Tag Archives: Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Queensbridge Park Seawall restoration breaks ground


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the NYC Parks Department

Local officials, community groups and residents gathered to break ground on the restoration and improvement of the Queensbridge Park Seawall last week.

Along with reconstructing the seawall, the $6.65 million project will include a six-foot wide waterfront promenade with benches and plants as well as a small pier at the north end.

“The much-anticipated repair of the Queensbridge Park Seawall will provide additional storm protection for the Long Island City community, while also improving their access to the waterfront,” Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White said during the Friday, May 10 event.

The seawall protected Queensbridge Park in Long Island City from high tides and covered some of the mechanisms and underwater cables that keep a number of subway lines in order. It is currently blocked off by a chain-linked fence due to deterioration.

“For too long, the only view of this waterfront has been through a chain-linked fence,” said Congressmember Carolyn Maloney. “Queensbridge Park will now be a gateway to the waterfront instead of a dead end.”

Restoring the seawall will serve recreational purposes for residents. It is also designed to guard against natural disasters such as Sandy.

The project, managed by the NYC Economic Development Corporation, will reconstruct the seawall using large rocks. They will protect the shoreline by absorbing and deflecting waves while lessening the effect of erosion, the Parks Department said.

The restoration and improvement is funded through allocations from Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Borough President Helen Marshall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the MTA.

“The project will make this area safer, greener and more attractive while providing more protection from storm damage in the event of another hard-hitting superstorm like Sandy,” Marshall said during the event.

“Today we celebrate the beginning of the project as we look forward to its completion.”

 

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Feds approve city’s $1.77B Sandy recovery plan


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

The city’s $1.77 billion Sandy recovery plan was federally approved, officials announced Friday.

“This is an important day in the recovery process for families and small businesses who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “These critical federal funds will help families get back on their feet and help hard hit communities rebuild stronger and smarter.”

The majority of funds, $648 million, were allocated toward housing recovery programs. The rest of the budget will aid businesses with damages and lost sales and repair infrastructures.

“With the federal approval now in place, we’re going to see that this relief money starts flowing to home and business owners as soon as possible,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A copy of the recovery action plan and information on the application process are available at www.nyc.gov.

 

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Meter’s not running on city’s taxi medallion revenue


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

It will likely be a few years before one big source of revenue fills the city’s coffers again.

With the ability to sell more taxi medallions held up in the New York Court of Appeals, an expected $300 million in city revenue has been pushed back, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced during his May 2 budget address.

If approved, the expanded sales could make it easier for New Yorkers to hail a cab in the outer boroughs.

Although the medallion fight is on ice, Bloomberg was confident the city will win the case.

“We still think we’re going to get it,” he said.

However, City Comptroller John Liu said the mayor was jumping the gun by expecting revenue still wrapped up in court.

“The mayor’s executive budget for FY 2014 contains some major unwarranted assumptions that risk opening yawning gaps,” said Liu, who is running to succeed Bloomberg. “It assumes that the city will reap $1.5 billion over four years from a taxi medallion sale that for the foreseeable future is tied up in court.”

 

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City Council passes paid sick leave bill


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Twitter/@ChrisCQuinn

City legislators voted today to rectify the New York’s policy on paid sick leave, and now have enough support to override a veto from the mayor’s office.

Councilmembers voted 45-3 on the bill that would require businesses with 20 or more employees to give at least five paid sick days per worker beginning next April. Starting in October 2015, businesses with 15 or more workers will have to do the same.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a mayoral candidate, helped broker the deal in its current incarnation, after opposing the parameters originally put forth.

However, Manhattan Councilmember Gale A. Brewer, who’s pushed for paid sick leave since 2010, received most of the credit during the bill’s roll call vote.

“I want to congratulate Councilmember Gale Brewer and the paid sick leave coalition,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie. Opposed to the original standards the bill put forth, Comrie said this was a compromise that may not be ideal “but a major step forward.”

The bill also guarantees unpaid sick days to all New York workers, despite the size of their company or business.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has repeatedly promised to veto the bill when it comes across his desk, saying it will kill small businesses across the city.

Private sector jobs were up to one of the highest numbers in the city’s history, the mayor announced during his budget address last week. In response to the bill passing, however, Bloomberg alleged the bill would back track economic development.

The bill could cost employers other employees or other benefits as they’ll have to allocate more money toward the paid sick days.

Quinn, announcing the agreement between councilmembers and labor leaders in March, said the current bill is more of a balance for workers and proprietors. The bill will also be put on hold if the city’s economy takes a downturn in the time in between.

 

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Bloomberg delivers final budget address


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC Mayor's Office Flickr /Edward Reed

In his final budget address, Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented a balanced plan that focuses on reducing costs wherever possible, including some city employee benefits.

Bloomberg’s plans, which take effect in July, include promoting a recent spike in private sector hiring and readjusting health care and pensions for city workers.

There will be no new taxes this year, the mayor announced.

Jobs are up this year, hizzoner said, attributing the spike to a demand for professional services and hospitality posts throughout the city. January numbers showed 3.3 million people were privately employed, many in the hospitality, technology and retail industries.

However, the city has seen a drop in the financial services sector. Bloomberg said that was partly due to the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The federal act, passed in 2010, aims to ensure accountability and transparency in large banks and end tax payer bailouts.

“Dodd-Frank is not good for our city,” Bloomberg said. “All these banks are cutting back their employees. And a lot of the ways we made money, on which we taxed them and paid for police, fire, education have gone away. This is really bad news for us.”

Because the state has continued to increase pension amounts, Bloomberg said the city is looking for new ways to reduce those costs and work on a plan for employees to pay for part of their health care coverage.

While New York State workers currently pay a portion of their provided healthcare, most city workers do not pay anything. Bloomberg said it would be up to the next mayor to ease the cost on the city and would require significant work with unions.

He added that while Sandy caused devastation, the superstorm would not affect this year’s budget. Bloomberg said the storm caused $4.57 billion in damage to the city, all of which he expects to be covered by federal aid.

“That’s not to say we aren’t that sympathetic to those that were hurt,” he said. “And we’ve got to make sure we continue to do everything we can to help the victims of Sandy. But in the context of the budget, it is not something that really hurts.”

For his successor, Bloomberg is leaving behind a program to close future gaps in the budget that are expected to start by fiscal year 2015. A $2.2 billion budget gap is expected for that year. The city has already set aside $142 million for then.

 

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Call to reinstate Peter F. Vallone Scholarship


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

With no agreement on a state Dream Act, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. is calling to re-establish the Peter F. Vallone Scholarship, the “original” New York City Dream Act.

On Thursday, April 25 Vallone gathered with mayoral candidates, fellow councilmembers and education and immigration advocacy groups to call on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to reinstate the scholarship.

The Vallone Scholarship, instituted by the City Council in 1997, was awarded to students based only on academic performance and was made available to full-time students who enrolled in a City University of New York (CUNY) college within a year of graduating from a city high school. This scholarship was available to all students, regardless of their immigration status.

“The Vallone Scholarship was New York City’s Dream Act, it was a reality here when the state and federal acts were just dreams,” said Vallone.

Vallone has been fighting to reinstate the scholarship ever since its removal in 2012.

“It was a promise we made to our hardest working kids, that we would help them achieve their dreams of a college education, and it was a promise that was broken,” said Vallone.

According to Vallone, there were close to 15,000 students receiving assistance when the scholarship was eliminated.

 

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NYC gun deaths drop more than 30 percent


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Firearm-related deaths in New York City declined more than 30 percent between 2000 and 2011, according to a new Health Department study.

The number of deaths dropped from 524 in 2000 to 366 in 2011.

The city’s firearm fatality rate is less than half that of the national rate, which showed no decline during the same 11-year period. Its rate is also lower than most major cities.

The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with gun-related injuries declined by 21 percent between 2000 and 2011.

Although the rates included homicides, accidents and suicides, 84 percent of firearm deaths in 2011 were attributed to murders.

In his weekly radio address Sunday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke about the city’s continuing efforts in fighting gun violence.

“We’re working every day to address this epidemic by targeting police resources where they’re most needed and implementing the same pro-active law enforcement strategies that have proven so effective citywide,” he said. “We will continue doing everything we can to keep illegal guns off our streets, because the more people we can keep from carrying guns, the more lives we can save.”

 

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LaGuardia Airport evacuated due to suspicious device


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

LaGuardia Airport was evacuated Tuesday morning when a suspicious device was spotted on the third level of its central terminal building, according to a Port Authority spokesperson.

After an object with wires protruding out of it was reported around 1o:30 a.m., the area was cleared and the New York City bomb squad was sent in to investigate.

The bomb squad quickly determined it was part of a fluorescent light fixture and was non-threatening, said the spokesperson.

Passengers were allowed back in the airport about 45 minutes after the suspicious device was first reported.

Following Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, the New York City Police Department said it was “stepping up security at hotels and other prominent locations in the city through deployment of the NYPD’s critical response vehicles until more about the explosion is learned.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg also urged New Yorkers to “remain vigilant” and report anything that seems suspicious.

 

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Op-Ed: Let’s not make a deal


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY GEOFFREY CROFT

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

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

That is exactly what is not needed for the park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Pilot program launches pay-by-phone parking, spot availability map


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via Google Maps/NYC DOT website

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

The future is here.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with the Department of Transportation (DOT), announced plans to create a new program that would allow drivers to pay parking meters remotely, as well as launching a real-time parking availability map.

“Today, we’re launching a pilot pay-by-phone parking initiative along 18 metered blocks in the Arthur Avenue Business Improvement District as well as an online parking availability map for the area that motorists or passengers can see on the web and on their smartphones,” said Bloomberg. “These new initiatives are just the latest examples of our work to bring parking and driving in New York City into the 21st century.”

Drivers can pay for their spots without the hassle of using money or a credit card at the meter via  a smartphone app called PayByPhone. To register, motorists must first sign up on the PayByPhone website, then enter their license plate numbers and credit card information. The app will send a text or email when the allotted time is about to expire, allowing the driver to add more time up to the allowed limit.

PayByPhone has already partnered with other cities, including San Francisco, Miami, London and Vancouver.

The parking availability program will use sensors embedded in streets to create a map accessible by any web enabled device, which will show when any spots are opened up. The mayor’s office hopes this program will cut down on the time motorists spend on hunting for spots.

Both pilot programs will be tested out across 264 spaces along 18 block faces near Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, as well as at the Department’s Belmont Municipal Parking Field.

 

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Queens GOP operative John Haggerty starts sentence for stealing from mayor’s re-election campaign


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy  Joe Marino/NY Daily News

The Queens political operative convicted two years ago of stealing thousands of dollars from the mayor’s re-election campaign has begun his prison sentence.

John Haggerty Jr. was received in Ulster Correctional Facility on March 27, according to the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

The 44-year-old Republican consultant from Forest Hills was found guilty in October 2011 of second-degree grand larceny and second-degree money laundering for pilfering $750,000 from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2009 re-election campaign.

He will serve at least one year and four months in the medium-security, all male Napanoch facility with a maximum sentence of four years.

Haggerty is eligible for parole in December, according to the Department of Corrections. His earliest release date is July 12, 2014.

 

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City speed camera program hits a red light


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Albany has put the brakes on the city’s speed cameras.

Despite a push from the Department of Transportation, the City Council, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, the State Legislature failed to include funding for the program in the 2013-2014 budget passed last week.

“I think the wrong decision was made by the Republican leadership of the State Senate,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “It’s unfortunate because speed cameras would and can save lives. I hope that somehow [the State Legislature will] be able to pick this up again before the end of the session and pass the bill.”

Although it was initially supported by the Assembly, it faced opposition in the Senate, including local representatives Dean Skelos, Martin Golden and Simcha Felder.

Bloomberg publicly lambasted the three state senators during a press conference on Wednesday, March 27.

“Why don’t you pick up the phone and call your state senator and ask why they allowed that child to be killed?” Bloomberg said according to reports.

Recently-released data from the Department of Transportation showed that speeding was “the greatest single factor in traffic deaths.”

If the pilot program, which requires the state’s approval, does eventually move forward, it would install 20 to 40 speed cameras at high-risk locations throughout the city.

Drivers would face a fine of $25 to $50 for speeding between 10 and 30 miles above the limit and $100 for going 30 miles above it.

 

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Quinn: City Council reaches deal on required paid sick leave


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Twitter/@ChrisCQuinn

Small businesses will soon be mandated to provide an allotted number of sick days, after a compromise on the much-debated legislation was struck last night.

Union leaders, advocates and city lawmakers came to a deal on the Paid Sick Leave bill, which has been opposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a mayoral candidate, for the last three years. Quinn, however, would ultimately go on to broker the deal on the bill.

It will go to the City Council, where it’s expected to pass with enough support to override a Bloomberg veto.

When the full bill kicks in a year from now, businesses with at least 20 employees will have to give workers at least five paid sick days. Companies with at least 15 or more employees must provide paid sick leave beginning October 2015.

All businesses, Quinn said when officially announcing the deal, will be required to provide unpaid sick leave beginning April 2014.

The combined paid and unpaid days would benefit more than a million New Yorkers, just under a million of which would be covered by paid sick leave, according to Quinn.

Although publically opposing the parameters of the plan for years, Quinn said she always supported the goals of the bill and striking an agreement was a matter of how and when.

But, should the economy take another downturn, the bill, expected to pass the council in late April, would be delayed until the city and small businesses can sustain it.

The effects on small business have been a concern since Manhattan Councilmember Gale A. Brewer started pushing for the bill three years ago.

This deal, Quinn said, found the balance on benefiting workers without hurting their employers.

“It’s been my goal to make sure that when we provide this important benefit to millions of people who need access to paid sick leave,” she said. “We did it without creating an administrative burden on those businesses that currently offer the benefit when they can least afford it.”

Advocacy groups and unions have reacted positively to the announcement. They have particularly applauded Brewer’s work and that workers don’t have to fear being fired to take a day off to rest, or care for another.

“No longer will a parent have to make the impossible choice whether to stay home to care for a sick child or go to work to feed their family,” said Javier Valdez, co-executive director of Make the Road New York.

32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa said the bill would set the bar nationwide for providing paid sick leave to workers.

“We are telling not only New York, but the nation, that the time is right. The time is right to take care of one another. The time is right to make it easy for working people to provide for their families. And the time is right to be able to reconcile the interests of business with the interests of the majority of the working population.”

The Queens business community also appreciates that the deal finds a balance between helping workers and not affecting merchants, said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.

“We applaud her [Quinn’s] efforts and the efforts of Councilmember Gale Brewer,” Friedman said. “We appreciate the fact that she listened to us throughout the process and we’re 100-percent behind her decision.”

 

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Rockaway residents take to City Hall, demand say in Sandy rebuilding


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

By day 143, Rockaway residents had had enough.

Scores traveled to the steps of City Hall on Saturday, March 23 to call on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city to help residents rebuild after Sandy.

Shoulder to shoulder with elected officials and candidates for mayor and borough president, resident after resident told personal stories of their prolonged recovery and demanded a say in how the peninsula is rebuilt.

“Now, as community residents of the Rockaway peninsula and Broad Channel, we demand to always have our voices heard on what goes on with all future projects, and most importantly, to be part of the process when implementing them to protect our community from another Sandy, or any type of possible future disasters,” said Danny Ruscillo, president of the 100th Precinct Community Council. Ruscillo held a sign that became one of the chants during the hour-long press conference: “United we stand. Divided we drown.”

Senator Charles Schumer recently secured money to rebuild New York beaches, and take measures to prevent flooding.

 

The Army Corps of Engineers, which has been conducting surveys on protecting the beach-front community for more than a decade, recently said the study would take at least another year-and-a-half.

But residents like Margaret Wagner think that’s too long. Wagner said she took the trip to lower Manhattan while her husband was at home putting up sheetrock in their Broad Channel home.

“We want the studies to end tomorrow,” said Wagner. “Give us a plan today. Not a year-and-a-half from now.”
John Cori and Eddie Pastore, who run Friends of Rockaway Beach and organized the City Hall rally, have long campaigned to build better beach protection.

This was not the first time Rockaway residents have criticized Bloomberg and his administration for what they believed was a delayed reaction to the storm. On a visit to Breezy Point in November, Bloomberg was lambasted by a resident; spectators at the St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 2 booed him when he marched.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich and State Senator Joseph Addabbo both said it was crucial that those who live there have the final say in how the communities are rebuilt.

“These residents have to live with what’s left behind,” Addabbo said. “Let’s get to work for these people.”

“We heard about the federal money that Senator Schumer was able to secure and we’re very grateful for that,” Ulrich said. “But the community needs to be kept in the loop as to how that money is going to be spent.”

 

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Councilmember Eric Ulrich

Rapid Repairs fixes more than 20,000 Sandy-damaged homes


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

Five months after Sandy damaged thousands of residences in New York City, the NYC Rapid Repairs program has completed work on more than 20,000 homes,  Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today.

The program was launched last November in the aftermath of the storm in order to provide heat, power and hot water to those homes affected.

Queens has benefited the most out of any borough, with more than 5,000 buildings repaired.

“In the four months since it launched, Rapid Repairs has restored essential services to more than 20,000 residences, allowing nearly 54,000 New Yorkers return to their homes where real recovery can begin,” said Bloomberg speaking at the American Legion Post in Broad Channel , which served as a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center following Sandy. “It’s a new model for disaster recovery that we proved can work.”

All scheduled repairs are expected to be finished by next week.

“The milestone that Rapid Repairs reached today in servicing over 20,000 families is significant towards showing that our community is making major progress following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards said.

Bloomberg also announced the city’s plans for $1.77 billion in federal aid to assist residents and businesses affected by the storm.

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City is also putting aside $10 million in private donations to assist one and two-family homes in need of repairs.

 

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