Tag Archives: karen koslowitz

Parents fight potential cuts to after-school programs


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Amanda Dimick, a single mother of four, couldn’t hold back her tears as she spoke of what the after-school child care Beacon Program means to her and her boys.

“I find myself spreading myself thin between my four children,” she said, as her voice cracked. “I don’t know what I would do without the [Beacon] program.”

All across the city, the group Campaign for Children is teaming up with after-school programs and calling for long-term investment from elected officials to create stable, sustainable, high-quality child care.

According to the Campaign, city-funded child care programs, such as Beacon, face “constant uncertainty and instability.”

Last year, after-school programs faced a potential $170 million budget cut, but the Campaign and its partnering programs prevailed, restoring the full budget, after dozens of citywide rallies, phone calls and letters to elected officials. This year, although no budget cuts have been announced yet, the Campaign is calling for the same.

“[Beacon] enables me to put in more time at work,” said Dimick at a town hall meeting at the Queens Community House Beacon on Wednesday, January 17.

Dimick, whose four boys are all under 12 years old, said that when she needs to spend time focusing on work, she knows she can rely on the staff to be valuable role models for her children.

“They say it takes a community to raise a child, and that’s definitely been my situation,” she said.

“I’m going to fight for you,” assured Councilmember Karen Koslowitz, who was a single parent of two and said that after-school programs “saved her” when she had to go to work.

“This mayor has to recognize that our children are very important,” she added.

Warren Fink lives with just his 11-year-old daughter, Miriam, who has been going to the Beacon program for years.

“When I wake up in the morning, I need a purpose,” he said. “And my purpose is my daughter. [At Beacon,] I feel that my daughter is surrounded by wonderful people, and she’s learning as she’s growing.”

Fink spoke for many parents when he said that closing the program puts much more pressure on working parents, and could potentially put the kids on the streets after school.

The next step for the Campaign and concerned parents is to make their voices heard, and ensure that long-term investments are made in child care and after-school programs.

 

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What City Council members wish for their constituents in 2013


| editorial@queenscourier.com

2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Forest Hills seeks flood fix


| MKirk@queenscourier.com

IMGP4777_2

Rene Alkalay, owner of Genesis Tree of Life, a yoga and wellness center on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills, is furious that area flooding has cost him nearly $75,000.

“I want to know what you’re going to do to put me back in business,” he said at a town hall meeting on Thursday, September 27.

After being awash in complaints from Forest Hills residents regarding sewage flooding into their homes following heavy rains, Councilmember Karen Koslowitz and Community Board 6 invited the community to air their grievances directly to city officials in the hopes that a solution could be found.

A line of more than 30 people formed in the packed assembly room of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, where residents, some more vocal than others, expressed their concerns to employees of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

What ensued was a two-hour forum of tales of fecal-matter-filled water spouting out of drains, gallons upon gallons of sewer water flooding into basements, toxic mold growing on walls, skin inflammations, and cars, furniture and other belongings damaged beyond repair.

Ron Green, who lives on Yellowstone Boulevard, described a tactic he used during one storm that involved clogging his toilet with a towel and placing two sandbags on top of the lid before sitting on them. In the end, not even that could prevent a shower of feces from spraying out of the toilet, he said.

“It was like a fire hose,” he said.

Clay artist Ginnie Shaknis has seen her apartment flood three times due to heavy rainfall this summer. With the help of a friend, they bailed over 200 gallons of water out of her home. Lately she’s been dipping into her supply of clay to use as a way to clog her drains.

When asked how much financial damage she has suffered, Shaknis said, “I can’t even say anymore. It just keeps happening and happening.”

Edward Coleman, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations at the DEP, essentially told attendees that there is nothing the agency can do. Because the sewers are designed to handle one-and-a-half inches of rain per hour, the city is only liable for damage done to peoples’ homes when rainfall exceeds that amount. Since none of the storms this summer surpassed that quantity, it is unlikely that residents will receive any compensation.

Attendees who brought up their issues were asked to provide information to the DEP regarding the locations of suspected faulty storm drains. Several residents also cited occasions in which they contacted the DEP with concerns of overflowing storm drains and detached manhole covers and received a response they found unsatisfactory — or no response at all. The DEP took down information from these residents and said they would look into these matters.

Koslowitz asked the DEP employees what she could do to help her constituents affected by the flooding.

“As a single councilmember, there’s nothing you can do,” said Mark Lanaghan, assistant commissioner of Intergovernmental Affairs. “The purpose of meetings like this is to learn about things we didn’t know about and to have issues brought to our attention.”

Sandra Crystal has been living in Forest Hills for the last 50 years. Her apartment building flooded on two occasions this summer.

“Who’s your boss?” Crystal asked the panel when it was her turn at the microphone. “If it’s the mayor, then that’s who we need to talk to. If the mayor lived in Forest Hills, something would be done about it.”

Koslowitz said she found the meeting to ultimately be “very frustrating.”

“We received no answers. We have to look into different ways than before. Since 2007, this situation has been prevalent. It’s unacceptable that nothing can be done. I’m going to see what I can do, alert the mayor’s office and look for answers.”

Queens councilmembers score high on environmental report cards


| mchan@queenscourier.com


The scores are in — and Queens councilmembers have fared well above average in their most recent environmental report cards.

According to the New York City League of Conservation Voters’ (NYLCV) annual “Environmental Scorecard,” a record number of 22 out of 50 councilmembers achieved perfect scores. Queens, the runner-up borough, trailed the Manhattan delegation — which scored the highest average of 95 — by two points, while Brooklyn stood firm with 92 points, Staten Island with 88 and the Bronx with 76.

The annual survey examines voting and sponsorship records on 11 bills covering green buildings, transportation, sustainable food, waterfronts, clean energy and more, said officials at the nonprofit organization.

The average score for the city was 90 out of a possible 100 — up significantly from the 68 point average the Council netted last marking period from 2008 to 2009.

The borough’s top scorers included Queens Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley, James Gennaro, Karen Koslowitz, Eric Ulrich, Peter Vallone, Jimmy Van Bramer and Mark Weprin. Each of the seven lawmakers racked up 100 point averages.

“This particular scorecard really shows that just about everybody in the Council has a very good track record on this very important set of issues,” said Gennaro, who serves as chair of Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection. “It sort of energizes us to stay the course and keep pushing on in many environmental issues that we’re currently working on. This scorecard really provided some inspiration to carry on.”

Still, not all numbers were high across the board.

The northernmost borough in the city raked in the top three lowest scores. Bronx representatives Larry Seabrook and Annabel Palma both received 64 points, while Councilmember Helen Foster flunked with 36 points.

Foster did not return calls for comment as of press time.

Apple store coming to Queens?


| brennison@queenscourier.com


A local developer has planted the seeds to land a store that is the “apple” of shoppers’ eyes.

The Heskel Group, located in Forest Hills, has been trying for many years to lure an Apple store into the Queens area.

“I’ve been working on it for a long time,” said Heskel Elias, founder of the Heskel Group. “Nothing is written in stone; nothing concrete.”

Though an Apple spokesperson said the company has not made any announcements regarding any new stores, politicians and residents alike are excited for the possibility.

“I think it would have a great effect on the borough and Forest Hills,” said Councilmember Karen Koslowitz.  “It would have a great economic impact.”

The councilmember said she is an Apple store shopper and is tired of having to travel to Long Island or Manhattan to shop.

“We need an Apple store in Queens,” said Rob Howard, a student at Queens College.  “Whenever you want to get your phone, computer or iPod serviced, you have to travel all the way into the city.”

The Big Apple already has six of the technology giant’s stores, but only one — in Staten Island — outside Manhattan.

Austin Street provides a perfect location, the councilmember said, thanks to its easy accessibility.

“It’s wonderful that stores, like Apple, recognize there is great need for them to come into our neighborhoods,” she said.  “Queens is a great place. I’m very excited about it.”