Tag Archives: Jose Peralta

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Monday: Sunny. High 62. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Monday night: A few passing clouds. Low 44. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Restaurant letter-grade and fine system changes forum

State Sen. Jose Peralta, in conjunction with the 82nd Street Partnership, is hosting a forum for restaurateurs and small business owners to learn about proposed changes to the restaurant letter-grade and fine system and the new paid sick leave law. Officials from the city’s Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Consumer Affairs will detail the proposed changes and respond to questions. Representatives from the Department of Small Business Services will be on hand to talk about small business access to capital and offer help in navigating city agencies. Monday, April 21, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Langston Hughes Library, 100th Street and Northern Boulevard in Corona. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Brand names in NY standardized tests vex parents

“Just Do It” has been a familiar Nike slogan for years, but some parents are wondering what it was doing on some of New York’s Common Core standardized English tests. Read more: Fox New York

Flight from JFK makes emergency landing with cracked windshield

A cracked windshield is blamed for forcing a United Airlines flight from JFK to make an emergency landing Saturday. Read more: ABC New York

Two-thirds of city’s Airbnb rentals are illegal sublets: state

Nearly two-thirds of the city apartments recently listed on Airbnb were being offered in violation of the law, an analysis by state authorities has found. Read more: New York Post

EXCLUSIVE: Gov. Cuomo builds reelection campaign team that includes ad whiz behind Dante de Blasio video

Gov. Cuomo has hired the media firm that made a star last year of young Dante de Blasio and his Afro. Read more: New York Daily News 

Kraft recalls 96K pounds of Oscar Mayer Wieners

Kraft Foods Group, Inc., a Columbia, Mo., establishment is recalling approximately 96,000 pounds of Oscar Mayer Classic Wieners because the products may contain Classic Cheese Dogs in the Classic Wieners’ packages.  Read more: NBC News

Op-ed: It’s time for Congress to raise the minimum wage


| oped@queenscourier.com


U.S. SEN KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

It’s been more than four years since Congress last raised the federal minimum wage. Hard-working families are doing all they can to make ends meet during the worst economy of our lifetime – but through no fault of their own – feel like they are just slipping further behind.

When adjusted for inflation – the federal minimum wage of $7.25 today is much lower than its peak in 1968. Too many working poor families are below the poverty line, which not only holds these families back, but also holds back our local economy from its full potential growth.

New York City is home to three of the nation’s top 10 areas with the highest cost of living, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. Queens ranked seventh in the country. For Queens residents, it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet with the rising cost of groceries, rent, transportation, and basic necessities.

Last year, New York State passed legislation increasing the wage to $9 an hour by 2015. It’s no coincidence that of the 10 states with the lowest wage gaps, seven have set a minimum wage higher than the federal rate.

Now, it is time for Congress to follow New York’s lead and take action. It is simply unacceptable that a single parent working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year to support a family, earns just $290 a week. That’s $15,000 a year – without any time off. That salary is $3,000 below the poverty line for a family of three in New York.

We need an economy that rewards hard work. Raising the federal minimum wage would give working men, women and families the power to raise themselves into the middle class – and benefit the entire economy through stronger consumer confidence and more customers for local small businesses.

In fact, increasing wages to $10.10 an hour would boost incomes for millions of American workers, and generate billions in new economic growth, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

And let’s be clear, this is not just about teenagers working part-time summer jobs.

• Close to 90 percent of the lowest wage earners who would see their paychecks increase by raising the minimum wage are over the age of 20;

• 62 percent of minimum wage earners nationwide are women, who also happen to be a growing percentage of family breadwinners;

• Nearly one-third of all single parents in America would see an increase in pay by raising the minimum wage;

• Raising the minimum wage would help more than 15 million women in America.

Last year, I stood with State Senator Jose Peralta, Make the Road New York, and Queens businesses in Jackson Heights pushing for federal legislation to help millions of workers move from the working poor into the middle class with more money in their pockets being spent in our local economy.

This week, the U.S. Senate is expected to finally vote on legislation raising the wage to $10.10 an hour over the next 3 years and indexing it to inflation moving forward to allow the rate to keep up with rising costs of living.

The bill has broad support from business leaders – including the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street Alliance, and employers like Costco – because they know that strong wages lead to a stronger workforce, higher productivity, and a growing business.

This commonsense measure is long overdue. Boosting wages would not only lift working poor families above the poverty line and onto stable ground, it can also drive economic activity, boost Queens businesses and strengthen local economies.

 

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Republican Arcabascio to run for Borough President


| tcullen@queenscourier.com


An Astoria technology professional is eyeing a Borough Hall run as a Republican, making the race for borough president a little tighter.

Aurelio “Tony” Arcabascio confirmed his candidacy and expects to receive county endorsement soon.

Arcabascio, who ran his own technology company for 13 years, made his debut in the political world last year when he ran an unsuccessful race against State Senator Michael Gianaris for District 12.

Now, looking to represent the whole borough, Arcabascio said he wants to bring his experience as the only non-elected official to the table.

“I haven’t been caught up in politics for my whole career,” he esaid.

A product of Jackson Heights, Arcabascio, 52, will face one of six Democrats vying for the spot: Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Peter Vallone Jr., State Senators Jose Peralta and Tony Avella, former Councilmember and former Assemblymember Melinda Katz and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik.

The Dems will face off in a September 10 primary.

Arcabascio, who nabbed the GOP endorsement for Senate last year, expects to pick it back up for borough president. Queens Republican chair Phil Ragusa said the candidate is going through the screening process for the endorsement, and a formal announcement should come soon.

With his background in technology, Arcabascio said he is open to bringing more of the industry’s jobs to the borough, especially in western areas such as Long Island City and Maspeth.

“We have a lot of empty factories in Queens,” he said. “One of the things I believe would be my responsibility as the number one cheerleader for Queens is to get businesses here.”

 

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Call for crossing guard at ‘dangerous’ Elmhurst intersection


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

A local politician and a school principal are calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to ensure the safety of pedestrians, especially school children, who cross a “dangerous” intersection.

In March, Senator Jose Peralta urged DOT to take a closer look at the intersection of Junction Boulevard and the Horace Harding Expressway in Elmhurst. The 110th and 112th Precincts had advised him neither would provide a crossing guard. A guard used to monitor the intersection.

“This is a very dangerous intersection for students and it is imperative that we have proper supervision at this corner,” P.S. 206 Principal Joan Thomas wrote in a request to bring back a school crossing guard. “I am very concerned about the safety of my children.”

P.S. 206, located at 61-02 98th Street, is near the heavily trafficked area. Students cross the intersection on their way between home and school every day.

“Every neighborhood needs safe streets to thrive,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. “That’s why Junction Boulevard and Horace Harding Expressway in Queens need to be made safe for local children, families and seniors.”

According to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the School Safety Engineering Office surveyed the area near P.S. 206 and found that all the signs and marking were in place and in fair conditions. Khan added that the DOT has asked its Signals Unit to consider installing Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI). LPIs give pedestrians time to begin crossing the street before the light turns green for drivers.

“Leading Pedestrian Intervals would be very helpful, and I hope the DOT can put them in place very soon,” Peralta said.

The senator is also calling for a speed camera.

“In the interim, I’m going to keep pushing in the Senate to allow the city to start installing speed cameras,” said Peralta, who is sponsoring a bill to that effect. “But that all said, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there’s no substitute for a crossing guard to ensure the safety of school children at a dangerous intersection like this one.”

As of press time, DOT did not respond to numerous calls and emails requesting traffic stats for the intersection. Crashstat.org noted one fatality there in 2006.

 

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Call for gun control as Corona murder remains unsolved


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Debra Greene received a call at work last April that changed her life forever. Her oldest son, Theodore Malcolm Greene, had been shot on his way home by an unknown perpetrator and by the time she reached the hospital, Theodore was gone.

One year later, there are still no answers for this grieving mother who said all she wants is closure and justice.

“It’s not easy, there’s no closure,” said Greene. “I fight with anger all the time. Someone had to have seen something.”

The 26-year-old victim had been coming back from celebrating a friend’s birthday in Manhattan when he was approached at approximately 5 a.m. and shot 21 times in front of 98-25 Horace Harding Expressway in LeFrak City on Friday, April 20.

Greene said all she knows is that there had been a fight at the club that night, but that through surveillance videos, police noted her son was not a part of the quarrel.

“None of this makes sense to me,” said Greene. “I would like to know, I would like justice.”

Now, Councilmember Daniel Dromm and Senator Jose Peralta have come together to urge local residents to speak up and help solve this murder. An additional $2,000 has been pledged to the initial $22,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.

“A killer is free in New York City and we don’t know who that is,” said Dromm. “By increasing the reward amount, we are sending a strong message that we are not giving up on our search.”

Peralta said the community needs to denounce gun violence loudly and help save another similar incident from happening.

“Guns are a plague in some Queens communities,” said Peralta. “I will continue my fight to get them off of our streets and to put violent criminals in jail.”

Dromm also addressed the recent vote in Congress surrounding gun control.

“It’s a total disgrace,” he said. “We have to, as Americans, realize that gun violence affects our communities, affects families, affects mothers. When a mother loses a child, their life is never the same again.”

Along with lending his support in helping solve the LeFrak City murder, Peralta emphasized the need to pass firearm microstamping, which would allow guns and ammunition to become easier to track with markings on shell casings left behind at crime scenes. This method, Peralta believes, could have already helped solve Theodore’s murder.

“It will take all of us working together as neighbors and friends to bring peace to the lives of the family of Theodore Greene and at least some comfort,” said Peralta. “These bullet cases could be the difference between finding the killer and not.”

In the meantime, Greene passes the site where her son was cut down every day.

Some days, she said, are better than others. But some days, reality hits and she remembers her “smart boy” who had plans for a future.

Officials are asking anyone with information on this incident to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

 

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Borough President candidates making the rounds


| editorial@queenscourier.com

BP candidates

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

Borough President candidates are blazing through Queens, participating in forums and allowing the community to hear their positions.

The six Democrats hoping to replace current Borough President Helen Marshall most recently gathered at the Hollis Hills Jewish Center in Fresh Meadows and attended the Ridgewood Democratic Club’s monthly meeting.

State Senators Tony Avella and Jose Peralta joined City Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Leroy Comrie, former Assembly and Councilmember Melinda Katz and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik to speak to members of several Democratic clubs across Queens.

In Fresh Meadows, discussion of mayoral control of the Board of Education (BOE) dominated the forum.
Grodenchik said he has mixed feelings towards the issue, but he wants to “bring some measure of control back to the boroughs.”

The controversy surrounding development of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was also heavily debated. Peralta said he in favor of the proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium, but would ensure that the park space used not only has to be replaced, but improved.

“It has to be better,” he said, calling soccer “the sport of the world.”

Despite his support for the stadium, he is opposed to the proposed plans for a shopping mall and an expansion of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) center.

Vallone said that he wanted to eliminate overexpansion in the park and bring it to areas in the borough that are “yearning for that kind of development.”

Avella, however, said he is the only candidate that is steadfastly against all three proposals for development.

All of the candidates will continue to campaign and participate in forums across Queens until election day on

Tuesday, November 5. The next forum will be held at St. John’s University on Friday, April 12.

 

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Borough president candidates pick up endorsements


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

fe315fd1-229b-4154-8200-0c149db1f1afwallpaper

As the candidates start to get out and campaign, the race is heating up for the next Queens borough president.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who has led in terms of fundraising since mid-2012, was the most recent candidate to officially kick off his campaign with an event on Monday, March 11 in his native Astoria. Norman Seabrook, president of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, gave the group’s endorsement at the rally.

Former councilmember and former assemblymember Melinda Katz has picked up the backing of the late former Mayor Ed Koch, and the Rev. Floyd Flake, a former congressmember and current senior pastor of the Greater Allen A. M. E. Cathedral of New York.

“It’s been 20 years,” she said of her relationships and endorsements. “I’ve been extremely fortunate in my life to have made a lot of friends.” As former chair of the Land Use Committee, Katz said she gained considerable experience working with the entire borough, either to preserve neighborhoods or help economic growth in others.

State Senator Jose Peralta, representing mainly Corona, has been an advocate for replenishing portions of his district, particularly developing Willets Point and cleaning up Roosevelt Avenue. Union 32 BJ SEIU endorsed Peralta’s candidacy on Friday, March 8.

“No one fights harder for working families and immigrant New Yorkers than SEIU 32BJ, and I am thrilled that they have joined our campaign,” Peralta said. “The thousands of 32BJ members who live in Queens know that we need new leadership to make sure that every child receives a great public school education, that families have a chance to succeed no matter where they come from, and that no neighborhood or borough is left behind when it comes to city services and public safety.”

Former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik has been backed by Queens-based Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “It is an honor to have the support of Local 3, and the thousands of Queens residents that belong to this great union,” Grodenchik said. “Together we’re going to bring hands on, visible leadership, and continue the fight to bring good paying jobs to Queens.”

Representatives for Councilmember Leroy Comrie and State Senator Tony Avella were contacted regarding their races, but did not return calls as of press time.

 

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Katz campaign raises over $280,000 in quest for Borough Presidency


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Melinda Katz is taking a lead in campaign finances for the borough presidency as her campaign announced the former politician has raised more than $280,000 in the last four months.

“I am so appreciative to our hundreds of donors and their support for my candidacy,” Katz said in a statement. “Our fundraising success is a reflection of how well our message is being received among Queens residents.   The campaign, based on improving the lives of all Queens residents by increasing economic opportunities, and striking the proper balance with the needs of a community is resonating.”

The campaign has roughly $250,000 on hand; $40,000 of which can be matched by the city’s match fund, adding an extra $240,000 to her war chest, according to a campaign statement.

Katz, who hasn’t been in office since 2009, nabbed an endorsement from former Mayor Ed Koch last month in the hotly-contested race for Borough Hall.

She faces off against Councilmembers Peter Vallone and Leroy Comrie; State Senators Jose Peralta and Tony Avella; and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik – who stepped down from his position last month to run.

Vallone is reported to still lead on the fundraising front, having capped out how much he could raise some time ago.

 

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Op-Ed: Recognize a good deal for what it is


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Peralta new

By State Senator Jose Peralta

It’s not surprising to hear heated debate about soccer in Queens. After all, the international pastime is as much at home in the country’s most diverse county, and as much a part of people’s lives, as it is just about anyplace else in the world.

The most heated debate of all, however, isn’t whether Messi is better than Ronaldo, but whether to build a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

In the Corona and Jackson Heights communities that I represent, children, youth, 20-somethings and old-timers flock to the park by the tens of thousands to play and watch soccer. Unfortunately, many of the fields there are in disrepair to the point of being a danger to the players using them. And the nearest big league soccer franchise calls New Jersey home.

The good news for soccer fans and weekend warriors is that Major League Soccer (MLS) proposes building a 25,000-seat stadium in the park that would be home to a new franchise. If MLS gets to build the stadium, it has committed to renovating the park’s athletic fields.

Renovations would be staggered in a way to ensure that playing fields are always available to local youth and adult leagues and other users.

The upgrades would be completed before construction of the stadium even starts.

Both the renovation of park playing fields and construction of the stadium would be entirely privately financed. The construction would provide a boost to the local economy at a time we desperately need it. The parkland taken up by the new stadium would be replaced by MLS acre-for-acre.

The stadium would be built at the site of what is known as the Fountain of Industry, which hasn’t been a fountain in decades and has no recreational use. The stadium’s projected 11-acre footprint would encompass the 6.5 acres now taken up by the long-dormant fountain, the 2.5-acre traffic circle surrounding it, and 2 acres of adjancent grass.

MLS would replace all 11 acres with an equal amount of space usable for recreation and accessible to current users of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The league also has committed to spending millions of additional dollars renovating and improving other areas of Flushing Meadows and other local parks and playgrounds.

I understand the concern and trepidation that any encroachment on beloved park space creates. Indeed, my ultimate support for this project is contingent on the quality and accessibility of the replacement parkland MLS secures.

But if MLS makes good on the terms of its proposal, we will end up with more and better recreation and green space with the stadium than without it.

We must be vigilant and diligent, however, to ensure that MLS honors its commitments, including the pledge to invest in new fields and other park improvements. But in holding MLS’s feet to the fire, let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot.

Let’s recognize a good deal for what it is. And bringing a big-league soccer franchise to Queens and rejuvenating Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is certainly a good deal.

It’s an even better deal when you factor in the economic impact, in the form of desperately needed jobs, including 2,000 union construction positions. If you happen to subscribe to the idea that many of the permanent and game-day jobs this project would generate are not worthy of anyone’s time or effort, there is no shortage of people out of work, or whose unemployment benefits have run out, who will tell you otherwise.

In addition, some 700 local, mostly small businesses, support the soccer stadium proposal because they think it will improve their bottom line.

MLS is seeking community input on the location of the replacement parkland and other local parks in need of improvement. By working together to make sure MLS addresses our needs and concerns, fans, park-goers and our economy will all reap the benefits of this project.

State Senator Jose Peralta represents the 13th District, which includes Corona and Jackson Heights.

Vallone officially announces borough president bid


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo by Alex DiBlasi

Councilmember Peter Vallone’s holiday surprise wasn’t all that surprising.

Vallone announced his bid for Queens borough president at his father’s annual holiday party on Tuesday, December 11, surrounded by friends and family. Throughout the year, rumors have swirled about the Astoria councilmember’s potential run for Borough President Helen Marshall’s soon-to-be-empty seat. However, Vallone never officially stated until the party that he intended to run for the borough presidency.

“I’ve been considering [running] for a long time now. I’ve been out there fighting for the borough I love for a long time. I’ve got a track record of doing that. I understand what Queens is about. I’m a product of Queens. I’m going to spend the rest of my life in Queens. I’d like to work with all of you to continue to make Queens even better and better,” Vallone said.

So far, Vallone has raised roughly $1.5 million for his borough president campaign — significantly higher than any other potential candidate.

Former Councilmember and Assemblymember Melinda Katz, Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik, State Senator Jose Peralta and State Senator Tony Avella have already announced their intentions to run for Marshall’s seat. Councilmember Leroy Comrie, a favorite of the Queens County Democratic Party, is rumored to be running for BP as well.

Vallone said his business background separated him in the crowded field.

“I understand Queens. I’ve spent my whole life here — raised my family here. I still live around the corner from my dad,” he said. “The law firm has been there since 1932. Queens is made up of small business owners like the people in this room, and I am the only candidate with any business experience.”

Smith’s move could stymie State Senate Democrats


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Malcolm Smith #8

State Senator Malcolm Smith, representing southeast Queens, announced he joined the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) in an allegiance with Republican representatives. This will possibly give the pact a tandem leadership of the chamber and stymie the Democrats, who seemingly took power in November’s election.

The tenured senator is now joining a coalition that will split power between two of the three sects in the Senate, with incumbent Senate Leader Dean Skelos switching every two weeks with Bronx IDC Senator Jeff Klein.

Klein’s spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Smith wants to focus more on policy than politicking, said spokesperson Hank Sheinkopf.

In 2009, two freshman Democrat state senators joined Republicans to vote for a change that would have effectively removed Smith as senate leader.

The two senators later retracted and sided back with Dems.

“As someone who has been a victim of a coup,” Sheinkopf said, “and has seen chaos, this would be the best way to ensure that there would be no chaos. He wanted to make sure that it didn’t happen again.”

The senator, whose district will no longer include the storm-ravaged Rockaways, wants to focus on better transit, among other issues concerning the state, Sheinkopf said.

Though Smith is joining a coalition that will be allied with Republican senators, Sheinkopf said Smith remains a Democrat.

And while some Democrats are cautiously optimistic, others are appalled by what is known of the plan so far. Senator Joseph Addabbo, one of the Queens senators in office during the 2009 leadership crisis, said the Senate is at a crossroads right now. If power is split between all three sects of the higher house, GOP, IDC and Democrats, then a true allied government could be productive. However, should there be what Addabbo called a continued blockage by Skelos against Democratic bills, constituents will suffer as a result and the progress of government will get nowhere.

The New York State Senate Democratic Conference released statements following the news of Smith’s move, and claimed Republicans ultimately hurt constituents by holding up the legislative process.

“This is not a coalition but a coup against all New Yorkers who voted for Democratic control of the Senate and a progressive state government,” said Democratic spokesperson Mike Murphy. “Sadly, the real victims of today’s announcement are the people of our state, whose clearly expressed desire for progress on a host of issues will now be scuttled.”

Senator Jose Peralta, also a candidate for borough president, said he always had a great relationship with Smith and looked forward to continuing that despite the move, focusing on borough-wide issues and doing whatever possible to enact legislation at the state level.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Senator Malcolm Smith in the legislature in Albany and in communities in Queens,” Peralta said. “While I am deeply disappointed that he will not be a member of the Senate Democratic Conference, I will work to keep open a line of communication between Senator Smith and the conference and am hopeful he will fight to enact long-overdue sensible gun legislation, raise the minimum wage, improve our schools and ensure access to decent, affordable housing for all New Yorkers.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in an editorial for the Albany Times-Union, noted that he would not support either side at this time, or discuss the actions of particular legislators.

He did note, however, that the Democrat-led senate, which held power from 2009 to 2011, had failed to pass much legislation and cited leadership crises during that time. In addition, the governor listed what legislation he supported, including a minimum wage increase and reform to the much-discussed stop-and-frisk policy.

“The Democratic Conference was in power for two years and squandered the opportunity, failing to pass any meaningful reform legislation despite repeated promises,” he wrote. “The Democratic Conference dysfunction was legendary and the current leadership has failed to come to a cooperative agreement with Mr. Klein’s IDC faction.”

Murphy, in a statement responding to the op-ed, said the governor’s agenda was almost a match to members of the conference. Democratic senators, he said, would continue to fight for New Yorkers’ wants and needs and jeer the Republicans for any missteps in constituents’ needs.

“The governor has now presented a similar agenda including many issues the new Republican Coalition has opposed,” he said. “Senate Democrats will continue to lead the fight on this progressive agenda, and we will hold the Senate Republican Coalition accountable until New Yorkers get the progressive change they deserve.”

MLS pitches Queens soccer stadium to community


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Major League Soccer

As most of the 500-plus inside the Queens Theater cheered for a new soccer team to play just yards away, a small crowd gathered in the lobby with signs that contrasted the ones ushers offered when walking in.

A town hall meeting on Tuesday, December 3 hosted by Major League Soccer (MLS) to inform the community of its plans to build a 25,000 seat stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park over what is currently the Fountain of Planets.

“Our goal is to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world by 2022,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “This team and this stadium will help us achieve that. You can’t be a dominate soccer league without having a dominate team in the largest, and most important city in the world.”

The theater itself was filled mostly with soccer supporters who wanted to see MLS’ potential 20th team call Queens its home. In between translations or speakers, cheers could be heard such as “build it, baby.”

A highlight of Garber’s presentation was the support to local small businesses surrounding the park and fuel the already bulging soccer culture that’s developed in the borough.

More than 700 businesses had signed letters of support of the stadium, Garber said. He also likened a tradition by fans of the Seattle Sounders FC, who will often march to the stadium and stop at local businesses on the way.

The league has set out to speak to communities throughout the borough — particularly those that surround the park — including a presentation to the Queens Borough Board the night before. The questions asked by the audience focused on getting jobs at the arena, who would own the new team and where the displaced parkland would go.

State Senator Jose Peralta voiced his support for the project and promised to keep the league accountable for the promises attached to the stadium.

“Obviously, there’s a lot to like about MLS’ proposal,” he said. “But as I have said to them before, and I will say to MLS again tonight, we’re going to hold your feet to the fire.” But while he promised to ensure the lost parkland would be replaced, “let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot. Let’s recognize a good deal for what it is and work together to ensure that all the parties hold up their end of the agreement.”

Those waiting in the lobby, however, thought any kind of deal is wrong and replaced greenspace would never redeem that which is lost. The meeting, some added, was more of a rally for bringing pro soccer to Queens instead of an actual town hall.

“This is a promotional event for Major League Soccer,” said Donovan Finn, a member of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. “I guess they can call it whatever they want, but it’s not the transparent process that Commissioner Garber was talking about during his presentation.”

Only about two of the projected 10 to 13 acres eaten up in the project would be from grassy areas in the park, according to MLS officials. The rest, mainly concrete walkways and the fountain itself, has been considered a closed off and under used part of the borough’s largest park.

NYC Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft doesn’t think the designated site is a boondock patch of park, and alleged the league was making claims to sway public interest toward the stadium.

Several attendees against the stadium alleged organizers opted to have them sit in another room with the meeting broadcasted into the it. Finn, who he arrived at 7 p.m. just as the meeting was starting, said he was told that since he did not have a reserved seat, he would have to sit in the lower room and watch from there.

“I came in right at 7 o’clock and I was asked if I had a reserved seat,” she said. “And I said ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ then they said, ‘You’re in the basement.’”

This was not the case, however, and the league had opened the room to everyone, said MLS spokesperson Risa Heller. The league had widely advertised the meeting in the two weeks leading up, she said, and tried to get the word out through mass and social media.

“Any suggestion that our town hall wasn’t open to the public is sour grapes,” she said. “This was a come one, come all event.”

Avella announces borough president run


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Tony Avella

A northeast Queens legislator has joined the large circle of Democrats vying for next year’s borough presidency.

State Senator Tony Avella, 61, announced he will run to replace outgoing Borough President Helen Marshall.

“I think Queens needs a voice, and I don’t think we’ve had that,” said Avella, who won re-election to his Senate seat earlier this month. “The office of the borough president could be much more involved in handling the borough-wide issues. I just think we could do a much better job.”

The former two-term city councilmember said he is “continually frustrated” at unhandled problems in Queens, including tree maintenance, curb replacement and school issues.

Superstorm Sandy, Avella said, could have also been less devastating if the borough leader fought for resources that instead went to other parts of the city.

“It runs the gamut,” he said. “What really made the decision for me was the lack of preparation and response to Queens after the hurricane. I thought the office of the borough president could have been much more visible and much more active.”

Other big name Democratic candidates who have announced their intent to vie for the seat include Councilmember Leroy Comrie, State Senator José Peralta and former legislator Melinda Katz.

Councilmember Peter Vallone and Deputy Queens Borough President Barry Grodenchik are also rumored to be eyeing the position.

“I think I have widespread name recognition throughout the borough,” Avella said. “I think I take a much more hands-on approach, which I think is really necessary.”

Avella said he would seek an endorsement from the Queens County Democratic Committee but would run regardless of the party’s support.

Peralta launches borough president campaign


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Peralta new

What State Senator Jose Peralta says he brings to the borough president race is almost a decade of experience in politics and representing the strong diversity in the borough.

“I have the track record, the proven track record over the last 10 years that I can point to and say, ‘these are my accomplishments, these are the issues I have tackled that affect Queens and brought results,’” he said.

Peralta kicked off his campaign for borough president on Monday, October 22 at the Novo Lounge in Jackson Heights. He is the second potential candidate to officially launch a campaign for the November 2013 election.

Former Councilmember and former Assemblymember Melinda Katz began her campaign with an official event on Wednesday, October 10.

Peralta said understanding the diversity of Queens, the most of any other in the city, was crucial to the borough presidency – saying his district was the most diverse of any in the senate.

“Queens is the united nations of all boroughs,” he said. “I happen to represent the most diverse district in the New York State Senate. It uniquely positions me to run for Queens Borough President.”

He served in the assembly for seven years, representing communities with high Hispanic populations in neighborhoods including Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

He won the seat in a March 2010 special election after the senate voted to expel Hiram Monseratte as he faced assault charges.

Peralta’s tenure in the assembly and senate includes pushing for development at Willets Point. In May, he wrote an open letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo to appeal for consideration of Willets Point — or a nearby area — for a potential convention center, citing a high number of construction and permanent jobs for the area. He has recently, along with colleague Assemblymember Francisco Moya, supported a potential Major League Soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Continued development to Queens is something Peralta says he would work on if elected borough president, but “we need to make sure it’s responsible; it’s a responsible impact where both the community and Queens as a borough benefit.”

Other Beep potentials include Councilmembers Peter Vallone and Leroy Comrie, who have both said they’re still considering a run. Incumbent Borough President Helen Marshall is set to leave Borough Hall in December 2013 because of term limits. Neither Marshall, nor the borough’s Democratic Party is expected to endorse a candidate at this time, and it’s still unknown when a primary would take place.

Melinda Katz kicks off campaign for borough president


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

Noting that it was crucial to determine what the common needs of a diverse borough like Queens were, Melinda Katz, former member of the City Council and Assembly, embarked Wednesday, October 10 on a year-long run for the borough president’s office — after incumbent Helen Marshall steps down at the end of 2013 due to term limits.

“It is such an important office in our city,” said Katz as she began her run at Portofino’s in her native Forest Hills. “Queens is a diverse borough, and part of the job of a borough president, I believe, is when to make sure that when you are representing so many different groups, so many ethnic backgrounds, so many religions, so many languages throughout this entire borough, part of your job is to find the common core of what people truly want for their families.

Katz was joined by former colleagues in the Assembly including Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry and now Congressmember Joseph Crowley. Crowley also heads the Queens Democratic Party — which is not expected to endorse any of the several Democratic potentials for the post in the near future.

Of his former colleague’s record, Crowley said Katz had always been a go-getter, resilient and has many years to add on her already tenured political career.

“She’s a tough cookie,” Crowley said. “You have to be tough in this business, I think, in New York City politics. She is someone I think is well rounded in her Queens tradition. She knows this borough very, very well.”

Katz left the City Council at the end of 2009 after serving two terms representing District 29, which includes Forest Hills and Rego Park. Before that, she served in the Assembly — representing relatively the same neighborhoods — from 1994 to 2001. Her political career began with three years working at Borough Hall under long-time Borough President Claire Schulman. In the meantime, she’s served as a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, a Manhattan law firm where she specializes in government affairs and land use.

Among potential competition are State Senator Jose Peralta and Councilmember Peter Vallone, who’s term limited out of the chamber at the end of next year. While Peralta has officially announced his candidacy — and has a kick-off planned on October 22 — Vallone says he’s “seriously considering” a run.

And while it’s uncertain when a multi-way primary will take place, Katz said she’s ready for what lies ahead in her quest to lead the borough.

“I feel strong,” she said. “I love government, the majority of my adult career has been in government. It’s always been my wish to be able to do what I can for this borough. It’s going to be a good year.”