Tag Archives: Jimmy Van Bramer

City speed camera program hits a red light

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Albany has put the brakes on the city’s speed cameras.

Despite a push from the Department of Transportation, the City Council, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, the State Legislature failed to include funding for the program in the 2013-2014 budget passed last week.

“I think the wrong decision was made by the Republican leadership of the State Senate,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “It’s unfortunate because speed cameras would and can save lives. I hope that somehow [the State Legislature will] be able to pick this up again before the end of the session and pass the bill.”

Although it was initially supported by the Assembly, it faced opposition in the Senate, including local representatives Dean Skelos, Martin Golden and Simcha Felder.

Bloomberg publicly lambasted the three state senators during a press conference on Wednesday, March 27.

“Why don’t you pick up the phone and call your state senator and ask why they allowed that child to be killed?” Bloomberg said according to reports.

Recently-released data from the Department of Transportation showed that speeding was “the greatest single factor in traffic deaths.”

If the pilot program, which requires the state’s approval, does eventually move forward, it would install 20 to 40 speed cameras at high-risk locations throughout the city.

Drivers would face a fine of $25 to $50 for speeding between 10 and 30 miles above the limit and $100 for going 30 miles above it.



3rd Annual Queens World Film Festival ready for its close-up

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens World Film Festival

The 3rd Annual Queens World Film Festival is just around the corner, with organizers and filmmakers from near and far ready to take the stage.

“Brooklyn has an identity, Manhattan has an identity, everyone has an identity, except for Queens,” said festival director Katha Cato who arranges the event along with her husband, Don. “Everybody needs to understand this is a great place to see films and to make films.”

The festival, which brings together international and local filmmakers, will take place from March 5 – March 10 and feature 104 films, with 19 works from Queens. The films include shorts and feature lengths, documentaries, animation, fantasies, LGBT, “regular ol’ boy meets girl,” and many more.

The six day festival begins at 8 p.m. at the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria with a block of seven films and will also honor City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer for his years of service to the borough.

The opening night films include five international, one from Brooklyn and one animation movie called “Planet Utero” from Queens filmmaker Faiyaz Jafri. Along with Jafri, other Queens films include William Cusick’s feature narrative “Welcome to Nowhere” and Flushing native Adrian Manzano’s “BQE.”

The celebration of independent films will continue at venues such as the Jackson Cinema in Elmhurst, The Secret Theatre in Long Island City and the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights.

“It’s all about bringing people together,”said Cato.

The films are divided into different blocks based on subject and will each have a host organizing the night. Guests will also have the opportunity to interact with filmmakers in Q&A sessions afterward.

“You want people to talk, to be engaged in the film. Whether they enjoy them or not,” said

Cato. “We are trying to build community here.”

Also, 50 guests will be able to reserve a package for a “Dinner and a Movie” night on Wednesday, March 6. Hosted at Armondo’s Italian Restaurant in Elmhurst, the $50 price tag includes a cocktail, appetizer, entrée and dessert. Once the film lovers have enjoyed their dinner, they will be able to take a walk down to The Jackson Cinema and enjoy a film block called “Grace Under Fire.”

On the final night of the festival, films will be awarded Crystal Globes and all winning films will be rescreened at The Secret Theatre.

“We really hope that all of New York picks up their ears and listen to what’s happening in Queens,”said Cato.

Tickets for the festival are $10 for regular admission and $6 for students and seniors and can be purchased online at www.queensworldfilmfestival.com. To reserve a package for “Dinner and a Movie,” call Armondo’s at 718-429-8552.



Long Island City murder leads to calls against gun violence

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

The shooting of a 27-year-old aspiring hip-hop artist near the Queensbridge Houses is raising clamor among politicians and community activists fighting against gun violence.

The victim, Francisco Leal, 27, suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the chest around 10 p.m. on Saturday, February 2 at the corner of 21st Street and 41st Avenue. While the NYPD has released surveillance footage of a suspect, Leal’s killer has yet to be caught.

When Suga Ray, a teacher, activist and childhood friend of Leal’s heard his friend had been fatally shot in the neighborhood where they grew up, his first reaction was “heartbreak.” Ray said Leal had a great personality, loved creating music and cared deeply about his community.

“Since we were kids, he always said he wanted to make a better way for his family, himself and the community,” said Ray. “He always wanted better than what we had.”

According to the NYPD, there have been 99 shootings citywide from January 1 through February 3, 2013.

“There’s an epidemic of gun violence, both here at Queensbridge and the city and across the country,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who organized a rally following Leal’s death. “How do we bring young people away from guns, away from violence and into a better place?”

The councilmember believes increased programs for young people, including after-school programs, partnerships with libraries and cultural and athletic programs keep kids out of trouble. Last year, the Bloomberg administration proposed to eliminate all after-school programs and according to the Campaign for Children, after-school programs faced cuts of around $170 million. While after-school programs were saved in 2012, discussions about slicing programs in 2013 continue.

“Those kinds of programs are absolute life-savers, especially for low-income families where there aren’t more available options,” said Van Bramer.

The city’s flailing unemployment rate, Van Bramer added, is a factor in the upswing of violence.

“If there’s no help, if there’s no jobs, if there’s no economic self-sufficiency, people can gravitate towards things they shouldn’t be involved in,” said Van Bramer.

April Simpson, the newly elected president of the Queensbridge Resident Association, said ending violence is not just the responsibility of the police, but rests on residents as well.

“Someone lost a child last night. That could be my child tomorrow. That could be your child tomorrow. We need to say something. We need to take back our communities. We need to come together as one. We can’t protect our children if we’re sitting around and we’re not saying anything.”

Ray believes the key to ending youth on youth violence is to provide more opportunities which teaching people about inner peace and channeling aggression into positive outlets such as art and music — a passion of his late friend’s.

“That another young person would want to take another young person’s life is disheartening,” said Ray. “It happens so much. It’s happened to so many of my friends. It’s heartbreaking.”




Queens celebrates Winter Pride

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Hundreds gathered at the Astoria World Manor to fete distinguished guests at the Queens Pride Committee’s 20th annual Winter Pride event.

The January 26 gala, which honored Congressmember Grace Meng, Dr. Marjorie Hill and Out Astoria, raised funds to support the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade and Multi-Cultural Festival as well as a film series and other events aimed at increasing the visibility of the LGBT community in Queens.

Public figures in attendance included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, and councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm, who founded the Queens Pride Committee two decades ago.

“Twenty years of Winter Pride celebrations in Queens have helped to build a strong lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement in the borough,” said Dromm. “When I first started this celebration only one or two elected officials attended. Now it has become the most important ‘political’ non-political event.”



Dangerous Sunnyside intersection prompts DOT study

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

A transit advocacy group is moving to make changes to a hazardous Sunnyside intersection.

Representatives from the Queens Committee of Transportation Alternatives say the juncture of Borden Avenue and Greenpoint Avenue, running above the Long Island Expressway, is perilous for pedestrians and cyclists due to unclear markings and poorly-timed traffic signals.

“Frankly, it’s an absolute nightmare,” said Transportation Alternatives member Steve Scofield, who rides his bike through the intersection frequently. “There really is no safe way for a pedestrian or cyclist to get through the intersection safely.”

Many northbound cyclists choose to navigate the intersection illegally to optimize safety, crossing Greenpoint Avenue and riding against traffic on the southbound side. Scofield said it’s safer for bike rides to move in the opposite direction rather than be at the mercy of drivers with limited visibility. Nearly half of cyclists who cross the intersection use this method.

According to Streetsblog.com, a cyclist was struck and killed by a livery cab at the intersection in April 2012.

The driver of the cab was not charged with any crime. According to CrashStat.org, since 1998 there have been four accidents at the crossing, all of which resulted in injuries.

In order to create a safer intersection, Scofield wants to implement protected left signals and shared lanes for bikes and cars; convert Hunters Point Boulevard into a westbound one-way street; and add more lights for cyclists and pedestrians.

In August 2012, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer sent a letter to then Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy, alerting her to the traffic calming measures needed at this intersection.

“This daunting intersection has had a history of accidents in recent years due to a lack of the appropriate traffic light timing and issues with speed control,” said Van Bramer. “These hazards have put the lives of pedestrians, motorists and cyclists in danger and action must be taken before another life is lost. ”

According to a spokesperson from the Department of Transportation (DOT), the agency will conduct a study on the intersection based on Community Board 2’s recommendations.



What City Council members wish for their constituents in 2013

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


The Queens Courier asked the City Council what they wish for their constituents in 2013. Here are some of the responses:

Speaker Christine Quinn: To help New Yorkers still reeling from Sandy recover fully and quickly, & rebuild New York City to protect New Yorkers from the impact of climate change.

Daniel Dromm: To see comprehensive immigration reform including the Uniting American Families Act (for families headed by same sex couples) and the Dream Act passed by Congress in 2013.

Mark Weprin: My New Year’s wish for my constituents is that a bipartisan spirit will appear in Washington, leading to fiscal sanity and sensible gun laws.

James Gennaro: They should have good health, the comfort and peace of a strong faith, abiding happiness, freedom from want and love and compassion for others.

Jimmy Van Bramer: I wish for my constituents a healthy and happy year full of joy and with far fewer tragedies. I want more understanding and appreciation of our uniqueness as people, a safer world at home and abroad.

Peter Vallone Jr.: I hope for the Queensboro Bridge back, and I hope other boroughs keep their hands off of our stuff.

Eric Ulrich: Health, happiness, and prosperity in the new year and a return to normalcy for those affected by Sandy.

Karen Koslowitz: I wish all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. I am hoping that the year 2013 brings new opportunities, friendships and successes for all.

Dan Halloran: I wish my constituents a New Year full of peace, prosperity and a renewed sense of pride in our neighborhoods, as we continue to preserve our community’s character.

Leroy Comrie: I hope that we have a healthy, happy, prosperous, and protective new year. Also that people stay charitable, that we can continue to look out for each other and be supportive of those in need.



Queens businesses fear 7 subway suspension may hurt profits

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

Once more, western Queens business owners could potentially say goodbye to a profitable winter.

The No. 7 line weekend service between Queens and Manhattan is being suspended until the end of March, and many area business owners fear that this will affect the influx of customers they usually get.

The award-winning Chocolate Factory Theater in Long Island City is just one of the many organizations expecting a severe blow to their business this season.

“We [will be] unable to commission work, to present work,” said Sheila Lewandowski of the theater company. “If our audience can’t get here, what are we saying to our artists?”

The Chocolate Factory planned four shows for the coming winter months, and is expecting around 5,000 people to attend. They have artists coming in from all over the world, and, according to Lewandowski, artists who have been preparing for these shows for years.

“The No. 7 train is part of the ticket,” said Lewandowski, who fears that without the subway line, artists will have a difficult time getting to the theater, or that the number of attendees will significantly decrease.

Lewandowski also said that, had they been informed of the closures a month or two ago, shows could have been rescheduled. But, with the two weeks’ notice that the MTA gave, nothing can be done.

“Millions of people are disadvantaged and inconvenienced,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “The people of Queens are being disrespected.”

Until March 25, the MTA will be working on tunnel, signal and track maintenance in the Steinway Tunnel, which connects Queens to Manhattan, and will replace tracks between the Court Square and Queensboro Plaza stations.

Van Bramer held a press conference on Friday, December 28, the day that marked the beginning of the closures, in front of the bustling Vernon Boulevard–Jackson Avenue train stop. He was joined by fellow Councilmember Peter Koo and area business owners, all protesting the MTA changes.

“If I seem a little angry, I am,” said Van Bramer. “Year after year this is too much to bear.”

In 2010, the No. 7 line was suspended for 12 weekends, and again for five weekends this past fall.

On December 8, Community Board 2 received a letter from the MTA, detailing the weekend closures. According to Van Bramer, there was no discussion or opportunity for input, simply a: “this is how it is, so deal with it.”

Going forward, the councilmember intends to work with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the rest of the Council to urge the MTA to change course, and also advises that residents sign an online petition, on the City Council website, and also protest via social media.

For alternate service, straphangers can use the E, F, N and Q lines. On Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., the Q will be extended to Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard. Additionally, free shuttle buses will operate between the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue and Queensboro Plaza stations during those weekends.

-With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola

Sunnyside grocery store to close after lease dispute

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


After 28 years, Suzy Szabo will no longer work at her neighborhood grocery store. The five-minute walk from her Sunnyside home to her job at the local Foodtown on Greenpoint Avenue will become a nearly 90 minute commute on two trains across two boroughs.

In two weeks, the store will be emptied, its merchandise sold and its employees dispersed to other Foodtown locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx. According to Foodtown employees and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, the building’s landlord refused to enter lease negotiations for the upcoming term and the business will be ousted from the premises at the end of this year. The building’s landlord could not be reached.

“We were like a family over here,” said Szabo, the store’s deli manager. “We laughed. We cried together. We were like a family and the customers loved us too.”

Van Bramer, who lives in the neighborhood, said the supermarket acts as an anchor of the community. “A supermarket is more than just a place that sells bread and milk,” said Van Bramer.“It becomes a center of community because it’s a place that everyone goes to. They fall in love with the staff. They rely on them.”

According to Van Bramer, the supermarket owners, Noah and Danny Katz, offered to pay more money and even buy the building in order to stay in their Sunnyside location.

“This is not the case where they couldn’t afford their rent. They were making money,” said Van Bramer. “In this case, we have a property owner who has pushed out a very successful supermarket. We are legitimately frustrated and angry with this property owner who is doing a disservice to the people of Sunnyside.”

Foodtown manager Allen Hyusyan speculated the landlord aimed to receive a tax write-off for owning vacant property.

“It’s a mystery to us,” said Hyusyan. “He just doesn’t want us there. He wants to gut the place from shelving to refrigerating. He wants everything out.”

Plea for information on fatal Sunnyside attack

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


Through tears, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer pleaded for information leading to the capture of those responsible for the murder of a close personal friend.

Around midnight on Saturday, October 20, Lou Rispoli, 62, left his Sunnyside home for a late night walk as he sometimes did to quell his insomnia. At roughly 2 a.m. on 43rd Avenue between 41st and 42nd Street, two unidentified men approached Rispoli, exchanging in a brief conversation before striking him over the head with a blunt object. He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he died from his injuries on Thursday, October 25.

According to an eyewitness, a third perpetrator acted as the getaway driver. It was unclear as to whether or not Rispoli knew his attackers.

“Whoever did this for whatever reason has to be brought to justice,” said Van Bramer.

Rispoli, who lived in Sunnyside with his husband for over 30 years, was known for making everyone laugh and bringing joy to the lives of those close to him.

“It is difficult enough to know we’ve lost Lou,” said Mark Horn, a friend of Rispoli’s. “It’s impossible to believe the people who did this will get away with it.”

Rispoli and Van Bramer met at a house party several years ago and Rispoli volunteered with Van Bramer’s 2009 campaign for city council.

It was not clear if the victim’s sexual orientation had anything to do with the attack or whether or not he was robbed. There is no description of the attackers.

“This is a safe neighborhood,” said Van Bramer. “For any of us, any time there is a violent attack on anyone in the neighborhood, it’s an attack on all of us.”

LIC strip club makes third run at liquor license

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


After two strikes, a Long Island City strip club is taking another swing at a liquor license.

21 Group Inc. — the proprietors of the controversial Show Palace strip club — requested that the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) reconsider the venue’s recent application. In June, the SLA sent 21 Group Inc. a denial letter in response to the company’s second application for a liquor license, according to a representative from the SLA.

Formerly known as Gypsy Rose, Show Palace opened at 42-50 21st Street in late May despite strong opposition from community leaders and residents. The all-nude club underneath the Queensboro Bridge opted for a no-clothes policy in response to previous liquor license rejections — forbidden in establishments where alcohol is served in New York.

Local officials remain steadfastly against the LIC jiggle joint receiving a liquor license, standing by their beliefs that such an establishment would be detrimental to one of the most up-and-coming neighborhoods in New York City.

“Nothing has changed since the last application and the community, including the community board, every elected official that represents the area, and the faith community all remain opposed,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

Last week, State Senator Michael Gianaris wrote a letter to the chairman of the SLA, urging him that this neighborhood is not the appropriate place for a sex-based business as there are mass amounts of revitalization occurring in the area.

Show Palace’s Facebook page touts itself as “New York’s 1st Fully Nude, Brand New, Luxury Gentlemen’s Cabaret & Restaurant.”

The establishment’s website gives patrons the option to sign a petition against the denial of a liquor license.

“We have evidence that adult establishments, if properly zoned, as this one is, can have a positive impact on the local community as they bring life to the neighborhood after dark, they add security and surveillance to the area, and they bring much needed tax dollars and JOBS that directly benefit the local community,” states the petition.

As of press time, the petition for Show Palace’s liquor license garnered 1,185 of the goal of 5,000 signatures.

Attempts to contact Terry Flynn, 21 Group Inc.’s attorney, were unsuccessful as of press time.

Courier hosts Power Breakfast on future of LIC’s tech boom

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), made clear that as business sectors based in the city move forward, technology will become more crucial.

“As we like to say at EDC: whereas in the past the technology industry was a sector; increasingly, today, the economy itself is the tech sector.”

Pinsky was a featured panelist for the “The Future of LIC: How the tech boom will affect you & your business!” — a power breakfast host by The Queens Courier in part with TD Bank — on Thursday, October 11, which gave a glimpse of what will become of the growing technology growth in Long Island City.

The breakfast played host to panelists: Carol Conslato, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce and public affairs director for Con Edison; Andrew Kirby, president of Plaxall; Greg Pass, entrepreneurial officer for CornellNYC Tech; Jukay Hsu, founder of Coalition for Queens; Elias Roman, CEO and co-founder of Songza media; Elliot Park of Shine Electronics; and Gayle Baron, president of LIC Partnership. Featured elected officials who spoke included Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

Van Bramer kicked the morning off by noting that what was core to Long Island City were the arts and culture that had found a home in the region.

“Who in here believes that culture and the arts drives Long Island City,” Van Bramer asked the hundreds present and was answered with hundreds of applause.

Pinsky, head of the EDC since 2008, said it was important that the city take the lead in the ever-changing tech world. Some of the ways New York has begun to do that, he said, included the Cornell Tech Campus that will have a home on Roosevelt Island and incubators in Long Island City to boost start-ups and small businesses.

“First, the sector itself is a critical and growing sector,” Pinsky said. “We’re increasing employment, we’re seeing more economic activity, but I think that’s only half an answer. And that’s because the real reason why we’re so focused on the tech sector is that in the 21st century the tech sector will also be critical to the success of almost every other sector in our city’s economy. If our city doesn’t take a leadership in technology we’ll find it increasingly difficult to maintain our leadership position in anything else that we do.”

See photos from the event

As Cornell Tech, along with other satellite campuses across the city, begin to produce ambitious minded tech experts, they will most likely find a home in Long Island City because of its location and comparatively cheaper rent prices than Manhattan, several speakers said.

Plaxall over the last 20 years has fostered the art community that gradually grew in Long Island City, and now that community will be mixed with a technology community, said Kirby, who runs the real estate company with his cousin. The end result would be something Kirby said would be “amazing.”

“We already have the creative artists, now we can bring the creative technological people to Long Island City and to do that we need to do things that will make this an attractive area for them,” Kirby said. “I think Long Island City has the potential to be a location where we merge technology and art to create some amazing things.”

To attract the expected influx of techies, Plaxall is laying out plans for a community that could foster a merger between the arts and technology, Kirby said.

This community would be on 12 acres on the East River around what is known as the Anabel Basin. This community would include a mixed-use area of residential towers and buildings for technology companies, Kirby said. The vision for this area is to create “really a sustainable community where people can live, work and play that will attract the best and the brightest.”

Roman, the youngest speaker on the panel, said afterward that technology and culture had already become one in another and could open the doors for more and more potential.

“There’s an interesting intersection between technology and culture, where the technology becomes invisible and it’s all about the culture,” he said. “I think that’s a really exciting intersection to be at.”

Hunters Point library site dedicated

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


Hunters Point bookworms can soon curl up with a good read just inches from home.

Queens Library announced plans to construct a new branch at the corner of Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue in Hunters Point. The 21,500-square-foot facility, built on the banks of the East River, will feature a cyber-center, roof terrace and communal garden as well as separate reading spaces for adults, teens and children. According to Queens Library spokesperson Joanne King, the building will place an emphasis on environmental preservation, implementing ecologically-sound features to create an entirely carbon neutral structure.

Library officials expect to feature free cultural events and educational programs at the facility.

The building — priced at $28.6 million — was designed by world-famous architect Steven Holl, who specializes in environmentally efficient buildings.

The neighborhood lobbied strongly for the library, tired of trekking to their closest facility at the Court Square branch. King said residents felt they deserved a communal place to gather, share ideas and relax.

“They’re going to have a community hub,” said King. “It’s going to be an anchor of education and culture in the community — a community space where people can just relax and be. It will be recognizable from across the river and in the community so it’s going to give some status to the community itself by having this iconic building there as well as all the services a library provides.”

The waterfront site was dedicated at a ceremony on Friday, October 5 with the help of Borough President Helen Marshall and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. Students from P.S. 78 planted “trees of knowledge” during the Friday morning ceremony.

Dr. Don Dodelson, president of the group Friends of Hunters Point Library, was ecstatic that his outfit’s hard work had paid off.

“It feels wonderful that the library is actually going to be and dedicating the ground is a huge step forward,” said Dodelson.

Dodelson hopes the library will become an all-encompassing community center, housing performances and gallery showcases as well as ceremonies such as weddings and recitals.

JetBlue sign lights up LIC

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the mayor's office

Queens has a new guiding light after the flip was switched on a JetBlue sign in the airlines new home, Long Island City.

Local leaders joined JetBlue executives turning on the nearly 40-foot tall sign that sits atop the Brewster Building.

“New York City’s iconic skyline is a little brighter tonight, thanks to the success of JetBlue,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “It’s a great day for a company when it sees its name written in lights at the center of the global economy, and the new sign announces loud and clear that Long Island City is a world-class place to do business and create jobs.”

JetBlue is the largest domestic carrier at JFK, the mayor said, aiding in the city’s record-breaking tourism numbers.

The sign was designed as an honor to Long Island City’s other iconic landmarks, including the Pepsi and Silvercup symbols that welcome visitors journeying over the Queensboro Bridge. The sign will light up blue during the day and shine white at night, according to JetBlue spokesperson Allison Steinberg.

A zoning amendment was approved by the city council in April allowing the erection of the sign.

“The arrival of JetBlue in Long Island City is a milestone in the transformation of Queens Plaza, the gateway to Queens,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “As this area continues to develop into one of New York City’s foremost neighborhoods to do business, I know JetBlue will continue to light the way for others who will choose to call Long Island City home.”

— Additional reporting by Alexa Altman

Students get new supplies thanks to pol

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jason Banrey

For the third year in a row, hundreds of Queens children will crack open a new box of crayons and a fresh notebook at the start of this school year, thanks to a school supply drive sponsored by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

Over the past two years, nearly 10,000 items have been collected and distributed to children in need throughout western Queens. This year’s drive will benefit children from I.S. 125 in Woodside and P.S. 166 in Long Island City.

“It’s going to help families not have to make tough choices that no parent should ever have to make,” said Van Bramer. “When a family is struggling to pay rent and pay bills, they might not purchase the new book bag or buy all the loose-leaf binders and all the stuff they know their kids need. They simply can’t do it. We don’t want any kid to fall further behind simply because they don’t have enough money.”

Donation stations, set up at the Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island City, Broadway and Court Square branches of the Queens Library, are open for the public to drop off pencils, backpacks, notebooks and markers. Representatives from the councilmember’s camp will collect the items weekly, catalog them and contact schools in an effort to decide exactly what each campus needs.

The drive will run through September 10, but according to the councilmember, could potentially be extended. Van Bramer said they are collecting strictly new, unused items for the drive.

“All kids deserve an equal shot to learn to grow and to succeed,” said Van Bramer. “The first day of school is a time of extreme optimism. We want all the kids to have new, fresh supplies that signify the spirit of hope and optimism.”

Anyone interested in donating can drop off supplies at any of the District 26 branches of the Queens Library.

Councilmember Van Bramer weds longtime partner

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer wed Dan Hendrick, his partner of more than 13 years, in a ceremony at Long Island City’s Studio Square on Saturday, July 28. Surrounded by family and friends, the couple exchanged vows and said their “I do’s” before celebrating at a summery rooftop soiree.