Tag Archives: Law

Stop for school bus or lose license for 60 days: state Senate


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

Repeat scofflaws who zoom through school bus stop signs could face stiffer penalties under a bill the state Senate passed last week.

The legislation calls for a 60-day license suspension for drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus more than twice within 10 years.

“It’s bad enough that a driver passes a stopped school bus once, but to do it twice is unacceptable,” said upstate Sen. John Bonacic, who penned the law. “This bill is intended to make our roads safer for our school children.”

Committing the crime twice within three years is currently punishable by up to $750 and 180 days in jail. But only the monetary fine — up to $1,000 — increases for each new offense after that.

The new law, in line with citywide “Vision Zero” strides to reduce pedestrian fatalities, would temporarily yank dangerous drivers from the wheel.

“Drivers who are reckless with their lives and the lives of others, particularly with the lives of children, must be punished and taken off the roads,” Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky said.

The bill now awaits movement by the state Assembly’s Transportation Committee.

 

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Queens lawmaker wants fire hydrants tagged with markers


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Councilmember Mark Weprin

All New York City hydrants should be tagged with high-flying flags to be spotted more easily during snowstorms, a Queens lawmaker is proposing.

Councilmember Mark Weprin is reintroducing legislation this March that would require markers be placed at least three feet above hydrants.

The bill, first introduced in 2011, would help firefighters quickly pinpoint nearest hydrants that are buried in the snow, Weprin said.

It would also help homeowners locate and dig them out faster and keep motorists from accidentally parking too close.

“Hydrants get snow plowed in. There are some you can’t even see,” Weprin said. “It seems like just a common sense change.”

Six major snowstorms have slammed the city so far this winter, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during the last blast on Feb. 13.

In Central Park, Bridgeport and LaGuardia Airport, it is the third snowiest February on record, according to the National Weather Service.

The bill has never moved out of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, though similar laws exist in other cities like Orangetown, N.Y. and Santa Maria, Calif., Weprin said.

“I’m hoping we can make the case a little better now,” he said.

 

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Flushing widow pushes for hit-and-run bill


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The widow of a Flushing man killed last year in a tragic hit-and-run held back tears while she pushed for a bill to protect pedestrians.

“I’m very heartbroken, very angry,” said Taysha Dominguez. “There are no words to describe the pain and the suffering that my family is currently going through at this moment.”

Her husband, Dante Dominguez, was struck by a car while crossing 41st Avenue and Union Street on foot in Flushing last November. The driver, who is still unknown, fled and left the father of three to die, officials said. He was 45.

“Even when I step on someone’s foot, I hold accountability. I say that I’m sorry to that person,” said the widow, 30. “This person continued driving, didn’t have the heart to help save that victim. To leave the scene — that’s heartless. That is what has torn me apart.”

Lawmakers and Dante’s family returned to the scene of the crime last week to urge the City Council to pass a bill which would require more police action and the installation of nearly 200 red light cameras.

“We don’t want her husband to have died in vain,” said Councilmember Peter Koo.

The legislation would require the NYPD to make annual reports to the City Council on hit-and-runs that result in death or severe injury, detailing all actions taken to determine culprits. The city’s police department would also have to collect video surveillance from cameras near the crime scene.

The bill also calls for the city to install red light cameras in more than 150 intersections and create a tax credit for property owners who install their own devices.

Sources said the bill will soon be introduced in the City Council.

“Hit-and-runs are too frequent in Queens, and we need to do everything we can to make sure the police have the resources they need to find the drivers responsible for them,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie.

Inspector Brian Maguire of the 109th Precinct urged anyone with information on Dante’s death to anonymously help by calling 1-800-577-TIPS.

“Getting into an accident is not a crime,” the precinct’s commanding officer said. “It’s only a crime when you flee the scene.”

Dominguez said her husband was a hardworking artist who toiled through long shifts to make ends meet. She added that their family is still reeling from the loss.

“I can’t say we’re okay when we’re really not,” said Dominguez. “We have no sense of closure. We’re hurt and we’re torn. There is not enough justice being done to find out who did this.”

 

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10 years after deadly staged accident, family wants Alice’s Law passed


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The family of the 71-year-old Queens woman killed 10 years ago in a staged car accident said bureaucratic delays have held up justice — and a proposed law to stiffen penalties in such cases.

“It should have passed,” said Daniel Ross, 56, of Bayside. “I don’t want another family to go through what we went through.”

His mother, Alice Ross, died in 2003 when her car was struck in Bellerose by another vehicle.

According to the district attorney, Waurd Demolaire of Brooklyn intentionally rammed his car into hers to collect insurance money under the state’s No-Fault Law. He was convicted of manslaughter and conspiracy in 2006 and released on probation last October.

“The perpetrator got off with a very reduced sentence, considering the fact that he murdered my sister,” said Alice’s brother, Don Peters. “Now he’s free to walk the streets of New York again.”

Legislation dubbed Alice’s Law has been proposed in the State Senate and Assembly. Both bills would impose tougher criminal penalties on people who engage in staged accidents. But legislators said failure to compromise on two different versions of the law has stalled the ratification process.

The Assembly wants to classify staging accidents to defraud insurance as a class E felony, the lowest felony offense. It carries a prison sentence of one to five years.

A bill passed in the State Senate would make the crime a class D felony and upgrade it to class B if the accident causes serious injury or death to another person. That could mean a prison sentence of five to more than 25 years.

“It’s continually frustrating that there seems to be a philosophical difference between the State Senate and Assembly,” said State Senator Tony Avella, a cosponsor of the Senate bill. “Increasing penalties for any sort of crime, [the Assembly] just won’t do it.”

Assemblymember David Weprin, a sponsor of the bill in the lower house, said he is optimistic that both houses will reach a compromise and get the legislation passed this year.

The legislature has less than one month to resolve differences and get one bill approved in both houses before the session ends June 20.

Last year, the State Senate passed its bill in March and sent it to the Assembly. But according to records, the Assembly’s amended bill reached the Senate on June 19 — too late for action by the upper house.

Alice’s Law was first proposed in 2007 and has been reintroduced every year since 2010.

“It’s been too long in coming,” said Peters, 78, of Saratoga Springs. “The process has been much too slow. I wish it would become law. I think it would be a very appropriate recognition of that anniversary.”

Daniel Ross showed The Courier a copy of a letter from authorities saying the man responsible for his mother’s untimely death was now free.

“That was murder,” he said. “It could have been anybody’s mother.”

 

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DOE: Students can transfer out of failing schools


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

Students in failing city schools will be allowed to transfer, the Department of Education said.

The city is in the process of phasing out 39 struggling schools. The Panel for Educational Policy will vote in March on whether to phase out another 22, including three in Queens.

The transfer option will give students a chance to succeed at better schools. This is the first year all students at phase-out schools have been given the choice.

“We believe in providing good school choices for all students and families, and this new transfer option will enable families in low performing schools to gain access to higher performing ones across the city,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia.

Transfer applications with a list of high-ranking schools will be sent to about 16,000 eligible students in March, the department said. Priority will be given to students with the lowest scores and “greatest need.”

Students who are granted the transfer would be able to start at their new school in September.

The three Queens schools proposed for phase out this year are P.S. 140 in Jamaica; Law, Government and Community Service High School in Jamaica; and the Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School in St. Albans.

P.S. 156 in Laurelton faces a possible truncation, which will eliminate its middle school.

One grade would be eliminated at a time from the troubled schools under the phase-out process.

 

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Parents oppose P.S. 140 phase out


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

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The Department of Education (DOE) has issued a proposal to phase out a Jamaica elementary school – but the community will not go quietly.

“My daughter is heartbroken,” said Lashawna Colliard, whose daughter, Alexis, is in the fourth grade at P.S. 140.

The school, due to consistently bad grades on its yearly progress reports, has been on the looming chopping block since last October, and administrators and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) have been working feverishly to improve conditions. A final decision whether to phase out the school or not will be made in March.

“It’s extremely disheartening,” said Wydia Gavin, PTA vice president. “The principal has done a lot of revamping and placing people strategically where they would be effective; this proposal hasn’t allowed him to prove that there have been significant changes made.”

Principal David Norment joined the P.S. 140 staff in February 2012, becoming the school’s fourth principal within just one year. According to PTA members, Norment came into a “messy situation.”

“Since he came in, he’s been working diligently with his staff to produce the proper scores that they need to see changes and improvement,” said Gavin. “You won’t get to see the progress because [the DOE] deadline doesn’t factor in his changes.”

This school year, P.S. 140 credits itself with a 50 percent reduction in suspensions, a 93.8 percent attendance rate – the highest in 12 years – building improvements and multiple new school sports and art programs.

The school’s superintendent, Beverly Ffolkes-Bryant, held an assembly Tuesday, January 8 with the students and explained the situation, along with the phasing out process.

“[Alexis] called me as soon as the assembly was over,” said Colliard. “She said, ‘Mommy, they’re closing my school!’ [The DOE] shouldn’t do it, not yet.”

A new administration would take over the P.S. 140 building this September, if the DOE approves the plan, and take charge of Pre-K through second grade. Third through fifth grade would still be a part of P.S. 140. The new administration would gradually phase out P.S. 140 by taking over a grade a year, so that all grades are incorporated by September 2016.
Bryant also held a parent information session, and there will be a public hearing in February. The DOE will consider all parent testimonies, and will hold a final vote in March.

The PTA has rallied parents and encourages them to call or email the DOE, voicing their concerns. They will continue to hold workshops, put out phone blasts, and keep the community informed.

Other Queens schools set to possibly be phased out include the Law, Government and Community Service High School as well as Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School; P.S. 156 faces a truncation of its middle school.

 

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Queens schools may be phased out


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

For months, the Department of Education (DOE) had been evaluating city schools’ progress reports, noting those that were in danger of closing. The process is continuing, and now several Queens schools could possibly be phased out.

This process, which eliminates one grade at a time from the troubled schools, will be finalized after a vote this coming March. Public School 140 in Jamaica; Law, Government and Community Service High School in Jamaica; and the Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School in St. Albans are all on the chopping block. P.S. 156 in Laurelton faces a possible truncation, which will eliminate its middle school.

“We expect success,” said DOE Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg. “Ultimately, we know we can better serve our students and families with new options and a new start.”

However, the community is not taking the news lying down.

“I will continue to press the administration to keep these schools open,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie. “Many people at these schools work extremely hard to give their students the best education possible, but the city makes their jobs much harder by not allocating the proper resources and ignoring community input.”

Sternberg countered this claim, saying that the DOE has listened to the community and provided support services to the low-performing schools based on their needs, but it is time to take action.

However, Comrie said the city standards used to measure schools are “confusing, arbitrary, and hindering, rather than helping, to improve the education system.”

The Law, Government and Community Service High School in particular was one school with a good reputation, and according to Comrie, was asked by the DOE to take in more students. However, while they took in the additional students, they were not given the extra resources needed to accommodate them.

Citywide, 22 schools are facing phase-outs, two are looking at possible closure, and two more could be truncated.

Previously, J.H.S. 008, I.S. 059 and Flushing High School faced closure, but have since passed the DOE standards and will remain open.

“We expect every school to deliver for our students, and are working hard to offer families more high performing choices,” said Sternberg.
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Obama signs bill for gas pipeline under the Rockaways


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Williams

A bill allowing a natural gas pipeline to be constructed in Queens and Brooklyn has been signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act, passed on November 27, authorizes Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to issue permits to build and operate a three-mile pipeline underneath Jacob Riis Park and Jamaica Bay in the Rockaways to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.

The measure is expected to bring clean energy to the city, while creating 300 local construction jobs and generating about $265 million in construction activity, officials said.

“Given the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, this law could not come at a more critical time for New York City,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “This pipeline will help us build a stable, clean energy future for New Yorkers and will ensure the reliability of the city’s future energy needs.”

The new pipeline will be built off the existing Williams pipeline — which brings natural gas from New Jersey to Long Island —- along a planned route through the Gateway National Recreation Area that avoids residential, commercial and environmentally sensitive areas, said Congressmember Michael Grimm.

“At a time when many in [the city] have suffered such great loss, this is welcomed news as we seek to rebuild our local economy and our communities,” Grimm said.

But the pipeline is not “green,” according to activists against the measure, who say it carries a carbon footprint and several environmental hazards, including the risk of possible explosions.

“This is reckless,” said Peter Rugh, spokesperson for Occupy Wall Street Environmental Solidarity. “The area where the pipeline is going through has been decimated by rising tides and flood waters. [Residents] are rebuilding, and they want to rebuild in a green fashion and not with a mega gas pipeline.”

Dan Hendrick, spokesperson for the New York League of Conservation Voters, said the pipeline comes with both positive and negative aspects.

Construction would cause short-term environmental disturbances to the sea floor, Hendrick said, temporarily affecting the “robust” marine ecology of some 100 types of fish and crabs. The potential loss of public parkland use at Floyd Bennett Field has also been at the root of controversy, he said.

But the city would be moving toward a future of natural gas, Hendrick said, which burns cleaner and emits less pollutants.

“Clearly there are some negatives, but there are definitely some positives,” Hendrick said, “and that’s sort of what makes this challenging.”

 

Teens to need parental consent for body piercings


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Bayside teen Elana Campane is considering getting her belly button pierced. She hasn’t told her parents yet, and she’s not sure that they will approve of a piercing that’s not in her ears.

For now, the 17-year-old doesn’t need their permission, but she will in a few months when New York becomes the 32nd state to make it illegal for minors to get a body piercing without parental consent.

Luckily, said Campane, she will turn 18 at the end of December.

The new law, which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed on Tuesday, July 31, requires anyone under 18 years old to obtain written consent by a parent or guardian before getting a piercing on any part of the body except for the ear.

“Body piercings can pose a significant health risk if not cared for properly,” said Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz, who co-sponsored the bill. “This will now ensure that parents are aware of their son or daughter’s intent to receive a body piercing which will hopefully prevent complications such as allergic reactions, skin infections or scarring.”

According to the governor’s office, about 20 percent of all body piercings result in infection.

After reading an article about the risks of body piercing, Simanowitz discovered that although it is illegal to tattoo anyone under 18 without parental permission, there was no minimum age requirement for body piercings.

“My children’s school can’t give my 14-year-old a Tylenol without permission, but he can walk into a store and get a body piercing,” said Simanowitz.

A minor will assess the risk of a body piercing differently than an adult, he added.

Piercing studios will need to check the identification of those suspected of being underage, and the owner or body piercing specialist must be present when a parental consent form is signed. The state health department will oversee the new law.

But it’s already common practice for some body piercing places to card potential minors and require signed consent, said Juan Orellana, co-owner of Skin Konviction, a tattoo and body piercing studio in Flushing.

“We’d rather not take any chances,” he said.

Rockaway Park charter school might close


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The final dismissal bell may soon ring for six underperforming charter schools in the city — including one school in Queens.

According to officials, Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School in Rockaway Park joins 46 other struggling schools on the list for potential closures released by the Department of Education (DOE) on November 2. Of the 46 schools facing the ax, 24 are elementary and middle schools, 17 are high schools and six are charter schools.

Schools become candidates for the chopping block if they have warranted a failing grade on the most recent progress report or if they’ve received a “C” for three consecutive years. Schools also qualify for closure if they have received a rating of “Underdeveloped” on the most recent Quality Review or if they were identified as “Persistently Lowest Achieving” (PLA) by the State Education Department.

“The goal of these discussions is to gain a better understanding of where weaknesses in their educational strategy lie and why they are struggling,” said Deputy Schools Chancellor Marc Sternberg. “We’ll take the feedback into consideration as we explore options to improve performance and support student success, and continue to work with all of our schools to ensure that students have access to high quality options.”

According to DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas, Peninsula Preparatory is being considered for closure for many reasons. He said besides the fact that the charter school’s renewal is coming up this year — which puts the school under close examination — Peninsula Preparatory is not on track to meet set goals. He said the school also has a higher than average teacher turnover rate, which means that teachers are frequently leaving the school after brief terms — causing the school to replace teachers often.

Peninsula Preparatory received a “C” on the last two progress reports.

“We’re following our plan of action to improve student achievement, and we’re doing the best that we can,” said Principal Ericka Wala. “We’ll see how it unfolds. I feel good about the progress we’ve made so far.”

The list of schools put on notice has doubled since September, when 20 public elementary and middle schools in the city were targeted for closure, including two elementary schools in Queens — P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott in Woodmere and P.S. 181 Brookfield in Springfield Gardens.

P.S. 215 in Woodmere received an “F” on the most recent progress report and P.S. 181 in Springfield Gardens received a “D.” The schools each performed one grade worse than they did on last year’s progress report. P.S. 215 received a “D” on last year’s report, while P.S. 181 received a “C.”

Soon after September — following the release of high school progress reports — Law, Government and Community Service High School in Cambria Heights also found its way to the constantly-expanding list of schools at risk of termination. The school scored the lowest in the borough this year, with an overall total score of 40.9 percent. It has received a “D” this year and the last, and falls in the bottom 6.7 percentile of city high schools.

But according to DOE officials, decisions to close any school have not been made yet.

For the first time, the DOE has instated an “early engagement process” for charter schools in which DOE and school officials remain in “an ongoing conversation and discussion about areas that schools are doing well in and are not doing well in,” Thomas said.

Any decisions on which schools will close will not come until mid-December at the earliest.

“This isn’t a list of schools to close — it’s just a list of schools that are struggling,” Thomas said. “We take a close look at them to see if they can do better in the future. We always know that they can do better.”

Last year’s list included 12 Queens schools — none of which were closed.