Tag Archives: Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Banks to help stop zombie properties in south Queens and elsewhere


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder

BY ANGELA MATUA

New York is preparing to take on zombies — not the flesh-eating walking dead, but the abandoned properties that have been a scourge in Howard Beach and other south Queens neighborhoods.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that 11 leading banks, mortgage companies and credit unions representing 70 percent of the New York market will actively work to help combat the economic damage and poor safety conditions brought on by zombie properties.

Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder has been fighting the steady increase in zombie properties in his district, which includes neighborhoods that saw heavy damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Goldfeder sent letters to Wells Fargo, Bank of America and CitiMortgage urging them to take steps to improve properties in their possession.

These institutions, along with Ocwen, Nationstar, PHH, Green Tree Servicing, Astoria Bank, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, M&T Bank and Ridgewood Savings Bank, have agreed to abide by these practices.

“Zombie properties not only have the potential to affect our families’ health and drive down property values, they also slow our long-term recovery from the devastation caused by Sandy,” Goldfeder said. “I applaud banks and lenders for stepping forward as true community partners and agreeing to take the necessary steps to fight the growth of zombie properties and improve quality of life for thousands in southern Queens and Rockaway.”

Existing law dictates that property owners are in charge of maintaining these homes until banks receive a judgement of foreclosure, which can take more than three years after homeowners file for foreclosure.

The participating financial institutions have agreed to regularly inspect properties that fall into delinquency to determine if they are vacant and abandoned, and properly maintain them. Exterior inspections will be conducted within 60 days of delinquency to assess possible vacancy, and then every 30 days after that period.

Institutions will secure the property and maintain safety for communities, including replacing or boarding up windows and changing locks; ensure compliance with applicable New York maintenance codes for minimum sanitary conditions and structural safety; and report abandoned and vacant properties to a state registry to be developed by the New York State Department of Financial Services. Local government officials will also have access to this information.

A report from state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found that statewide, 16,701 zombie properties existed in New York, an increase of 50 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Residents have called 311 to complain about 16 instances of abandoned properties in Goldfeder’s district from January to April 2015, a representative for his office said.

Rockaway Park resident Tricia Balsamello reached out to Goldfeder’s office to tell the assemblyman about an abandoned house in her neighborhood.

“Since Sandy, I’ve regularly called the banks and the local police precinct to have my neighbor’s abandoned property secured,” Balsamello said. “I’d look out the window at two in the morning and the porch door in the back of the house would be wide open. The backyard also has an unsecured pool. I have two 9-year-olds and I’m afraid to let them outside in case they fall in. I’m hopeful that this new agreement will help improve the problem.”

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Annual ‘Celebrate Astoria Day’ to kick off Sept. 28, 2015


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Astoria now has its own day to shine.

The neighborhood will now be celebrated during an annual festival set to kick off on Sept. 28, 2015, known as “Celebrate Astoria Day.”

The official day was recognized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Councilman Costa Constantinides through a proclamation given to the local organization and blog site Give Me Astoria.

“The aim of Give Me Astoria has always been to bring the community together, and ‘Celebrate Astoria Day’ will serve to recognize not only this amazing neighborhood, but its phenomenal residents as well,” said Sanja Mylonas, founder and CEO of Give Me Astoria.

According to organizers, “Celebrate Astoria Day” is expected to “promote a sense of community” and offer residents activities and performances by local performers. The festival will also serve to help local businesses grow their relationships with the community.

For more information, visit www.givemeastoria.com.

 

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Governor Cuomo signs legislation to preserve Jamaica Bay


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo by Dan Mundy, Jr.

Jamaica Bay, long known as a dumping site for toxic waste, now has a law to prevent some of the hazardous material from making its way into the body of water.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that prohibits state regulatory agencies like the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from issuing permits to allow dumping hazardous materials in Jamaica Bay. This law will ultimately limit the risk of water contamination in the bay.

“Communities surrounding Jamaica Bay can now breathe a little easier with the passing of this bill, both figuratively and literally,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo, who, along with Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, drafted the legislation. “In the district, we were all fortunate enough to grow up with Jamaica Bay and I hope this legislation will ensure future generations can enjoy the serenity and beauty for years to come.”

Prior to this bill, there were no guidelines that the DEC had to follow when issuing permits for dumping into the bay’s burrow pits, which are areas with increased depth as a result of dredging projects by the Army Corps of Engineers that removed sand from parts of the floor to fill in others.

Both Addabbo and Goldfeder believe this will be a huge victory for Jamaica Bay and its surrounding neighborhoods.

“Dredged materials leaching with toxins have no right to be dumped in our waters and now we finally have the laws in place to keep our families away from harm and preserve the natural ecosystem of Jamaica Bay for years to come,” concluded Addabbo and Goldfeder. “We commend Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation into law.”

 

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Cuomo taps former Councilmember Jim Gennaro for deputy commissioner job


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A former environmental leader in the City Council will take his fight for a cleaner, more sustainable city to the governor’s office.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has hired former Councilmember Jim Gennaro to join the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as deputy commissioner for New York City Sustainability and Resiliency, the governor announced last week.

“This year, the state is reimagining New York for a new climate reality, building back better and more resilient after the major storms from the last few years,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I am pleased to have Mr. Gennaro join our team at DEC where he will bring his many years of environmental experience to help protect and prepare New York City for extreme weather.”

Gennaro served in the city’s lawmaking body from 2002, chairing the Environmental Protection Committee until he was term-limited in 2013.

The outspoken fracking skeptic and geologist had more than 42 pieces of environmental legislation passed by the City Council in that time. 

He was also awarded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Environmental Quality Award” in 2013.

Gennaro’s new responsibilities include helping the city rebuild after Sandy and preparing it for climate change challenges and future storms.

“Jim’s demonstrated passion for improving the environment and his leading role in shaping environmental policies to protect New Yorkers make him a natural fit for DEC,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

EVENT of the DAY: Free Yoga-Fit classes

Free Yoga-Fit Classes will be conducted by Susan Blayer on Fridays at 11 AM and Sundays at 1 PM starting July 20. Yoga-fit is basic yoga combined with fitness exercises, and learned to combine breath with movement—appropriate for all ages, with doctor’s approval.

[Click here for more info] or to [submit your own events]

Tentative deal ends Con Ed Union lock out

It was the threat of very bad weather that broke the impasse in Con Ed’s labor dispute. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo brought the two sides together in his Midtown offices Thursday, they first announced workers would return to work temporarily to handle the severe weather. Then, just two hours later, they emerged again to announce a labor agreement, the product, Cuomo said, of crisis. Read more: [NY1] 

UPDATE: Dad-burned candidate 

Assemblywoman Grace Meng faces a more fiercely competitive race to win a House seat in Queens following the embarrassing bribery bust of her father, Jimmy Meng, political insiders said yesterday. Backers of her Republican opponent, City Councilman Dan Halloran, pounced on the Meng family scandal. Read more: [New York Post]

Police seek two men in connection with Queens robbery

Police in Queens are looking for two men they allege robbed a gas station in Ridgewood. Police allege that on Sunday, July 15 at around 3 a.m., two men robbed a CITGO employee on Forest Avenue. Read more: [NY1] 

Long Island City-based Songza music service streams for business success 

A trio of college friends are betting that they have created a soundtrack for success. The Long Island City-based Songza, which streams curated song playlists tailored to fit listeners’ moods, has several million users, according to the company. Read more: [New York Daily News] 

Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival marks nation’s 50 years of independence with food, music and fun

The spicy scent of jerk seasoning wafted through the Caribbean crowds at the 2nd annual Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in southeast Queens. About 8,500 people came out last Sunday to Roy Wilkins Park to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence, hear live reggae music — and sample jerk chicken, pork and other Jamaican cuisine, organizers said. Read more: [New York Daily News]