Tag Archives: Scott Stringer

City comptroller sends back Pan American shelter contract


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Plans to make the former Pan American Hotel in Elmhurst a permanent homeless shelter hit a roadblock Monday when City Comptroller Scott Stringer refused to sign a city contract for its operation.

The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and the nonprofit group Samaritan Village previously agreed upon a five-year, $42.4 million contract formally establishing 79-00 Queens Blvd. as a permanent transitional housing shelter.

Stringer, however, sent the contract back to the mayor’s office as a result of concerns regarding conditions at the Pan American. The NY Daily News reported earlier this month that the shelter was suffering from vermin infestation. Last week, a fire also broke out in one of the units. There were no injuries reported, but the family in the affected unit was forced to relocate to another shelter.

The comptroller similarly voided a DHS contract for another shelter in Manhattan.

The comptroller vowed not to approve the contract until his office “receives assurances that anyone staying in these facilities will be safe” and “all outstanding violations and complaints have been corrected.”

“In March, the NYC Department of Investigation released a report that highlighted unacceptable living conditions in our city’s shelters and raised significant issues about how the Department of Homeless Services identifies and cures health and safety violations,” Stringer said in a statement. “We simply can and must do better on behalf of the 60,000 people, including nearly 25,000 children, who are under our care.”

The announcement came hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in Corona the creation of an inter-agency shelter repair squad designed to find and correct any violations in city homeless shelters.

Stringer applauded the mayor for the announcement and added he is looking forward “to working closely with this group to meaningfully change the way the city procures and operates our homeless shelters.”

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Build it Back: The story behind the frustration


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

OP-ED BY CITY COMPTROLLER SCOTT STRINGER

When Superstorm Sandy hit our city more than two years ago, the damage was more than we could bear: 48 New Yorkers died, thousands of homes were devastated and damages totaled more than $20 billion.

The continuing damage from the storm can be seen today in Breezy Point and the Rockaways, and many other communities in Queens that bore the brunt of Sandy’s winds and waves. Many neighborhoods have not been fully rebuilt and individual homeowners are still desperately seeking assistance.

This past week, my office released an audit of Build it Back, the city’s program designed to help victims repair or rebuild their homes after the storm. We looked long and hard at the data to try to determine why so few people had received the help they desperately needed from this program.

The problem had its roots in the immediate aftermath of the storm, when the city’s Housing Recovery Office (HRO) hired numerous contractors to manage the relief effort. We found that HRO paid $6.8 million to inexperienced consultants who were paid in full despite processing more than 5,000 applications for aid that were incomplete and had to be returned for additional information. The faulty application process increased delays in distributing benefits, wasted money and created mounting frustration for those seeking help.

Our audit also found that HRO authorized more than $245,000 for double billing of work that had already been completed. It paid $1.2 million for consultant hours submitted without hourly or weekly records and more than $74,000 for travel expenses that couldn’t be documented.
If the recovery was a field day for consultants, it was a nightmare for victims. Determined to rebuild their homes, many were routinely shuffled from one staff person at Build it Back to the next, most of whom were not familiar with their cases. A survey of applicants found that nearly half could not provide basic information about the program and many employees were not qualified to do the job they had.

The audit was enhanced by what we’d heard firsthand last year when we hosted six public hearings across the city in communities hardest hit by the storm, including Breezy Point and the Rockaways. Hundreds of victims told us heartbreaking stories about a recovery effort that ignored them, failed to provide basic information and delivered little or no aid. Our audit confirmed much of what they had to say.

The good news is that Mayor de Blasio’s administration has improved the program and progress has been made. By March of this year, some 29 percent of the people who applied for aid had at least selected the kind of relief for which they’re applying.

But problems remain. One of our most distressing findings is that several contractors who failed to help victims are still on the job, operating without formal contracts, largely unaccountable to city taxpayers. Without these contracts in place, we have little leverage over what their costs will be, and not enough transparency and oversight over how well they’re doing their job.

Our audit’s key recommendation is that the city must take the lead in disaster recovery. Contracting out our most crucial tasks means that profit can be put before people, which is exactly what happened after Sandy. That was unacceptable, and the message this audit sends to city leaders is that it must never happen again.

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Buildings Department approves revised Glendale shelter construction plans


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

While the battle over the proposed Glendale homeless shelter is far from over, the Department of Buildings (DOB) gave its blessing to the shelter’s revised blueprints.

The DOB approved on April 2 amended building plans to convert a long-defunct factory at 78-16 Cooper Ave. into a hotel with 70 dwelling units. In March, the agency approved plans for 103 units but quickly reversed course and withheld them for further review.

Issues stemmed from the previous classification of the site as “lodging,” but the revised plans approved on April 2 describe the building as a class B hotel. This change would allow operation of a hotel as-of-right, without requiring changing the location’s manufacturing zoning, which would involve a public review process.

The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) previously reached a five-year, $27 million agreement with the nonprofit Samaritan Village to operate a homeless shelter for up to 125 families at the factory site. Its owner, Michael Wilner, is reportedly leasing the site to Samaritan Village and is responsible for the factory’s renovation.

While construction may take place at the shelter site, the contract itself must be approved by City Comptroller Scott Stringer before it can be used as a homeless shelter. A spokeperson for Stringer told The Courier his office has yet to receive the contract, and therefore has yet to make the decision.

Meanwhile, the fight goes on for community activists opposed to the shelter’s opening. Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said in a phone interview the advisory body would file a formal challenge of the plans with the Buildings Department. The public has until about May 11 in order to officially file a challenge with the agency.

“We will do some consultations with attorneys and try to make the best of it,” Giordano said.

The Glendale Middle Village Coalition, a group of civic and business organizations, continues to raise funds for its legal challenges to the plan.

It previously filed an Article 78 proceeding against the DHS’ environmental assessment which determined that 78-16 Cooper Ave. — used for industrial manufacturing for decades and located adjacent to a chemical storage facility — is safe for reuse as a shelter.

The coalition hopes a judge’s ruling will force the DHS to perform an environmental impact study on the site, which could cost millions and take several years to complete.

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Op-ed: An equal shot at justice for all New Yorkers


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY NEW YORK CITY COMPTROLLER SCOTT M. STRINGER

New York City is — and always has been — a place of opportunity for immigrants. We are home to over 200 spoken languages, and the people who have come here from around the world helped build this city. We have welcomed them for hundreds of years.

Diversity is our greatest strength, but it must be protected and preserved. That’s why I was greatly concerned during a recent visit to the Bronx Housing Court to find that most signs were posted only in English. Translation services were lacking, and Help Centers did not provide services in enough languages.

This is exclusion of the worst sort — an insult to thousands of non-English-speaking New Yorkers who in many cases have come to Housing Court because they are threatened with eviction or foreclosure. Justice is hard to find in a courthouse that confuses the people it’s supposed to serve, and you shouldn’t lose a battle to save your home just because you have limited English proficiency.

Unfortunately that’s what too many New Yorkers are facing, not just in the Bronx but throughout the city. Immediately after my tour, our office visited Housing Courts in all five boroughs to examine the state of multilingual services, and we found similar problems.
In Brooklyn, the signs leading to interpreters are small and poorly marked. In Queens, signs offering interpretation services are only in English. In Manhattan, the first signs you see upon entering the courthouse are in English only.

In some courts, people wait hours for an interpreter. Sometimes they’re told to come back another day. As a result, hardworking New Yorkers are often pressured by landlord attorneys to cut deals in hallway negotiations — and to give up their rights — without the benefit of an interpreter. This is absolutely unacceptable, and it must end now.

Just as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that non-English-speaking residents have a right to bilingual education, we have an obligation to make sure that our courts provide services in more than one language. To achieve these reforms, I’ve sent a letter to Chief Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti, calling for improved language access and offering recommendations for important changes.

But we’re not stopping there. I’m joining forces with a coalition of housing rights and legal advocates, as well as with the City Council and Speaker Mark-Viverito, to push for improvements in all five boroughs. Because there is no time to wait when it comes to basic civil rights.

New York City is home to nearly 2 million people with limited English proficiency — and our judicial system is failing them. For too long, our courts have been nickel and diming New Yorkers who don’t speak English. I hope you’ll join with me in fighting for language access rights, so we can bring greater justice to our Housing Court.

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Stringer starts to make offers to settle flood claims


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

SALVATORE LICATA

The city comptroller has begun making offers to Lindenwood residents who suffered damaged to their homes due to the April 30 malfunction of the Spring Creek sewer facility, which is run by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.

“As of this week, the comptroller’s office has started making offers of settlements to flooding victims, while inspections of additional homes continue,” a spokeswoman from City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office said.

It was unclear how many offers were made or whether any were accepted.

Victims were urged by Stringer during a community meeting in May to make sure they filed claims.

“Engineers from his office moved swiftly through the area and inspected more than 100 homes alleged to be damaged by that flood,” the spokeswoman said.

 

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DEP prolonging wait for compensation in Lindenwood flooding


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

The Department of Environmental Protection has blocked compensation for Lindenwood homeowners whose homes were flooded after a screw-up at a plant run by the agency, residents charged.

The April 30 rainstorm, which caused major flooding to homes that border Spring Creek, was due to a malfunction in the Creek’s sewer overflow facility, operated by the DEP.

The agency has taken blame for the mishap but, despite the assurances of politicians, residents who were affected have yet to see any money from the government, which has many of them outraged.

“Where’s our check?” shouted residents to DEP officials at a meeting of the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association Tuesday night. “It’s your fault.”

The DEP went door to door handing out claim forms to the flood-affected residents. But the money cannot be disbursed until the DEP submits its final report assessing damages suffered and liability.

The agency sent Stringer a preliminary report on June 19, nearly two months after the flood.

The DEP said it needs to check the water elevations to see where the flooding occurred and said there may be further delay because of liability issues involving some independent contractors.

Until both issues are resolved, the DEP cannot fully assess who suffered from the flood and who is liable, said DEP Deputy Commissioner Vincent Sapienza.

Even though no claims have been looked at yet the DEP is still urging residents who have not filed one to do so immediately.

“There is a 90 day period after the storm to file a claim,” Sapienza said. He added that no matter how long the reports take to process this is the only way residents could possibly receive a compensation check.

Since the flooding occurred the DEP has changed protocol on how to handle large storms that may cause an overflow of the system, Sapienza said. They will now have workers at the facilities, such as the one at Spring Creek, who can override the computerized system and open the flood gates. This allows untreated water to flow into Jamaica Bay, which normally happens when the facility overflows, thus relieving the system.

 

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Queens Library board votes against turning over documentation


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The Board of Trustees of the Queens Borough Public Library voted against turning over all the records requested by the city comptroller’s office, sparking condemnation from politicians.

The vote, which took place on April 8, rejected a resolution submitted by members of the Board, and instead passed a resolution to release all requested financial documentation in accordance with a 1997 court-ordered agreement between the Queens Library and comptroller’s office.

The library, in a statement, defended the vote, saying it “believes in accountability and transparency.”

“The library has released all requested financial documentation in accordance with the court-ordered agreement of 1997. The audit rules have been the standard for several previous administrations. It appropriately includes audit authority over every dime provided by the city, fines and fees collected and book sale funds. As an additional layer of transparency, the library voluntarily provided access to the Worker’s Compensation Fund as requested.”

Additionally, the institution wrote to the city’s Independent Budget Office on Friday, requesting a review and analysis of its capital program, according to a library spokeswoman Joanne King.

In April, Comptroller Scott Stringer filed a lawsuit seeking to nullify the 1997 agreement, according to published reports. In late January, Stringer announced that he would perform a comprehensive audit of the city’s three library systems that would “examine a broad range of fiscal controls,” including the funding of capital improvements, the use of city tax levy funds and the oversight role of the library systems’ individual boards of trustees.

The announcement came after news reports revealed Queens Library President and CEO Tom Galante’s salary and that he spent nearly $140,000 to renovate his office, while many workers have been let go in recent years.

Borough President Melinda Katz penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio in March, asking him to suspend the ability of the library to spend any funds on renovations until the issues are resolved.

“No public entity is above the law. Parliamentary maneuvers may buy them some time, but rest assured that I am determined to make sure that taxpayers know how their money is being spent at this library system,” Stringer said.
Katz also criticized the Board of Trustees’ decision saying it “has put itself firmly on the wrong side of any resident of Queens who wishes to see their library run properly.”

 

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De Blasio announces Sandy recovery overhaul


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo: Ed Reed for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a major overhaul to speed up Sandy recovery Thursday, along with the release of a detailed report on the city’s response to the storm.

The report includes recommendations that are expected to provide financial relief to businesses and homeowners, and revamp current recovery programs, the mayor said, as well as details on the city’s infrastructure rebuilding and storm mitigation efforts.

“We can’t stand idly by as red tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks prevent far too many New Yorkers from getting the relief they need. That’s why, from day one, we prioritized more efficient recovery,” de Blasio said. “And now, we’ve laid out a blueprint to provide critical financial relief to homeowners and directly engage communities in the rebuilding process—all while continuing our work to ensure a stronger and more resilient New York.”

Part of the engagement process will involve appointing borough directors in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, who will have the authority to direct city agencies to increase community engagement and coordination, and bringing Build It Back staff directly into affected communities, according to the mayor’s administration.

“These latest announcements from the administration have brought new hope to many of our residents who have been displaced and are fighting to put their lives back together and move forward,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “My office will continue to focus resources on the issues and challenges still outstanding for these residents, so we may collectively find solutions.”

The report additionally highlights other improvements the mayor announced last month to Build It Back, a federally-funded program to assist those whose homes, offices and other properties were damaged by Sandy.

Comptroller Scott Stringer also just announced the formation of a Sandy oversight unit and an audit of the Build It Back program.

“It is critical to have an accounting of how government has responded to this event, and what we can do to better prepare for the future,” he said.

Stringer also said that he will be holding town hall meetings in affected neighborhoods during the upcoming months to get community input on what his office should be examining as it comes up with an audit plan of issues on the city’s Sandy response.

The meetings will include the following locations in Queens, with future town halls to be announced for June:

April 30, 6-8 p.m., Bay House, 500 Bayside Dr., Breezy Point

May 20, 6-8 p.m., Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 348 Beach 71st St., Arverne

For updates on town halls, click here.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Thursday: Mostly sunny. High 51. Winds ENE at 10 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Mainly clear. Low 36. Winds ENE at 10 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Happy Hour with QNSMADE & SingleCut Beersmiths

Come hang out at SingleCut Beersmiths in Astoria and try some locally made Queens craft beer. QNSMADE’s mission is to give a voice to the people that make up this borough and provide a space to bring together all the amazing things that are happening in the many pockets of Queens. With seven days left to go on its Kickstarter,  let’s come together and make this happen. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Police arrest man accused of making anti-Muslim statements toward teen on Queens bus

A man wanted for making anti-Muslim statements toward a 15-year-old girl aboard a Queens bus while spiting at the teen and threatening to punch her has been arrested, cops said. Read more: The Queens Courier

Bratton issues new guidelines for jaywalking stops 

Less than four months after officers started cracking down on jaywalkers in New York City, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is telling officers to use more discretion when stopping people who cross the street illegally, according to law enforcement sources. Read more: NBC New York

EXCLUSIVE: City Controller Scott Stringer launching audit of Build it Back Hurricane Sandy home re-building program

The City’s troubled Build it Back program, which has only served a handful of Hurricane Sandy victims since the 2012 natural disaster struck, is going under the microscope. Read more: New York Daily News

Plane evacuated at JFK Airport after bomb threat: officials

A plane was evacuated at John F. Kennedy International Airport Wednesday evening after a bomb threat was made, officials say. Read more: NBC New York

Contract talks heat up between transit workers, MTA

Transit workers came closer to making a deal with the MTA Tuesday more than two years after their labor contract expired, union sources told The Post. Read more: New York Post

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Snow, heavy at times, will become mixed with sleet or freezing rain this afternoon. Temps nearly steady in the mid 30s. Winds NE at 25 to 35 mph. 5 to 8 inches of snow and ice expected. Thursday night: A wintry mix this evening will transition to mainly snow overnight. Low 32. Winds N at 20 to 30 mph. Snow and ice accumulating 3 to 5 inches.

EVENT OF THE DAY: The Unlikely Ascent of Sybil Stevens

The Secret Theatre is pleased to announce a three week limited engagement of Kari Bentley-Quinn’s production of “The Unlikely Ascent of Sybil Stevens,” directed by New Voices Co-Director Christopher Diercksen. Main character Sybil Stevens is a Chicago-based flight attendant who finds her life completely changed when she is the sole survivor of a devastating plane crash, and has to deal with the unexpected aftereffects of both the crash and her newfound fame. The Secret Theater is located at 44-02 23rd Street in LIC. Shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday start at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $18. Through Feb. 23. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Cuomo says de Blasio pre-K tax plan is unfair to rest of state

Mayor de Blasio’s tax-the-rich plan to finance pre-kindergarten classes will be rejected in Albany because it’s unnecessary and would actually increase education inequality in the state, Gov. Cuomo declared Wed­nesday. Read more: New York Post

Million dollar luxury watch theft bust

High-end jewelry and watch stores were the target of a four-man crime spree that authorities say hit luxury stores in New York, New Jersey and Virginia for more than a million dollars of watches. Read more: Fox New York

Comptroller to de Blasio: Don’t get involved in arrests

City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Wednesday criticized Mayor de Blasio for personally intervening when a politically connected preacher pal was busted by cops — saying “the mayor shouldn’t be involved in any way when someone gets arrested.” Read more: New York Post 

Study: Mammograms do not improve survival rates in middle-aged women

The value of mammograms is being questioned by a comprehensive new study. Read more: CBS New York

Comedian Sid Caesar dead at age 91

Sid Caesar, a giant of the Golden Age of Television, has died. Read more: AP/CBS New York

 

City Comptroller Scott Stringer sits down with The Queens Courier


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

City Comptroller Scott Stringer sat down with The Queens Courier to discuss his first weeks in office and just where he plans to go from here.

“We hit the ground running,” he said. “It’s getting out and listening to what people say. If you want to do audits and identify people and agencies, you talk to people in the streets and get a very good idea.”

Stringer oversees the city’s $150 billion pension fund and also registers an average of 22,000 city contracts from every business concerning technology, to day care, to public housing.

For the start of his term, he has already audited public housing as well as the three separate public library systems.

He is a supporter of raising the minimum wage to $11 to accommodate the city’s price of living, and also an advocate for establishing a guaranteed revenue stream for universal pre-kindergarten. He believes in advancing public schools, namely in technology, to give students a fighting chance at a successful future.

Stringer has also made some changes internally intended to improve the efficacy of the comptroller’s office. He has proposed to ban placement agents, the “middle men” who have been involved in various past scandals, and brought in risk management professionals.

“I can’t audit an agency unless my own house is in order,” he said.

With The Courier,  Stringer covered borough-centric topics and expanded on how he plans to keep Queens, and the whole city, afloat financially.

“Nobody knows this city better than me,” he said.

 

What is your political background?

“Well, I haven’t told anyone this, but the first thing I wanted to be was a pro quarterback with the New York Jets. Then I realized early on by the age of 12, I was a little washed up,” Stringer said.

Stringer’s family had a foot in the political door when his mother ran for City Council. Growing up in Washington Heights, he thought “everyone was involved in government or politics.”

“I’m doing exactly what I always wanted to do,” he said. “The job of comptroller has never been more important [than] with this new government. I have the opportunity to work on issues I really care about.”

Stinger said the city’s economic issues are “really about civil rights and about moving everybody to where they have to be.”

“The challenge we face in the city [is] how do we bring everybody along economically,” he said.

The MTA has suspended No. 7-train service from Long Island City to Flushing for 22 weekends. What economic impact for local businesses do you foresee?

“When you have a large transportation project that in the long run will modernize the system, that’s something that’s goal-worthy,” Stringer said. “But when you don’t plan the reconstruction with the community, when you don’t partner with the businesses, you end up sacrificing people.”

“You’re sacrificing people in the name of progress, you can’t do it that way,” he said.

As comptroller, Stringer said he can “follow the money,” and make sure it is “being spent wisely.”

Additionally, he wants to “elevate this office so New Yorkers know when they want to bring an issue to my attention, they know what this office can do and what we’re going to do.”

The city Build it Back program for Sandy victims has tested the patience of many residents still trying to rebuild. How do you plan on monitoring those funds, as well as the $15 billion the city is set to receive in federal recovery funding?

During Stringer’s campaign, he proposed creating a Sandy Audit Bureau, designed specifically to watch every dollar designated for storm recovery. He has followed through and said he and the bureau will look at contractors and will be “laser focused” in making sure the money goes where it should.

“Where we find corruption or misuse of money, I want to make it very clear to everyone we will make referrals to law enforcement agencies based on our findings,” Stringer said. “The worst that can happen is you get hit by two hurricanes, because somebody took money or didn’t do the work they said they were going to.”

The comptroller is also working with Councilmember Donovan Richards and others involved with the Sandy Tracker, an online database monitoring recovery money coming in and out of the city.

He also said the administration should extend the deadline for Build it Back so more people can gain access to the recovery assistance program.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Tuesday: Mostly sunny this morning then becoming cloudy during the afternoon. High 19. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph. Tuesday Night: Cloudy. Low 17. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Tuesday Morning Music Club of Douglaston

Pianist Hannah Wang plays two compositions by M. Ravel and two compositions by C. Debussy. Expect a guest artist and post-concert sandwich lunch. Starts at 11 a.m. at the Douglaston Community Church, 39-15, Douglaston Pkwy., 516-466-4034.

Reports critical of MTA

Three recent reports on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority including an audit by the NY State comptroller show mostly bad news for customers using Metro North, LIRR and the subways. Read more: Fox New York

Comptroller Scott Stringer urges Albany to let NYC set own minimum wage

New York City should have the power to set its own minimum wage, city Comptroller Scott Stringer told legislators in Albany on Monday. Read more: CBS New York

Pols hold hearings to stop hooker trade at Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is a “sex-trafficking magnet,” a congressman leading the fight against such exploitation warned at a House hearing Monday. Read more: New York Post

NBC News poll: Pessimism defines the state of the union

As President Barack Obama enters his sixth year in the White House, 68 percent of Americans say the country is either stagnant or worse off since he took office, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Read more: NBC New York

Folk singer, activist Pete Seeger dies in New York

Buoyed by his characteristically soaring spirit, the surging crowd around him and a pair of canes, Pete Seeger walked through the streets of Manhattan leading an Occupy Movement protest in 2011. Read more: AP

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: A mix of clouds and sun during the morning will give way to cloudy skies this afternoon. High around 50. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph. Monday night: Cloudy skies. Low 42. Winds SSW at 10 to 20 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Oratorio Society of Queens Auditions

Experience the joy of choral singing. Reservations are required, call 718.279.3006. Temple Beth Sholom, 171-39 Northern Blvd., Flushing, 7:45 p.m., www.queensoratorio.org.

Rail agency developing train camera rule: senators

A federal rail safety agency plans to propose a rule that might require the installation of video cameras aboard trains to monitor drivers and record accidents or unsafe behavior, according to two U.S. senators who have pushed for the change. Read more: NBC New York

Bill de Blasio backing Mike’s fights in court

Mayor de Blasio is tossing his “tale of two cities’’ mantra out the window this week, as his Law Department begins defending two hallmarks of the Bloomberg legacy in court. Read more: New York Post

Stringer targets rich with bid to close tax hole

Scott Stringer, the Big Apple’s new comptroller, is ready to take another tax bite out of the city’s wealthiest business leaders. Read more: New York Post

Jewish groups gather to memorialize Ariel Sharon

Israelis from all walks of life are paying their final respects to Ariel Sharon. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Globes leader ‘American Hustle’ gets Oscar boost

The Golden Globes are typically Hollywood’s bawdiest awards show – “a wonderful mess,” said co-host Tina Fey of this year’s bash. But in the end, after all the boozy banter – some of it bleeped for broadcast – the 1970s corruption tale “American Hustle” got a very serious push toward Oscar glory, picking up three major awards. Read more: AP

De Blasio sworn in as 109th mayor of New York City


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos via NYC Mayor's Office Flickr/Official Photos by New York City Mayor's Office

Updated 1:30 p.m.

The Bloomberg era has ended and the de Blasio administration has begun.

New York City’s 109th mayor, Bill de Blasio, was sworn in during a ceremony at his Park Slope, Brooklyn home just after midnight Wednesday, followed by a formal inauguration on the steps of City Hall later that day.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman officiated the New Year’s Eve oath of office, which was also attended by the mayor’s wife Chirlane McCray, daughter Chiara and son Dante.

“From the beginning, this has been our family together reaching out to the people of this city to make a change that we all needed. I want to thank you for having brought us to this moment,” de Blasio said after taking the oath in front of his home.

“To everyone this is the beginning of a road we will travel together,” he added.

Former President Bill Clinton swore in de Blasio on the steps of City Hall with a bible once owned by former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

De Blasio previously served as a regional director in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration and managed Hillary Clinton’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign. Both endorsed de Blasio for mayor in the general election.

Before administering the oath, Clinton said it had been a “great joy” for his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and him to see de Blasio’s progress “because he has served with such passion and because he represents with his family the future of our city and the future of our country.”

Telling New Yorkers “our work begins today,” in his inauguration speech de Blasio pledged to expand the pay sick leave law, require big developers to build affordable housing, stem the tide of hospital closures, reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy and ask the wealthy to pay a little more in taxes to provide universal, full-day pre-k and after-school programs for middle schoolers.

“We won’t wait, we’’ll do it now,” he said.

“Let me be clear: When I said I would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it.” he added.

A thousand tickets were reserved for the general public to attend the public swearing-in ceremony, with de Blasio pledging that it would be an “inauguration for all New Yorkers.”

Several dozen New Yorkers from across the city were additionally invited to join the mayor on stage. The group included a Queens engineer who emigrated from Bangladesh, according to de Blasio.

Mayor de Blasio takes the subway with his family to his City Hall inauguration.

Queens resident and the 2014 New York City Youth Poet Laureate, Ramya Ramana, read an original poem at the inauguration, which she dedicated to de Blasio.

Ramana, a first generation Indian-American, grew up in the borough and recently won the New York Knicks’ Poetry scholarship to St. John’s University, where she is a first-year student, according to the mayor.

Letitia James, who is succeeding de Blasio as public advocate was also sworn in at City Hall Wednesday. The councilmember is the first woman of color to hold citywide office. Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President since 2006, was sworn in as city comptroller, replacing John Liu.

 

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Op-ed: Support programs that boost our economy


| oped@queenscourier.com

ASSEMBLYMEMBER NILY ROZIC

One by one, each student marched his way up to the front of the room to receive certificates of completion, each with a sense of accomplishment and hopefulness. One by one, each member of the cohort recounting stories of the past couple of weeks that gave them a second chance.

It was the workforce development initiative of the Queens Botanical Garden and LaGuardia Community College that made these second chances possible.

Unlike some traditional programs that lack strong ties to industry, workforce development programs often accelerate job creation because workers acquire precisely the kind of skills businesses need to expand. Today, examples like those of the Green Jobs Training Program include sustainable landscape design and maintenance, waste management, and other similar green practices.

More recently, the Robin Hood Foundation provided funding to create a workforce development program run by AAFE and One Flushing to recruit and assist those ready to enter the workforce. It is a welcome partnership that will enhance the growth and success of our local Flushing community.

Beyond that New York needs to implement creative ways to retain the talent we have. This year, I sponsored legislation that was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo making New York a national leader in workforce development and job training. I have also introduced legislation supported by Comptroller-elect Scott Stringer that would continue our economic growth and create quality jobs by investing in our engineering workforce. The financial aid program for engineering students who commit to staying in the city for five years after graduation is a smart investment to bolster an innovation economy and prepare our workforce for the 21st century.

This year’s budget also focused on workforce development and new industries in every community. Cuomo pushed for programs including innovative “Hot Spot” incubators, the Venture Capital Fund, and job linkage initiatives that push our state’s ideas, create new businesses, and train our workforce for jobs of tomorrow.

Queens is one of the most diverse counties in the entire country and it needs a government that can embrace and harness that to power its economic engine. We need to keep creating ways to support programs that boost our economy. The task for our next administration will be to help more of the city’s workforce develop the skills to obtain jobs—and more importantly careers—in sectors that are growing and expanding.

That is what I am determined to champion to do in next year’s legislative session—to be a champion of minority-owned and women-owned small businesses, provide resources to assist local businesses flourish, and forge better partnerships between private and public entities. There has never been a better time to support these pathways and programs that ultimately help our most critical economic resource–our workforce.

Assemblymember Nily Rozic represents New York’s 25th District, which spans the northeast portion of Queens, including the communities of Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Hillcrest, Fresh Meadows, Oakland Gardens, Bayside, and Douglaston.

 

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