Tag Archives: official

Federal, state and city officials: ‘Make Lunar New Year an official school holiday’

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

State lawmakers have strengthened a renewed push to make Lunar New Year an official school holiday, garnering support from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Students shouldn’t feel like they have to choose between celebrating their heritage and missing a day of school,” the newly-risen speaker said.

The City Council plans to introduce two resolutions, calling for schools to close and metered parking to be suspended on one of the most important holidays of the year in Asian communities, Mark-Viverito said.

Multiple other measures have been introduced in the state and federal levels that call for a similar break for families.

A bill that would establish Lunar New Year as a school holiday for districts with an Asian-American population of at least 7.5 percent has been introduced in the State Senate and Assembly for years.

Flushing is the only neighborhood in Queens to meet the criteria, along with Chinatown in downtown Manhattan.

While it has made no movement in the past, elected officials gathered Friday in downtown Flushing to declare 2014 the year of action.

“This is the year and this is the time we believe it’s going to happen,” said Councilmember Paul Vallone, who is drafting a bill that would suspend metered parking that day.

About 14 percent of city students in the school system are Asian-American, Mark-Viverito said.

Officials have long argued absence rates in some city schools climb 80 percent on the first day of the Lunar New Year. Though observing students are “excused,” the absence is marked on their record.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, who spearheaded the Assembly’s attempts during her last tenure, proposed a resolution in Congress this month, asking local education agencies that include the city’s Department of Education to close schools that day.

“One day, we’ll look back and see that we made history,” said Councilmember Karen Koslowitz.



Death knell for Peninsula Hospital

| mchan@queenscourier.com


Peninsula Hospital has been sent to the morgue.

The foundering Far Rockaway facility has officially shut its doors for good, officials said.

The State Department of Health (DOH) did not return calls for comment, but former board members said the institution closed after 5 p.m. on Monday, April 9.

“It’s a shame, and it’s terrible for the people of Rockaway,” said former board member Joe Mure. “It’s really sad what has happened with this hospital.”

Peninsula submitted a closure plan to the DOH, which as of April 3 was still under review, according to agency spokesperson Jeffrey Hammond. While trustee Lori Lapin Jones determined on March 26 to shut down operations at the hospital, Hammond said at the time there was no time frame as to when the hospital would close.

The community has held nightly rallies in protest of closure, even marching en masse in front of DOH Commissioner Nirav Shah’s Manhattan office as recently as Wednesday, April 4.

“It’s devastating. The impact that closing this institution will have on our community is going to be enormous,” said Dr. Ed Williams, president of the Far Rockaway NAACP. “Despite what a lot of folks who are actually orchestrators in terms of closing the hospital say, people will certainly die in this community with just one hospital. The fatalities are going to be incredible.”

Williams said he nervously anticipates beach season — and potential drownings — at the Rockaways, which he said sees close to 10,000 visitors each week during the summer.

St. John’s Episcopal is now the only hospital on the peninsula, serving more than 100,000 residents. According to Mure, its emergency department has been placed on diversion several times since Peninsula’s closure, and Democratic Assembly District Leader Lew Simon alleged at least three people have already died on their way to St. John’s — a facility he said is “obviously busting at the seams.”

“They have too many people in their emergency room,” Mure said. “In an emergency situation, they have to leave the area. That could be a matter of life and death.”

A St. John’s spokesperson said the hospital was only on diversion for an hour on Monday, April 9. CEO Nelson Toebbe said operations at the hospital are running “smoothly.” He said plans are in the works to hire more workers and expand the 257-bed hospital.

“To meet this challenge requires everyone to pull together. St. John’s asks for everyone’s support and understanding in the coming months,” Toebbe said.

Peninsula was pinned for critical deficiencies and failed state health inspections on February 23, which forced the hospital to temporarily halt its emergency care services and stop admitting new patients.

At least two different investors expressed interest in saving the hospital, Mure said — including Chicago-based People’s Choice Hospital — but rescue efforts were too little, too late. The DOH has also revoked Peninsula’s certificate of operation, which Simon said renders the potential saviors moot regardless.

“I think if we had more time and more money, things could have been different,” Mure said.

Jones did not return calls for comment.

Rockaway Beach resident Barbara Reiche, 67, said her husband suffers from asbestosis and diabetes. He has been in and out of Peninsula within the last year-and-a-half, she said.

“With that hospital closing, if St. John’s and Jamaica Hospital are on diversion, then the closest hospital is like 45 minutes from here. He would never make it any further than Peninsula. I don’t know what’s going to happen to him if he has to go the hospital again,” Reiche said, fighting through tears.