Tag Archives: Michael Bloomberg

Agreement breathes new life into Jamaica Bay


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Jamaica Bay, which has long been a medley of city, state and federal land, will now have thousands of acres of parkland jointly managed by the National Park Service and the New York City Parks Department.

The two agencies reached an agreement to maintain 10,000 acres of Jamaica Bay to “promote visitation, education programs, scientific research and recreational opportunities.”

“This is an important example of the great things that can happen when different levels of government work together and are supported by philanthropic organizations,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “This agreement fulfills important goals included our plans to make our city more sustainable and to enhance our waterfront.”

Goals for the collectively administered project include improved recreation spaces, including more camping and boating opportunities; integrated land and water trail systems; ensuring public transportation and access to and within Jamaica Bay; and new experiential activities, including public transit, pedestrian, bicycle and ferry access.

As part of the project, the city and National Park Service released a request for expressions of interest for a university, academic partner or science-focused organization to manage an intensive research program focused on the restoration of the bay, including potentially creating a new science and resilience center to coordinate and bolster research efforts.

Turnaround teachers back to work


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The city, winless in its court battles over Turnaround schools, plans to continue its fight after another loss, just weeks away from classes commencing.

State Supreme Court Justice Joan Lobis upheld an arbitrator’s ruling that deemed the Department of Education’s Turnaround plan violated teachers’ contracts, allowing the educators to return to the classroom.

Under the plan, the city would have removed more than 3,500 educators from the struggling schools and had them reapply for jobs at the institutions, which would reopen under new names.

“The mayor and [Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott] will not allow failing schools to deprive our students of the high-quality education they deserve,” the city’s attorney Michael A. Cardozo said in a statement. “Although we will of course comply with the judge’s ruling, we strongly disagree with it.”

The city plans to appeal.

“This is a tremendous victory for UFT [United Federation of Teachers] members in the 24 [Persistently Low Achieving] schools and for our entire union,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote in a letter to teachers at the Turnaround schools. “We stood firm in this fight because we knew, from day one, that the DOE was wrong in its interpretation of our contract — and because we could not sit idly by while thousands of good teachers were unfairly forced out of their positions by a mayor intent on maligning our profession.”

Turnaround was set in motion after the city and union failed to come to an agreement on an evaluation system which jeopardized almost $60 million in federal School Improvement Grants [SIG].

Receiving those funds was contingent on changes being made in the schools, which due to the city’s losses in court has not happened.

Whether the seven Queens high schools marked for Turnaround — August Martin, Flushing, John Adams, Long Island City, Newtown, Richmond Hill and William C. Bryant — will be renamed remains undetermined.

Mayor, NYPD helping victims of tragic Van Wyck Expressway crash


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo by Roy Renna / BMR Breaking News

One of the three survivors of a recent fiery car crash near the Van Wyck Expressway, which killed five people including two kids, has been treated and released from Jamaica Hospital, officials said.

Kingsley Maduka returned to his family in the Bronx, while Oby Okoro, the driver in the crash, is in the intensive care unit and her seven-year-old son Cjidechukwu Obioha is in stable condition.

A spokesperson for the hospital told the media that “the family is not speaking at this time.”

According to police, the group of eight was traveling eastbound on Atlantic Avenue in a 2008 black Mercedes Benz SUV near the intersection of the Van Wyck at about 3 a.m. on July 22, when the vehicle struck a concrete barrier. The collision caused the car to flip and roll over, subsequently coming to a rest on its passenger side and igniting in flames.

Firefighters and EMS personnel responded, and, once the fire was extinguished, five victims were pronounced dead at the scene: Munachimso Obioha, 8, Ebube Obafor-Mba, 9, and three adult females.

Okoro, Obioha and Maduka were taken to the hospital.

The group was coming back from a function celebrating Nigerian heritage, according to published reports.

There is no criminal activity suspected at this time and the investigation is ongoing, cops said, though it has been reported that Okoro was traveling at a high rate of speed and had blown two red lights. “The mayor’s office and NYPD community affairs unit are helping the family out in any way that we can,” said officer Mark Costa of the 103rd Precinct.

Basdeo Narine, a resident who lives about a mile from the accident and passed by as he was driving his wife to work, said the Mercedes was completely smashed and he saw the five bodies, covered in sheets, laid out near the vehicle.

“It was mind crushing,” he said of the gruesome scene.

Narine said that though he doesn’t consider the intersection dangerous, people do take the turn at the Van Wyck and Atlantic and Archer Avenues at a high rate of speed. “I live here, so I know,” he said. “People can get up to 60 mph from light to light. But if you have kids in the car you are supposed to be cautious.”

In order to avoid such tragedies in the future, Narine said, the area needs a traffic light and a speed bump.

He said he’s not averse to contacting area politicians regarding the matter.

Yvonne Reddick, district manager of Community Board 12, agreed that the intersection is usually safe.

“That’s the first time that I’ve heard of an accident at that location,” Reddick said. “She just lost control. That was a tragedy. My heart goes out to the family.”

 

New Neighborhood Opportunity Network opens


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy DOP

On Tuesday, July 17, the NYC Department of Probation (DOP) celebrated the launch of the Jamaica Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON), which is located at 162-24 Jamaica Avenue.

DOP Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi was joined at the lectern by Councilmember Ruben Wills, Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick, probation clients and Jamaica NeON staff.  The audience included representatives from the many different organizations that are partnering with DOP on the NeON.

The Jamaica NeON is a community-based probation office that works with a network of local organizations, government agencies, businesses and community residents to link probation clients to nearby resources.

In December 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg opened the first NeON in Brownsville, Brooklyn.  DOP anticipates opening additional NeONs in Staten Island, the South Bronx, East New York and Bedford Stuyvesant.

NeON is an important part of Bloomberg’s Young Men’s Initiative, which is designed to help black and Latino youth achieve their professional, educational, and personal goals.

Advocacy group angry with timing of soda ban public hearing


| brennison@queenscourier.com

As city residents descend on Long Island City to attend the public hearing on the proposed ban of sugary drinks, New Yorkers for Beverage Choices questioned the timing of the meeting.

The hearing at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s headquarters began at 1 p.m., a time New Yorkers for Beverage Choices believes prevents many from attending.

“By scheduling this hearing in the middle of a business day during many restaurants’ and delis’ busy lunch periods, the Department of Health is sending a clear message that they are not interested in hearing what real New Yorkers have to say about this proposal,” the group said in a statement.

The organization said they have collected signatures from more than 91,000 residents and 1,500 businesses in the city opposing the ban.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his plan to ban sugary drinks above 16 ounces in May.

Today is the lone public hearing. The city’s Board of Health will vote on the measure in September.

 

Biz owners blast sweetened beverage ban


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Is it the new Prohibition?

Queens business owners are against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban of large sweetened beverages, reasoning that it would put a cap on their rights and water down sales.

Proprietors told Councilmember Julissa Ferreras this as she scanned four businesses near her East Elmhurst office, engaging them about the ban’s potential effects, in an event organized by the New Yorkers for Beverage Choices coalition on July 19.

“I think he [Bloomberg] is trying to approach obesity in the ways that he is being advised and I just think this one is ill-advised,” Ferreras said while standing in front a small deli.

The store is run by Rocio Galindo, a mother of three originally from Mexico, who said she put all her money into opening the shop last year and fears the proposed restriction could discourage patrons from shopping at her store.

“She put every egg in this basket to be able to survive,” Ferreras said, translating for Galindo.

If passed, what’s being called as the “soda ban” will halt the sale of sugary bottled and fountain drinks, such as teas, sodas and sports drinks, above 16 ounces in every store and restaurant with letter grades, movie theaters, sports venues, delis and food trucks and carts.

Diet sodas, calorie-free drinks, and drinks with at least 50 percent milk are exempted from the regulation.

“Although obesity is caused by a myriad of factors, there is a large body of evidence suggesting that a significant contributor to consumption of extra calories over the last three decades is the over-consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages,” said The Obesity Society, which commends the mayor’s initiative. “Calories from sugar-sweetened beverages are empty calories, because they are typically devoid of nutrients other than simple sugar.”

But members of the coalition and store owners argue that the prohibition is simply an abuse of power.

“The last time I checked this is a still a democracy,” said Miguel Reyes, a store owner. “This is not Russia; this is not Cuba, where government can tell you what you can drink or what you can do.”

“There is no research that links beverages directly to obesity,” said Liz Berman, a member of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices and president of Continental Food and Beverages. “Obesity is a very complex problem. It takes nutritional education, exercise and having the right choices.

The soda ban is just one of the mayor’s moves to shrink the city’s waist line.

Five years ago Bloomberg banned trans-fat in restaurants and a city-funded study released on July 17 proved it made the city healthier.

The city recently launched “Shop Healthy NYC,” a voluntary program to encourage stores to display health food prominently, and “Cut the Junk,” a plan to teach locals that cooking at home is healthier and less expensive than dining out.

However, what really bothers Ferreras is that the mayor’s proposal does not ban sugary drinks from stores across the board.

Supermarkets, bodegas, and pharmacies such as 7-Eleven or Rite Aid will be able to sell the huge drinks.

“It’s going to hurt me,” Abel Ahuatl, an immigrant store owner said. “I feel like some are going to come only for a sandwich, let’s say, and they are going to the bodega to get their drinks.”

There will be a public hearing about the soda ban in the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) offices in Long Island City on July 24.

However, the mayor doesn’t need a public vote for the ban, just approval by the DOHMH to set the ban in effect.

 

City installs Slow Zones in Queens


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the mayor's office

New Neighborhood Slow Zones in four Queens communities will give pedestrians a break as the city applies the brakes to speeding drivers.

The slow zone program reduces speed limits from 30 mph to 20 mph in designated residential neighborhoods while also adding safety measures such as speed bumps. A pedestrian has a 95 percent chance of surviving if struck by a car traveling 20 mph, the Department of Transportation (DOT) said.

“One quarter of all fatalities in New York City are caused by speeding,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “Today we’re continuing the fight to put the brakes on dangerous speeding.”

The program expansion was announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a Tuesday, July 10 press conference in Corona, which along with Auburndale, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights are among the 13 neighborhoods throughout the city that will have a slow zone installed. Three of the four Queens areas are more dangerous than 70 percent of borough streets, according to DOT statistics.

“We are continuing our assault on the number one traffic killer: speeding. We’ve seen success already where we have installed slow zones and we expect safety will improve as speeding is reduced in these communities,” Bloomberg said.

Blue gateway signs will be installed at entry points of the approximately quarter square mile zones along with signs noting the new speed limit. Construction should be completed by the late summer.

The 13 neighborhoods will join the Claremont section of the Bronx, which was the first community in the city to install the program in November. Since that time, speeding is down 10 percent in the area, Khan said.

Bloomberg said he is looking to build on the safety gains the city has made in protecting residents and drivers. There are 30,000 fewer accidents (80,000 versus 50,000) resulting in injuries than in 2001 and over that span the number of drivers that perish in accidents is down nearly 40 percent.

Crash rates, community support, number of schools, senior centers and day care centers are considered when examining areas for slow zones.

City kicks off summer youth jobs program at Queens Botanical Garden


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the mayor's office

Out of school and into the work force.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg helped kick off the first day of the city’s summer youth employment program at the Queens Botanical Gardens, which will have 35 employees working as garden greeters, horticulture aides and aides to the children’s garden.

More than 31,000 city kids are participating in the program. The participants were selected through a lottery system and placed by community‐based organization partners at local nonprofits and businesses.

“With many young people now struggling to find employment, opportunities for summer jobs are very welcome,” Bloomberg said. “These programs help working families, keep kids in school, and help students do better on Regents exams and increases graduation rates. We are grateful to the more than 80 corporate and philanthropic sponsors for their support of our City’s young people this summer.”

Students who work during high school tend to stay in school, graduate at higher rates and are more likely to work after graduation, according to the mayor’s office.  Students’ attendance and likelihood to take the Regents also increases the year following summer employment, according to a recent New York University study.

“The research is clear that summer learning loss disproportionately impacts our most vulnerable low-income students, which is why it is so important that we continue to support our city’s summer jobs programs and pilot new initiatives such as the ones we are announcing today,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said.

The city launched two new summer employment programs, Summer Quest and Summer Scholars, to go along with the already established Summer Youth Employment Program, Ladders for Leaders, the Young Adult Internship Program, the Young Adult Literacy Program and the Young Men’s Initiative Work Progress Program

 

Balanced budget saves child care, libraries and fire companies


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the mayor's office

Without raising the tax bar, education, child care, libraries and other city services will be spared – despite original concerns of heavy cuts – in the 2013 Fiscal Year budget, city officials announced Monday, June 25 attributing the balanced budget to several cost-saving methods.

“When times were better, the city set aside surplus revenue — and when the first storm clouds gathered in 2007, we began cutting budgets,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “These actions — and our work over the past decade to diversify the economy and make it less reliant on Wall Street — have allowed us avoid the severe service cuts that many other cities are facing.”

About $150 million will be added from the mayor’s May Executive Budget, which proposed a large child care cut, to the Administration for Children’s Services Child Care Program and the Department of Youth and Community Development Out-of-School Time program, ensuring child care stays well-funded in the City.

The funding is a major accomplishment for child care, said Gregory Brender, policy advisor for United Neighborhood Houses.

“It’s a big victory for child care,” he said. “Losing spots was terrifying to parents around the city.”

In addition, roughly 1,000 teachers will be added, it was announced, and several hundred teacher’s aide jobs will be spared.

Because of about $90 million going toward the library system, more than 600 Queens Library jobs will be saved, according to a statement from the Library. There will also be no cuts to hours, but there will be limited reductions to services, said Joanne King, Queens Library associate director of communications.

“Our advocates in City Hall have kept libraries a priority through the last several budgets,” she said. “We know the people of Queens will be very appreciative.”

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, who chairs the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, said the twenty fire houses saved from elimination was a relief to New Yorkers and they would continue to keep the city safe.

“We can all rest assured knowing that the people of the city of New York will be safe,” Crowley said. “Closing even one fire company would have reduced response times and people’s lives would have hung in the balance. So for me today it’s gratifying to know that’s one less worry.”

Although the budget is balanced and ahead of the June 30 deadline, the Mayor’s office acknowledged there will be a $2.5 billion budget gap for the 2014 fiscal year.

“We face a significant challenge again next year, but given the effective and fiscally responsible partnership we’ve had with the Council – and the leadership we know we can rely on from Speaker Christine Quinn – I’m confident we’ll meet any challenges that arise,” Bloomberg said.

Additional reporting by Billy Rennison

Mayor announces balanced budget; fire companies, libraries and child care saved


| brennison@queenscourier.com

With severe cuts to fire companies, child care and libraries looming, an on-time, balanced city budget was agreed upon with all services restored, the mayor announced.

“We produced an on-time, balanced budget that does not raise taxes and preserves central services we all rely on,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the press conference announcing the budget on Monday, June 25.

An agreement between the city council and mayor on the budget came well ahead of the June 30 deadline.

Council speaker Christine Quinn said the approximately $68.5 billion budget was “a statement of priorities.”

Twenty fire companies and more than 40,000 day care and after-school spots faced elimination in the preliminary budget. More than $26 million was scheduled to be cut from the library’s budget which would have forced 18 libraries in Queens to shut their doors.

Bloomberg said he was sure the final budget would have all the cuts restored.

“We’ve done it every year,” he said.

While the cuts were restored this time, it may be harder in next year’s budget, the mayor said. The 2014 fiscal year faces a $2.5 billion budget gap.

 

 

Jobs — that’s he name of the game


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Willets Point announcement last week came with some nice numbers.

More than 12,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs will come from the proposed Willets Point renovation, which includes retail space, a hotel and quicker access to the Van Wyck Expressway.

The reconstruction — to be funded by $3 billion in private investment, as well as $100 million in city capital for the demolition, remediation, infrastructure and permanent improvements — is expected to bring $4.2 billion in economic activity over the next 30 years.

In this economy, that’s music to our ears.

The only part of the plan still left open are tentative plans for affordable housing and a home for a planned convention center in the area — both of which we support wholeheartedly.

Just think of it — in a few years’ time the area that is now the Iron Triangle will be refreshed, refurbished, and buzzing with business.

What could be better than that?

The Next Startup Destination: Queens


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY COUNCILMEMBER MARK WEPRIN

With the new technology campus coming to Roosevelt Island, Queens is poised to become a destination for startups. Startups are newly created companies, often technology oriented, with the potential to be the next big Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare.

Why will Queens be the new place for startups? Queens sits adjacent to Roosevelt Island and has plenty of affordable space (in contrast to neighboring Manhattan). When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced in December that Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology had won the bid for a partnership with the city to develop a brand-new applied sciences campus, I knew that the economic impact would be tremendous, not only on Roosevelt Island, but also in nearby Long Island City and in other parts of Queens.

As a member of the City Council’s Economic Development and Technology Committees, I recognize that the tech campus will create tens of thousands of new jobs. It is estimated that about 600 companies will be derived from the tech campus, creating as many as 30,000 additional jobs in startups. Over time, those numbers can escalate.

If we capitalize on the investments that the city and the universities are making, we can render Queens the new tech capital of the world. Though Roosevelt Island will be home to the new science campus, the potential for economic growth extends far beyond the island’s borders. While there will surely be new jobs, housing, and businesses on Roosevelt Island, the spillover effect will bring benefits right into our own backyard. Tech campus graduates, professors, and researchers are likely to set up shop in Queens. They are among today’s most brilliant minds, and they are the kind of people who come up with the transformative ideas that yield business success.

Think of Jet Blue Airways, based in Queens, which started in the late 1990s and quickly brought big changes to the air travel industry. Or take Long Island City’s Silvercup Studios, New York City’s largest full-service film and television production facility, which is contributing to the booming local film industry. When the entrepreneurs are ready to bring their ideas to market, they will set up offices in the downtowns of Long Island City, Flushing, and Jamaica. Long Island City is already home to film and television studios, industrial space, museums, and nightlife; LaGuardia’s two planned dormitories will bring hundreds of young people to the vibrant neighborhood. Downtown Jamaica has a college, cultural institutions, and unrivaled access to public transportation; it is well positioned to accommodate new businesses.

In February, while visiting Israel with several of my Council colleagues, I saw firsthand what has come to be known as the startup nation. It is no secret that Israel is moving forward with an economy that is the place for startups, with the largest number in the world, surpassing even Japan and China. When ambitious individuals start new companies, they provide a boost for the local economy as well as for their own futures. Queens can follow the same path that Israel took to startup stardom.

Innovation once led the United States to the forefront of the world economy, and it can take us there again, with Queens leading the way.

Weprin is a member of the City Council’s Economic Development and Technology Committees

 

Bloomberg ban is brave


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Over the years, it seems, serving sizes have been increasing proportionally to waistlines.

With obesity — and all its related ailments — on the rise, we say bravo Bloomberg for being brave enough to do something about it.

Although his new plan — to ban sugary drinks over 16 ounces — is being met with some resistance (and some very funny ads), we feel that something had to be done — and back him wholeheartedly.

Soda and sugary drinks are empty calories. With no nutritional value, all they do is tick up your daily count. Yes, they may give you a “quick fix” energy boost, but you will crash sooner rather than later.

The mayor is not being unrealistic.

He realizes that he cannot stop people from consuming large quantities of these beverages — all you would have to do is order two.

So good job, Mayor Mike, for trying to put the health of New Yorkers first. After all, someone’s gotta do it.

 

Mets to host 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Citi Field

Next year, the Mets home will field an all star at every position.

Commissioner Bud Selig, Mets owner Fred Wilpon and Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Citi Field will host the 2013 MLB All-Star Game at a press conference Wednesday, May 16. This marks the ninth time the Midsummer Classic will be played in the city.

“Next year’s All-Star Game is going to demonstrate once again that there’s no place like New York for world-class sporting events,” said Bloomberg. “Major League Baseball clearly recognizes this, since they’re bringing the All-Star Game back to New York for the second time in just five years.”

Yankee Stadium held the game in 2008, its final season.

The Mets last played host to the annual gathering of the game’s greatest players in Shea Stadium’s inaugural season 1964.

That game featured Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson. The National League pushed across four runs in the ninth and won thanks to a Johnny Callison walk-off home run.

“It’s a great honor for everyone at the Mets to host the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field,” said Wilpon, who has “dreamed about this” for quite a while.

Queens baseball fans anxiously await the game that decides home field advantage for the World Series.

“I went to the All-Star Fan Fest when it was at Yankee Stadium, and it was pretty cool,” said Corona resident Edwin Rodriguez, a die-hard Mets fan. “So I’m excited about going to that again and just representing the fan’s here now it’s coming to Citi Field.”

“I want to go to the whole thing,” he said. “I want to go to the home run derby.”

The game and home run derby will be part of a “five day celebration of [the] great sport,” Selig said, adding that more events will be announced for the festivities that will run between July 12 and the game on Tuesday, July 16.

The “big news for baseball fans” will also provide the city with $192 million in economic impact and draw more than 175,000 visitors to the city, Bloomberg said who received two Mets jerseys with All Star and New York emblazoned across the back above the number 13 from Wilpon.

“I plan to go,” said Joshua Fermin. “If [my friends] are going to come with me I’ll definitely be there.”

— Additional reporting by Liam La Guerre

Mayor Michael Bloomberg reveals revised city budget


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Mayor Michael Bloomberg today revealed a revised balanced budget that will retain nearly 2,000 teacher positions that he proposed eliminating in his preliminary plan.

The $68.7 million budget includes no tax increases.

“Our budget won’t impose any new taxes on New Yorkers, maintains the strength of the NYPD and continues our strong support for public schools,” said Bloomberg.

Under the preliminary budget, released in February, 1,800 teachers would have been lost through attrition.

The budget will be balanced partly in thanks to a $466 million settlement with Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) from the alleged CityTime scandal.

The city experienced growth in tax revenue as the economy continues a gradual recovery, the mayor said.

“Our efforts in the tech, TV and film, tourism and higher education sectors are producing results, with private employment now at its highest level ever in the city, exceeding the record set back in 1969, and we expect this growth in private sector jobs to continue,” Bloomberg said.

The new forecast included an increase of $185 million in expenditures and a $122 million decrease in revenue from the preliminary budget

The budget will now go through council hearings. The new fiscal year begins on July 1.