Tag Archives: Peter Koo

Mayor adds Lunar New Year holiday to NYC public school calendar


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Mayor Bill de Blasio came to Flushing Tuesday morning to announce that the Lunar New Year will be an official public school holiday beginning in the 2015-16 school year, allowing students of Asian descent to celebrate with family without missing class.

The mayor made the declaration at P.S. 20 in Flushing, which counts 75 percent of the student body as being of Asian descent. The Lunar New Year has already been added to the NYC public school calendar and will take place next year on February 8.

“There was a lot we had to balance to get this right,” said de Blasio, who cited difficulties in ensuring that the state-mandated 180 yearly school days fit into the plan. “It took some work, but it happened.”

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña emphasized the importance of keeping a steady education schedule for the 1.1 million students of the city and offered her support of new holiday. To make up for the school hours lost, two separate half-days already in the calendar will be lengthened to become full days of classes.

“Taking time off to honor people’s heritage is also important,” said Fariña.

This is the second time de Blasio had made moves toward cultural inclusion in the school calendar. In March he also declared the two holiest days in the Islamic calendar, Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha, as official public school holidays.

The mayor was joined by a host of officials and community leaders who had long been advocating for the change.

“For too long, families have been forced to choose between celebrating this important cultural holiday and sending their child to school,” said Councilman Peter Koo, a Shanghai native. “By including Lunar New Year in the school calendar, New York City shows that we are an ever-evolving city that takes pride in the cultural traditions of its diverse populations.”

“This holiday is not about kids just getting a day off from school,” added Assemblyman Ron Kim, who attended P.S. 20 as a student himself 30 years ago. “It’s about the City of New York telling hundreds of thousands of Asian Americans that their culture and heritage is part of the American fabric.”

Kim and Koo, along with Rep. Grace Meng and many other prominent members of the Asian-American community, have all pushed for the mayor to establish the school holiday after de Blasio promised to do so while on the campaign trail in 2013.

After seeing no movement forward in the initiative for the Lunar New Year, Kim took on the responsibility of pushing it forward himself this year by authoring state legislation which would have given all New York children the day off. While that bill is still pending, Kim has said that he would lay aside the legislation in the interest of collaborating with the de Blasio administration.

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YMCA questions its place in Flushing Commons project


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Flushing YMCA

A new recreational center is being built at Flushing Commons, but questions remain as to whether the Flushing YMCA will operate it.

Paul Custer, senior vice president of government affairs for the YMCA of Greater New York, told The Courier in an exclusive interview that the nonprofit organization is looking for answers regarding the project in planned meetings with Flushing Commons’ developers, F&T Group, and the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

The Flushing Y came on board with the Flushing Commons plan as the project’s “community benefit.” Original plans called for the new Flushing Y — which currently operates out of a 90-year-old building on Northern Boulevard — to be created on the second and third floors of a building erected during the project’s first phase.

Those plans, however, were amended in 2009 as a result of economic issues related to the project, Custer said. As part of a redesign, the Flushing Y was relocated to the basement of a retail and commercial building called “The Elm” to be constructed at the corner of 39th Avenue and 138th Street.

“It’s not a very viable place,” Custer said. “It’s kind of hard to make it a community center [from the basement].”

The changes, he noted, compromise the YMCA’s goals transforming its Flushing chapter into a 21st-century community center, allowing it to offer new programs and existing initiatives while also removing any physical obstacles preventing people from participating in them.

Michael Meyer of the F&T Group told The Courier that the group mutually agreed to explore “alternative locations or alternative buildings” at the Flushing Commons site for the Flushing Y.

“We will explore that with them and hopefully we’ll find a way to get there,” Meyer said. “But that’s all on the drawing boards and there’s no certainty.”

In future meetings with F&T Group and city representatives, Custer hopes the Flushing Y could find a more viable place at Flushing Commons. If that goal can’t be fulfilled, he noted, the Y will need to explore other alternatives while continuing to maintain an aging facility. It has reached out to local elected officials for assistance.

Meyer said the Flushing Y “has a home in Flushing Commons” and the F&T Group will construct a recreational center in the project, as required in its deal with the city. Should the Flushing Y choose to no longer participate in the project, he said, the F&T Group would seek another organization to operate the recreational center.

“We’re still building the facility,” he added. “That’s our agreement with the city. There’s no doubt about that.”

One elected official involved in the process, Councilman Peter Koo, was optimistic that a deal could be reached.

“The proposed YMCA in Flushing Commons would provide a tremendous boon to our community,” Koo said in a statement to The Courier. “I have encouraged both sides to come to the table to discuss how the project will move forward and remain optimistic that a mutually beneficial agreement will be reached between the two parties.”

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Hoping for Lunar New Year holiday, lawmakers move to end Brooklyn-Queens Day


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/File photo

State lawmakers introduced on Tuesday a bill that would eliminate Brooklyn-Queens Day from the New York City public school calendar.

The measure sponsored by state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky aims to clear a day on the calendar to permit public schools to close for the Asian Lunar New Year in the winter. Brooklyn-Queens Day, which falls on the first Thursday of June, marks the foundation of the first Sunday schools in both boroughs during the 19th century.

For decades, local Protestant churches celebrated Brooklyn-Queens Day with parades through their communities, but the parades stopped in recent years as Protestant congregations plummeted. The last major Brooklyn-Queens Day parade took place in Ridgewood in 2009, ending a century-long tradition.

Nevertheless, schools in Brooklyn and Queens remain closed the first Thursday of June, but many of them use the day for staff development.

The bill states that “there is no reason to continue this anachronistic holiday in state statutes when there is pressure to increase the time students spend in school.” However, Stavisky noted, the elimination of Brooklyn-Queens Day gives the city Department of Education (DOE) flexibility in adding another holiday such as Asian Lunar New Year.

“As a former teacher, I understand the mayor and the Department of Education have a mandate to make sure students are receiving as much classroom instructional time as possible,” Stavisky said. “But educating our students and allowing them to observe important cultural holidays should not be opposing goals. I believe that removing the now defunct Brooklyn-Queens Day and replacing it with the Lunar New Year is a pragmatic solution that the mayor and the Department of Education must consider.”

Among those who joined Stavisky at a Tuesday press conference in Flushing in support of the bill were state Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymen Ron Kim and Edward Braunstein, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and City Councilman Peter Koo.

“The history of Brooklyn-Queens Day demonstrates how observance of this day on the public school calendar has changed over the years to meet the changing demographics of our city,” Koo said. “Today, approximately 15 percent of our New York City public school students identify as Asian-American, and we must take this into consideration as we prepare the school calendar for future years.”

According to Stavisky’s office, city public schools in Asian-majority neighborhoods report absentee rates as high as 80 percent on Lunar New Year, which is “the most important cultural celebration on the Asian calendar.”

Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation declaring two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as school holidays beginning this September. Koo criticized the mayor in March for failing to grant the same holiday status for the Asian Lunar New Year.

Last December, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation granting the DOE greater flexibility to close schools on cultural and religious holidays. By law, all New York City public schools are required to hold at least 180 school days every year.

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First charter meeting for Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

City Council Member Peter Koo swears in the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce board of directors last Wednesday. (photo courtesy of Koo's office)

The Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce continued its growth on the afternoon of March 18 with its first membership meeting that attracted numerous civic and business leaders.

The chamber’s first formal task was to elect a board of directors to oversee the organization’s operation under the stewardship of co-chairs Simon Gerson and Chris Kui. The organization also appointed a council of advisers and approved its corporate bylaws and agenda for the months ahead.

“The Flushing Chamber is proud to provide leadership to ensure the continued prosperity of our community,” Gerson said. “Our local businesses will benefit from the networking, education and advocacy opportunities that the chamber provides.”

Greater Flushing looks to replace the void that the 80-year-old Flushing Chamber of Commerce left when it dissolved in 2012. Many blamed the group’s inability to change with the times and neighborhood’s demographics as key factors resulting in its demise.

But Greater Flushing Executive Director John Choe said the upstart group aims to create a “multicultural and modern” organization catering to all businesses and people in Flushing from every background. Greater Flushing already has about 70 businesses as members, and Choe hopes that number will double in the next few months.

“I think Flushing deserves a chamber that will advocate on behalf of the entire community,” he said. “We haven’t had a chamber for a long time, even though we’re the fourth-largest commercial district in the city.”

Greater Flushing already has a “very full plate” of programs aiming to serve and enrich businesses, residents and visitors alike, Choe added, including a free English language program in partnership with Monroe College. The chamber also wants to sponsor several street fairs this summer and launch free financial literacy programs.

The chamber is also considering creating a “formal lending circle” with established credit agencies, Choe noted. Traditional lending circles often practiced among immigrant families involve members donating funds into a central account, with the lump sum then provided to someone launching a business or buying a home, among other purposes.

The formal circle, Choe said, would follow regulations and ensure accountability with the borrowers.

City Councilman Peter Koo had the honor of installing the newly-elected board of directors and threw his support to the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, saying the group would provide “small business owners with the resources they need to expand and grow.”

“We are still living in a climate of over-regulation that remains challenging for many small business owners, so the Flushing Chamber will be a welcomed addition to our diverse business community,” Koo said.

Greater Flushing’s board of directors consists of Gerson, Kui and Don Capalbi of the Queensboro Hill Flushing Civic Association, Perka Chan of HealthFirst, Michael Cheng of Epos Global Management, Taehoon Kim of Regen Acupuncture, Ellen Kodadek of Flushing Town Hall, Michael Lam of Century Homes Realty Group LLC, Alice Lee of HealthPlus Amerigroup, Alfred Rankins of the Latimer House Museum, Maureen Regan of Green Earth Urban Gardens and Leo Zhang of the law firm of Geng & Zhang.

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Flushing senior center enriches members’ lives with technology


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

For a senior center in Flushing, innovation is measured by iPads and in megabytes.

The City Council allocated $150,000 to senior centers like the Benjamin Rosenthal Prince Street Innovative Senior Center so that it could continue to develop technological programs that, among other things, allow older people to connect with their families using Skype. The senior center is run by Selfhelp and was designated by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg as an “innovation center” along with seven other places in 2012.

“This Council has been determined to enhance senior services and Selfhelp is a great example,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said on Friday during a tour of the center.

Skype is used as the engine of the virtual senior center, which provides seniors with extra-large computer screens, so even those with failing eyesight can participate remotely in live events.

Such events include virtual tours of the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art.

Councilmen Paul Vallone and Peter Koo joined Mark-Viverito on the tour, and both emphasized the importance of caring for the elderly and stimulating their minds with devices like the Nintendo Wii game console that the center has.

Vallone said that with the new allocation they would be able to make more centers “innovative.”

“My senior centers in northeast Queens are going to start experiencing this wonderful technology as we start phasing it in,” he said. “This is the beginning of something wonderful.”

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Verizon heroes honored by City Council for stopping Flushing rape


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Julissa Ferreras

Three Queens-bred Verizon technicians who thwarted a rape in Flushing in October were honored by the City Council Tuesday for their gallant rescue. 

“No one should ever have to experience such an atrocious crime as rape,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who chairs the Council’s Women’s Issues Committee.

Michael Popowich, Anthony Howley and John Gilday were on the job Oct. 30, when they said they saw a man push a woman down and pull down her underwear near 150-24 Northern Blvd.

The trio chased down the attacker and sat on him until cops arrived.

“I am proud that these courageous men stepped in and prevented a potential rape from occurring,” Ferreras said. “It is my hope that their example resonates with all New Yorkers everywhere to help those who are in need.”

The technicians were honored with a proclamation Dec. 10 by Ferreras, Councilmember Peter Koo and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“It was a big honor. It was very humbling,” said Gilday, 53, of Douglaston.

 

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Flushing widow pushes for hit-and-run bill


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The widow of a Flushing man killed last year in a tragic hit-and-run held back tears while she pushed for a bill to protect pedestrians.

“I’m very heartbroken, very angry,” said Taysha Dominguez. “There are no words to describe the pain and the suffering that my family is currently going through at this moment.”

Her husband, Dante Dominguez, was struck by a car while crossing 41st Avenue and Union Street on foot in Flushing last November. The driver, who is still unknown, fled and left the father of three to die, officials said. He was 45.

“Even when I step on someone’s foot, I hold accountability. I say that I’m sorry to that person,” said the widow, 30. “This person continued driving, didn’t have the heart to help save that victim. To leave the scene — that’s heartless. That is what has torn me apart.”

Lawmakers and Dante’s family returned to the scene of the crime last week to urge the City Council to pass a bill which would require more police action and the installation of nearly 200 red light cameras.

“We don’t want her husband to have died in vain,” said Councilmember Peter Koo.

The legislation would require the NYPD to make annual reports to the City Council on hit-and-runs that result in death or severe injury, detailing all actions taken to determine culprits. The city’s police department would also have to collect video surveillance from cameras near the crime scene.

The bill also calls for the city to install red light cameras in more than 150 intersections and create a tax credit for property owners who install their own devices.

Sources said the bill will soon be introduced in the City Council.

“Hit-and-runs are too frequent in Queens, and we need to do everything we can to make sure the police have the resources they need to find the drivers responsible for them,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie.

Inspector Brian Maguire of the 109th Precinct urged anyone with information on Dante’s death to anonymously help by calling 1-800-577-TIPS.

“Getting into an accident is not a crime,” the precinct’s commanding officer said. “It’s only a crime when you flee the scene.”

Dominguez said her husband was a hardworking artist who toiled through long shifts to make ends meet. She added that their family is still reeling from the loss.

“I can’t say we’re okay when we’re really not,” said Dominguez. “We have no sense of closure. We’re hurt and we’re torn. There is not enough justice being done to find out who did this.”

 

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Public Advocate candidate Reshma Saujani kicks off Queens campaign


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Reshma for New York

New York City Public Advocate candidate Reshma Saujani kicked off her Queens campaign on the steps of Flushing Town Hall.

Saujani was joined by Councilmember Peter Koo as she launched a five-day tour of the boroughs. Of her campaign, Saujani said she wanted to speak for all New Yorkers and ensure everyone had fair opportunities.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that all New Yorkers who work hard and play by the rules have access to the American Dream,” she said. “We need a voice loud enough to speak for everyone, driving the change we need to create good-paying jobs, give our kids the education they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and make sure all New Yorkers have access to safe, affordable housing.”

Saujani is running in a five-way race against State Senator Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Letitia James, Cathy Guerriero and schools advocate Noah Gotbaum.

 

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Queens businesses fear 7 subway suspension may hurt profits


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

Once more, western Queens business owners could potentially say goodbye to a profitable winter.

The No. 7 line weekend service between Queens and Manhattan is being suspended until the end of March, and many area business owners fear that this will affect the influx of customers they usually get.

The award-winning Chocolate Factory Theater in Long Island City is just one of the many organizations expecting a severe blow to their business this season.

“We [will be] unable to commission work, to present work,” said Sheila Lewandowski of the theater company. “If our audience can’t get here, what are we saying to our artists?”

The Chocolate Factory planned four shows for the coming winter months, and is expecting around 5,000 people to attend. They have artists coming in from all over the world, and, according to Lewandowski, artists who have been preparing for these shows for years.

“The No. 7 train is part of the ticket,” said Lewandowski, who fears that without the subway line, artists will have a difficult time getting to the theater, or that the number of attendees will significantly decrease.

Lewandowski also said that, had they been informed of the closures a month or two ago, shows could have been rescheduled. But, with the two weeks’ notice that the MTA gave, nothing can be done.

“Millions of people are disadvantaged and inconvenienced,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “The people of Queens are being disrespected.”

Until March 25, the MTA will be working on tunnel, signal and track maintenance in the Steinway Tunnel, which connects Queens to Manhattan, and will replace tracks between the Court Square and Queensboro Plaza stations.

Van Bramer held a press conference on Friday, December 28, the day that marked the beginning of the closures, in front of the bustling Vernon Boulevard–Jackson Avenue train stop. He was joined by fellow Councilmember Peter Koo and area business owners, all protesting the MTA changes.

“If I seem a little angry, I am,” said Van Bramer. “Year after year this is too much to bear.”

In 2010, the No. 7 line was suspended for 12 weekends, and again for five weekends this past fall.

On December 8, Community Board 2 received a letter from the MTA, detailing the weekend closures. According to Van Bramer, there was no discussion or opportunity for input, simply a: “this is how it is, so deal with it.”

Going forward, the councilmember intends to work with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the rest of the Council to urge the MTA to change course, and also advises that residents sign an online petition, on the City Council website, and also protest via social media.

For alternate service, straphangers can use the E, F, N and Q lines. On Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., the Q will be extended to Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard. Additionally, free shuttle buses will operate between the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue and Queensboro Plaza stations during those weekends.

-With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

 TODAY’S FORECAST

Wednesday: Overcast. High of 45. Winds from the NNW at 5 to 10 mph. Wednesday Night: Overcast in the evening, then partly cloudy. Low of 36. Winds from the North at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: Jackson Heights Community Orchestra

The newly-formed Jackson Heights Community Orchestra, launched by conductor Patricia Glunt, has scheduled its first performance for Dec. 12 at the Jackson Heights Community Church. “Jackson Heights is ripe and it’s ready for an orchestra,” said Glunt, a 58-year-old musician who lives in the neighborhood. “The idea is really to explore and showcase the talent that we have in Queens, and use Jackson Heights as the center of that.” Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Vallone officially announces borough president bid

Councilmember Peter Vallone’s holiday surprise wasn’t all that surprising. Vallone announced his bid for Queens borough president at his father’s annual holiday party on Tuesday, December 11, surrounded by friends and family. Read more: Queens Courier

Queens lawmaker proposes local referendum on casino gaming

Local residents should get a chance to weigh in before the state rolls the dice on full-tilt casino gaming, a Queens lawmaker said on Tuesday. Read more: New York Daily News

JFK guards threaten strike, could snarl holiday travel plans

Just in time for Christmas, security guards at JFK Airport are threatening to walk off their jobs and create a holiday nightmare for travelers. Read more: New York Post

Sandy ineptitude catches up with LIPA at Moreland Commission hearing

Officials slammed the Long Island Power Authority Tuesday for its performance in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, during a hearing by a commission exploring how those utilities might be restructured. Read more: CBS New York

First section of WTC spire set to be hoisted

The first section of a spire that will rise atop the World Trade Center’s tallest building is set to be lifted into place on Wednesday. Read more: Fox New York

The Pope, now on Twitter, posts his first message

Pope Benedict XVI sent his first Twitter message on Wednesday, saying, “Dear Friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.” Read more: New York Times

Gunman opens fire at Oregon mall; Suspect, 2 dead

The mall Santa was waiting for the next child’s Christmas wish when shots rang out, causing the shopping mall to erupt into chaos. Read more: AP

 

 

 

Racial slurs mar Flushing site


| mchan@queenscourier.com

DSC_0519w

A $500 reward is on the table for anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perp responsible for spray-painting anti-Asian racial slurs on sites in downtown Flushing, said three of the area’s elected officials.

The word “gook” — a derogatory slang term used to describe Asian people — was branded on the glass window of an empty storefront on Union Street and on the side of a nearby van owned by a Chinese media company on Sunday afternoon, September 9, according to State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.

The 31-32 Union Street site, Stavisky said, is the future home of the Queens Public Library Mitchell-Linden branch and the van belongs to the World Journal, one of the largest Chinese-language newspapers in North America.

“This kind of disgusting display of bigotry has no place in our community,” the senator said. “An attack on an Asian-American is an attack on everybody in this community.”

Stavisky, who called Flushing “the birthplace of religious freedom,” said the reward would be given on behalf of Assemblymember Grace Meng, Councilmember Peter Koo and herself.

“It’s a shame that these things still happen in our neighborhoods. We must tell people that we have to live together. We have to abolish some of these old racial sentiments some of us still have,” Koo said.

The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is currently investigating the incidents, which are believed to be related, Stavisky said. Anyone with information is asked to call the 109th Precinct at 718-321-2250.

Meanwhile, a Korean-American couple — who were described as “chinx” on their Hooters takeout receipt in Fresh Meadows on July 1 — have filed a lawsuit against the restaurant chain in Brooklyn Federal Court, according to court documents.

Stavisky said the separate incident “shows an attitude that has to change.”

“That is not the way we behave here in New York City,” she said.

New $1 Flushing buses may be illegal


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A battle is brewing in downtown Flushing between recently emerged $1 buses that are taking away customers from a cutthroat competitor, and authorities who say the new set of wheels could be operating illegally.

Hordes of passengers lined up single file on 41st Avenue and Main Street for a $1 trip to Chinatown in Manhattan on Monday morning, July 9. Some said the new “big bus” was a more convenient, cheaper and roomier ride than an already established and authorized commuter van service across the corner.

“Before, in the small bus, the service was very bad. They don’t let us eat and drink, and they drove very fast,” said Michelle Dhu, 26. “It wasn’t safe.”

The smaller commuter buses are operated under Flushing Commute Van Management Corp. and can only hold up to 19 passengers. It is licensed by the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) to shuttle people to Chinatown, Brooklyn and Elmhurst.

Fees for the commuter bus were as high as $2.75, Dhu said, before the company dropped the price to $1 to keep up with its newest rival.

Still, Dhu said throngs of people opted to swap services when the new ride rolled into town less than a month ago.

Passenger Claire Chen said she rode the minibus for six months, touting its faster excursions, and originally defended the company when she told The Courier it was not fair for the bigger bus to encroach on its settled turf.

But Chen, 21, quickly jumped ship and leaped off the line during the interview, when a collector asked her for double the price, straying from the latest $1 promise posted on nearby signs.

“If they just stayed the same price, I would have stayed with the small bus, but it keeps changing,” she said.

Councilmember Peter Koo said the large buses pose severe problems for both pedestrians who cannot pass through the large crowds waiting on line, and for drivers on the street whose vision is impeded by the large buses.

“We contacted all the agencies. In the very near future, they will do something to stop them,” Koo said.

A police source said the 109th Precinct has issued summonses to the buses for obstructing traffic. One bus, the source said, even crashed into the NYPD’s SkyWatch observation tower located outside of the Flushing library on 41st Avenue and Main Street.

The new $1 bus loads passengers in a “No Standing” zone, but vehicles considered commuter buses are allowed to do so. However, authorities said the new buses — which carry more than 50 passengers — are likely not commuter buses and are violating more than just traffic laws.

According to TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg, under New York City law, commuter van services are only permitted to operate vehicles of up to 19 passengers. Larger vehicles exceeding that limit fall under the jurisdiction and licensing of the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), he said.

DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said city agencies are initiating an investigation and will pursue relevant legal or regulatory channels, including the possibility of state or federal enforcement.

The new bus service is said to be operated by New Oriental Tour, Inc., under the ownership of Tony Luo, who could not be reached. Drivers and fare collectors on site also declined to comment.

 

Politics Aside: Koo jumps to Democrat Party


| RHornak@queenscourier.com

Republican City Councilmember Peter Koo rang in the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon, by becoming Democrat City Councilmember Peter Koo. This might seem very appropriate as Dragons are said to be highly ambitious, driven and unafraid to take risks.

That is good, because this just may be the biggest gamble of Koo’s short political career. Koo was said to be worried about re-election in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans five to one. Afraid that very popular Assemblymember Grace Meng might run against him, Koo seems to have wowed Democratic leaders and now the word is that Meng will look to run for Borough President with party support.

But all might not be secure, for now Koo has to worry about Democratic Primary challengers, who might be able to exploit Koo’s party switch with hardcore, primary-voting Democrats. Party switchers are rarely successful if their switch comes while in office.

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter is a perfect example. Complaining that the Republican Party was too conservative for him, and afraid of a challenge from his right, Specter finally switched and became a Democrat. Seen as untrustworthy by both sides, Specter was easily defeated in a Democratic primary.

Koo cited differences with national Republicans, and the slate of presidential contenders specifically, especially as it pertains to immigration, as a major deciding factor in his switch. At Koo’s registration change press conference, Assemblymember Rory Lancman arrogantly remarked, “he’s a nice guy, he likes people, he likes the immigrant community.” This was meant to be a slap at Republicans playing on Koo’s immigration excuse.

Meanwhile, only Republicans have actually offered solutions to the problems surrounding illegal immigration. With discussions of guest worker programs, amnesty and making the byzantine immigration process easier and less costly, Republicans are proving to be more immigrant-friendly than Democrats, who seem fine with the status quo of millions of immigrants living in the shadows and being exploited in sweatshops or as slave labor.

Koo also complained about Republican Party outreach in the Asian community. Meanwhile, it was Republican outreach that led to Koo being sought out and asked to run for office. It was expected that Republicans could work with Koo to register Republicans and build a strong Asian following in Flushing. That never quite materialized, and unfortunately never will.

However, the Koo experience was a valuable one for Queens Republicans. It set the blueprint for Republicans on how to reach out in immigrant and minority communities. It showed that by working with respected members of the community who share the majority of conservative, pro-family, pro-business beliefs held by most Republicans and also by most immigrants, Republicans can be successful in immigrant communities.

*On Saturday, January 28, the Queens GOP is holding a Candidates School at the Adria Hotel in Bayside from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Anyone interested in running for office anywhere in Queens should attend. Details are on their web site at www.QGOP.org.

Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party. The views expressed here are his own.

Dr. Conrad Murray gets 4 years in jail for Michael Jackson death


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Comedian Patrice O’Neal Dead at 41

Comedian Patrice O’Neal died Tuesday morning … as a result of a stroke he suffered back in October…This according to his friends at the “Opie and Anthony” radio show. O’Neal had been a staple in the comedy world for years — and performed at the “Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen” back in September. O’Neal was a regular guest on the “Opie and Anthony” radio show — and appeared on several TV shows such as “Chappelle Show,” “The Office,” and “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.” Opie just tweeted, “Yes it’s true that our pal Patrice O’Neal has passed away. The funniest and best thinker I’ve ever known PERIOD.” Read More: TMZ

American Airlines Has Normal Flights After Parent Company Files For Bankruptcy

American Airlines says its normal flight schedule will go on after filing for bankruptcy protection. AMR, the struggling carrier’s parent company, filed for Chapter 11 protection today. It also replaced American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey with the company’s president, Thomas Horton. The airline says the move will help cut debt caused by high-jet fuel prices and labor problems. Travelers should not be affected for now, but the reorganization could lead to a reduced flight schedule and job cuts. American is the the third largest airline in the country and is the first major airline to file for bankruptcy since Delta in 2005. Read More: NY1

City might close Cypress Hills Collegiate Prep

Less than six years after opening its doors, a small school opened by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration might be on its way to closure. Cypress Hills Collegiate Prep (CHCP), which shares space in the Franklin K. Lane building with three other schools on Jamaica Avenue in Brooklyn, received some bad news along with a “D” on its annual progress report – the city might move to close the school after only two graduating classes. Read More: Queens Courier

Iranian protesters storm British embassy

Dozens of hardline student protesters stormed the British Embassy and another British compound in Tehran Tuesday, destroying papers, reportedly setting the Union Jack flag afire and even carrying off a portrait of the Queen while staff fled to safety. Read More: New York Post

Richmond Hill family convicted of defrauding innocent victims

Three members of a Richmond Hill family have been convicted of defrauding 19 individuals, mostly members of the borough’s West Indies community, out of more than $1.8 million over a nearly six-year period by promising to assist them in obtaining “federally seized” properties in Florida and Queens at cheap prices or to assist them in gaining legal status in this country. Read More: Queens Courier

Dr. Conrad Murray gets 4 years in jail for Michael Jackson death
The disgraced doctor whose “medicine madness” killed Michael Jackson was sentenced to the maximum term of four years behind bars and a tongue-lashing Tuesday. Dr. Conrad Murray, 58, was branded a callous, reckless liar who violated his Hippocratic oath and left the King of Pop to die alone in his own bed by the judge. Read More: Daily News

Queens home sales & property values keep sliding at faster rate than rest of city
Queens homeowners are feeling the pain of the housing slump. The volume of home sales in the borough fell by 9% in the third quarter, compared with the same period last year, according to a report from NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. The decline exceeded the drop in home sales citywide, which measured 4%. Queens also stood out when it came to declining property values. Prices in the borough have depreciated 30% from their peak levels, which were reached in the fourth quarter of 2006. Read More: Daily News

War of words between Flushing Councilman and Police Department

Antoinette Carona buried her only son on what would have been his 22nd birthday earlier this month. Carona has lived in a self-described “hell” as she waits for the killer of her son, Alex Botero, to be caught. Botero was shot execution style in an elevator of the James A. Bland Houses in Flushing on Halloween night. More than 40 residents of the Bland Houses and nearby Latimer Gardens attended a community meeting on Nov. 15 to express their concerns over safety in the area. But there was one very important element missing: The police. Not a single representative from the 109th Precinct attended, City Councilman Peter Koo said, sparking a war of words between the lawmaker and NYPD. Read More: Daily News

Civic group starts new push to get historic Forest Park Carousel landmark status 

Concerned about the fate of the Forest Park Carousel, which has been shuttered since 2008, civic leaders have launched a new effort to win the historic amusement landmark status. The city has been unable to find an operator for the hand-carved wooden carousel, crafted by Daniel Carl Muller more than 100 years ago. Read More: Daily News