Tag Archives: Melinda Katz

Katz provides $200K for countdown clocks at Queens’ busiest bus stops


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Robert Pozarycki

Where’s the bus? That common question among Queens commuters will be answered with countdown clocks set to be installed at the borough’s 10 busiest bus stops within the next two years.

Borough President Melinda Katz announced on Tuesday she allocated $200,000 in the city’s 2016 fiscal year budget to the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) for the purchase and installation of the real-time devices that track the estimated time of arrival for buses.

While the MTA oversees the bus system, the DOT is responsible for the countdown clocks and other bus-related infrastructure such as signage and shelters.

“Countdown clocks eliminate the anxiety of waiting for the unknown, a feeling familiar to every traveler,” Katz said in a statement. “They’ll add more predictability to any commute and will be a boon for thousands of riders in a borough that boasts some of the longest commutes to and from work.”

The DOT, through analyzing data such as ridership levels, commuter transfers, proximity to prominent facilities and dependency of bus service, will recommend to the MTA and Katz which 10 locations will receive the countdown clocks. The final locations will be determined through conversations among Katz, the DOT and the MTA.

Judged solely on activity, it figures that at least a few of the countdown clocks will be installed at transit hubs along some of Queens’ 10 busiest bus routes. According to MTA statistics, the Q58 led all other borough bus ridership in 2014, with 9,787,420 customers. The Q58, which runs between Ridgewood and Flushing, connects riders at both ends to local subway lines and intersects with Queens Boulevard, where M and R train service is available at the Grand Avenue station.

Other heavily traveled bus routes in Queens include the Q44 route between Jamaica and the Bronx, which passes through Flushing (9,240,459 riders in 2014); the Q10 between Kew Gardens and JFK Airport (7,511,855); the Q46 bus between Forest Hills and New Hyde Park (6,594,164); and the Q53 limited line between Woodside and the Rockaways (5,140,345).

The clocks are scheduled to be installed and activated in 2017. Currently, riders can find information on bus locations through the MTA’s BusTime program, available online and through a mobile app.

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District 19 to get $14 million in 2015-16 city budget


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the office of Paul Vallone

District 19 in north Queens received nearly $14 million for the upcoming fiscal year out of the $78.5 billion budget passed by the New York City Council on Friday.

Councilman Paul Vallone secured almost $7 million of the incoming funding, and an additional $4.1 million and $2.5 million were allocated by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito respectively.

According to Vallone, who is in his second year in his City Council seat, the amount earmarked for District 19 in that time is nearly as much as the area received in the previous six city budgets combined.

District 19 includes the areas of College Point, Whitestone, Malba, Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale and parts of Flushing.

“As promised, I’ve continued working hand in hand with my fellow elected officials and have been able to ensure that my constituents finally begin to receive their fair share of funding,” said Vallone. “This year’s budget is another clear victory for our communities and will go a long way to continue making our schools, parks, libraries and nonprofits the best they can be.”

More than $2.5 million will be used for schools, and this combined with additional funds secured from Borough President Melinda Katz will ensure that each school in District 19 will receive at least $50,000. Some schools will also be receiving additional capital funding for needed structural upgrades.

Vallone’s funding also includes $2.4 million set to go to local parks, and more than $1 million allocated toward funding the winning projects of the participatory budgeting vote in April.

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Queens lawmakers celebrate Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's office

BY ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND ROBERT POZARYCKI

Updated 12:21 p.m.

Same-sex marriage is constitutional, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 decision issued Friday morning, the court overturned state-imposed bans on same-sex marriage. The court ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry under the 14th Amendment through the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses.

“The fundamental liberties” in the Due Process Clause “extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices defining personal identity and beliefs,” according to the decision.

Queens lawmakers and gay rights advocates – including City Councilman Daniel Dromm – expressed delight in the decision in statements issued Friday morning.

“Marriage is finally equal,” said Dromm, who is one of Queens’ two openly gay City Council members. “No longer will there be gay marriage or heterosexual marriage – just marriage. As someone who has been in the gay rights movement for over 40 years, it is difficult to express my sentiments. I never thought I would live to see this day. God bless America.”

Dromm will join other Queens LGBTQ activists and supporters on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in front of the Jackson Heights Post Office, located at 78-02 37th Ave., to celebrate the Court’s decision.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is the second openly gay Queens City Council member, released a statement Friday together with his husband, Dan Hendrick.

“Today’s Supreme Court Decision is a landmark ruling making marriage equality the law of the land. Make no mistake, this decision is historic and breathtaking in its recognition of the equality inherent in love,” Van Bramer said. “We have been moved to tears this morning, knowing that the pain and stigma of being unequal is lifted. Of knowing that our relationship and our love is recognized by our country and is just as valid, beautiful and equal as any other.”

“Thanks to today’s ruling, same-sex couples across the country will no longer be treated as second-class citizens when it comes to issues regarding the family,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “This is a great day for those who believe in the dignity of all people.”

“History will remember this day as a watershed moment, a day when ‘we the people’ took another major step toward justice in our enormous and enduring struggle to form a more perfect union,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley.

“When we passed the Marriage Equality Act in 2011, New York sent a message to the nation that it was time to end one of society’s greatest inequities, and I am thrilled to see the court join us on the right side of history,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “Today, we are proud New Yorkers and proud Americans. Today, progress marches on.”

“One of my proudest moments as a legislator was my vote for marriage equality in New York State; today I am equally proud that the United States Supreme Court extended these rights to all Americans,” said Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas. “This ruling sends a strong message that bigotry and intolerance will not be the law of the land.”

“Our country will finally afford millions of Americans the rights they have always deserved, but until now were unable to exercise,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Today, this country is richer – filled with more equality, more acceptance, and more love than yesterday. And for the people of this city, where the movement for LGBT rights began in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, we can be proud that we helped blaze the trail to this great victory.”

“From this moment on and for generations to come, marriage equality is a civil and human right for LGBTQ couples and no one – no matter where you live in this country or who you love – will be denied that right,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“As has been said, ‘the arc of history is long and it bends in the direction of justice,” said Sen. Charles Schumer. “Thank you to five Supreme Court heroes for helping bend it a little sooner.”

The court was ideologically split in its decision, as Justice Anthony Kennedy – regarded as its most moderate member – sided in the majority with the court’s four liberal justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer. The conservative wing – Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito – voted in the minority.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Supreme Court

Photo courtesy of U.S. Supreme Court

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Hillary Clinton visits Queens for campaign fundraiser


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Victoria Schneps-Yunis

Updated 3:22 p.m.

Former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton appeared at Terrace on the Park Monday afternoon for a lucrative fundraiser in her honor.

Rep. Joe Crowley, leader of the Queens County Democratic Party, and Rep. Grace Meng held the $2,700-per-plate campaign luncheon in support of Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

It was the second of three fundraisers held for Clinton in the New York City area; earlier in the afternoon, she stopped by a Manhattan function held by former New York State first lady Silda Wall Spitzer. Following her appearance at the venue inside Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Clinton headed off to a private fundraiser at the home of Nassau County Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs.

All told, the “Hillary for America” campaign reportedly raised $275,000 at the Queens fundraiser. According to the New York Daily News, Clinton is rumored to be planning an official campaign launch later this month on Roosevelt Island.

Former President Bill Clinton was not with candidate Clinton at Monday’s event.

Prominent Democrats from across Queens joined Crowley and Meng at the Clinton fundraiser, including Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Queens County Clerk Audrey Pheffer, former Borough President Claire Shulman and former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr.

Polls point to Hillary Clinton as the prohibitive front-runner in the 2016 Democratic race. Two rivals, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, have already declared their candidacies for the Democratic nomination.

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Jackie Robinson Parkway shutdowns begin tonight


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Jim Henderson

Portions of the Jackie Robinson Parkway will be closed beginning Monday night as the state Department of Transportation (DOT) begins resurfacing the five-mile-long and winding road between Kew Gardens and Brooklyn.

The work will begin tonight on the eastbound side from the parkway’s Brooklyn terminus at the corner of Jamaica and Pennsylvania avenues to the Cypress Hills Street exit. As reported in the Ridgewood Times, the project will be performed in segments, with the eastbound side completed first.

The $17 million project is expected to be finished in mid-August, barring any weather-related delays. Much of the work will be done during weeknight hours from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. the next morning, but portions of the parkway will be shut down entirely on six weekends, from 11 p.m. Friday to 5:30 a.m. the following Monday.

The first two weekend closures will occur on June 5 through 8 and June 12 through 15. Drivers will be diverted through marked detour routes passing through neighboring Brooklyn, Ridgewood, Glendale, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens.

During the project, crews from Tully Construction Company of Flushing — working on behalf of the state DOT — will remove the existing asphalt pavement and repair the concrete roadbed, then apply new asphalt and re-stripe the roadway with new lane markings. Various traffic safety devices, from reflectors to new signage, will also be installed.

“The Jackie Robinson Parkway is a critical connector between Brooklyn and Queens, carrying thousands of commuters each day and supporting the local economy,” state Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said in a statement. “[This] project will give more than 82,000 motorists who use the parkway each day a smoother, safer ride.”

“Motorists who use the Jackie Robinson Parkway can look forward to a better road experience thanks to this paving project and infrastructure enhancement,” added Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who thanked the DOT and Governor Andrew Cuomo “for making the improvement of the parkway a priority.”

Drivers are reminded to travel safely and slowly through work zones; by law, speeding fines are doubled in work zones, and convictions of two or more speeding violations in a work zone may result in a driver’s license suspension.

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BP honored at LaGuardia Community College Asian Heritage Celebration


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of LaGuardia Community College

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz received an award Wednesday for her dedication and support of a Long Island City college.

Katz was awarded the “Dare to Do More Award” during LaGuardia Community College’s Asian Heritage Celebration.

The college’s president, Dr. Gail O. Mellow, bestowed the honor on Katz for her support of the college and for being a longtime advocate for higher education.

“We are delighted this year to share the event with our special honoree, Borough President Melinda Katz who is a great leader and tireless advocate for Community Colleges,” Mellow said.

Wednesday’s festivities – which included performers from China, Bangladesh and Japan – concluded LaGuardia’s month-long celebration honoring the wide range and richness of Asian cultures.

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Food from different parts of the world and from local neighborhood restaurants were also served.

“Our annual Asian Heritage Celebration is a festive event that brings the campus together through food, cultural performances and student entertainment,” Mellow said. “We are proud to celebrate our diversity and share the many different cultures of our students.”

Entertainers for the Asian Heritage Celebration included Singer Maksud Ara and dancer Tahmina Islam, modern dance troupe HIPHOP STREET, and American-Chinese circus clown and Ukrainian-Russian belly dancer duo Rob Lok and Jane.

There was also a showcase featuring performances by LaGuardia students from the Bangladesh Student Association, the Chinese Club, the Philippine Club and the Japanese Club.

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NYS Pavilion to get free paint job


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Updated Wednesday, May 6, 1:30 p.m. 

The city Parks Department and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz announced Wednesday morning the latest efforts to spruce up the New York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Katz and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver will herald a new partnership with two local labor unions — the New York Structural Steel Painting Contractors Association and the International Union of Painting and Allied Trades Local 806 District 9 — to repaint the upper portions of the Tent of Tomorrow, the elliptical steel building in the shadow of the pavilion’s space needles.

“Flushing Meadows Corona Park’s Tent of Tomorrow is an iconic symbol of Queens, but we haven’t been able to give it the treatment it deserves until now,” Silver said. “Thanks to a partnership with the Structural Steel Painters Union, the building is being restored and beautified so that it may remain a source of pride for the entire borough, and a reminder of the World’s Fairs, for years to come.”

The new paint system of the pavilion, which is expected to be completed by this fall, will serve as a protective coating and extend the life of the structure by at least 15 years.

The $3 million effort will be undertaken free of charge through a painting apprenticeship program operated by the unions, allowing painters to gain work experience.

“Due to the tremendous generosity of Painters DC 9 and the Painting Contractors Association, the pavilion will be refreshed with a new coat of paint,” Katz said. “We’re working hard to save this architectural marvel, and the facelift is a great boon to our efforts. We will restore this national treasure into a visible icon befitting the ‘World’s Borough’ for generations of families and visitors to enjoy.”

In recent years, local volunteers and historians have advocated for refurbishing the pavilion, one of the last remaining fixtures of the 1964-65 World’s Fair. The pavilion’s space needles served as observation decks, while the Tent of Tomorrow — once featuring a stained-glass roof and a terrazzo tile roadmap of New York State — was an entertainment venue.

The Tent of Tomorrow was used sporadically for years after the fair’s conclusion, but fell into disrepair along with the rest of the pavilion over the last few decades.

Full restoration of the pavilion is estimated to cost at least $43 million, according to a Parks Department announcement last November. Katz, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council have already secured a combined $6 million in funds to repair the towers and its electrical infrastructure.

A group of volunteers also formed the New York State Pavilion Paint Project to provide short-term renovations while Katz and other city officials worked on a long-term plan for the pavilion’s rehabilitation.

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Improvements underway at Jamaica’s Rufus King Park


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

NYC Parks/photo by Malcolm Pinckney

Jamaica’s “town square” is about to get a much-needed makeover.

The Parks Department along with local elected officials ceremonially broke ground Monday on a $2.2 million renovation of Rufus King Park located in an area bounded by Jamaica and 89th avenues between 150th and 153rd streets.

At the heart of the project is reconstruction of the park’s gazebo, which will include a new roof, handrails, steps and a brick platform. The gazebo’s electrical system will also be enhanced to better accommodate various events.

The Parks Department will also resurface and reconfigure the green space’s asphalt pathways to improve pedestrian circulation. New trees and shrubs will be planted throughout the park, and the agency will also create a new lawn both for leisure and athletic activity.

Many of those funding the Rufus King Park project, including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and City Councilman Rory Lancman, helped Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick and others officially launch the renovation’s start Monday.

“Thanks to the generous funding allocated by the City Council, the Borough President’s office, Jamaica’s residents will be able to enjoy a renovated and revitalized open space with a new gazebo that will serve as a beautiful gathering place for this diverse neighborhood,” Silver said.

“Rufus King Park is like the town square of Jamaica, a central point for anyone of the vibrant and diverse community to enjoy,” Katz added. “The investment of public funds into this neighborhood treasure is very much a part of the Jamaica Now Action plan fully underway, a 21-point strategic plan intended to revitalize Jamaica into a thriving residential neighborhood.”

The 11-acre park was once part of the estate of Rufus King, a colonial lawyer, abolitionist and statesman who was among the signers of the Constitution. The Village of Jamaica purchased King Manor and surrounding land in 1896 for $50,000; the site was subsequently acquired by the City of New York two years later as Jamaica became part of the city.

King Manor stands today not only as a colonial museum, but also for various cultural events attended by thousands of people annually. The house is an official city landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rufus King Park’s last major renovation occurred between 1991 and 1993, when the Parks Department shifted the bandstand, rebuilt the park house, installed new paths and redistributed recreational facilities. Additional work took place in 1996-97 when the city installed a new steel picket fence around King Manor.

The latest renovation is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2016.

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More funding secured to upgrade outdated freight locomotives


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Train.tif

Extra funds are coming down the track from Albany to clean up some of the state’s dirtiest diesel locomotives.

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, along with other elected officials, civic organizations and the New York League of Conservative Voters, announced that $3 million was secured in the 2015 state budget to continue a program to overhaul old, state-owned freight locomotives.

This funding comes after Hevesi previously secured $6 million in the 2013 and 2014 state budgets. That money has already been put into retrofitting two locomotives of the 11-car fleet at Glendale’s Fresh Pond Railyard, which are set to roll out this December.

According to a source close to the situation, the first two locomotives, which received funding for upgrades during the last two years, were delayed getting their enhancements due to contract disputes with the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), which owns the railyard but leases it to the New York and Atlantic Railway. The two train cars went in for their scheduled upgrades this past summer and will be set to go by the end of the year.

“With this additional state funding, and the first two overhauled freight locomotives expected to come on-line later this year, it is encouraging that great strides are being made to fight for, and protect, the health of countless families in the boroughs of New York and on Long Island,” Hevesi said.

Retrofitting diesel freight engines was a top transportation and environmental priority in the Fiscal Year 2013, 2014 and 2015 Assembly budgets. The request was supported and signed by over 60 members of the Assembly, and received bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature.

“I am very pleased that the new state budget includes an additional $3 million that will be used to continue a program to upgrade the engines of antiquated LIRR freight locomotives,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “This program will improve the lives of Queens residents by reducing the unhealthy nitrogen oxide emissions and curbing the unpleasant noise pollution generated by the locomotives’ existing diesel engines.”

The train cars are currently equipped with antiquated engines which are up to the standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for 1970s locomotives and give off toxic emissions. These outdated trains operate throughout Brooklyn, Long Island and Queens, and specifically at the Fresh Pond Railyard.

“This funding gives us greater ammunition in the fight for our constituents’ quality of life and I am thrilled we can continue to see the progress in overhauling the antiquated freight locomotives,” state Senator Joseph Addabbo said. “This benefits people near and far to the rail tracks — allowing those close to be less disturbed by train rumblings and those all around to allow more fresh, clean air into their lungs.”

The continued funding of this program will allow for a third freight locomotive to be upgraded to meet the current EPA Tier 4 emissions standards. The EPA Tier 4 standards are some of the highest in the country since the EPA changed their emission standards in 2000.

The enhancements to this third train car is expected to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions — a known byproduct of diesel engines linked to respiratory diseases — by up to 76 percent per year, or the equivalent of 120 tons of emissions over 10 years.

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As Landmarks Law turns 50, Queens will celebrate ‘Landmarks Month’


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Asha Mahadevan

To mark five decades since the city enacted legislation protecting its most historic places, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz announced events to celebrate “Landmarks Month” across Queens this April.

“Queens landmarks will together celebrate the golden anniversary of the Landmarks Law with a series of events designed to educate residents and visitors of our neighborhoods’ beautiful and rich histories,” Katz said Friday. “As our communities and families grow, our borough also balances that growth with efforts to preserve the irreplaceable landmark treasures that contextualize our present and shape our future.”

The borough president’s office launched a special website that includes a Google Map showing the locations of Queens’ more than 70 individual landmarks and 11 historic districts and a calendar of events in honor of the Landmark Law’s golden jubilee.

The celebratory events include a tour of the landmark Lawrence Cemetery hosted by the Bayside Historical Society on Sunday, April 19, at 11 a.m.; an afternoon tea at the Voekler Orth Museum in Flushing on July 26 at 2 p.m.; and meetings of the Queens Preservation Council on April 27, May 18 and June 29 at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.

Katz will also host an anniversary reception for the Landmarks Law at the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Tuesday, April 21, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The program includes a glimpse of the Queens Museum’s special exhibit, “Panorama of Queens, 1965-2015: Fifty Years of Landmarking,” in which special markers on the museum’s Panorama of New York City indicate the location of Queens landmarks.

Admission to the reception is free, but those attending are encouraged to reserve a place by emailing RSVP@queensbp.org.

Then-Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. signed the Landmarks Law in April 1965, which created the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), an organization tasked with considering and declaring certain buildings and places of historical significance as public landmarks.

The legislation was drafted amid public outcry over the original Pennsylvania Station’s demolition. The Beaux-Arts stone structure at the corner of 33rd Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan was torn down to make way for the Madison Square Garden sports arena, an office tower and a smaller underground train station.

The LPC named its first Queens landmark on Oct. 14, 1965, granting status to the Kingsland Homestead in Flushing. Most recently, the LPC approved in December 2014 the creation of the Ridgewood Central Historic District, preserving more than 900 attached rowhouses in the heart of the neighborhood.

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More traffic agents, safety devices near Flushing Commons site


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of TDC Development International

Hoping to ease the pain for drivers and pedestrians, the city is bringing more traffic agents and safety devices to downtown Flushing.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced the measures during Wednesday’s meeting of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s Flushing Commons Task Force. The advisory body was formed last year to focus on congestion issues related to the billion-dollar Flushing Commons project, a complex of housing, shops and businesses rising on a former municipal parking lot.

As of Wednesday, teams of two NYPD traffic enforcement agents were assigned to the intersections of 37th Avenue and Main Street as well as Roosevelt Avenue and Union Street. A single traffic agent was stationed at the corner of 37th Avenue and 138th Street.

Trottenberg said the DOT will also create a left-turn-only lane from 37th Avenue onto Main Street and install a temporary all-way stop sign at the corner of 37th Avenue and 138th Street.

Each of the measures, she noted, aims to improve traffic flow and increase safety for both drivers and pedestrians traveling through downtown Flushing near the Commons site.

“The task force appreciates the commitment by the DOT, the NYPD and the developers to consider all possible measures to enhance traffic flow and pedestrian safety in Flushing’s downtown core,” Katz said. “These actions are sound steps that demonstrate the DOT’s commitment, and continual engagement by all stakeholders is necessary to keep the economic engine of downtown Flushing running amidst the building pains of development.”

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblyman Ron Kim, City Councilman Peter Koo and Community Board 7 Chairperson Chuck Apelian all expressed support for the new safety measures.

Congestion in Flushing has been problematic for years; the downtown area has the highest per capita number in Queens of vehicular accidents resulting in pedestrian injury or death.

Flushing’s traffic woes increased in the area around the Commons site after work started last year. Several entrances and exits on Union Street were shut down, and a bus terminus was relocated onto 128th Street between 37th and 39th avenues, shifting many buses through the neighborhood.

Katz formed the task force last year to engage city agencies and F&T Group, Flushing Commons’ developer, with local business groups and civic leaders to find ways to alleviate Flushing’s traffic problems. Since December, the DOT — at the task force’s urging — amended a pedestrian walkway permit at the Commons site, shifting it into a parking lane. This, the borough president’s office noted, helped improve traffic flow through the neighborhood.

Along with the measures announced Wednesday, Trottenberg said the DOT is contemplating the following additional measures to further improve traffic conditions in Flushing:

  • Reversing the direction of traffic on one-way 38th Avenue;
  • Creating a right-turn lane from 37th Avenue onto Main Street;
  • Temporarily removing parking spaces on 37th Avenue and 138th Street immediately adjacent to the Flushing Commons construction site; and
  • Installing new stop signs, traffic signals and/or enhanced street markings at several other intersections, including 37th Avenue and 138th Street, Union Street and 38th Avenue, Main Street and 37th Avenue, 39th Avenue and Union Street, and Roosevelt Avenue and Union Street.

 

Open call for new Queens poet laureate


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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BY LLEWYN SHIN

Borough President Melinda Katz has launched an open call for applications for the next Queens poet laureate, a prestigious three-year position charged with promoting a love of poetry and literacy throughout the borough.

“Because Queens is such a diverse borough, the Queens poet laureate must be a compelling wordsmith who is capable of synthesizing the borough’s many cultures and languages into poetry,” Katz said.

The Queens Borough President’s office and Queens College have been partners in the Queens poet laureate project since the search for the first Queens poet laureate began in 1996. This year, the Queens Borough Public Library joined the partnership for the first time and will provide meeting space for the next Queens poet laureate to present poetry and conduct outreach to the Queens community.

“As a primary source for culture and literature in our borough, Queens Library is delighted to partner with Borough President Melinda Katz’s office to find the next poet laureate. We look forward to hosting the new poet laureate at the library,” Queens Library Interim President/CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey said.

Queens College President Felix V. Matos Rodriguez added, “We are delighted that Borough President Katz is continuing this position and committed to promoting poetry – literature that can touch people of all backgrounds in a profound and universal way.”

The process of selecting the Queens poet laureate is overseen by the Queens Poet Laureate Administrative Committee.

Applications are available at www.queensbp.org/poet and must be submitted by April 24. Applicants must have a published portfolio and are expected to submit representative samples of their poetry, including poems related to Queens. This writing sample should not exceed 10 pages per applicant.

A panel of expert judges will review the applications and recommend three finalists to the borough president, who will make the final decision on who will be appointed.

The past Queens poet laureates are as follows: Stephen Stepanchev (who served from 1997 – 2001), Hal Sirowitz (2001 – 2004), Ishle Yi Park (2004 – 2007), Julio Marzan (2007 – 2010) and Paolo Javier (2010 – 2014).

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BP Katz accepting applications to serve on education councils


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is now accepting applications from qualified community- and education-minded people to serve as a borough president appointee to the Queens’ Community Education Councils (CECs).

As an education policy advisory body, the CECs are responsible for reviewing and evaluating a district’s educational programs, approving zoning lines, holding public hearings and more.

“CECs are meant to ensure parental input in our school system,” Katz said. “It is critical to have parents be an integral part of the decision-making process to shape and set education policies.”

“Queens parents are certainly some of the most active, vocal and effective in the city, and the difference is clear,” she added. “The nexus between families, educators and surrounding community is the key to the success of our schools, and we urge folks to apply.”

Each of the seven Queens CECs consist of 12 volunteer members and provide hands-on leadership and support for their district’s public schools. Katz will select two members to appoint to each of the seven councils. Those selected will serve a two-year term — from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2017.

The borough president’s appointee must live in, own or operate a business in the community school district served by the CEC that they are appointed to. They also must have extensive business, trade or education experience and knowledge.

Anyone who is interested in applying to be a 2015-2017 borough president appointee must submit an application to Katz’s office by April 30, 2015. Applications can be found on the borough president’s website at www.queenspb.org/policy/education and are accepted via email at info@queensbp.org, in person, or through standard mail.

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Community leaders urge BP to focus on creating new schools throughout Queens


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Angy Altamirano

It turns out that it’s not just western Queens that has a problem with overcrowded schools.

Community leaders from across the borough urged Borough President Melinda Katz to push for school expansions during a budget meeting on Monday. Katz is in the process of developing the Queens budget for 2016, and she invited the public to comment on what mattered to them and their priorities for 2016.

“We’re experiencing a huge influx of children and we just don’t have the space,” said Karyn Petersen, Community Board 10 district manager. “We could use more schools or expand the schools we have. Both would be preferable.”

Petersen’s wishes were echoed by many others. Across the borough, people are reporting an increase in population and a swelling number of school children. In Woodside and Sunnyside, parents petitioned the city to create a new middle school. In the Jackson Heights area, Giovanna Reid bemoaned the fact that a new high school hadn’t been created in decades.

One hundred and fifty people, many representing hospitals, libraries, colleges and other institutions, signed up to speak at the hearing.

“We need a new high school,” Reid said.  “It’s about time for one.”

Along with a demand for more school seats, community leaders sought out funding to expand libraries, which, like the schools, are overcrowded. Along with a problem of limited space, many libraries are located on streets that are dangerous for pedestrians to cross.

“Kids have to cross the boulevard of death just to get to the library,” said Frank Gulluscio, the district manager for Community Board 6. “I mean I’m not trying to be dramatic but it’s a very dangerous place for kids to be even though many have to be there.”

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Borough President Katz names Melva Miller as her new deputy BP


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Lillie Miller, mother; Borough President Melinda Katz; Melva Miller, newly appointed Deputy Borough President.

Melva Miller, a top economic development official in the Queens borough president’s office for the past eight years, was promoted on Tuesday to deputy borough president.

Borough President Melinda Katz announced the appointment during a speech before a breakfast meeting of the Queens Chamber of Commerce at St. John’s University.

Miller will fill the vacancy left after Leroy Comrie departed to take his seat in the New York State Senate last month.

“Economic development is a key priority of my agenda for Queens, and Melva’s multidimensional expertise to this end is second to none,” Katz said. “Her understanding of Queens’ neighborhoods is extensive and comprehensive, from both the holistic, macro-policy level to a block-by-block community basis. Melva’s ideas, professionalism and experience in government have been tremendous assets to my administration. For the communities, her focus is relentless, her passion is unwavering. Melva has also been a trusted member of my senior leadership team since day one. Her ascension as my deputy is a natural one, and I thank her for accepting this responsibility.”

Katz made the announcement in front of an audience made up of community board members and dozens of Queens residents. Many in the audience were graduates of St. John’s, a point that the school’s new president Conrado Gempesaw stressed.

Gempesaw spoke before Katz and talked about the intertwined fates between the school and  the borough.

“What’s good for Queens is good for St. John’s,” Gempesaw said, referencing Katz’s State of the Borough speech when she stressed the importance of families. “And what’s good for St. John’s is good for Queens.”

Gempesaw than invited Katz to speak. She praised the service of community board members, whom she called “the first line of defense when issues come up. It’s because of them that government runs so well.”

Katz’s announcement of Miller’s appointment elicited applause from the audience.

Miller has served as the director of economic development for the Queens Borough President’s Office since 2007. Previously, she was the founding executive director of the Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District and of KECDE!, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing the arts to community youth through dance. Miller was also previously the project director for the Downtown Jamaica Cultural District and a community organizer for the Laurelton Local Development Corporation. A lifelong resident of southeast Queens, Miller has dedicated her life to community advocacy through creative organizing and citizen participation.

“It’s an honor to be tapped by Borough President Katz to help execute her vision for the World’s Borough,” Miller said. “Government makes the biggest impact when it is continually engaged with our communities. I am grateful that Borough President Katz chose to promote from within and is allowing me the opportunity to continue building the economic viability of the borough and expand to other service areas of the borough. Across all issues – from education to housing to quality of life to tourism and culture – economic development and community development are one and [the] same.”

Speaking at the the D’Angelo center on the school’s campus, Katz made several other announcements about her economic development strategy for the borough. She mentioned that $6 million has been collected to restore the New York State Pavilion, a site from the 1964 World’s Fair that Katz called a “treasure” that could become a tourist attraction. She expressed a desire to create jobs on the western Flushing waterfront, an area that Mayor de Blasio singled out for affordable housing during last week’s State of the City speech.

Katz also talked about the “Jamaica initiative” to stimulate the business district’s economic activity.

“We want to invest heavily in Jamaica’s infrastructure and local businesses,” she said, without elaborating on any specific projects.

As former head of the borough’s economic development team and now as deputy borough president, Miller will play a key role in helping Katz to push forward Queens projects.

“This is an exciting time for Queens, and in this chapter of growth, development and opportunities for our borough, it’s an absolute privilege to work with a dynamic leader of such passion and vision,” Miller said.

Miller received her master’s degree in social work from CUNY Hunter College School of Social Work and her Bachelor of Science from CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  She is an active doctoral candidate in social welfare at the CUNY Graduate School and University Center.  Miller currently resides in Laurelton, Queens.

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