Tag Archives: Phillip Goldfeder

Moreland Commission recommends LIPA changes based on Sandy response


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's Flickr

It might be lights out for LIPA in its current form.

The Moreland Commission, established to examine response from utility companies after Sandy, has offered Governor Andrew Cuomo three options to reshape the power company after it was lambasted for poor response times and mismanagement after the storm.

The first is to let the power company go private under a single operator — effectively letting the state regulate the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), as opposed to regulating itself as it does now.

Other options include streamlining LIPA by allowing the company to manage its day-to-day operations — currently handled by National Grid. The last suggestion is to replace LIPA with the New York Power Authority (NYPA).

The tandem of LIPA and National Grid did not work during the storm, according to the commission’s interim report, and had fallen victim to mismanagement and poor investment in infrastructure and had let customers down.

Cuomo, who has promised to keep utility companies accountable, said whatever plan the commission ultimately suggests, it should be adopted statewide. He reiterated that utility companies were not locked into servicing the area forever and would be responsible for any wrongdoings.

“Nobody said that any of these utility companies had a franchise for life; they don’t,” Cuomo said after meeting the commission. “I mean what business do you have today in this state and this country where you have the business for life, regardless of your performance?”

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, who represents the bulk of Rockaway, said LIPA was mismanaged after the storm. Relaying information to residents was not the only problem, he said, but communication within the agency was poor.

“It seemed like there was just a general lack of communication not only within the community but within their own agency,” he said.
Goldfeder said he was open to any proposals to changing how utility companies are managed to ensure they are held accountable to customers.

“There’s no question that LIPA failed the residents of Rockaway during the recent storm,” he said. “I’m open to discussing any and all changes to make sure that the utility companies are well managed and reliable to the customers who need it.”

 

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Tolls reinstated on Rockaway bridges


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Cross Bay Bridgew

Tolls on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, suspended since Sandy, went back into the effect on Saturday, December 1. Crossing once again costs $3.25 in the cash lane and $1.80 for E-ZPass users.

Since the bridge reopened a few days after the storm, fares going across the Cross Bay, along with the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge going into Brooklyn, were waived to allow people on and off the peninsula for relief efforts. But as the Rockaways slowly bounce back to normalcy, the decision was made to reinstate the fare.

Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the halt on tolls on Cross Bay through all of November, according to MTA spokesperson Judie Glave. Despite outsiders coming into the Rockaways to help with recovery efforts, the transit authority is required to collect tolls from everyone going in.

“MTA Bridges and Tunnels has a bond covenant, which requires us to collect tolls from everyone who goes through,” said Glave.

Rockaway residents, however, do get a break thanks to a program that tracks E-ZPass tags for residents within the region’s six zip codes. The Rockaway Rebate program went into effect earlier this year, pushed for by Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. The program redeems tolls for these residents who are travelling in and out of mainland Queens, Glave said.

Goldfeder, who has sought several means to ease the intra-borough toll burden since coming into office last September, said he would communicate with MTA chair Joseph Lhota and Cuomo to see what steps can be taken going forward for inexpensive transportation across Jamaica Bay.

“I was responsible in working with the governor in working to eradicate the toll for the last month,” he said. “I will absolutely talk to Joe Lhota at the MTA and the governor to discuss possible options for further discounts and rebates.”

Rapid Repairs program draws criticism


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Noreen Ellis registered for the NYC Rapid Repairs program the first day it became available. Her home on Beach 122 Street in the Rockaways swallowed seven feet of water, blowing out its electrical, plumbing and heating systems during Sandy. The program promised contact within 48 hours of registering. For six days, her phone went quiet. After reaching out to her local politicians, Rapid Repairs officials scheduled an appointment with Ellis for Tuesday, November 20. They never showed up.

Many residents waiting for assistance from the Rapid Repairs program have reported missed appointments by the city-hired contractors selected to restore services to those in New York City’s Sandy affected neighborhoods. The few whose homes that were inspected said no follow-up visits were made to begin construction.

“Maybe the checks and balances within the system aren’t there,” said Ellis. “I understand there’s a lot of chaos but you don’t reach out to someone and tell them you’ll be there in 48 hours and not go. They have to hold up their end of the bargain.”

According to the mayor’s office, nearly 7,000 homeowners have enrolled in the Rapid Repairs program, more than 4,500 assessments have been scheduled and over 2,000 assessments have been completed. The city allocated $500 million and partnered with FEMA for the no-cost incentive, hiring several private contractors to oversee construction in various locations.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said his office has received dozens of calls from constituents waiting for call-backs and appointments with representatives from the Rapid Repairs program. According to the official, locals suffer from an overall “bad taste about the progress of the program.”

“The program wasn’t announced until two weeks into the storm. We’re now at five weeks,” said Goldfeder. “The number of people who have gotten back into their home is essentially next to nothing.”

The assemblymember said relying on community feedback and utilizing a “bottom-up” approach instead of hiring elite Manhattan contractors, unfamiliar with the outer boroughs, could make the program more viable.

“I want this program to work, but it has to be severely adjusted,” said Goldfeder.

Ellis believes issues with the program stem from disorganization rather than a lack of compassion.

“I can’t even foster in my mind that someone who sees the devastation doesn’t care,” she said.

Ellis’s husband Stephen, a retired FDNY member, ruptured his patella tendon during the storm, rendering him bedridden with an ankle-to-hip cast and unable to help with repairs. Ellis says that even with its problems, the program may be her only option.

“I can’t say it’s been the smoothest ride but we have to take the ride because unfortunately we don’t have the money to hire an electrician and a plumber. This program is a saving grace because when you’re looking at and electrical system and a heating system — you don’t know how much you’re going to get,” said Ellis. “It was a hard decision to wait rather than put down money we don’t have out of our own pocket.”

Forums focus on frustrations after Sandy


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

BY MAGGIE HAYES AND TERENCE M. CULLEN

Nearly a month after Superstorm Sandy tore through south Queens, tens of thousands of residents are still struggling to restore their lives.

Councilmember James Sanders and Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder held separate forums with area residents, featuring representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), Con Edison and National Grid, seeking answers as to when their towns would be able to get back on their feet.

“I want firm dates,” said Sanders before his meeting at Public School 104. “I want to know when we will be made whole. I want to know when we’ll be back.”

As of the meeting, held on Tuesday, November 20, more than 15,000 people were still without power, according to LIPA.

LIPA representative Tom Smith stressed that utility workers have been in the area around the clock, working to repair electrical grids to get power back up and running. But the problem lies with the fact that many electrical grids were completely submerged under water during the storm, and making sure they are completely repaired has become a safety concern.

“We recognize it’s a bad situation,” said Smith. “But we’re not looking to exacerbate it by creating a fire hazard in your home.”

That same Tuesday night, Goldfeder, along with State Senator Joseph Addabbo, held their own forum at P.S. 146 in Howard Beach, where residents from the neighborhood and Broad Channel were vocal about some of the problems they still faced.

Many were irate, often yelling about response times, or walking out after hearing an unsatisfactory answer from officials.

“If I wasn’t the one standing in the front of the room,” Goldfeder said, “I would have been screaming just as loud because I’m equally as frustrated with the way things have gone over the last three weeks. I think what happened, people got a lot of answers, but not necessarily the answers they wanted or liked.”

Gary Robertson said his two homes in Hamilton Beach had lost power and he was forced to use generators to keep things running. He hired a licensed electrician to repair the homes, but was still awaiting Con Ed to come and install a new meter in one.

Robertson is most upset that he was told he would not receive reimbursement for the gallons of gas he poured into his generator, because, he said, he was told the outages were storm-related and not a direct outage by Con Ed.

“You spend all this money on everything else, you can’t get any answers,” he said. “I got answers basically from one representative that I saw and an electrician that I saw on my block.”

Another big concern for residents is with FEMA’s response time and communication.

Far Rockaway homeowner Cadim Ally has been working since the storm to repair the extensive damages to his properties – while at the same time cutting his losses.

Ally lives in one home in the area and rents out another. Both received significant water damage: Ally’s basement flooded and 13 inches of water rose above his first floor. Both houses were evaluated by FEMA.

“[My renter] had no home insurance, so they gave him a check for $9,500. He took the money, he’s gone,” said Ally.

When FEMA assessed the damages to his own home, because he is a homeowner, he was told to go through the Small Business Association to apply for loans. He did so, filling out all of the necessary paperwork, and after 10 days finally received an inspection. A loan officer will now re-evaluate Ally’s situation, and will either approve or decline his loan request. If he is denied, he will have to go back to FEMA and start his process over again.

“I’m actually sitting around every day, just waiting to hear. I don’t know what’s going on,” said Ally. “I’m filling out every piece of paperwork. I’m at a standstill.”

The need for a FEMA station in Howard Beach – and not just Broad Channel, where some cannot travel – was something Addabbo said came out of the P.S. 146 meeting. As a result, he and his colleagues are working to get an accessible FEMA center in the neighborhood.

“We got a commitment from FEMA, [we’re] just figuring out days and places,” said Addabbo.

Power is slowly being restored to the disaster areas, and residents are still doing the best they can do return to normalcy.

“We survived the storm. This was that 100-year storm,” said Sanders. “But can we do more? God willing, we can.”

DOT to study dangerous intersection


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

The Department of Transportation (DOT) will conduct a full traffic safety study of the area around a dangerous intersection after a community request in the heavily residential neighborhood.

DOT officials, residents, elected officials and representatives from the mayor’s office met on Monday, October 15 to survey a traffic triangle in Lindenwood intersected by 88th Street and 153rd Avenue that has long been a concern in the area.

At September’s Lindenwood Alliance meeting, a number of people brought up concerns about the intersection, particularly that it threatened the safety of children and elderly trying to cross the street.

As a result of the October 15 meeting, the DOT has agreed to comb the entire area, said Claudia Filomena, the Queens director for the mayor’s community affairs office. The study will take roughly six months, she said, and will particularly examine morning and afternoon hours when children are entering and leaving nearby P.S. 232 The Walter Ward School, as well as weekends.

Filomena said DOT representatives were not sure if the intersection could meet the need for a traffic light, but other options — such as stop signs or reshaping the intersection into a cul-de-sac — were being explored.

“DOT is going to be undertaking a safety study for the entire area and looking at any number of different traffic calming measures,” Filomena said.

In the meantime, petitions will be collected to request a school crossing guard in the area. By doing so, Filomena said, drivers will be less inclined to speed when seeing a guard and help stop concerns about children potentially being hurt.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, who has pushed since earlier this year for better traffic safety at the site, said he planned on reaching out to federal officials about some regulations the city is required to follow to amend traffic control.

Goldfeder asks DOT for rail money


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

As part of his push for better transit in south Queens, Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder has asked the state to grant federal money that otherwise won’t be used, in an effort to restore the Rockaway Beach LIRR line.

Goldfeder requested $29 million from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) for a rail line that would streamline the commute from the southern corners of the borough to midtown.

“Increasing public transportation options and improving the infrastructure for southern Queens and Rockaway will prepare our neighborhoods for future growth,” Goldfeder said. “Restoration of the abandoned rail line as an efficient, environmentally friendly transportation alternative to the current subway lines would be welcome news to the residents of Queens, who currently suffer with long commutes, congested roadways and severely limited public transportation.”

This money, if allocated, would come from a nearly $500 million in federal funds that had been written into congressional projects between 2003 and 2006. But for several reasons — including budget errors or projects falling dormant — the money was collected and became available to states for transportation projects.

“Immediate investment in this important transportation project will create thousands of jobs, improve public transportation options for all Queens residents and give our economy the boost that we so desperately need,” Goldfeder said.

The deadline to apply for these projects was October 1; which projects get the money will be announced in December.

There have been several discussions on whether to revive the line, which has been abandoned since 1962, or to convert its dormant tracks into a nature walk.

Lindenwood Shopping Center to get better signs, liquor store


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

LINDENWOOD 01

The Lindenwood Shopping Center is bustling.

A bolder fire lane and repainted parking lines were added to the center’s busy parking lot following a number of complaints from residents and elected officials. New, larger signage will be installed soon as well.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, who pushed for clearer lines and direction in the shopping center, said he had only seen pictures of the new lot, but was pleased with how it looked.

“I appreciate the fact that they’re trying to do it the right way,” he said. “The Lindenwood Shopping Center and the management have invested a tremendous amount of money to rebuild, to redo the parking lot so it lasts and it keeps families safe for many years to come.”

Residents and shoppers had voiced problems with handicapped parking, drivers going the wrong way and shoppers parking their cars in the fire lane.

Joseph Trotta, the manager of the shopping center and a member of the Lindenwood Alliance, said the revamp of the lot, which cost an estimated $100,000, would be completely done once new signs were installed.

“Once the signs go up, we’ll hopefully see what effect that will have,” he said. “[We’re] putting all the ingredients together.”

Some new additions, however, were not as warmly welcome by the whole community.

The State Liquor Authority (SLA) approved on Tuesday, September 11 a planned liquor store for the Lindenwood Shopping Center, which had met reluctance by the area’s civic associations.

GNG Wine and Liquor was granted a liquor license after the owner’s primary hearing on August 29 had no result because of further investigation.

Members of the Lindenwood Alliance, as well as Community Board 10 worried that the liquor store was too close to P.S. 232 The Walter Ward School, which is across the street from the shopping center. At the civic’s August meeting, members who were opposed to the store signed individual letters to the SLA in opposition to the shop.

Along with the proximity to the school, residents were worried the store would attract an unruly crowd to the relatively quiet, residential area.

The liquor store’s owner, a liquor license specialist and representatives from the shopping center’s management company appeared before the community at the meeting to make their case for the store. The group told residents that the store would be clean, keep hours that were not late and was legally far enough from the school.

Following the license approval, the specialist, John Springer, said he and the owner were relieved the SLA approved the store. The owner, Springer said, was looking forward to the store opening next month and would be a good tenant.

Joann Ariola, president of the Alliance, said that the community would continue to keep an eye on the store and ensure its owner is living up to his promises.

“We will have an open relationship with the owners of that business,” she said. “If that business is not a good neighbor, it will not be patronized.”

Aqueduct still on track to be a destination


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Less than three months after Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged talks had broken down with a developer for what would have been the nation’s largest convention center, the question remains: what will become of the land adjacent to Aqueduct Racetrack and Resorts World Casino New York City.

State and Resorts World officials say they are working to get the area developed and have promised the community that something will come in the area, bringing with it a number of jobs and economic activity. In order to do this, the Legislature and voters must approve gaming laws that would allow table games in select locations throughout the state.

Economic development, a use for the land at Aqueduct and better transportation are the three things Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said he has been pushing for to spark further growth in south Queens.

Better transportation, he said, meant upgraded service on the “A” train and consideration for a Rockaway LIRR line — something that Goldfeder has pushed for since being elected. Goldfeder recently sent a request to MTA Chair Joseph Lhotta asking for improvements to the “A” train stops at Aqueduct. Since Resorts World opened last October, Aqueduct “A” train service has increased by 100 percent, Goldfeder said. Resorts World, approaching its first birthday in Ozone Park, has promoted its accomplishments in the short amount of time, breaking several state gambling records, both for revenue and attendance. In July, the Racino saw more than a million visitors come through its doors, despite a robbery in late June.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who has long supported development in the area and jobs with it, said there will be something developed in the area, should it be an entertainment venue, hotel or other amenity. Community need as well should also be taken into consideration when planning what will go into the area, he said. This included not only mass transit, but traffic on local streets and neighborhood effects.

“We also have to keep in mind that it’s very closely adjacent to residential homes,” Addabbo said. “So whatever they build there, we must take into account the quality of life of those who live right adjacent to the casino.”

The three-term senator went on to say that Resorts World has listened to the community in the past, and expects they will continue to moving forward.

“I’m optimistic that as in the past Resorts World will be very cognizant of the fact that residents are impacted daily on what goes on there,” he said.

The Racino’s parent company, Genting, is waiting to see if voters approve gaming laws in November 2013 before laying concrete plans for the area, spokesperson Stefan Friedman said.

“I think the idea of seeing where things come down on the [state] constitutional amendment on gaming will help determine a great deal of what we’re going to do in the future for the entire site,” Friedman said.

Resorts World officials still see the area potentially becoming a destination location, he said, in regards to hotels or restaurants in the area.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder sworn in


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Melissa Chan. Senator Charles Schumer formally swore Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder into office.

Newly-elected Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder was formally sworn into office on Sunday, November 6 in a ceremony attended by dozens of locals and elected officials, including Senator Charles Schumer.

Goldfeder succeeds former Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer — who resigned from the seat to become Queens County Clerk — in the 23rd Assembly District. He won 54 percent of the vote in September’s election, securing his victory over former NYPD officer and Republican candidate Jane Deacy.

“For me, this is bittersweet because I have to say goodbye to some of the things that I love doing, but I know that Phillip Goldfeder is going to be a wonderful Assemblymember,” Pheffer said. “I am so confident that he’s going to do an even better job. He has all this enthusiasm, and he has all this drive.”

The ceremony was held at J.H.S. 210 in Ozone Park. Bagpipe players and the Broad Channel High School Band entertained audience members prior to the inauguration.

Among those in attendance were Congressmember Bob Turner, Assemblymember David Weprin, Councilmember Eric Ulrich, Assemblymember Grace Meng, Congressmember Gregory Meeks, State Senator Malcolm Smith, Councilmember James F. Gennaro, Councilmember James Sanders Jr., Pheffer’s longtime chief of staff Joann Shapiro and Democratic district leader Frank Gulluscio.

“Phil Goldfeder has become our Assemblymember, and he got there the old fashioned way,” Schumer said. “He earned it. Phil worked his way up, and he worked hard.”

Goldfeder was previously a member of Schumer’s staff as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. He also worked for Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a representative for Queens.

“When he worked for me, we immediately saw he was special. He bubbled with enthusiasm and energy, and he never rested,” said Schumer, who added that Goldfeder’s nickname in the office was “Shpilkes” — a Yiddish term for nervous energy. “You have to have resilience to do this job. You have to have the right heart, the right brain, and the right soul. Phil has all of that.”

Goldfeder, a lifelong Far Rockaway resident, represents Ozone Park, Lindenwood, Howard Beach, Broad Channel and the Rockaways.