Tag Archives: Julissa Ferreras

Reward leading to arrest of pregnant Corona woman’s killer doubled


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos via Google Maps/Facebook

The reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer of a pregnant mother of four who was gunned down the day before Thanksgiving in Corona has doubled to $12,000.

Brandee Anastasia Massey, 27 — who had just dropped off three of her four children at school — was murdered outside her 98-15 Horace Harding Expressway apartment on the morning of Nov. 26, police said.

The LeFrak City resident was shot in the chest and arm and taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was about six months pregnant, and doctors were able to deliver her baby, police said. But the child, a girl, died several hours later.

Police were considering Massey’s uncle as a possible suspect, according to published reports. The day after the Nov. 26 shooting, Police Commissioner William Bratton said the incident may have involved a domestic dispute with the uncle.

Food Bazaar Supermarkets has agreed to contribute $4,000 and Queens Center mall is donating $2,000, according to state Sen. Jose Peralta, who has already offered a $2,000 reward in the hope of developing leads in Massey’s murder investigation.

The LeFrak City Organization and NYPD additionally each offered $2,000 last month.

“Food Bazaar Supermarkets and Queens Center have deep roots in this community and understand that the most important thing we can do right now for the Massey family is to help law enforcement bring Brandee’s killer to justice and make whoever is responsible pay for this brutal crime,” Peralta said.

Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras' office

Joseph Massey, Brandee Anastasia Massey’s husband, and their four children. (Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ office)

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras announced last week that she has opened an education fund and launched a public fundraising campaign for Massey’s children, who are all under the age of 10.

LeFrak City Maintenance Services has made an initial pledge of $15,000. Anyone who would like to donate to the education fund can do so through www.rally.org/MasseyFund.

“These innocent children have suffered the greatest loss,” Ferreras said. “And while we cannot save them from the lifetime of pain and difficulty they will face growing up without a mother, as a community, we can give them a fighting chance at a better future.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

City’s pot policy change divides Queens residents, pleases pols


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYC Mayor Office's  Flickr

BY ASHA MAHADEVAN

Borough residents are on both sides of the debate over the city’s recent change in policy over marijuana possession arrests, while several local politicians see it as a progressive move.

“Historically, these types of arrests have disproportionately targeted poorer, young men of color,” Councilman Donovan Richards Jr., said. “Rethinking the administration’s approach to marijuana possession is a key to ending the misguided reliance on ‘stop and frisk’ and rebuilding the relationships between law enforcement and the communities they police.”

According to the new policy, if police find someone in possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana, officers will issue a summons instead of arresting the individual. The new policy, which comes into effect on Nov. 19, is not a blanket rule. The change is valid only if the person has identification and if no arrest warrant has been issued for him or her. Individuals carrying marijuana will still be subject to arrest if the type of possession indicates intent to sell, if the individual has an outstanding warrant, or if the individual is in certain locations such as a school.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras is also in favor of the change, calling it a move in the right direction.

“This policy change is one of many steps towards rebuilding those communities of color, like my own, that have been disproportionately jailed and suffered in the long term; it reflects the progressive, forward-thinking direction in which our city and this Council are moving,” she said.

Councilman Rory Lancman, who chairs the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, focused on the effect of the policy change on the overburdened legal system, saying that this change will allow prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys to concentrate on violent crimes. He added that he looks forward to “further reducing the over-policing in communities of color, and addressing the collateral consequences of even mere violations for undocumented immigrants caught in the criminal justice system.”

Queens residents were not as supportive, and even saw the change as potentially dangerous.

“It is not a good idea. There should be more rules covering this. What if someone is on a high and drives a car? This will add more dangerous people on the road,” Bayside resident Robert Posner said.

But others agreed with the looser punishment.

“It’s not right but I am OK with it,” Alda Gomez said. “So long as they don’t sell it or it is not a big amount or they are next to a school, if it is only for themselves, it’s okay.”

Jose Valencia believed it was a good start.

“Eventually law has to change towards legalization,” he said.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Leadership roles go to Queens councilmembers who supported speaker


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Official NYC Council photo by William Alatriste

Several important leadership positions went to Queens representatives Wednesday who showed support for newly-elected City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito last month.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer retained his position as chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, but was named majority leader.

“It has always been my goal to play a meaningful leadership role in this new, Progressive Council. The opportunity to serve in the second highest position in the Council… is one I relish and am truly humbled by,” he said.

He was rumored to be in the running for Finance Chair along with another Queens elected, Julissa Ferreras, who got the appointment. She was previously Women’s Issues Chair.

“As the first woman and first person of color to ever chair the Council’s Finance Committee, I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to further serve the people of our great city,” she said.

Van Bramer and Ferreras were two of six Queens councilmembers to back Mark-Viverito for the speaker position in December, along with Daniel Dromm, Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards and Republican Eric Ulrich, in contrast to the wishes of their county’s Democratic and GOP leadership.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm, a former public school teacher, is now the Education Committee chair after previously heading the Immigration Committee.

Ulrich was appointed chair of the Veterans Committee, Miller chair of the Civil Service and Labor Committee and Richards chair of the Environmental Protection Committee.

Additional chair positions went to Elizabeth Crowley, the Fire and Criminal Justice Services, Karen Koslowitz, the State and Federal Legislation Committee, Peter Koo, the Landmarks Public Siting and Maritime Uses Sub-Committee, Mark Weprin, the Zoning and Franchises Sub-Committee, Ruben Wills, the Drug Abuse Sub-Committee and Paul Vallone, the Senior Centers Sub-Committee.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Van Bramer, Ferreras in running to head Council finance committee: report


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photos

After showing support last month for newly-elected Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Queens Councilmembers Julissa Ferreras and Jimmy Van Bramer are the top contenders to head the Council’s finance committee, according to Politicker.

A City Council source told Politicker negotiations over the finance chair appointment are underway this week and “announcements could be coming soon.”

When contacted by The Courier, both Van Bramer and Ferreras had no comment to the Politicker report.

Mark-Viverito has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Van Bramer and Ferarras were two of six Queens councilmembers to back Mark-Viverito in December, in contrast to the wishes of their county’s Democratic Party leadership.

Mark-Viverito has so far only appointed members to the Council’s rules, privileges and elections committee.

Those members include Councilmember Donovan Richards, the only Queens representative on the committee.

The remaining committees are expected to be announced at the Council’s next meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Melissa Mark-Viverito elected as next City Council Speaker


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYC City Council Flickr/Official NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste

Melissa Mark-Viverito was unanimously elected as the next City Council Speaker Wednesday by the 51-member body, becoming the second most powerful politician in the city and the first Latin-American to take the spot.

“We will work together, because that is what New Yorkers expect and that is what New Yorkers deserve,” she said. “We unite for a more equal and just New York.”

The two-term East Harlem councilmember first declared victory on Dec. 19 after receiving support from 30 council colleagues — more than the 26-majority vote needed.  Reports later surfaced that city officials wanted a unified backing behind Mark-Viverito.

Shortly before the Jan. 8 vote, her opponent, Daniel Garodnick, conceded and sealed Mark-Viverito’s win with a hug in the City Council chamber, followed by cheers from their fellow councilmembers.

“In the spirit of strengthening the council, which animated my candidacy from the start, I now formally concede to the next Speaker of the City Council – my colleague Melissa Mark-Viverito,” Garodnick said. “I look forward to working with [her] … She is a smart and committed public servant, and we have worked extremely well together in the past.”

Garodnick also vowed to do his part to “resolve any rifts” the process may have caused among colleagues.

Mark-Viverito is also the first Puerto Rican woman and the first member of the Black Latino and Asian Caucus to take the Speaker spot.

Several Queens councilmembers supported Mark-Viverito from her December announcement, including Daniel Dromm, Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich and Jimmy Van Bramer.

They confirmed their support at the Jan. 8 vote, along with the remaining Queens delegation.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras called Mark-Viverito a “passionate advocate for reform” to “bring transparency” to city government.

“We owe it to the people to elect a strong and principled woman,” she said.

Mark-Viverito said the vision for the “new City Council” is one of “unity, independence, integrity, transparency and accountability.”

Her agenda includes fighting for affordable housing, improving the city’s education system, raising the minimum wage and uniting for the city’s first responders.

“This council will be unified,” she said.

RECOMMENDED STORIES:

Melissa Mark-Viverito says she has support to become next City Council speaker


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYC City Council Flickr/Official NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste

Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito is claiming she will have enough votes in the City Council to become its next speaker.

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Mark-Viverito, who represents District 8, said she has the backing of 30 councilmembers and councilmembers-elect, including Queens members Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich and Jimmy Van Bramer.

“I am humbled to have the support and confidence that my colleagues have placed in me. Today is the culmination of over two decades of my work at the grassroots, in non-profit organizations, in labor and as a public servant. I know that my fellow members will work with me in the City Council to create more inclusive legislative body where every member’s voice is heard and validated,” Mark-Viverito said.

She will only need the support of 26 members, when the vote for speaker takes place on Jan. 8.

Mark-Viverito received the backing she needed when Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio convinced Brooklyn Democratic Chair Frank Seddio to support her, according to published reports.

But her remaining opponent, Councilmember Dan Garodnick, isn’t giving up, and called her statement “premature,” reported Politicker.

The Queens councilmembers issued the following statements in support of Mark-Viverito:

Daniel Dromm
“I am proud to have been one of NYC Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito’s earliest supporters. Having a bright, dynamic, independent and committed progressive as the leader of the Council is truly exciting. Mark-Viverito will continue to be a voice for the voiceless. Her connection to the people is her greatest strength. I congratulate her on her victory as the next Speaker of the NYC Council. This is a great day for New York City!”

Julissa Ferreras
“I’m proud to be helping to elect the first Latina Speaker of the New York City Council. Melissa is a friend and an impressive leader. I look forward to working with her to move our community forward, improve our schools, create good jobs and improve green spaces. Today is a great day for all New Yorkers.”

Daneek Miller
“I know and am thrilled with Melissa Mark-Viverito as our speaker and lead voice. We share common interests I know the council will move forward with a progressive voice.”

Donovan Richards
“Melissa Mark-Viverito has been a staunch advocate for the families of Southeast Queens and New York City for decades,” said Council member Donovan Richards. “Whether it was fighting for progressive issues such as paid sick leave days or reforming stop & frisk, she has continuously been on the front lines for our communities. This is why I stand with her in support of her candidacy to become the speaker of the New York City Council.”

Eric Ulrich
“I want to congratulate my colleague Melissa Mark-Viverito on winning a hard-fought race for Speaker of the City Council. I am happy to be part of a diverse coalition of councilmembers and look forward to working with them in a bipartisan fashion on behalf of the working and middle class families in my district and throughout the five boroughs.”

Jimmy Van Bramer
“I am enormously proud to vote for a progressive and the first Latina to lead our great body. I am equally proud to elect a woman, who as Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus, a body I have stood with since day one, has dedicated her life to ending injustice in all its forms including discrimination and violence against the LGBT community. The unending struggle for a more just city continues, and working together with Mayor-Elect de Blasio, I know our best days are ahead of us.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

City OKs $43M in tax breaks for Willets Point developers


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo rendering courtesy of NYCEDC

The city has approved $43 million in tax breaks for developers who plan to transform Willets Point into a retail and entertainment destination. 

The New York City Industrial Development Agency (NYCIDA) voted Tuesday to give the incentives to the Queens Development Group, a joint venture between Sterling Equities and Related Companies.

“That’s one of the most terrible things the city is doing,” said Arturo Olaya, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee of Small Businesses and Workers.

“The city is giving the money to the billionaires. And you know what they’re doing to the people here in Willets Point? They’re evicting the people and closing the businesses to give them this land for free,” Olaya said.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has offered more than $12.5 million in relocation aid to business owners in the first phase of the development site.

As of the end of last month, 30 have already relocated, signed new leases or are close to doing so, according to a Megan Montalvo, a spokesperson for Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area.

The city also plans to give the land to developers for $1 after the Queens delegation of the City Council approved the sale in November.

State Senator Tony Avella said aiding developers with the additional millions was “an absolute disgrace.”

“The city is taking advantage of those property owners, who are really getting the shaft,” he said. “The city is giving that land to them for a dollar, and now they want $43 million in tax breaks.”

The major $3 billion project to redevelop Willets Point, now made up of hundreds of auto shops, includes cleaning up 23 acres of contaminated land.

Plans also eventually call for constructing housing units and a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center west of Citi Field.

“While I remain confident that this development, as a whole, will greatly enhance the quality of life for my constituents, I will respect whatever decision the IDA deems appropriate for this application,” Ferreras said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Verizon heroes honored by City Council for stopping Flushing rape


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Julissa Ferreras

Three Queens-bred Verizon technicians who thwarted a rape in Flushing in October were honored by the City Council Tuesday for their gallant rescue. 

“No one should ever have to experience such an atrocious crime as rape,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who chairs the Council’s Women’s Issues Committee.

Michael Popowich, Anthony Howley and John Gilday were on the job Oct. 30, when they said they saw a man push a woman down and pull down her underwear near 150-24 Northern Blvd.

The trio chased down the attacker and sat on him until cops arrived.

“I am proud that these courageous men stepped in and prevented a potential rape from occurring,” Ferreras said. “It is my hope that their example resonates with all New Yorkers everywhere to help those who are in need.”

The technicians were honored with a proclamation Dec. 10 by Ferreras, Councilmember Peter Koo and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“It was a big honor. It was very humbling,” said Gilday, 53, of Douglaston.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Op-ed: The spirit of giving


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILMEMBER JULISSA FERRERAS

Every year, the holiday day season gives us an extra special opportunity to reflect upon our blessings and take time to give back to those we love.

With Chanukah just ending and Christmas and Kwanzaa fast approaching, it’s clear that the spirit of giving is already in the air – almost everywhere you look you see folks with shopping bags full of holiday presents just waiting to bring joy.

While I have always found truth in the age-old saying “Tis better to give than to receive,” I could not help but relish the happiness that one sizable gift brought to our community last week.

On November 26, just days before Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of joining Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and representatives from the Queens Museum and the Queens Economic Development Corp. at Corona Plaza to announce an $800,000 leadership gift from J.P. Morgan Chase to the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership.

This gift will not only benefit countless New Yorkers by creating 100 jobs for workers maintaining 20 of the City’s existing plazas, but it will also ensure that the DOT’s community partners in under-resourced neighborhoods, like Corona, will have the support they need to maintain clean, green and vibrant public plazas.

Since 2008, the DOT has installed 22 plazas throughout the City, and it plans to bring another 37 in the near future with the goal of putting all New Yorkers within a 10-minute walk of quality open space.

Corona Plaza is a perfect example of how effective and important these green spaces are to our local neighborhoods. To so many children who grow up in apartments without any front or back yards, neighborhood plazas are the only safe access they have to the outdoors.

Just 18 months ago, the site where Corona Plaza now sits was open to traffic and cluttered with parked trucks, causing a safety hazard for all pedestrians entering and exiting the nearby subway platform. Today, the plaza is a space bursting with activity, serving as the go-to destination where locals can have a cup of coffee, exercise outdoors and enjoy free family-friendly events.

Public plazas go a long way in helping our communities enhance economic activity, air quality, community safety and the overall quality of life.

Although Chase’s gift will undoubtedly go a long way in improving plazas throughout the City, it’s clear that there is still much work that needs to be done. The cost just to maintain Corona Plaza alone ranges between $50,000 and $75,000 every year, not including the hundreds of volunteer hours donated by those who want to add to the beautification efforts.

This holiday season, I urge everyone to spend time at their nearest neighborhood plaza and consider the immense benefits they generate. If you can spend just a fraction of your time investing in your local plaza, you will not only help improve these vital green spaces, but you will also create a better future for generations to come.

In the spirit of giving, please consider volunteering at your local plaza today. The gift of your time will surely be one that keeps on giving!

To learn more about the services offered by the DOT Public Plaza Program, please visit www.nyc.gov/plazas or contact 311 or plazas@dot.nyc.gov.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. Through her leadership, Corona Plaza continues to be a premiere outdoor destination for the local community.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

More than 30 business owners take payout to leave Willets Point


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

“We’ve moved” signs are popping up in Willets Point, as 22 business owners took a payout to relocate by the end of last month, city officials said.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in August offered a pooled $3.5 million to auto shop owners in the Phase 1 area of the Willets Point development site who agree to leave the Iron Triangle by the end of January.

Shop owners who relocated by November 30 will be given a payout equal to one year’s rent, while those who leave between December and the end of January will get a payment equal to six months’ rent.

Nine businesses have agreed to vacate by January 31, according to a Megan Montalvo, a spokesperson for Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area.

As of the end of last month, 30 have already relocated, signed new leases or are close to doing so, Montalvo said.

About 50 business owners from the Sunrise Co-op, a large group fighting to relocate together, are in talks with the city to move to the Bronx, according to Sunrise leader Sergio Aguirre.

“We are in negotiations,” Aguirre said. “We don’t know when we’re going to finish. Until we have that agreement, we can’t say anything.”

But some have no plans to leave the site, including Yoni Chazbani, who owns ACDC Scrap Metal on Willets Point Boulevard.

“If they were to give me 12 times the monthly rent, I wouldn’t be able to move a few cars out of here. That’s for sure,” he said. “Honestly, I hope I could stay here for another 20 years. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Chazbani said customers are pouring in daily, hoping the auto shops will stay put.

“They look at the place and they say, ‘I can’t believe you guys are moving. I’m going to need you. I’m going to need to fix my car for a good price,’” he said. “Everywhere, out of this yard, prices are more expensive. This does everyone good. It benefits everybody but the city.”

Businesses have long said they can only survive if they are moved as a whole and can continue as a one-stop shop for motorists.

“I already invested a lot of money in my business, but to the city it’s garbage,” said Arturo Olaya, owner of Arthur’s Upholstery on 36th Avenue and president of the Willets Point Defense Committee for Small Businesses and Workers.

The city has been urging shops to leave since February, in order to make way for a $3 billion project to redevelop Willets Point. But, the entire Phase 1 area must first be vacated before environmental remediation can begin.

Plans for the larger project include cleaning up 23 acres of contaminated land and eventually constructing housing units and a mega mall near Citi Field.

The first-come, first-served payouts were added onto the $9 million in relocation aid already offered.

With additional reporting by Liam La Guerre

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Borough Board approves $1 sale of Willets Point


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

The project to build a shopping center next to Citi Field is on the move.

The Queens Borough Board voted on November 18 to allow the city’s Economic Development Council to sell the 23 acres of land for $1 to the Queens Development Group. The land is needed for the Willets Point project and would be cleaned up to make way for a 1.4 million-square-foot complex which will consist of a mall and housing units with commercial and retail space.

“After carefully reviewing the Willets Point proposal and taking my district’s needs into account, I am confident that this development will be a win for my constituents, a win for Willets Point, and a win for the great City of New York,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area and voted yes to the proposal.

All seven councilmembers on the board who were present during the meeting and Borough President Helen Marshall voted yes to the proposal. The only no vote came from Community Board 7’s Chair Eugene Kelty.

“The votes in favor of this proposal give us the unique opportunity to remove the blighted history of Willets Point and ensure it is a place for families to enjoy living and shopping for years to come,” said Ferreras.

The City Council approved the $3 million Willets Point project in October.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

City Council incumbents Weprin, Crowley miss DC 37 union endorsement


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photos

Two City Council incumbents from Queens were not endorsed by the city’s largest public employee union because they did not apply for the nod, the union said.

DC 37 released its endorsements for the November general election last Wednesday, which included multiple sitting councilmembers in the borough and candidates who won primaries in September.

Left off the Queens list were Speaker-hopeful Mark Weprin and Elizabeth Crowley — both who are Democrats, facing fairly easy challenges for re-election in a blue-dominated borough.

The pair joins a handful of city incumbents who were not endorsed because they did not apply to be part of DC 37’s long-established screening process, according to Wanda Williams, the union’s political and legislative director.

The list includes City Council incumbents Dan Garodnick, Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Annabel Palma, Brad Lander and David Greenfield.

“The lack of an endorsement should not be construed as a commentary on their performance but as a reflection of their decision not to submit themselves to our rigorous screening process,” Williams said.

“Only the kind of transparent and rigorous screening process we have adopted assures we give all candidates a fair hearing they have initiated,” she added.

Weprin said he was unaware of the union’s screening policy. He was also running unopposed until August.

“We didn’t really reach out since I didn’t have an opponent until the summer,” he said. “This year, I certainly would have loved their endorsement. They are certainly a valuable and important union to me. I don’t take offense at it. I just wasn’t aware of the process. No hard feelings.”

Crowley did not comment.

Contested Queens incumbents who enjoy the union’s backing this year include Peter Koo, Karen Koslowitz, Eric Ulrich, Ruben Wills and Donovan Richards.

DC 37 also endorsed unchallenged incumbents Julissa Ferreras, Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer and primary winners Paul Vallone, Rory Lancman, Daneek Miller and Melinda Katz.

The municipal workers’ union, which has 121,000 members and 50,000 retirees, said it sends out an army of volunteers to work phone banks and do door-to-door “Get Out The Vote” operations.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Op-Ed: Let’s not make a deal


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY GEOFFREY CROFT

In a recent op-ed (“A new alliance for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,” March 10) Councilmember Julissa Ferreras argues for the need to create a new nonprofit alliance dedicated for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (FMCP).

The alliance would collect money from the USTA and other businesses using the park and spend it exclusively on the park. Agreeing to a deal that puts money into a park fund in exchange for a yes vote, along with a few other “concessions”  is a misguided policy that would allow the USTA to expand and set the stage for more businesses to try and take more public parkland.

That is exactly what is not needed for the park.

It is the city’s legal responsibility to properly fund our public parks, not that of private businesses.

Make no mistake this is NOT like the Central Park Conservancy or the Prospect Park Alliance model as she has attempted to claim.  There is a huge difference between receiving philanthropic contributions from civic-minded people seeking nothing in return and establishing a fund explicitly created for extracting money from businesses exploiting the park.

She said she is doing this to “to help protect this irreplaceable park.”  The park does not need this type of “protection.”

A detailed plan on how this alliance model could work has already been drawn up.  It was devised with the help of a Parks Department partner group New Yorkers for Parks, in concert with the councilmember, working behind closed doors.

Despite repeated requests Ferreras has refused to voluntarily provide a copy of this plan.  For the first time in 15 years I’ve had to resort to FOILing a councilmember. This is not a good sign.

These deals only weaken communities and make it easier for the next encroachment. They also allow the very people whose job it is to properly fund and protect our public spaces off the hook.

The councilmember was correct, though, when she said the park has not received the attention and resources it deserves.

Whose fault is that? Does anyone think our elected officials are doing their jobs when FMCP has only 14 employees for a 1,200-acre park?  That’s disgraceful.

Each year our elected officials allocate a fraction of the funds desperately needed to properly maintain, operate, secure, and program our 29,000 acres of public parks.

This year is no different.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s current $70.1 billion proposed budget allocates just $ 283.2 million or o.4 % in tax levy funds for parks.

Over the last 40 years no other city agency has lost a greater percentage of its workforce than the Parks Department.  This happens year after because the public does NOT demand accountability.

The city continues to try and abdicate its responsibilities by entering in these public/private agreements that officials are not only allowing but actively encouraging.  They are increasingly resorting to these pay-to-play funding schemes.  This welfare mentality has to stop.

These deals hand over enormous power and decision making authority to these groups with little transparency and accountability on what is supposed to be public land.

We need our elected officials instead to allocate proper resources for our parks; it’s what the public pays taxes for.

Until communities begin to stand together and demand accountability from officials and “so called” park advocacy groups, the public can expect more of the same – our parks being sold out.

Geoffrey Croft is the founder and president of NYC Park Advocates, a non-profit watchdog group dedicated to improving public parks. He is also a founding member of Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a coalition of community-based civic and environmental groups opposed to the commercial encroachment of FMCP.   

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Residents march against MLS stadium plans


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Less than a week after Major League Soccer (MLS) held meetings on consecutive days regarding its planned stadium for Queens, residents opposed to the project took to the streets to march against it.

“Parkland is sacred,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “And it shouldn’t be taken away for a money-making proposition.”

Avella, also a candidate for borough president, and Councilmember Julissa Ferreras headlined the protest march on Sunday, December 9.

Two other massive projects — expansion at Willets Point and at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center — begin at the same time a new soccer stadium would be built. Avella said that would create gridlock and make access for parkgoers nearly impossible.

“You not only have the discussion about a soccer stadium,” Avella said. “You also have the tennis stadium, the tennis association that wants to expand, and you have Willets Point — all of these projects supposedly are going to be done at the same time.”

Ferreras said the project could not move forward without bringing the community into play. The future of Flushing Meadows needed to reflect the community, she said, and what it needs regarding greenspace.

“We cannot make any deals behind closed doors,” Ferreras said. “We cannot have such an important part of our community — the lungs of our community — be negotiated in City Hall. This is important for our community; I cannot be supportive of a project that says it’s at the finish line, when we are only at the beginning.”

Luis Gonzalez, a member of advocacy group Make the Road New York, said that while the residents around the park love to use its amenities to play soccer, that does not mean the community, as a whole, wants to have a stadium in the middle of open space.

“I play soccer in the park,” he said. “Our community loves soccer. But that doesn’t mean we want a soccer stadium right in the middle of the park. The kids in our community desperately need open space to exercise.”

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.