Tag Archives: Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik

Martin Van Buren High School co-location met with protest


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The city’s plans to add another school within a struggling Queens Village institution is a “knife in the back” to the community, elected officials said.

“This is the wrong plan at the wrong time, in the wrong place, at the wrong school,” said Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik.

The Department of Education (DOE) has proposed adding a small district high school inside Martin Van Buren High School.

The two schools would share the 230-17 Hillside Avenue building — including its gym, cafeteria and auditorium — in a move increasingly known as co-location.

“We’ve been nationally recognized for our visionary new school models, and this new option replicates those that are in extraordinarily high demand across the city,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia.

“This new school will deliver great outcomes for neighborhood students,” Puglia added. “Parents in this community are clamoring for, and will continue to demand, more high quality options, and we’re going to keep delivering them.”

Queens lawmakers say the new school would eliminate 500 existing seats at Van Buren. They were told the DOE is shooting for a 2014 opening, though the city would have to hold a public hearing beforehand.

“Reducing the seats at Martin Van Buren High School is a slap in the face to our community, which has fought to turn around the school,” said Assemblymember David Weprin. “Now is not the time for the outgoing administration to make this kind of destructive decision.”

Van Buren received a C in the DOE’s most recent progress report, which is based on student progress toward graduation, performance on standardized tests, coursework and student attendance. The school improved a full letter grade from the year before.

There is also a new principal, Sam Sochet, who replaced Marilyn Shevell last June. Elected officials said morale and grades have been improving under Sochet.

The school was also acknowledged as “developing” during last year’s DOE evaluation, a step above the failing grade “underdeveloped.”

“What the DOE is proposing could undo all of the progress the administration and teachers have made so far,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin. “Creating a new school will cost millions and may threaten the revitalization of our neighborhood school.”

The councilmember said the community was kept out of the loop during the DOE’s “whisper campaign” to co-locate the school. He said he caught wind of the plans in June.

“In the middle of the night, we get a call saying the DOE is looking to co-locate another school within this building, after all the effort that has been put in to try to fix this school,” he said.

Washington Sanchez, a representative for the United Federation of Teachers, called the move a “sneak co-location.”

“They just want to do it in the heat of the summer, behind closed doors,” he said.

State Senator Tony Avella said the school was on the right track in October 2011 when Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott “did a tour of the school and made all sorts of promises to turn this thing around.”

“Now all of a sudden we get the knife in the back, and that’s what this is,” Avella said. “They’re stabbing us in the back.”

The city’s educational impact statement of the new school is expected to be released late August. Public hearings are likely to be scheduled soon after.

Nearly 3,000 students from ninth to twelfth grade attend Van Buren.

“Changing the school is a big mistake,” said rising senior Harsimranjeet Singh. “There have been a lot of new programs. Grades are going higher now. Progress will decline.”

 

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‘This is Queens’ app launches


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

All of Queens is now available right in your pocket.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce announced the launch of the “This is Queens” app for Android and iPhone mobile devices on June 27, in time for tons of tourists at upcoming major events in the borough.

The app, which can be downloaded at ThisisQueens.com, is free and lists numerous Queens sites, restaurants, hotels and adventures that tourists and even residents can experience.

“This is going to help people around the world learn about all the great things they can do in Queens,” said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “And we’re not talking about the normal things. We talking about visiting 5 Pointz in Long Island City, we’re talking about taking kayak rides on the East River.”

The New York City Regional Economic Development Council supported the application and pushed for funding from the New York State Department of Economic Development, which gave the chamber $100,000 to develop it.

The app is expected to attract fans attending the upcoming MLB All Star Game at Citi Field next month, the U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in August and the 2014 Super Bowl at the Metlife Stadium next year.

After viewing the events visitors can use the app learn about unique sights, diverse restaurants or get exclusive deals from businesses in Queens.

“People use the Internet today for just about every part of their life and so to have this app sends a message to people all around the world that we are on the map,” said Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik. “It will bring a lot of tourism dollars here, a lot of investment and we are looking forward to that investment as the years go forward.”

“This is Queens” was developed in two-and-a-half months by Digital Natives, a digital marketing agency in Long Island City. The app is real time and will be upgraded to reflect changes to businesses and sites, such as the designation of Forest Park Carousel in Woodhaven as a landmark, which occurred the day before the app was launched.

Businesses and Queens sites already seem to be excited about the app.

“We have so many events, programs for the entire family, this [app] is great so that people know what is going on in Queens,” said Malika Granville, a spokesperson from Flushing Town Hall.“If they’re looking for something to do on a Sunday they zoom through the app and ‘oh Flushing Town Hall has free yoga.’”

The app is not optimized for iPads, however, so pictures and passages won’t appear as they should. And although the app represents the most diverse borough in New York, English is the only language currently available, while plans to add Spanish, Chinese, Korean and other languages are in the works.

 

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Queens Democratic endorsements: Party backs Katz for borough president, Quinn for mayor


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Melinda Katz: File photo; Christine Quinn; Photo William Alatriste

The Queens Democratic Party doled out its endorsements for this year’s elections Monday, giving key backings in multi-candidate primaries.

The party backed Council Speaker Christine Quinn for mayor, former deputy public advocate Reshma Saujani for public advocate; Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer for comptroller and Melinda Katz for Borough President. Stringer’s son was born earlier that morning.

Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who nearly won the mayor’s race in 2009, only received three votes in his favor. Upon Quinn’s formal nomination, she received a standing ovation. The candidate promised better conditions for the middle class in terms of jobs and education.

Katz served in the Assembly from 1994 to 1999. After that, she went on to oversee Queens’ 14 community boards under former Borough President Claire Shulman. Katz then served in the City Council for two terms, and lost the 2009 Democratic primary for comptroller.

She is running against Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Peter Vallone Jr., State Senators Jose Peralta and Tony Avella and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik.

“It was not an easy choice,” said Congressmember Joseph Crowley, chair of the county party. “But we believe that Melinda has all the assets necessary to become the next borough president.”

Katz said she’s excited for the nearly four months of primary campaigning that still lie ahead.

“Over the last year, I have come into your districts,” she said. “We have spoken with constituents together. I’ve gotten to know the issues that surround this entire borough.”

Comrie was considered a likely pick for the nomination in the days leading up to the endorsement. But he has had trouble raising funds and was snubbed earlier this year in a key endorsement from the Reverend

Floyd Flake. Flake’s congregation is in Comrie’s council district, but the religious leader backed Katz.
Vallone, who has been leading in polls and in fund raising, said he was not disappointed by the party’s backing for Katz, adding he did not expect to get the endorsement. His brother Paul was endorsed for City

Council District 19, beating out Austin Shafran. Shafran has received a slew of endorsements since January, one of the biggest being from the AFL-CIO.

“The endorsement is not something I was expecting,” Vallone said. “And I’m just very happy they went with my brother Paul, because I’m going to need him in City Hall if, God willing, I’m borough president.”

In her endorsement for Saujani, Crowley cited Saujani’s advocacy for housing and work in the public advocate’s office under incumbent Bill de Blasio.

She is running in a four-way Democratic primary against State Senator Daniel Squadron, Cathy Guerriero and Tish James.

 

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