Tag Archives: Michael Gianaris

Protecting ‘Good Samiritan’ businesses

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Businesses can now feel safe about being good Samaritans.

Senator Michael Gianaris announced on December 22 that he has introduced new legislation aimed at expanding upon New York’s “Good Samaritan” laws. If passed, the legislation would protect businesses and non-profits offering themselves as safe havens to citizens in distress from being held liable for damages or injuries they may incur in the process. Currently, “Good Samaritan” laws only protect individuals.

“Protecting small businesses that rush to aid someone in distress will increase the safe havens available to crime victims and make our streets safer,” said Gianaris. “By encouraging businesses to act in good faith in an emergency, this legislation creates a stronger safety net for individuals who may otherwise feel apprehensive about travelling alone or in unknown neighborhoods.”

Gianaris announced his plans to introduce the bill during an anti-crime rally in November, held to draw attention to and protest the increase in crime in western Queens. Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, who attended the rally along with the senator, co-sponsored the bill.

“Promoting public safety is a community endeavor, and organizations that step in to help the victim of a crime need to know that they have the law on their side,” said Simotas. “I am proud to sponsor Senator Gianaris’ legislation in the assembly and support small businesses and non-profits who act as ‘Good Samaritans’ to those in need.”

Parents from P.S. 234 angry over unusable school gym

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


Parents from P.S. 234 are exercising their voices in disapproval of the delay in reopening the school’s flood-ravaged gymnasium.

The elementary school, located at 30-15 29th Street in Astoria, has been without a gym since September due to damage caused by severe rain storms. The flooding produced “bumps” in the gym floor and has prevented the facility from being used thus far this semester, prompting many parents to wonder whether their children are receiving the proper physical education.

“It’s terrible,” said Fred Fowler, whose daughter Sydney is a fourth grader at P.S. 234. “The kids need the gym. Every school should have a working gym.”

Fowler said that his daughter is athletically active on the weekends, but that she “should not have to wait until then.”
Jackie Soto, who has two children attending P.S. 234 — eight-year-old Emily and 10-year-old Matthew — said her kids “miss gym” and that it is too cold to effectively exercise outside in the schoolyard.

According to Margie Feinberg, spokesperson for the Department of Education (DOE), the school has instituted extended recess time and adopted indoor exercise programs, such as Move to Improve and Activity Works, to compensate for the unavailability of the gym.

Assistant Principal Peggy Mouzakitis says the kids love the in-class programs, which combine for roughly 30 to 40 minutes of exercise, and called them a “good workout for their age.”

According to published reports, parents are claiming their children’s physical education has consisted of jumping jacks in the classrooms and movie screenings in the auditorium since the gym’s closure.

P.S. 234’s principal, Thea Pallos, assures the children are not watching films in lieu of gym, and believes Activity Works, a scientifically designed, interactive video program which aims to improve activity levels and healthy eating habits in young children, may be what the students are misidentifying as “movies.”

“The most important thing to us is that the kids are stimulated in every way,” said Pallos, who admitted physical education at the school has been more difficult without a gym. “Students and parents have been frustrated, because some children leave the building and can’t play outdoors after school. So we want to make sure we can give them those opportunities at school. There have been challenges and we are certainly trying to meet them.”

Among the challenges highlighted by Pallos was the sharing of their schoolyard, where physical education classes have sometimes been held this semester, with I.S. 235, a neighboring middle school which also utilized the out-of-order gymnasium.

Senator Michael Gianaris says Pallos and parents have contacted his office to request he get involved in facilitating the fixing of the flooded floor.

“We have a number of parents very concerned that this problem has dragged on for way too long and their kids are without the physical education they need,” said the senator. “There is no excuse for the mismanagement of this situation. At a time when kids are supposed to be getting physical education, they are busy doing activities during which they are stagnant and not moving. Due to high child obesity, we have to make sure our children are getting the exercise they need. On this issue, the DOE has failed miserably.”

According to a DOE spokesperson, the School Construction Authority (CSA) will install a temporary floor while the students are off for winter break. The floor will be in position for the start of the second semester, and a permanent floor will be put in place during the spring, after exterior drainage work is performed.

Community tackles crime, rallies in Astoria

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Crime may never sleep, but the residents of Astoria are planning to put it to bed.

Following a wave of illegal activity that recently rolled through the neighborhood, members of the community and local elected officials united at an anti-crime rally on November 16.

A variety of crimes were discussed at the gathering, held at 21-77 31st Street, including numerous incidents of groping, the most recent of which occurred at Broadway and 31st Street; an attempted rape on 21st Street; the inappropriate touching of a young girl by an unidentified man in the Steinway Library; cases of car vandalism and robbery and three shootings.

“Astoria is one of the best neighborhoods in New York to raise a family, and we will not allow a few deplorable individuals – especially those who prey on women and children – to threaten that,” said Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, who announced that she is introducing legislation to increase sentences for certain sex crimes and close legal loopholes that allow sex offenders to avoid facing serious penalties. “It’s important that we use every resource at our disposal, including passing tougher laws, to send a message that we will not tolerate these types of acts in our community and criminals will be held accountable.”

In an effort to promote cooperation within the community, Senator Michael Gianaris is introducing legislation that expands upon “Good Samaritan” laws, allowing local businesses and non-profits to act as safe havens to individuals in danger without being liable for damages or injuries they incur while doing so.

“We must do everything in our power to combat the recent uncharacteristic crime wave in our community,” Gianaris said. “Protecting small businesses that rush to aid someone in distress will increase the safe havens available to crime victims and make our streets safer.”

New crime-fighting initiatives and techniques were also announced during the rally, including the proposed reinitiating of community patrol groups.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who chairs the Public Safety Committee, hosted a meeting on November 17 to organize a neighborhood watch program – the first of its kind in over 25 years.

The councilmember, who was joined at the meeting by several Astoria anti-crime experts, announced that he will work with the 114th Precinct, the New York Anti-Crime Agency and the 114th Civilian Observation Patrol in creating the watch program. As part of the group, block captains will be established and the districts will be divided into sections.

“Make no mistake our police officers are doing a great job of preventing and fighting crime – but precincts are operating at half strength and need help – that’s where we come in,” said Vallone. “Our neighborhood watch will act as an additional deterrent and crime fighting tool.”

Some residents of Astoria, outraged and saddened by the illegal activity plaguing their neighborhood, appeared confident the community’s involvement would cease the crimes.

“I’m appalled at all of this crime that has taken place recently,” said John Pellitteri, an Astoria resident for 68 years. “This is our community, not the criminals’ community. We have to work hand in hand with the police and assist them in any way we can. We have to show these criminals that they are not welcome in Astoria and their crimes will not be tolerated. I’m glad elected officials are taking the steps necessary to help the people of Astoria, and to discourage anyone from coming into our community with thoughts of hurting people. I definitely feel better now with a community watch, and most of the people I’ve spoken to are happy we are getting started with it.”

Mayor Bloomberg Announces City Will Have Record Number of Hotel Rooms

| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Steve Mosco

Overlooking Manhattan, on the Queens side of the East River, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city will reach a record 90,000 hotel rooms by year’s end – a clear message that people still love New York.

The mayor made the announcement on the rooftop of the newly opened Z NYC Hotel in Long Island City, where he was joined by State Senator Michael Gianaris, NYC & Company CEO George Fertitta and Z NYC owner Henry Zilberman.

“More people want to visit New York City than ever before, and with a record 90,000 rooms, we have great places for them to stay,” the mayor said. “That’s good news not just for tourists, but also for the city’s economy. Our tourism sector employs 323,000 people, and those jobs are now increasingly located outside Manhattan, as tourists want to visit all of the city’s great neighborhoods.”

The mayor also said that 40 percent of the city’s new hotel openings are taking place in the outer boroughs – a fact that makes sense considering a majority of out-of-state and out-of-country visitors come via Queens’ airports.

“When people see the city, they start with Queens,” he said. “So it makes sense that they would look for restaurants and hotels in Queens.”
And all of those tourists mean revenue for the city. Last year, the city welcomed a record 48.8 million visitors who collectively spent $31 billion – meanwhile, the city is on track to break that same record this year.

Arguably, tourists are staying in and attracted to L.I.C. more than any other Queens neighborhood. There are now 17 hotels in L.I.C. with 1,500 rooms. Five more properties and 650 rooms are currently under construction. Major hotel brands in the western Queens neighborhood include Four Points by Sheraton Long Island City; Fairfield Inn New York Long Island City/Manhattan View; Country Inn & Suites; Holiday Inn Long Island City; and opening next month, the Wyndham Garden Long Island City.

There are also independent properties such as Ravel, the Queensboro Hotel, the Verve Hotel and Z NYC.

“L.I.C.’s popularity is rising because it’s an incredibly cool place and it gets cooler every day,” said Zilberman. “It’s close to shopping in Manhattan; it’s affordable, quiet and safe. It’s all about proximity and you can be in the city or the airport in less than 15 minutes.”

Woodside issues discussed at town hall

| nkarimi@queenscourier.com

Assemblymember Michael DenDekker explained the different issues that New York faces during a Woodside Town Hall meeting on October 26.
“Our everyday problems mean absolutely nothing to legislators that represent Rochester, Buffalo, Tonawanda and Niagara. We talk about parking, sanitation, noise and train issues, while their issues are jobs, agriculture and property taxes,” said DenDekker.
Earlier this year, DenDekker passed a bill regarding unused paper ballots. Under federal law, all paper ballots have to be kept in storage for at least two years. The Board of Elections (BOE) has to print 110 percent of voter enrollment in the district, when only six percent of voters usually show up, he noted.
“The BOE of Queens actually approached me and said, ‘If we have to keep on retaining all these unused ballots, then we’ll have to rent out warehouse space for the papers,’” DenDekker said.
The bill basically states that if a ballot has not been touched or marked by a voter, then it shouldn’t be considered a ballot. After the election, the unused ballots will be certified through the BOE and then be demolished, said DenDekker.
He also has another bill that would make all municipalities in the state – including New York City – pay $100 to motorists who are wrongly ticketed.
Senator Michael Gianaris mentioned the number of recent groping incidents, which have escalated citywide. Young men on bicycles ride around and inappropriately grab and touch women in the neighborhood.
“One thing that we’re all concerned about is that these gropers could be tomorrow’s rapists or even someone worse,” said Gianaris.
Legislation that Gianaris introduced about a month ago deals with making the groping of a child a felony requiring mandatory jail time, since it’s currently a misdemeanor.
Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer then discussed the anti-graffiti hotline and program, which runs for $30,000 a year through the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce.
“Mike mentioned the groper incidents and a couple did happen in Woodside; on 55th Street and around 39th Avenue, which is why we’re having a self-defense class for young women at P.S. 11 on November 6 from 2 to 4 p.m.,” said Van Bramer.
He also allocated $125,000 for the Woodside Library to create a new teen reading room and announced P.S. 152 as the citywide champions for ballroom dancing.
Van Bramer also discussed how the city raised $42 million through the Department of Health (DOH) this past year.
“We want small businesses to make money because they are the hearts and souls of the neighborhood,” said Van Bramer.

Sunnyside and Woodside concerned over sex attacks

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer

For the past month, women in Sunnyside and Woodside have been looking over their shoulders for a predator on pedals.

With incidents of sexual assault rising across the five boroughs, the neighboring communities are the most recent areas to experience repeated sexual attacks on women.

Beginning September 15, five women and one 12-year-old girl have reported being groped from behind by a man riding a black mountain bicycle. The pervert has been described as a Hispanic male between the ages of 30 and 40.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer joined local elected officials on October 17 on 46th Street and Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside in order to alert the public of the predator’s existence.

“Sunnyside and Woodside are safe neighborhoods but one assault against women is one too many,” said Van Bramer. “We will track down this cowardly criminal and make sure he is punished and put away. We must be vigilant as a community as the 108th Precinct pursues leads in the case, and I will do all I can to assist the NYPD in getting this sexual predator off our streets.”

The first attack occurred on the morning of September 15, and the most recent incident happened at 8 a.m. on October 7 on 39th Avenue and 46th Street. The suspect reportedly strikes in the same general vicinity, with incidents usually occurring only a few blocks apart, say police.

“We must have zero tolerance for the recent rash of groping incidents in our neighborhoods,” said Senator Michael Gianaris, who has introduced legislation that would make the groping of a child a felony requiring mandatory jail time. “In addition to the passage of my bill that would increase penalties for gropers, we must band together as a community to keep our streets safe and free from sexual predators.”

A full-scale investigation by the NYPD and 108th Precinct is already underway. Police are asking for the public’s assistance in catching the criminal, and a surveillance video, which was taken October 6 and depicts the suspect riding his bicycle down the street, has been released.

“The women of our community should not have to walk through our neighborhoods in fear of being attacked,” said Congressmember Joseph Crowley. “I urge everyone to take a good look at the surveillance tape and contact the authorities if you recognize the suspect, as well as report any suspicious activity. This is a time when our community can work together to help ensure our family, friends and neighbors are safe and to help bring the person responsible for these attacks to justice.”