Tag Archives: northeast Queens

Gov. announces measures to address Queens plane noise


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will double its sound monitors and create an office to address soaring noise complaints, under a string of new orders announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo Monday.

“Airport noise is rightly an important concern for residents of Queens, the Bronx and Nassau County,” Cuomo said. “We will listen to local residents and ensure their input is used to make both JFK and LaGuardia airports better neighbors.”

Gripes have been pouring in since the Federal Aviation Administration approved a new flight pattern in 2012 that brought on a barrage of low-flying planes over parts of northeast Queens.

“There have been days I felt so hopeless,” said Susan Carroll, of Flushing. “I get the takeoff. I get the landing. Flushing never gets a break from the airplane noise. We never get any peace.”

Carroll said she lodges so many complaints with the Port Authority’s hotline — at least one a day, since last summer — operators mistake her for an aviation expert.

“I actually cried tears of joy when I heard the news,” she said. “This is tremendous for all of us.”

Within the next few months, the Port Authority will implement a series of new measures that include monitoring flight tracks online, establishing regular roundtables with elected and federal officials, and conducting extensive noise studies.

More portable noise monitors will be placed in communities currently without one, the governor said. And the new noise office’s seven-member staff will collect and review data while responding to community complaints.

“We are committed to working with all communities we operate in to address their concerns, while bringing JFK and LaGuardia airports into the 21st century and maintaining the viability of our airports as major economic engines for the metropolitan region,” Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: City eyes two more northeast Queens school sites


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The city’s School Construction Authority (SCA) is looking for more than an acre of Queens land to build a new high school, The Courier has learned.

The SCA has allocated funds for the future institution, poised to alleviate Queens high school congestion, but is still scouring the borough for a site slightly larger than an acre to build it on, according to SCA Director of External Affairs Mary Leas.

“We’d love to find a nice, big site for a high school,” Leas said. “Over an acre would be best. It’s not easy to find a site that size. Then when we do, we really want to investigate it and see if we could make it work. An acre is a lot of property in the city.”

The SCA briefed Community District Education Council 26 (CDEC) Thursday on its proposed $12 billion capital budget for 2015 to 2019, which includes the new high school.

A Department of Education spokesperson told The Courier the city is eyeing a site in Whitestone that “has not been identified.”

Residents in the area, in September, said they saw SCA scouts surveying the vacant Whitestone Jewels Property at 150-33 6th Avenue. The six-acre site is in the midst of a foreclosure action by OneWest Bank.

State Senator Tony Avella said the location is not “viable” for a school, due to lack of infrastructure and public transportation options.

“The city would have to put in sewers and water mains. It would be a transportation nightmare for parents and students,” he said.

The authority ruled out a Little Neck school site — long suggested by the CDEC — due to its “remote” location near 58-20 Little Neck Parkway, on the border of Long Island.

“It’s very hard to site a high school in a community,” Leas said. “Just even looking at a site could cause quite a flurry of activity amongst communities that don’t want the high schools.”

The SCA’s preliminary five-year plan also includes building a 465-seat elementary school in either Oakland Gardens or Fresh Meadows.

Partial funds have been set aside for the potential elementary school, but the SCA has not found a site yet, according to Monica Gutierrez, an SCA community relations manager.

The City Council last week passed a controversial plan to build a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade school at 210-11 48th Avenue in Bayside. According to the SCA, it will likely take about three years to open. Its design process, which has not yet begun, is expected to be finalized in about a year.

The SCA gave the presentation to seek feedback from the school district that encompasses Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck.

To suggest site locations to the city, email sites@nycsca.org.

 

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Residents unhappy over tax hikes on northeast Queens co-ops, condos


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Elijah Stewart

ELIJAH STEWART

Bayside-area residents say they are getting fed up with what they believe to be unfair tax increases on co-ops and condos throughout northeast Queens.

“They look at it as they might as well buy a house, which is a larger down payment, than come here and pay enormous amounts in taxes,” said John DePasquale, general manager at Alley Pond Owners Corp., a self-managed co-op in Bayside.  

The unhappy apartment owners say this problem stems from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s lack of action in pushing for a new state tax code that would eliminate the high tax increases on middle-class co-op and condo owners. They hope the next mayor will take action on the issue.

Warren Schreiber from the Presidents’ Co-ops & Condos Council, which represents more than 100,000 owners, said northeast Queens has been hit the hardest by the increased tax evaluations.

“There have been double-digit and in some cases triple-digit increases in tax evaluations,” said Schreiber.

The city Department of Finance lists private homes as Class 1 properties. This means their assessed value, which is set at six percent of the property’s market value, cannot be increased more than six percent a year.

However, co-ops and condos are listed in Class 2, along with rentals and other revenue streamed housing. Their assessment value is 45 percent of the property’s market value, and there is no cap on yearly assessment increases.

While the property tax code is a state law, it is up to the mayor to request changes to city tax classifications.

“Mayor Bloomberg and his predecessor Rudy Giuliani have always opposed changes in the classification system,” said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.

Stavisky said the property classification system for co-ops and condos is unfair and has led to inconsistencies in tax assessments throughout the city. She said she’s working closely with Assemblymember Edward Braunstein to address this issue.

“We’re just part of a middle class that continues to get squeezed harder and harder,” said Arthur Getzel, a teacher at P.S. 26.  Getzel, 59, said many co-ops in the area have been forced to charge higher maintenance fees due to increased tax assessments.

Kevin O’Brien, a recently retired co-op owner at Bell Park Gardens, agreed that the tax situation is unfair.

“If you go to any other co-op development here, Windsor Park, Windsor Oak, Hollis Court, they’re all going to say the same thing,” said O’Brien, 43. “They don’t understand why we’re paying so much property tax for a small number of square feet.”

Others worry about the effect on older owners.

“I think the tax increases are going to push the elderly people out,” said Jennifer Santaniello, 48, of Hollis Court. “I don’t think they’re going to be able to afford to live in Queens.”

A co-op since 1983, Hollis Court currently houses 376 families, according to Santaniello, and 60 percent of its residents are elderly.

Schreiber said the city’s co-ops and condos house tens of thousands of working-class people who are the backbone of the city.

“What many people don’t understand,” said Schreiber, “is that without the money from the co-ops and condos, the city would go bankrupt.”

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Co-ops, condos still waiting for disaster aid


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A proposed federal law that would bring disaster aid to co-op and condo communities has not come any closer to being passed nearly one year after Sandy.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “It’s just prolonging the financial hardship on co-ops. Right now, we’re stuck footing the bill for cleanup and repair from the storm, and I don’t think this will be the last storm.”

Schreiber said his northeast Queens co-op expects to shell out up to $60,000 in repairs not covered by insurance.

More than $250,000 in infrastructure damage was sustained nearby in the Glen Oaks Village co-op, according to its president, Bob Friedrich.

The bill exceeds $1 million for some Rockaway co-ops in the most hard-hit areas of Queens.

The Breezy Point Cooperative, which saw about 350 homes in the beach community decimated by fire and flood, has spent $1.5 million out of the co-op’s reserves and contingency funds to get back on its feet, according to Arthur Lighthall, the co-op’s general manager.

“We had to do a good amount of repair and restoration to get things back in order,” including getting the water supply back and fixing sidewalks, Lighthall said. “The bottom line is it’s us, the shareholders, who have to pay for it.”

The pricey repair costs fall on the shoulders of co-op and condo communities due to a glitch in the law keeping them from getting FEMA storm recovery grants, local leaders said.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op,” according to Congressmember Steve Israel.

However, there is no statute that bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

Co-op and condos are also categorized as “business associations,” which makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants. It also means they cannot get funds to fix shared spaces like lobbies and roofs.

Israel introduced legislation this August that would better define co-ops in the Stafford Act, allow co-op and condo owners to apply for FEMA grants, and call for a new cap on FEMA’s Individual and Households Program.

The bipartisan bill has at least 14 cosponsors so far but currently sits in a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, according to Israel’s office.

An aide to the congressmember said any movement of the bill was delayed by the partial government shutdown, which lasted 16 days in October.

“It’s been a year since Superstorm Sandy hit, and it’s time for co-op and condo associations to get the help they deserve,” Israel said. “Although I’ll continue to fight my hardest, it’s frustrating that this bill hasn’t been passed so these homeowners can receive the vital assistance they deserve.”

The City Council unanimously passed a resolution, which is only a formal position statement, last month calling for Congress to enact the law.

“It really shouldn’t be that difficult,” Schreiber said. “I just find it so disappointing that we have a Congress that can’t even get together on changing one line of text that will benefit constituents on the East Coast, West Coast and middle of the country.”

 

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Cops bust business suit burglar


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A man who police say burglarized homes in a business suit after posing as a children’s nonprofit employee has been arrested, according to the 111th Precinct.

Police believe a 26-year-old man from northeast Queens was behind a spike in burglaries between July and August.

The suspect, whose name is being withheld by The Courier, was a “well-dressed” man who knocked on doors in the middle of the day to gauge if homes were empty, according to police.

He would talk about his nonprofit — and then leave — if someone answered the door, authorities said, and would burglarize the home if it was vacant.

“Your burglar isn’t always going to be who you traditionally think,” said Sgt. Nick Gravino. “They don’t always look like that.”

Gravino and Officer Evan Ostrofsky were honored as the precinct’s “Cops of the Month” for their August 8 arrest of the apparent burglar.

“Before they made the arrest, we were hit hard by burglaries from July,” said Capt. Derick Seneus, the precinct’s new executive officer. “That’s when the guy they arrested came out of jail and burglaries started going up. After they made that arrest, they started going down.”

Gravino said he had personally arrested the suspect twice for burglary-related incidents before the August collar.

He said he and Ostrofsky saw the suspect walking in Auburndale, when they noted suspicious behavior.

“We watched him, he disappeared down an alleyway, comes out a few minutes later carrying a bag,” Gravino said. “We pretty much knew what he was up to at that point.”

This was the perp’s third arrest for burglary-related incidents in 14 months, police said.

Seneus, meanwhile, was promoted about two months ago. He has spent about two weeks at the 111th Precinct after being transferred from the 114th based in Astoria. “I was told that the 111th is the best in the borough,” he said. “So far, I think it’s true.”

 

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Northeast Queens residents disappointed by possible pool closure


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Rosa Kim

Oswald Egas spent summers as a boy practicing to swim and escaping the heat at the Fort Totten Pool. He later took his own children to the same outdoor spot, telling them “that’s where I grew up.”

But Egas’ kids may not be able to share the same sentiment with their children.

If the City Council cannot restore $1.5 billion in funding, it will close the Fort Totten Pool and three other outdoor pools in the city.

“Our decision was based on several factors, including attendance figures, proximity to other pools, access to public transit and the location of the pools relative to residential communities,” the Parks Department said in a statement.

The budget issue could also force the department to end the outdoor pool season, which traditionally runs from the end of June to Labor Day, two weeks early this year.

The pool “is a relief to many citizens. I think it’s terrible that they’re possibly not going re-open it,” Egas said.

Other local residents were also disappointed by the news.

“It’s a loss to the area,” said Joe Maron, who prefers the pool to the beach.

“I just think it’s so sad that this pool is at risk because it’s such a great thing for this community. And there are a lot of people who don’t have pools or can’t afford pools, said Cheryl Cummings.

City pools on the chopping block have been saved from a shut down in the past.

“As the only free pool in Northeast Queens, the Fort Totten Pool is a tremendous resource to our community, and as such, the Parks Department should not annually propose its closure as a budget negotiating tactic,” said Assemblymember Edward Braunstein.

“As we have done for the last three years, the New York City Council fully expects to find the funds necessary to ensure that all of New York City’s families are able to enjoy a full season at all of the city’s pools again this year,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

 

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Town hall highlights transit issues in northeast Queens


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Idle buses and a lack of adequate service are some of the transit problems plaguing northeast Queens, residents say.

About 25 people aired their grievances to bus, subway and LIRR officials during a town hall meeting on Thursday.

“I think we can all agree that we are under-serviced by mass transit in this district,” said State Senator Tony Avella.

Some residents said they were outraged at buses that park for as long as an hour with their engines running along the service road of the Clearview Expressway near Bayside High School.

The MTA said it would find a different location for the vehicles to park, according to Joseph Raskin, the agency’s assistant director of government and community relations.

He encouraged residents to call the MTA with the time of the incident and bus number to further curb the problem.

“We take that very seriously,” Raskin said. “We do not tolerate [drivers] leaving their busses running. We will take care of it.”

Leaders from St. George’s Church on 135th Street and 38th Avenue in Flushing said an increasing number of buses end their routes right outside the church. The vehicles, they said, were re-routed to Main Street between 38th and 39th Streets.

“We’re surrounded by buses that are idling and blocking traffic,” a church representative said.

Raskin said the move was due to the popularity of the Main Street station in Flushing. He called it “by far the largest transfer station in our whole system.”

Many commuters also argued for a free transfer from the LIRR to the subway at Penn Station.
LIRR official Bob Brennan said the agency might not be able to supply that service.

“Over 80 percent of our customers transfer to the subway,” he said. “Quite frankly, as most of you know, the MTA is on an austerity budget. Things like that cost money.”

Rider Al Matican said he wanted the MTA to implement a pilot program that would install sliding doors between platforms and rails in subway stations.

“The most important thing is saving lives,” he said. “Making the yellow lines bigger won’t stop someone from pushing you off the platform. If an elevator door was missing, it would be fixed right away.”
Raskin said the MTA was looking into the sliding doors and “a lot of different solutions to stop this from happening.”

“It’s a huge capital investment [but] it’s going to be addressed,” he said.

-BY LUKE TABET

 

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Despite relief, plane noise may still plague northeast Queens


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

Northeast Queens residents may get a respite from the plane noise that tormented them last summer — but not full relief.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials said there would be fewer planes flying over portions of Bayside and Flushing. But, depending on traffic and wind, there could be times residents could hear the same turbulence they heard in summer 2012, officials confirmed.

“What you experienced last summer was an anomaly,” said Carmine Gallo, the FAA’s eastern regional administrator. “The number of airplanes you saw last summer was to collect data. That’s not going to happen this summer.”

A six-month trial period called the “TNNIS Climb” caused a barrage of low-flying airplanes to soar over parts of northeast Queens last summer by the minute each day from 6 a.m. to noon and then again from 6 p.m. to midnight.

The FAA said the test was to ensure the required three mile separation between John F. Kennedy International Airport arrivals and LaGuardia Runway 13 departures while using a new, precise navigation system.

The procedure was approved last December, but FAA officials said the route would be put to limited use. Air traffic would be spread out between other climbs, they said at a March 14 town hall meeting, where residents and elected officials urged the federal agency to reverse its decision.

“If the route doesn’t go back to the old way, the FAA is in for the fight of its life,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “We’re not going to let this affect our quality of life.”

Gallo said the agency’s goal was to ensure the “safe, efficient, secure operation of aircraft.”

He said the FAA makes no profit off airlines or the newly approved procedure, despite accusations by some, including Assemblymember Ed Braunstein.
“We shouldn’t be forced out of our backyards so the airline industry can make more money,” Braunstein said.

Residents also asked if the agency could move routes over waterways and parks instead of residential neighborhoods.

The suggestion “would be nice,” said Ralph Tamburro, the agency’s New York traffic management officer. But it would ultimately be “an impossible task.”

“With the amount of airplanes, you can’t do it,” he said.

The FAA agreed to involve the community in future decisions and to continue hearing them out.

“You’ve caused disruption to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance.

 

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Murders down, burglaries up in 2012


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Murders, rapes and shootings in the 109th Precinct declined in 2012, while burglaries and grand larcenies went up, officials said.

According to the precinct’s commanding officer, Inspector Brian Maguire, the 109th saw three murders last year — a 50 percent decrease from 2011.

Ezra Black, 31, was allegedly stabbed to death by his fellow Parks Department coworker inside the Al Oerter Recreation Center in Flushing on September 4, 2012, according to criminal charges.

Chinese tourist Hai Yan Yang was rendered brain dead, later succumbing to her injuries, after she was struck on the side of her head by her pocketbook during a violent mugging in Flushing on October 20, 2012.

Another male was shot in the back and died during a homicide, Maguire said, although that investigation is still ongoing. Both alleged perpetrators in the year’s first two murders are incarcerated and awaiting trial.

Rapes went down 47 percent in 2012 with the precinct tallying a total of 10 incidents. Only one of those cases involveda stranger, said Maguire.

Robberies rose 6 percent, with the majority of crime occurring on the streets over Apple products, and grand larcenies skyrocketed to 773 incidents from 695 last year. Burglaries increased by 40 incidents, plaguing every neighborhood within the precinct, Maguire said.

“It’s a problematic issue,” he said. “No area is immune to burglaries.”

There were only two shootings in 2012, down from nine last year, Maguire said. Three people in total were injured.


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Police collar man for multiple weapon, drug possession


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police arrested a man in northeast Queens Wednesday when they found several weapons and drugs in his possession, according to a police source. 

On January 16, officers from the 109th Precinct responded to a call of an emotionally distressed person.

When the suspect, Vincent Abruzzo, 38, opened the door, he allegedly had a lit marijuana cigarette and tried to slam the door on the officers, who then got a search warrant.

During the search, police found a loaded 9mm pistol, five gravity knives, brass knuckles, 3.5 pounds of marijuana, six vials of ketamine, 14 hydrocodone pills and drug paraphernalia, and arrested Abruzzo.

 

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FAA approves controversial airplane route


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File Photo

A controversial airplane route that polluted the skies with noise during its trial run has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The “TNNIS Climb” — in which departing LaGuardia Airport traffic turns left to the north off Runway 13 — has been given the green light for takeoff, FAA officials said, even after borough leaders and residents said the changes caused a nonstop barrage of low-flying planes to torment their northeast Queens neighborhoods.

“Frankly, it is a disgrace the FAA has decided to go ahead with these departure changes, which will have a profound effect on the residents in northeastern Queens, without the proper input from the community,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “In this case, the FAA has decided to disregard the voice of the people.”

Borough Board members lambasted FAA officials in September, when they said they were not given notice about the six-month trial period that concluded in August.

The test was to ensure the required separation between John F. Kennedy International Airport arrivals and LaGuardia Runway 13 departures while using a new, precise navigation system called “RNAV,” said Ralph Tamburro, the agency’s New York traffic management officer.

Local leaders and residents said the FAA ignored public comment when it made the route permanent at the end of November.

“If they choose to make this permanent, that means I’ll have to move,” said Flushing resident Priscilla Tai. “I can’t survive with this. I need to work and I need quality sleep.”

An air traffic official said the FAA is “working to determine the best way to implement the use of this procedure with these other runway configurations.”

“Our primary mission is to endure the safe and efficient use of our nation’s navigable airspace,” said Elizabeth Ray, vice president of Mission Support Services, in a November letter. “Despite our best attempts, we acknowledge it is impossible to reduce noise levels in every area.”

Historical landmarks in northeast Queens


| mchan@queenscourier.com

2-Officers Club

Bayside and Fresh Meadows residents do not need to go far for a piece of their neighborhood’s past, as the neighborhoods boast four landmarked sites.

The Lawrence Cemetery, located in a wooded area at the corner of 216th Street and 42nd Avenue in Bayside, was designated an official city landmark in 1967. According to the BHS, the tiny cemetery is home to a variety of headstones, marking the final resting place of 40 members of the prominent Lawrence family, including John Lawrence, an original patentee, who was mayor of New York City twice in 1673 and 1691.

 

 

 

 

 

The Officers’ Club, known as “The Castle,” was placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1986. Bayside Historical Society (BHS) officials said the Bayside benchmark is one of the finest surviving examples in the city of the Gothic Revival castellated style, an architectural style that was popular in America in the mid 1800s.

 

 

 

 

 

The 35-34 Bell Boulevard cobblestone building, located on a commercial street in Bayside, gained historical status in 2004 for being a “rare example of a house built from cobblestones in New York City,” according to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). Construction on the two-and-a-half story structure was completed in 1906.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brinckerhoff Cemetery, a colonial-era burial ground in Fresh Meadows, was given recent landmark status this August for its archeological importance. LPC officials said the 18th Century cemetery, located on 182nd Street, ties New York City to its earliest days as a Dutch settlement. The site is the final resting place for roughly 80 of the borough’s earliest and most prominent settlers. Community leaders fought to preserve the site for more than a decade after critics had raised regulatory questions about the possible designation, saying the land — which is now peppered with scattered trees and shrubs — had no visible markers or gravestones. LPC leaders, however, ultimately decided there is no evidence the historic graves and markers were removed and agreed the site’s subsurface conditions should not be disturbed.

City Council seats draw big names


| mchan@queenscourier.com

ne council

A handful of political hopefuls in northeast Queens are already mulling over a chance to join the city’s lawmaking body next year.

The draw of taking over one vacant city council seat and possibly ousting one of the borough’s only two Republicans in another district has been luring in a number of interested candidates.

Councilmember James Gennaro is currently rounding out his third and final term leading the 24th District, which stretches from Fresh Meadows to Jamaica, and will be forced to leave his post in January 2013.

Martha Taylor, 72, has already declared her candidacy in the race to replace him. But the lawyer from Jamaica Estates may have to face off with Assemblymember Rory Lancman, should rumors of him entering the city race — spread after the Fresh Meadows attorney lost his bid for Congress in June — turn out to be true.

Taylor, a first-time candidate, is the Democratic District Leader in the 24th Assembly District, president of the Jamaica Estates Association and vice chair of Community Board 8.

Meanwhile, a bigger candidate ring is growing in the 19th District, which extends from College Point to the borders of Nassau County, currently served by Republican Councilmember Dan Halloran. Halloran has his eyes set on winning the 6th District Congressional seat, but sources say if his Capitol Hill run fails, he will try for re-election to the Council.

Democratic State Committeeman Matthew Silverstein, former Assemblymember John Duane and attorney Paul Vallone — the son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and brother of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. — are three existing, serious contenders for the seat.

Austin Shafran, the 31-year-old vice president of public affairs for government agency Empire State Development, has had his name bandied about, while longtime community activist Jerry Iannece — who was defeated in last month’s state Assembly primary — told The Courier he would “neither deny nor confirm” rumors of his entering the race.

No Republican candidate has stepped up to the plate yet, although it is still early. Buzz in the political sphere of John Messer — who recently lost a Democratic Senate primary against Senator Toby Ann Stavisky — joining were false, the Oakland Gardens attorney confirmed.

City Council elections take place next November.

Board of Elections bounces hopefuls from ballot


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Three northeast Queens assembly hopefuls had their election dreams squashed after the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) tossed them off the primary ballot.

Democrat John Scandalios, who was vying to replace Assemblymember Grace Meng in the Flushing-based 40th District, had an insufficient number of signatures and was bumped off the September 13 primary ballot, according to results of the BOE’s July 31 ballot challenge hearings.

William Garifal Jr. — one of two Republican runners in the 25th Assembly race — and Lauren Whalen-Nelson, who had hoped to take on current Assemblymember Ed Braunstein in the 26th District, also got the boot due to lack of valid petitions.

Each contender had until July 12 to circulate at least 500 required designating petitions, according to the BOE.

Democrats Ron Kim, Ethel Chen, Myungsuk Lee, Yen Chou and Martha Flores-Vasquez and Republicans Phil Gim and Sunny Hahn will battle it out next month in the 40th District, as will Democrats Jerry Iannece and Nily Rozic in the 25th District. With Garifal’s expulsion, Republican candidate Abe Fuchs in the 25th District will sail through to November’s general election.

State Senator Tony Avella will also not see a challenger until November, when he will face off with Republican contender Joseph Concannon in the 11th District. But State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky in the 16th District can expect a primary fight from Democratic opponent John Messer. Both had enough signatures to make it through until September, despite allegations from Messer’s camp saying Stavisky submitted fraudulent signatures. The winner will take on Republican candidate J.D. Kim.

Braunstein is looking at an uncontested re-election if the Queens County Republican Party declines to file an appeal on behalf of Whalen-Nelson. GOP chair Phil Ragusa said the County was considering the move but was not yet sure.

“We don’t want to disenfranchise the voters of the 26th Assembly district,” Ragusa said. “In an election, you should have both parties represented.”

Whalen-Nelson was seeking to run as a substitute for Tim Furey, a candidate who originally planned on taking on the incumbent but later declined the line, Ragusa said.

Furey, who had unsuccessfully tried to unseat Assemblymember David Weprin in the 24th District in 2010, was not the first this year to bow out of the 26th District race despite being backed by the Queens GOP.

The GOP originally pushed to pit Ralph Cefalo against Braunstein, but the Malba resident ultimately chose not to enter the race, citing personal matters, Ragusa said back in June.

But the County chair said declinations were nothing new.

“There’s a time to decline. This isn’t the first time this happened. It’s how Joe Crowley became the congressman. It’s done all the time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Scandalios lambasted the “forces against him” — opponent Yen Chou, the Queens County Democratic Party and the BOE — for throwing him off the ballot.

The former comic book store owner said the BOE gave him “false information” while he fought objections from the Queens Democrats and “corrupt data” by BOE clerks.

Scandalios can appear on the ballot in the general election if he runs on another line and gathers 1,500 signatures from within the district by August 26, according to the BOE.

“Eventually, I will be elected,” Scandalios said.

Audit finds co-op, condo property values inflated


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/PHOTOS

A series of missteps by the Department of Finance (DOF) caused drastic upward swings in co-op and condo property taxes, according to two audits released by the city’s comptroller office.

“The department failed to adequately explain significant changes it was making in the calculation of market values. What’s more, in numerous cases, they assigned arbitrary values to co-ops and condos, and in other cases made flat out errors,” said Comptroller John Liu.
According to a summary report released by the DOF this year, taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners and 9.6 percent for condo owners across the city, while owners of single-family homes will see an increase of 2.8 percent. Last year, officials said, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent.

The pair of audits, Liu said, found the agency at fault for causing upheavals in condo and co-op property values — a determining factor in property taxes — when it changed its formula for calculating them in Fiscal Year 2011-12. He also said the agency operated “in the dark” without warning the public of the consequences.

According to Liu, the DOF compounded the increases in market value by sticking many co-ops and condos with questionable values instead of comparing them to equivalent, nearby rental properties. The agency’s faulty computer system, Liu said, also led to flaws in assessments, in which a Brooklyn co-op was wrongfully compared to a parking lot, a Staten Island co-op to an adult care facility and a Flushing condo to a rental property in Far Rockaway.

At least 10 percent of all 859 co-op buildings in Queens received much higher property values than the DOF’s formula should have allowed, the comptroller said, including one co-op in Forest Hills that received a market value 227 percent higher than expected.

The DOF did not return The Courier’s calls for comment. However, according to Liu, the DOF said it ensures properties are valued properly and does not agree that properties were over-assessed or under-assessed. The agency, Liu said, agreed that “continual improvement of the modeling criteria for selection of comparable properties is appropriate.”

Breakdown of affected units by neighborhood:

BAYSIDE

14

BEECHHURST

3

BELLE HARBOR

1

CORONA

1

DOUGLASTON

6

FLUSHING-NORTH

11

FLUSHING-SOUTH

8

FOREST HILLS

3

GLEN OAKS

20

HOLLIS

2

HOLLIS HILLS

2

JACKSON HEIGHTS

2

JAMAICA

1

LITTLE NECK

3

OAKLAND GARDENS

5

QUEENS VILLAGE

1

REGO PARK

1

SOUTH JAMAICA

1

WHITESTONE

7