Tag Archives: Queens Chamber of Commerce

Call for full gaming at Resorts World Casino


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Politicians and leaders in the Queens business community are calling for the state to ante up on full gaming in Queens.

State legislators and the Queens Chamber of Commerce called for a better plan to give Queens a casino if voters approve table gaming this November. They said Resorts World Casino New York City could become a full casino just months after the referendum is passed.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said if complete gaming is approved, an upstate casino will be the first to reap the benefits and drive tourism north. Queens might not get a casino until five years after the referendum passes.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director Jack Friedman said both upstate and downstate New York will have an opportunity for full casinos if voters approve them.

“We’re saying to the governor, this is not an either-or proposition,” Friedman said. “There’s room for both. Let’s do it now. Resorts World is ready, willing and able to take on table gaming, and it would be a big, big boost to the Queens economy.”

The Racino has boasted more than a billion dollars in total revenue – a large amount of which goes back to the state for education – along with employment opportunities for locals.

Councilmember Leroy Comrie said the Racino has hired many people in his district. He added that more jobs from full gaming would help unemployed people in Queens, especially those affected by Sandy.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo, whose district includes Resorts World, said the Racino could have table games as early as January 2014 if Queens is approved under the state’s plan.

Both Addabbo and Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said they and their communities could not wait up to five years for full gaming to come to Queens.

Addabbo said he is pushing for a sooner start time if a casino is cleared for south Queens. In the remaining five weeks the legislature is in session, the senator said there are still considerable discussions that have to take place.

“We are in uncharted territory here,” Addabbo said. “This is an unpaved road for our state. We’ve never been in a position like this before for full gaming.”

Goldfeder said the tools were already at Resorts World to set up expanded gaming at the facility.

“Infrastructure is already in place,” he said. “Anybody who’s been there knows there’s a third floor ready to expand, to house the table games. You have a trusted partner that is willing. You have a location that is perfect and now is the time.”

 

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Rising Stars of Queens honored


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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The stars aligned last week when The Queens Courier honored 40 of the borough’s budding young professionals. “It’s awesome to be honored, and it’s humbling to be among these people,” said Eric Abrams, 26, digital media and membership associate for the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “I feel like I’m on my way up.”

Abrams — recognized for his work for the Chamber, including his part in securing a $100,000 grant to develop a mobile phone app for Queens tourism — shared the limelight with several other “Rising Stars” honored for exemplifying outstanding leadership skills in their chosen fields and communities.

SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT

Presented by Metropolitan Hospitality, the fifth annual “40 under 40” awards and networking event drew over 500 people and raised $2,500 in charity raffle funds collected to benefit the Hank Auffarth Family Center of The Child Center of NY and Morgan Center, a pre-school for kids with cancer.

“This makes me proud of my staff, the company and proud to work in Queens,” said Seth Taylor, 33, executive director at the 82nd Street Partnership. “It makes me think back to the work I’ve done and it reminds me of all the work to be done.”

On January 31, at the Caesars Club in Citi Field, event attendees networked with top professionals and mingled with representatives from leading businesses in the area, including this year’s event sponsors National Grid, TD Bank, Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care & Rehabilitation, Delta Airlines, Queens Library, Con Edison, Flushing Bank, Council for Airport Opportunity, Queens County Savings Bank, Time Warner Business Class, Samuel Field Y, Sandwire, Crystal Window & Door Systems, Investors Bank and Ehren Joseph Studios.

Danielle Monaro, a co-host on Z100’s Elvis Duran & The Morning Show, received the “Star of Stars” award and was the night’s honorary emcee.

“I went to St. John’s University, so I feel like I grew up in Queens,” she said. “It’s just really nice to see how diverse the crowd is, how everybody comes together and supports each other. It really does mean a lot that I was chosen to be here. “

VIDEO: MEET THE 2013 “RISING STARS”

Monaro, a New Jersey resident, said she started her gig as a radio personality at St. John’s, where she did theater and WSJU Radio before graduating in 1995.

She helped honor fellow award recipients, including “Mentor of the Year” Bud Harrelson, a 1969 New York Mets World Series champion.

Also honored this year for their community work were Joseph Amodeo, development director for Quality Services for the Autism Community; Eric D. Abrams Digital Media & Membership Associate Queens Chamber of Commerce; Gerdie Rene Gordon, member, Cambria Heights Development Corporation; Seth Taylor, Executive Director, 82nd Street Partnership; Anahit Azatyan, manager of OKG Jewelry; Anokye Blissett, attorney at Law Firm of Russo & Blissett; Ricky Brava, senior partner at Apollo Financial Group; Ricardi Calixte, director of neighborhood economic development for the Queens Economic Development Corporation; Jennifer Colletti-Membreño, assistant director of development at Samuel Field Y; Elizabeth Culp, assistant vice president and branch manager at Roslyn Savings Bank; Paisley Demby, business services director at Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at LaGuardia Community College; Josh Fatoullah, president and founder of JR Wealth Advisors; Dr. Peter Feibish, orthodontist at Dynamic Dental; Christian Goode, CFO and SVP of Resorts World NY; Gerdie Rene Gordon, member of Cambria Heights Development Corporation; Tracie Hall, vice president of strategy and organizational development of library services at Queens Library; Matthew Jahrsdoerfer, audit principal at Grassi & Co; Isabella Leung, human resource manager at Crystal Window & Door Systems; Jennifer Matthews, NTC marketing and events for USTA National Tennis Center; Maria Messados, principal/insurance broker for Queens Medallion; Ann O’Connor, cultural collaborator at Zoescope Studio; Tony Rappaport, licensed sales associate at Greenthal Property Sales & Management; Michael Ratner, partner at Abrams, Fensterman; Jeffrey Reich-Hale, director of sales and marketing at Wyndham Garden LIC; June Reid, department manager at Delta Air Lines at JFK International Airport; Jeff Yanni, general manager at Delta Air Lines at LaGuardia Airport; Elias Roman, CEO and co-founder of Songza Media, Inc; Rick Rosa, executive vice president and managing director at Douglas Elliman; Frank T. Santoro, counsel at Farrell Fritz, P.C; Suzanne Shusteris, manager at TD Bank; Aravella Simotas, assemblymember of District 36; Kevin Skelly, assistant general manager at Clearview Golf Corp.; Silvia Tejeda, licensed real estate broker at Rapid Realty Astoria Inc.; Ebony Young, executive director of Long Island City YMCA; Jason Hilliard, executive director for Congressmember Gregory Meeks; Frank Russo III, manager of Russo’s on the Bay; Abbi Leman, communications director at CUNY School of Law; Andrew Barnes, manager at National Grid; Wafa Abboud, founder and CEO of Human First, Inc.; Chris Lynch, director of operations of Parker’s Medical Transportation Division for Lakeville Ambulette Transportation; and Jeffrey DeShields, mortgage development officer and team leader for Sovereign Bank. “I feel blessed. You can’t ask for anything better,” said DeShields, 39.

Creative Group, LLC and Delta Airlines provided the raffled-off Cancun trip, which included four nights and five days at the Ocean Spa Resort or the Laguna Suites and two round trip airfare tickets.
Broadway tickets, an HD TV, two Nets tickets to the TGI Suite at the Barclays Center and many gift certificates were also given away by exhibitors.

Guests also snapped pictures in a free photo booth sponsored by Investors Bank and snacked on free Nathan’s hotdogs and pretzels.

Danielle Monaro, co-host of the Z100 Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, talks about The Queens Courier Rising Stars event on her radio show. 

 

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Commerce Secretary tours Sandy-damaged Rockaways, promising to get businesses back on their feet


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Assistant Secretary of Commerce Matt Erskine promises he will take what he saw in the Rockaways back to Washington, D.C. to ensure south Queens continue to get relief as it still reels from Sandy.

On Thursday, January 30 Erskine, along with elected officials, toured the still-devastated areas of the peninsula — including the Madelaine Chocolate Factory, one of the largest small businesses in Queens with 425 employees, which was heavily damaged by the storm. Erskine and the politicians applauded the staff at Madelaine for its efforts to get back to work.

“The president made clear that this was to be an all hands on deck effort,” Erskine said. “And that he was committed to making sure that we at the federal government are going to be with you every step of the way, and we’re going to look for new ways to work more effectively with our state and local partners to get this job done and get it done correctly.”

The visit came just days after Congress approved the second part of a $60 billion Sandy aid package almost three months after the storm swept through the area. Erskine, speaking before local leaders at Vetro in Howard Beach, which was also damaged in the storm, promised President Barack Obama was committed that everyone, from every agency, work together like never before to ensure the Rockaways get all the relief that’s needed.

Congressmember Gregory Meeks, who toured the area with Erskine, said he too had pressured the president for continued relief.

“Right before we went in for the luncheon on Inauguration Day,” Meeks said. “I mentioned ‘we’re still hurting in the Rockaways.’ And he says ‘I know, and I won’t forget it.’”

About 40 percent of the small businesses in the Rockaways will probably never reopen, said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. The goal of chamber members, along with local leaders, is to help as many businesses as possible get back on their feet.

“We see that same thing happening all over the Rockaway Peninsula, all over Howard Beach,” Friedman said. “Small business people trying to get through the loss of their homes, the loss of their possessions, the loss of their businesses, looking for help and support from government, private industry, from not-for-profits, just so they can go back to do what they do, which is employ a lot of our residents, make this borough work.”

Newly-sworn in Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, who represents Howard Beach, Lindenwood and Ozone Park, said it was a top priority to get as many businesses back up and running.

“I’m particularly pleased that [Erskine]’s here today because essentially this is day one of the rebuilding and recovery process from the standpoint that the legislation was just signed into law,” Jeffries said. “And that should open up a level of resources for the city of New York, and the state of New York that will make its way to people who are in distress.”

 

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New law to help customers contesting costly water bills


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

(Photo: DEP)

Following a record number of disputed water bills, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio introduced legislation today that prevents late fees, liens and foreclosure on home and business owners fighting the charges.

He made the announcement at a Queens Chamber of Commerce small business forum that was held this morning at the Queens Library Flushing branch.

At the event, which highlighted city regulations and small business fines, de Blasio focused on disputed water bills because of the high number of customers that “contested sky-high water bills in 2011 after the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) installed new automated meters,” said de Blasio.

If home and business owners feel they have been unfairly charged, fighting the bill can be a long and difficult process. In the meantime, the DEP will send warnings to customers about escalating late fees and a lien sale, which can directly lead to foreclosure, said de Blasio.

They will often abandon the appeal process so they won’t lose their home or business, he added.

The legislation that de Blasio introduced to the City Council will allow owners to fight their water bills without the threat of late fees or foreclosure.

“In this tough economy, small business is struggling to survive. The last thing they need is to get soaked by the city’s unreasonably high water bills, due to faulty meters,” said councilmember Peter Koo, one of the legislation’s sponsors.

The water bill fines are just an example of the rapidly increasing fines that make it harder for small businesses to succeed, said de Blasio.

The story he’s heard from businesses all over the city, said de Balsio, is that increased fines over the last five years have “made it harder to keep the business going [and] harder to keep employing new people.”

 

 

 

Celebrity meets and greets Queens biz owners


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of AT&T

Celebrity Bill Rancic attended AT&T’s business roundtable in Queens last week.

Rancic, who is also an entrepreneur and bestselling author, appeared with AT&T experts to meet with about 30 Queens small business owners, hailing from across the borough, to offer tips and discuss challenges and rewards of powering your own small business effort.

Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, stopped by to meet and greet small business owners and welcome Rancic to the borough.

Courier hosts Power Breakfast on future of LIC’s tech boom


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), made clear that as business sectors based in the city move forward, technology will become more crucial.

“As we like to say at EDC: whereas in the past the technology industry was a sector; increasingly, today, the economy itself is the tech sector.”

Pinsky was a featured panelist for the “The Future of LIC: How the tech boom will affect you & your business!” — a power breakfast host by The Queens Courier in part with TD Bank — on Thursday, October 11, which gave a glimpse of what will become of the growing technology growth in Long Island City.

The breakfast played host to panelists: Carol Conslato, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce and public affairs director for Con Edison; Andrew Kirby, president of Plaxall; Greg Pass, entrepreneurial officer for CornellNYC Tech; Jukay Hsu, founder of Coalition for Queens; Elias Roman, CEO and co-founder of Songza media; Elliot Park of Shine Electronics; and Gayle Baron, president of LIC Partnership. Featured elected officials who spoke included Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

Van Bramer kicked the morning off by noting that what was core to Long Island City were the arts and culture that had found a home in the region.

“Who in here believes that culture and the arts drives Long Island City,” Van Bramer asked the hundreds present and was answered with hundreds of applause.

Pinsky, head of the EDC since 2008, said it was important that the city take the lead in the ever-changing tech world. Some of the ways New York has begun to do that, he said, included the Cornell Tech Campus that will have a home on Roosevelt Island and incubators in Long Island City to boost start-ups and small businesses.

“First, the sector itself is a critical and growing sector,” Pinsky said. “We’re increasing employment, we’re seeing more economic activity, but I think that’s only half an answer. And that’s because the real reason why we’re so focused on the tech sector is that in the 21st century the tech sector will also be critical to the success of almost every other sector in our city’s economy. If our city doesn’t take a leadership in technology we’ll find it increasingly difficult to maintain our leadership position in anything else that we do.”

See photos from the event

As Cornell Tech, along with other satellite campuses across the city, begin to produce ambitious minded tech experts, they will most likely find a home in Long Island City because of its location and comparatively cheaper rent prices than Manhattan, several speakers said.

Plaxall over the last 20 years has fostered the art community that gradually grew in Long Island City, and now that community will be mixed with a technology community, said Kirby, who runs the real estate company with his cousin. The end result would be something Kirby said would be “amazing.”

“We already have the creative artists, now we can bring the creative technological people to Long Island City and to do that we need to do things that will make this an attractive area for them,” Kirby said. “I think Long Island City has the potential to be a location where we merge technology and art to create some amazing things.”

To attract the expected influx of techies, Plaxall is laying out plans for a community that could foster a merger between the arts and technology, Kirby said.

This community would be on 12 acres on the East River around what is known as the Anabel Basin. This community would include a mixed-use area of residential towers and buildings for technology companies, Kirby said. The vision for this area is to create “really a sustainable community where people can live, work and play that will attract the best and the brightest.”

Roman, the youngest speaker on the panel, said afterward that technology and culture had already become one in another and could open the doors for more and more potential.

“There’s an interesting intersection between technology and culture, where the technology becomes invisible and it’s all about the culture,” he said. “I think that’s a really exciting intersection to be at.”

Affordable Care Act’s impact on small biz


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

At a recent business workshop local small business owners and employees learned that although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will give them necessary health coverage, it may come at a high price.

Sher Sparano, president of the Benefits Advisory Service, broke down the law’s effects on small businesses to nearly a dozen uncertain and bewildered professionals at the event, which was hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce on July 20.

“Our goal was for people to walk away with a sense of how to prepare,” Sparano said. “They need help and guidance along the way as the law changes.”

Although businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required to provide insurance for their workers, they are still urged to make sure their employees are covered.

To encourage these small businesses to invest in insurance for their companies, those with fewer than 25 full-time employees averaging $50,000 yearly, could apply for a 35 percent tax break. That will increase to 50 percent in 2014.

Unfortunately, only 170,000 out of 4 million possible businesses applied since 2010, and Sparano says that has to change.

“That’s one of the things we told small businesses, to understand that if they were entitled something, get it,” Sparano said. “I don’t care if they’re going to give me back $500. You have to apply to see if you’re going to get this credit.”

In 2014, New York will establish its exchange, or state-run list of insurance options. Small businesses will be able to provide coverage to their employees at lower costs through these lower priced plans.

Business expenses will rise to provide insurance, but it may be an essential step for health care reform.

“There are a lot of small businesses today that don’t give health insurance and that will change,” Sparano said. “If we want the health care act to succeed it has to happen like this.”

Through ACA, a state could choose whether or not to expand its Medicaid system. Governor Andrew Cuomo elected to increase New York State’s system, which will make more people eligible to access Medicare.

Individual Americans who make about $15,000 a year and families of four that earn $30,000, will be able to get Medicaid, up from approximately $9,000 and $15,000 respectively.

Sparano mentioned sections of the law that will go in effect soon, such as insurance carriers expanding no-cost preventive services for women, and companies providing summaries of benefits and coverage and notifying employees about the state-run exchanges.

Also on August 1, customers will receive Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rebates. MLR rebates are distributed when insurance companies spend less than 80 percent of premiums on medical care for plan holders instead of administration, like salaries and marketing.

When businesses get the rebates they will distribute the money proportionally to workers enrolled in company health plans, according to how much their plans cost.

“The most practical information I learned was about the rebates,” said Phil Robinson, an employee for Petracca & Sons construction company in Flushing. “In my mind it was just a check that would arrive at the employee’s house.”

MLR rebates will give nearly 12.8 million Americans more than $1.1 billion this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Towards the end of her presentation, Sparano recommended that smaller businesses that want to provide health insurance and save money adopt wellness programs.

“The healthier the population is the better the experience would be,” Sparano said. “It lowers the premium, and you get better more productive hours out of your staff.”

Mayor Bloomberg: Willets Point facelift to bring thousands of jobs


| tpetropoulosedit@queenscourier.com

willets2w

More than 12,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs will come from the proposed Willets Point renovation, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, which includes retail space, a hotel and quicker access to the Van Wyck Expressway.

The reconstruction — to be funded by $3 billion in private investment, as well as $100 million in city capital for the demolition, remediation, infrastructure and permanent improvements — is expected to bring $4.2 billion in economic activity over the next 30 years.

The specifics of the long-awaited project were announced on June 14 during the Mayor’s meeting with the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

The city felt the plans for Phase 1 would best be done by the Queens Development Group, a joint venture of Sterling Equities, Inc. — owned by Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz — and Related Companies.

“For generations, Willets Point was neglected, no investments were made in the roads or in the sewers or in environmental remediation … and it remains one of the city’s most polluted sites,” Bloomberg said. “Each year, four million people visit the area. These are four million potential shoppers, local business and restaurants, creating thousands of new jobs and laying the groundwork for thousands of housing units.”

The plan includes the activation of the 126th Street corridor, building a 200-room hotel with 30,000-square-feet of retail and dining space. There will be an additional 20-acre parking area that can be converted for open recreation, it was announced, which will be open during the MLB offseason and during certain Mets road trips.

A new component, Willets West, is designated from a portion of the Citi Field parking lot to become one-million square feet of space for retail, entertainment and dining.

New off-ramps from the Van Wyck Expressway will be added after Phase 1 of the project is completed in the next 10 to 15 years to provide better access to the area. The off-ramps were approved in March by the Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Department of Transportation.

Still left open were tentative plans for affordable housing and a home for a planned convention center in the area — two concerns of Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jack Friedman.

“We just hope the mayor’s vision, and the book he has with it, has all the chapters we want to see in it,” Friedman said.

Though affordable housing plans have been pushed back until after the project’s completion, many officials feel this is the way to bring new residents to the area.

“This is the way that you get to affordable housing,” said Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). “[The first phase of the plan] not only doesn’t preclude the development of the rest of Willets Point [including the affordable housing] but makes it more likely by activating the site and creating more magnets to draw people to the area.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged on June 1 that talks for what would have been the largest convention center in the country near the Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park had fallen through. Not long after, officials began to eye Willets Point as a possible alternative.

If not Aqueduct as the convention center’s home, Friedman said Willets Point would be the most ideal and practical place for the center, based on its location.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who represents the area that includes Aqueduct and the Resorts World Racino, said he supported any kind of project that would benefit Queens and bring jobs. What Addabbo said was a time factor for Willets Point — environmental testing — had already been done at Aqueduct. The preparedness, he said, could relieve the push for time.

State Senator Jose Peralta released a letter to Governor Cuomo, two days before the official announcement, asking the governor to consider Willets Point for the planned convention center. Frank Sorbino, a spokesperson for the senator, said the mall announcement would not deter courting developers to Willets. Rather, he said, it would help the region’s case.

“This does not preclude the building of a convention center,” he said. “If anything, it makes Willets Point an even more attractive site for a convention center.”

Meanwhile, some property owners of long-established businesses at Willets Point continue to cry foul ball at what the city and the Wilpons may call a home-run.

“This is why the city initiated condemnation against local landowners? To get a hold of private property and hand it over to the Mets and their partner for the sum of $0? This project needs to be stopped in its tracks and the question of Willets Point should be set aside until a new mayor, one not imbued with a spirit of crony capitalism, is elected,” said Jake Bono, owner of Bono Sawdust.

Michael Rikon, the attorney who represented Willets Point property owners during their fight against eminent domain, said he predicted — while challenging the condemnation — that the taking would only benefit Sterling Equities and the Wilpons.

“Now here it is. We hit it directly on the nose,” Rikon said. “This is a figment of Bloomberg’s imagination. It’s really outrageous. There are still properties that are privately owned — they don’t control the entire site.”

Rikon said 152 businesses — and 654 people, the vast majority Hispanic — would be directly affected during Phase 1 of the project.

Jennifer Friedberg, spokesperson for the NYCEDC, said 95 percent of the project area is currently in city control. Relocation and worker assistance programs, she said, would be provided by the city to businesses in the 23-acre Phase 1 affected area.

But Rikon said already existing environmental concerns and the fact that the site “looks like a piece of Swiss cheese” make the project seem even less plausible.

The streets are pockmarked with deep craters and the area lacks necessary sewers and sidewalks. But Willets Point United, a group formed to oppose the city’s plans to take over the area, said the city deliberately neglected the area — despite the group’s push for years to have the severely deteriorated streets repaired.

“The whole thing is just mind-boggling,” Rikon said. “There’s no affordable housing in this thing. It’s a giant shopping mall. There’s absolutely no need for it, and it’s just going to benefit a private developer.”

But for property owner Danny Sambucci of Sambucci Bros. — a family-owned and operated Willets Point business since 1951 — the decision to strike a deal with the city, for an undisclosed amount, was a better business decision and meant less strife.

“If you’re dealing with the city, it just seemed like the wise thing to do,” he said.

— With additional reporting by Tim Petropoulos

Parking just got more pleasant


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Newly approved legislation is providing drivers with peace of mind by curbing unfair parking fines.

Councilmember James Gennaro joined community leaders and residents to celebrate the passage of a law requiring any parking ticket to be cancelled upon the presentation of a valid muni-meter receipt no later than five minutes after the violation is issued. Under the current law, tickets cannot be cancelled once issued by a traffic enforcement agent, even if a driver shows a valid muni-meter receipt – forcing citizens to appeal the violation in court or pay the fine.

“This is a common-sense law,” said Gennaro, who sponsored the bill. “If you park your car at a metered spot and you walk to the muni-meter to pay for it, you’re playing by the rules. And if there’s a parking agent close by, or you’re elderly and walk slowly or there’s someone in front of you at the muni-meter terminal, you shouldn’t be penalized as if you were trying to cheat the system.”

The City Council initially passed the bill in January, but it was vetoed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg a month later. The mayor’s veto was ultimately overruled by the council on March 28 by a vote of 47 to 2. The law will officially take effect on September 24, allowing the city 180 days to change its parking scanners to be able to cancel violations immediately.

“This law is great news for small business owners in Queens and throughout the city,” said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “When drivers are unfairly ticketed for parking on the street, small businesses suffer, too. The shoppers effectively blame the merchant – they don’t come back.”

Business owners echoed Friedman, emphasizing that parking tickets may deter patrons from returning to certain areas.

“It’s going to make a difference,” said Wendy Marsh, owner of Marsh Optical and former president of the Union Turnpike Merchants Association. “It’s enough that they get tickets all the time here anyway. People get tickets, they don’t want to shop here.”

Drivers have also expressed relief that they no longer have to fret about being hit with a ticket.

“I think it’s only reasonable to extend the five minutes to people. It was unfair that they previously didn’t do this,” said John Sotirakis, a resident of Bayside who frequently uses muni-meter parking spots on Bell Boulevard. “I was lucky that it never happened to me, but sometimes I’d have to stop and speak to a parking agent when they were lingering around so that they wouldn’t give me a ticket while I was going to the meter. This is much better now – there is less pressure.”

Visa Waiver Program may boost borough tourism


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

One Queens politician is attempting to boost tourism to the borough by opening the nation’s doors to more countries.

Congressmember Joe Crowley recently announced he will introduce a measure in the House of Representatives that would encourage the federal government to expand its Visa Waver Program to include at least three new countries – Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

The Visa Waiver Program currently allows visitors from 36 countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Countries included in the program represented 65 percent of all tourists entering the country in 2010, amounting to the largest source of inbound travel that year. Crowley believes expanding the program will be greatly beneficial to Queens.

“We need to do all we can to make Queens a destination point, and not just a gateway to Manhattan,” said the congressmember. “The history and diversity of Queens has so much to offer to travelers, and increasing travel and tourism is one of the most effective tools we have in our pocket to spur job growth and foster economic activity on the local level. It’s simple: the easier it is for international tourists to visit the U.S., the more likely they will.”

Tourism generates $46.5 billion in economic impact for the city and supports over 300,000 jobs. While Manhattan may be the premier destination in New York, 25 percent of international travelers visited the outer-boroughs in 2010, and spent $6 billion there.

“Efforts that can lead to increased tourism opportunities are most welcome,” said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “Congressmember Crowley’s measure will be a great help to maximize tourism and hospitality efforts in our nation’s most diverse county.”

The Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC), which recently revived the Queens Tourism Council in an effort to unite businesses towards supporting tourism to the borough, also supported Crowley’s plan.

“As the most diverse county in the country, Queens has a great deal to offer visitors,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the QEDC. “The QEDC/Queens Tourism Council is supportive of Congressman Crowley’s efforts in showcasing our borough and encouraging more people to ‘Discover Queens’.”

 

No ticket while getting your ticket


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

New legislation is aiming to please drivers by “parking” many of their muni-meter tickets.

The City Council recently passed a bill that will spare commuters the stress of receiving a parking ticket while retrieving their muni-meter receipt. Prior to the bill, if a driver presented a valid receipt to a traffic enforcement agent, there was no way for the agent to revoke the ticket.

The legislation, which was introduced by Councilmember James Gennaro, requires a ticket to be cancelled if a valid receipt is shown no later than five minutes after the issuance of the violation. The canceled ticket would read, “Valid muni-meter receipt shown, ticket canceled,” and would include the number printed on the muni-meter receipt — sparing drivers the inconvenience of appealing the ticket by appearing in court.

“New York City drivers feel enough anxiety every day already without having to worry about getting a ticket while they’re walking to the muni-meter,” Gennaro said. “By ensuring that premature violations are canceled if a receipt is shown within five minutes of the ticket being written, my bill will bring a little peace of mind to residents who are trying to do the right thing and pay for their parking.”

The bill was co-sponsored by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who also supported approved legislation declaring the presentation of a valid muni-meter receipt as a viable defense for the failure to display the voucher on a dashboard.

“It’s absurd to think that they could place a muni-meter a half block from where you’ve parked, force you to walk to obtain a receipt, and then ticket you as you’re returning to your car — but it happens,” Vallone said. “Once again, we had to write legislation to combat something that should never have been occurring in the first place.”

Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, praised the bill for the positive effects it will have on small businesses.

“Allowing a ticket to be canceled upon the showing of a valid receipt no later than five minutes after the issuance of the ticket is both fair and reasonable,” Friedman said in a letter to Gennaro. “Before the introduction of this law, even people attempting to comply with the law were penalized. Small business owners have enough to contend with in today’s economy. Scaring consumers from metered spots certainly didn’t help.”

Drivers shared feelings of frustration that the legislation was not in place from the start, while also expressing relief for no longer being at risk of receiving an unjustified ticket.

“It has been a horror because I have received a couple tickets while I was walking to the meter,” said Antonietta Mandione, a Bayside resident. “I tried to fight them in court and I never won. I always had to pay the ticket, and it wasn’t fair. If it is raining or snowing someone could slip, and I have to drag my kids with me and run back to my car. The parking agents are fast in giving out tickets. This new law will save us a lot of time in running to the meter. It is going to be a big improvement because we won’t have to kill ourselves to get back to the car. The city [didn’t have this law from the beginning] because it wants to collect more money from us.”

Conventional Wisdom: Cuomo pushes for center in Queens


| smosco@queenscourier.com

Images Courtesy of Resorts World

During his State of the State address on January 4, Governor Andrew Cuomo made many bold pronouncements, but perhaps his most ambitious statement was his proposal for the “nation’s largest convention center in Queens.”

And the governor already has a spot picked out and a developer in mind – Genting America, the company which brought the Resorts World casino to the grounds of the Aqueduct Racino in South Ozone Park, which announced its plans for a convention center in a letter of intent.

Dubbed the New York International Convention and Exhibition Center (NICE), the $4 billion project would be financed by Resorts World and would encompass 3.8 million-square-feet, with the first phase to be completed by November 2014 at the earliest.

The project would also include up to 3,000 hotel rooms, and officials believe, all told, it would bring 10,000 construction jobs, 10,000 permanent jobs and tens of thousands of ancillary jobs throughout the borough.

“I personally think this is a good thing,” said Paul Anteri, a resident from the area surrounding Resorts World. “It’ll bring more revenue to the area. Usually when you develop convention centers, it tends to bring a better type of people to the area. It brings business, jobs, tourism. A convention center means you’re going to need hotels, places for people to stay and eat. It’ll just help raise small businesses.”

While most elected officials are putting their support behind Cuomo, many believe developers must have their ears open to community input.

“I am enthusiastic about the idea of a convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack site, but I also believe we should proceed forward in a cautious manner,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo. “I am an advocate for community input on this project and feel most people would want to see plans or drawings for the proposal. Given our current economic situation, I would certainly work toward creating the thousands of jobs and revenue to the city and state the convention center brings.”

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder echoed Addabbo belief that the community must be involved in the planning process.

“The proposal to build the largest convention center in the nation at Aqueduct is an ambitious plan that must be undertaken responsibly and appropriately with real community involvement and participation,” he said.

Representatives from the Queens Chamber of Commerce, which has advocated for a convention center in Queens for almost a decade, added that this project will give the people of Queens what it needs most – jobs.

“This is a great day for the people of Queens County and the Queens Chamber of Commerce,” said Jack Friedman, executive director.

Carol Conslato, the Chamber’s president, who attended the State of the State speech, added, “The Governor’s plan to build a 3.8-million-square-foot facility with 3,000 new hotel rooms at Aqueduct Racetrack is a huge victory for the borough of Queens.”

Giuliani Comes to Queens


| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Steve Mosco

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Greenpeace Co-founder Dr. Patrick Moore and New York Building Congress President Richard Anderson were among the speakers at a Queens Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum at the Bulova Corporate Center on Friday, November 18.
The event, “A Cleaner, Greener, More Sustainable New York and Queens,” focused on what energy companies can do to cope with the ever-growing population – and the ever-growing need for more and more energy.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce, together with the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA), organized a panel of experts, advocates and government officials to discuss economic opportunities for the “City of Tomorrow.” The convention included the policy and politics surrounding New York’s energy and infrastructure outlook, economic development impacts, environmental issues, public safety and long term planning and sustainability.

“We’ve got to get serious about expanding, not retracting, the amount of energy we have in New York,” Giuliani, the keynote speaker, said in reference to calls to close the Indian Point nuclear plant. “If we want businesses to come to this city and if we want business to expand the number of people they employ in this city, we have to present to businesses a very realistic picture of goals. There are many things that demonstrate growth, but nothing more than energy.”

A report released by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration estimates that the city will have one million more people by 2030. However, State Senator Michael Gianaris said that he wants to be very cautious about ringing the alarm bell on the need for greater energy supply.

Gianaris said that it is important that all of the fuel sources are looked at as possibilities and that a mix would be most beneficial. Giuliani said that the benefits of nuclear power are quite significant and that it is no more dangerous than other sources of electricity.

“People say nuclear power is dangerous. So is coal, so is oil. So is just plain old electricity. You put your hand on the third rail and you die,” he said. “[Nuclear power] is cleaner than most other forms of energy. It’s cheaper once it’s there and established, it’s extremely reliable and in the case of New York City, it’s very close to us. The closer it is, the more control we have over it, the more reliable it is.”

Mount Sinai Queens hospital CEO honored by the Kiwanis Club


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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For Caryn Schwab, contentment comes from the knowledge that she is positively impacting her community.

The Mount Sinai Queens hospital CEO was recently named “Woman of the Year” by the Kiwanis Club of Astoria and Long Island City, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of people in the area.

“As a leader of a community hospital, our work here is enormously important,” said Schwab, who has served as Mount Sinai Queens CEO for 12 years and is also a member of the board of directors of the Long Island City Business Development Corporation and the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “Hundreds of thousands of people depend on us in times of emergency and when they are ill. Having the respect and support of our community, neighbors and partners is something that my team and I have worked hard to earn. To be recognized in this way is an affirmation that we’ve been able to make a difference.”

The Kiwanis Club presents the “Woman of the Year” award to those who have dramatically improved the well-being of the residents of Queens.

“Since 1999, [Schwab] has worked tirelessly to enhance health care service and quality in our community and to improve and expand the facilities and programs at Mount Sinai Queens,” said Donna Furey, president of the Kiwanis Club of Astoria and Long Island City. ”As if that was not enough, she continues to lead efforts to further expand and modernize the facility to better serve the Queens community.”

Mount Sinai Queens is a 235-bed, adult care community hospital located in Long Island City. The staff of nearly 500 physicians primarily serves the residents of western Queens, a task that Schwab does not take lightly.

“Our patients put their trust in us to take the very best care of them when they are most in need,” she said. “Since I arrived at Mount Sinai in 1999, we’ve been working diligently to improve the quality of care, expand programs and upgrade the facilities. We’ve made enormous progress, and there’s more to be done. When I visit patients, and they share their experiences at the Hospital, it makes it very personal. There’s nothing that brings more satisfaction to me than when a patient shares they are getting excellent care and being treated well.”