Tag Archives: Senator Michael Gianaris

Parents, pols oppose temporary relocation plan for P.S. 11 students


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A group of Woodside parents is sending the Department of Education (DOE) back to the drawing board.

Congressmember Joseph Crowley gathered with other local elected officials and parents of students from P.S. 11, located at 54-25 Skillman Ave., to voice their disagreement with the DOE’s final recommendation of sending the school’s kindergarten and first grade students to P.S. 171 in Astoria.

The temporary relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, comes as the School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

“I commend the DOE and the SCA for allocating millions of dollars towards this expansion,” Crowley said. “At the same time, though, we must ensure that our children, especially our youngest elementary students, are not displaced to a school outside of the confines of their own neighborhood.”

Last month, the elected officials sent a letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña urging her to reconsider the proposed plan.

According to the DOE’s proposal, the incoming kindergarten class and some first grade students would be transported by bus to P.S. 171, close to three miles away from their zoned school. Then for the 2015-16 school year the children would be relocated to a new elementary school located at 39-07 57th Street. For the third year, the students would then return to P.S. 11.

Woodside parent Julianne O’Riordan currently has a daughter in second grade and a son in kindergarten at P.S. 11, and her youngest son is expected to start kindergarten at the school next year.

“For the first three years of school he’s going to be moved around Queens like a piece on a chess board,” said O’Riordan, about her youngest son, Enda. “We love P.S. 11, its principal, teachers and staff. That is why we are upset that our younger children may not get to have the same wonderful experience that our daughter has enjoyed.”


Enda,4, and his 5-year-old brother Luke will have to go to P.S. 171 next year. (Photo Courtesy of Julianne O’Riordan)

Although the group of parents and elected officials are thrilled to be getting an expansion for the crowded school, they are calling on the DOE to look at different options that would keep the children in the community.

“Taking these kids and moving them miles away to school is going to damage their education and slow them down in their progress and it’s something we impose upon the [DOE] to fix, and fix before it becomes a problem,” State Senator Michael Gianaris said.

Throughout the process of deciding the best course of action during the estimated three year construction, consideration was given to every possible option, according to the DOE.

“Our aim is to deliver a state-of-the-art addition to the building, and as part of our newly announced engagement protocol, we will be scheduling a meeting with the entire school community,” said DOE spokesperson Harry Hartfield.

 

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MTA plans to help promote LIC during No. 7 train suspensions


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of MTA New York City Transit / Leonard Wiggins.

Although the MTA cannot put a stop to the suspensions expected for the No. 7 train, the agency plans on working to help promote Long Island City.

After a closed preliminary meeting with elected officials and community leaders on Thursday, the MTA said it is willing to work with the community to create a marketing campaign for the neighborhood during the upcoming shutdowns.

Between Feb. 28 and July 21, there will be 13 weekend suspensions. Those dates are finalized but the agency also plans on holding nine tentative weekend shutdowns August through November.

“In terms of what we are more than willing to do is to work with the elected officials and the business owners on a marketing campaign for area businesses in Long Island City,” said MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz.

The campaign would include “pretty robust presence” at subway stations with brochures in different languages, posters, a homepage banner and information on the digital urban planners, said Ortiz.

The agency is also considering doing a two-side branded MetroCard with information on Long Island City.

In regards to the option offered by elected officials to have a shuttle bus service into the city, the MTA does not plan on implementing it because it is not a “viable alternative,” said Ortiz. 

He added that it is quicker for the vast majority of passengers to take the E, N or Q lines into Manhattan and people will still be able to get into Long Island City. 

“It’s just going to take a little bit longer,” said Ortiz. 

Elected officials have also asked for ferry service to be increased during the time of the suspensions, but Ortiz said that option would have to be addressed by the city and the New York City Economic Development Corporation

Ortiz added that the suspensions need to happen in order for certain tracks to be replaced to prevent future problems and increase the number of trains running on the No. 7 line. 

The MTA plans to work together with the elected officials to hold meetings with the community. The dates are yet to be determined.

 

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Queens pols hold coat drive with nonprofit New York Cares


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Costa Constantinides' Office

With the winter still in full force, a group of elected officials are making sure those in need across the city are staying warm.

Together, Councilmember Costa Constantinides, Senator Michael Gianaris, and Assemblymembers Aravella Simotas and Michael DenDekker have collected a total of about 100 coats at their district offices for people in need across the city.

“It is important during this cold season that we provide help to those in need,” said Constantinides. “It’s an honor to work with a great organization like New York Cares. My colleagues in the state government and I look forward to collecting warm coats for those who need it most.”

The lightly-used winter coats were donated by members of the communities surrounding the district offices and the gathering of coats is in collaboration with the nonprofit New York Cares.

“Having recently experienced record low temperatures, I know we all appreciate the dangers freezing weather poses to our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Gianaris. “Let’s work together to keep our fellow New Yorkers warm this winter.”

 

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Pols, leaders meet with MTA to begin dialogue on No. 7 train suspensions


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

After local elected officials and community leaders met with the MTA Thursday, the agency plans on making no changes to the No. 7 train suspension, but is looking to reach out to the community.

State Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer were among those who spoke with MTA officials during the closed preliminary meeting to discuss the upcoming shutdowns to the subway line. 

Between Feb. 28 and July 21, there will be 13 weekend suspensions. Those dates are finalized but the agency also plans on holding nine tentative weekend shutdowns for August through November.

Thursday’s meeting was not opened to the public but some members of the Long Island City community stood outdoors in order to show their concerns.

The MTA offered to continue the conversation with the community by coming out and holding a meeting to explain the details for the suspensions, according to Gianaris. The date of that meeting is yet to be determined.

“It’s better that they are listening to our input. But it’s only valuable if it leads to change,” Gianaris said. “We hope that the MTA will not just listen to our concern but actually do something about it. Today was the beginning of a process to test if they’re willing to do that.”

Although the MTA expressed the willingness to reach out to the community, the senator said the agency did not agree on bigger issues such as those related to improving the service or providing more substitutes.

For example, one substitute that was shot down by the agency was Gianaris’ suggestion to offer a shuttle bus from Vernon Boulevard through the Queens Midtown Tunnel into the city.  

“The limited good news is that they are engaging in a dialogue with the community on what is needed,” Gianaris said. “The not-so-great news is when we expressed what the community needs, we didn’t get that far. But the dialogue will continue.”

The MTA previously said the latest round of work is expected to modernize, improve and fortify the Flushing No. 7 line. The work will also include tunnel duct reconstruction and replacement and improvements on components damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

 

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Pols call for Northern Boulevard to be included in mayor’s Vision Zero initiative


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Local politicians and residents are saying the time to act is now, before another innocent life is taken on Northern Blvd

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer gathered with other elected officials and traffic safety advocates Thursday to call for Northern Blvd. to be added as one of the 50 locations in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative

“We are all committed to Vision Zero, and it is our obligation to speak up and stand up every single time pedestrians are killed or injured as a result of reckless driving,” said Van Bramer, who has developed a list of locations with traffic fatalities. “We’re calling for the administration to include Northern Boulevard, and really all over Northern Boulevard, stretching into Jackson Heights and Corona, deserve this recognition.”

The group gathered at the intersection of Northern Blvd. and 48th St. in Woodside, where four pedestrians were stuck Saturday while they were waiting for the bus. One of the victims was a 7-year-old girl who suffered a skull fracture but survived. 

“Here we go again,” said Senator Michael Gianaris, who introduced a bill in the Senate, which would charge drivers who continue to drive without a valid license and are in an accident that causes serious injury or death with vehicular assault.

“Until we begin taking pedestrian safety seriously, we are going to keep standing at more and more press conferences talking about the same issue and we hope we don’t have to do it too many more times,”  he said.

Last month, de Blasio and his administration launched an interagency working group, together with the NYPD, Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Taxi & Limousine Commission, to implement a Vision Zero initiative aiming to reduce traffic fatalities to zero within the next 10 years.

The announcement took place just less than a block from where third-grader Noshat Nahian, who was on his way to school, was fatally struck in December by a tractor trailer on Northern Blvd. and 61st St.

The working group will come together to implement the mayor’s plan by developing a report, due to the mayor by Feb. 15 and released publicly, that will serve as a blueprint for the mayor’s “Vision Zero” plan for safer streets through the city.

“Clearly Northern Blvd. deserves this recognition and we are asking the administration to include this series of intersections on Northern Boulevard so no child is ever killed trying to cross the street going to school,” said Van Bramer. “This is a street. For some, they may think it’s a highway, but the truth is there are people living, working and going to school all along Northern Blvd. and it has to be just as safe as any other street in the city of New York and until it is so, we will not rest.”

 

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Growing Up Green Charter School to welcome new middle school to LIC


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Educational Network

Education in Long Island City is getting a much-needed expansion.

The Growing Up Green Charter School, located at 39-27 28th St., will officially be a middle school by 2015.

In September, the facility will welcome 6th graders in a new building, and the following year, will grow to include the 8th grade, bringing a brand new middle school to the area and District 30.

“[I am] very, very excited,” said Matthew Greenberg, principal of the Growing Up Green Charter School. “I think that District 30 needs an additional solid middle school that will give parents additional choices for their children.”

The school, which is slated to open in September, will be located close to the 28th Street location, but a building is yet to be determined, said Greenberg. It is expected to accommodate about 90 students in the upcoming 6th grade class, and a total of about 270 students by 2015.

“As more and more New Yorkers come to western Queens to raise their families, having enough classroom seats to provide a good education is essential,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “Our schools are already stretched too thin, which is why I am pleased with the addition of a middle school at a successful institution like Growing Up Green, and why I will continue fighting to guarantee educational resources in western Queens keep up with development.”

Growing Up Green Charter School is an independent public charter school for K-5,  founded in 2009, which focuses on empowering students “to be conscious, contributing members of their community through a rigorous curriculum and engaging in green culture.”

“For five years Growing Up Green has made meaningful contributions to western Queens. Their curriculum has continued to engage countless students making them active members in our community’s efforts to protect our environment,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. With the addition of a new middle school Growing Up Green will be able to expand the positive impact it has on our neighborhoods and educate even more youth about the importance of contributing to their communities.”

There will be two open houses for those interested in applying to the new middle school. The first will be held on Saturday, March 1 at 1 p.m. at the charter school, and the second will be on March 22 at Long Island City Library, at 37-44 21st St. Applications are available here.

 

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Pols, residents call on de Blasio to help clean up Astoria


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Assemblymember Aravella Simotas' Office

Local elected officials are calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to help clean up Astoria.

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilmember Costa Constantinides are continuing their call for cleaner streets as residents voice their concerns on trash. 

The leaders are asking de Blasio to increase trash pick-up in the area, which currently only gets one overnight pick-up every day from Monday through Saturday. The additional pick-ups would take place between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., during which most of the trash is accumulated, according to the elected officials.

“Residents have continued to contact my office regarding the deplorable levels of trash strewn about the streets,” Simotas said. “We have asked the mayor for an additional pickup service for the public waste baskets along Astoria’s busy commercial streets. Inaction on this issue is unacceptable.”

Local elected officials and residents gathered in September on the corner of 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria to rally for future plans to clean the streets of the growing neighborhood.

“I’ve heard from residents time and again about the depth of their frustration over how dirty our streets have become,” said Constantinides. “Overflowing trash baskets end up littering our streets and impacting our quality of life, forcing residents to jump over garbage on their way to work. Business owners are also forced to attend to litter outside their doors rather than to their patrons. Additional pick-ups will make our streets substantially cleaner.”

 

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Costa Constantinides sworn in as District 22′s new councilmember


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Costa Constantinides' Office

Councilmember Costa Constantinides is ready to work for his community.

The freshman legislator celebrated his inauguration Sunday at Long Island City High School as the new District 22 councilmember, representing Astoria, and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

Constantinides was sworn in by former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., and Councilmember James Gennaro was the emcee of the ceremony. Constantinides previously served as deputy chief of staff for Gennaro.

“Today marks not just a transfer in power, but an inauguration of a new era in our city, an era that will be defined by a revitalized sense of civic participation and engagement,” said Constantinides. “We will ensure that the levers of city government are once again working to lift up our homeowners, tenants, small business owners, and everyone struggling to get by.”

During his inaugural address, Constantinides spoke about his goals for the district, including cleaner and safer streets, better health care, more transportation options. The councilmember also shared his stories on growing up in Astoria, from playing basketball with State Senator Michael Gianaris, back in the day, to meeting his wife on Steinway Street.

The inauguration ceremony also featured the LIC High School JROTC Color Guard, the high school’s marching band, dance class, chamber choir and refreshments by the culinary class and greek restaurant Zenon Taverna. The Greek-Cypriot Dance Pancyprian Association Youth Dance Division also performed.

“All that I have I owe to the combined efforts and the sterling example of our community, without which the course of my life would have been profoundly different,” said Constantinides. “I know that we can accomplish great things when we come together because I have lived it my entire life.”

 

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Victims’ families, pols gather to support Vision Zero


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Many teary eyes were focused on “Vision Zero” during recent rallies in Queens.

Supporters of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call to reduce traffic fatalities to nil gathered Sunday at a candle light vigil on the corner of Wyckoff and Myrtle Avenues in Ridgewood, where 23-year-old Ella Bandes was struck and killed by a city bus a year ago.

Politicians, advocacy groups, friends and families of victims called for safer streets and more responsible drivers during the event, which paid tribute to Bandes and many others.

“What we’ve been through in the past year is such a nightmare,” said Judy Kottick, Bandes’ mother. “Losing your child is the worst thing that could happen to anyone. We just don’t want anyone else to go through this.”

There have been nearly 20 auto-accident related fatalities in the city since the start of 2014.

People at the rally wanted drivers to be more aware of pedestrians and avoid breaking traffic laws. They also asked for support for Assemblymember Dan O’Donnell’s bill, which would lower the NYC speed limit to 20 mph from 30 mph, except where the City Council determines a different speed is appropriate.

Before the candle light vigil, supporters of “Vision Zero” rallied on Grand Avenue and 69th Place in Maspeth in honor of Angela Hurtado, who was killed at the intersection when a driver with a suspended license struck her on Jan. 18.

Transportation advocacy group Make Queens Safer called for support for State Senator Michael Gianaris’s bill, which would charge drivers who continue to drive without a valid license and are in an accident that causes serious injury or death with vehicular assault. It would be a class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

“The people we are talking about have had their licenses suspended because they’re already known to be bad drivers, and the faster and easily we could make it for law enforcement to take them off the street, the better,” Gianaris said.

 

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LIC community voices outrage against upcoming No. 7 train suspensions


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Long Island City residents and business owners are telling the MTA enough is enough.

The No. 7 train will soon be going through another round of suspensions causing it to not run in parts of western Queens and Manhattan for more than a dozen weekends this year, starting in the end of February, according to a notice from the MTA.

This news again upset residents, business owners and local politicians who gathered in front of the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue subway station on Friday to tell the MTA they are fed up with the constant disruptions and the lack of notice.

“Real people’s lives are affected in real ways here, this is not a game,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “This is about human beings, they’re trying to survive and the MTA is trying to kill us. We’ve got to stop this now.”

From February through July, there will be 13 weekend suspensions. Those dates are finalized, the transit agency said. There are nine tentative weekend shutdowns scheduled for August through November.

Business owners are tired of potential financial losses, residents are sick of longer commutes and local politicians just want the MTA to finally listen to their ideas and communicate with the neighborhood.

“It outrageous and all we are asking for is the opportunity to be heard, to present some common sense ideas that we have presented to them year after year after year,” said Senator Michael Gianaris, who has suggested the MTA offer a shuttle bus from Vernon Boulevard through the Queens Midtown Tunnel into the city. “The MTA needs to listen to us once and for all.”

Rebecca Trent, LIC resident and owner of The Creek and The Cave on Jackson Avenue, said the area has grown by 500 percent and the suspension will only make business owners’ jobs harder.

“I don’t know how I’m going to survive this, I do not know and neither do many of my neighbors,” Trent said holding back tears. “What they are trying to do to this neighborhood is disgusting, we deserve better, enough is enough.”

Along with the shuttle service through the Midtown tunnel, Trent also said that in order to compensate the Long Island City community for the “irresponsible shutdowns,” the MTA should give local businesses, who will suffer, free ad space at the E and G subway stations and on the trains.

Richard Mazda, artistic director for The Secret Theatre, said he has had to put up with the disruptions to his business every single year and has faced problems during the annual LIC Arts Open festival, with artists and friends not being able to attend.

“You must have known that you were going to do this work, you have stage managed the release of this information so that we couldn’t fight you, but we will,” Mazda said to the MTA. “This is like the worst movie you have ever seen.”

The latest round of work, including continued installation of Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC), replacement of critical track panels and reconstruction inside the Steinway Tube under the East River, is expected to modernize, improve a fortify the Flushing No. 7 line, according to the MTA. The work will also include tunnel duct reconstruction and replacement and improvements on components damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

“We understand that these service disruptions are inconvenient to the customers who depend on the No. 7 train and we appreciate their patience,” said MTA NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco. “We have made every effort to schedule these project simultaneously to get as much work done as we can during these periods.”

 

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DOT, NYPD announce nighttime closure of Queensboro Bridge outer roadway lane to reduce speeding


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ File Photo

A few weeks following the fatal accident of an off-duty police officer off the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and NYPD have implemented a new change looking to increase safety for drivers and pedestrians.

The DOT and NYPD announced on Tuesday the single lane of the Queens-bound outer roadway of the Queensboro Bridge will be closed each day to vehicular traffic from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., starting Monday, Dec. 30.

The nighttime closure hopes to reduce the possibility for speeding and any other dangerous driving at night when the lane is not being used. All traffic capacity on Queens-bound inner and upper roadway lanes will not be affected.

“This upgrade to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge is just the latest step we’ve taken to keep the more than 180,000 daily drivers crossing safely on one of the city’s most iconic bridges,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

The daily closure and reopening of the outer roadway lane will be organized by NYPD traffic officers who are already stationed at the bridge to manage the weekday reversal of the two upper roadway Queens-bound lanes.

The closure comes after the DOT conducted a review of current safety measures, traffic volumes and travel speed following the death of 10-year NYPD veteran Elisa Toro, 36,  on December 10.

Toro was heading off the bridge’s exit ramp around 1:50 a.m. when she struck a guardrail, then a cement barrier, said police. The car then flipped onto its passenger side, hitting a vacant storefront on Queens Plaza South at Crescent Street  in Long Island City. Toro, a Bronx resident, was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was injured in the accident, said police.

“I applaud the DOT for finally giving this dangerous stretch of road the attention it deserves,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris who asked the DOT to improve traffic safety in the area and redesign the bridge’s exit ramp, after a series of accidents in 2011. “Hopefully, the nighttime closure of the Queens-bound outer roadway will provide the time for a proper evaluation of the street design coming off the Queensboro Bridge exit ramp so we can eventually solve this problem once and for all.”

According to the DOT, the outer-roadway closure joins other traffic measures installed by the Queens Plaza South exit ramp since 2011. The traffic measures include three 20 mph messages, “shark teeth” markings on the road, 14 yellow and 12 white 36”-by-8” aluminum-backed reflectors, four sets of rumble strips warning drivers they are approaching a reduced speed zone, and much more. Throughout the day, the agency plans to continue monitoring traffic volumes, safety measures and driving conditions on the bridge. 

 

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Pols call for law change after driver with suspended license fatally strikes Woodside boy


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO

Local elected officials are calling for a change in the law to prevent another child, like 8-year-old Noshat Nahian, from losing their life.

Noshat was crossing the street with his 11-year-old sister on the way to school at P.S. 152 in Woodside around 8 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 20 when a tractor trailer traveling southbound on 61st Street made a left turn onto Northern Boulevard, striking him with its rear tires, police said. He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The driver, Mauricio Osorio-Palominos, 51, of Newark, N.J., who remained on the scene of the accident, has been charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of motor vehicle and operating vehicle in violation of safety rules, police said.

Osorio-Palominos was driving with a suspended license with multiple violations on his record during the accident, according to State Senator Michael Gianaris.

In response, Gianaris gathered with local officials, residents and advocacy groups at the site of the accident Monday to introduce legislation that would make it a felony if drivers with suspended licenses either seriously injure or kill someone with their vehicle. Under current law, a driver like Osorio-Palominos could be charged with a misdemeanor.

“The law needs to get tougher,” said Gianaris. “Those who have suspended licenses are twice as likely to kill somebody or injure somebody, or twice as likely to have major accidents, the law has to catch up with the data, we just need to get these people off the streets.”

Gianaris has also proposed the immediate impoundment of a vehicle’s license plate if it were being operated by someone with a suspended license.

The new bill will be co-sponsored by Senators Toby Ann Stavisky and Jose Peralta and also supported by Assemblymember Michael Den Dekker, Congressmember Joseph Crowley and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

“I have an 8-year-old son and it could have been my child, it could have been my son that was hit that Friday morning,” said Peralta. “And we need to send a loud message not only to the city but to anyone who does this, who rides without a license, that this is not going to be acceptable.”

Advocate groups like Transportation Alternatives, Make Queens Safer and Woodside on the Move, are also looking to implement other safety measures like crossing guards, stalled green lights and much more.

“None of this should of happen, all of this could have been prevented,” said Van Bramer. “This school has been asking for a crossing guard at this location for months. [It’s] absolutely disgraceful that the administration did not provide the crossing guard when it was requested, when it was clearly needed. Anybody who has been on this street for more than five minutes knows that this requires a crossing guard.”

Advocacy group Make Queens Safer organized a traffic safety memorial and vigil at 61st Street and Northern Boulevard Sunday where Noshat’s family and hundreds of residents gathered to remember the 8-year-old and other victims of traffic fatalities.

 

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Community demands end to disruptive subway noise by Astoria school


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Local elected officials and the P.S. 85 community in Astoria want to put a screeching halt to subway noise.

State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. and Councilmember-elect Costa Constantinides joined community leaders, parents, teachers and students from P.S. 85 at a rally Tuesday to demand the MTA and Department of Education (DOE) alleviate noise problems created by the N and Q elevated subway line.

During the rally, speakers were constantly interrupted by a total of 16 trains that passed by in front of the school. Students, teachers and elected officials put up two fingers, a gesture used daily to pause school lectures, every time a train car passed.

“It is an unacceptable learning environment,” said Gianaris. “It’s been going on for decades and it’s something that shouldn’t be so difficult to fix as it apparently seems to be in the hands of the DOE and the MTA.”

Gianaris and Simotas sent a letter to both the MTA and DOE calling for the agencies to come up with noise reduction ideas, including installing soundproof windows, acoustic sound-absorbing tiles, rubber wheels on the trains, cushioning the rails with rubber pads, and putting up a sound barrier between the outdoor subways platform and the school.

“It’s hard enough to grab a child’s attention, but to have to do it over and over again is too much to ask. My father had acoustic tiles put in years ago, but times and technology have changed and more needs to be done,” said Vallone.

Vallone recently announced the MTA will be implementing a new technology on every train car on the N and Q subways lines, which will help reduce the noise of the air brakes at the lines’ last stop at the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard station.

According to students and teachers, during rush hour trains pass by every two minutes and during normal hours, every five minutes.

“It’s not fair to take any time away from their education,” said Farhan Mahin, a fifth grader and P.S. 85 student council president. “We want quiet now. This is our cause and we will not stand for anything else.”

According to Rebecca M. Bratspies, professor of law and director of The City University of New York School of Law Center for Urban Environmental Reform, a recent study revealed the sound noise in the P.S. 85 classrooms was close to 90 decibels, almost double the normal standard.

“The noise outside P.S. 85 is unfair to our children and does not supply them with a conducive learning environment,” said Constantinides, whose son attends P.S. 85. “We owe them better than the distracting environment they currently inhabit at PS 85.”

According to DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg, P.S. 85 is a high-performance school which received an A on its recent Progress Report and some classrooms already have acoustic tiles.

“Instruction is not being disrupted,” said Feinberg. “Some classrooms have acoustic tiles. The 1st floor has five rooms with acoustic tile facing the front of the building. The 2nd floor has three rooms plus the auditorium facing the front of the building. The 3rd floor has two rooms facing the front of the building. They are all facing the side of the building exposed to the train.”

Terminal switches for the Ditmars Boulevard subway station are located right by the school making the noise problem at the site hard to fix, according to MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz.

“These switches are scheduled for replacement in the next capital plan (2015-2019).  In the meantime, we have dispatched crews to tighten any loose bolts or joints that may contribute to noise,” Ortiz said.

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Pols call for redesign of Queensboro Bridge exit ramp after deadly accident


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Senator Michael Gianaris' Office

After an off-duty NYPD officer was killed when her car smashed into an exit ramp off the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, local elected officials are calling for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to put an end to deadly accidents.

Elisa Toro, 36, a 10-year NYPD veteran who was assigned to Manhattan’s 17th Precinct, was heading off the bridge’s exit ramp around 1:50 a.m. on Tuesday when she struck a guardrail, then a cement barrier, said police. The car then flipped onto its passenger side, hitting a vacant storefront on Queens Plaza South at Crescent Street.

Toro, a Bronx resident, was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was injured in the accident, said police. The investigation is ongoing.

Following a series of accidents at the same site in 2011, State Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and Assemblymember Catherine Nolan sent a letter to the DOT demanding the agency redesign the ramp and continue to improve temporary safety measures. These procedures would include higher barriers and other measures that could help lessen the danger for pedestrians and storefront, until the exit ramp is redesigned.

“No one else should have to die before the city realizes that this exit ramp is fundamentally unsafe,” said Gianaris. “We stood here two years ago asking for a complete redesign of the off ramp, and instead we got new signs and a couple barriers. The time for half measures is gone. We need a safer exit ramp before another tragedy occurs.”

Gianaris asked the DOT to improve traffic safety in the area and redesign the bridge’s exit ramp, after a series of accidents in 2011. But a redesign of the exit ramp was “ignored” and only “additional signage and minimal barriers” were added, according to Gianaris. The barrier, which was destroyed in a 2011 crash, was never replaced, he said, and could have protected the storefront in Tuesday’s accident.

“The east bound off ramp of the Queensboro Bridge is clearly a death trap,” said Van Bramer. “Cars are still flying off this bridge, into store fronts, and putting the lives of pedestrians and motorists in jeopardy. It is clear that the Department of Transportation has not done enough.”

 

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Long Island City lights up for the holidays


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer's Office

The Long Island City community came together to welcome the holidays and make the season bright.

Over 100 residents young and old gathered with local elected officials and community leaders on Tuesday night to celebrate the holidays by lighting festive snowflakes along Vernon Boulevard.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer worked together with JetBlue to a secure a $5,000 grant to bring the holiday lights to the thriving neighborhood.

The holiday celebration included Christmas carols sung by students from P.S. 78, led by Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, owner of Manducatis Rustica located at 46-33 Vernon Boulevard.

The night also included readings of special Christmas stories by the fireplace of LIC BAR, located at 45-58 Vernon Boulevard, and a performance by local jazz group, The Charlie Brown Christmas Trio.

 

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