Tag Archives: gary ackerman

Queens congressmembers get mixed results on environment


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Some Queens congressmembers aced their green test last year. But some were average, and one was at the bottom of the class.

That is according to the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) latest national environmental scorecard.

Congressmembers Steve Israel and Carolyn Maloney were tops, with each scoring a 97, followed by Joseph Crowley with a 91. Both of the state’s U.S. Senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, scored 93 percent. Nydia Velázquez trailed slightly with an 86 percent and Gregory Meeks pulled a 77 percent.

Former representative Gary Ackerman scored a 74. But another retiring congressmember, Bob Turner, had an abysmal 3 percent, a low matched by Tea Party Republicans representing Big Oil districts in Texas.

The scores are based on 14 Senate votes and 35 House votes on public health, clean energy, land and wildlife conservation issues.

“In the face of unprecedented attacks on laws protecting water, air and land, environmental allies like Steve Israel, Caroline [sic] Maloney … stood up for our values and put New Yorkers first,” said NYLCV President Marcia Bystryn in a statement. “While Americans were seeing the historic impacts of extreme weather right outside their window, members like … Bob Turner continued to ignore the reality of climate change.”

The state’s average House score in the most recent review was 65 percent, falling drastically from 97 percent in 2010.

“The U.S. House of Representatives sided with Big Oil and corporate polluters time and time again in 2012, cementing its status as the most anti-environmental House in our nation’s history,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the country’s League of Conservation Voters.

“The best that can be said about this session of the 112th Congress is that it’s over,” Karpinski said.

 

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Future of Bayside post office still undelivered


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Melissa Chan

The fate of the Bayside post office branch has not yet been sealed, but a possible move is under discussion, according to a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service (USPS). Connie Chirichello, a USPS representative, said the widely circulated rumor of the 212-35 42nd Avenue post office branch closing and relocating sometime in 2013 was a “misunderstanding,” adding that the branch is only going through a routine national review of its operations.

“It’s a healthy review of our resources that will best incorporate them into long-term plans for effective and efficient retail service,” she said, adding that a definitive answer on the branch’s future will be determined at a later date.

Last week, Congressmember Gary Ackerman blasted the agency and announced its proposed plans to move the current centrally located branch — located off Bell Boulevard behind the Long Island Rail Road station — to a remote annex at 41-29 216th Street. Despite mixed responses from the USPS, a spokesperson for the congressmember said relocating is still the plan for now.

“Moving the Bayside branch from its prime spot in the middle of the area’s busy commercial strip to a remote and inconvenient location makes absolutely no sense,” Ackerman said. “Not only would this plan adversely impact the local residents and businesses who use this facility, but it could likely cause a further erosion in postal business since its customers may not trek to this out-of-the-way location.”

Ackerman said the USPS presently leases both properties. Postal officials, he said, claimed swapping locations would save the agency money.

No jobs would be lost under the plan, but the congressmember said the agency still needs to follow proper procedure in consolidating facilities, which requires public notice, consultation and input.

“That has not happened,” Ackerman said.

According to Chirichello, the review currently conducted on the Bayside branch is being done to several postal facilities nationwide. She said reviewing offices has become increasingly important as the agency continues to face dire financial circumstances that partly stems from the 42 percent decrease in the amount of single-piece first-class mail since 2001.

“It is prudent for us to look for ways to improve efficiency by making better use of space, staffing, equipment and transportation in processing the nation’s mail,” she said. “A lot of things are on the chalkboard. Taking a look at Bayside is one of them and isn’t going to seal any deal.”

Bayside resident Frank Ringuette, who picks up his mail at a P.O. box in the Bayside branch, said if the change occurs it would be a huge inconvenience for him.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

Congressmember Ackerman: Bayside post office branch to close


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Melissa Chan

The United States Postal Service (USPS) will close and relocate its Bayside post office branch, according to Congressmember Gary Ackerman.

USPS officials want to move the centrally located Bayside branch, located at 212-35 42nd Avenue — off Bell Boulevard behind the Long Island Rail Road station — to a remote annex at 41-29 216th Street, the congressmember said. The annex, he said, is located in a much less convenient location on the edge of a residential neighborhood.

“Moving the Bayside branch from its prime spot in the middle of the area’s busy commercial strip to a remote and inconvenient location makes absolutely no sense,” Ackerman said. “Not only would this plan adversely impact the local residents and businesses who use this facility, but it could likely cause a further erosion in postal business since its customers may not trek to this out-of-the-way location.”

According to Ackerman, the USPS presently leases both properties, and its officials say swapping locations would save the agency money.

“The Postal Service is in a financial death spiral, and we’re all aware that the agency is under intense pressure to cut costs. But making it more difficult for consumers to purchase its products and utilize its services is certainly not the way to go,” he said.

The USPS did not yet return calls for comment.

The move would occur sometime in 2013. While no jobs would be lost under the plan, the congressmember said the agency still needs to follow proper procedure in consolidating facilities, which requires public notice, consultation and input.

“That has not happened,” Ackerman said.

Bayside resident Frank Ringuette, who picks up his mail at a P.O. box in the Bayside branch, said the change would be a huge inconvenience for him.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

 

[UPDATE] Congressmember Gary Ackerman endorses Assemblymember Grace Meng in 6th District


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Grace Meng

Assemblymember Grace Meng — one of six congressional hopefuls vying for the newly-drawn 6th District seat — bagged the key endorsement of retiring Representative Gary Ackerman, who said Meng was “head and shoulders above the rest” in the race.

“Grace is without question the most qualified candidate,” Ackerman said. “This is a district I’ve represented all or parts of over the past 35 years in government, and Grace is a unique, highly qualified individual who I would be most comfortable with knowing she is representing the district I represented. She is going to fight for the things that I fought for during my political career, and I know she will do it the most effectively.”

Ackerman, a 15-term congressmember since 1983, announced in March that he would not seek re-election and will be retiring at the end of the year. He said the other candidates were “all good and decent people,” but he said it was “not a close call” in deciding who to endorse, touting Meng’s “personal attitude, accomplishments, character and determination” as reasons for his decision.

“So many people were asking me who I think would be best. People wanted to know. I thought maybe I had an obligation or responsibility,” Ackerman said, adding that while he always had an opinion, he did not originally plan on publicly endorsing a candidate.

The endorsement has raised some concerns, since the consulting firm Meng’s campaign hired is part of the Queens Tribune company, which is partially owned by Ackerman. Ackerman, according to several reports, said that had nothing to do with his decision. Meng told The Courier she knew Ackerman as only her congressmember.

Ackerman cited similarities between Meng and himself, saying they were both raised in Queens by “hardworking, middle class” families. He said she represents the “voice of the quiet people, the everyday people and the hardworking people.”

“They need somebody who isn’t audacious and loud but effective. She believes in the things my district believes in at the greatest extent possible,” Ackerman said.

The “game changing” endorsement from Ackerman, according to the Meng campaign, was the icing on top of the cake after the assemblymember — who is also the choice of the Queens County Democratic Organization — rolled out a major boost from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) late last week.

“It’s been a good week as we’re leading up to the home stretch,” Meng said. “It’s a great boost for our campaign, but the most important endorsements are from the voters.”

Meng said she met up with Ackerman in early April to tell him she was interested in running for his seat and to ask him for his advice and support. Once every week since then, she said she would personally call and update him on the campaign. Meng said he decided last week to officially endorse her.

“He’s been our congressman for over 30 years. He’s worked very hard. He has great name recognition and people really respect him,” Meng said of Ackerman. “I’m very excited.”

Ackerman formally announced his support on Tuesday, May 29 at the Pomonok Senior Center in the South Flushing, where Meng vowed to “carry on his extraordinary legacy and commitment to the working, middle-class as a member of the House of Representatives.”

Meng will face off against Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Bayside allergist Dr. Robert Mittman in the June 26 Democratic primary. The winner will go up against Republican runner Councilmember Dan Halloran and Green Party candidate Evergreen Chou in the November election.

Lancman also landed the support of a major public figure during the home stretch of the Democratic primary race. Mark Green, former city Consumer Affairs commissioner who is also a former elected city public advocate, endorsed Lancman at a press conference held one hour after Ackerman’s announcement. Lancman and Green called for comprehensive campaign finance reform laws at the federal level, pointing to political contributions from “Big Oil” companies as an example of the “corrosive influence” of corporate money on democracy.

“Because Rory Lancman has been a leader to take the ‘for sale’ sign off our state government, I’m endorsing him today because he’ll continue to lead that charge when he gets to Washington,” Green said. “We need a smart, strong progressive voice in Washington — Rory’s it.”

The 6th District candidates will be participating in a handful of upcoming debates hosted by local civic groups on May 31 at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Lutheran Church, located at 188th Street and 73rd Avenue; on June 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Young Israel of Queens Valley, located at 155-55 77th Avenue; on June 6 at 8 p.m. at 210-10 Union Turnpike; and on June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at I.S. 93, located at Forest Avenue and Madison Street in Ridgewood.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley kicks off her Congressional campaign


| brennison@queenscourier.com

DSC_0005w

Surrounded by her teenage sons, Owen and Dennis, family and supporters, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley formally kicked off her Congressional campaign in front of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

“As I stand here today, with the support of my family, with the support of my friends, I announce my candidacy for Congress,” Crowley announced at the Thursday, March 22 press conference.

The support of Crowley’s family has been the topic of speculation after the Queens Democratic Party, who is chaired by her cousin, Congressmember Joe Crowley, chose to endorse Grace Meng for the Congressional seat.

“The organization has chosen to support Grace Meng. It’s not one person, it’s an organization,” the councilmember said. “They come together and they make a decision.”

“I love my cousin dearly,” Crowley told reporters on the scene.

Crowley is joined in the race for the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District’s Democratic nomination by Meng and Assemblymember Rory Lancman. Crowley said she expects a spirited debate on the issues.

The new 6th District includes much of Crowley’s council district. All three candidates entered the race after the announcement that 15-term Congressmember Gary Ackerman would not seek re-election.

“Washington needs a strong voice for Queens,” Crowley said. “In 2008, with your support I became the first female and the first Democrat elected to the city council District 30 and with your support again can become the first female from Queens since Geraldine Ferraro elected to Congress.”

The primary will be held on June 26.

 

Candidates pick up political endorsements


| mchan@queenscourier.com

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently picked up the endorsement of the New York State Democratic Committee for her try at re-election.

The senator, whose term expires this year, is running for her first full six-year term.

Vying for her seat, George Maragos — the current elected comptroller of Nassau County — gained the support of Queens County GOP Chair Phil Ragusa.

Maragos said he was “deeply honored and humbled by the endorsement” and decried the existing senator’s alleged inability to man her post.

Conservative lawyer Wendy Long and Congressmember Bob Turner are also in the running to try and defeat Gillibrand.

As for the congressional race, Assemblymember Grace Meng was recently endorsed by Councilmember James Gennaro to replace retiring U.S. Representative Gary Ackerman.

Meng was designated by the Queens County Democratic Organization on Monday, March 19 to contend for the recently vacated seat in the 6th Congressional District race.

“I unreservedly and wholeheartedly pledge my support to her candidacy for Congress,” Gennaro said. “Grace has terrific support in the community and the universal admiration of her colleagues for good reason — she is deeply committed, incredibly effective and a joy to work with.”

During the June 26 primary, Meng will face off with Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Assemblymember Rory Lancman, who formally announced his candidacy on the same day Meng officially received the support of Democratic leaders.

Councilmember Mark Weprin, who had previously expressed interest in making his own run at the seat, also said he backs Meng. Weprin had received the endorsement of former mayor Ed Koch to join the race, but said he decided, after further considerations, to stand down and support Meng instead.

Assemblymember Grace Meng of Queens to run for retiring Congressmember Gary Ackerman’s seat


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Assemblywoman Grace Meng of Queens to run for retiring Congressman Gary Ackerman’s seat

Queens Democrats have chosen state Assemblywoman Grace Meng of Queens to run for retiring Congressman Gary Ackerman’s seat, according to two sources close to the party.Potential candidates met with party elders Sunday to make their pitch to run in the redrawn 6th Congressional District, which would be more than 37% Asian.“She is a smart choice for this new district and a strong candidate,” said one source briefed on the meeting.

Read more: Daily News

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

DA grilling two ‘hookers’ and ‘money launderer’ in case of alleged madam

Manhattan prosecutors have secretly arrested at least three key people in Anna Gristina’s alleged escort ring — her accused money launderer and two suspected high-price call girls — and are grilling them for evidence against her, The Post has learned. Read More: New York Post

Congressman Ackerman Tells Constituents He Will Not Run For Re-Election

Congressman Gary Ackerman, who has represented parts of Queens and Long Island in the House of Representatives for 15 terms, announced to a Democratic Party gathering in Hollis Hills, Queens on Thursday that he will not run for re-election. The 69-year-old congressman informed Democratic Party leaders, his family and staff earlier Thursday of his decision to not running for a 16th term of office. Read More: NY1

Woodson ready to bury Lin, ride established stars Melo & Amar’e

Jeremy Lin may be a global phenomenon, but he is no longer a Knicks phenomenon. Linsanity was the flavor of February, but he appears not to be new interim coach Mike Woodson’s favorite dish. Woodson, calling Lin “in a learning stage,’’ said yesterday he is turning the focus of his new deliberate offense to his bread and butter — Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks’ two stars who combine to make $37 million this season. Read More: New York Post

 

Cops arrest accomplice of burglar fatally shot by Queens janitor

Cops yesterday arrested the accomplice of a burglar fatally shot by a Queens supermarket janitor, authorities said. Alpha Diaby, 22, was charged with burglary for the failed heist that left Mamadou Koureichi, 27, dead. Angel Candido, 54, was taking a nap at Met Foodmarkets on Jamaica Avenue when the two mens allegedly cut a hole in the roof and dropped down. Read More: New York Post

 

DOE Removes Eight Employees For Past Inappropriate Conduct With Children

The city’s Department of Education announced Thursday eight employees are being shown the door following a review of their work history. It comes after Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott promised to revisit records dating back to 2000 of all DOE employees who were disciplined for inappropriate conduct with students. Walcott says the eight employees were removed because they were not disciplined properly for their misconduct. Read More: NY1

Congressman Ackerman To Not Run For Re-Election


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Representative Gary L. Ackerman, a longtime member of Congress from Queens and Long Island, announced on Thursday that he would not seek re-election, an unexpected development that brings an end to a colorful political career. Mr. Ackerman, 69, arrived at his decision even though it was quite likely that his district would be spared under the Congressional redistricting process, which the state is close to completing.

Read More: New York Times

Little Bay Park project stall is little ‘comfort’


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Bayside elected officials and community leaders are campaigning for relief for visitors of Little Bay Park and hoping that millions of dollars in funding hasn’t been flushed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Senator Tony Avella united with Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, and residents of the Bayside community on November 29 to urge the Parks Department to begin the revitalization project of Little Bay Park – which includes the construction of a comfort station.

Avella, who previously allocated funding for a dog run in the park, apportioned $1.3 million for the public restrooms seven years ago – the same time Congressmember Gary Ackerman secured a $4.12 million federal transportation allocation to reconstruct and expand the Little Bay parking lot and rebuild the Cross Island Parkway Bridge overpass at 212th Street.

Neither project has commenced, and three port-a-potties are currently stationed in the park.

“This seems to be systematic of the Parks Department – getting money and then not moving ahead with the project,” said Avella, who believes usage of the park has increased by 1,000 percent in the past decade. “It is unfair to the community to have to wait seven years for something they have been asking for, and it is unfair to tax payers because each year you delay a capital project, costs go up. I would hate to even ask the Parks Department what this project would cost today.”

The senator blames the delay on a lack of communication and transparency and says he plans to introduce state legislation requiring all city agencies to provide information on their web sites about all pending capital projects, including where funding is coming from, the anticipated start and completion dates and where the projects are in the construction process.

“These were important funds that I fought hard to secure for our community,” said Ackerman. “It’s well past time for these projects to move forward. Hopefully, all agencies involved can cut through the bureaucratic red tape so that shovels can finally get into the ground as soon as possible.”

During the press conference, community leaders emphasized that there is “great fear” that the money is being used for other projects.

“It’s obvious that the planned park and traffic enhancements have somehow been derailed. It’s time to get them back on track,” said Schreiber, who called the Parks Department one of the most difficult agencies to deal with. “At some point you have to wonder if the money is still there or if it was used for another purpose.”

According to a Parks Department spokesperson, a number of outstanding issues exist that are preventing the initiation of the project, including state approval to build close to a coastal zone, state approval to handle archaeological finds – if any are discovered on site – due to the recent discovery of archaeological material within half a mile of the park, and permission from several agencies to utilize a sewer line owned by the FDNY.

“The total budget for the comfort station and parking lot is approximately $4 million,” said the spokesperson. “This includes both federal and city funds. The funding is secure and has not been reallocated. Because the project contains federal grant funds, the state is obligated to review all plans before Parks can bid or begin to build.  We’ve been working closely and actively with the State Department of Transportation (DOT) to address their comments and requests.”

After learning of the press conference on November 29, Avella says Parks Department officials and the Department of Transportation contacted him and arranged a meeting to discuss the project.

“At this point, I am optimistic that the Parks Department recognizes this is a serious issue for the community,” Avella said. “Hopefully they will realize that we need communication and transparency and we are here to work together to move this project along.”

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 10/28/2011: Ilan Grapel released from Egyptian prison, arrives in Israel


| jlane@queenscourier.com

The Round Up

Ilan Grapel released from Egyptian prison, arrives in Israel

A smiling Queens man and Israeli citizen imprisoned for months in Egypt on unsubstantiated suspicions of spying embraced his tearful mother, Irene, who traveled to Israel from her New York home to meet her son on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion International Airport after his release. Read More: NBC News

 

8 year old groped in Queens

Police say they are looking for a man accused of groping an 8-year-old girl inside a New York City store. The girl was shopping with her mother at a Queens clothing store when she wandered off to a book display. Police say the man then passed by her several times and grabbed her buttocks. Read More: Wall Street Journal

 

Ex-TSA agents admit to stealing cash from JFK bag

Two former Transportation Security Administration officers based at John F. Kennedy Airport have admitted to stealing $40,000 in cash from a checked bag. 44-year-old Coumar Persad, of Queens, and 31-year-old Davon Webb, of the Bronx, pleaded guilty on Thursday to grand larceny, obstructing governmental administration and official misconduct. They each face six months in jail and five years’ probation at their Jan. 10 sentencing. Read More: Wall Street Journal

Aqueduct racino opens in Queens; Controversial gambling zone anticipates big crowd on first day

A ribbon-cutting celebrating the completion of the first phase of the controversial race track gaming mecca will be held at 11 a.m. – and the doors open to the public at 1p.m. Inside are 2,300 video slot machines – and 2,000 electronic table games like baccarat and roulette, which some critics say oversteps the state ban on full-fledged casinos. Read More: Daily News

 

Couple fears returning to the streets, but says landlord is trying to push them out of Corona apt.

A formerly homeless Queens couple may end up back in a shelter system they thought they had escaped – despite paying their rent on time even though their city housing subsidy expired. , 48, and Cynthia Sepulveda, 41, said their landlord CI House harassed them to move out of their studio at 38-01 112th St. in Corona. Their lease is up for renewal next month and the building is under renovations to become market-rate apartments after many of their fellow subsidy recipients moved out. Read More: Daily News

[UPDATE] Grapel arrives in Queens


| bdoda@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Nargas Karimi.

[UPDATE] Ilan Grapel has arrived back in Queens, landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday after months in an Egyptian jail following allegations he was an Israeli spy.

 

[UPDATE: Thursday, October 27] Ilan Grapel has arrived in Israel. Congressmember Ackerman, joined by Ilan’s mother Irene, met Grapel on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport. They will soon meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Details on his arrival back to New York will be announced as soon as they are confirmed.

 

[UPDATE] Congressmember Gary Ackerman has arrived in Israel to bring Ilan Grapel home. He is expected to be released tomorrow afternoon.

The date and time of their arrival in New York will be announced soon.

Ackerman, who had been assured by the highest levels in Israel that Grapel was not a spy, worked to secure his release by intervening with the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Prime Minister of Israel and the U.S. State Department. The 27-year-old Grapel holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.

The Prime Minister of Israel announced that Ilan Grapel, the Oakland Gardens native and law student arrested during the Egyptian uprisings in June, will be released in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners, according to Congressmember Gary Ackerman’s office.

Grapel, 27, had been a member of the Israeli military serving as a paratrooper and was injured in southern Lebanon in August 2006. After returning home, he attended Emory Law School in Georgia and traveled to Egypt as part of a project involving African refugees. Grapel arrived early in an effort to experience the country when he was arrested and accused of being an officer of the Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Service, and inciting the firebombing of an Egyptian police station. He has been held for four months despite records of entering the country with a legitimate passport and posting pictures of himself on Facebook during the uprisings that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak.

“Ilan’s release is terrific news,” said Ackerman. “We cannot be more relieved and gratified that Ilan will finally be freed and that he will soon be reunited with his family.”

Grapel worked with Ackerman, the top Democrat on the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, as in intern in the summer of 2002.

“Ilan is a wonderful young man who loves Egypt and the Egyptian culture. He’s a person deeply committed to the cause of humanity and bringing people together, and just found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Ackerman.

“I still reserve my emotional opinion because we have to wait until he actually crosses the line, before that nothing is 100 percent guaranteed until it actually happens,” said Daniel Grapel, Ilan’s father.

After negotiations, Grapel’s parents were able to meet with their son in Egypt for three hours just before Rosh Hashana.

“Physically he’s okay, but mentally it’s hard to say exactly,” said his father.

Reports say that Israel’s Security Cabinet unanimously approved the deal to exchange 25 prisoners for Grapel with the swap taking place on Thursday, October 27 under intense security. The prisoners are said to be non-militant offenders held on charges of illegally entering Israel in search of work, asylum or with contraband.