Tag Archives: Melinda Katz

Axed Queens Library director will sue for wrongful termination


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Update 4:30 p.m.

It’s the end of Tom Galante‘s chapter as director of the Queens Library.

The institution’s board of trustees fired Galante during a meeting Wednesday night—prompting his lawyer to say Thursday that he will be suing for breach of contract.

“This evening, the board of trustees heard a report by counsel. Based on that and a prior report by counsel, a decision was made to terminate immediately Mr. Galante’s employment,” a statement from the library said. “As the library moves forward, the board of trustees will continue working to ensure greater transparency and the proper administration of the library and its funds in furtherance of its mission. Queens Library will continue to provide outstanding value to the people of Queens.”

In September the board voted to suspend Galante, appointing Bridget Quinn-Carey, the library’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, to carry out his duties. He continued to collect his $392,000 annual salary while on administrative leave.

According to the resolution voted on by the board, Galante was fired with cause. Library officials would not specify what constituted cause in his case.

Galante is looking to sue for breach of contract, although nothing has been filed yet, according to Hillary Zilz Prudlo, whose firm Sclam Stone & Dolan is representing Galante.

If Galante can prove in court that the board did not have cause to fire him, he could be due five years’ salary under the terms of his contract—nearly $2 million.

In September, the board voted  to open its books for the city comptroller, Scott Stringer, to perform an audit on all financial data from the library, which receives 85 percent of its funding from taxpayer money but is not officially a city agency or department.

In a statement released on Wednesday Stringer said Galante’s termination was “long overdue.”

“Transparency and proper controls are the cornerstones of good nonprofit governance. My office is currently conducting comprehensive audits of all three New York City library systems. Separately, in my capacity as an ex-officio trustee at the Queens Library, we have already begun working with the board to strengthen internal controls to ensure greater transparency,” he said. 

Galante has been under fire since a series of media reports revealing the renovation of his office that included a $27,000 outdoor deck and expenses he rang up on a library credit card during his time as library director.

Earlier this week, Joseph Ficalora, CEO of NY Community Bank and past president of the Queens Library Foundation Board, told The Courier that the expenses Galante made during his time as library director were not “inappropriate” and had all been approved by the board.

Ficalora was one of the six Queens Library trustees dismissed by Borough President Melinda Katz in July. Mayor Bill de Blasio fired two, and two others resigned. Four new trustees have since been appointed.

Six of the ousted trustees filed a lawsuit in August demanding to be reinstated. Last month, a federal judge granted the request of the former trustees to dismiss their lawsuit that challenged Katz’s decision to remove them from the board.

“Tonight’s action further restores public faith and trust in the management of the Queens Library,” Katz said in a statement following Galante’s termination. “The reformed board of trustees continues to move the library in the right direction consistent with its educational purpose.”

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Former Queens Library trustee defends Tom Galante’s reported expenses


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

One of the six Queens Library trustees dismissed by the borough president has stepped out to defend the expenses by suspended library chief Tom Galante, who could potentially face being fired at a board meeting scheduled for Wednesday night.

Joseph Ficalora, CEO of NY Community Bank and past president of the Queens Library Foundation Board, told The Queens Courier that the expenses Galante made during his time as library director were not “inappropriate” and had all been approved by the board.

According to the NY Daily News, Galante had been using funds “like a personal piggy bank” before being suspended in September, based on a preliminary review of library finances by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Some of the credit card charges that Galante rang up included dinners with groups of library trustees, concert tickets and various hotel charges while the library chief was on out-of-town library business.

However, according to Ficalora, the expenses that are being reported had all been approved by the board and were consistent to those of others who held Galante’s position. He also added that six of the board members who had approved the expenses are still on the board.

“This was nothing that they didn’t know and the board members that are still sitting knew this and there was nothing about the expenses that were inappropriate,” Ficalora said.

He also said that other reports that brought up international trips Galante took were a “miscarriage of justice” because he had been traveling around the world as the ambassador of the library and also to accept awards on the library’s behalf.

“These activities were board-approved and consistent with the library having earned awards,” Ficalora said. “Tom was invited to speak at world-class events because of the world recognition and awards the Queens Library was receiving. None of those expenses were inappropriate and they were all approved by the board.”

In regards to the “fine dining,” Ficalora added that these meals have been typical for library directors for decades and they took place to discuss library business such as new programs or any problems.

Galante was suspended in September and his duties have since been carried out by Bridget Quinn-Carey, the library’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

In July, Borough President Melinda Katz fired six trustees and Mayor Bill de Blasio fired two. Two others resigned. Four new trustees have since been appointed.

Six of the ousted trustees filed a lawsuit in August demanding to be reinstated. However, two weeks ago a federal judge granted the request of the former trustees to dismiss their lawsuit that challenged Katz’s decision to remove them from the board.

According to one of the lawyers representing the former trustees, the lawsuit was dismissed because the former trustees did not have the financial ability and emotional willpower to pursue the lawsuit.

A special meeting of the board of trustees will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Robert T. Groh Board Room at the Central Library, located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd. According to sources, the election of officers might be taking place during the meeting.

In addition, the Audit Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. and the Finance & Investments Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m.

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Northern Queens parents gain no traction during meeting with BP Katz over school program


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Whitestone and Flushing parents were sent back to the drawing board after meeting with Borough President Melinda Katz to discuss their desire to create a gifted and talented program for middle schools in the northern and central Queens area.

Lisa Fusco and a growing number of parents are building a case for the creation of gifted and talented programs for middle schools in their district. During a meeting with Katz and education officials on Wednesday, the parents were told that the district’s superintendent was the only one with the power to extend the program from its limited elementary school reach to middle school.

“They’re giving us the run around,” Fusco said. “We’ve spoken to [Superintendent Danielle Di Mango] before and that hasn’t gotten us anywhere. We’ve tried everything else.”

Mango declined a request for comment.

Fusco’s fourth-grade daughter is enrolled in the gifted and talented program in P.S. 79 and — unlike in many other school districts — the program does not continue into middle school within District 25, which covers most of central and northern Queens. Neighboring districts 26 and 30 provide the program to students in middle school. More than 150 parents have signed a petition to bring the program into their middle schools in places like Flushing and Whitestone.

The gifted and talented programs are meant to provide extra services for students who show academic promise and get bored easily in a traditional classroom setting. Parents must sign up their children for tests to get into the program by November, and children are tested in January and February.

“We have made some real strides engaging community leaders,” Fusco said. “And we will continue to push for the program in our communities.”

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Jamaica of the future imagined by residents


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Imagine Jamaica with more affordable housing, better transportation and more, higher-paying localized jobs.

That was the vision put forward for the neighborhood when more than 100 residents and community advocates attended the city-run Jamaica Planning Initiative meeting this past weekend.

“We’ve been talking to ourselves for too long in this community,” said Borough President Melinda Katz. “We care about the future and are so excited for this plan going forward.”

With so much change having hit the neighborhood already, the city came up with the idea of meeting with local residents to find out what they want in the future. The Jamaica Planning Initiative was a community workshop that broke up residents in attendance into four small groups: 1) transportation, public space and urban design, 2) housing and commercial development, 3) Jamaica identity, branding and marketing and 4) Jamaica jobs. Residents chose the issue that they felt was most pertinent.

They focused on the study area east of the Van Wyck Expressway to Farmers Boulevard and north of Linden Boulevard to Union Turnpike.

Topics discussed were plans for more affordable housing units, finding safer ways for pedestrians to cross streets, creating a localized job market for residents in the community, upgrading small business opportunities and bringing better transportation to the neighborhood.

One issue that was brought up by residents was the concern for more affordable housing.

“We need affordable places for people to live that don’t make much money,” one resident said in a focus group. “That is where the money should be invested.”

At this point, the city agencies working on the project, which include the DOT, Regional Plan Association, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the NYC Small Business Service among local elects, were looking for community feedback so they can move along to the next phase, which is the Jamaica Action Plan. It is the final step before actual implementation.

“The Jamaica Action Plan will incorporate your crucial feedback on topics of focus and opportunity,” said Cali Williams, vice president of the NYC EDC. “Based on today’s charrette sessions, the city will release a set of realistic projects and programs to improve and enliven the experience of Jamaica.”

The workshop turned out to be a major success for all parties.

Regarding the next step, which is the implantation process, the projects will be identified as short-, medium- and long-term proposals. Some of the short-term projects will begin “right away,” according to the EDC, and they and local elects are looking for the continued support of the neighborhood.

“Queens is the diamond of all boroughs,” Congressman Gregory Meeks said. “But we can’t have the greatness we are unless everybody participates in the building of our community.”

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Borough President Katz assesses Queens’ Ebola readiness


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Borough President Melinda Katz's office

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz met with Health Department officials on Monday to consider Queens’ ability to deal with an Ebola outbreak.

Katz also emphasized the need to work closely with the department given the large population of the borough, which hosts two busy airports.

“There is a very deep interest in [Queens] about this,” Katz said.

Dr. Jessica Kattan, a city health official, fielded questions from Katz and community board members.

But Kattan didn’t have the answer to many of the questions and advised people to call 311 if someone has Ebola.

“Does Purell work on this thing?” Katz said.

Kattan said she didn’t know the answer but promised to get back to Katz with an answer.

A community board member asked if planes coming from West Africa to Queens were being sanitized and the air ventilation system flushed out.

Kattan didn’t know, but she said, “the chances of New Yorkers getting Ebola is very slim.”

Katz also made a suggestion about the airports.

She said they should be reporting to Kattan’s department so that communication and information between the airports and the city is greater.

“We’re relying on you guys for vital information,” Katz said. “It’s important.”

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‘The World’s Borough’ tagline added to Welcome to Queens signs


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Melinda Katz’s office

It’s official. Queens is where the world comes to live.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Dalila Hall, the Queens Borough Commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), revealed the new Welcome to Queens street signs, which include the tagline describing Queens as “The World’s Borough.”

The phrase is meant to reflect the cultural diversity in the borough, which is home to residents representing more than 120 countries and speaking more than 135 languages, according to a statement released by Katz. “You haven’t really seen New York City unless you have experienced the diversity that is in Queens,” said Katz, adding that the new signs with the slogans will help “to get that word out.”

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg praised the signs and said they “proudly highlight the level of diversity making Queens unique among the five boroughs and also nationwide.”

The new signs were installed in 10 key locations that act as a gateway to the borough by Oct. 7.

These include the Cross Island Parkway, Grand Central Parkway, Queensboro Bridge and Long Island Expressway.

Each 72-by-42-inch sign has retro-reflective letters that make them easily visible to drivers. Katz’s office funded the fabrication and installation of the signs. All the signs were made in Maspeth.

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Astoria Cove gets green light from City Planning Commission


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Despite opposition from residents, the community board and Borough President Melinda Katz, the Astoria Cove development won over the City Planning Commission.

The 2.2-million-square-foot project along the Astoria waterfront cleared a major hurdle Monday as the commission voted to approve its land-use application despite the push back from community members with a majority vote of 10 yes, two abstentions and one partial no.

“We are pleased by the outcome. And we are looking forward to working with Councilman Constantinides and the City Council and going forward with the process,” said Howard Weiss of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, which represents 2030 Astoria Developers, the team behind the project. “This project heralds a new era in affordable housing. It’s a great step forward in terms of the mayor’s 10-year housing plan.”

The partial no-vote centered on claims of insufficiency of affordable housing in the application. Community Board 2, Katz and others that opposed the project also called for more affordable housing to be included in the buildings, while developers are proposing 345 units or 20 percent of the 1,723 dwellings.

Members of the building services union 32BJ were displeased by the result and pledged to fight at the City Council level for more affordable housing and unionized jobs.

“Alma Realty should not be granted permission to develop Astoria Cove until they commit to responsible development,” said Lenore Friedlaender, executive director of Build Up NYC, a coalition of organizations that includes 32BJ. “We will continue to fight for the good jobs and affordable housing working families in Astoria need to grow and strengthen the middle class, and we look forward to engaging the entire City Council to make sure this gets done right.”

Astoria Cove will consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building.

The project, which is expected to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space.

Recently 2030 Astoria Developers purchased the remaining land needed for the project for more than $43 million.

The City Council has 50 days to vote on the application, and affordable housing will be one of the main subjects reviewed.

“While the new housing stock is sorely needed, the development must work for all Astorians,” Constantinides said. “When the project comes before the City Council, we will work with the developer and focus on providing ample affordable housing, dramatically increasing public transportation capacity on and off of the peninsula, and keeping the development within the fabric of the community.”

 

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Board suspends Queens Library President Tom Galante


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The Queens Library has shelved its president.

The library’s board of trustees voted Thursday night to suspend embattled library boss Tom Galante.

Galante will continue to collect his $392,000 annual salary while on administrative leave, library officials said.

His duties will be carried out by Bridget Quinn-Carey, the library’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“Queens Library has a critical mission to provide information and education. It has long been a model of excellence, “ Quinn-Carey said in a statement.  “I look forward to working with the board of trustees, our elected officials and colleagues at all levels of the organization, including our union, to build on the library’s outstanding work. There are 2.3 million people depending on it.”

Galante declined to comment on Friday.

The board also voted to open its books for the city comptroller, Scott Stringer, to perform an audit on all financial data from the library, which receives 85 percent of its funding from taxpayer money.

Galante and the board, which has seen 10 trustees removed or resigned, had refused to surrender the information relying on a decades-old agreement with the city that allowed the comptroller to audit only that portion of the budget that came from public funds.

That dispute, as well as a revelation in the Daily News that Galante was earning a hefty wage moonlighting for the Elmont school district, sent lawmakers into action, granting the borough president and mayor the power to remove board members for cause. Galante has also been under fire after the renovation of his office that included a $27,000 outdoor deck was revealed.

In July, Borough President Melinda Katz fired six trustees and Mayor Bill de Blasio canned two.  Two others resigned.  Four new trustees have since been appointed.

Six of the ousted trustees filed a lawsuit in August demanding to be reinstated.  They were unsuccessful in getting an injunction to prevent their permanent removal, which became official after Katz rejected their appeals.  The suit, which also demands monetary damages from Katz, is pending in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Katz lauded the board’s decision, saying that it would allow them to “take immediate steps to improve the Queens Library’s governance and increase the transparency of its operations.”

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Ousted Queens Library board members sue Katz; demand reinstatement, money


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Calling their ouster a “brazen and unconstitutional power grab,” six former trustees of the Queens Library filed a federal lawsuit to be restored to the board.

The suit, filed on Friday by Jacqueline Arrington, Joseph Ficalora, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri Mangino and George Stamatiades, also demands that the 2014 law that gave Borough President Melinda Katz the power to bounce them, be invalidated.

The six plaintiffs also demand unspecified monetary damages against Katz—including punitive damages—“on account of the egregious nature of the unconstitutional violations and Katz’s malicious and punitive conduct in publicly smearing plaintiffs in order to aggrandize herself,” according to court papers filed in Brooklyn federal court.

After a protracted battle focusing on the stewardship of Tom Galante, the library’s director, the state legislature gave Katz the power to remove trustees of the library before their terms expired.

Katz bounced the six plaintiffs on July 23 because they reportedly attempted to renegotiate Galante’s contract and award him an $800,000 consultancy.  He was already under fire for his near-$400,000 salary—coupled with a high-paying side gig at the Elmont School District—and a controversial renovation of his office that included a $27,000 outdoor deck.

The library receives more than 80 percent of its funding from the public coffers.

Katz did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

 

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Vandals damage NYS Pavilion


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of John Piro

BENJAMIN FANG

Vandals caused mischief at the storied New York State Pavilion last weekend, setting a stolen van ablaze and damaging its terrazzo map, according to a member of an advocacy group for the structure.

John Piro, co-founder of the New York State Pavilion Paint Project, a local group dedicated to restoring the 1964-1965 World’s Fair figure in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, said the delinquents were causing havoc.

“They came in with a stolen van, broke the lock [of the park] and set the van on fire,” said Piro, who saw the aftermath on Monday morning after the Parks Department saw it on Sunday.

He said they also burned the tarp on the gravel, knocked down steel beams and even damaged what’s left of the Pavilion’s terrazzo map on its ground by using a cinder block to smash the map’s corner panel.

“It’s heartbreaking, after all the work we’ve done,” Piro said. “Hopefully it will never happen again.

THE COURIER/File photo

The incident, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes at the heels of the World’s Fair 50th anniversary celebration just two months ago. The Pavilion opened to the public for the first time in decades this April to also commemorate the historic event.

Last November, the Parks Department released plans to fix the relic, with cost estimates starting at $43 million. Borough President Melinda Katz created a task force of local officials, and civic and community leaders to construct a plan for the Pavilion’s future.

For now, Piro said he is just grateful nothing worse happened.

“They could have caused a lot more damage,” he said. “Now we have to try to do something preventative.” He said they’re looking into something along the lines of an alarm.

The Parks Department said it inspected the site and only found minimal damage.

“This will not have any effect on our efforts to stabilize and preserve the New York State Pavilion,” parks officials said.

The NYPD did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

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New Juniper Valley Park bocce courts met with skepticism


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Juniper Valley Park’s three new bocce courts opened on Wednesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and talk of meatballs and spaghetti. But for the players, most of whom are older Italians, the new courts don’t meet their standards.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said that the new courts, which replaced two older ones, were “Grade-A.” But many of the players present during the ceremony weren’t such generous graders.

 “It looks nice. They spent a lot of money on this,” John Pistone, 62, said. “So I give them an A for effort but for efficiency, I give them an F.”

Pistone and his fellow bocce players complained that the new $850,000 courts weren’t leveled correctly and that the design of the overhead shades didn’t prevent rain from soaking the courts. The bulk of the money came from Katz’s office and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley allocated another $50,000.

Queens Park Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski boasted that the shades placed on all three courts would keep the players cool. But Frank Trocchia said the shades were too small to provide any real protection from the sun.

“We get here in the morning and by 11 o’clock it’s too hot for us to even play,” Trocchia, 64, said. “They didn’t consult us on this design.”

Trocchia and Pistone then proceeded to argue with each other over the ineffective shades and the unbalanced field and which one truly made the bocce courts flawed.

 

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Festival to celebrate World’s Fair anniversaries this Sunday


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Unisphere

DOROTHY LEWANDOWSKI

On Sunday, May 18, from 1 to 5:30 p.m., NYC Parks is celebrating two World’s Fair anniversaries — the 75th anniversary of the 1939 and the 50th anniversary of the 1964 — in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The giant one-day festival will offer inflatable rides, puppet shows, strolling magicians, tents filled with World’s Fair memorabilia, live cultural dance and music, history tours of World’s Fair icons in the park, great food and a place to record your own World’s Fair memories and photos.

From 5:30 to 9 p.m., stay for a free concert by the Liverpool Shuffle, a Beatles tribute band, followed by the Queens Symphony Orchestra and a skyful of fireworks. If you plan to ride the 7 subway, you might find yourself on one of the actual World’s Fair cars from the 1964 Fair — the MTA is returning it to service May 18 only to celebrate the day.

The Fairs are gone, but Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the World’s Park, remains.

Since 2002, NYC Parks has spent nearly $89 million on dozens of capital improvements to the park, and this important work continues. Some are renovations or new uses for World’s Fair legacy structures.

Originally built for the 1939 Fair, the Boathouse on Meadow Lake is now home to the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, which holds its annual race in August; the American Small Craft Association, offering sailing; and Row New York. From the 1964 World’s Fair, the Unisphere remains, its three rings circling the globe to represent the first three satellites to orbit the earth. Terrace on the Park, once Port Authority’s T-shaped heliport, now serves as a catering hall with remarkable views. Information about many more structures and works of art in the park can be found on a visit or by going to www.nyc.gov/parks and searching World’s Fair.

How much does New York love Flushing Meadows Corona Park and its treasures? On April 22, 2014, as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, local elected officials and community leaders cut the ribbon on the anniversary season, 2,500 people lined up to step inside the New York State Pavilion’s “Tent of Tomorrow,” where they could re-imagine the happiness, hope and promise of that beautiful spring when the 1964 Fair first opened.

Join us to celebrate it all at the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival Sunday in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

See you in the park!

Dorothy Lewandowski is Queens Parks Commissioner for NYC Parks.

 

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Top Women in Business 2014


| lnieves@queenscourier.com

The 12th Annual Top Women in Business networking and awards event on Tuesday, May 20, will honor influential women in business in Queens.

The event will celebrate women of Queens finance, healthcare, education and entrepreneurship whose major achievements and participation in community activities has helped the borough grow. Along with recognizing notable Queens’s figures, the “Women in Business” event also provides one of the top networking forums in the borough.

The event will also honor Greg Kelly, co-host of Fox News’s “Good Day New York,” as Best Man of the Year. Queensborough President Melinda Katz will be attending the ceremony as well.  “Greg Kelly is one of the most beloved, interesting and powerful newscasters in television,” said Victoria Schneps, publisher and CEO of The Queens Courier. “We are delighted to honor the highest-rated morning TV personality as our Best Man of the Year.”

The event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at Terrace on the Park, 52-11 111 St., Flushing Meadows Park, Queens. The evening will begin with an Expo and Networking portion followed by the Dinner awards ceremony.

This years honorees:

LEADERSHIP IN EDUCATION AWARD

  • Sharon DeVivo President, Vaughn College

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

  • Dr. Jasmin Moshirpur : Dean/Medical Director, Elmhurst Hospital

2014 Honorees:

  • Gina Battagliola, Project Manager : JFK International Air Terminal
  • Kimberly Benn, Advertising Account Executive: DeSales Media Group
  • Clara Berg, Service Specialist: YAI Services
  • Marizen Bernales, RN/CEO: Atlantic Dialysis
  • Dr. Sabra Brock, Interim Dean: Touro Grad School of Business
  • Tracy Capune, Vice President: Kaufman Astoria Studios
  • Laurie Dorf, Assistant Vice Principal& ED: Queens College
  • Rosa A. Figueroa, Director of Small Business Development: LaGuardia Community College
  • Marsha Goldberg, Principal: Public School 46
  • Eve Cho Guillergan, Attorney: Eve Guillergan PLLC
  • Pam Horowitz, Director of Home Care: Parker Jewish Institute
  • Kimberly Kuchera, CEO: KJR Aviation
  • Missy Lawrence, Vice President Marketing: Resorts World Casino
  • Nora Constance Marino, Esq.,Queens County Commission: NYC Taxi& Limousine Commission and TV Legal Commentator
  • MaryAnn McAleer, Director of Development: Queens Centers for Progress
  • Janine Michel, Executive Director: Christ the King Continuing Education
  • Carole Nussbaum, Principal: Public School 203
  • Erica Oleske, Development Officer: Catholic Foundation for         Brooklyn & Queens
  • Luisa Otero, Life Coach/Author: No Nonsense Coaching
  • Stephanie Ovadia, Attorney/Radio Host
  • Heather Palmer, 2nd Vice President: Queens County Savings Bank
  • Michelle Rosa Patruno, Regional Sales Manager/Senior Loans Specialist: Vanguard Funding
  • Sarah BJ Song, Chairman of Korean: American Family Services
  • Donna Tucker, Chief of Staff: Regional Alliance
  • Tiki Vanderbilt, Partner: NY Life Insurance Company
  • Denise Ward, College Interim Vice President & Executive Director: Queensborough Community
  • Carrie White, Classified Sales Manager: Desales Media Group
  • Mary Zias, Store Manager: TD Bank

HALL of FAME HONOREES:

  • Maureen Buglino,  R.N. Vice President for Community Medicine & Emergency Medicine: New York Presbyterian
  • Stefanie Handsman, Head of Treasury Services Division: Bank Leumi
  • Dominique Camacho Moran, Attorney Labor and Practice: Farrell and Fritz
  • Linda Spiegel, Director of Public Affairs and Marketing: Margaret Tietz Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
  • Annette Vallone, Owner and Director : Landrum Dance School

Queens Library board votes against turning over documentation


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The Board of Trustees of the Queens Borough Public Library voted against turning over all the records requested by the city comptroller’s office, sparking condemnation from politicians.

The vote, which took place on April 8, rejected a resolution submitted by members of the Board, and instead passed a resolution to release all requested financial documentation in accordance with a 1997 court-ordered agreement between the Queens Library and comptroller’s office.

The library, in a statement, defended the vote, saying it “believes in accountability and transparency.”

“The library has released all requested financial documentation in accordance with the court-ordered agreement of 1997. The audit rules have been the standard for several previous administrations. It appropriately includes audit authority over every dime provided by the city, fines and fees collected and book sale funds. As an additional layer of transparency, the library voluntarily provided access to the Worker’s Compensation Fund as requested.”

Additionally, the institution wrote to the city’s Independent Budget Office on Friday, requesting a review and analysis of its capital program, according to a library spokeswoman Joanne King.

In April, Comptroller Scott Stringer filed a lawsuit seeking to nullify the 1997 agreement, according to published reports. In late January, Stringer announced that he would perform a comprehensive audit of the city’s three library systems that would “examine a broad range of fiscal controls,” including the funding of capital improvements, the use of city tax levy funds and the oversight role of the library systems’ individual boards of trustees.

The announcement came after news reports revealed Queens Library President and CEO Tom Galante’s salary and that he spent nearly $140,000 to renovate his office, while many workers have been let go in recent years.

Borough President Melinda Katz penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio in March, asking him to suspend the ability of the library to spend any funds on renovations until the issues are resolved.

“No public entity is above the law. Parliamentary maneuvers may buy them some time, but rest assured that I am determined to make sure that taxpayers know how their money is being spent at this library system,” Stringer said.
Katz also criticized the Board of Trustees’ decision saying it “has put itself firmly on the wrong side of any resident of Queens who wishes to see their library run properly.”

 

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Star of Queens: Mitch Silverstein, co-founder, New York State Pavilion Paint Project


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

MSS2

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Mitch Silverstein is co-founder of the New York State Pavilion Paint Project, a volunteer group dedicated to maintaining the 1964-65 World’s Fair figure in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park through painting and other upkeep projects.

BACKGROUND: Born in Brooklyn, Silverstein, 55, moved to Long Island in 1963. He has fond memories of visiting the World’s Fair as a child. In addition to his Pavilion work, the event also inspired him to study science and become a biologist. Today, Silverstein lives in Rockland County, N.Y., but “gladly commutes” to Queens for his Paint Project work.

GOALS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS: The New York State Pavilion Paint Project started in 2009, when co-founder John Piro wanted to repaint its stripes after the structure had been neglected. At first it was just the two of them, but there is now a core group of five to eight, with as many as 10 volunteers at a time.

“We figured that the paint would not only improve the park and the Pavilion, but it was also a form of advocacy. It was a hope for the future,” Silverstein said.

The group also does cleanup and minor repairs. It recently helped open up the Pavilion to the public for the first time in decades, after Piro approached the Parks Department with the idea. On April 22, on the fair’s 50th anniversary, around 2,000 came to the event, according to Silverstein.

He said the group hopes to continue helping the Pavilion “look nice” and “keep its dignity.” Silverstein, along with Piro and another group member, is part of a task force put together by Borough President Melinda Katz to create a plan for the Pavilion’s future.

INSPIRATION: Silverstein is inspired by his desire to see the Pavilion preserved and other groups that are advocating for the structure and are supportive of his own group’s work.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: One step forward was when Borough President Melinda Katz declared she was dedicated to preserving the Pavilion, Silverstein said, but support and funding from multiple sources will likely be needed to stabilize and ultimately save it.

 

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