Tag Archives: Ed Braunstein

Slow response to Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance appeals for funding


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance Service

The Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance Service (WVAS) is having trouble raising funds for its new emergency vehicle, with only seven people contributing to their online campaign since its creation one month ago.

The funds will go toward buying equipment for the new vehicle, which was bought with a 2013 grant from the Women’s Club of Malba. Although the campaign has 135 Facebook shares, only $175 has been raised out of the $20,000 needed to buy a list of 40 different pieces of equipment, including a stretcher, oxygen masks and an oxygen tank.

“It’s disappointing that no one’s really come forward yet, but this has been a trend that we’ve been seeing in the past few years,” said Jason Fassler, director of public relations for the WVAS. “People aren’t really donating.”

Fassler said that it is only in the most recent years that the volunteer organization has had trouble collecting donations, and that WVAS once had so much community funding they could buy a new ambulance every three years. Now, the company is struggling to continue providing all the services it has traditionally performed in Whitestone.

Difficulty outfitting a new ambulance is just one of the problems that has arisen from the lack of donations to WVAS. According to Fassler, the youth volunteer squad has had to shut down because it cannot afford to pay the yearly insurance, and the organization may not be able to provide non-emergency care to Whitestone residents in the future.

Assemblyman Ed Braunstein’s office has contributed some help to the WVAS in the form of the $125,000 capital grant, but these funds still are going through the approval process.

“Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance provides free emergency response services to anyone in the community who is in need,” Braunstein said. “A donation to their cause will help all of us continue to have the peace of mind that in the event of an emergency, help is never far away.”

Alfredo Centola, president of the We Love Whitestone civic group, said that the community needs to be responsible for supporting local ambulance services, and that he has heard of other such volunteer organizations with funding trouble.

“People need to realize that these local ambulances provide a lot of services,” Centola said. “A part of it is people aren’t aware of their existence and what they do and don’t do.”

The Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance Service was established in 1947, and currently has a roster of 75 volunteer emergency medical technicians, drivers and dispatchers to answer 115 calls per month. It can be used by residents at no charge for emergency medical care and transportation through a 24-hour hotline, and also transports community members to and from medical facilities in non-emergency situations.

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PHOTOS: Preview of new QNS.com website at Queens Museum party


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Corazon Aguirre

Businesspeople, elected officials and other movers and shakers from across Queens came to the Queens Museum Wednesday night to get a glimpse of QNS.com, the future Internet home of The Queens Courier, Ridgewood Times, LIC Magazine and BORO magazine.

The preview party allowed guests to mingle with one another and learn more about the new website, which will launch this summer. QNS.com will continue to provide the expansive news coverage of The Courier and its sister publications while also incorporating social media elements, enabling residents from Astoria to the Rockaways to interact with one another on a variety of levels.

Courier President and CEO Victoria Schneps-Yunis and Co-Publisher Joshua Schneps welcomed several notable guests to the preview party, including state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblymen Ed Braunstein and David Weprin, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Deputy Queens Borough President Melva Miller and former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman. Representatives of City Councilmen Donovan Richards and Jimmy Van Bramer and Assemblyman Francisco Moya were also in attendance.

Following a reception, guests headed into the museum’s famous Panorama — a scale model of New York City — for a formal presentation on the new website. Stay tuned to find out the power of QNS.com.

In advance of the launch, Facebook users are invited to like the new website’s Facebook page.

 

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E. Gluck Corp. to lower giant Little Neck wall following protest


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


Watch-maker E. Gluck Corporation will lower a newly-built, giant 36-foot wall, which surprised and disturbed residents near the company’s new location, Little Neck politicians announced.

Under the new design, which has been approved by the Buildings Department, the wall will be scaled down 14 feet to 22 feet, the company said Monday. In addition, E. Gluck will include 20 flowering pear trees and 75 white pine trees around the property at 60-15 Little Neck Pkwy.

“We are pleased to reach a solution that addresses the public’s concerns,” said Murray Stimler, senior vice president at E. Gluck. “Our goal is to be a good neighbor in Little Neck and a beneficial part of the community for many years to come.”

Last month, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, Councilman Mark Weprin and state Sen. Tony Avella protested the wall with more than 100 residents. The current height blocks sunlight after certain hours and residents were afraid that it would hurt property values.

E. Gluck is moving this year into the lot, which is being developed by Steel Tribune LLC, and is the former site of electrical wiring company Leviton.

Initially, E. Gluck promised to put a one-story warehouse on the site, according to politicians. But residents woke up one day to find the towering dark gray wall, which sits on a hill that is about 10 feet high off the curb and extends nearly halfway through the block. The solution to lower the wall was welcome news for the elected officials.

“I appreciate that E. Gluck is making changes to its building plans to address some of the concerns raised by their neighbors and elected officials,” Braunstein said. “I am hopeful that moving forward the company will continue to make efforts to ensure that its operations do not negatively impact the surrounding community.”

 

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Pols call for more city buses to run through Douglaston


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

More city buses need to roll through Douglaston, local elected officials demanded Monday, calling the neighborhood a “transit desert.”

Five major bus routes, coupled with sporadic service, are not enough to serve the area’s growing ridership, according to Congressmember Steve Israel and Assemblymember Nily Rozic.

“This is not just a matter of convenience for Douglaston residents,” Israel said. “This is just the smart thing to do.”

The two called for an increase in federal and state funding to buy more local and express buses, bus lines and bus stops in the neighborhood they said was “underserved” by mass transit.

Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senator Tony Avella, Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, Councilmember Paul Vallone and the Straphanger’s Campaign are also on board.

Rozic said current service was “unreliable, unsustainable and unacceptable.”

But an MTA spokesperson said improvements have been made to the QM3 and QM8’s running times and frequency in the past year.

The Q36 has also been extended and the Q76 weekend service has been restored and expanded, the spokesperson said. Weekend Q31 service will also be restored this spring. 

 

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Courier brings holiday cheer, toys to kids at Queens Centers for Progress’ Apple Preschool


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER

Santa brought smiles and of course toys to the good boys and girls at Queens Centers for Progress’ Apple Preschool in Jamaica for The Queens Courier’s annual holiday gift drive.

Ringing his bell and calling out a jolly “ho ho ho,” some of the kids were a little shy of Old Saint Nick, but most of the around 90 students were excited to see him and receive the donated toys on Friday, December 13.

The Apple Preschool program offers children with disabilities between three to five years old a large variety of educational and therapeutic services, including speech, occupational and physical therapy and counseling. The children interact with special education teachers and clinicians who work on language skills, cognitive, motor and social development. After participating in the program, the majority of the children become integrated into the public school system.

Toys were donated to The Courier’s holiday gift drive by Courier readers and advertisers as well as from Assemblymember Edward Braunstein, who also received a donation for the drive on behalf of Boy Scout Troop 49 of Sacred Heart in Bayside, and Victor G. Mimoni, director of communications for Councilmember Dan Halloran, who additionally gave a generous toy donation.

“A lot of these kids come from low-income households. This extra little treat means a lot to them and their parents,” said teacher Missy Karvecky.

She prepared her class for Kriss Kringle’s visit by reading them a book about Santa called It’s Christmas David.

The day was extra special for Tommy, 3, who was also celebrating his birthday Friday, and had just joined the Apple Preschool program two weeks earlier.

“This is the happiest I’ve seen him,” said his teacher, Julie Fidelman.

“It was wonderful to see [all the kids’] faces light up after they saw Santa,” she said.

Another student, Jayden, 4, was also happy to see Santa and looking forward to going home and racing his new toy truck.

“I loved it,” he said. “I’m going to tell my mommy [about Santa’s visit].”

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Incoming Councilmember Paul Vallone names staff


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Councilmember-elect Paul Vallone has picked the team he’ll take to City Hall in January, The Courier has learned.

The seven-member staff consists mostly of longtime supporters and includes two former employees of Queens elected officials and the aunt of a local assemblymember.

“These are people who believed in me five years ago, when I first started,” Vallone said during an interview at his family’s Flushing law firm. “They’ve been with me since day one. They’ve grown with me, bled with me, laughed with me. They did everything with me. I trust them.”

The incoming lawmaker appointed Jonathan Szott as his chief of staff, snatching the top aide from his term-limited brother, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

He is also taking Michael Yon from his part-time gig at Assemblymember Ron Kim’s office to work constituent services and community outreach in the Korean communities.

Both workers received blessings from their former bosses before the switch.

“For me, it was easy to decide, even though it’s really not a lot of time,” Vallone said. “It’s really only been a month since the election. It was probably harder to cut down the list.”

The hires were finalized last week, the freshman legislator said.

They include Communications Director Lionel Morales, Director of Constituent Services/Treasurer Vito Tautonico and part-timers Breeana Mulligan and Ahmed Nazar.

Kate Boehme, the aunt of Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, will also help part-time in the communications department. Boehme and other members of Braunstein’s family helped a lot with campaigning, Vallone said.

“They were with me this summer from beginning to end. She’ll be a big asset,” he said.

There may also be room to add one or two more positions, including legislative director, Vallone said.

Also up in the air is where the incoming councilmember will work.

The Flushing branch of the family’s law firm at 25-59 Francis Lewis Boulevard will close after five years, as Vallone prepares to transition into a full-time elected official.

High hopes of transforming the office into his City Council headquarters may be dashed since the bathroom is not yet wheelchair accessible.

“It’s going to be hard parting with this place,” said Vallone. “My wife and I did everything here. I mean everything, from kids’ homework to the Clinton Democratic Club to both campaigns.”

Vallone starts his new job January 1. He will be officially sworn into the City Council January 8 and will have a local inauguration January 5.

But work has already begun, Vallone said, and calls have been pouring in from constituents in need.

The lawmaker-to-be said he has already gotten commitments from the city’s School Construction Authority officials, saying they will move away from building a school in Whitestone.

And while it is too late to change plans for a Bayside school at the former Keil Bros. site — something Vallone said he opposed, despite other claims — the city pledged to keep the school zoned for School District 26 only, Vallone said.

“It’s still an unfortunate location, but that’s a major victory,” he said.

Vallone replaces Republican Councilmember Dan Halloran, who was indicted on corruption charges earlier this year.

 

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Legislators come thru for co-op, condo owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com

State leaders will end up keeping their pledge to co-op and condo shareholders in the city.

According to Governor Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Legislature has reached an agreement on tax relief legislation and will sign it into law when officials return to Albany.

The city will also issue tax bills based on new and lower rates, they said, and the tax abatement — which reduces the difference in property taxes paid by Class 2 co-op and condo properties and one, two and three family homes in Class 1 — will be retroactive.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said the J-51 program, which gives owners partial property tax exemptions for capital improvements, will also be extended to June 30, 2015.

These assurances come after widespread panic in co-op and condo communities at the end of June, when the Legislature adjourned session without extending the city’s J-51 program and the expired abatement. Fear mounted in November after elected officials said the Legislature would not reconvene to pass promised relief.

Assemblymember Ed Braunstein said the Legislature would likely pass his bill, which would increase abatements for middle class co-op owners from 17.5 percent to 25 percent this year and over 28 percent in three years, based on assessments.

Pol fights against ‘unfair’ MTA fee


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

One local politician is worried the MTA’s green fee will put his constituents in the red.

Assemblymember Ed Braunstein said the MTA’s proposed green fee unfairly affects riders in his district.

The MTA recently proposed adding a $1 charge to each new MetroCard purchased; riders who refill their card will not be charged.

Many residents in northeast Queens use the area’s Long Island Railroad stations to purchase MetroCards where refilling is not an option, forcing folks to fork over $1 each time they need a new card.

The assemblymember said he does not believe the green fee should be abolished, just that at machines where refilling is not an option the dollar charge should be waived.

“If [residents] are incapable of refilling the card, which is the whole purpose of the green fee, then you shouldn’t be paying a dollar. I think it’s pretty clear,” said Braunstein.

The assemblymember said his constituents will be paying roughly $50 a year if the plan goes through as is.

“If my constituents are paying $50 and everybody else in the city is paying $3, I’m going to object to that as unfair,” he said.

The MTA is looking at addressing this situation, said spokesperson Kevin Ortiz, though he could not say how it would be handled. Ortiz added that customers can purchase cards at out of system vendors, where the green fee will be waived.

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.”