vallone. “Sanitation does not have the resources to investigate every garbage can. We have to do a better job of letting them know where this is a problem.”

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.”

Local pols reject Morgan Stanley price fixing settlement

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Local elected officials are expending “energy” to ensure Morgan Stanley doesn’t get a quick “fix” to its illegal pricing ploy.

Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. are pushing a federal judge to reject the proposed settlement in the price-fixing case involving the investment bank and two western Queens energy plants – Astoria Generating Company and KeySpan Energy Corporation.

The scheme, which caused ratepayers to lose roughly $300 million over two years, generated $21.6 million for Morgan Stanley.

Gianaris and Vallone recently sent a letter to the judge overseeing the case, William Pauley, requesting a re-evaluation of the $4.8 million settlement reached between the bank and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The officials are hoping the fine is increased, and believe a provision should be included compensating ratepayers who suffered financial losses.

“Allowing a deep-pocketed investment bank to get away with just a slap on the wrist would be treated as the cost of doing business and would continue to permit the bank to reap the benefits of its illicit profits,” Gianaris said. “The settlement proposal is an insult to ratepayers during a difficult economic time, and I encourage Judge Pauley to protect the public by rejecting this proposal.”

According to DOJ, KeySpan and Morgan Stanley entered into an agreement in January of 2006 which provided KeySpan with a financial interest in the electricity capacity sales of its largest competitor, Astoria Generating Company. By providing KeySpan revenues from its competitor’s capacity sales, the agreement had the anticompetitive effect of eliminating KeySpan’s incentive to sell its electricity at lower prices.

A spokesperson from Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

“This settlement with a major financial institution will signal to the financial services community that use of derivatives for anticompetitive ends will not be tolerated,” said Sharis Pozen, acting assistant attorney general in charge of DOJ’s Antitrust Division. “Disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, as was paid here, is an effective Antitrust Division tool to remedy harm to competition.”

KeySpan reached a $12 million settlement with DOJ for violating antitrust laws.

“This issue was resolved last year through a settlement with DOJ, and we consider the matter closed,” said a spokesperson for National Grid, which purchased KeySpan. “We believe the private class actions lack merit and we will continue to act accordingly.”

John Reese, senior vice president of U.S. Power Generating Company, which owns Astoria Generating Company, declined to comment regarding the settlement, but he did emphasize the importance of fair play in the economy.

“We were doing an agreement with Morgan Stanley, and we were not aware of their agreement with KeySpan,” said Reese. “The deal they did, we had no knowledge of. We received none of the benefits of what happened in that deal, and that is why were not fined and received no violations. For a market to work efficiently, everyone has to follow the rules. When you break the rules, you have to be punished accordingly.”

The current court settlement would allow Morgan Stanley to keep roughly $16.8 million of the profit they received through the price-fixing scheme, which Vallone and Gianaris believe to be egregious.

“Who came up with this deal – Bernie Madoff,” Vallone asked. “How could DOJ and the court allow Morgan Stanley to conspire with KeySpan to artificially raise rates and make millions of dollars without returning one cent to the ratepayers?”

Vallone lead self defense in Astoria

| dbeltran@queenscourier.com


Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. joined self-defense expert Antonio Meloni, Crime Prevention Officer John Glynn of the 114th Precinct, Safe Horizon representatives and auxiliary police at a free self defense and crime prevention seminar in Astoria.

Despite freezing temperatures, over 100 people attended the seminar, held at Immaculate Conception School. Residents were provided with information on how to act when confronted with a criminal at home, on the street or in a vehicle.

“This is a good opportunity to get some safety tips and extra information to be more diligent,” said resident Tara Fay-Reilly.

Meloni advised the women in attendance to not be afraid if they find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.

“You don’t need to explain yourself to anybody,” said Meloni. “If something happens, it’s ok to be rude. Hurting somebody’s feelings is better than you being hurt.”

Meloni also demonstrated maneuvers to use to safely and properly defend oneself if in an altercation, as well as methods to ward off possible criminals.

“Show people that you’re paying attention,” said Meloni. “If you’re on the subway, just take a glance around when you step in.”

Officer Robles, a member of the auxiliary police, said the group, which consists of volunteers, is a productive way for residents to protect their own community.

“What makes them spectacular is that they’re you, they’re nothing different,” said Robles. “You’re the eyes and ears and you supplement the NYC police department.”

Glynn also provided residents with some local crime statistics and cited burglary as one crime in the area that is preventable.

“More often than not, we’re seeing them come in through a window and exiting through the front door as if they live there,” said Glynn.

Meloni recommended both current and new residents go through a security survey conducted by Glynn. “We don’t’ realize sometimes how vulnerable our homes are,” said Meloni. “What [Glynn] can do is he can come to your home, apartment or business, and do a survey that will tell you where your faults lie.”

If someone is involved in a possible assault, Meloni said it may not always be best to fight back.

“If you’re walking home, and you scream and scare him, you won,” he said. “We want him to get arrested but we don’t want you to be the one who holds him down for us.”

Vallone is currently working with the NYPD and Astoria residents to form a Neighborhood watch program.