Tag Archives: Ruben Wills

NYCHA South Jamaica Houses experience extensive flooding

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Councilman Ruben Will's office

Residents are facing flooding yet again at NYCHA South Jamaica Houses after wastewater inundated parts of the building.

Ebony Holmes, a resident at 190-10 160th St., lives on the second floor where the majority of the flooding is located. Holmes said the problem started at 6 p.m. Sunday and occurred last year. In both cases, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) employees mopped her floor and snaked her drain but the problem kept coming back. This year, the flood in her apartment is seeping down into the community center, which houses the Southern Queens Park Association (SQPA) after-school programs for children.

“It’s extreme. It’s all the way out of the apartment, in the hallway,” Holmes said. “The furniture is wet, the rug is wet, everything is done.”

Holmes had to leave her apartment Sunday night because it was not suitable for sleeping. She expressed her frustration with NYCHA officials and is requesting that they give her a new apartment.

Last year, the cleanup job left mold and mildew in her home and Holmes said cigarettes and feces are spilling into her bathroom, tub and living room. She purchased new furniture for her living room after last year’s flooding and was not reimbursed.

“The cleaning they’re doing is not cleaning,” Holmes said. “I’m not waiting for this to happen again.”

South Jamaica Houses on 160th St. started experiencing extensive flooding last night.

Councilman Ruben Wills toured the area to witness the extent of the damage firsthand and was told by NYCHA that the agency is willing to relocate Holmes until her apartment is cleaned.

“It was wholly unacceptable for the tenants and families of the NYCHA South Jamaica Houses to have endured putrid wastewater flowing through their building for more than 12 hours, and not receive a timely and robust response by its maintenance staff,” Wills said in a statement. “Had the constituent who came to my office this morning not taken the initiative to bring this issue to my attention, this problem may well have continued to go unnoticed.”

He also blasted the property’s superintendent James Sanders for his lack of response and said that the tenants “deserve better.”

NYCHA did not immediately respond to The Courier’s request for comment.


South Ozone Park juvenile detention center approved, but operators investigated

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook/Stop The Prison in S.O.P.

Just when South Ozone Park residents thought the fight to stop the placement of a juvenile detention center was close to being won, City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Tuesday approved a limited contract submitted by Sheltering Arms and the Administration of Children’s Services (ACS) to erect a Close to Home facility in the area.

Stringer, who previously denied the contract due to various undisclosed inconsistencies in June, also announced that he is reviewing the agency’s “use of improper payment methods in the contracting and construction of these facilities,” according to a press release.

South Ozone Park residents have been vocal about their opposition to the juvenile detention center and have even filed a lawsuit, along with the South Ozone Park Civic Association West, to stop the process. ACS is planning to open the 18-bed limited secure facility at 133-23 127 St. near another Close to Home center and the Skyway Men’s Shelter.

Councilman Ruben Wills, who has worked with residents to stop the opening, said Stringer’s approval of the contract was bound to happen.

“The process of reviewing city contracts is not infinite,” Wills said. “We knew the comptroller would eventually be compelled to register Sheltering Arms’ limited secure contract with ACS. So, we thank him for his due diligence with respect to that matter. Nonetheless, our fight lives on.”

The comptroller also announced that a newly formed Research and Investigation Unit will focus on irregular contracting and payment methods associated with limited secure placement facilities after discovering that several city agencies, including ACS, were using a payment method called PON1 meant for non-procurement expenditures.

The payment method allowed ACS and other city agencies to evade rules required for contracts by service providers, which would normally go through a bidding process, essentially spending millions of taxpayer dollars improperly, according to Stringer’s office.

“The city did an end-run around procurement rules when they set up, paid for and prepared facilities for use as Close to Home juvenile detention centers,” Stringer said. “We are going to investigate this program to determine the financial implications of the breakdown in the contracting process.”

According to a spokesperson for ACS, the agency “has investigated and corrected its payment practices” and has worked with Stringer’s office to register the contracts of the three nonprofit service providers that lacked appropriate contracts.

Community Board 10 Chairperson Betty Braton said she knows that Stringer did everything he could to prevent the registration of the contract for as long as he could.

“Am I happy with it? No, but I understand why,” Braton said. “We will be continuing to work with Council member Wills, with the Department of Buildings and every agency in any way shape or form involved to find avenues that we can pursue to prevent its opening.”

South Ozone Park residents have come together to hold rallies every Saturday to voice their opposition and have created a group called Stop The Prison in S.O.P. to petition the city.

“You can’t afford to be a spectator in this fight,” the group said in a Facebook post. “Think about what is going to happen to our community should this place open.”


More sex offenders transported to Skyway Men’s Shelter in South Ozone Park

| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua

After promising last month to remove 52 registered sex offenders from Skyway Men’s Shelter in South Ozone Park, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) reportedly broke its promise and brought in four more sex offenders.

According to City Councilman Ruben Wills, the agency told him that this transfer was already in the schedule as they were making plans to remove the previously housed sex offenders.

“These [sex offenders] should have never been placed back into the shelter,” Wills said during a press conference Tuesday outside the Skyway Shelter. “They admit that the swap out was not done intentionally. It was already in the system coming down and I have no other choice but to believe that.”

Reportedly, the DHS also told Wills that the entire system put in place to judge sexual offender compliant sites will now be reviewed by the agency.

Since 2011, Wills has been working with community members including staff at the nearby P.S./M.S. 124 to make sure that sex offenders in the shelter would be removed. He received confirmation from DHS on July 7 that they would swiftly be transferred out after the agency discovered that the site was no longer compliant.

Parent Teacher Association President Eileen Lamanna said she was frustrated to find that more sex offenders were placed in Skyway Men’s Shelter but that she will not stop fighting until they are all removed.

“I couldn’t believe it. I got the phone call and I said, ‘Are you kidding me?'” Lamanna said. “It’s just like you take two steps forward and you take one step back again. We’re going to keep on top of it and if they think we’re going away, we’re not.”

Though Wills was told that the sex offenders would be transferred out quickly, the councilman said he understands that there should “never be a wholesale push to just warehouse sexual offenders in any community.” He will continue to monitor the agency and make sure that they comply with the timeline they set out for the full removal of the sex offenders, he said.

In the meantime, if the sex offenders are not removed before the school year begins, Wills said he has full confidence in the 106th Precinct to monitor the area and keep students safe.

“Our precinct has been incredible,” Wills said.  “This is not their job. They work with the principal and the PTA president and the school community body as a whole to make sure that we have patrols in the mornings during arrival and dismissal.”

If the DHS does not remove the sex offenders in a timely fashion, Wills said he will file a lawsuit.

“I can’t let the residents of my district  fall under false promises or governing by rhetoric,” Wills said. “At the same time, I cannot allow people who have actually served their time but are under supervision be placed in jeopardy also.”

The DHS did not immediately respond to The Courier’s request for comment.


Councilman Wills once again indicted on corruption charges

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

File photo

Councilman Ruben Wills is racking up quite a rap sheet.

The city councilman, who had already been indicted, was indicted again on Tuesday for charges alleging that he filed false financial disclosure reports. He pleaded not guilty.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli charged Wills with allegedly filing false documents about his finances to the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board. Elected officials in New York City must file these documents for public scrutiny and to guard against any potential conflicts between their personal and city business.

“Submitting false documents to the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board is a serious crime,” Schneiderman said.  “My office’s partnership with the comptroller is designed to combat corruption in the public sector, and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the public trust is not undercut by public servants who are not truthful in their disclosures.”

Schneiderman and DiNapoli charged Wills with five counts of the class E felony of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree. Schneiderman and DiNapoli claim that from 2011 to 2013 Wills purposely omitted certain financial dealings. If convicted, Wills faces up to four years in prison.

And the history between the state attorney and Wills goes back to 2014.

Back in May 2014, Wills, who represents the 28th District, which includes Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale and South Ozone Park, was indicted on charges by Schneiderman for allegedly stealing public campaign funds and using the cash for a Louis Vuitton handbag and shopping sprees at Nordstrom, Century 21 and other locales. He’s also accused of taking a $33,000 member item from since-convicted former state Sen. Shirley Huntley for his fake charity but pocketing most of it. Those charges are pending.


Councilman opens legal center in his Jamaica office aimed at helping immigrants

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Access to legal services, particularly for immigrants, just got a little easier in Jamaica thanks to Councilman Ruben Wills, who opened a new legal service annex in his Jamaica office for his constituents — and the services are all free.

“There had long been a glaring need in my district for free legal services,” Wills said. “To better meet the needs of my constituents as well as members of the greater community, I maximized their availability. In light of President Obama’s recent executive order on immigration, we fully expect a future surge in demand.”

The newly renovated space, which is located at 95-26 Sutphin Blvd., is just blocks away from Queens County Civil and Supreme Court. It has increased capacity to accommodate both an attorney and a paralegal or junior attorney. The office is working in part with CUNY Citizenship Now, which provides those visiting with assistance when navigating the legal process. Right now, legal services are provided three days a week at the office but this will increase to four in the coming months.

One of the residents already helped by Wills and the legal team came to the ribbon cutting ceremony on Jan. 8 to show his appreciation. Miguel Garcia, 70, came to the United States in 1969 from El Salvador. He was having issues getting his full citizenship. The major difficulty was a language barrier as he only spoke Spanish and didn’t fully understand the legal process.

He was helped by Rosanna Eugenio, a lawyer at the office, back in 2012 and was finally granted his full citizenship in 2013.


“Their help was great,” Garcia said through a translator. “I had no problems once I came here for help. Being a citizen feels great: I feel free and don’t have to worry anymore.”

Garcia is one of the 600 constituents in Wills’ district that was or is being helped by the program. The new program offers an immigration attorney two days a week and a general attorney two days a week.

Wills also said on Fridays, he is offering the office to those in his council district who need a place to study for their legal exams if they are choosing a career path in law.

“Free legal assistance is vital to the community’s well-being,” Assemblywomen Vivian Cook said. “This expansion will aid more of our constituents at a faster rate and produce better outcomes.”


Councilman Ruben Wills arrested on corruption charges

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Updated 2:25 p.m. 

Councilman Ruben Wills was arrested Wednesday after a corruption investigation discovered he allegedly stole public campaign funds and state grant money.

The Queens politician, who represents the 28th District, which includes Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale and South Ozone Park, was indicted on charges of grand larceny, scheme to defraud, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing, according to the indictment.

Jelani Mills, a relative who works for Wills, and allegedly helped him redirect some of the cash, was also indicted Wednesday on charges of grand larceny and falsifying business records.

Wills is accused of stealing from both the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.

He is charged with redirecting $11,500 in matching funds he received from the CFB during his 2009 City Council campaign–with the help of Mills–to New York 4 Life, a nonprofit Wills started, and using the money for personal purchases, according to court documents. Wills allegedly bought a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag at Macy’s, among other items.

The councilman had been under investigation by the attorney general for $33,000 in state funds provided through a grant that was unaccounted for after it was given to New York 4 Life, according to published reports and the attorney general’s office.

Those funds were earmarked by former state Sen. Shirley Huntley while Wills was serving as her chief of staff.

New York 4 Life signed a contract with OCFS to receive that money, promising to conduct four public service projects, officials said, but the nonprofit allegedly only came through on one program that cost about $14,000. Wills is accused of pocketing the remaining $19,000 and using it for political and personal expenses, including purchases at Nordstrom’s and Century 21.

Huntley was arrested in a unrelated case in August 2012 and later pleaded guilty for covering up money funneled through a nonprofit she helped establish. It was revealed last May that Huntley had secretly recorded the conversations of seven elected officials, including Wills, while she was still in office at the request of federal prosecutors.

“The City Council takes these troubling allegations from the New York State Attorney General very seriously and will be reviewing them thoroughly, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “New Yorkers expect and deserve a government that is ethical and responsible and that is the standard we’re seeking to uphold.”

Wills, who was first elected to the Council in a 2010 special election, has been prohibited from doling out member items, or city funds, to his district, the Queens delegation chair and City Council speaker’s office will now designate them for him, reports and a source said.

He has also agreed to give up his chairmanship of the Council’s subcommittee on drug abuse, according to published reports.

Wills, who did not enter a plea and was released without bail, said Wednesday he had no plans to resign, reports said.


Queens pol calls it quits on homeless experiment, but plans to try again

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News

Councilmember Ruben Wills took a dive into the lives of our city’s homeless to highlight hardships for those living in poverty, but called it quits after being diagnosed with pneumonia.

The councilmember began his journey to get a better look into the lives and struggles of the city’s population on the streets on Dec. 17.

“I knew for a fact going into it I would never understand the homeless situation, but I wanted to begin to develop an area of which I can begin to legislate,” Wills said.

His experiment contained various parts, he said, including sleeping on the streets, making enough money to eat and travel and gaining access to health care.

“The homeless situation goes beyond the primary factors that everyone understands. It goes beyond somebody losing their job,” he said.

The councilmember started at the Q6 bus shelter on Rockaway Boulevard and Baisley Boulevard, dressed in jeans, a sweater, a camouflage jacket, scarf and hat. He slept there before heading to a nearby Gulf gas station to “pump gas for change” for transportation costs.

Throughout his experiment, he continued to pump gas and also held open doors for spare change. He said he “didn’t beg” and discovered his fellow homeless “don’t want to sit there and beg for money, they would rather be equipped to work.”

However, his first night out, Wills went to the hospital and was diagnosed with pneumonia. After receiving antibiotics, he spent the night at the Staten Island Ferry terminal and continued his project the next day, but ultimately cut it short the night of Dec. 18.

“The experiment wasn’t for me to go out and die, it was for me to get a glimpse into the conditions they have,” he said.

After getting a doctors clearance, Wills plans to hit the streets once again and navigate the city’s homeless shelter system. He added other councilmembers want to join him, but did not say who.

In the new year, Wills hopes to call “immediate hearings” regarding policy for the homeless and hold open-panel discussions featuring those who “have gone through the homeless experience and survived.”

“To understand it after two days is impossible,” he said. “But at least I can have a glimpse of where we need to go for change.”



Councilmember Ruben Wills going homeless for three days

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

Councilmember Ruben Wills is stepping into the shoes of our city’s homeless, quite literally.

Tuesday morning, Wills began a three-day journey in which he intends to live the life of a homeless person and experience any hardships firsthand.

“He’s really going all out,” said a spokesperson for Wills. “He wants to get a perception of how people would react to him.”

The councilmmember started his experiment at the Q6 bus shelter on Rockaway Boulevard and Baisley Boulevard, dressed in jeans, a sweater, a camouflage jacket, scarf and hat. He slept there before heading to a nearby gas station to “pump gas for change” for transportation costs.

In between hours of pumping gas, Wills went to eat at a local soup kitchen. Tuesday evening he was on his way to the South Ferry Terminal, where he plans on spending the night.

Tomorrow, Wills is going to try and get into a local homeless shelter and the next day hopes to visit a hospital “to see how quickly they [admit] him and how they react to him,” said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson added that he does have a cell phone on him, but “we really had to force that on him.”




City Council passes Ozone Park rezoning

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the office of Councilmember Eric Ulrich

The City Council passed a change in Ozone Park’s zoning map Tuesday to reflect the neighborhood’s building patterns.

Now, the zoning mandates will reinforce the area’s one- and-two-family residential homes and direct new residential and mixed-use developments to more commercial locations.

“The new zoning enacted into law today will protect Ozone Park from overdevelopment and help create a more livable neighborhood,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who was born and raised in Ozone Park.

“It will also spur new modest development, especially in the commercial districts, thereby creating jobs and increasing property values,” he continued.

The rezoning is bounded by Rockaway Boulevard, Atlantic Avenue and 101st Avenue to the north; the Van Wyck Expressway and Lefferts Boulevard to the east; the Belt Parkway to the south; and the Brooklyn borough line to the west.

This marks the second largest rezoning in Queens, changing the map for roughly 530 blocks in Ozone Park. The vote was prompted by concerns from Community Boards 9 and 10 as well as local civic organizations and elected officials.

“Out of character structures and overdevelopment has become far too common in our communities,” said Councilmember Ruben Wills. “That is why it was important that we undertook these aggressive measures to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods.”



Councilmember Ruben Wills re-elected to City Council

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Incumbent Councilmember Ruben Wills will continue on through another term in the 28th City Council District.

Wills beat out attorney Hettie Powell, Reverend David Kayode and Eugene Walter Evans for the seat with almost 50 percent of all votes.

After being elected to the City Council in a 2010 special election, Wills has been hard at work throughout Jamaica, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Rochdale.

He wrote and introduced the Communtiy Violence Prevention Act, which established the city’s responsibility to stem the rise of violence in vulnerable communities. He also co-sponsored the Community Safety Act, aimed at ending discriminatory NYPD stop and frisk policies.

Wills as well has provided nearly $2 million in support of local community groups, after-school and youth programs and senior services.

His political experience goes back to 2003, when he was a special assistant to Councilmember Leroy Comrie and later became chief of staff to former State Senator Shirley Huntley.

Primary guide: City Council District 28

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


As the clock ticks closer to city primaries on Tuesday, September 10, The Courier would like to provide you, the reader and the voter, with a fair, detailed guide of who is running. Here is a list of the City Council District 28 primary candidates (Jamaica, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Rochdale), who they are, what they stand for and what they want to continue to do if they go on to the general election in November.

Name: David Kayode

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: Minister at Maranatha Baptist Church and Counselor-Addiction Treatment, DHS NYC

Personal Info: Kayode has lived in Queens for over 20 years and has dedicated his life to being an advocate for public service and human welfare. He is contesting for the seat in his firm belief that he can serve the people of Queens as a councilmember better than his current position as a Counselor in the NYC Department of Social Services, in that he will be provided more opportunity to access to reach out to an even broader spectrum of individuals. He has been an activist all of his adult life serving people of New York City in all aspects of life including and not limited to the welfare of people. He also had a great and humbling opportunity to serve as a Legislative Aide to the Late Councilman White who held the same seat he is contesting for until his sudden death in 2010.

Platform/Issues: His platform includes getting sustainable jobs and economic developments; access to quality education and healthcare; tax breaks, incentives and opportunities for small businesses; foreclosures prevention and mortgage remediation; access to enhanced services for senior citizens and also implementing better programs and centers for youth development.

He especially would like to tap the city’s economic power to end poverty. The city can use its economic leverage to insist that recipients of tax breaks and economic development subsidies create family-sustaining jobs. This can be achieved by requiring businesses receiving financial incentives to provide living wage jobs that include benefits and training. He would also require businesses that receive assistance from the city to implement labor/management training programs to ensure career ladders for workers.

Name: Hettie Powell

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: Attorney with the Queens Law Associates

Personal Info: Powell has lived in the community for 31 years, is president of the Rochdale Village Cooperators and started the Rochdale Village Youth Council.

Platform/Issues: In office, Powell will fight to keep schools open and provide resources, including programs for children with special needs. Powell will fight to create good, living wage jobs and ensuring that small businesses get help to expand and hire within the community. Powell will fight for more affordable housing in the district and help homeowners facing foreclosure stay in their homes. Powell will additionally work to open the senior centers and make sure the funding is available to keep open the existing centers.

Name: Ruben Wills

Party: Democrat

Current Occupation: Incumbent 28th District Councilmember

Personal Info: Councilmember Ruben Wills was born in southeast Queens and raised in the South Jamaica Houses. He is a product of the New York City public school system, graduating from P.S. 40 and Thomas Edison High School. He and his wife, Marcia, are active members of St. Alban’s Congregational Church.

Platforms/Issues: Wills is the co-sponsor of The Community Safety Act, a police reform legislative package aimed at ending the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policies. He also authored and introduced The Community Violence Prevention Act, which establishes the city’s responsibility to stem the rise of violence and improve outcomes in the most affected communities.

In office, Wills introduced and passed legislation to limit the number of homeless shelters clustered in one community board, has provided over $1.7 million to support local community groups, after-school and youth programs and senior services. He has also fought for and won the restoration of more than 1,000 daycare slots and negotiated the increase of even more Out of School Time slots for elementary and middle school children.




Bill would disperse homeless shelters evenly throughout each borough

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Queens shelters may soon be finding new homes.

Councilmembers Ruben Wills and Leroy Comrie started work in 2011 on a bill that would disperse homeless shelters evenly throughout each borough. Wills said research revealed that Community Board (CB) 12 contains 10 of the 18 shelters in all of Queens. CB 12 includes Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens, Baisley Park, Rochdale Village and South Jamaica.

“The DHS [Department of Homeless Services] is clustering all of these shelters,” Wills said. “All of these undesirable land uses are in certain community boards. We perceived that to be a huge problem.”

Under the bill, Wills and Comrie proposed limiting the number of shelters in any community board to one-third of the borough’s total.

Wills said placing shelters in one specific type of community, such as CB 12, is not in response to any increase in the homeless population.

“It is not fair that southeast Queens has the majority of homeless shelters in the borough,” Comrie said.

For the existing shelters, Wills suggested they make relocation plans so they and their residents are prepared to move when any site’s lease expires. He said it was important to put shelters in areas with convenient transportation.

The council pair proposed an additional bill under which the DHS would determine whether any shelter resident is a sex offender. If so, the department would notify the local community board, councilmember and police precinct. The department would also conduct mental health and criminal background assessments on all adults entering shelters. If passed, the bill will go into effect on January 1, 2014.



Field widening in City Council District 28 race

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Hettie Powell campaign website

The race for City Council District 28 is widening with a diverse range of candidates including Hettie Powell, a longtime lawyer hoping to get her chance in politics.

“Our community matters,” she said. “In these tough times, who you choose to represent you in the City Council matters.”

Powell, running on the Democratic ticket, is up against incumbent Ruben Wills, Beresford Simmons, civic leader Breina Payne, accountant Joseph Marthone, minister David Kayode and community advocate Christina Winslow.

For District 28, which encompasses the Richmond Hill and Jamaica sections of the borough, Powell is focusing on economic development, stability for seniors, youth services, education and community libraries.

“I share [the constituents’] vision for a meaningful educational experience for our youth and for fully funded services for our seniors, for a vibrant economy that provides jobs for those [who] need them and for a place where all can enjoy peace and prosperity,” she said.

Among her plans, Powell would like to establish homeowners’ assistance as well as foreclosure assistance programs, improve senior centers’ programs, create safe street programs, stop police brutality and create anti-gang initiatives. Additionally, she hopes to reduce school class sizes, fund art and sports programs, create industry and educational partnerships for students, restore school libraries and more.

Powell emphasized she believes in the southeast community.

“Elections matter. Our community matters,” she said. “Together, I believe we can create a better tomorrow.”



Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane


Friday: Overcast with thunderstorms and a chance of rain, then a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain in the afternoon. High of 84. Winds from the SW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Friday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and a chance of rain. Low of 70. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Free Outdoor Movie: “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted”

Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman are still fighting to get home to their beloved Big Apple. Their journey takes them through Europe where they find the perfect cover: a traveling circus, which they reinvent – Madagascar style. Bring a chair or blanket. Starts at 7:30 p.m. in Brookville Park. Rated PG. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

FDNY overpaid $1 million to company that maintains dispatch systems: John Liu

The FDNY dished out millions more in tax dollars than necessary because it mismanaged contracts with a tech company hired to repair and maintain dispatch systems, city Controller John Liu said Thursday. Read more: New York Daily News

Queens worker injured at house demo site

Fire crews on Thursday responded to a construction site in Queens after a worker fell into the basement of a home that’s being demolished. Read more: NY1

Queens Councilman Ruben Wills launches a push to promote cricket

Queens’ cricket craze could culminate in a standalone stadium, if one lawmaker has his way. Read more: New York Daily News 

Spike in tickets for bike riders

With the start of the Citi Bike Share program has come a spike in the number of tickets being issued for cycling violations. Read more: Fox New York

After DOMA ruling, surge in marriage applications in NYC

The city clerk couldn’t tell me exactly how many same-sex couples have been coming in since the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA but he said it has been quite an increase. Read more: Fox New York

Senate passes sweeping immigration legislation

The U.S. Senate approved a landmark immigration bill on Thursday that would provide millions of undocumented immigrants a chance to become citizens, but the leader of the House of Representatives said the measure was dead on arrival in the House. Read more: Reuters

Bible signed by Einstein sells for $68,500 in NYC

A Bible with an inscription from Albert Einstein has sold for $68,500 at an auction in New York City. Read more: AP

Richmond Hill program will alleviate litter

| mhayes@queenscourier.com


City officials, local merchants and the community are coming together in Richmond Hill to kick-start a program set to beautify the streets.

“We can only do so much, [residents] can only do so much, but together we can do a lot more,” said Iggy Terranova of the New York City Department of Sanitation (DOS).

Councilmember Ruben Wills has teamed up with the DOS, the Wildcat Service Corporation and local business owners to create a commercial corridor cleanup program in response to the illegal dumping and chronic littering around the area.

“Our merchants are stepping up and our community is coming together for advocacy,” said Wills at a press conference on Friday, November 30.

Through the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Wills’ office was able to secure the funds necessary to create such a program, which allowed the DOS to increase its pickups to three days a week, and the Wildcat Service Corporation to pick up along the commercial corridor on another two.

The Wildcat Corporation is a nonprofit organization that provides resources for New Yorkers to become economically independent, according to their website. They have joined the cleanup effort, organizing representatives to assist in litter clearing.

“Problem areas,” such as those along Liberty Avenue and Hutch Boulevard, have been made priorities.

“It’s a citywide problem,” said Terranova. “Litter is everywhere, and it’s not going anywhere unless people take responsibility for it.”

The DOS recommends simple fixes to the litter problem: keep your own area clean, regularly sweep the sidewalk, have your own sanitation receptacle and turn in an illegal dumper.

If the litter is not eliminated around a storefront, owners risk a $100 fine for the mess. This is also applicable to those caught improperly disposing of their trash.

The program also includes the DOS’s “Adopt-a-Basket Program,” in which any person, group, store operator or building manager actually claims a sanitation receptacle and is responsible for monitoring its usage. When the basket is three-quarters full, the adopter will be expected to remove the trash in a bag and leave it next to the basket for the DOS to service. A new liner will be placed in the basket as needed.

Councilmember Letitia James, Sanitation Committee chair, believes that the relationships being made between city and local organizations with local merchants should be valued going forward.

“At a time when everyone is focusing on Sandy recovery and there’s a deficit in the city budget, we need to look towards public-private partnerships,” she said.