Tag Archives: Governor Andrew Cuomo

L train riders fed up with delays, look to Cuomo for help


| a.giudice@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Service problems along one subway line serving Ridgewood has some riders asking, “What the L?”

In recent weeks, the L train has suffered from hour-long delays, overcrowded platforms and other service problems. Riders Alliance member Alexis Saba shared her experience with transit delays. “On [March 17], I waited forever on the L train before we actually left,” she said. “When we finally left, the train crawled to Bedford, and were told that a rail was out and that Bedford was the last stop—and I couldn’t physically get out of the Bedford station due to the crowds.”

The Riders Alliance, a grassroots organization of public transportation riders that pushes for better service and affordable rates, has invited disgruntled subway riders to visit its website and share their “subway horror stories.” As previously reported, the organization plans to present the horror stories to Governor Andrew Cuomo in hopes of enticing him and members of the state Legislature to fully fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) five-year capital plan.

Delays like this are nothing new for the MTA. According to the Riders Alliance, in February, the MTA NYC Transit and Bus Committee Meeting Report showed that subway delays had increased 45.6 percent from 2013 to 2014. With the most recent MTA rate hike, riders are now paying $2.75 for a single fare and $116.50 for a monthly Metrocard, and they are getting worse service, the Riders Alliance charged.

“What we’re hearing from riders is that they feel like we’re paying more and more for less and less,” Deputy Director for the Riders Alliance Nick Sifuentes said.

The MTA’s capital plan of $32 billion will build, repair, maintain and enhance current MTA infrastructure. But the plan faces a $15 billion shortfall, and if this gap is not filled, it will result in increased transit fares, further reductions in service and more repair issues in coming years, the Riders Alliance believes.

“I know the L train horror stories all too well,” state Senator Martin Malave Dilan said. “Frustrated riders write or call my office frequently, some send photos of overcrowded platforms with lines running up the stairs and riders dangerously close to spilling over onto the tracks.”

“The current budget proposal leaves the MTA unable to address these and many issues,” he added. “The MTA capital plan is $15 billion in the red. This year’s proposed $1.6 billion capital allocation will have little effect and the Senate majority’s proposal to reduce it only makes matters worse. It’s irresponsible to ignore these shortfalls. For the daily commuters on the L, it’s inconceivable.”

John Maier, co-chair of the Public Transportation Committee of Community Board 5, feels that “We are at a funding crisis.” With little funding from the government, all expenses have to be paid by the commuter. “Something needs to change,” he continued. “The system needs a lot of help.”

The city’s budget plan is due on April 1, so commuters, elected officials and the MTA must wait to see if any additional funding will be funnelled in to seal the $15 billion gap in the MTA’s budget plan.

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MTA to award $236.5M contract to rebuild Queens Midtown Tunnel


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels/Mark Valentin

One of the city’s tunnel systems is expected to get a much-needed face-lift after being heavily damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that the MTA is expected to award a four-year, $236.5 million contract to rebuild the Queens Midtown Tunnel, which since the 2012 hurricane has been operating with temporary repairs. Around 40 percent of the length of tunnel was submerged in 12 million gallons of salt water during the storm.

The contract, which will be completed with Judlau Contracting Inc., was approved by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Committee on Monday and is expected to be approved by the full MTA board on Wednesday.

“Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the need for our infrastructure to be safer, stronger and more resilient to meet the challenge of extreme weather, and today, we’re taking another important step in that direction,” Cuomo said. “The Queens Midtown Tunnel is a vital part of the transportation network for the entire metropolitan area, and by undertaking this aggressive renovation we can rebuild from the damage caused by Sandy and ensure that it is protected from future storms.”

Work on the tunnel is expected to begin in the summer and will likely result in nighttime and weekend tube and lane closures. A majority of the work is Sandy-related and will also include several capital projects to try to organize the work and minimize the amount of closures impacting traffic.

Some of the Sandy-related repair and restoration work includes replacing the electrical, lighting, communications, monitoring and control systems in the tunnel. Restoration and mitigation work will also be done at the tunnel’s mid-river pump room.

“This investment in the Midtown Tunnel rehabilitation will restore the roadway to its pre-Sandy state while minimizing disruptions and delays and prioritizing the safety of commuters,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney said.

Structural work at the tunnel includes the replacement of catwalks, duct banks, wall tiles, ceiling finishes, polymer panels, curbs and gutters.

The tunnel is also expected to get new roadway LED lighting and clearly marked exit signs, lights and emergency phones.

Capital projects include replacing the fire line system in both tubes, and a complete rehabilitation of the Manhattan Exit Plaza, including the 36th Street ramp where full and partial repairs will be done.

“When Sandy flooded the Queens Midtown Tunnel with millions of gallons of water, our crews worked valiantly to make immediate repairs and get traffic moving again,” said James Ferrara, MTA Bridges and Tunnels president. “Now we need to fully repair the damage and fortify the tunnel to be more resilient for the future.”

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Sunnyside parents, students, teachers protest against Gov. Cuomo’s proposed education reform


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

One Sunnyside school came together to let their teachers know that they support them in the fight against what they call Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial proposed education changes.

Parents and students of P.S. 150, located at 40-01 43rd Ave., gathered with teachers on Thursday afternoon to rally against Cuomo’s plans, which include making teacher evaluations depend heavily on state tests and increasing the number of charter schools.

Once these changes are approved, then $1.1 billion in funding will be added for public schools.

“By increasing the stakes of these high-stake tests you are increasing the pressure on the teachers which then increases pressure on the students to perform,” said Karen Schumacher, a parent of a third-grader at P.S. 150. “There’s more to children, there’s more to teaching than a test score. We want our teachers to know that we love them, we think that they’re doing a great job and that they’re the most important thing and not a standardized test.”

According to Schumacher, along with being a way to show the teachers that the parents and students support them, the rally also serves as a way to let parents know what is going on and understand what the changes mean.

“We want to raise awareness. A lot of parents are busy and not active on social media and politics so they want to let them know what’s going on,” Schumacher added.

During the rally, teachers and students formed a human chain around one-half of the front and side of the school. Participants also handed out flyers with information on the proposed changes and asked parents to sign a postcard to send to Cuomo that read, “Stop waging war on public schools!”

Those who participated during the protest held signs that read messages such as “Protect our schools,” “Hear our (1.1 million) voices,” “We believe in public schools, “Our teachers are more than tests,” and “We support our teachers.”

“We want Gov. Cuomo to listen,” said Joann Rodeschin, UFT chapter leader at P.S. 150, who added that they invite Cuomo to come visit the Sunnyside school. “Kids are not just a test.”

The protest at P.S. 150 is just one of hundreds that took place throughout the five boroughs on Thursday, where parents gathered to form human chains around schools.

“We are proud of being a public school, we love our public schools and we are the parents and the teachers and the students that are affected by these proposals, so we are the ones that should be heard,” said Deborah Alexander, a parent of a student at P.S. 150 who helped organize the rally. “It’s all a political dance and we’re just the pawns, except the pawns are children. It’s very disconcerting.”


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City collecting proposals for Sunnyside Yards feasibility study


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYCEDC Sunnyside Yards Feasibility Study RFP

Mayor Bill de Blasio is moving full steam ahead with his plan to create 11,250 housing units over Sunnyside Yards, although Gov. Andrew Cuomo has voiced opposition to it.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC)  announced Friday a request for proposals for a yearlong comprehensive feasibility study for building over the rail yards. The agency is collecting proposals until March 20.

The study will examine the prospect of decking the enormous rail yard, and building homes, schools, open spaces and community facilities for the neighborhood as well as improving public transportation and infrastructure, while not interfering with train operations in the yards.

“This is the first step in understanding whether development of the Sunnyside Yards is possible, and what it could contribute to the city and surrounding communities,” de Blasio said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to deliver on our vision of a more affordable city and smart development that responds to the needs of surrounding neighborhoods.”

De Blasio first announced his plan for the yards during his second State of the City address in January, but hours later Cuomo disagreed with using the yards because of long-term plans for it.

But Cuomo is not the only politician to oppose developing Sunnyside Yards. When an idea to build a new Jacob Javits Center over the rail yards surfaced last year, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan didn’t immediately respond favorably to that plan.

Both shared concerns of major development in the area without first addressing issues current residents are facing, including lack of sufficient public services. State Sen. Michael Gianaris addressed Community Board 2 earlier this month about the proposal as well, and stated similar concerns.

“Any talk of thousands of new housing units at Sunnyside Yards should be secondary to meeting our significant existing infrastructure needs,” Senator Gianaris said. “Western Queens is already in need of many more schools, parks and open spaces, and vastly improved mass transit, particularly on the 7 line. As this process unfolds, I look forward to working with the community to ensure our voices are heard loud and clear when it comes to Sunnyside Yards.”

Building over the yards is a key part to de Blasio’s goal of building and preserving 200,000 affordable housing units — 80,000 of which will be new construction — in the next 10 years.

There are nearly 200 acres of land at the site, 113 acres that are owned by Amtrak, 66 by the MTA and the remainder by private owners, according to the EDC’s request for proposals.

The EDC is working with Amtrak, which is in favor of development over its section of the yards.

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FEMA approves $28M in flood protection projects for LaGuardia Airport


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

LaGuardia Airport is receiving a new level of protection to keep the facility and travelers safe from future storms such as Hurricane Sandy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that FEMA approved over $28 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds to go toward helping LaGuardia Airport achieve post-Hurricane Sandy flood mitigation and resiliency initiatives.

“Hurricane Sandy caused significant damage to LaGuardia Airport, but today we are taking an important step toward strengthening its infrastructure so that it is more resilient than ever before,” Cuomo said. “To face the new pattern of extreme weather, we must ensure that vital transportation hubs and economic engines like LaGuardia Airport are ready for the next major storm.”

When Sandy hit the city, LaGuardia’s airfield suffered severe flooding from water rising from Flushing Bay. The airport had to remain closed for three days due to damage to key electrical airfield infrastructure. 

The over $28 million in funds will go toward projects, expected to continue through the end of 2016, such as the construction of a flood wall and rainwater pumping system, and development of two gravity drainage systems on the airfield to advance removal of water in case of flooding. 

The money will also fund upgrades to bring the airport’s backup electrical substations into the primary power system. There will also be improvements to existing emergency generators and installation of new backup generators throughout the airport. 

“We must do everything we can to ensure that LaGuardia is able to withstand extreme weather and resume flight operations as quickly as possible,” said Pat Foye, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive director. 

Since Sandy hit in 2012, resources have been put forth to protect the airfield runways, electrical systems and aeronautical equipment. FEMA’s new grant of $28,148,625 adds onto the agency’s previous grants of more than $2 million.

“While we continue to help communities across New York recover from the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, it is equally as important to make much-needed investments in our infrastructure to ensure our city is prepared to face the challenges of any future storms,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowely said. “There is no question that one of those investments must include LaGuardia Airport, which serves tens of thousands of passengers a day and contributes greatly to our local economy.”

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Man of the Year: Carlisle Towery


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the Greater Jamaica Development Corp.

Many people say Jamaica wouldn’t be the up-and-coming community it is today without Carlisle Towery.

Over the course of four decades, Towery has watched over Jamaica as the head of the not-for-profit Greater Jamaica Development Corp. (GJDC) and guided its regrowth as an emerging neighborhood.

He witnessed the initial economic decline throughout Jamaica as department stores and anchor stores shut their doors and left for brighter pastures in malls across Long Island and elsewhere as his organization planted the seeds of the future by working to attract various public and private projects to the neighborhood.

In the process he formed important business relationships, which helped to eventually bring back retailers and investors. Now developers around the city have been eyeing Jamaica as the next frontier for opportunity, and massive projects that will spur economic growth are already planned.

After setting the table for Jamaica’s revival, Towery plans to watch the completion of his work from the outside. He recently announced his retirement from the position where he has spent half of his life.

For his many accomplishments that have helped to improve the Jamaica community from all angles, The Courier has selected Towery as its Man of the Year.

“His most extraordinary contributions to Jamaica have been unparalleled in terms of his achievement, persistence, and creating an environment for business to grow,” said Victoria Schneps, publisher of The Courier. “He has focused his life’s work on all aspects of the Jamaica community, and has made it better for his having been there.”

Towery, born and raised in Alabama, received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Auburn University and then moved to New York City to study urban planning at Columbia University in 1961 after earning a full scholarship.

He later went on to use his planning skills, including an assignment as chief urban designer of the Regional Plan Association, a Manhattan-based organization that focuses on improving urban growth across the New York metropolitan region.

Carlisle

While at the RPA he began working on a plan to transform Jamaica and repair the business community it started to lose. He presented the plan to the members of a chamber of commerce that represented Jamaica and impressed its board members.

At the time, the organization was working on establishing a not-for-profit, which would later become the GJDC, to bring economic growth back to a neighborhood that had suffered mightily from the urban decay of the early 1970s. The GJDC was formed and its new leaders picked Towery to be its first president in 1971.

“He is very bright and knowledgeable, conscientious, an excellent speaker and an expert planner,” said Vincent Albanese, a founder of the GJDC and current board member. “We were very impressed with his background, his expertise, and we were fortunate that [the RPA was] prepared to make him available to us.”

When Towery took the role of president of the GJDC he knew that he would be presented with a major challenge in the coming years.

Jamaica was heading into an era he later called the “disinvestment decade,” as downtown Jamaica’s anchoring department store giants, Macy’s, Gertz and Mays were all about to leave the area.

Towery fought to keep the stores, which he knew were the lifeblood of the community, but they all ended up exiting, starting with Macy’s in 1978. And as the bigger retailers left, so did smaller ones. Some banks and The Long Island Daily Press also closed around this time.

Jamaica had gone quickly from one of the city’s major commercial centers — a hub for Long Island shoppers who arrived at the Long Island Rail Road station — to a shell of its former self.

Its row of movie theaters, including the once-majestic Loews Valencia, shut their doors. The Valencia would later be resurrected and renovated as a church.

Towery oversaw city, state and federal partnerships over the next four decades that resulted in a revitalization of the neighborhood into one of the borough’s hottest development areas.

From 1978 to 1996, private investment in Jamaica totaled just $17 million, compared with the $364 million that has been invested in the last three years, according to the GJDC.

“He has had tremendous accomplishments,” Albanese said. “Jamaica was not growing, not serving the best interest of the business or residential communities. There was a tremendous need for a person of his caliber.”

Towery credits a number of strong public initiatives in Jamaica in the past few decades that led to the rebuilding of the downtown. He persistently advocated what he calls “pre-developments” through seven mayors and eight governors, dating back to John Lindsay and Nelson Rockefeller, and the federal government to attract more private investment.

This includes removing the Jamaica Avenue El and extending the subway to Parsons Boulevard, which started the creation of the transportation hub in the downtown area, and moving York College into the neighborhood instead of alternative sites.

Towery says York College’s move to Jamaica was the greatest development for the neighborhood while he was head of the GJDC because of the jobs it creates and the college’s ability to interact with the community in many ways.

“We worked our tails off to get York College here,” he said in a recent interview.

Today the college, part of the City University, is the only site in the borough selected to be part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY initiative, a much-heralded economic development initiative that will encourage businesses to partner with the school and move to Jamaica, either to a location on the campus or in the surrounding area, in exchange for wide-ranging tax breaks.

York College is now in negotiations with many businesses looking to partner with the school in exchange for being exempt from corporate, sales or property taxes for 10 years. The new businesses would move to a property near the school or build on a portion of 3.5 acres of vacant, government-owned land on campus. The college is slowly becoming the hub for business, opportunity and community that Towery envisioned it could.

York College - Campus and students.

The GJDC also supported building the new regional Jamaica headquarters for the U.S. Social Security Administration and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which are two federal agencies that brought jobs into the neighborhood.

The not-for-profit also advocated for the construction of the AirTrain rail line from John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2003, which further expanded Jamaica’s transportation hub to new heights.

That transportation hub, which is now comprised of various subway lines, an LIRR station, numerous bus lines and the AirTrain, has become a magnet for development.

After a 368-block rezoning was completed in downtown Jamaica in 2007 near the transit hub to allow more developments with commercial and residential uses, more and more developers have been planning large-scale projects there.

Some local initiatives and projects that have helped shape Jamaica were original ideas the GJDC started under Towery’s leadership, such as the creation of the first business improvement district in the downtown area to focus on the growth of local stores and companies and the first green market in New York City.

“Carlisle has been extremely successful in attracting government resources to the downtown, and has been a leader in urban revitalization and ahead of lots of other people with ideas of how to make things go better in downtowns,” said Andrew Manshel, the GJDC’s executive vice president. “He has integrated arts and culture in economic development way before that got to be a standard practice.”

In 2014, the GJDC was proud to announce the development of a $225 million mixed-use, 29-story residential and commercial tower at the building it owns on 93-01 Sutphin Blvd. just north of the LIRR and AirTrain station. The project led numerous community leaders and politicians to proclaim the return of Jamaica, because it followed the 2013 announcement of a 210-room, 24-story hotel on the south side of the LIRR complex at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd., a plot of land that is partly owned by the GJDC.

Jamaica also saw some sales last year that showed developers were highly interested in purchasing land in the area and building commercial centers or residential properties. A 90,000-square-foot building and parking garage at 163-05 and 163-25 Archer Ave., which has 719,736 square feet of buildable space, was sold for $22 million in October. Additionally, a development site at 147-07 to 147-37 94th Ave., which has 420,000 buildable square feet, was listed for $24 million.

Going forward, Towery believes that Jamaica is in need of more housing developments, since most of the GJDC’s projects and partnerships have been unrelated to housing. New housing in the area should be 50 percent market rate, 30 percent moderate income and 20 percent low income for Jamaica, he said in a published interview.

Towery also said in that interview that his replacement should be a visionary who should pursue productive partnerships.

Towery plans to retire with his wife to their home in Maine. But because he’ll always be interested in what Jamaica will become in the future, he hopes to keep a close eye on the neighborhood as it completes its transformation.

 

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LaGuardia and JFK airport design contests take flight


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The plan to modernize the borough’s airports is finally taking off.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is now accepting plans for the contests to redesign LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo first announced back in October.

Architects and designers can submit master plans for either or both airports. Final submissions are due on Jan. 30.

Cuomo hopes the plans submitted will be “bold and comprehensive.” Within the competition guidelines, emphasis is placed on certain design expectations for each airport.

Some interesting expectations mentioned include reviving ferry service to LaGuardia and creating an “Aerotropolis or Airport City” with office complexes, conference centers, and medical and warehousing facilities that have a nexus to JFK.

“Modern and accessible infrastructure is key to growing our state’s economy, and with this plan we’re bringing New York’s outdated airports into the 21st century,” Cuomo said. “By reimagining them from the ground up, we’re making an investment that will strengthen our state for years into the future.”

The Port of Authority board of commissioners will judge the contests. Following the Jan. 30 deadline, three finalists will be selected to make public presentations and each will receive up to $500,000 to further develop their plans.

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Gov. Cuomo to visit Wyckoff Heights Medical Center Saturday


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Governor Cuomo's Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be stopping by Wyckoff Heights Medical Center on Saturday as part of a Whistle-Stop Rally Tour alongside Gov. Alejandro Garcia-Padilla of Puerto Rico.

Cuomo, who is up for re-election on Tuesday, is expected at the hospital near the Brooklyn-Queens border at 3:30 p.m. together with healthcare workers from the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union.

As part of his campaign Cuomo plans to continue protecting access to quality healthcare.

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Cuomo, Biden announce design competition for LaGuardia and JFK


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Gov. Cuomo's Flickr

LaGuardia Airport is receiving some love from Vice President Joe Biden and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, two prominent figures who both harshly criticized the gateway this year.

Biden and Cuomo held a press conference Monday at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology across from LaGuardia to announce the modernization of the borough’s airports, including launching a redesign competition for both LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports.

Cuomo also introduced plans to improve Stewart International Airport and Republic Airport in Long Island. Biden supported Cuomo’s ideas, saying improving infrastructure will generate money and increase jobs.

“What you just saw from Gov. Cuomo is that he understands the importance of the overall vision to redesign, to reimagine these four airports,” Biden said. “It’s unacceptable LaGuardia has the worst passenger service in the world. As I said not because of its workers, but because it doesn’t have a structure.”

Earlier this year, Biden criticized LaGuardia, infamously calling it similar to a “third world country.

Cuomo, who previously said the airport was ranked the worst airport in the country, reiterated Biden’s “third world country” quote at the event, adding, “He was right, by the way.”

In his State of the State address this year, Cuomo said the airports were in need of care and proposed the state assume responsibility of the $3.6 billion makeover for LaGuardia’s main terminal.

Also, advocacy group Global Gateway Alliance released renderings in March, showcasing its vision for LaGuardia’s main terminal.

Renderings courtesy of Global Gateway Alliance

Renderings courtesy of Global Gateway Alliance

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3.5 acres of on-campus land at York College will be home to new companies


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo and map courtesy of York College

Parts of Jamaica may look forlorn with many properties vacant or in need of repair, but its shopping district and its richness in transportation options could turn it into the next big thing for development.

Businesses from around the state and outside New York are vying to enter the neighborhood through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY tax-free program at York College, which school officials are touting as a potential catalyst for a development explosion in downtown Jamaica.

York representatives told The Courier that they are in negotiations with many businesses looking to partner with the school in exchange for no corporate, sales or property taxes for 10 years, and move to a property near the school or build on a portion of 3.5 acres of vacant, government-owned land on campus.

The vacant property, called Site 9, was identified in a plan that school administrators submitted to the governor’s office in July. The site is bounded by Guy Brewer Boulevard, Liberty Avenue, 165th Street and South Road. A parking lot and green space at the Brewer Boulevard side of the block are not part of the development site.

That plan was submitted by CUNY to the state Commissioner for Economic Development and was recently approved.

The plan details the types of businesses York is hoping to attract, based on the school’s academic and research programs.

Although school representatives said they weren’t allowed to discuss the specific businesses that they are considering, those fields include pharmaceutical, medical device research and manufacturing, water resource management and purification, logistics, aviation, wireless technology, solar power companies and food science research and manufacturing.


School administrators said the partnering businesses will benefit not only students but also the neighborhood, which should see increased employment as a diversifying local business landscape becomes a magnet to attract other firms to the area.

“[The program] is moving in the right direction and we are quite excited,” said Earl Simons, director of government and community relations at York. “It provides potential opportunities for our students in terms of internships as well as important opportunities for the surrounding community.”

S- York Map 2

Near York College, the downtown Jamaica area hosts a comprehensive transportation hub. The AirTrain transports passengers to John F. Kennedy Airport in about 10 minutes, while the LIRR takes thousands of people to Manhattan daily in about 20 minutes. There are about 49 bus lines running through and around the area, and the E, J, Z and F subway lines are nearby.

There have been several recent moves to leverage this resource.

A 368-block rezoning was completed in downtown Jamaica in 2007 to allow more developments with commercial and residential uses.

And earlier this year, the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a nonprofit that has been working to transform the neighborhood, announced the development of a $225 mixed-use, 29-story residential and commercial tower at the building it owns on 93-01 Sutphin Blvd. at Archer Avenue, just north of the LIRR/AirTrain complex.

Rendering courtesy Greater Jamaica Development Corporation

93-43 Sutphin Blvd. rendering courtesy of Greater Jamaica Development Corporation

That followed the 2013 announcement of a 210-room, 24-story hotel on the south side of the LIRR complex at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd., a plot of land that is partly owned by the nonprofit.

The Development Corp is collaborating with York to help bring businesses to downtown Jamaica through the tax-free zone program, school officials said.

Businesses looking to set up shop in the tax-free zone need to appeal to several selection committees as well as school and state officials. While no immediate announcement of incoming companies is expected, York is confident in the program’s ability to be the push downtown Jamaica needs.

“It’s another tool to really spur development and economic opportunities and job creation,” Simons said. “It can only enhance all of the efforts that are taking place here.”

 

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Stavisky, Markey, Sanders win primary


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photos

Three incumbent Queens elected officials have easily taken the win in the Democratic primary.

State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, who was first elected to the state Senate in 1999 and is the only female member of the state Senate from Queens, won the race with 4,981 votes, holding onto 57.3 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results.

The Forest Hills resident ran against S.J. Jung, a Flushing resident, activist and president of the MinKwon Center for Community Action.

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey also won the primary with 1,880 votes and 75.2 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results. She has represented the 30th Assembly District, comprised of Maspeth, Woodside and parts of Long Island City, Middle Village, Astoria and Sunnyside, since 1998.

In the race for the 10th District, state Sen. James Sanders Jr., who was elected in 2012, took the win with 5,898 votes and 74.5 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results.

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

In other statewide elections, incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo easily defeated his two competitors at 61.7 percent with 93.2 percent of the precincts reporting, according to unofficial results. His running mate, lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul, also took the win with 59.7 percent of the votes. 

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Queensborough Community College receives grant money for new health center


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

File photo

Queensborough Community College received $11.5 million from a state grant that aims to provide seed money to CUNY schools pursuing educational projects, according to CUNY.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the winner of the CUNY 2020 grant last week as part of a larger 2013-14 executive budget of $110 million to fund tech and health projects in state and city schools. Queensborough has two such projects that received money from the grant. $10 million will go to building a 19,000-square-foot healthcare center in northern Queens, according to the school, where students will work with patients in the community with health problems.

The remaining $1.5 million will go to renovating and equipping a 3-D printing site in the school. The college computer science department plans on creating new courses that will help students, including those from some local high schools, learn to use the printers.

“The $11.5 million dollar award places us as a vanguard to serve two vital industry sectors: technology and healthcare,” Queensborough President Diane B. Call said. “I am extremely proud that Queensborough Community College has been selected for our innovative ideas and leadership to provide current and prospective students the education to pursue promising careers.”

Cuomo appropriated $55 million as part of the 2013-14 State Budget for NY CUNY 2020. The program offers grants for two- and four-year colleges within the CUNY system.

 

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LIRR strike averted: MTA and unions reach deal


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Sara Touzard

Updated 2:40 p.m.

MTA officials and LIRR unions came to a tentative agreement Thursday, avoiding a workers’ strike that would have stranded 300,000 commuters daily. 

Union negotiators and MTA representatives worked through Wednesday night on the deal, and talks continued with Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.

“Next week if there was a strike it would have been a really problematic situation of the highest level,” Cuomo said. “So this is very good news.”  

LIRR workers will see a 17 percent wage increase over six and a half years with the new agreement. The MTA wanted a 17 percent wage increase over seven years, while the union desired it over six years. The deal settled the impasse between both sides and will allow the MTA to pay for the salary bump while not increasing fares for riders. 

Through the agreement, the transit workers will contribute a percent of their wages toward health care costs, which they currently do not, and new employees will have different wage progressions and pension plan contributions. 

The agreement still needs to be approved by the eight Long Island Rail Road unions’ executive boards, ratified by the members and approved by the MTA board.

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Cuomo steps into MTA, LIRR union negotiations


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo


Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined negotiations between the MTA and Long Island Rail Road union officials just days before a looming strike deadline.

“The possible LIRR strike would be highly disruptive to the people and economy of Long Island, Cuomo said. “The parties returned to the negotiating table yesterday morning at my request. Late yesterday, when the conversations had not been fruitful, I began participating in them directly. Those conversations proceeded until late into the night.”

Both sides were scheduled to meet at the governor’s Manhattan office at 10 a.m. Thursday to continue discussions, according to Cuomo.

“Time is very short. We are less than 48 hours from the point at which the railroad would commence closing procedures. I want to make sure I have done everything I can possibly do to avert a strike,” he said.

LIRR union lead negotiator Anthony Simon was optimistic that a deal could be reach before the 12:01 a.m. Sunday strike deadline now that Cuomo has joined the negotiation table, Newsday reported.

“He’s ready to get this resolved,” Simon said, according to Newsday.

 

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Looming LIRR strike draws closer, Congress won’t intervene


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Sara Touzard


The potential for a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) strike is moving full steam ahead as talks over wages between the eight unions representing workers and MTA officials continue to stall, and Congress said it won’t intervene.

The MTA began putting out ads in newspapers, television and radio outlets, as well as on its website and social media, to alert riders of the potential strike, which could occur as early as July 20.

MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast met with Congress members on July 9, following a failure in discussions with the National Mediation Board, but the lawmakers reportedly said it is “unlikely” that they would step in if a work stoppage occurred.

About 5,400 workers are planning to walk off the job, which would leave 300,000 riders stranded from Long Island, throughout Queens and other boroughs.

The MTA is planning “very limited,” weekday shuttle bus service to start within 24 to 48 hours of any strike, the agency said. But it warned, “Shuttle bus service should be your last resort.”

“We continue to hope that we can avoid a work stoppage at the bargaining table,”  Prendergast said. “But nevertheless, we want LIRR customers and all Long Island residents to be aware that there is a potential for a disruption of service and what that might mean.”

The MTA’s latest offer in June was for a 17 percent raise in wages, stretched over the next seven years without a change in pension. But the unions maintain that they want 17 percent raises over the next six years.

“[Prendergast] should be here in New York with the labor organizations, [not in Washington],” Anthony Simon, the lead labor negotiator, told the New York Times. “What is the chairman of the MTA doing 250 miles away from the solution?”

Governor Andrew Cuomo called for both sides to return to the bargaining table, after Congress members said they won’t step in.

“A strike is just not an option and would be a terrible failure by both the unions and the MTA,” Cuomo said. “The unions’ false belief that Congress would step in to mandate a settlement was a major impediment to any real progress. With this obstacle removed, it is now clear that the only path to resolution is at the bargaining table between the MTA and the unions, and they should proceed in good faith.”

 

 

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