Tag Archives: Joseph Addabbo

Lawmakers tackle education and affordable housing at first annual Ridgewood Legislative Forum

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Kelly Marie Mancuso


Lawmakers, elected officials and residents gathered to discuss ongoing local matters at the first annual Ridgewood Legislative Forum, hosted by the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (RPOCA), on Thursday, Oct. 1, at I.S. 93 on Forest Avenue.

Councilman Antonio Reynoso joined state Senator Joseph Addabbo in an open forum question-and-answer session aimed at tackling some of the community’s biggest issues. Topics ranged from housing and neighborhood preservation to improvements in transportation and education. One of the biggest concerns dealt with maintaining affordability in Ridgewood amid the uptick in development and skyrocketing rents.

According to RPOCA president Charles Ober, buildings throughout Ridgewood have been falling prey to unscrupulous developers seeking to capitalize on the neighborhood’s recent growth and popularity by illegally converting and subdividing units. Ober explained that local tenants are being pressured into vacating their apartments, while landlords are also being harassed by developers looking to purchase their homes.

“They’re coming in here and breaking the rules. It’s not good for the neighborhood,” he said. “They’re buying up six-family houses, harassing the tenants and clearing out the buildings. They’re offering low amounts of money to get the tenants to leave. These tenants are rent-stabilized tenants. They’re part of the backbone of this neighborhood.”

In an effort to curb such harassment and prevent illegal conversions, RPOCA has teamed up with local tenants unions, as well as the Department of Buildings (DOB), to form a special task force aimed at identifying problematic locations and developers. According to Ober, the DOB will inspect suspicious locations for illegal conversions while mapping other potential buildings of concern.

In addition, the city recently passed a set of laws making such harassment illegal. Under the new laws, landlords can issue a written notice of “no sale” to developers, after which they cannot be contacted again for a period of six months. According to Reynoso, a developer can face arrest if the terms of the notice are violated.

Both Addabbo and Reynoso advocated for property tax reform as a way to maintain affordability in the neighborhood. Soaring property taxes were cited as a possible reason why so many homeowners are opting to sell and relocate. As a member of the City Council’s budget negotiating team, Reynoso agreed to draft a letter on behalf of RPOCA asking the city to make changes to the existing tax code.

“This is a very controversial thing to discuss,” he said. “When I looked at it, it’s very clear that people who have houses that are worth a lot more than what the people in Ridgewood have are paying the same taxes. That is inequity.”


RPOCA President Charles Ober (left) and Councilman Antonio Reynoso (right)

Senator Addabbo also advocated for the expansion of the SCREE program in an effort to prevent retired seniors from eviction. He also spoke in favor of legislation that would require that landlords inform their senior tenants about the program.

“SCREE is a program that works,” Addabbo stated.

Both Addabbo and Reynoso also tackled issues plaguing the city’s education system, including the embattled Grover Cleveland High School. According to Reynoso, the City Council invested the most money in education over the past decade. However, according to Addabbo, New York State has fallen behind in the funding of the city’s schools. Reynoso estimates that his district alone is owed $11 billion in funds from the state. As a member of the Senate’s education committee, Addabbo explained that he in engaged in the “Campaign for Fiscal Equity” in Albany in an attempt to secure these funds.

“This problem is bigger than Grover Cleveland High School,” Reynoso added.

Reynoso estimates a whopping 70 percent of the city’s students are under proficient, with only 30 percent of fifth-graders performing at a proficient level. The councilman attributes this to a lack of resources, as well as a disparity in education among the city’s immigrant population.

“The system doesn’t care about distinctions,” Reynoso added. “Immigrant students are at a disadvantage.”


Ridgewood high school improving but still faces state takeover

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Although Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood has seen improving graduation rates and student performance over the last few years, it remains vulnerable to a possible state takeover, educators said during a public hearing at the school Saturday.

Parents, students and teachers filled the Grover Cleveland auditorium on Saturday morning to talk about the performance of the struggling school and the possibility of the school’s receivership, while providing recommendations on how to improve the high school.

Earlier this year Grover Cleveland High School, along with 61 other New York City schools, was identified as struggling or persistently struggling by the New York State Education Department (DOE). If the school does not improve student performance and graduation rates, Grover Cleveland may fall into receivership, meaning that the school will be taken over by an outside entity and divided into several smaller schools.

At the public hearing, Grover Cleveland High School’s principal, Denise Vittor, acknowledged the school’s troubles, but pointed to recent improvements in graduation rates and attendance as signs of hope.

The four-year graduation rate for Grover Cleveland High School for June graduation was at 53 percent in the 2012-13 school year, and 51 percent in the 2013-14 school year. By the August graduation for those students who did not graduate in June, those numbers increased to 60.2 percent in 2012-13 and 58 percent in 2013-14.

“As you see, in June we did not reach 60 percent [graduation rate], which is the benchmark for all New York State schools,” Vittor said. “But by August, we were at 60.2 graduation rate. In 2013-14 we missed a lot. But I am proud to say, this year we had 60.7 graduation rate in June and 62.5 by August.”

Grover Cleveland’s goals for graduation rates for the 2015-16 school year are 63 percent for the June graduation and 65 percent in August, above the required 60 percent.

“As you saw when Principal Vittor presented the data, Grover Cleveland is on the fast-track for coming off of the struggling list,” said Elaine Lindsey, DOE high school superintendent. “So we are believing that by the end of this school year, that Grover Cleveland should not be considered a struggling school based on the data that we saw presented today.”

To keep these numbers rising, Vittor explained her school’s use of “six elements of the framework for great schools”: rigorous instruction, a supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family and community ties, and trust.

One area of concern for parents was the amount of funding the school receives for electronic resources. Vittor explained that the school receives approximately $20,000.

“We are a smartboard school, which means we have smartboards in every classroom, that’s the goal,” Vittor said. “Each smartboard is $6,500, so $20,000 doesn’t go very far … we will ask our elected officials to assist us again.”

State Senator Joseph Addabbo made it clear that he intends to continually support Grover Cleveland and help it get off the struggling list.

“I am ready and willing to work with the entire Grover Cleveland High School community to help protect this school from receivership, improve its graduation rates and increase parental participation,” Addabbo said in a statement. “Engaging more parents in the education of their children is key to improving outcomes for students, as well as creating stronger families and communities. I look forward to working towards protecting Grover Cleveland for generations of students to come.”

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, a graduate of Grover Cleveland, vowed to lend her support for her former school.

“As the elected representative of the 37th Assembly district and a 1976 graduate of Grover Cleveland High school, I want to voice my support for the school,” Nolan said in a statement. “Cleveland has struggled, but under the leadership of Principal Vittor it is getting back on track and has a lot to offer. With the right support and resources, I believe the school can be the best version of itself … I will continue to support and advocate for Cleveland, a Ridgewood institution that is so incredibly important to us.”

During the public comment period, some parents suggested that the school send home a syllabus so parents can become more involved with their children’s work. Others suggested increasing the number of guidance counselors at the school to better prepare college-bound students, and several students suggested creating more sports teams and afterschool clubs so students will become more interested in their school.

To provide input on improving Grover Cleveland High School, send an email to receivership@schools.nyc.gov.


Fall recycling fair to be held at Forest Park this September

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

COURIER/File photo

In an attempt to get residents recycling more, state Senator Joseph Addabbo, in conjunction with Assemblyman Mike Miller, will host the annual fall recycling event later this month in Forest Park.

On Sunday, Sept. 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Forest Park Bandshell crews will be available to accept items including electronics, paper, clothing and certain household items to be safely and properly recycled.

As a member of the New York State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, Addabbo said the fair aims to create an easier and more convenient way for their constituents to responsibly discard many different items in one location.

“There are so many things that people may not know can be recycled, or things that don’t get recycled simply because it’s a hassle to do so,” Addabbo said. “This eliminates those hurdles and provides our constituents with a stress-free way to take care of all their recycling needs. In years past, this annual fair has proved to be one of the most popular events I’ve ever held, and I am confident that will continue into this year and for many to come.”

The recycling fair will have a paper shredder available that will allow residents to safely and securely recycle documents on site. Electronics recycling will accept items including computers, monitors, cellphones, fax machines, televisions, PDAs, printers, batteries, cameras, power strips, wires, chargers, cable boxes, fans, air conditioners, telephones and VCR tapes.

However, cardboard and appliances will not be accepted.

The Salvation Army will also be at present to accept donations including clothing, coats, bedding, linens, paired shoes, scarves, belts, hats, handbags, dishes, glasses, silverware, lamps, pots and curtains, as well as books and eyeglasses. All donated items must be clean and dry.

For more information about the event, please contact Addabbo’s Howard Beach Office at 718-738-1111.


Op-ed: Highs and lows of the budget process

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Whether you want to call it “The Big Ugly,” “The Big Lovely,” or something in between, I think we can all agree that the end of the 2015 legislative session brought with it a number of successes and a number of failures, particularly with regard to the big-ticket items that were the focus of such intense negotiations over the last week.

As a member of the Senate Education Committee, I was pleased that some reforms were made to Common Core. These reforms in my opinion are a direct result of parents, teachers, administrators and students speaking out against certain aspects of the state standardized tests. Test questions and correct answers will now need to be provided to parents and educators in a timely fashion, hopefully by July 1, as well as the general student success rate on the questions.

In terms of teacher evaluations, growth scores for educators will now need to consider the fact that some of their students are facing basic obstacles to immediate academic success beyond their teacher’s control. In addition, the state education commissioner is required to conduct a comprehensive review of the Common Core standards, to be completed by next June with recommendations for possible modifications.

These are all positive steps, but I remain very disappointed that the final Common Core-related education reforms did not decouple education funding from teacher evaluations, or give more time for the new Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) standards for teachers and principals to be developed and adopted by school districts across the state.

I appreciate that mayoral control of New York City schools has been extended for one year, and that we will now have an additional opportunity to make reforms to the policy to better benefit our children and educators. While agreement was not reached on the Education Tax Credit, which would have allowed for financial assistance to both public and private schools, $250 million was set aside for non-public schools to help them with state-mandated transportation costs, textbook purchases, test administration and other expenses.

In addition, up to 50 additional charter schools could now potentially open in New York City, although the statewide cap of 460 schools will remain in place. While my primary focus will always be on adequately funding and supporting our public school system, I also strongly believe children in private and charter institutions deserve an equal chance to succeed academically and that parental choice must be respected — although never fully subsidized by taxpayers.

In terms of housing, I am glad the laws governing rent-controlled and stabilized apartments were extended for four years, giving some measure of security to the millions of tenants in New York City and elsewhere who were fearful of losing their homes when the regulations expired on June 15. I still believe there is much more to be done to reform the rent laws and keep affordable apartments from being removed from the system and rising to astronomical market rates.

We also addressed a variety of other issues that may not have claimed the headlines or led to long stand-offs between opposing viewpoints.

We were successful in passing legislation to better combat sexual assault on private college campuses, and we passed bills to combat elder abuse and help ensure more support for family members and friends who serve as informal caregivers to loved ones released from hospitals. A measure was approved by both houses that will help disabled individuals save money for their future, and another bill will help pregnant women gain more immediate access to health care for themselves and their unborn babies. My bill to extend building permits for homes affected by Hurricane Sandy was approved, along with legislation to ensure that there is greater oversight and transparency in how New York State disburses federal Sandy funds.

These may not be the bills that everyone was talking about, but they are still vital measures that will address some very important needs of individuals and families throughout our state. And that, in the end, is what every legislative session is supposed to be all about.

Senator Addabbo represents the 15th Senatorial District, which covers all or parts of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Forest Hills, Woodhaven, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Howard Beach, Broad Channel and the Rockaways.


Op-ed: Standardized state tests are done, but work toward change continues

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Students in the third grade and above just finished taking this year’s standardized tests, but the questions our community has for the Common Core testing are far from answered.

As a parent of a fifth-grader and someone who visits our schools, I have heard many parents, teachers, administrators and students complain about the recent state tests. Last year, I advocated for and supported a number of changes made to the Common Core testing, which I believe were in direct response to the outcry of many.

Changes such as no longer testing children in kindergarten through second grade, not using the tests for actual student grading or promotion, eliminating the distribution of a student’s personal information and releasing some of the questions and tests results were steps in the right direction. For the sake of our children, we need to take additional steps in the right direction.

A sure sign that the issue of state tests needs to be addressed is the fact that last year roughly 60,000 parents opted their child out of taking the tests, while this year that number has grown close to 190,000 statewide. While I do support the right of a parent to have their child opt out of taking the state tests for a number of valid reasons, I am also a person who likes to fix things that are broken. I want to fix the broken Common Core standardized state tests and how we evaluate our students and teachers.

As a member of the Senate Education Committee, I will promote the need to space the multiple-day tests out over a greater period of time to alleviate some of the stress that students and parents experience. The test questions should better reflect the grade level in which they are given and the ability of the individual child should be considered. I like to have our children have standards and goals, but let’s make sure that they are fair and reasonable.

We need the teachers and parents to have more detailed information of previous tests released in a more timely manner in order to better prepare our children for the school year. Until we address the issues surrounding our state tests, no student, teacher or school should be penalized for either the test results or for students not taking the test.

Only after major improvements are made to the Common Core testing, we may have to consider changing the name, because the mere mention of “Common Core” causes many emotions to flare.

An extremely large number of parents opted their child out of taking the standardized tests this year. To me, that is a strong message that we as a state must realize there is still much more work to be done in revising the implementation of Common Core standards. We must take into account that not only are young minds meant to be molded, but more importantly grow in their own way — we should not focus on cramming information into them and then punishing students and their teachers when these standards are not met.

As our legislative session continues in Albany, I invite all of my constituents to make their voices heard. Reach out to any one of my three district offices, or email me at addabbo@nysenate.gov, and let me know how you think our students and teachers should be evaluated. It is with your insight that I will continue to fight most effectively for our children’s educational well-being.

Senator Addabbo represents the 15th Senatorial District, which covers all or parts of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Woodhaven, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Howard Beach, Broad Channel and the western Rockaways.


Kids speak out on education at Glendale roundtable

| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso


Students got their chance to speak out on the controversial Common Core curriculum and other hot education topics during a special roundtable with state Senator Joseph Addabbo on Friday at Glendale‘s Excalibur Reading Program.

Addabbo spoke with the children at the roundtable and listened to their ideas and concerns. He also encouraged them to speak out about changes and improvements they would like to see in their schools.

“Whether you’re in first grade or going into high school, it’s important that we hear what we need in our schools,” he said. “I need to hear from the students because they’re the ones in the classroom.”

When asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, the children’s answers ranged from athlete and engineer to educator. The children got to ask Addabbo questions, such as what was his favorite color (“blue”) and favorite food (“pizza”), before the discussion shifted to a heated debate among the adults over the controversial Common Core curriculum.

Addabbo referred to Common Core testing as “questionable” and spoke out against the use of the test as a yardstick to measure a teacher’s performance and effectiveness.

“Having a test like the Common Core to evaluate our teachers is wrong and I voted ‘no’ on that part of the budget,” he said. “You don’t use a flawed test to evaluate a teacher. We should not oppress good teachers. We should reward them by giving them better resources.”

Local parent and Board of Education employee Maria Gregorio also weighed in on the issue. “We need to get out there and advocate,” she said. “I’m not there to sell the curriculum. I’m there to educate the children and help families. That’s why I applied for the Board of Education.”

As the father of two young daughters, Addabbo empathized with the plight of local parents. “I know the frustrations even I face as a parent,” he said.

Addabbo encouraged parents like Gregorio to get involved and advocate for change: “When you speak out for your child, you’re also speaking out for other parents.”

Excalibur mentor and tutor Christine Engesser spoke in favor of the goals behind Common Core, but also admitted that the curriculum is flawed in many ways.

“The thinking behind it is actually educationally sound,” she said. “They’re trying to get kids to examine a problem from different angles. Part of the problem for the adults involved is that they’re learning differently from the way we learned.”

One of Engesser’s critiques of the Common Core curriculum was that it did not account for disparities in age group and aptitude. “You have children with special learning needs with different learning styles and abilities and yet they have to take the same test,” she said.

Addabbo agreed. “These tests are not realistic,” he said. “We have made some changes, but we have a lot more work to do.”


Rockwood Park Jewish Center hosts Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Rockwood Park Jewish Center


Stories were shared and prayers were offered to the victims of the Holocaust during a special service last week at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center in Howard Beach.

Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, honors both the more than 6 million people who died at the hands of Nazi Germany during World War II and those who survived the atrocity. The event, which was hosted at the synagogue on Thursday, April 16, honored four Holocaust survivors: Nathan Berkowitz, Martin Braun, Jack Gruer and Judy Berkowitz.

After a candle lighting service, the audience sang “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz welcomed the crowd along with Bernard Fisch, president of the Rockwood Park Jewish Center.

Public officials including Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, Community Board 10 Chair Betty Braton, Fr. Francis Colamaria of St. Helen’s Church, state Senator Joseph Addabbo and Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, made opening remarks.

Helen Greenblat, Rabbi Berkowitz’s cousin, told the story of her mother and father, who were both held in concentration camps to put a face to the numbers we so often hear.

“It’s something we can’t comprehend, but we can tell the stories and they can come to life and pay tribute by telling the stories,” Greenblat said.

Greenblat spoke about her parents before the war to emphasize that they lived a “normal” life, as well as the challenges they faced when starting over.

“They were absolutely heroic for starting all over again and continuing after what [they’d] been through, the losses they suffered, the misery they endured,” Greenblat said.

Her parents were both in their mid-teens when the war started and both lost family members as a result.

Greenblat’s father, Max Traeger, lived in Warsaw, Poland, and worked in his father’s shoe factory after dropping out of school in the fifth grade. According to Greenblat, the extreme anti-Semitism he faced in school caused him to leave.

Traeger and his family were forced into labor camps after Germany invaded Poland. Traeger, the lone survivor, lived in the camps for five years.

Ilona Lax, Greenblat’s mother, was forced out of her house in Czechoslovakia to a nearby ghetto along with her sister, two brothers and father. Soon after, they were put on cattle cars to be escorted to Auschwitz.  Upon arrival at the death camp, Lax’s father and brother were both killed.

Lax and her sister, Lily, were liberated from Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in Germany, by British soldiers. To start a new life, they created a kosher kitchen and a synagogue. When Lax’s sister got engaged, she requested that her fiancé get her a white wedding gown.

“I couldn’t believe when I heard the story. They went through hell, they lost so many of their family members and she’s telling him she wants a white wedding gown,” Greenblat said.

Rations were implemented and instead of coffee and cigarettes, Lily Lax’s fiancé requested a white German parachute. The makeshift gown has been used by 17 brides, including Greenblat’s mother.

“That to me is a symbol of renewed life,” said Greenblat.


MTA, DOT scrap plans for Main Street bus-only lane in Kew Gardens Hills

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Rory Lancman's office

Facing community and political opposition, the MTA and the city Department of Transportation slammed the brakes on a proposed dedicated bus lane for the limited Q44 bus line on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills.

The news came during Wednesday night’s meeting of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association. The MTA planned to take one lane in each direction of Main Street to convert the Q44 between Flushing and Jamaica into a Select Bus Service (SBS) route.

Civic leaders and elected officials protested the plans previously, claiming the lost lane of traffic would increase vehicular traffic on Main Street while also depriving both residents and shoppers of valued parking space.

“A dedicated bus-only lane in Kew Gardens Hills was always the wrong choice for our community,” Councilman Rory Lancman said in a press release Thursday. “The proposed bus-only lane would have increased congestion, reduced parking spaces, hurt businesses and diverted cars onto residential streets.”

Lancman, along with Rep. Grace Meng, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Senators Joseph Addabbo and Toby Ann Stavisky, praised the MTA and DOT for hearing concerns about the bus lane and ultimately nixing the plan.

According to Lancman, the DOT and MTA will seek other methods to improve traffic flow on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills, including potential street reconfiguration, off-board fare collection and re-synchronizing traffic lights.

A source familiar with the plan indicated a bus-only lane is most likely for areas of Main Street north of the Long Island Expressway. However, it is not likely a bus lane would be created on Main Street south of Kew Gardens Hills due to a lack of street space.


Recycle electronics and more at Forest Park on April 26

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Just in time for spring cleaning, two local elected officials will be bringing their biannual recycling event to Forest Park later this month.

“Bringing this event to the district twice a year is so important to [Assemblyman Mike Miller] and me. The standard reasons apply – this is an opportunity to do something productive with old items normally thrown away and wasted. This year, though, is especially important given new DSNY regulations,” said state Senator Joseph Addabbo, who is providing the recycling opportunity with Miller.

Not only does the April 26 event give residents the ability to clean out their homes of unwanted junk for the season, but it will also take place just weeks after the start of new Department of Sanitation recycling regulations.

As of April 1, New York City residents can be fined $100 for placing electronics, such as TVs and computers, at the curb for disposal.

“Given new regulations regarding the recycling of electronics, this event presents an opportunity for individuals to discard many items that must now be taken to drop-off centers. Given the continued success of this event, Recycle Day shows the willingness of people to properly recycle when the opportunity exists,” Miller said.

Items accepted at the free Recycle Day event include clothing, coats, bedding, linens, paired shoes, scarves, belts, hats, handbags, computers, monitors, cellphones, servers, fax machines, televisions, PDAs, scanners, copiers, printers, batteries, laptops, cameras, power strips, wires, chargers, cable boxes, fans, air conditioners, telephones and VCR tapes. Appliances will not be accepted.

At last year’s recycling event, about 300 residents brought more than seven tons of electronics, about five tons of paper and two tons of Salvation Army household items, according to Addabbo’s office.

Recycling Day will be held on Sunday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell parking lot in Forest Park, located on Forest Park Drive, one block west of Woodhaven Boulevard in Woodhaven.


Addabbo eyes improved health care and tax breaks for veterans

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com


The Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs has recently approved a legislative package of four bills, all co-sponsored by state Senator Joseph Addabbo, which aim to improve health care and help lower property taxes for veterans of all ages.

“Our veterans — whether they served many years ago or are returning home from service — deserve our utmost respect,” said Addabbo, who is the ranking member of the Senate Veterans Committee. “This package of bills is now moving towards a vote by the full Senate and I am hopeful they will be enacted by both houses of the state Legislature before the end of the 2015 legislative season.”

The four bills would establish a veterans’ gerontological advisory committee within the state Office for the Aging to help ensure the state plans appropriately for the needs of an aging veteran population, including programming for long-term and continuing care; health promotion and rehabilitation; and other issues of concern to aging servicemen and women.

Additionally, the state Division of Veterans Affairs would be required to form and disseminate to former service members a “fact sheet” regarding various veteran-specific health care services offered at local hospitals.

The bills would also green-light local real property tax exemptions for reservist veterans who served under the Federal Reserve Forces Act of 1955. This would provide them with tax savings similar to those already available to other Cold War-era service members.

Additionally, the bills will authorize local governments across New York State to adopt laws prohibiting increases in real property tax liability for veterans who are receiving tax exemptions related to their service.

“Full approval of these four pieces of legislation would help to advance important goals that I think we all hold for our veterans: the ability to access appropriate and effective health care services and the ability to keep roofs over their heads when other basic living expenses seem to be rising all the time,” Addabbo said. “We will never be able to adequately thank those who risked everything for all of us in service to our country, but working to ensure our veterans are able to enjoy a decent quality of life when they return to us is a step in the right direction.”

The bills are currently waiting to be considered by the full Senate. An Assembly committee is examining companion bills similar to Addabbo’s legislation.


Addabbo suggests using proposed Glendale homeless shelter for veteran housing

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The controversial plan to turn the abandoned warehouse located at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale into a homeless shelter appears to be moving forward, but state Senator Joseph Addabbo wants to make that proposal a little more specific.

If the city is going to make the site into a homeless shelter, Addabbo said, it should extend the facility to the homeless who have fought for this nation’s freedom.

“I will never agree that housing any individual at the Cooper Avenue site is a good idea,” said Addabbo, who is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. “But if the city is insistent on housing people, why not focus our attention on an overlooked issue? We can help the veterans who helped us maintain the quality of life we have come to know instead of warehousing possibly over 100 families into this building.”

“The bottom line is that nobody deserves to be without a home, especially those who initially left their homes to defend our rights,” he added.

Nationwide, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that one-third of the homeless population has served in the military at one point. Reportedly, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) estimated that anywhere between 2,000 and 3,500 veterans in New York City are homeless.

Bringing families to the site could run the risk of further crowding school district 24, one of the most overcrowded school districts in the city, Addabbo charged. Changing the site to veterans housing would have minimal effect on the surrounding communities and also address the citywide issue of overcrowded schools.

Even so, Addabbo still believes that there are better uses for the long-defunct warehouse.

“With this Glendale facility, we can repurpose it in a way that helps people but also doesn’t negatively impact the community,” he added. “This site could alternatively also be used as senior housing, school or an animal shelter, as was suggested by a constituent, all of which are lacking in the borough and the city.”

While the DHS intends to address the current homeless crisis, the Cooper Avenue site would not be ready for residents for over a year, the senator noted.

“Keeping the proposal for 78-16 Cooper Ave. as a homeless shelter does not immediately serve anyone,” Addabbo said.

The Glendale and Middle Village communities have been combating the proposed homeless shelter since its inception. Civic and business leaders in both neighborhoods formed the Glendale/Middle Village Coalition for the specific purpose of filing legal action to stop the shelter’s development.

Since its formation, the coalition has raised thousands of dollars to fight the placement of the shelter and have filed an Article 78, an appeal to the city’s Environmental Assessment that it did on the site. The coalition charged the assessment was not complete and wants the city to do a full Environmental Impact study before moving forward with any plans.


NY Senate approves legislation to protect children, victims and others from high-level sex offenders

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons/Wally Gobetz

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo and his colleagues in the Senate approved a series of bills designed to better protect children, victims of sexual assault and other New Yorkers from potentially dangerous convicted sex offenders.

“Among other efforts, these bills seek to further restrict sex offenders from living in close proximity to their victims, as well as to children — whether in schools, pre-kindergarten programs, or in child care,” Addabbo said. “Parents shouldn’t need to worry that their children will come into contact with high-level sex offenders who happen to live in the same vicinity as programs they are attending, and victims of sex crimes shouldn’t have to relive the trauma of their assaults by finding out their attacker lives right around the corner.”

The legislative package consists of initiatives that would prohibit sex offenders who are on parole, on probation or conditionally discharged from being within 1,000 feet of a child daycare facility whenever anyone under 18 years of age is on the premises. Additionally, the state’s searchable sex offender registry information would provide not only the ZIP code of sex offender home residences, but also the ZIP code of their place of employment. The bills would also prevent Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders — those who have committed the most serious crimes — from living within 1,500 feet of their victims.

The bills also restrict all Level 1, 2 and 3 registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school; prohibit sex offenders whose victims were children, as well as all of the most serious Level 3 offenders, from knowingly being within 1,000 feet of a facility offering kindergarten or pre-K classes; and require school districts, after receiving notice from law enforcement agencies, to notify parents when Level 2 or Level 3 sex offenders are residing in the district.

“Given the severity and traumatizing effects of sex offenders — whether they are committed against young children, adults or senior citizens — we need to take steps to help prevent high-risk offenders from committing additional crimes, and many of the bills in this package seek to limit opportunities for re-offending,” Addabbo said. “While some registered sex offenders will live productive, crime-free lives after their conviction and release back into society, we need to worry about those who won’t and who are most likely to victimize others again.”

Addabbo is also a co-sponsor on a piece of legislation that would prohibit the placement of Level 2 and 3 sex offenders in any temporary emergency housing or in homeless shelters that are used to provide housing for families with children. This comes on the heels of a recent investigation that found that there were registered sex offenders currently living in a number of Queens family shelters.

The legislation was forwarded to the Assembly for further action.




NY Senate passes legislation to up the offense for veteran gravesite desecration

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Vandalizing a war veteran’s grave may soon be a felony in New York thanks to a bill the state Senate recently passed.

“Cemetery desecration already represents a horrendous act of disrespect to the memories of people who have passed away, but it seems even more atrocious to violate the gravesites of men and women who selflessly served their country in the armed forces and may have sacrificed their own lives in this effort,” said state Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a co-sponsor of the bill and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. “This legislation specifically creates a new Class E felony offense, punishable by up to four years in prison, for those who target the final resting places of veterans.”

Under the terms of the bill, the new crime of “cemetery desecration of a veteran” will apply to instances in which offenders damage or steal real or personal property used as a place of interment; property used to store the remains of a veteran; or other property such as headstones, plaques or decorations associated with the place of interment.

Addabbo said that such instances have been a reoccurring theme at the Acacia Cemetery located in Ozone Park near 84th Street and Liberty Ave.

The bill was first drawn up in the Senate in 2003. It has passed in that legislative house in 2003, 2007, 2012 and now 2015. Each year previously it hasn’t gotten past the Assembly Codes Committee, which is where it is headed now that the Senate passed it again.

Addabbo is hoping the Assembly will pass the bill this time around, as he wants to deter criminals from committing such an abhorrent act.

“Men and women who have devoted themselves to the service of our country — leaving their families behind and placing themselves in mortal danger on our behalf — deserve our deepest respect while in the armed forces, when they return home and when they reach their final resting places,” he said. “This legislation will help to ensure our veterans are honored both in life and in death — just as they should be.”


Op-ed: Mayoral control — let’s get it right

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


It doesn’t happen often in government that we get a golden opportunity to broadly improve the education of our children, but with the expiration of mayoral control of our school system and the pending negotiations to extend it, we have only one clear mission — let’s get it right for the sake of our children.

Mayoral control over New York City’s education system is up for renewal by June of this year. In this situation, my fellow government colleagues and I in the state Legislature can vote to pass, amend or cancel the 2002 law that gives the mayor and his administration the power to appoint a schools chancellor, oversee the system’s operating budgets and make decisions about how the city will try to lift student achievement across thousands of schools. The law also created the Panel for Educational Policy, in which eight of 13 members are selected by the mayor.
In this next session, as we discuss mayoral control, it is my intention to promote the extension of the law, but with revisions. It is important to have increased input from our teachers, administrators and parents, while also enhancing transparency of various educational processes. This would include implementing a public review when proposing to close a school and reforming our state’s method of standardized testing.

It would additionally be beneficial to eliminate schools’ mid-year budget cuts. I have visited schools and parent meetings within my district, seeking credible ideas and input on this important issue, and I will continue to do so.

Approving mayoral control allows the Department of Education (DOE), a city agency, to oversee our education system. Under the old Board of Education, there was neither transparency nor accountability. It was granted a $6 billion budget and the public had no clue of spending practices and few voters participated in school board elections. Under mayoral control and the DOE, the public is more aware of the budget, spending and the administrative process.

For example, anyone can visit the DOE’s website and open each school’s progress reports, pass rates and percentages, as well as other statistics.

A 2009 New York Post study showed that state reading and math exam pass rates in local schools, as well as the high school graduation rate, soared after the start of mayoral control, specifically in my district. This past year’s grading period, while still under the city’s control, student progress percentages show more than half of the district’s schools meeting or exceeding its targets.

We must prioritize our students and their best interests, and the numbers clearly show they excel while under local control. Giving our parents, teachers and administrators a greater voice encourages and welcomes their involvement, which in my mind is a recipe for success. Every school is different, every neighborhood is different, and nobody knows their own schools and neighborhoods better than those involved every day. With that, we can ensure each school, and therefore each student, is given the tools to succeed.

As the weeks and months pass in Albany, and mayoral control is discussed, I intend to make these facts known, as well as push for the revisions I believe are needed. As always, I welcome my constituents’ input, opinions and concerns. If I am equipped with your voice, I can take that with me to Albany. Feel free to email me at addabbo@nysenate.gov, comment on my Facebook page, Senator Joe Addabbo, or call any of my three district offices.

Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. represents the 15th District of Queens.



Op-ed: Where would we be without our local small businesses?

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


It has been said small businesses are the backbone of our communities here in Queens, and I am certainly one to reiterate that sentiment. The small businesses, many of which I frequent myself — convenient stores, delis, restaurants and more — are what keep so many of our borough’s commercial corridors going.

Small Business Saturday, on Nov. 29, is a time to acknowledge the services our local stores have to offer. The everyday items we may not always take the time to note, the comfort we have in being a “regular” somewhere, or simply just having a convenient place to shop, are certainly reasons to appreciate our local stores. Cross Bay Boulevard, Myrtle Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue, Jamaica Avenue, Grand Avenue, Beach 116th Street and Beach 129th Street are just some of the corridors that see thousands of people every day. Where would we be without them?

Small Business Saturday falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two of the busiest shopping days of the year, and two days not necessarily reserved for local shops. We should take this day as a reminder to give back to the smaller stores that really allow us to live our day-to-day lives locally. While the holiday chaos can bring us toward larger department stores or big-name brands, we must not forget the mom-and-pop stores which help us all year round.

Statistics show 23 million small businesses account for 54 percent of all sales nationwide, over 50 percent of jobs and nearly 70 percent of all net new jobs since the 1970s. In New York City, those numbers shouldn’t surprise us. Thanks to our corner stores, local supermarkets and more, we should know the impact our small businesses have on our communities.

In Albany, we continue to fight for the rights of small store owners, and this upcoming 2015 session should be no different. I have sponsored a variety of bills and supported budget items relating to local businesses, including ones which establish a small business tax credit for the employment of seniors, of unemployed college graduates and of unemployed veterans. Also another which would provide grants to small business owners to rebuild storefronts severely damaged by Sandy.

In last year’s budget discussions, we were able to adopt several measures to help our local stores financially. The budget provided new, pro-business tax cuts, hiring tax credits, reduction of costs and red tape for businesses, workforce training for job openings, a Start-Up New York Tax Free program and more.

In reducing the red tape for store owners, the budget modernized and simplified both unemployment insurance and workers compensation, and ultimately provides employers with $1.2 billion in savings without affecting workers’ benefits.

Whether at home in the district or in Albany, I will continue to keep the needs of the small business owners in mind. There can always be something done to promote their services and remind them they are vital to our community. This Small Business Saturday, I urge you to do the same. I hope you will join me in shopping at your favorite local store and show the owners the gratitude they deserve.

State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. represents southern Queens.