Tag Archives: Mayor Bill de Blasio

Op-ed: Landlords to RGB and de Blasio: Ice the rent freeze


| oped@queenscourier.com

JOSEPH STRASBURG

All signs are pointing to a rent freeze when the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) convenes this Monday (June 23) to vote on the percentage increase that building owners of 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in the five boroughs can charge their tenants on one- and two-year leases.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made a rent freeze a campaign promise, and the RGB — including de Blasio’s five newly appointed members — last month took a preliminary vote that called for a zero percent increase on a one-year lease.

Unprecedented in the 45-year history of the rent stabilization system, a rent freeze would hurt tenants, families and neighborhoods throughout Queens County. It would also doom de Blasio’s 10-year housing plan — which calls for the protection and expansion of affordable buildings — even before it gets off the ground.

The RGB has heard testimony from tenants, building owners and other peripherally interested groups at four public hearings — including one at Queens Borough Hall — leading to Monday’s final vote. If RGB members were listening to small building owners — which are the largest providers of quality, affordable housing in outer boroughs like Queens — they would realize that a rent freeze, while politically expedient, is not practical.

How can the RGB even justify a rent freeze when its own 2013 income and expense study shows that the operating costs of building owners of rent-stabilized apartments was 5.7 percent?

A rent freeze would be debilitating to small building owners in neighborhoods throughout Queens. A fair and reasonable rent increase is the sole source of income that enables small building owners in Queens to repair and maintain affordable housing.

They put the rent right back into their buildings — replacing heating systems and roofs, fixing leaks, making electrical repairs, and providing a host of other repairs and maintenance to apartments and their buildings so that families can live in quality, affordable housing.

Queens building owners also keep other small businesses in the borough thriving by hiring local contractors, painters, plumbers, electricians and laborers, and they purchase refrigerators, stoves and other appliances and materials from neighborhood supply facilities. All of these local companies provide jobs to residents of Queens neighborhoods who, in turn, spend money at local grocery stores, bodegas, hair salons, restaurants, movie theaters and retail shops.

Besides the economic impact on Queens neighborhoods, an enormous chunk of the rent goes straight to the city’s coffers for property taxes and water and sewer bills, which helps pay for police, fire, education, sanitation, parks and other city services that are provided to Queens residents.

A vote for a rent freeze would be tantamount to a tenant rent subsidy — and rent subsidies should come from government, not on the backs of small Queens building owners. Who subsidizes Queens building owners to help them pay for constantly rising costs associated with maintaining quality, affordable housing — like heating oil, repairs, general maintenance and government-mandated costs such as property taxes and water and sewer rates?

A rent freeze (or the unrealistic and inadequately low range of a 0 to 3 percent rent hike on a one-year lease and 0.5 to 4.5 percent increase on a two-year lease) would create massive disinvestment in affordable housing. This would lead to disrepair, loss and eventual abandonment of the quality affordable housing stock in Queens and other outer boroughs.

It’s simple arithmetic. If a rent freeze is imposed, small building owners in Queens would be unable to meet city tax obligations, make repairs, maintain quality living conditions for their tenants, and fuel neighborhood economies and provide jobs.

When you look at the big picture, there is much riding on a fair and reasonable rent increase — which is why common sense, and not the politics of a rent freeze, must prevail when the RGB takes its final vote on Monday.

Joseph Strasburg is the president of the Rent Stabilization Association of New York City. RSA represents 25,000 building owners of 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, making it the largest organization of its kind in NYC.

 

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Elmhurst residents say no to homeless shelter at Pan-American Hotel


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Salvatore Licata

Updated: 6/19/2014 2:17 p.m. 

SALVATORE LICATA

Hundreds of protestors flocked to the Pan-American Hotel in Elmhurst to push back on the city’s initiative to house more homeless families in the neighborhood.

“We must step up to the plate now and stop this from going any further,” Roe Daraio, president of the nonprofit Communities of Maspeth & Elmhurst Together Inc. (COMET) Civic Association and organizer of the Tuesday protest, said to the crowd. “We must call to attention the issue of homelessness and how the city is choosing to deal with it.”

In a plan that is supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio, nonprofit Samaritan Village proposed the Pan-American Hotel, located at 7900 Queens Blvd., to house 200 homeless people, including the 36 families already residing there.

This is the fourth homeless shelter in Elmhurst and for residents of the community, it is one too many.

“They did this without any input from the community,” Hilda Chu, one of the protestors, said. “We have three already and now they want to add a fourth. This is so unfair to us.”

Councilman Daniel Dromm addressed the crowd during the June 17 protest and said he was disappointed by the Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) lack of communication with local officials. He was outraged that he was given no advance notice that the closed-down hotel would now house homeless families, but said protestors must act civilly in their protest and engage in a discussion to figure out the best way to combat the situation.

“Elmhurst is overburdened [with the homeless],” Dromm said. “It is bad policy to bring that many needy people into one place.”

Pan-American Hotel officials declined to comment on the subject.

The DHS will provide the families with three meals a day until the agency can move them to an alternate shelter, the agency said.

“As the number of families with children residing in temporary, emergency shelter grows, we must consider all available options to address our capacity needs and meet our legally mandated right to shelter,” the DHS said in a statement. “In the short term, DHS is using the Queens Boulevard facility to provide essential shelter and supportive services to families with children.”

Advocates previously claimed that both the mayor and City Comptroller Scott Stringer approved the plan, but Stringer’s office said he only approved payments for family shelters across the city but had not weighed in on any specific location.

“[Stringer] believes that communication and adequate community notification are critical parts of this process,”  said a Stringer spokesman.

 

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$8.2M renovation of Kew Gardens Hills library to be complete in 2015


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy the Queens Library


The $8.2 million revitalization of the Queens Library at Kew Gardens Hills is set to be completed in the summer of 2015, according to the organization.

Representatives from the library and the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) informed the community about the construction at Tuesday’s Kew Gardens Civic Association meeting.

The library is being expanded by 3,000 square feet to about 10,500 square feet. The renovation will include technology updates, a separate area for teens, a new sloped-concrete roof and a full interior renovation. Outside the library, there will also be a new handicapped accessible entrance ramp, new sidewalks, trees, a bicycle rack and flagpole.

 

Funding for the library was allocated by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Rory Lancman, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky.

 

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Stats show universal pre-K’s limited reach in western, central Queens


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo by Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

Only 30 percent of 4-year-olds in parts of western and central Queens got into the pre-K of their choice, the lowest percentage of matched applicants in all of New York City.

Parents in Queens District 24 — Corona, Glendale, Ridgewood, Elmhurst, Long Island City, Maspeth and Middle Village — must now search for an alternative to public schools.

According to the Department of Education, the majority of parents with 4-year-olds — 70 percent — in the district recently received letters informing them that the public pre-K of their choice was already full.

In comparison, in Manhattan’s District 1 only 10 percent of applicants were unmatched and, overall, 38 percent of applicants throughout New York City were unmatched.

“Every single school in this district is overcrowded,” said Nick Comaianni, president of School Board District 24. “In the past we’ve actually had to get rid of pre-K seats to make room for kindergarten to fifth grade.”

As the city changes gears for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s aim to make pre-K universal, the DOE is using community-based organizations like local YMCAs and mom-and-pop pre-K programs to scoop up the applicants that didn’t get into a public school pre-K.

But Comaianni, who has been president of the board for 11 years, believes that the mayor’s office and the DOE are moving too fast.

“Someone should’ve done their homework before pushing pre-K through so quickly,” he said, noting that since the schools in the district are already overcrowded, there is no extra space for more students. “You can’t have pre-K if you don’t even have second grade.”

The DOE is opening up 53,000 full-day seats through community-based organizations in time for the new school year in September. While this will still leave some toddlers behind, by next year there will be 73,250 seats, enough to put every 4-year-old in New York City in school, according to education officials.

Which is just fine, Comaianni said, but warned: “In our haste to open these seats let’s hope we have qualified people who can teach pre-K and it’s not just a baby-sitting center.

Queens by school district:

Source: Office of Student Enrollment

 

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Signs of life: Howard Beach 7th-graders make their own traffic safety signs


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

ERIC JANKIEWICZ 

Students at P.S./I.S. 232 Walter Ward School have first-hand experience with the dangers of traffic and speeding cars.

The Howard Beach school is located across the street from a shopping center, and the everyday task of crossing the streets is always tinged with danger, according to students, parents and faculty members at the school.

In response to the constant speeding that they see daily, students from a seventh-grade class designed their own traffic sign as part of a wider Department of Transportation (DOT) project for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero” policy. The signs went up on two locations Friday around the school.

“It’s so dangerous, “Rosemarie Asselta, a parent, said about the intersection of 153rd Avenue and 83rd Street. “They’re rushing past the school in a hurry and zooming into the [shopping center] parking lot. It’s terrifying.”

Asselta explained that the problem isn’t that drivers in the area are particularly careless. But between 84th and 79th streets on 153rd Avenue there is no stop sign or red light. Add to this the fact that the crossing guard can’t control traffic on the high-speed Avenue, and you get an area where “close calls” happen all the time, Asselta said.

The traffic sign designed by the seventh-grade class was put up on the avenue itself as well as 83rd Street, advising students that, “ready and alert wins the race.” The sign depicts a green human figure crossing the street as a yellow car, presumably, slows down as it reaches the intersection.

Jamee Lopez is one of the seventh-graders that helped design the traffic sign and for her, traffic incidents take a personal note. Last year she was crossing the avenue when she was almost hit by a car.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And it made me realize how dangerous this area really is,” Jamee said. “Because in this school you always hear stories about kids almost getting hit but then when it happens to you, it becomes really serious.”

Jamee and her fellow classmates worked on the design process since the beginning of the school year in September 2013. During that time, they collaborated with one another on a design and visited the DOT’s sign shop in Maspeth, according to Theresa Bary, a DOT representative.

“They see it from start to finish,” said Bary, the department’s deputy director of safety education outreach. “They really take this to heart.”

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Tuesday: Cloudy early, then off and on rain showers for the afternoon. High around 65. Winds S at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 40%. Tuesday night: Becoming partly cloudy after some evening light rain. Low 47. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 70%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Earth Day Festival

Develop your green thumb, learn about bee-keeping and the importance of clean waterways while making sculptures, jewelry and art out of recycled materials. Free at Flushing Town Hall at 1 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Judge weeps during Queens pedophile sentencing

A Queens Supreme Court judge broke down and cried — and said he had never presided over a more troubling case — as he sentenced Kerbet (Kirby) Dixon to at least 25 1/3 years in prison for sexually abusing two young members of his family in his Queens home in 2008 and 2009. Read more: New York Daily News

Officials probe whether EMTs were delayed to fire that killed 2 kids

Mayor de Blasio said the city is investigating whether there was a delay in getting EMTs to a fire where two 4-year-old children died Sunday after one of them may have been playing with a lighter. Read more: NBC New York

Mayor Bill de Blasio: FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano in ‘interim role’

Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed Monday that FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano is serving in an “interim role.” Read more: CBS New York

Cuomo holds huge lead over GOP challenger – for now

Gov. Cuomo holds an enormous 30-point lead over GOP challenger Rob Astorino — but that margin would be cut in half if a ” more liberal” third party candidate entered the race, according to a poll released Tuesday. Read more: New York Post

Report: Sandy’s fallout affecting small business in tri-state area

When Long Beach delicatessen owner P.J. Whelan heard the findings of a Federal Reserve Bank of New York poll released Monday on Superstorm Sandy’s effect on small businesses, he began nodding in agreement. Read more: CBS New York/AP

De Blasio announces Sandy recovery overhaul


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo: Ed Reed for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a major overhaul to speed up Sandy recovery Thursday, along with the release of a detailed report on the city’s response to the storm.

The report includes recommendations that are expected to provide financial relief to businesses and homeowners, and revamp current recovery programs, the mayor said, as well as details on the city’s infrastructure rebuilding and storm mitigation efforts.

“We can’t stand idly by as red tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks prevent far too many New Yorkers from getting the relief they need. That’s why, from day one, we prioritized more efficient recovery,” de Blasio said. “And now, we’ve laid out a blueprint to provide critical financial relief to homeowners and directly engage communities in the rebuilding process—all while continuing our work to ensure a stronger and more resilient New York.”

Part of the engagement process will involve appointing borough directors in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, who will have the authority to direct city agencies to increase community engagement and coordination, and bringing Build It Back staff directly into affected communities, according to the mayor’s administration.

“These latest announcements from the administration have brought new hope to many of our residents who have been displaced and are fighting to put their lives back together and move forward,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “My office will continue to focus resources on the issues and challenges still outstanding for these residents, so we may collectively find solutions.”

The report additionally highlights other improvements the mayor announced last month to Build It Back, a federally-funded program to assist those whose homes, offices and other properties were damaged by Sandy.

Comptroller Scott Stringer also just announced the formation of a Sandy oversight unit and an audit of the Build It Back program.

“It is critical to have an accounting of how government has responded to this event, and what we can do to better prepare for the future,” he said.

Stringer also said that he will be holding town hall meetings in affected neighborhoods during the upcoming months to get community input on what his office should be examining as it comes up with an audit plan of issues on the city’s Sandy response.

The meetings will include the following locations in Queens, with future town halls to be announced for June:

April 30, 6-8 p.m., Bay House, 500 Bayside Dr., Breezy Point

May 20, 6-8 p.m., Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 348 Beach 71st St., Arverne

For updates on town halls, click here.

 

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Astoria resident victim of alleged livery cab hit-and-run


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Rich Feloni

Even playing it safe couldn’t keep Rich Feloni from becoming another hit-and-run victim.

Feloni was walking down Ditmars Boulevard toward the Q69 bus stop on his way to work Tuesday at about 8:50 a.m. when he was allegedly struck by a black livery cab on the corner of 45th Street.

The Astoria resident said that although he had the right of way, he still leaned forward to check on any incoming traffic. The cab, which Feloni believes was speeding and driving close to the parked cars on the street, then struck him as he was looking to the right and threw him off his feet.

“Even if I had the right of way I still leaned forward as precautionary measure. Next thing I know I’m getting whipped to my left and I see this car just making contact with me,” Feloni said. “It was just very reckless driving. This guy was going much faster than any car is driving in the morning.”

While on the floor, Feloni said the traffic light remained red and he noticed the cab slowed down. However, once he stood up, with help from nearby concerned pedestrians, the cab allegedly sped away from the scene.

A man who helped Feloni to his feet was able to jot down four numbers of the driver’s license plate and shared it with police.

Feloni was then taken to Mount Sinai Queens with a fractured ankle and abrasions on his face.

“I tried to be more precautionary, with all these crazy stories you hear,” Feloni said. “I’m glad I even paused.”

Police information was pending as of Wednesday afternoon.

Although The Courier cannot confirm that the cab driver was speeding when Feloni was allegedly struck, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) announced it is currently exploring anti-speeding technology as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero’s goal of zero traffic fatalities.

The TLC is looking at speed governors, also known as mandatory or intervention systems, and other advisory systems that alert drivers when they are going over the speed limit, driving while fatigued or driving recklessly.

A Vision Zero Town Hall meeting has also been scheduled for Wednesday, April 23, in Long Island City at LaGuardia Community College, 31-10 Thomson Ave.

 

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Fourth of July fireworks returning to East River


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo: Ed Reed for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

Updated 2:35 p.m.

A boom is coming back to the Queens waterfront this Independence Day.

After moving to the Hudson River in 2009, the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks show is returning to the East River this summer, the department store and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday.

The country’s largest pyrotechnic July Fourth display, the fireworks will be launched from the Brooklyn Bridge and from barges positioned on the lower East River.

“What this means, the fact that fireworks come back to the East River, means that countless more New Yorkers will now be able to enjoy what is really the greatest annual fireworks show in the country,”  de Blasio said. “From Brooklyn to western Queens to the East Side of Manhattan, many more New Yorkers will be able to take part in this celebration, in their neighborhoods, on their rooftops, along the shoreline.”

The 2009 move not only left Queens residents without a place in the borough to watch fireworks on the holiday, but hurt businesses along the East River that saw increased traffic during the festivities.

“For too long, residents of our neighborhoods have been left out of what is not only a citywide, but a national event,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris said in a statement. “Once again, the Queens waterfront will be a participant in the grandest Independence Day celebration in the United States.”

 

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Op-ed: Our children win with universal pre-K


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILWOMAN JULISSA FERRERAS

After months of rallying for the future of our children, our voices have finally been heard! Last week, our state legislators approved $300 million in funding for universal pre-kindergarten programs in their final budget. This is historic. We are now poised to ensure every child has access to high-quality, full-day pre-K.

The City’s plan is moving forward, and in less than six months, a new school year will begin, giving tens of thousands of our children access to full-day pre-K and thousands more middle-schoolers access to a safe, educational place to go after school.

Imagine the difference this will make for kids who will now start learning a year earlier. Imagine what it means for working parents!

As a former director of a Beacon program at P.S. 19 in Corona, it was my privilege to watch the effect of high-quality programming on young people who would otherwise be falling behind. Just as early education, including pre-K, is vital to a child’s success later in life, after-school for young adolescents is a bridge that helps them maintain momentum—or, in the case of struggling students, a way to regain lost time and get back on track. Studies show that children who participate in these programs behave better in school, do better in class and on tests, and have improved attendance records.

With this new, dedicated funding from Albany, the people who win here are parents and children. New York City is ready to move forward. We’ve been moving aggressively to put all the pieces in place to be ready for the fall.

Thanks to the work of Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues in our city and state government, we are making history. As a new mother, I cannot tell you how excited I am about this momentous change. These are game-changing solutions that will reach every child. They’re the kind of solutions that unite communities and improve our schools.

If you live in New York City and your child is turning 4 years old in 2014, it’s time to think about applying to pre-K. Here’s what you need to know:

• Children turning 4 years old in 2014 who live in New York City are eligible to attend pre-K programs.

• Pre-K is free. You do not have to pay to attend programs offered by the NYC Department of Education.

• Programs can be half-day (2 hours and 30 minutes) or full-day (6 hours and 20 minutes). Half-day programs may take place in the morning or afternoon.

• Programs are available at public schools and community-based organizations (CBOs). There are separate application processes for public schools and CBOs.

The pre-K application period has been extended to April 23. The online application for pre-K is currently available in English and Spanish on www.schools.nyc.gov. You can also apply in person at your nearest Queens Enrollment Office, which are listed on the website. If you have any questions or need further information, please call (718) 935-2009. Our children’s future begins today.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is also the Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Finance.

Queens Museum President Tom Finkelpearl named cultural affairs commissioner


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@BilldeBlasio

Follow me @liamlaguerre 

 

Mayor Bill de Blasio formally announced Queens Museum head Tom Finkelpearl as the next commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) Monday.

Finkelpearl, who has been the president of the Queens Museum for 12 years, recently oversaw its $68 million transformation and revitalization. He also simplified its name from the Queens Museum of Art.

“New York City is one of the most eclectic and culturally rich cities in the world, and that’s something that should be shared by all New Yorkers and tourists alike,” Finkelpearl said. “Our work is part of what distinguishes New York City as a cultural epicenter, and I look forward to working to fortify the already diverse offerings of the city’s arts and cultural life.”

Finkelpearl has more than 30 years of experience in museum management and arts education. Before heading the Queens Museum, Finkelpearl was deputy director of the contemporary art center PS1 and assisted with its merger with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2000, as it became MoMA PS1. Finkelpearl graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University and received his Master of Fine Arts from Hunter College.

Finkelpearl will be tasked with expanding access to culture and the arts in the city in his new position.

“With Tom at the helm of DCLA, I’m confident that New York City will not only continue to thrive as a global cultural hub, but also make the arts more accessible to New Yorkers in every neighborhood,” de Blasio said.

 

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More than 4,200 new full-day pre-K seats added to schools: mayor


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@NYCMayorsOffice

The city will be adding 4,268 new full-day pre-kindergarten seats to its public schools by September now that funding has been secured through this year’s state budget, Mayor de Blasio said Wednesday.

De Blasio made the announcement at Ridgewood ‘s P.S. 239, which this fall will be changing half-day pre-kindergarten seats into full-day ones, for a total of 36 spots.

“Today, we are more than 4,000 seats closer to ensuring that every 4-year-old has access to high quality full-day pre-K,” he said. “For months, we have been planning every facet of these programs to ensure we were ready to launch the moment funding was secured. Today, the rubber hits the road, and families will have more options for their children.”

The additional spots will bring the total number of full-day pre-kindergarten seats in public schools to 20,387 by the fall—the most in city history, according to the mayor.

De Blasio’s plan aims to make universal pre-kindergarten available to 53,604 children by September 2014 and 73,250 by the 2015-16 school year.

To be eligible to apply, children must be born in 2010 and live in New York City. The application deadline is April 23, and the Department of Education will notify families about placements in June. Families will also have an opportunity to apply for spots at community-based organizations later this spring.

Parents can apply and find out more information here or by visiting a borough enrollment office.

 

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DOT to install traffic safety features at fatal Woodside intersection


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The city’s Department of Transportation will make a series of traffic changes on Northern Boulevard in Woodside, where an 8-year-old was killed last year, officials said.

Noshat Nahian was on his way to school, when he was fatally struck by a truck while crossing the busy thoroughfare at 61st Street in December, police said.

In response to the tragedy, the city will install two pedestrian safety islands at the intersection, and remove the westbound left turn bay and signal on Northern Boulevard to eliminate possible vehicle and pedestrian collisions.

“Safety is the agency’s first priority, and following earlier enhancements including parking restrictions to increase the visibility of pedestrians on the northeast corner of the intersection, DOT will proceed with a comprehensive redesign of the area,” a DOT spokeswoman said.

The agency will also adjust signal timing to maximize crossing time for pedestrians, and install school crosswalks at every crossing to increasing the visibility of pedestrians.

Work on the project is expected to be conducted in the following weeks using in-house resources, according to the DOT.

“I am glad to see the city stepping up safety measures at this deadly intersection, though I only wish these plans had been completed before the life of Noshat Nahian was so tragically lost,” said Senator Michael Gianaris, who has worked to ensure that Northern Boulevard, and other western Queens roads, receive attention in the Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.

“This is an encouraging step in that direction but we have far more to do to remove the dangers posed by our streets,” Gianaris said.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has also worked with school leaders, parents and the community to get the safety measures approved in the area.

“We must do everything possible to make sure that no child is ever harmed trying to cross the street to get to PS 152. We continue to mourn Noshat Nahian and we are as committed as ever to making Vision Zero a reality in Woodside, and New York City,” Van Bramer said.

 

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Mayor de Blasio to throw first pitch at Mets’ Opening Day


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Baseball season is almost here, and the new mayor wants to get in on the action.

Mayor Bill de Blasio will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Mets’ Opening Day at Citi Field on Monday.

The mayor will be accompanied by children from the East Harlem Tutorial Program, who were affected by the recent building collapse.

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Op-ed: Why I support Mayor de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-K


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILWOMAN JULISSA FERRERAS

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-kindergarten in New York City. Often overlooked is that the plan would provide more than just high-quality programs for our youngest learners, it would also fund after-school programs for every interested middle schooler in New York. As chairwoman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, I support the de Blasio plan because it’s such a cost-effective way to address one of the most pressing challenges the city faces. As the former director of an after-school program, I support the plan because I know firsthand how critical after-school support can be in developing and safeguarding adolescents. It’s inspiring that both the Assembly and Senate have put forward budget proposals that meet these goals.

As you probably know, the mayor’s plan – which the Assembly also supports – would modestly raise income tax rates for New York City earners making more than $500,000 a year, from 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent for a period of five years. That’s a smaller increase than previous mayors have sought from Albany for key projects, and still would generate $530 million in new revenue for each of those years. Much of that revenue would be used to create tens of thousands of pre-K slots for 4 year olds, but $190 million would be directed to after-school programs. The Senate Majority Conference proposes funding after-school for every middle school student through the budget. Both proposals offer the funding needed to make the historic expansion of after-school a reality in New York City.

The city currently offers a little more than 45,000 after-school slots, which serve 56,300 students (not every student goes every day) in 239 schools. Fully, one in four children are left alone and unsupervised after school ends, the time of day when juvenile crime and violence are at their highest, and there are 237 public schools in which middle-school-age children don’t have access to comprehensive after-school. The funding from the de Blasio plan would allow the city to increase the number of after-school spots to 95,000—an addition of about 68,800 new slots—across 512 local schools, serving 120,000 children. The goal is for every child who’s interested to be able to participate. Programs would be free, run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and mostly be run by local organizations experienced in working in the community.

As a former director of one such organization, I spent years running after-school at P.S. 19, a Beacon program, and it was my privilege to watch the effect of high-quality programming on young people who would otherwise be falling behind. Just as early education, including pre-K, is vital to a child’s success later in life, after-school for young adolescents is a bridge that helps them maintain momentum—or, in the case of struggling students, a way to regain lost time and get back on track. Studies show that children who participate in these programs behave better in school, do better in class and on tests, and have improved attendance records. After-school programs also help kids identify subjects and disciplines they enjoy and in which they can excel.

The expansion of after-school programming under the de Blasio plan would be a win for everyone. Far more children would have access to programs that would help cultivate their interests and improve their performance in school, all while ensuring they’re under supervision and avoiding the kinds of trouble that can derail a promising young life. The Legislature must work with the governor to ensure that the funding needed for expanded after-school and universal pre-K is part of the State’s final budget.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is also the Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Finance.