Tag Archives: NY06

[UPDATE] Congressmember Gary Ackerman endorses Assemblymember Grace Meng in 6th District


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Grace Meng

Assemblymember Grace Meng — one of six congressional hopefuls vying for the newly-drawn 6th District seat — bagged the key endorsement of retiring Representative Gary Ackerman, who said Meng was “head and shoulders above the rest” in the race.

“Grace is without question the most qualified candidate,” Ackerman said. “This is a district I’ve represented all or parts of over the past 35 years in government, and Grace is a unique, highly qualified individual who I would be most comfortable with knowing she is representing the district I represented. She is going to fight for the things that I fought for during my political career, and I know she will do it the most effectively.”

Ackerman, a 15-term congressmember since 1983, announced in March that he would not seek re-election and will be retiring at the end of the year. He said the other candidates were “all good and decent people,” but he said it was “not a close call” in deciding who to endorse, touting Meng’s “personal attitude, accomplishments, character and determination” as reasons for his decision.

“So many people were asking me who I think would be best. People wanted to know. I thought maybe I had an obligation or responsibility,” Ackerman said, adding that while he always had an opinion, he did not originally plan on publicly endorsing a candidate.

The endorsement has raised some concerns, since the consulting firm Meng’s campaign hired is part of the Queens Tribune company, which is partially owned by Ackerman. Ackerman, according to several reports, said that had nothing to do with his decision. Meng told The Courier she knew Ackerman as only her congressmember.

Ackerman cited similarities between Meng and himself, saying they were both raised in Queens by “hardworking, middle class” families. He said she represents the “voice of the quiet people, the everyday people and the hardworking people.”

“They need somebody who isn’t audacious and loud but effective. She believes in the things my district believes in at the greatest extent possible,” Ackerman said.

The “game changing” endorsement from Ackerman, according to the Meng campaign, was the icing on top of the cake after the assemblymember — who is also the choice of the Queens County Democratic Organization — rolled out a major boost from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) late last week.

“It’s been a good week as we’re leading up to the home stretch,” Meng said. “It’s a great boost for our campaign, but the most important endorsements are from the voters.”

Meng said she met up with Ackerman in early April to tell him she was interested in running for his seat and to ask him for his advice and support. Once every week since then, she said she would personally call and update him on the campaign. Meng said he decided last week to officially endorse her.

“He’s been our congressman for over 30 years. He’s worked very hard. He has great name recognition and people really respect him,” Meng said of Ackerman. “I’m very excited.”

Ackerman formally announced his support on Tuesday, May 29 at the Pomonok Senior Center in the South Flushing, where Meng vowed to “carry on his extraordinary legacy and commitment to the working, middle-class as a member of the House of Representatives.”

Meng will face off against Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Bayside allergist Dr. Robert Mittman in the June 26 Democratic primary. The winner will go up against Republican runner Councilmember Dan Halloran and Green Party candidate Evergreen Chou in the November election.

Lancman also landed the support of a major public figure during the home stretch of the Democratic primary race. Mark Green, former city Consumer Affairs commissioner who is also a former elected city public advocate, endorsed Lancman at a press conference held one hour after Ackerman’s announcement. Lancman and Green called for comprehensive campaign finance reform laws at the federal level, pointing to political contributions from “Big Oil” companies as an example of the “corrosive influence” of corporate money on democracy.

“Because Rory Lancman has been a leader to take the ‘for sale’ sign off our state government, I’m endorsing him today because he’ll continue to lead that charge when he gets to Washington,” Green said. “We need a smart, strong progressive voice in Washington — Rory’s it.”

The 6th District candidates will be participating in a handful of upcoming debates hosted by local civic groups on May 31 at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Lutheran Church, located at 188th Street and 73rd Avenue; on June 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Young Israel of Queens Valley, located at 155-55 77th Avenue; on June 6 at 8 p.m. at 210-10 Union Turnpike; and on June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at I.S. 93, located at Forest Avenue and Madison Street in Ridgewood.

Councilmember Dan Halloran recovering after successful surgery to remove benign tumor


| mchan@queenscourier.com

HALLORAN RECOVERY 2w

Councilmember — and congressional hopeful — Dan Halloran is on the road to recovery after undergoing a lengthy but successful neurosurgical procedure to remove a benign tumor on Wednesday, officials said.

“Dan is doing well,” said spokesperson Steven Stites. “He’s back on his feet and looks like the same old Dan — if you couldn’t tell from his triumphant return to social media.”

According to Stites, Halloran was out of surgery by early evening on Wednesday and is well ahead of his recovery schedule. The councilmember is currently staying at NYU Medical Center in Manhattan but will return home to Flushing to recuperate for the next few weeks, Stites said.

Halloran was timely diagnosed in March, although representatives would not specify the location of the tumor.

The councilmember recently took to his Facebook page, telling friends and constituents he was “out of the rough patch” and posting a photo of himself smiling in the hospital bed.

“Doctors are shocked — I am way ahead of recovery schedule. They attribute it to whiskey and my thick Irish skull,” Halloran joked.

While Halloran — who is running for Congress in the 6th District — recovers, he said his office will run 100 percent in his absence for constituent issues. Stites said the councilmember would be off the campaign trail for a short time, “but it does not affect his long-term plans.”

“He is in it to win it,” Stites said.

6th District candidates debate hot-button issues


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The six 6th District congressional candidates mildly duked it out for the first time during a forum in Flushing — addressing hot-button city, state and national issues, like plans to fix the flailing economy and stances on immigration reform.

The hopefuls — Green Party’s Evergreen Chou, Democratic primary runners Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Assemblymember Grace Meng and Dr. Robert Mittman, and Republican contender Councilmember Dan Halloran — split the roughly two-hour meeting, held at Flushing Library on May 21, to introduce themselves and explain the platforms for which they are running.

Each lauded his or her experience, with the elected officials pointing to their plans on advocating for the middle class and improving education, Social Security and the job market, while the two citizen candidates — Chou and Mittman — respectively pushed for peace and change.

The forum was hosted by the MinKwon Center for Community Action. The congressional contenders remained civil, with minor disagreements stemming mostly from the differences between Republican and Democratic philosophies on the economy.

Halloran said the key to reviving the economy and creating jobs is making sure the government “stays out of the way of businesses.” Citing that 98 percent of small businesses in New York have disappeared between 1840 and 2011, he said government should decrease the number of agencies businesses are held accountable to, re-evaluate its tax roles to make sure businesses that are job creators aren’t overtaxed and give incentives to businesses to hire more employees.

Lancman respectfully disagreed, saying deregulating government led to the Wall Street meltdown. He said Wall Street first needs to be reformed — “making it an engine of economic growth, not a potential minefield that could blow up the economy once again” — and small businesses should be provided support and access to credit.

Meng took a different approach and said she believes improving mass transit, highways, roads and bridges would help increase jobs for Queens residents. She also said maintaining “better and closer” partnerships with universities and hospitals would help make Queens a “technology hub” and would stem job growth.

Chou said building more hospitals and engaging in government programs would revive the economy, while Crowley said pulling government spending on Afghanistan would give the country more money to use. Mittman backed Halloran, saying government should be limited and small business should not be overtaxed.

Questions on immigration reform and enforcement directly tied into talks about racial discrimination, when candidates addressed the efficiency of Secure Communities — a federal program that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens and repeat immigration violators — and the recent controversial stop and frisk policy.

Crowley — who said she believes in comprehensive immigration reform — said there is a fine line drawn if the illegal immigrant questioned is not a threat. She said she supported a local law passed in the City Council that prevented the Department of Corrections from imposing immigration detainers “on those that were not convicted of any crime and were not doing anything that was considered a serious crime.”

However, Halloran said “being in the country illegally is a crime” itself.

“You cannot reward someone who came here illegally with citizenship, but you can give them a path to permanent residency,” he said.

According to Halloran, illegal immigrants should fill out paperwork, pay the fees and be checked up on 10 years after they are granted permanent status to see that they are paying their taxes and not engaged in criminal activity. In regards to the stop and frisk policy and concerns of racial profiling, he said there is more of a correlation between economics and socio status than race.

While Lancman agreed people who commit serious crimes should not be welcomed in the country and said he is for comprehensive immigration reform, he said Secure Communities became “a mechanism for detaining and deporting” mostly law-abiding citizens and “created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust in immigrant communities.”

All six candidates opposed using local law enforcement to deal with immigration issues and said the role should lie in the federal government. They each also expressed support for pulling U.S. troops from overseas — however Halloran and Lancman raised serious concerns over whether or not doing so would gravely impact national security.

Crowley was recently endorsed by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 and New York City Building and Construction Trades Council, while Meng picked up support from ATU Local No. 1056 and Lancman from the New York State Public Employees Federation.

Assemblymember Rory Lancman outlines plan to fight overdevelopment


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Assemblymember Rory Lancman outlined a comprehensive plan he designed to combat overdevelopment and said he would push the bill at a federal level if elected to Congress.

The four-part Homes and Essential Landmarks Preservation (HELP) Act — introduced by Lancman, who is running for Congress in the 6th District — focuses on extending tax credits to some homeowners and restricting the credits when violations are incurred, expanding the federal landmarking law and ensuring enforcement of zoning laws.

“Anyone who comes here to buy a home to live in and raise their family — they’re not just buying that home. They’re buying the neighborhood. They’re buying the way the neighborhood looks. They’re buying the way the neighborhood feels, and it is really a very tragic situation when a neighborhood’s fundamental character and feel changes because of overdevelopment,” Lancman said at the May 18 press conference held at Bowne Park.

More than one third of Queens has been rezoned since 2002 to protect the character of its residential neighborhoods, Lancman said, and R2A and R1-2A low-density zones have been created to thwart the growth of “McMansions.” Still, the assemblymember said overdevelopment remains a persistent problem in the borough.

He said increasing population density in already heavily congested areas leads to even more overcrowding in schools and roads, limits parking spaces and strains sewer systems.

The city government’s “lax approach” to enforcing zoning and building laws and collecting penalties from violations and other illegal activity, Lancman said, demands “a federal solution” to the problem.

The current tax code, Lancman said, allows both homeowners and businesses to quality for a host of deductions. If his legislation is federally introduced and passed, he said it would prohibit any homeowner or business from obtaining these tax credits if they are in violation of city zoning or building ordinances.

The bill would also extend tax incentives for rehabilitating non-income producing residential buildings that are listed on the National Historic Register, since only commercial and income-producing properties are currently eligible for the 20 percent tax credit.

Lancman said he hopes this will motivate homeowners to rehabilitate their homes instead of selling them to a developer “who would otherwise demolish them.” The provision, he said, would help preserve neighborhoods like Broadway-Flushing and Parkway Village, both listed on the National Register.

Lancman said the HELP Act would also address the city’s “dismal record” in collecting zoning and building violation fines by linking federal Housing and Urban Development funding to the city’s ability to collect fees.

Under the bill, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Personas Act (RLUIPA) would also be clarified to ensure that religious institutions do not use it as a shield to ignore zoning regulations. Lancman said RLUIPA has allowed excessive zoning exemptions for religious institutions, including seven in Queens since 2006.

Rally to resurrect Glendale Social Security office


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

Congressional candidate Rory Lancman recently stood in the shadows of a shuttered Social Security office and called for the program to be saved both locally and nationally.

Lancman was joined by colleague Assemblymember Cathy Nolan in front of the closed Social Security office on Myrtle Avenue, which shut its doors last year.

“This closed Social Security office is a brick-and-mortar manifestation of the Republican assault on Social Security in this country for the last 20 years,” said Lancman, who is running for the 6th Congressional District seat.

The assemblymembers called for the reopening of the Glendale facility that served thousands of residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The office closed last summer in a money-saving maneuver after cuts to Social Security’s budget. The consolidation of the offices will save the agency approximately $3 million over 10 years.

More than half of the local residents that used the office do not have a car, Lancman said. Residents must now travel to the Rego Park office, which is about 45 minutes away from the Glendale location by public transportation.

During the press conference, area senior citizens gathered to speak about the pitfalls of the Glendale office closing.

“I don’t drive; to go to Rego Park is a nightmare,” said Linda McGrath, who had used the Glendale office. “It’s easier to get to Manhattan than it is to get from here to Rego Park.”

Another retiree, Kathleen Strong of Glendale, added that driving to and parking at the Rego Park branch would be a hassle.

“Congress may think that traveling a few extra miles to access Social Security benefits is no big deal, but the folks in Washington apparently don’t understand that things are a little different here in middle-class Queens neighborhoods like Glendale and Ridgewood,” Nolan said.

Besides calling for the office’s reopening, Lancman outlined what he called a very simple solution to saving Social Security.

“There is a broader assault on Social Security that goes much, much deeper than just the closing of individual offices,” Lancman said.

According to a recent report from the Social Security Board of Trustees, the combined assets of the Social Security Trust Funds (Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance) will be exhausted by 2033.

Lancman said that if elected to Congress, he would champion raising the taxable income cap in order to keep Social Security solvent for the next 75 years.
Currently, only the first $110,100 in income is subject to Social Security taxes, while any income over the threshold is exempt from the tax.

“There was a choice made to cut a billion from the Social Security Administration, then a choice made to cut this Social Security office as opposed to others, and those are the kind of choices that I want to fight against.”

Bill would alleviate train troubles for Middle Village residents


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Bob Holden

A congressional hopeful has joined the fight of residents who continue to rail against trains they say are disrupting their lives.

The Fresh Pond freight rail lines, operated by New York & Atlantic Railroad in Middle Village and Glendale, have long bothered residents that live adjacent to the tracks — especially those along 69th Place near the overpass.

“The trains pass through early in the morning, with 80 cars in tow banging,” said Anthony Pedalino who lives down the block from the tracks in Middle Village. “It wakes you up almost nightly.”

Joe Dalfino, who has lived next door to the tracks for 20 years, said the noise and fumes from the cars has picked up over the past few years. Train traffic picked up around five years ago when the railroad began carrying garbage through the area, residents claim.

In November, the company agreed to move the noisier aspects of the train 400 feet, though this has alleviated little of the noise, nearby residents said.

Residents still complain of waking up to early morning trains up to six days a week.

“For far too long, residents of this area have had to put up with the noise, the smell and the lack of security resulting from rail companies ignoring the community’s concerns and performing railroad yard activities outside the railroad yard,” said Assemblymember Rory Lancman, candidate for the 6th Congressional District.

Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, is concerned the disturbances will only get worse if garbage from an additional six community boards begins passing through, though this is currently under review.

Lancman intends to introduce legislation that will alleviate the suffering of the nearby residents if elected to Congress. The state and city have little to no power to regulate the railway.

His bill, the Neighborhood Rail Improvement Act, would prohibit railroad yard activities — coupling, decoupling and maintenance — from taking place on tracks outside of the railroad yard and give local residents input into yard operations

“I think the government needs to stand up for its residents,” said Pedalino. “It’s not just the railways, it’s the government that’s allowing the railways to do this.”

Noise is not the annoyance those living adjacent to the tracks deal with; residents complain of the odor emanating from train cars filled with garbage and the train’s diesel fumes.

During the summer, Pedalino said he must keep his windows closed and his air conditioner running due to the fumes and Dalfino said he can no longer use his backyard for barbecues.

“We need to institutionalize mechanisms for the community to have input, to require the railroads carrier, the agencies that oversee the railroad’s operations, to sit down with the community hear their concerns and give answers,” he said. “It’s through that process that the community is able to influence and shape the policies and practices of the railroad.”

Politicians continue to pick up Congressional endorsements


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Congressional candidates contending for the 6th District seat continue to collect boosts to their campaigns.

Assemblymember Grace Meng — the Queens County Democratic Organization’s bid — picked up endorsements from the New York State Independence Party and the Italian-American Political Action Committee. She also received support from several dozen political individuals.

Meng’s Congressional Committee also raised $300,000 in 10 days, said her campaign manager.

Vying for the same seat, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley gained the support of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 9 (DC 9).

Meanwhile, Assemblymember Rory Lancman got a leg up from several high-profile political endorsements, including former Mayor Ed Koch, leaders from New York City Working Families, 32BJ, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, and Communications Workers of America Local 1182.

All three Democratic candidates will face off in the June 26 primary to contend for the seat recently vacated by retiring U.S. Congressmember Gary Ackerman. The winner is expected to go up against the sole Republican runner, Councilmember Dan Halloran.

Halloran, who formally announced his intent to run on March 26, has so far pulled in backing from Councilmember Eric Ulrich, former state Senator Frank Padavan, the Conservative Party and the GOP.