Tag Archives: Mark Weprin

North Shore Towers to host Queens Courier District 23 debate


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of candidate campaign offices

The Queens Courier will be holding a debate on Aug. 5 for the candidates of the 23rd City Council District election at the North Shore Towers to increase public awareness of relevant issues and platforms.

“We’re delighted to partner with the North Shore Towers to bring the candidates to our readers and residents of the communities that Mark Weprin had so masterfully represented,” said Courier Publisher Victoria Schneps-Yunis.

Mark Weprin vacated the 23rd District seat in June to become Governor Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary of legislative affairs. The district contains all or parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

North Shore Towers Political Action Committee chair Felice Hannah is the debate’s organizer and will be hosting that night as well. She has been working with campaign managers and Courier staff to ensure that the candidates will be comfortable at the forum.

“It’s important for residents to meet the candidates in order to get the best person to represent our district,” Hannah said. “We lost a great person in Mark Weprin, and we can’t say we’ll be able to replace Mark Weprin but we at least want to get the best person.”

The debate will be held at the North Shore Towers movie theater to ensure enough space for attendees from both within and outside the North Shore Towers community, and Hannah expects at least 200 people to attend. The debate will also be captured by videographers from the North Shore Towers’ in-house television station for residents unable to attend in person.

Hannah said that North Shore Towers was an ideal place to hold a campaign event because residents of the co-op are very politically involved, and the community even has its own polling site.

“While working the polling site here, I’m able to see how people come out to vote with such vigor and interest,” Hannah said. “We have a sophisticated voting block of people living here, judges, attorneys and others who just want to make sure they’re being represented by the best person possible.”

Hannah is also in the process of planning three-hour meet-and-greet events for each candidate after the debate that will see them walk around the North Shore Towers to field questions and comments from community members.

According to Hannah, property assessment is a big political issue in North Shore community, which boasts an attached country club and its own restaurant in addition to the movie theater. Residents have been fighting to change the property assessment method from the current model which has lead to a high tax rate, and many North Shore residents are also interested in choosing a candidate who will be supportive of their campaign to get a left-turn signal installed in a nearby traffic intersection.

The Queens Courier Debate for the District 23 race will be held on Aug. 5 at the North Shore Towers Cinema at 272-40 Grand Central Pkwy. The event will begin promptly at 7:30 p.m.

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District 23 City Council seat competitors square off in Bellerose


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Candidates seeking to fill the 23rd Council District seat that Mark Weprin previously held were face to face for the first time Tuesday in a debate hosted by the New American Voters Association (NAVA) at the Bellerose Jewish Center.

Democrats Barry Grodenchik, Celia Dosamantes, Bob Friedrich and Satnam Singh Parhar will be competing in a Sept. 10 primary along with Ali Najmi and Rebecca Lynch, who were absent from the debate. Former NYPD Captain Joe Concannon is the sole Republican candidate in the race.

A previously unannounced candidate, Michael Foubister, also came forward to claim a space in the debate to the surprise of many, including the event’s organizers, who seemed not to know who he was and had not included him in the program.

Although he was allowed to participate in the NAVA debate, Foubister later admitted that he did not have all the signatures needed to petition for the ballot, and The Courier confirmed that he was not listed in Board of Elections records as of July 16, the last day to file for inclusion.

Candidates were asked to speak on a variety of topics, including their legislative agenda, the amount of funding they planned to allocate to public education and charter school alternatives, and their biggest community initiatives in issues close to home.

The candidates were united on many issues, with some even agreeing with positions held by their opponents during their own turn to speak. All five have been involved with rallies against a proposed juvenile detention center planned for a residential street in Queens Village. Most agreed to increasing public school funding, and were against increasing the number of vouchers for charter schools.

Parhar, a businessman who has operated several successful clothing stores and a construction company, said that his legislative priority would be to lower utility bills. He believed that as a self-made businessman he could relate to taxpayers’ increasing worries on the price of living in the city.

“People cannot afford their bills. People cannot afford taxes. People cannot afford sewage and water bills,” Parhar said. “Think about our street lights. Think about our potholes.”

Concannon focused on the effect that public policy has on public safety. The former NYPD member challenged former Councilman Weprin for the District 23 seat in 2013 under the Reform Party line.

“One thing I learned as a cop is, a well-educated child has very little interaction with the police department at all,” Concannon said. “So I believe well-educated kids, well-educated families, and funding libraries is a part of that.”

Bob Friedrich, a well-known civic organizer who is also president of his Glen Oaks co-op, said he wants to fight policies that do not serve the outer-borough needs of District 23 well, such as instituting tolls on free East River crossings and a 10-cent grocery bag surcharge.

“That’s another Manhattan-centric proposal where people go to the local bodega in Manhattan with one shopping bag,” Friedrich said. “In this part of Queens, often we come by car, we do a week’s worth of groceries, and that’s going to add a thousand dollars to your shopping bill every year. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Candidates expressed strong views on a controversial City Council vote that may limit drivers hired by Uber, a mobile phone application that enables users to summon a livery car and intends to add 10,000 new workers this year. Once elected, the winning candidate will take part in the decision, which was just stalled for four months while a study examines the company’s impact on the city’s traffic and environment.

Grodenchik, who has endorsements from major Democratic players such as Mark Weprin and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, supported expanding Uber as a force catering to the economy and transportation needs of northeast Queens, which he felt was often forgotten by City Hall.

“We live here in eastern Queens right on the Nassau border where we’re often forgotten. I will be a person to raise his voice to support economic opportunities for the people in this community,” Grodenchik said. “Uber is a success story and it employs thousands and thousands of people. We need to encourage those success stories.”

Dosamantes, a former deputy chief of staff for Assemblyman Philip Ramos, executive assistant for Rep. Grace Meng and communications director for David Weprin, supports an Uber expansion because it could be developed into a resource within the city to employ able workers. She has previously stated that job creation is a major focus in her campaign.

“What’s most important to our district, what’s most important to our community, is job creation,” said Dosamantes, who added that increasing living costs have caused more and more New Yorkers to struggle when making ends meet. “When you take away any type of job opportunity that gives New Yorkers good paying jobs, that gives New Yorkers the opportunity to have a chance to provide for their families and take care of them, I don’t support the mayor for that.”

Mark Weprin vacated the 23rd District seat in June to become Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary of legislative affairs. The district contains all or parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

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Retired NYPD captain to launch bid for open City Council seat as Republican


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook/ Joseph Concannon

When he first campaigned for City Council two years ago, retired NYPD Capt. Joseph Concannon ran on the Reform Party line and was trounced at the polls on Election Day by the incumbent, Councilman Mark Weprin.

Now that Weprin is out of the City Council and in with the Cuomo administration, Concannon is going for the now-vacant 23rd Council District seat again, but this time as a Republican.

Concannon is scheduled to formally announce his campaign on Monday, alongside Queens GOP leaders and supporters in front of the 105th Precinct stationhouse in Queens Village.

“Over the past few weeks and months, my close friends and family have been encouraging me to take my zeal for public service and community activism to the next level,” Concannon said in a press release issued Thursday. “Many of my friends as well as the people I meet every day express their dismay with the current leadership in the City Council, our mayor and the direction this city is headed in as a whole.”

While five Democrats are seeking the party’s nomination in the September primary, the Republicans appear to be unifying early around Concannon. Sources with the Queens GOP indicated earlier this week that he is the only Republican seeking the seat.

More evidence of GOP unity was noted in Concannon’s press release, which listed Queens GOP Chairman Bob Turner, Councilman Eric Ulrich — the lone Queens Republican in the city legislature — and Queens Conservative Party Chairman Tom Long as guests scheduled to attend the campaign launch.

In August 2013, Concannon launched a challenge to then-Councilman Weprin after the City Council passed into law the Community Safety Act, two bills bringing greater oversight to the NYPD and aiming to end “bias-based profiling.” Concannon opposed the act, claiming the regulations would impede police officers in their service, and received the support of numerous unions representing members of the NYPD.

Even so, Weprin was re-elected in November with 84 percent of the vote in the district covering all or parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

Since then, Concannon has remained politically active in holding rallies calling for public support of the NYPD, most recently following the murders of Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn last December, and P.O. Brian Moore in Queens Village in May.

“Not since the violence and division this city faced decades ago have people felt so disconnected from their government,” Concannon said in Thursday’s press release. “I am running to restore some respect and common sense to our local government, the kind of common sense that is embarrassingly lacking in the NYC Council.”

Concannon added that he plans “to spend the next few weeks and months earning the right to be their voice and champion.”

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Mark Weprin’s former City Council seat won’t be filled until November


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jeff Xie

Mark Weprin officially left the City Council on Sunday, June 14 — apparently three days too late for a non-partisan special election to fill his seat.

Mayor Bill de Blasio proclaimed on Monday that the vacancy will be filled at the Nov. 3 general election, and that the political parties will nominate candidates for the election in the Sept. 10 primary.

According to a spokesperson for the city Board of Elections, a non-partisan special election cannot occur if the vacancy occurs between 60 and 90 days of the scheduled September primary. Had Weprin resigned before June 11, the mayor would have been obligated to call a non-partisan election.

Weprin had announced in May he would step down from the City Council to join the Cuomo administration as deputy secretary for legislative affairs. At the time, he said he would leave within two weeks, but ultimately delayed his departure.

Following the traditional election format now leads to a competitive Democratic primary among previously announced candidates including former Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik; Rebecca Lynch, former assistant commissioner with the New York City Community Affairs Unit; Celia Dosamantes, former aide to Assemblyman David Weprin and Rep. Grace Meng; attorney Ali Najmi; and former City Council candidate Bob Friedrich.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will face the Republican nominee in the general election. Sources close to the Queens County GOP identified retired NYPD Capt. Joe Concannon as a probable candidate.

Once the general election winner is certified, he or she will be sworn into office immediately and will fill out the remainder of Weprin’s term, which expires in 2017.

Regardless of the outcome, the 23rd Council District — which includes Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village — will be without a voice in the City Council through November. Constituent services are continuing to function from the district office, and staff members are forwarding and following up on any complaints or service requests received.

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Celia Dosamantes, former Meng and Weprin aide, officially seeking City Council seat


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Celia Dosamantes

A former aide to Assemblyman David Weprin will run for his brother’s vacant City Council seat.

Celia Dosamantes confirmed to The Courier that she will run in the upcoming special election for the 23rd District seat, which covers Bellerose, Glen Oaks, Queens Village, Oakland Gardens and other eastern Queens neighborhoods. Councilman Mark Weprin vacated the seat Friday to begin a new role with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Dosamantes, the youngest candidate for the seat thus far at 24 years old, grew up in Bellerose, and has lived in the district for most of her life. Because of this she believes she knows much of the problems the area faces.

“The reason why I’m running for this seat is because I grew up in this area. I love this community,” she said. “It gives me an opportunity to help grow and strengthen this community.”

Dosamantes is leaving her current role as deputy chief of staff for Assemblyman Philip Ramos. Before that she served as the executive assistant for Rep. Grace Meng and, prior to that, a communications and legislator director for David Weprin. She has also served as executive director of the Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group.

If elected, she intends to support senior services, transportation, job creation and increasing resources for schools. She hopes to be on the education committee as Dosamantes comes from a family with a background in education. Her mother, grandmother and aunt were all schoolteachers.

Dosamantes has already taken the lead on one key issue in the community, organizing a protest with residents against the recently announced juvenile jail in Queens Village.

She also wants to create a task force against domestic violence, and hopes to fight for another precinct in the area to share responsibilities with the 105th Precinct, which she believes is overburdened.

“An officer died in our area,” she said, referring to P.O. Brian Moore. “There is no reason why our district shouldn’t have the best policing services.”

In entering the race, Dosamantes faces a potentially crowded field that includes lawyer and activist Ali Najmi; former Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik; and Rebecca Lynch, a de Blasio administration staffer.

Dosamantes said she has a lot of support from people in the neighborhood and many volunteers. She also may have the support of the large Hindu population in the area. An example of Queens diversity, Dosamantes has an Indian mother and a Mexican father, as well as some other influences, and speaks four languages including English, Hindi, Bengali and Spanish.

Dosamantes recognizes that winning the seat will be an uphill battle as the youngest candidate, but she thinks she has a chance.

“I think it’s up for grabs,” Dosamantes said. “I am the underdog, but I also represent the people’s candidate because I come from the district.”

Mark Weprin has yet to endorse a candidate running for his seat. Reached by phone, he didn’t want to comment specifically about Dosamantes either.

“I will make an endorsement eventually,” Weprin said. “I have worked with her. But I’d rather not comment on any one candidate at this time.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to schedule a date for the special election, which by law must take place within 60 days.

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Koslowitz replacing Mark Weprin as Queens City Council delegation chair


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@JimmyVanBramer

Karen Koslowitz was named Thursday to lead the Queens City Council delegation in place of the outgoing Mark Weprin, who will officially resign his City Council seat next week.

Koslowitz is in her second stint as City Council member representing the 29th District, which covers all or parts of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Middle Village, Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill. Several of her colleagues, including Paul Vallone and Jimmy Van Bramer, took to Twitter to announce her election.

“I will do my utmost to maximize the effectiveness of my fellow Queens legislators in advocating for the interests of Queens,” Koslowitz said in a statement. “I am both humbled and gratified by the confidence that they have placed in me today.”

Weprin had led the Queens City Council delegation since 2014, but last month announced he would step down from the City Council to become Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary of legislative affairs.

Weprin tweeted on Thursday morning that next week would be his last in the City Council, and that he officially starts with the Cuomo administration on June 15. When he first announced his resignation on May 11, Weprin indicated that he would be out “within the next two weeks.”

Once Weprin’s resignation takes effect, Mayor Bill de Blasio will call a special, non-partisan election to occur within the following 60 days. Each candidate must secure their own ballot line; political parties cannot officially nominate a candidate, but may make an endorsement.

The winner of the special election will be sworn into office immediately upon certification of the results, but must run again in the November election for the right to fill out the remainder of Weprin’s term, which ends in 2017.

The 23rd District seat covers parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.  After Weprin resigns, it will remain vacant until a successor is elected. During that period, staff members will handle constituent services under the auspices of the City Council speaker.

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David Weprin won’t run for brother’s City Council seat


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

File photos

There won’t be another Weprin switcheroo at City Hall.

Assemblyman David Weprin ruled out a run last week for the City Council seat that his brother, Mark Weprin, will vacate soon in order to become Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary of legislative affairs, according to a spokesperson for the assemblyman. David Weprin will instead seek re-election in 2016.

The Weprin brothers previously traded legislative seats. David Weprin occupied the 23rd City Council seat for eight years before making a failed run for city comptroller in 2009. Mark Weprin — then occupying the Assembly seat previously held by their late father, Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin — ran for and won his brother’s City Council seat.

After Mark Weprin stepped down from the Assembly to become city councilman, David Weprin won his brother’s and his father’s former Assembly seat in a 2010 special election.

Many observers believed David Weprin would jump at the chance of returning to City Hall after Mark Weprin announced his resignation from the City Council on May 11. According to the New York Observer, David Weprin told supporters on May 14 he would stay in Albany, noting that he was recently promoted to the Assembly’s leadership by current Speaker Carl Heastie.

“I’ve decided that I plan on running for re-election to the Assembly,” David Weprin was quoted in the Observer article. “I’ve enjoyed what I’ve accomplished so far in the Assembly. I think I have a lot more to do. I’ve developed a lot of seniority in a short time — a lot of people have left.”

Once Mark Weprin’s City Council resignation takes effect, Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to call a special non-partisan election to be held within the following 60 days. Each candidate must obtain their own ballot line; political parties cannot nominate a candidate, but may make endorsements.

Former Assemblyman and Deputy Queens Borough President Barry Grodenchik already confirmed his interest in the race. Other potential candidates include Dominic Panakal, chief-of-staff to Councilman Rory Lancman; attorney Ali Najmi; and former City Council candidates Bob Friedrich and Steven Behar.

The 23rd Council seat covers all or parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Hollis Park Gardens, Holliswood, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

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Councilman Weprin to leave seat for Cuomo administration


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/file photo

Updated Tuesday, May 12, 12:35 p.m.

Councilman Mark Weprin gave his two weeks’ notice to the people of his district Monday, as he announced his departure from the City Council to take a job with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Weprin, 53, who has served in the 23rd Council District seat since 2010, is poised to become Cuomo’s deputy secretary of legislative affairs. He didn’t set a specific date when he would leave office, but in a statement, Weprin indicated his resignation would take effect “within the next two weeks.”

Prior to his City Council election, Weprin served for 15 years in the state Assembly, holding the seat previously held by his late father, former Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin. Mark Weprin was elected to the City Council seat in 2009 to succeed his brother, David, who made an unsuccessful run for City Comptroller.

David Weprin then won a special election in 2010 for his brother’s and father’s former Assembly seat.

“It has been an honor to represent eastern Queens as an elected official for 21 years,” Mark Weprin said in a statement Monday morning. “It has been my privilege to serve the people and families of my neighborhood. I am proud to have helped the communities I have represented to continue to be wonderful places to live, work and raise a family.”

At the start of his second City Council term, Mark Weprin was elected in January 2014 as chair of the City Council’s Queens delegation. He was also named chair of the Zoning and Franchises Committee and serves on the Land Use, Education, Economic Development, Oversight and Investigations, and Technology committees.

As deputy secretary for legislative affairs, Mark Weprin will reportedly serve as a liaison between Cuomo and leaders of the Assembly and state Senate on various matters.

“I have known Governor Cuomo for most of my life, and he is a leader of incredible talent,” Weprin added. “I look forward to this next step in my public career.”

Once the councilman’s resignation takes effect, the mayor must call for a non-partisan special election to be held within 60 days. Each candidate must secure their own party line; the established political parties cannot nominate a candidate of their own, but they may make an endorsement.

The 23rd Council District includes all or parts of Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Hollis Park Gardens, Holliswood, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

As for who may replace Weprin in the City Council, one contender has already emerged — former Assemblyman and Deputy Queens Borough President Barry Grodenchik. He confirmed his interest in running for the seat in a phone interview with The Courier on Tuesday.

Other potential contenders, as reported in the New York Observer, include Dominic Panakal, chief-of-staff to Councilman Rory Lancman; local attorney Ali Najmi; civic activist and former City Council candidate Bob Friedrich; and former City Council and Assembly candidate Steve Behar.

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Participatory budget projects announced in districts 19 and 23


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Councilmen in northeast Queens announced the winning projects to be funded with their participatory budgeting allowances, a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget.

Councilman Paul Vallone announced the four winning projects from District 19 in a press conference in his Bell Boulevard office on Monday, with a crowd of community members waiting on his every word to see if their favored project would be chosen. This year 2,300 votes were cast the district.

The project that received the most votes in District 19 was to build a state-of-the-art music studio for Bayside High School for $400,000. The proposal received 1,430 votes, and will serve 350 students in the school’s “Career and Technical Education” program for music production and performance.

“Participatory budgeting was a great experience for our students and we look forward to the positive effect the new music studio will provide to our academic programming,” said John Hirata, Bayside High School assistant principal of operations.

An auditorium upgrade for P.S. 169 received the most votes after the Bayside High School music studio with a total of 1,041, and will also cost $400,000. The elementary school will receive replacements in lighting, curtains, seating and a sound system for the auditorium that students share with middle school Bell Academy.

“We are so thrilled to have this auditorium upgrade because both our schools really need it,” said Orit Foresta, a parent coordinator at P.S. 169. “We do a lot of arts, a lot of shows in our schools.”

The other two projects to be funded in District 19 are $90,000 in technology upgrades for P.S. 159 and the installation of three NYPD security cameras throughout the district for $105,000.

Photo courtesy of Mark Weprin's office

Photo courtesy of Mark Weprin’s office

Councilman Mark Weprin announced the winning participatory budget proposals for District 23 on Friday, April 24. Weprin was one of the first eight City Council members to offer participatory budgets to constituents in 2012, the initiative’s first year. Twenty-four districts have since adopted the process.

“It is my hope that next year, more of my colleagues embrace participatory budgeting,” Councilman Weprin said. “It’s a great way to get community residents involved — especially those who may not be actively involved in the political process.”

A District 23 proposal with 1,146 votes received the most support, and will see $455,000 in technology upgrades coming to nine local schools. All of the schools serve children at elementary grade levels except for one, the Queens High School of Teaching.

A entry for fitness equipment at Alley Pond Park was in second place for most votes in District 23, with a total of 1,065 voting in favor of the $450,000 project. The last proposal to be funded is a plan to use $300,000 for renovations at the physical education facilities of Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside and Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village.

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Cunningham Park field dedicated to late Little League president


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Rory Lancman

Heroes get remembered, but legends never die, and Marc Katz’s memory will live on forever in Cunningham Park.

Councilmen Rory Lancman and Mark Weprin joined the Parks Department in dedicating a baseball field in Cunningham Park on Sunday to the memory of Katz, the late founder of the Jewish Community Little League.

Katz served as the president of the Jewish Community Little League from its founding in 1988 until his death in 2014. He had previously served as the president of the Young Israel of Hillcrest synagogue and as a member of the Community Board 8.

Lancman emphasized the enormity of Katz’s service in the community.

“Marc Katz was a pillar of our community,” Lancman said. “I cannot think of a better way to honor his memory than to dedicate a plaque at the field where he spent countless hours with our children.”

The Jewish Community League was founded so that Orthodox Jewish children and Sabbath observers could have an opportunity to play baseball in an organized league. These children may not be able to participate in many other youth baseball leagues as they typically would have some games on Saturday, the Jewish sabbath.

Weprin highlighted the impact Katz had on the lives of local children.

“This is a great tribute to the Katz family and the work Marc Katz did for all of us, all the kids, to make sure they had a place to play baseball,” said Weprin.

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Proposed carriage horse ban finds strongest opposition among city lawmakers from Queens


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Ricardo Zappala/Flickr Creative Commons

Opponents of a controversial bill that would ban carriage horses in the city can count on lawmakers from Queens as their biggest group of allies in the City Council.

Among the 14 council members from Queens, six have announced they will be voting against the bill that was introduced on Dec. 8 at City Hall. Only two Queens lawmakers are backing the bill and the other six remain undecided as of the night of Dec. 9.

“We are not going to be fooled by those who say that banning horse-drawn carriages is an animal rights issue. This is about political promises and money,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who joined a rally by carriage drivers and union leaders on City Hall steps on Dec. 8 before the bill was introduced.

“Banning the horse carriage industry would harm tourism, leave hundreds of families without jobs, and condemn these beautiful horses to join the tens of thousands of unwanted American horses that are sold each year to slaughterhouses and glue factories,” Crowley said.

Lawmakers from Queens who oppose the bill are Costa Constantinides, Mark Weprin, Rory Lancman, Daneek Miller, Karen Koslowitz and Crowley.

Supporting the bill to ban carriage horses are Paul Vallone and Daniel Dromm, who is one of the co-sponsors. Peter Koo, Erick Ulrich, Ruben Wills, Donovan Richards and Jimmy Van Bramer have yet to make up their minds.

Dromm repeated his support of the measure, issuing a joint statement with Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, after the bill was introduced in the Transportation Committee, saying the measure “will increase the welfare of our horses by taking them off of our streets and to a safe haven where they can thrive.”

The effort to ban carriage horses is being fought tooth and nail by the roughly 350 drivers and other workers involved in the business and several labor unions.

If approved, the legislation would ban the use of horses in the city by 2016. In a bid to create new jobs for the carriage drivers, the city would offer free training and the right to get at the front of the line for a green-cab license, without having to pay the $6,000 fee.
The bill also would fine any of the horse owners $25,000 if they sell their horses for the “purpose of slaughter.”

But Crowley says the measures aren’t enough to help drivers and stable hands who would be out of work.

“We need to be realistic about what is being proposed: 300 New Yorkers could be unemployed at the stroke of a pen,” she said in a letter released this week. “Not only are these good jobs, they are union jobs. We cannot forget that labor unions have been an essential force in increasing and protecting the middle class.”

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Op-ed: Solutions to increasing diversity without changing the SHSAT


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

By COUNCILMAN MARK WEPRIN 

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about changing the admissions process for New York City’s specialized high schools in order to address the underrepresentation of black and Latino students. While I embrace the goal of increasing diversity within those schools, I am not convinced that changing the exam or the admission standards is the best way to diversify the student population.

Seventy percent of the city’s public school students are black or Latino. Nonetheless, last year, only six percent of students at specialized high schools were black and only seven percent were Latino. It is clearly problematic that the diversity of students at these specialized high schools is not representative of the city.

The underlying reasons for this discrepancy are that black and Latino students are not taking the exam as frequently as are Asian and white students, and many of those black and Latino students taking the specialized high school admissions test (SHSAT) are not preparing as well as Asian and white students.

Only 45 percent of students taking the SHSAT for admission to the 2012-2013 freshman class were black or Latino. Black students comprised 23 percent of test-takers, and only six percent of those students were offered seats. Similarly, Latinos comprised 22 percent of test-takers, but just eight percent of admitted students. This data points to two problems: a lack of access to the test and insufficient educational resources in communities where black and Latino students live.

The best way to make strides toward closing this racial gap is to make the exam more accessible for all New York City students. The SHSAT should be offered, if not mandated, at all the city’s middle schools during regular school hours. It should be administered as PSAT is — with all students sitting for the test unless they opt out. I am confident that by encouraging all middle school students to take the test and by making it easier for them to do so, we will begin to tackle the disparity in a way that is equitable for the entire city.

Many students prepare for the SHSAT far in advance, due in large part because the educational resources are available to them. To increase diversity in the specialized high schools, we should also be searching for ways to bring free test preparation programs, such as the Discovery Program and Specialized High Schools Institute Dream Program, into middle schools that rarely send graduates to the specialized high schools. Additionally, data has shown that the elementary and middle schools that students attend greatly impact their odds of being well prepared to take the SHSAT. In many neighborhoods with large concentrations of black and Latino residents, there are fewer gifted and talented programs available. We need to bring these programs into struggling schools.

There are better ways to increase diversity in New York City’s specialized high schools. Let’s try alternate solutions before we scrap an admissions process that has been in place for more than 70 years.

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E. Gluck Corp. to lower giant Little Neck wall following protest


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


Watch-maker E. Gluck Corporation will lower a newly-built, giant 36-foot wall, which surprised and disturbed residents near the company’s new location, Little Neck politicians announced.

Under the new design, which has been approved by the Buildings Department, the wall will be scaled down 14 feet to 22 feet, the company said Monday. In addition, E. Gluck will include 20 flowering pear trees and 75 white pine trees around the property at 60-15 Little Neck Pkwy.

“We are pleased to reach a solution that addresses the public’s concerns,” said Murray Stimler, senior vice president at E. Gluck. “Our goal is to be a good neighbor in Little Neck and a beneficial part of the community for many years to come.”

Last month, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, Councilman Mark Weprin and state Sen. Tony Avella protested the wall with more than 100 residents. The current height blocks sunlight after certain hours and residents were afraid that it would hurt property values.

E. Gluck is moving this year into the lot, which is being developed by Steel Tribune LLC, and is the former site of electrical wiring company Leviton.

Initially, E. Gluck promised to put a one-story warehouse on the site, according to politicians. But residents woke up one day to find the towering dark gray wall, which sits on a hill that is about 10 feet high off the curb and extends nearly halfway through the block. The solution to lower the wall was welcome news for the elected officials.

“I appreciate that E. Gluck is making changes to its building plans to address some of the concerns raised by their neighbors and elected officials,” Braunstein said. “I am hopeful that moving forward the company will continue to make efforts to ensure that its operations do not negatively impact the surrounding community.”

 

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Schools, security improvements win Weprin participatory budgeting


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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Schools and security improvement community projects in District 23 are winners of more than $1.1 million in city funding after participatory budgeting voting.

Councilman Mark Weprin announced results Wednesday of the initiative, which allows residents to vote for which community projects their elected officials should allocate money toward.

The top voted project—at 1,166 votes—was smart boards for five schools throughout the district at a cost of $450,000. P.S. 33 will get 40 smart boards, I.S. 109 will get 20, P.S./I.S. 266 will get 15, Benjamin Cardozo High School will receive five and Queens High School of Teaching will get 20.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Jae Cho, principal of Queens High School of Teaching. “Our kids are going to benefit tremendously from it.”

Technology upgrades at two schools, P.S. 135 and P.S. 18, for a cost of $85,785 got fourth place with 699 votes.

Besides schools projects, security initiatives were also popular.

NYPD security cameras within the district, for a cost of $105,000, received 718 votes for third place. The locations for the cameras have yet to be determined. Security upgrades for the Fresh Meadows, Hollis, and Windsor Park Queens Library branches, at $265,000, were the final winners with 671 votes.

A fitness walk and exercise loop at Cunningham Park for $200,000 came in second with 875 votes.

Originally, the initiative allowed for just $1 million, but the voted projects sum went over the limit, so Weprin added an additional $105,785.

This year, 1,888 people from the district voted, an increase of about 60 percent from last year.

“I think it’s great,” Weprin said. “When people get involved in their government they have more respect for their government.”

 

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Residents in three Queens council districts to vote on community projects


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Residents of three Queens City Council districts will soon have a chance to decide what projects they want funded in their communities.

Launched in 2011 in four Council districts, participatory budgeting allows locals to determine how to spend at least $1 million of their councilmembers’ capital discretionary funds.

This year’s round of projects is up for a vote from March 29 to April 6 in eight districts, including Councilmember Mark Weprin’s District 23, Councilmember Donovan Richards District 31 and Eric Ulrich’s District 32.

The process begins in the fall at public meetings where residents can suggest ideas and choose budget delegates. Those selected volunteers then come up with proposals based on those suggestions, which are presented to the public ahead of the vote.

Last spring, approximately 13,000 people voted, an increase of about 7,000 from the previous year. Each voter can chose up to five projects.

“I am excited to make full use of the Democratic process and offer our district the opportunity to decide where $1 million of my budget should be spent,” said Councilmember Richards, who is participating in the process for the first time. “It’s important that we all understand how our local government can and should improve our communities.”

Among his district’s projects are education, youth, public safety and recreation related improvements. They include upgrades to the Far Rockaway Campus High School, Farm Rockaway and the installation of Argus surveillance cameras in various areas of Far Rockaway.

Residents in Weprin’s district will be able to vote on $1 million in projects ranging from library security upgrades, park improvements, school technology needs and $100,000 in portable security cameras in the community.

Projects in the Rockaway portion of Ulrich’s district include $320,00 in upgrades and improvements to local schools, resurfacing of Broad Channel Park and community information boards in the Rockaways and Broad Channel. The project list for the rest of the councilmember’s district is still being finalized.

For more information on the projects and how to vote, click here.

 

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