Tag Archives: donovan richards

Residents in three Queens council districts to vote on community projects


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Residents of three Queens City Council districts will soon have a chance to decide what projects they want funded in their communities.

Launched in 2011 in four Council districts, participatory budgeting allows locals to determine how to spend at least $1 million of their councilmembers’ capital discretionary funds.

This year’s round of projects is up for a vote from March 29 to April 6 in eight districts, including Councilmember Mark Weprin’s District 23, Councilmember Donovan Richards District 31 and Eric Ulrich’s District 32.

The process begins in the fall at public meetings where residents can suggest ideas and choose budget delegates. Those selected volunteers then come up with proposals based on those suggestions, which are presented to the public ahead of the vote.

Last spring, approximately 13,000 people voted, an increase of about 7,000 from the previous year. Each voter can chose up to five projects.

“I am excited to make full use of the Democratic process and offer our district the opportunity to decide where $1 million of my budget should be spent,” said Councilmember Richards, who is participating in the process for the first time. “It’s important that we all understand how our local government can and should improve our communities.”

Among his district’s projects are education, youth, public safety and recreation related improvements. They include upgrades to the Far Rockaway Campus High School, Farm Rockaway and the installation of Argus surveillance cameras in various areas of Far Rockaway.

Residents in Weprin’s district will be able to vote on $1 million in projects ranging from library security upgrades, park improvements, school technology needs and $100,000 in portable security cameras in the community.

Projects in the Rockaway portion of Ulrich’s district include $320,00 in upgrades and improvements to local schools, resurfacing of Broad Channel Park and community information boards in the Rockaways and Broad Channel. The project list for the rest of the councilmember’s district is still being finalized.

For more information on the projects and how to vote, click here.

 

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Op-ed: Make ferry service permanent


| oped@queenscourier.com


COUNCILMEMBER DONOVAN RICHARDS

I would like to start by commending the city for the fourth extension of ferry service to the Rockaway Peninsula. I would especially like to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for extending the ferry service through May and keeping his word, as he remains dedicated to the recovery of Rockaway and New York City as a whole. Ferry services in the Rockaways have provided a much needed relief during an extremely trying time. The ferry has quickly become the preferred method of transportation to Manhattan for many people throughout the peninsula.

While we certainly are enjoying our time with the ferry, the threat of losing the service continues to loom over our heads. We have repeatedly been told that the service may just be temporary, that there would be yet another study or deadline, and that the service would be cut if ridership was poor. However, the ferry has continually maintained strong ridership, and it is time to put this ambiguity aside.

Rockaway needs a permanent ferry! Residents have had to deal with subpar transportation options for far too long, and Sandy has only made these shortcomings more apparent. Service may have been lacking on the best of days but became non-existent in the days following Sandy. Thousands of people were effectively stranded while still reeling from the devastation. While we simply were not prepared for a storm of that magnitude, that excuse only works once. We must never allow ourselves to be in that situation again.

While the need to improve our transportation infrastructure is obvious, there are many other ways this ferry has benefited New Yorkers. Commuters are getting to work faster; the ferry trip is peaceful, serene, and timely; the ease of travel also encourages visitors to come out and experience our beautiful beaches during the summer months, which is essential for local businesses still recovering from Sandy related losses. Anyone who has taken a trip on the ferry knows that it is as aesthetically pleasing as it is essential to our community.

The truth of the matter is that not only am I passionate about keeping the ferry, I am also very interested in creating another stop in Rockaway. While the ferry has maintained a strong ridership, this is a large peninsula. Creating a ferry stop between the center of the peninsula and Manhattan will increase ferry ridership and further address any concerns over small ridership. I have been working with the Economic Development Corporation and they have launched a study on the feasibility of extending the ferry.

I will not rest while these issues continue to plague my friends and neighbors. I know that the residents, community leaders, elected officials, and vacationers in Rockaway stand with me. I hope the rest of our city and the new administration will do the same.

Councilmember Donovan Richards represents the 31st District.

 

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Southeast Queens schools to receive yearly $2.5M grant


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Richards

Eleven southeast Queens schools are the recipients of an annual technology grant in the name of a civil rights legend.

Councilmember Donovan Richards created the Nelson Mandela Technology Grant through which he will be contributing $2.5 million yearly to his district’s schools to “help fill any financial gaps to ensure our youth have access to the best resources available.”

“I have always believed it is essential our youth have access to the best technology available,” Richards said. “We can no longer focus on competing locally and must prepare future generations to compete on an international level.”

A minimum $50,000 will go to each of Richards’ 11 district schools, including P.S. 123 in Jamaica, P.S. 156 in Laurelton and Excelsior Preparatory High School in Springfield Gardens.

Richards presented the donation at the M.S. 355 and M.S. 356 Springfield Gardens campus Monday. He said he’s proud to provide the funds and could give more than $50,000 where needed.

Springfield Gardens’ I.S. 231 will receive $500,000 this fiscal year to upgrade its playground, and Richards said he is additionally allocating funds for schools still recovering from Sandy.

“As long as I am councilman, I will do my best to provide for our youth wherever there are gaps,” he said.

Richards is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, now State Senator James Sanders, who contributed about $2 million for 10 years to fulfill the district’s schools’ technology needs.

 

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Pols put a stop to dangerous traffic at Cambria Heights intersection


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Drivers passing through an accident-prone intersection can now do so more safely thanks to new streetlights.

In Cambria Heights, the intersection of Francis Lewis Boulevard and 121st Avenue has been a notorious site for car crashes. Local officials responded and worked to get three streetlights put up along the busy roadway.

Councilmembers Donovan Richards and I. Daneek Miller, whose districts meet at the intersection, advocated for the safety measure in the residential neighborhood.

“For a very long time, this intersection has been dangerous to not only my district but Daneek’s district,” Richards said. “Today, you don’t see cars crisscrossing each other.”

Miller’s predecessor, Deputy Borough President Leroy Comrie, started work on the traffic installment during his time as a councilmember. Miller took over the project after his term began this month.

“I live and grew up on this street,” Miller said. “We’ve been watching it grow. We have a real increase in traffic that needs to be addressed.”

In recent years, Cambria Heights has experienced several traffic fatalities. A 27-year-old man lost his life in March 2013 after losing control of his vehicle while on icy Francis Lewis Boulevard, and Paulina Rodriguez, 24, died in a three-car accident after she ran a stop sign on 115th Avenue and 227th Street.

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Van Bramer, Ferreras in running to head Council finance committee: report


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photos

After showing support last month for newly-elected Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Queens Councilmembers Julissa Ferreras and Jimmy Van Bramer are the top contenders to head the Council’s finance committee, according to Politicker.

A City Council source told Politicker negotiations over the finance chair appointment are underway this week and “announcements could be coming soon.”

When contacted by The Courier, both Van Bramer and Ferreras had no comment to the Politicker report.

Mark-Viverito has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Van Bramer and Ferarras were two of six Queens councilmembers to back Mark-Viverito in December, in contrast to the wishes of their county’s Democratic Party leadership.

Mark-Viverito has so far only appointed members to the Council’s rules, privileges and elections committee.

Those members include Councilmember Donovan Richards, the only Queens representative on the committee.

The remaining committees are expected to be announced at the Council’s next meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

 

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Melissa Mark-Viverito elected as next City Council Speaker


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYC City Council Flickr/Official NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste

Melissa Mark-Viverito was unanimously elected as the next City Council Speaker Wednesday by the 51-member body, becoming the second most powerful politician in the city and the first Latin-American to take the spot.

“We will work together, because that is what New Yorkers expect and that is what New Yorkers deserve,” she said. “We unite for a more equal and just New York.”

The two-term East Harlem councilmember first declared victory on Dec. 19 after receiving support from 30 council colleagues — more than the 26-majority vote needed.  Reports later surfaced that city officials wanted a unified backing behind Mark-Viverito.

Shortly before the Jan. 8 vote, her opponent, Daniel Garodnick, conceded and sealed Mark-Viverito’s win with a hug in the City Council chamber, followed by cheers from their fellow councilmembers.

“In the spirit of strengthening the council, which animated my candidacy from the start, I now formally concede to the next Speaker of the City Council – my colleague Melissa Mark-Viverito,” Garodnick said. “I look forward to working with [her] … She is a smart and committed public servant, and we have worked extremely well together in the past.”

Garodnick also vowed to do his part to “resolve any rifts” the process may have caused among colleagues.

Mark-Viverito is also the first Puerto Rican woman and the first member of the Black Latino and Asian Caucus to take the Speaker spot.

Several Queens councilmembers supported Mark-Viverito from her December announcement, including Daniel Dromm, Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich and Jimmy Van Bramer.

They confirmed their support at the Jan. 8 vote, along with the remaining Queens delegation.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras called Mark-Viverito a “passionate advocate for reform” to “bring transparency” to city government.

“We owe it to the people to elect a strong and principled woman,” she said.

Mark-Viverito said the vision for the “new City Council” is one of “unity, independence, integrity, transparency and accountability.”

Her agenda includes fighting for affordable housing, improving the city’s education system, raising the minimum wage and uniting for the city’s first responders.

“This council will be unified,” she said.

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Queens pol has high hopes for Sandy Funding Tracker


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the office of Councilmember Donovan Richards

Sandy recovery money is now under close inspection, and one Queens pol wants accountability for every dollar moving forward.

In November, Councilmember Donovan Richards introduced a bill that would track all funds related to superstorm recovery via an online database.

Before former Mayor Michael Bloomberg bid adieu to City Hall in late December, he signed the bill into law, along with 21 others. It will take effect in late March.

Richards said new Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration will carry out the bill as it was intended, making sure local jobs are created and devastated areas are rebuilt stronger than before.

“De Blasio spent a lot of time with us during the storm, helping and bringing out supplies,” Richards said. “It’s not like we have to convince him we have a need.”

The Workforce Center recently opened in the Far Rockaway Queens Library branch is also equipped to prepare local residents for the rebuilding job opportunities.

“These things all tie into what we want to do,” Richards said. “Twenty billion dollars is going to come through New York City over the next few years. We want to make sure it’s distributed [equally].”

The Sandy Funding Tracker provides a funding summary, which gives an overview of all recovery money by funding type and funding details, broken down by borough and individual.

“You can see where this money is and where it’s going,” Richards said.

In addition to tracking federal funding, all contractors doing work locally are required to disclose everything from the wages they pay workers to the area from which they hire these workers. This is meant to encourage contractors to fulfill local hiring mandates.

The tracker also provides detailed information about projects and programs in each major category of disaster relief funds, such as Build it Back, the city-sponsored recovery program.

For more information and to see the website’s progress thus far, click here. The website will continually be updated once the law goes into effect.

 

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Melissa Mark-Viverito says she has support to become next City Council speaker


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYC City Council Flickr/Official NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste

Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito is claiming she will have enough votes in the City Council to become its next speaker.

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Mark-Viverito, who represents District 8, said she has the backing of 30 councilmembers and councilmembers-elect, including Queens members Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich and Jimmy Van Bramer.

“I am humbled to have the support and confidence that my colleagues have placed in me. Today is the culmination of over two decades of my work at the grassroots, in non-profit organizations, in labor and as a public servant. I know that my fellow members will work with me in the City Council to create more inclusive legislative body where every member’s voice is heard and validated,” Mark-Viverito said.

She will only need the support of 26 members, when the vote for speaker takes place on Jan. 8.

Mark-Viverito received the backing she needed when Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio convinced Brooklyn Democratic Chair Frank Seddio to support her, according to published reports.

But her remaining opponent, Councilmember Dan Garodnick, isn’t giving up, and called her statement “premature,” reported Politicker.

The Queens councilmembers issued the following statements in support of Mark-Viverito:

Daniel Dromm
“I am proud to have been one of NYC Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito’s earliest supporters. Having a bright, dynamic, independent and committed progressive as the leader of the Council is truly exciting. Mark-Viverito will continue to be a voice for the voiceless. Her connection to the people is her greatest strength. I congratulate her on her victory as the next Speaker of the NYC Council. This is a great day for New York City!”

Julissa Ferreras
“I’m proud to be helping to elect the first Latina Speaker of the New York City Council. Melissa is a friend and an impressive leader. I look forward to working with her to move our community forward, improve our schools, create good jobs and improve green spaces. Today is a great day for all New Yorkers.”

Daneek Miller
“I know and am thrilled with Melissa Mark-Viverito as our speaker and lead voice. We share common interests I know the council will move forward with a progressive voice.”

Donovan Richards
“Melissa Mark-Viverito has been a staunch advocate for the families of Southeast Queens and New York City for decades,” said Council member Donovan Richards. “Whether it was fighting for progressive issues such as paid sick leave days or reforming stop & frisk, she has continuously been on the front lines for our communities. This is why I stand with her in support of her candidacy to become the speaker of the New York City Council.”

Eric Ulrich
“I want to congratulate my colleague Melissa Mark-Viverito on winning a hard-fought race for Speaker of the City Council. I am happy to be part of a diverse coalition of councilmembers and look forward to working with them in a bipartisan fashion on behalf of the working and middle class families in my district and throughout the five boroughs.”

Jimmy Van Bramer
“I am enormously proud to vote for a progressive and the first Latina to lead our great body. I am equally proud to elect a woman, who as Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus, a body I have stood with since day one, has dedicated her life to ending injustice in all its forms including discrimination and violence against the LGBT community. The unending struggle for a more just city continues, and working together with Mayor-Elect de Blasio, I know our best days are ahead of us.”

 

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Springfield Gardens celebrates the holiday season


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Donovan Richards

The holiday spirit is alive in Springfield Gardens.

The Christmas tree in Springfield Park lit up for the season on Wednesday, December 11 with residents and community leaders watching.

“This is a great event for the whole family,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards, who hosted the tree lighting along with the Parks Department, Friends of Brookville Park, Storm Rydaz and the Student’s Real Friends Network.

Holiday music played as children took photos with Santa and shared in the community Christmas celebration.

Holiday trees throughout the southeast community are lighting up. The Brookville Park tree was lit on Saturday, December 7.

 

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South-eastern Queens to get more sewers to alleviate flooding


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

FILE PHOTO

South-eastern Queens neighborhoods, which have long suffered from perpetual flooding, may see some immediate relief after the city announced it would work quickly to create new storm sewers and upgrade catch basements.

A multi-year, $6 billion sewer-upgrade plan to manage the area’s flooding was announced earlier this year, but the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has initiated smaller, targeted projects to control the issues in the interim, including new storm sewers and catch basin upgrades.

“I am very much looking forward to these essential improvements,” said City Councilmember Donovan Richards. “For far too long, large sections of southeast Queens have had to deal with sub-par sewer systems and I eagerly await the relief these new initiatives will bring.”

Storm sewers and 14 new catch basins were installed on 111th Avenue between 155th and 158th Streets and 113th Avenue between 156th and 157th Streets in South Jamaica. There are currently a number of other flood-prone locations under consideration for similar upgrades, according to the DEP, which will be approved in 2014.

These targeted sites are being chosen based on input from elected officials, community groups and 311 flood reports.

“Ground water and flooding issues within southeast Queens cannot be resolved without total cooperation from all involved and we must stay vigilant to ensure the funding continues,” said City Councilmember Leroy Comrie.

More than $383 million have been used over the last ten years to continue to extend the area’s sewer system and the DEP has allocated an additional $380 million for the next ten years.

 

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Incumbent Councilmember Donovan Richards regains District 31 seat


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


Councilmember Donovan Richards was given the go ahead to keep the City Council seat he has briefly held since March’s special election.

Richards declared victory after receiving over 50 percent of the votes over his opponents, Michael Duncan, community activist, and Ricardo Brown, accountant.

In his first six months in office, Richards fought against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to close daycares, libraries, after-school programs and firehouses in the district. He also brought in nearly $10 million in capital and expense funding for various projects including technology and school upgrades and library expansions.

He negotiated with the Bloomberg Administration to establish a Workforce Center in the district and voted to overturn the mayor’s veto on stop and frisk.

Before winning re-election, Richards worked for then-Councilmember James Sanders for about a decade. Sanders vacated the 31st District seat to successfully run for State Senate.

“Donovan is a young man who has tremendous vision,” said attorney Jacques Leandre at the polls on voting day, September 10.

Before the results came in, Leandre said the district would be “tremendously blessed by whoever wins,” including Duncan, who Leandre said has “tremendous passion.”

Duncan, restaurant owner and community activist, also ran in the special election.

During his term, Richards said he will focus on education, jobs and affordable housing within Rosedale, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens and the Rockaways.

Op-Ed: NYC makes history


| oped@queenscourier.com


BY COUNCILMEMBER DONOVAN RICHARDS

More than one million New Yorkers will be granted the opportunity to take paid sick days off work without worrying about being retaliated against.

The recent compromise reached by Speaker Quinn, councilmembers, labor unions, business advocates and activists has ushered in a new wave of unprecedented worker protections. New York City has made history once again.

The new deal ensures that businesses with 20 or more workers will have to provide five paid sick days in 2014, and in 2015 businesses with 15 or more will have to follow suit. Both sides of the aisle have agreed that this common-sense measure will protect workers, while not stifling business.

Following Sandy, I remember countless individuals who came into my office who had to return to work, even while their homes were submerged under water. For this reason, the day after I was sworn into the Council, I immediately signed on to support the Paid Sick Leave Act.

While I did have concerns about certain parts of the bill, such as the Department of Health overseeing enforcement and the timeline it would go into effect for businesses in disaster zones, those fears were allayed. The current amendments made to the bill ensure that businesses in disaster zones will have a year to continue to rebuild; and now the Department of Consumer Affairs will oversee enforcement, which is a relief.

When I embarked on this journey to become an elected official, I promised my constituents I would fight to ensure that all New Yorkers would have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. As the son of teenage parents, I understand the hardships that everyday families have to endure to provide for their families. I remember days when my own parents went to work sick because it was a matter of putting food on the table and keeping the lights on. They shouldn’t have had to choose between their health and job.

Some will say that government shouldn’t prod into private business, but we all have an obligation to ensure that economic equality and justice is a reality in 2013.

During a time where poverty and homelessness are increasing across the city, we must do all we can to ensure that everyday people have a leg to stand on. This can’t be a tale of two cities, because our forefathers who came to this great city centuries ago built it for everyone.

 

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Rally to save after-school programs for more than 47,000 kids


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Come summer, 2,400 children in the borough will lose access to their mainstays outside of school.

Officials have told the Queens Community House at J.H.S. 190 and the Samuel Field Y at M.S. 158 that due to budget cuts, they must close their doors on July 1.

“The constant attacks on day care and after-school programs have to stop,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards. “Every time a new budget is proposed, the children are the first to suffer.”

Elected officials rallied together with parents, kids and the Campaign for Children on Wednesday, April 24 against $130 million in citywide cuts to after-school and child care programs proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The cuts are poised to affect more than 47,000 children total.

“Children are so important to us,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “The world is theirs. We want these centers to stay opened.”
Those gathered on the steps of Borough Hall urged Bloomberg to fully fund the programs in his Executive Budget, which is expected to come out this month. If the cuts are not reversed, thousands of children will lose access to the programs, which advocates say “provide critical educational opportunities.”

“I hope they get the mayor to stop from cutting our program because after-school really works,” said Jordon Taylor, 12, a student at P.S./I.S. 116 Q. “Without it I’ll just go home, do homework and it’ll just be boring.”

Cutting the programs will also mean parents have to find a safe place for their children while the mothers and fathers work.

“All working parents need a trustworthy place for their children,” said Marisol Pagan, a single mom who works full-time and relies on an after-school program at P.S. 50 for her first grader son. “Without after-school, where will my child go while I am at work? For families in need, these services help us stay out of poverty and reach our goals.”

“If we love our children, we should find programs for them,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “We should never propose to cut the programs that help educate children. We need to do more after-school, not less.”

U.S. Senate gun control vote disappoints New York lawmakers


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's Flickr

The build-up lasted a full four months.

From the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School to the State of the Union and rallies afterward, tougher laws on gun control were debated and pored over until U.S. Senators finally voted 54-46 in favor of an amendment to strengthen background checks at gun shows and online.

However, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 needed 60 “aye” votes to pass.

In New York, many state officials were deeply disappointed when the news came out of Washington on Wednesday, April 17.

“I was embarrassed,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris. “Our New York delegation did terrific work, but I was embarrassed by the U.S. Senate. They couldn’t even do the simplest reform which itself was a far cry from what we really needed.”

City Councilmember Donovan Richards echoed the sentiment.

“It’s a crying shame. I would urge these individuals who voted down the bill to come visit the parents of the countless lives that were lost. Blood is on their hands.”

U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand voted in favor of the amendment.

Gianaris was one of the first state senators to push for tougher gun laws last year when he put forth legislation expanding background checks and banning assault rifles.

Background checks were eventually incorporated into the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act of 2013.

In January, the New York State Legislature passed the SAFE Act, which includes some of the toughest gun laws in the country. The bill initially limited magazine capacity to seven bullets, banned assault rifles and tightened background checks. Critics viewed it as a radical, knee-jerk reaction by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the Sandy Hook shooting while legislators were chastised for the rush to pass the bill.

Cuomo later backtracked on the magazine limit as a compromise to reach this year’s budget on time.

Federal background checks under the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 would have been lighter than checks outlined in New York’s SAFE Act.

The New York bill allows mental health professionals to alert the state if a patient has the potential to be violent. If the threat is deemed viable, the state can revoke the patient’s gun license.

While New York is traditionally viewed as a liberal state, Gianaris said the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) lobby here is as prominent as in Washington. However, he said New Yorkers generally supported the SAFE Act despite the NRA presence.

Assemblymember Nily Rozic, a co-sponsor of the SAFE Act, traveled to the nation’s capital last month as part of the Assembly’s Black, Latino and Asian caucus to lobby for the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act.

She and Assembly colleagues from across the state pushed for a wide package of gun control bills, which she described as the first step in better nationwide gun laws.

Rozic said she was disappointed the Senate could not get the amendment to pass, but is hopeful looking forward.

“We had some great conversations,” she said. “I’d be happy to go back to D.C. and continue the fight.”

Richards, a proponent of gun buyback programs, said the goal is to take away criminals’ opportunities to get their hands on weapons.

“If we’re not doing what we can to ensure that these individuals don’t have gun access,” he said, “we’re doing a disservice to our children, to our community.”

All New York legislators, however, have not been in favor of the SAFE Act and gun legislation.

State Senator Greg Ball, who represents parts of Duchess and Putnam Counties, has actively opposed the bill, citing the loss of rights to people who legally purchased assault rifles.

Addressing the senate debate on the bill in January, Ball said making assault rifles illegal did not compensate for the help mentally ill people in the state really need. To make his point, he described a constituent with a bipolar, schizophrenic son who Ball said did not get proper state care.

“She fears for her life and the lives of her neighbors every day,” he told his fellow Senators. “And the mental health system in the state of New York has failed her repeatedly. It’s a kangaroo system where that child will be treated like a number, and a ticking time bomb to go off. And that single mom doesn’t have the support of the state, or that system, to care for that child.”

Instead, the Republican alleged the SAFE Act was a ploy to help Cuomo one day become president, and that it and would make criminals out of otherwise law-abiding gun owners.

Ball was not available for comment by press time.

In Richards’ southeast Queens district, gun safety is of utmost concern. He mentioned several individuals among his constituency who lost their lives due to gun violence, including his friend Darnell Patterson. Patterson was murdered in South Jamaica.

“The list goes on and on,” he said. “As government officials, we’re supposed to [...] do as much as we can to protect everyday citizens.”

-BY TERENCE M. CULLEN & MAGGIE HAYES

 

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MTA cuts shuttle service to Sandy-ravaged Rockaways


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy of MTA

Local and citywide leaders say the MTA is throwing the Rockaways under the bus.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio joined with Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder and Councilmember Donovan Richards in Far Rockaway on Friday, April 19 to decry the decreased shuttle bus service to the Sandy-affected peninsula.

A train service to the Rockaways last ran on Sunday, October 28 as the city buckled down for the storm, which left rails across Jamaica Bay severely damaged.

Since then, buses have run from the Howard Beach-JFK Station to the peninsula.

But on Monday the MTA cut bus service from 94 to 75 runs per weekday.

De Blasio contrasted the cuts with the transit authority’s new Cannonball train, a streamlined shuttle to the Hamptons. He said people with high incomes would benefit from the new train while low- to middle-income Rockaway residents would suffer from the cost-saving measure.

“The MTA can’t throw the Rockaways under the bus,” he said. “If it can expand service for Manhattanites weekending in the Hamptons, then it can afford to do right by hard-hit families in the Rockaways.”

Train service within Rockaway returned in December with the restored H train. It runs from the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue station to Beach 90-Holland.

“This shuttle service provides an essential lifeline with the rest of New York City for our residents in one of the areas hit hardest by Sandy,” Richards said. “If anything, what we really need is more buses during peak morning and evening hours.”

Goldfeder, who has advocated for faster train service to the peninsula, noted that south Queens residents already have one of the city’s longest commutes to midtown. With families still reeling six months after the storm, the service cuts would be another blow, he said.

“Our communities are still struggling to rebuild from the damage caused by Sandy,” Goldfeder said. “And the last thing they need is to be nickeled-and-dimed for service that is crucial to helping them recover.”

The MTA, however, said the service, while decreasing, is shifting to streamline travel in and out of Rockaway.

“We’re actually improving service for the vast majority of customers who use the shuttle,” said MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz.

There will be more shuttle buses running during rush hours, and decreased service during slower hours, he said.

Oritz said the Cannonball train follows a route that has been in operation for the past century. He added that the only recent change was making the train leave from Penn Station instead of Hunters Point.

 

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