Tag Archives: Michael Simanowitz

Whitestone officials pledge action to deal with overhead helicopter noise

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of George Mirtsopoulos

Lawmakers at the city, state and federal level met with Whitestone residents this month to address complaints of excessive noise pollution from low flying helicopters and outline courses of action to lessen the impact on the community.

The meetings follow the collection of data from Stop the Chop NY, a website developed by Whitestone resident Dan Aronoff to collect submitted complaints on incidents of disruptive noise from overhead aircrafts. Aronoff has been working with leaders of the We Love Whitestone civic group to call attention to the issue, and the site has collected nearly 1,800 complaints so far since its launch in June, with most originating in northeast Queens.

As a result of the meetings, some officials have agreed to accept complaints from the site at their respective offices, including Councilman Paul Vallone, state Senator Tony Avella, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and Congressman Steve Israel.

Officials also offered individual pledges to action, including a plan from Borough President Melinda Katz to invite stakeholders affected by helicopter noise to roundtables discussing the broader topic of aviation noise, and to facilitate additional meetings among elected representatives from Queens and New York City at large.

As part of their course of action, Avella and Simanowitz are currently in talks with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s office to call the FAA’s attention to the issue of helicopter noise pollution.

“There is no reason residents of northeast Queens should be subjected to ever-increasing helicopter noise when alternative flight patterns are available,” Avella said.

Vallone plans to introduce two pieces of legislation. One of the resolutions will call on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to amend a helicopter route along Long Island’s north shore to require helicopters to either fly only over water or at higher altitudes. The second resolution would require the City Council to be notified of annual data relating to the location, routes, rules, regulations and other guidelines that exist pertaining to commercial and tourist helicopter routes.

“The never-ending attack on our quality of life by the helicopter flights across our communities has led our office to start a new united approach,” Vallone said. “Together we discussed ways to address the lack of accountability, data, complaint recording, city, state or federal regulations on this issue.”

According to Aronoff, a meeting with Assemblyman Edward Braunstein will also take place in the coming weeks, and he is expecting to attend meetings in the fall with FAA representatives and helicopter operators. While he expects fewer submitted complaints to the site after the summer due to seasonal decreases in helicopter travel to the Hamptons, he will continue to collect data on his website for later use.

Aronoff said he has received emotionally moving testimonies from users of his site affected by the issue, including music producers unable to hear the nuances of their tunes to mothers of developmentally challenged children disturbed by constant overhead noise.

“There are people who are getting in contact with me as the website developer and telling me how they appreciate what’s going on because it’s become unbearable for them,” Aronoff said. “It’s beyond just quality of life; there are real impacts to people and real lives being affected by this.”


Flushing’s Pomonok Houses gets new security cameras

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Installation is complete on a new security system of 30 exterior cameras installed across eight buildings in the Pomonok Housing Development in Flushing.

The security system will be used by local law enforcement, and was financed with capital funding allocated by the offices of Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.

According to Stavisky, officials have worked for seven years to secure the funding and installation of the cameras for Pomonok Houses. Nearly $6 million in additional funding is required to outfit the entire complex with security cameras, as well as install cameras in the interiors of the building and elevators.

“Today is a major victory for the residents of Pomonok, who are now getting the high-tech security system they deserve,” said Stavisky, who added that she plans to continue to work with the Pomonok Houses, NYC Housing Authority and the NYPD for the future expansion of the security system.

A NYCHA official and a technology specialist explain how footage from the outdoor cameras will be stored and used by law enforcement to Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Council Member Rory Lancman, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and Pomonok Residents Association President Monica Corbett. (Photo courtesy of the office of Toby Ann Stavisky)

A NYCHA official and a technology specialist explain how footage from the outdoor cameras will be stored and used by law enforcement to Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Council member Rory Lancman, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and Pomonok Residents Association President Monica Corbett. (Photo courtesy of the office of Toby Ann Stavisky)

Simanowitz and Councilman Rory Lancman also pledged their commitment to outfit every building with the increased security measure.

“Pomonok has long been considered the jewel of public housing in New York City and we need to keep it that way,” Simanowitz said. “With the installation of these security cameras, residents will get an extra layer of protection and feel a greater sense of safety.”

An estimated 4,200 people reside at the Pomonok Houses complex, which is comprised of 35 buildings standing on nearly 52 acres in Flushing in an area bordered by 65th and 71st avenues and Parsons and Kissena boulevards.


MTA, DOT scrap plans for Main Street bus-only lane in Kew Gardens Hills

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Rory Lancman's office

Facing community and political opposition, the MTA and the city Department of Transportation slammed the brakes on a proposed dedicated bus lane for the limited Q44 bus line on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills.

The news came during Wednesday night’s meeting of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association. The MTA planned to take one lane in each direction of Main Street to convert the Q44 between Flushing and Jamaica into a Select Bus Service (SBS) route.

Civic leaders and elected officials protested the plans previously, claiming the lost lane of traffic would increase vehicular traffic on Main Street while also depriving both residents and shoppers of valued parking space.

“A dedicated bus-only lane in Kew Gardens Hills was always the wrong choice for our community,” Councilman Rory Lancman said in a press release Thursday. “The proposed bus-only lane would have increased congestion, reduced parking spaces, hurt businesses and diverted cars onto residential streets.”

Lancman, along with Rep. Grace Meng, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Senators Joseph Addabbo and Toby Ann Stavisky, praised the MTA and DOT for hearing concerns about the bus lane and ultimately nixing the plan.

According to Lancman, the DOT and MTA will seek other methods to improve traffic flow on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills, including potential street reconfiguration, off-board fare collection and re-synchronizing traffic lights.

A source familiar with the plan indicated a bus-only lane is most likely for areas of Main Street north of the Long Island Expressway. However, it is not likely a bus lane would be created on Main Street south of Kew Gardens Hills due to a lack of street space.


Teens to need parental consent for body piercings

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Bayside teen Elana Campane is considering getting her belly button pierced. She hasn’t told her parents yet, and she’s not sure that they will approve of a piercing that’s not in her ears.

For now, the 17-year-old doesn’t need their permission, but she will in a few months when New York becomes the 32nd state to make it illegal for minors to get a body piercing without parental consent.

Luckily, said Campane, she will turn 18 at the end of December.

The new law, which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed on Tuesday, July 31, requires anyone under 18 years old to obtain written consent by a parent or guardian before getting a piercing on any part of the body except for the ear.

“Body piercings can pose a significant health risk if not cared for properly,” said Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz, who co-sponsored the bill. “This will now ensure that parents are aware of their son or daughter’s intent to receive a body piercing which will hopefully prevent complications such as allergic reactions, skin infections or scarring.”

According to the governor’s office, about 20 percent of all body piercings result in infection.

After reading an article about the risks of body piercing, Simanowitz discovered that although it is illegal to tattoo anyone under 18 without parental permission, there was no minimum age requirement for body piercings.

“My children’s school can’t give my 14-year-old a Tylenol without permission, but he can walk into a store and get a body piercing,” said Simanowitz.

A minor will assess the risk of a body piercing differently than an adult, he added.

Piercing studios will need to check the identification of those suspected of being underage, and the owner or body piercing specialist must be present when a parental consent form is signed. The state health department will oversee the new law.

But it’s already common practice for some body piercing places to card potential minors and require signed consent, said Juan Orellana, co-owner of Skin Konviction, a tattoo and body piercing studio in Flushing.

“We’d rather not take any chances,” he said.

Seniors fight relocation at Pomonok

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Pomonok Press Conference15w

The “golden” residents of Pomonok Houses are refusing to let the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) send them off into the sunset.

Senior citizens, many of whom have lived in Pomonok for multiple decades, are furious after they say NYCHA sent them threatening letters demanding they move into a different apartment or an entirely new housing complex.

“I think this is terrible and a travesty,” said Carolyn Ledogar, 71, who has lived in Pomonok for 52 years. “It is terrible that people in their 70s and 80s are getting letters that we have to vacate or relocate. We are supposed to be in our golden years. What golden years?”

Residents like Ledogar, who live in apartments deemed to be under-utilized based on the number of people occupying them, began receiving letters last month informing them they may have to move into smaller units to make room for larger families.

Initial letters offered $350 to offset incurred moving expenses and requested residents visit the Pomonok management office within 10 business days to discuss their living situation. A second, sterner letter followed, notifying recipients they had to visit the office or their lease would be terminated.

“NYCHA faces a real crisis with more than 161,000 people on its waiting list for public housing,” NYCHA officials told The Courier. “There are nearly 50,000 people in NYCHA housing units who are not living in apartments properly sized for their needs – meaning they have too many rooms for their family size.”

According to a NYCHA spokesperson, the letters were sent in compliance with a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requirement, and that each resident’s lease includes notification of potential relocation. To facilitate seniors, NYCHA is partnering with Met Council, which is developing new senior housing adjoining Pomonok, located at 67-10 Parsons Boulevard in Flushing.

“NYCHA is not bullying residents out of their apartments,” said Monica Corbett, president of the Pomonok Residents Association. “On the lease, it says that when you become under-occupied, NYCHA sends you this letter. People complain to me but I have two sides – people who need and people who don’t need. I have mothers who are in one-bedroom apartments with five kids, and they have been on a waiting list for over 10 years. Then I have other apartments which are under-occupied, because the resident’s children have moved out.”

Upon receiving the letters, many residents flooded the offices of Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz with phone calls, complaining about the possibility of eviction.

“It is unfair what the housing authority is doing,” said the assemblymember. “No one denies that there is a need for larger sized families, but to threaten people that if they don’t move they would be in violation of their lease is completely unfair. We are talking about senior citizens. A lot of these seniors are living alone and the only safety nets and lifelines they have are their neighbors.”

Simanowitz claims NYCHA has known for years that some residents have been living alone, and choosing to send the letters now is “inhumane” and “selective enforcement.”

Ledogar, who has lived in the same two-bedroom apartment for the past 40 years, has osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and two herniated discs.

“All of us in Pomonok are very angry,” she said. “The seniors don’t want to move. If they try and force us to move then we go to court. I’m not going to cater to them, and none of the other seniors will. If we have to go to court, at least we’re going down fighting.”