Tag Archives: Governor Andrew Cuomo

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

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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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State Senate passes Queens Library reform bill


| editorial@queenscourier.com

A bill to bring reform to the Queens Library has gotten the thumbs up from the state Senate and will now make its way to the governor’s office where it is expected to be signed into law, officials said.

The Senate voted Thursday on the bill which calls for a number of “best practice” reforms including creating an audit committee to oversee the Library’s accounting and financial reporting processes and its annual audits and establishing a labor relations committee to address labor issues.

“Once enacted, my bill will rein in the excesses revealed in recent reports and provide a long-term blueprint for an efficient, transparent and accountable library system of which every Queens resident can be proud,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who sponsored the bill.

The bill would also require executive staff of the Queens Library to file financial disclosure forms and be subject to limitations on any outside employment that could be a conflict of interest with their library responsibilities. The bill would also call for the Queens Library’s Board of Trustees to approve the hiring of key Queens Library staff.

“This bill has generated grave concerns and raised red flags with statewide and national groups. The American Library Association wrote that it would ‘threaten the ability for Queens Library to operate free of political influence, and will serve as a dangerous precedent for libraries and library boards around the nation,’” said Gabriel Taussig, chair of Queens Library’s Board of Trustees, who said he was not speaking on behalf of the rest of the board.

 

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Undercover operation busts eight Queens stores for selling alcohol to minors


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

LiquorBottlesHC0401_L_300_C_Y

An undercover investigation has caught eight Queens stores, mostly near high schools and colleges, for allegedly selling alcohol to minors.

The busted businesses, located in Astoria, Long Island City and Flushing, were part of an effort by the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to fight underage drinking in the city, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who announced the results of the investigation Monday.

“The law is the law, and we will continue to do whatever it takes to crack down on underage drinking and hold accountable those who serve alcohol to minors,” Cuomo said. “Our message is simple: If you put children at risk by placing alcohol in their hands, you will face the consequences.”

From April 17 to May 1, the SLA used decoys to visit 74 liquor and grocery stores throughout the five boroughs, according to the governor.

The operation was conducted by the SLA’s newly formed part-time investigative unit, which was funded using a $147,000 grant from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During the sting, uncover minors were allegedly able to buy alcohol at 32 of those businesses, including WooYong Corp., Astoria Vitality & Health Inc. and Green Leaf Deli & Mini Mart in Astoria; Cruz Mexican Products Inc. in Long Island City; and Parsons Convenience Store Inc., Parsons Wine & Liquor Inc., R & H Food Corp., Amy’s Deli, and P & M Convenience Store Inc., in Flushing.

Some of the stores are within walking distance of several high schools, as well as St. John’s University and Queens College.

Businesses can face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation if charged for selling alcohol to minors as well as fines, starting at $2,500 to $3,000, for a first time offense. Repeat offenders can potentially have their licenses suspended or revoked.

 

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Op-ed: Why we need Mayor de Blasio’s pre-k plan


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILMEMBER DANIEL DROMM

As chair of the NYC Council Education Committee, it is a priority of mine to see Mayor Bill de Blasio’s universal pre-kindergarten plan enacted. The only viable way to ensure that our children get this extra year of education is to create a tax on the city’s most wealthy residents to help fund it.

Before teaching fourth grade for 25 years, I directed a preschool in Harlem. I saw firsthand how an extra year of socializing and learning helped set up these young learners of all social and ethnic backgrounds for a more productive educational career. Study after study has shown that quality pre-k works.

Pre-kindergarten isn’t just for the children.  It also lends a helping hand to their parents, especially single parents. At the first Education Committee hearing that I chaired on February 12, I heard from parents about how pre-kindergarten combined with after school care allows them to work a full day. Without pre-k, working mothers and fathers have to scramble to find someone to care for their children and often times have to scrape the bottom of their bank accounts to pay for childcare.

I believe it is not too much to ask of those who are making $500,000 or more a year to fund the program with a small tax increase that equals the price of a cup of latte from Starbucks every day. I totally disagree with those who say these wealthy residents may leave the city. New York City is the greatest city in the world and everybody wants to be here. Wealthy residents won’t leave just for the price of a cup of coffee. A tax on the wealthy is the right path.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to fund a statewide program without a designated tax has its pitfalls. Former Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson walked 150 miles to Albany to shine light on the unequitable amount of education funding NYC receives and won a court judgment for city schools. A decade later, more than $4 billion of that money has never made it to our public schools. That’s why we need a dedicated tax – a lockbox – to fund this program.

Pre-kindergarten is a win-win plan for everyone. It gives all children a better start with a chance at a better future. It gives parents the support they deserve to further contribute to the city’s vibrant economy.  And, most importantly, it provides New Yorkers with a bright future.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm is chair of the NYC Council Education Committee. He was elected to the New York City Council in 2009 and represents District 25 (Jackson Heights & Elmhurst).

 

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Queens pols: DREAM Act is not dead


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Maybe it was just a fantasy, but Queens politicians that support New York’s DREAM Act aren’t giving up the fight to make it a reality.

After receiving support from the State Assembly and Governor Andrew Cuomo, on Monday, the State Senate failed to pass the DREAM Act, which would have allocated $25 million in state funding for tuition assistance for undocumented immigrants attending college.

The legislation received just 30 of the necessary 32 votes to pass. Two Democratic senators opposed the measure, along with all Republican members.

Every Queens senator voted in favor of the measure, and now they are hoping to convince Cuomo to add the DREAM Act to the state budget, which is due April 1.

“It’s unfortunate that it didn’t pass. There are people in the state who don’t agree with it. That’s democracy,” said State Senator Tony Avella, who co-sponsored the measure. “There is no question that it’s disappointing, but we won’t give up the fight.”

Cuomo himself voiced disappointment that the Senate failed to pass the bill after the vote, and the same day he released a statement, vowing to fight for it– though it’s not clear if he will put it in the state budget.

“I will continue to work with supporters, stakeholders and members of the legislature to achieve this dream and build the support to pass this legislation and preserve New York’s legacy as a progressive leader,” Cuomo said.

If the DREAM Act had passed the final hurdle in the Senate vote, it would put New York among states such as California, New Mexico, Washington, and even Texas, which is known as a Republican state.

“I think it’s an embarrassment for New York State,” State Senator Malcolm Smith said. “We have always been a progressive state, especially for immigrants. We need to make it happen. I am optimistic that the bill could come up again before we end session in June. I will push for it to come up again.”

 

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Cuomo: Licenses of nearly 9,000 tax evaders suspended


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Thousands of New York tax delinquents have lost their driving privileges.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that 8,900 drivers had their licenses suspended for failing to pay taxes they owe to the state.

The crackdown is a result of legislation signed into law last year that encourages people who owe more than $10,000 in back taxes to settle up with the state tax department or face consequences.

“For many, this message is getting through and as a result thousands of people have come forward to do the right thing and find a way to pay their taxes. Those who haven’t are losing their drivers licenses,” Cuomo said.

Drivers have 60 days to arrange payment after the tax department mails them a suspension notice. If they fail to do so, the department sends a second letter, and drivers have 15 more days to respond before they face losing their license until the debt is paid or a payment plan is arranged.

More than 17,700 drivers were contacted starting in August 2013. In addition to the nearly 9,000 suspensions, 6,500 tax evaders have either paid in full or are marking payments toward their debt and 2,300 were determined ineligible for the suspension.

It also resulted in a nearly $56.4 million increase of state and local tax collections.

 

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Peter Vallone Jr. appointed to Cuomo administration


| editorial@queenscourier.com

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Updated 3:40 p.m.

Former Queens Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. is joining the Cuomo administration.

Vallone, who represented the 22nd District from 2002 to 2013, has been appointed as the special assistant assigned to the commissioner of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

“Excited to join the team of my good friend @NYGovCuomo! Honored to be given the opportunity to work with him and serve the people of NYS,” Vallone tweeted Thursday, following the announcement.

Cuomo welcomed Vallone’s appointment, and several others he made the same day, saying the new appointees come with “dedication to public service, proven records of success, and years of experience in providing help and care to New Yorkers across the state.”

“I am confident that these new additions to our administration will continue to improve New York State,” he said.

In addition to serving as public safety committee chair during his three-terms on the council, Vallone was previously an assistant district attorney.

Last September, Vallone lost the Democratic primary for Queens borough president to Melinda Katz.

 

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Poll: NY voters strongly support legalization of medical marijuana


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DEA/Department of Justice

After Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a program that would research the feasibility of medical marijuana in the state last month, a new poll shows New York voters strongly support the plan.

The results of a Quinnipiac University survey, released Monday, found that 88 percent of state voters back the legalization of medical marijuana.

In his January State of the State address, Cuomo said he would launch a pilot medical marijuana research program that allows up to 20 hospitals to provide medical marijuana to patients being treated for serious illnesses.

A majority of voters, 57 percent, also support legalizing a small amount of pot for personal use, according to the poll.

Though medical marijuana use received overwhelming backing from every group polled, its recreational use created a divide among both gender and generation groups.

Sixty-three percent of men support legalizing the drug for recreational purposes, versus 51 percent of women. Eight-three percent of voters 18 to 29 years old back the legalization, with 57 percent of voters 65 and older opposing it.

 

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NYC public schools will be open Thursday


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

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Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña has announced the Department of Education will keep all public schools open Thursday, as the Big Apple expects another round of snow.

All school field trips will be canceled Fariña said Wednesday night. Families with busing questions are asked to call 718-392-8855.

As always, parents should exercise their own judgment with regard to their children, the schools chancellor said in a statement. “Safety is a top priority for the department.”

Public schools have only closed once on Jan. 3, during the year’s first major snowstorm. They were kept open during the Jan. 22 storm which left the city with almost a foot of snow. Schools were also kept opened during a Feb. 5 storm that brought icy conditions.

The National Weather Service (NWS) forecasted 8 to 12 inches of heavy, wet snow through Friday morning. A Winter Storm Warning will be in effect from midnight tonight until 6 a.m. Friday.

Wednesday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed state agencies to prepare for the impending Nor’easter winter storm.

Snow will develop around 3 a.m., and continue throughout the day before tapering off about 24 hours later. During the day, with temperatures hovering around the mid-30s, there will be a mixture of snow, sleet and rain, according to the NWS.

 

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Katz rebrands Queens as center of the city in speech


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Queens is the center of New York City, according to new Borough President Melinda Katz, and she wants people from the “outer-boroughs” to know that.

Katz gave a patriotic lecture on Tuesday, explaining her economic initiatives and rebranding Queens as the city’s prime tourist destination.

“Manhattan should be known for recommending Queens restaurants and shopping, and all the cultural events that we have to offer,” Katz said.

Katz vowed to restart predecessor Claire Shulman’s “War Room” to help solve overcrowding in school, and also voiced her support for universal pre-kindergarten.

“Space is needed, pre-k is needed,” she said. “We need to at least have our children start on equal footing and get the education they need.”

The Borough President pledged that her administration will help future small businesses owners to navigate the process of creating their companies, and she plans to use real estate development projects to spur job growth.

She wants to assist Long Island City become the next major tech hub so more entrepreneurs, especially those graduating from the forthcoming Cornell-Technion school, stay in Queens.

Katz additionally expressed her excitement for Governor Andrew Cuomo taking the lead to renovate the area airports.

“You come to the city of New York, we should have the top flight– excuse the pun– airports in the entire world,” she said.

Turning to the Rockaways, Katz voiced support for permanent ferry service and said she wants reconstruction on the boardwalk “done before 2017.”

She also reiterated in the speech that she will save the New York State Pavilion.

“The speech hit all the right notes,” said Rob MacKay of the Queens Economic Development Corporation. “I feel that Queens is ready to steal Brooklyn’s mojo.”

 

 

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Local leaders want Howard Beach protection project to expand, give full-perimeter storm protection


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Follow Maggie Hayes @magghayes

Local leaders want to see full-perimeter protection for low-lying Howard Beach.

The Spring Creek Hazard Mitigation Project, introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo in November, is intended to protect the south Queens neighborhood. Designs from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) show mitigation along Spring Creek Park, from Cross Bay Boulevard to the Belt Parkway.

Although community members are in favor of the plan, they want the project’s scope to expand further.

“We’ve recognized our problems, and it’s great that we’re getting this,” said John Calcagnile, vice-chair of Community Board (CB) 10. “But I want to see a complete perimeter protection.”

Calcagnile and CB 10 Chair Betty Braton said they would like to see the project extend to Old Howard Beach, where a significant storm surge came through from Jamaica Bay during Sandy.

The $50 million project, from federal and local funding, will create higher inland contours, wetland, grassland buffers, dunes, low and high marshes, and tidal creeks, and restore over 150 acres of natural habitat.

The plan’s engineering and design is projected to be complete by Aug. 4, followed by an 18-month construction period.

 

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Pols push for St. John’s Hospital to be reimbursed for Sandy expenses


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the office of Assemblymember Goldfeder

Local pols want to keep the lone Rockaway hospital from flat lining.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder and State Sentator James Sanders sponsored a bill to bring $4.3 million to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital to reimburse them for expenses spent during and after Sandy.

“St. John’s is the only healthcare facility available to serve nearly 100,000 families on the Rockaway Peninsula,” Goldfeder said. “We must ensure that St. John’s has the tools necessary to protect its current services and expand in order to serve our community and keep our families healthy for many years to come.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo allocated $1.2 billion in his executive budget for healthcare facilities. Goldfeder requested a portion of that be reserved for St. John’s.

During the superstorm, the hospital worked on “caring for the many sick, elderly and homeless community members who entered our doors seeking shelter and medical assistance, and not the cost or how it would be recouped,” said Richard Brown, St. John’s CEO.

“These much-needed funds would help our recovery and aid us in upholding our mission of service to the people of the Rockaways,” he said.

 

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