Tag Archives: Jose Peralta

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.”

Hundreds rally against development at Flushing Meadows


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The Unisphere was lit-up red for American Heart Month

Hundreds of residents packed into the Our Lady of Sorrows auditorium in Corona to make known that they want to keep their park.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the biggest park in Queens, is currently being considered for the development of a new shopping mall, two new stadiums and concert venues and several parking garages and roads inside the park.

“We are here this evening because we are going to discuss an area that is our neighbor, it means so much to us,” said Monsignor Thomas Healy of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Several people held up signs reading, “Don’t destroy our second home,” and “Don’t kill our nature.”

The Fairness Coalition of Queens, a group of nonprofit community and religious organizations, hosted the town hall meeting on Monday, September 17 to speak with the community about the effects of the potential projects in the 1,255-acre park.

Many residents are displeased with the proposed plans because they wish to keep an area that, for many, is the only open space available near home. They do not want to lose an area that many people use for both relaxation and exercise.

City Councilmember Julissa Ferreras was also in attendance, and spoke to an enthusiastic crowd about her love for Flushing Meadows.

“We understand that each inch of land we give up is an inch we are not getting back,” she said. “Today this [meeting] has shown to the world that our community does matter, and that our park is our park.”

Amongst hopeful developers are the Wilpon family, the owner of the New York Mets, who proposes to use parkland west of Citi Field to build the largest shopping mall in the city, at 1.4 million-square-feet.

Also, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) wishes to construct two new tennis stadiums and two parking garages within the park.

Danny Zausner, managing director of the tennis center, previously said that the USTA plans will not impact the spot in a footprint perspective.

“We’re taking our existing parking lots in that perimeter and building up,” Zausner said.

Finally, Major League Soccer (MLS) seeks to build a 25,000-seat stadium and concert venue, along with an additional parking garage.

Senator Jose Peralta advocates the construction of an MLS stadium, and has a number of supporters behind him.

Peralta, a Willets Point supporter who went to Monday’s meeting, says that having a new soccer field in a soccer-crazed community could only be beneficial. The number of construction, game-day and permanent jobs could be advantageous to the largely working-class population.

If an MLS stadium is constructed, the senator’s office is also looking into replacement parkland to establish nearby.

In a statement issued by the MLS, it is said that the organization is committed to securing another team for the league located in New York City, and are “thrilled about bringing the world’s sport to the world’s park.” MLS is open to working with the community to build a facility for everyone to enjoy, they said.

“A privately financed soccer stadium to replace a big hole in the ground filled with dirty water is a good deal for soccer fans and the park-goers who would get to enjoy the many upgrades to the park,” said Peralta.

Op Ed: Human trafficking is not victimless


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY SENATOR JOSE PERALTA

I introduced a bill last year, which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law, prohibiting the distribution of obscene, business-card-sized ads for prostitutes.  These so-called “chica” cards, which have been handed out along Roosevelt Avenue and adjacent streets for many years, feature promises of “free delivery.”

After a press conference at which I unveiled my chica cards bill, the problem drew attention.  The cards were the subject of some jokes.

And it turned out that one of the cards we enlarged and displayed at the press conference pictured an international supermodel.

The harsh reality, however, is that there is absolutely nothing funny, or glamorous, about prostitution.

The fact is, many women from around the world and across the country are brought here — to New York, to Roosevelt Avenue — and are enslaved, forced to have sex with strangers for the profit of human traffickers and pimps.

We have to dispel the dangerous notion that prostitution is a victimless crime.

And we do that with information and by raising awareness.  Someone aware of the brutal truth is less likely to participate in the continued exploitation of these women.

And that’s the point of the public awareness campaign I am launching.  I put it together in conjunction with the mayor’s office and Restore NYC, a non-profit that provides aftercare services to sex-trafficking victims and operates a safe house in Queens.  The campaign consists of getting posters into storefront windows and informational, palm-sized pamphlets into people’s hands along Roosevelt Avenue and neighboring streets, areas where many of the women trafficked into New York are prostituted.

Again, someone who understands what these women are really going through is less likely to participate in their brutal exploitation.

As Faith Huckel, co-founder of Restore NYC observes, “sex trafficking is one of the most violent humanitarian issues of our day.  To call it anything less is to disregard the trauma, rape and abuse experienced on the part of the victim.”

Traffickers prey on the poor and vulnerable.  They use promises of a good job or a false marriage proposal to lure victims.  Other victims are kidnapped or sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands or boyfriends.  Many of these women are being abused and exploited in public and private locations in our very own communities, including Jackson Heights, Corona and Flushing.

We must seek justice for trafficked women.  To that end I have also I introduced a bill in the New York State Senate to reclassify sex trafficking as a violent felony and increase the minimum jail sentence to five years.  The minimum sentence currently is one to three years.

Classifying sex trafficking as a violent felony not only raises the minimum sentence for a first offense, it can put someone that commits multiple violent offenses away for life under the persistent violent offender law.

By raising awareness and imposing penalties commensurate with the brutality inherent in sex trafficking, I hope that we can put at least some traffickers and pimps out of business and keep them from destroying more lives.

Senator Peralta is the Ranking Democrat on the Labor Committee and also serves as a member of the Finance, Investigations and Insurance Committees.

New campaign to fight sex trafficking in Queens


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Lied_Englishw

When Angelina (not her real name) was 17, a man referred to as her “boyfriend” brought her from Honduras to the United States and forced her to work as a prostitute. The teenager endured beatings and abuse for nearly a year before she called the police. Through investigation, authorities discovered Angelina was a victim of sex trafficking.

Senator Jose Peralta, along with civil rights group Restore NYC, assembled a flyer-based campaign to increase awareness about human trafficking and attack the persistent problem in Queens’ immigrant neighborhoods.

Posters in the windows of hundreds of businesses throughout Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona depict a woman’s shadowed profile and harrowing lament in English and Spanish. “He promised me a place to stay. Then he forced me to work as a prostitute,” they read.

Roosevelt Avenue is a center of activity, said Peralta. The cleansing of Times Square at the end of the 20th century sent pimps and pushers to new quarters, setting up camp in hidden corners of the outer boroughs. According to Peralta, the dimly-lit stretch under the No. 7 train bred lowlifes who reveled in the area’s veiled corridors and easy access to Manhattan. The neighborhood echoed Las Vegas as men, stationed every four blocks, distributed business cards, emblazoned with images of nude women.

“Chica, chica,” they would say, advertising the young girls, as they slipped the cards into the palms of passers-by.

Adolescent boys scooped up the sinful swatches, trading them like baseball cards. Enraged parents, discovering piles of porn in their children’s bedrooms, informed Peralta of the card-dispensing creeps. Peralta informed the governor, who signed a law banning the cards in November 2011.

Now, instead of naked women, men give out cards with pictures of fruit on them, indicating they deliver between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. and provide the best “fruit.”

Jimmy Lee, executive director of Restore NYC, estimated 15,000 people are trafficked in the United States every year, several thousand of whom end up in the New York City area. While individuals are smuggled into the country for forced prostitution and labor, Restore NYC focuses on assisting victims of sex trafficking. According to Lee, the average age of a woman his organization assists is 23.

Most victims of sex trafficking in western Queens come from Mexico, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. Some are from just a few states away, coming to New York with aspirations for life in the big city.

“The American Dream, the good life, the fast buck, the short cut — that’s the hook,” said Peralta.

Predators target women from their home countries, exploiting their shared cultural mindset and familiar background. If a woman expresses interest in fleeing, their captors threaten to kill them or their families.

Peralta hopes the posters spread a message of hope, letting victims know help is available and informing those who previously turned a blind eye to the plight of thousands.

Queens politicians eyeing run for borough president


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

bp

Although Helen Marshall still has one year left on her third term as borough president, several big names are rumored to be eyeing a run for the job.

Councilmember Peter Vallone said that although he hasn’t made an official announcement yet, he’s seriously considering running for the borough presidency. Vallone, who currently represents Astoria, said he’s been traveling throughout Queens and getting a good reception from residents.

“I’m getting a great reception,” he said. “I am very pleased with the amount of support we’re finding.”

Vallone went on to say he would further his work in the city council if elected borough president.

“I’ve lived every day of my life in Queens,” he said, “and I’ve been fighting for Queens for the last 10 years.”

About $1 million has been raised for Vallone’s campaign, which he said is significantly higher than any other potential candidate.

While State Senator Jose Peralta’s office could not comment as to whether he is considering running, a committee has been formed called “Peralta 2013,” according to the State Board of Elections (BOE). The committee is active and is listed as a local committee for Queens County, said John Conklin, a representative from the BOE.

Another councilmember expected to run is Leroy Comrie, who currently represents the 27th District in the borough.

At deadline, Comrie was not available to discuss his interest in running for the spot. A campaign page on Facebook, however, was created in December 2011.

Others who have been rumored to run for BP were not able to confirm or deny a potential campaign.

Op Ed: The case for Willets Point


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

By State Senator Jose Peralta

It was tremendously disappointing to learn that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to build the country’s largest convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack will not come to fruition.

No sooner had the governor announced the plan during his State of the State address in January than I endorsed the idea and offered to help however I could in making the governor’s vision for the Aqueduct venue a reality.

Fortunately, there is another viable venue in Queens that has numerous significant advantages over other locations reportedly under consideration elsewhere in the city.  That site is Willets Point.

Willets Point is, quite literally, across the street from some of the city’s most popular destinations: Citi Field, the National Tennis Center and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.  The No. 7 train runs from these locations westward, all along Roosevelt Avenue, to Grand Central Terminal.  Millions of New Yorkers and visitors to the city each year take in a Mets game or U.S. Open match, or participate in a festival or recreational activity in the park.

And there perhaps is no more diverse a culinary experience to be enjoyed anywhere on the planet than along neighboring Roosevelt Avenue, which is lined with restaurants specializing in a nearly mind-numbing array of cuisines from all over the world.

In addition, the area, which is also accessible via multiple bus lines and the Long Island Railroad, is just minutes from La Guardia and Kennedy Airports.  The extension underway of the No. 7 line, already one of the city’s busiest, will add greatly to the area’s commercial appeal and potential.

Whether by plane, train, subway, bus or car, you can get to Willets Point relatively easily from anywhere in the world.  The transportation infrastructure already servicing the area dwarfs what other potential venues in and around the city have to offer.

Making the case for Willets Point even stronger are the plans to develop the area, long an eyesore that includes the Iron Triangle, a maze of auto repair and scrap businesses.  To the east of Citi Field, plans call for retail, hotel and commercial spaces to go along with a residential community of 2,500 housing units, 875 of which will be affordable housing.

Immediately to the west of Citi Field, a stadium parking lot will be converted into a one-million-square-foot retail and entertainment center, complete with more than 200 retail stores, movie theaters, restaurants, entertainment venues, a parking structure and surface parking for 2,500 cars.

Not surprisingly, Crain’s New York Business reported last week that Willets Point “is seen as the trade show industry’s first choice for a huge convention center.”

I trust that the governor will give Willets Point the serious consideration its many advantages warrant.  I look forward to a meaningful discussion of why the site would make an ideal home for the largest convention center in the United States, as well as the opportunity to help bring thousands of construction and permanent jobs to Queens.

 

Senator Peralta says Willets Point perfect for convention center


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Courting of Willets Point as a potential site for what could be the nation’s largest convention center – and a major booster for New York City’s economy – has begun, with an open letter from State Senator Jose Peralta to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In the letter, Peralta notes that he supported the governor’s original announcement in January to build a convention center at Aqueduct.

He goes on to say that although it was unfortunate that current talks have fallen through, there are still options in north Queens.

“Fortunately, there is another viable venue in Queens that, I hope you will agree, has numerous significant advantages over other locations reportedly under consideration elsewhere in the city,” he writes. “That site is Willets Point.”

Peralta says the area that is currently the Iron Triangle would be ideal as it is close to Citi Field, the National Tennis Center and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

“I hope you will give Willets Point the serious consideration its many advantages warrant and look forward to a meaningful discussion of the site’s merits,” Peralta writes.

Food carts may get letter grades


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

One Queens politician is aiming to make choosing the right food cart as easy as “A, B, C.”

Senator Jose Peralta, who represents Jackson Heights, Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst and Woodside, recently introduced a bill that would require local health departments across the state to evaluate and assign a letter grade to mobile food carts. The legislation, which is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks, would invoke a similar rating system to the one performed on restaurants.

“The idea is that whether buying a meal in a restaurant or from a mobile food vendor, consumers should know that what they are eating has met certain food standards,” said Peralta. “Food carts already have to undergo inspections, and this would be bringing some transparency to it and bring a powerful incentive to vendors to make sure that their operation is neat and clean. Being able to post on ‘A’ on your cart is an awfully good marketing tool, so at the end of the day, it is good for consumers and it is good for businesses.”

If the bill passes, mobile food units will be given an “A,” “B” or “C” – with all lower grades considered failing marks – and vendors will be required to post their grades in front of their carts. All units that receive lower than an “A” will also be re-examined no less than seven and no more than 21 days from their initial inspection. Carts that receive an “A” will be evaluated at least once a year, with a “B” leading to an inspection at least once every nine months, and a “C” requiring a check-up every three months.

“I think the bill is a good idea,” said Giovanni Pucha, a Flushing resident who regularly visits food carts. “I’ve seen vendors when they serve food, and sometimes they handle money and then they touch the food without gloves and without washing. That kind of stuff is unsanitary and I wouldn’t want to buy food from a cart like that. Hopefully this law will implement cleanliness and vendors will be better about it. If I saw an ‘A’ on a vendor, I would feel more comfortable going there.”

According to a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), inspection records of carts are available to the public by calling 3-1-1 and providing the mobile unit’s permit number or the vendor’s license number.

“The Health Department inspects mobile food carts and trucks to promote compliance with food safety regulations,” said the spokesperson. “These inspections check for virtually the same food safety requirements as those required of restaurants and carts and trucks are issued violations for not meeting regulations. Letter grading of mobile food vendors would require a number of considerations that are quite different than restaurants. A corresponding scoring system for food safety and sanitary violations that carts receive is not in place at this time. The Health Department is a considering ways to better let the public know that a cart or truck has been inspected.”

As part of the legislation, a vendor who is displeased with their grade can request another inspection for a fee of up to $250.

Despite the possibility of increased fees, vendors appear supportive of the bill.

“Most mobile food vendors want letter grades, just like restaurants receive,” read a statement by the Street Vendor Project, a membership-based group with more than 750 active vendor members. “The vast majority of them sell clean, delicious food and they want to be recognized for that.”

Man Hit, Killed At Queens Road Junction


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Cops save freezing kayaker

Cops yesterday rescued a fisherman whose kayak was sinking in the Atlantic off Jacob Riis Park. The 46-year-old called 9-1-1 at 1:19 p.m. when his boat started taking on water. NYPD Harbor boats began a search, but it was an Aviation Unit Air-Sea Rescue helicopter that located the fisherman as he was clinging to the submerged vessel in the frigid water. The victim was suffering from hypothermia when scuba-diving Officers Jason Gregory and Darren Blum were deployed from the chopper. He was lifted into the aircraft from a basket and rushed to New York Community Hospital. Read More: New York Post

NY lawmaker urges grading system for street food

New York City restaurants get letter grades and now the city food carts may get the same. State Senator Jose Peralta (D-Queens) is introducing legislation to require posted letter health grades for street vendors. Peralta says he wants to make sure whether the public eats in a quality restaurant or eats in a street mobile vending cart, that quality of the food meets certain health and safety standards. Read More: Fox News

Man Sues Boss Over Fat Jokes

A former New York furniture store employee says his manager was so fixated on his weight that she ordered him to establish a “fat club,” recruit members and act as its president. Thomas Hunt, 48, claims his manager at a Raymour & Flanigan furniture store in Queens, Marlene Albarano, relentlessly ribbed Hunt about his extra poundage — even denying him a promotion solely because of his appearance and once ordering him to walk around the building for 30 minutes on his lunch break. Read More: Fox News

Man Hit, Killed At Queens Road Junction

City fire officials say a man was walking near the Clearview-Long Island Expressway interchange in Fresh Meadows just before noon Sunday when he was hit and killed. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said the car stayed on the scene and no criminality was suspected. Read More: NY1

Police Investigate Fatal Shooting Of Queens Teen

Police continue to investigate the shooting death of a teenage boy in front of a home in Queens. Officers were called to Beach Channel Drive in Far Rockaway just after 10:30 p.m. Thursday. When they arrived, they found Eric Norman, 18, dead after being shot in the head. So far, there are no arrests. Read More: NY1

Boozing JetBlue passenger busted by off-duty NYPD cop
A vacationing Bronx cop on a flight home from the Dominican Republic is being hailed a mile-high hero for taking down a berserk passenger who attacked a flight attendant. About an hour into JetBlue Flight 832 to Kennedy Airport, an unruly passenger a few rows behind the officer got loud. Antonio Ynoa, 22, was pestering a flight attendant for soda to mix with his duty-free rum. The flight attendant told Ynoa opening duty-free alcohol onboard was prohibited and repeatedly told him to put it away. The unemployed Ynoa, who was returning to New York from visiting his wife in the Dominican Republic, carried on drinking and yelling profanities. Read More: Daily News


Scrabble sign reinstalled for ‘triple word score’


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Scrabble Sign Photo Courtesy of The Queens Courier

Jackson Heights’ newest street sign is earning a “triple word score” with neighborhood residents.
The sign, which is located on the southeast corner of 81st Street and 35th Avenue, commemorates the birthplace of the beloved board game Scrabble.
It was originally installed in 1995 outside the Community United Methodist Church, where Alfred Butts invented the popular game, but it mysteriously vanished in 2008.
After Councilmember Daniel Dromm introduced legislation to approve its reinstallation, the Department of Transportation (DOT) authorized the creation of a sign that indicates Scrabble point values to each letter in “35th Avenue.”
“The Scrabble sign was ingenious and added a special historical charm to the neighborhood,” said Dromm. “Scrabble is celebrating its 62nd anniversary this year, and Alfred Butts’ achievement in Jackson Heights should be recognized.”
Dromm pushed for the reinstallation of the sign after witnessing how the Jackson Heights community “sorely missed” it. The sign was also noted in guidebooks and maps as a local attraction, spelling success for the neighborhood.
“The Scrabble street sign will again be a point of pride in our community, thanks to the inventive genius of Jackson Heights resident and Community Church congregant Alfred Butts,” said Daniel Karatzas, a Jackson Heights historian. “It always brought a smile to those who bothered to look up at the corner of 81st Street and 35th Avenue.”
After being fired from his job as an architect in 1938 – in the midst of the Great Depression – Butts strove to create something revolutionary. Following countless trials and errors and scrupulous studying, Butts invented Scrabble, which has now sold 150 million sets in 121 countries and 29 different languages.
“This street sign is a creative homage to the game created by Jackson Heights resident Alfred Butts during the Depression,” said John Williams, Jr., executive director of the National Scrabble Association. “Thanks to Alfred’s ingenuity, generations have enjoyed the game. Scrabble is played all over the world in many different languages, and we hope people will once again travel to Jackson Heights to celebrate our favorite word game.”