Tag Archives: Senator Toby Ann Stavisky

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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Elmhurst vigil marks one month since Typhoon Haiyan


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Daniel Dromm's Office

A month after what is expected to be one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded hit the Philippines, the local Filipino community is coming together to remember those lost.

Local elected officials gathered Sunday with members of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) at St. James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst to mark the one month anniversary since Typhoon Haiyan hit, during a candlelight vigil, followed by an interfaith mass.

“My heart goes out to those individuals impacted,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “In the face of disaster it is encouraging to see communities pull together to lend support. Groups such as Taskforce Haiyan, which gives 100 percent of donations to the cause, are an integral step towards recovery.”

Haiyan affected many areas of Southeast Asia after making landfall on November 8 in the Samara province of the Philippines, then traveling through the central part of the country, according to reports. It then made its way into the South China Sea, striking Vietnam, but as a much weaker storm.

It is reported to be the deadliest typhoon to hit the Philippine region, affecting more than 12 million people and leaving many in need of water, food, and medical supplies. To date there are  5,924 victims who lost their lives to the storm, according to published reports.

“In light of such great tragedy, it is heartwarming to see people come together, even from halfway around the world, to dedicate their time and energy to helping those who have lost everything,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “I would like to congratulate NAFCON on their tremendous fundraising to support the relief work in the Philippines and would like to offer my continued support for the rebuilding effort.”

NAFCON is working together with grassroots organizations, consisting of church groups and students, in the Philippines to ensure the money raised will go directly to those who need it the most. Donations can be made here through the NAFCON PayPal account.

 

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‘Offensive’ billboard taken down


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Senator Toby Ann Stavisky

A shot at advertising for one vodka company didn’t go down as smoothly as planned.

A Willets Point billboard — declared offensive by local leaders — read “Escort Quality, Hooker Pricing.” The provocative message, officials feared, could potentially reverse efforts and resources put into developing the area into a residential, retail center for families.

The sign hung above 127th Place and Northern Boulevard, overlooking Citi Field, before local leaders said they pushed to have manufacturers take it down.

“The offensive nature of this ad in such close proximity to a family destination like Citi Field was highly inappropriate,” said Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz, who worked alongside Senator Toby Ann Stavisky to have the billboard removed. “Keeping such content out of the view of young children should be a priority.”

Stavisky and Simanowitz said they wrote to James Dale, CEO of Panache Beverages — which manufacturers the promoted Wodka Vodka brand — to urge the company to consider removing their ad.

Soon after, they said the company complied, and the sign came down on Monday, March 12.

“I’m glad the vodka company agreed to remove the billboard. We took particular exception with placing such a distasteful and disturbing advertisement in a neighborhood we have worked so hard to rehabilitate,” Stavisky said.

However, according to a marketing executive for Wodka Vodka, the company took down the slogan simply and only because “the campaign ran its course.”

“Contrary to apparent memos that have been circulating in the community, we did not take the billboard down because of supposed community uproar, letters or other pressures,” said Brian Gordon, CEO of Engine Shop, the marketing agency that handles Wodka Vodka. “We’ve always stood by the campaign.”

Gordon cited data that shows “at least 80 to 90 percent of people actually look at the billboard favorably.”

“There are much more serious issues going on. Community leaders should focus on jobs, the economy, crime and so on, rather than a billboard that was obviously created to be humorous,” he said.

But Stavisky said the issue is not “a silly distraction.” The sobering truth, she said, is that it “sends a message that denigrating women is acceptable, or worse, fashionable.”

Gordon said the company plans to put up new billboards next week. While he said he did not yet know the location, “there will be at least one site in Queens,” he said.

This is not the first time Panache Beverages has been slammed for its unfavorable marketing campaigns. Last November, a Manhattan-placed advertisement read “Christmas Quality, Hanukkah Pricing,” which incensed the Anti-Defamation League and was ordered to be taken down.

New district lines ‘as bad’ as before


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Recent revisions to district lines have done little to darn the disharmony between Republicans and Democrats.

The New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) — made up largely of Republican senators due to their current control of the chamber — released its updated district maps on March 12, angering Democrats due to the miniscule modifications made over the past month.

The new lines, which no longer couple the districts of Senators Michael Gianaris and Jose Peralta, still combine the regions of Senators Tony Avella and Toby Ann Stavisky. Slight changes were also made to the first-ever Asian American majority district created in the initial maps.

Despite their districts no longer being threatened, both Gianaris and Peralta have spoken out against the maps and are hopeful Governor Andrew Cuomo follows through on his pledge to veto any partisan proposals.

“The lines have barely changed at all,” said Gianaris, who called the pairing of himself and Peralta a harassment tactic. “The first proposal is the worst gerrymandering in the history of New York State, and the second proposal is 98 percent as bad. The real problem is the way they are dividing communities around the state and that is what has yet to be fixed. The best hope now is for the governor to veto the lines and let the court do it fairly.”

Frank Sobrino, a spokesperson for Peralta, says the situation is “bigger” than the two senators, and the new lines do not provide any progress from the initial maps, which were considered to be “blatantly partisan.”

“I want the governor to follow up on his commitment to veto these lines,” Peralta said.

Scott Reif, spokesperson for the Senate GOP and LATFOR, says he expects the maps to be approved by both the Senate and Assembly.

“We expect these to be the final lines for the Senate and Assembly,” Reif said. “We held nine additional public hearings [across the state] and we made changes from what we were hearing from different communities.”

Along with the updated maps, LATFOR also introduced legislation that would create a bipartisan commission to draw district lines, a measure many politicians have been calling for. Based on the bill, the commission would be composed of 10 members — two from each party from both the Senate and Assembly and an additional two members chosen by the initial eight.

If approved, the commission would be in charge of deciding district lines the next time they are up for revision in a decade — a length of time deemed unacceptable by many Democrats.

“That’s 10 years from now,” Sobrino said. “Each and every single Republican signed a pledge before they ran last time supporting an independent process. They didn’t say they were going to fix the situation 10 years from now. They said they were going to fix it now.”

Relief proposed for co-op owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com

New legislation may lighten the load on co-op owners, while leaving their wallets heavy.

According to Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, property owners can currently fight city tax assessments through a “certiorari” process, but they said it is often costly and incurs “excessive legal fees.”

“As a co-op shareholder, I understand this problem firsthand,” Stavisky said. “Inaccurate assessments and the high taxes they bring can cause serious problems for co-op boards and residents.”

That’s why the pair introduced legislation that, if passed, could see co-ops paying only 75 percent of their legal fees in a successful certiorari suit. The law would also stabilize assessments for two years following a successful challenge, capping spikes at 3 percent to prevent the necessity of an additional proceeding, officials said.

“Co-op shareholders deserve the right to have their day in court,” Stavisky said. “These bills will allow meritorious challenges and help ease the fear of inconsistent and inaccurate assessments. This legislation would encourage the city to be more careful when preparing projected assessments by having them pay 25 percent of the legal fees in a successful challenge. That change will have a tremendous impact on the quality of life in New York’s co-ops.”

Taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners this year, according to a summary report released by the Department of Finance (DOF). Last year, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent, and according to civic leaders in northeast Queens, some properties in the area — including Deepdale Gardens and Alley Pond — continue to suffer high double-digit spikes and some increases by more than 50 percent again this year.

“Many cooperatives and condominiums pay up to 35 percent of the savings gained through certiorari in fees to attorneys. There is no doubt that the fees are punitive in nature,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “Certiorari filings not only appeal property valuations, they seek to correct assessment errors made by the city’s DOF. This legislation will level the playing field and ease what is already a heavy financial burden placed upon the shoulders of middle class residents living in cooperatives and condominiums.”

According to James Goldstick, managing agent for Bay Terrace Section 8, some co-ops will spend up to $35,000 in legal fees this year after shelling out close to $37,000 during last year’s tax certiorari settlements.

“It is outrageous that northeast Queens residents not only have been hit with monstrous assessment hikes during this difficult fiscal period, but that they also have to continue to bear the burden of inaccurate decisions made by the DOF,” Braunstein said.

The property tax increases are slated to take effect in July. Councilmember Dan Halloran called on the city to extend the March 1 deadline to contest valuations to March 15. However, DOF officials did not confirm whether or not the additional two weeks were granted.

 

New elevators coming to Flushing LIRR


| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Steve Mosco

The Flushing Long Island Rail Road Station is getting a major “up”grade.

Legislators and transit officials announced plans to install elevators at the station, a major development for the transportation hub.

“As Flushing continues to grow, our infrastructure must grow to match,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky at the press conference on March 2. “These desperately-needed improvements will allow people to travel more easily to and from Flushing and supports the economic expansion that is occurring here.”

Officials expect to award a design contract for the elevator this year, with designs to be completed in 2013 and construction expected to start later that same year. The new project will include the installation of two elevators, one for the eastbound and one for the westbound platform, with elevator machine rooms and entry vestibules. There will also be upgrades to the station’s electrical services, including the replacement of platform lighting, as well as new station signage, warning strips and security cameras.

According to LIRR, the station serves over 2,000 customers on an average weekday so these changes are long overdue. The platform as it is currently constituted dates back to the 1980s and these improvements will bring the station in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Assemblymember Grace Meng, who represents the immediate area, said that the station cannot support the needs of the community as it stands today. Meng recalled a friend having to take a bus east to a more accessible station and then travel back west to get to work in Manhattan.

“Flushing’s LIRR station has long been unable to meet the basic needs of our community,” she said. “The installation of elevators on both platforms will be a great service to those residents who are physically unable to access the LIRR currently.”

LIRR president Helena Williams said that community input had a lot to do with the decision to move forward with these upgrades.

“We’ve been working closely with the community and local elected officials on this project, which we hope will attract additional ridership to the LIRR from the very vibrant and growing Flushing community,” said Williams, adding that the upgrades will come at a cost of $8.5 million in MTA/LIRR capital plan funds.

Down the Drain? Flushing High School fights to remain


| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Steve Mosco

After more than 100 years of reading, writing and arithmetic, Flushing High School now faces its toughest test of all.

Legislators and education advocates gathered in front of the school to protest a possible Turnaround, which would effectively eliminate Flushing High School as it is currently constituted.

“Over the past few years, Flushing High School has improved,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky at the protest on February 24. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but closing the school and replacing the principal and staff with multiple layers of educational bureaucracy is not the solution.”

Stavisky, who worked as a substitute teacher at the school before her election to the State Senate, was joined by Assemblymember Grace Meng and Councilmember Peter Koo, as well as representatives for the school, the United Federal of Teachers (UFT) and the NAACP.

The protest was sparked after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to replace about half of the teaching staff at the 33 city schools, including eight in Queens, identified as struggling by the state. These 33 schools are in a federal improvement program because of low test scores and graduation rates.

A spokesperson representing UFT president Michael Mulgrew said that Bloomberg’s push for Turnaround stems from a disagreement between the mayor and the teacher organization.

“We are here today in support of not only Flushing High School, but all the schools the mayor is holding hostage,” Mulgrew’s spokesperson said. “It is time the mayor put our children and our school’s first, and end the political grandstanding that has now gone on for far too long.”

Flushing High School, and the other 32 schools listed for closure, had recently received the OK from the Department of Education (DOE) to implement reform models aimed at reversing troubling trends. According to the president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators Ernest Logan, the DOE isn’t giving these reforms the time to take hold and make a difference.

“All of these schools, including Flushing, had rather recently embarked on new reform models with the blessing of the NYC DOE,” said Logan. “For the DOE to now abruptly reject those schools’ efforts, without examination of their progress, is arbitrary, capricious and insensitive to children and families.”

DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas said that Flushing High School received a “D” on its most recent progress report, with an “F” on the student performance section. He also said that graduation rates at schools serving similar populations are significantly higher than at Flushing.

“We understand the passionate feelings these issues evoke on all sides, but these proposals represent an opportunity to provide our families with new, high-quality schools that will do better by students, and ultimately that has to be our priority,” said Thomas.

Thomas also said that the DOE cannot afford to let underperforming schools linger while a teacher evaluation deal is hammered out and implemented. He said the turnaround plan keeps the best parts of the existing school, including its highest quality faculty, while creating a new program, new school culture and a different and better environment for students.

 

College Point mail center to close


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

The United States Postal Service (U.S.P.S.) delivered its final notice to a Queens mail processing center.

Finalizing the U.S.P.S.’s decision to close the College Point Processing and Distribution Center, Triboro district manager Frank J. Calabrese sent a letter to Robert Yaccarino, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Flushing Local #2286, informing him there would be consolidations among facilities throughout the area, including the College Point location.

“It is projected that these consolidations will result in significant savings for the Postal Service,” wrote Calabrese in the letter. “Some affected career employees may be reassigned to other vacant positions. Reassignments will be made in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement.”

The facility, located on 20th Avenue in College Point, currently has over 1,000 workers.

“Rather than take advantage of the time that has been bought for U.S.P.S. by Congress in a recent moratorium on post office closures, the U.S. Postal Service has decided to finalize their plans to shut down this facility,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “This is like governmental ‘Jeopardy’ – the U.S. Postal Service has the answers before we’ve asked the questions.”

Stavisky recently filed an appeal with the Postmaster General regarding the U.S.P.S.’s rejection of her request for records concerning the center’s impending closure. According to Stavisky’s office, the request, submitted in December, 2011, fell under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It was consequently denied.

“They have refused my and my community’s requests for more information and more time to study the closure before executing it,” said Stavisky. “This will be devastating to our neighborhood, and many of my constituents’ livelihoods will be in peril. We deserve better, but U.S. Postal Service seems to make bad decisions first, and ask questions later.”

According to Stavisky’s office, the documents requested by the senator detail a feasibility study conducted by the U.S.P.S. to determine the impact that shutting down the institution would have on service in a particular area. The U.S.P.S. cited FOIA’s “Exemption Five” as reason to withhold records, stating that they refused to release the data because, at the time, a final decision had not yet been made in regards to the facility’s potential finality.

The College Point processing center’s closure is part of nationwide consolidation program currently occurring throughout U.S.P.S. branches.

In December, a spokesperson from the U.S.P.S. told The Courier that they needed to reduce their costs by $20 billion by 2015, in order to return to financial profitability.

According to a representative from Stavisky’s office, the center will officially cease operations on May 14.

Pol wants more info on College Point mail center


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Dissatisfied with poor communication, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky sent the United States Post Service (U.S.P.S.) a message — provide the public with the information they deserve.

Stavisky filed an appeal with the Postmaster General regarding the U.S. Postal Service’s rejection of her request for records concerning the impending closure of a Queens mail processing center. According to Stavisky’s office, the request, submitted in December, 2011, fell under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It was consequently denied.

“The Post Office can’t pick and choose which information they feel like releasing to the public as an explanation for closing such an important resource to the community,” said Stavisky. “I recognize that they are in a difficult position, but the U.S. Postal Service needs to show us all the relevant data, and I am challenging the decision to deny it to me, and to my neighbors.”

The facility, located on 20th Avenue in College Point, has over 1,000 workers – jobs likely to be lost in the event of closure.

According to a representative from Stavisky’s office, the documents requested by the senator detail a feasibility study conducted by the U.S.P.S. to determine the impact shutting down the institution would have on service in a particular area. The U.S.P.S. cited FOIA’s “Exemption Five” as reason to withhold records, stating that they refused to release the data because a final decision had not yet been made in regards to the facility’s potential finality.

The College Point processing center’s possible closure is part of nationwide consolidation program currently occurring throughout the U.S. Postal Services’s branches. In December, a spokesperson from the U.S.P.S. told The Courier that they needed to reduce their costs by $20 billion by 2015 in order to return to financial profitability.

Under this program, 252 of the nation’s mail processing centers are slated for possible closure.

 

Senate Redistricting plan is divisive


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Newly-drawn district lines may pit Senate Democrats against one another in a political dogfight.

Under the proposed plan, which was designed by the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) — made up largely of Republican senators due to their current control of the chamber — Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Chair Michael Gianaris would face off with Senator Jose Peralta for the right to represent a single, heavily Hispanic district.

“With this brazenly political proposal, Senate Republicans have done more to hurt the cause of fair and independent redistricting in one day than advocates like myself have done to advance the cause after years of advocacy,” Gianaris said. “Today, Senate Republicans return us to the days when Albany was the most dysfunctional capital in the nation by bringing Tom DeLay’s brand of politics to New York. The people of this state will not stand for it, and neither should we.”

Peralta echoed his senatorial partner and potential rival by calling the new lines “egregious.”

“This is a case of petty, election-year politics as arrogant as it is obvious,” Peralta said. “The pledges to redistricting reform by Republicans clearly are not worth the ink used to sign them. If they have at least minimal respect for voters, Republicans will spare New Yorkers further hypocrisy and keep to themselves ridiculous claims that their bold-faced power grab was done in the name of minority enfranchisement.”

Longtime Senator Toby Ann Stavisky would also be matched against Senator Tony Avella — who assumed office in 2011 — sparking speculation that the GOP’s goal is to maintain its slender majority in the Senate by eliminating a number of incumbent Democrats.

The GOP lines also create the Senate’s first Asian-majority district in Flushing. The plan would expand the Senate to 63 members by creating a new seat in a reportedly Republican-dominated area outside of Albany, as well.

“We believe our plan is fair, legal and it protects minority voting interests,” said Scott Reif, a spokesperson for the Senate GOP and LATFOR. “We are very proud of the fact that we create the first Asian-American majority district in Queens centered in Flushing. We also maintain or strengthen every single African-American and Hispanic district in the city. This plan is based on population shifts which occurred over the last 10 years. There are a number of incumbents who are put together in the same district, but this is not based on politics. It is based on demographics and actions that the task force took are to protect minority voting rights.”

According to Reif, nine public hearings will be held throughout the state, during which the public can offer feedback on the plan. LATFOR will hold a hearing for Queens on Tuesday, February 7 at 3 p.m. in Room 213 of Queens Borough Hall, located at 120-55 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens.

Peralta, who believes there should be an independent process and commission drawing the lines, believes the notion that the plan was designed to unite communities is preposterous.

“Republicans say it is about brining communities together, but they divided the LeFrak buildings into two districts,” said the senator. “They took the southern part of my district in Elmhurst, which is highly Asian, and they divided it into two districts. The gerrymandering is hurting people because it dilutes the power of the vote. It dilutes the ability for people to come out and choose a candidate that matches their needs.”

Various community groups have expressed outrage over the district map, due to the lines’ dissonant effects on their neighborhoods.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) has strongly objected the plan, which divides the neighborhood among three different senators.

“LATFOR’s decision to split up a one-square-mile neighborhood among three different senators is bewildering and has no basis in the character, demographics or needs of our community,” said Alexander Blenkinsopp, WRBA’s communications director. “When it comes to the Senate lines, the people of Woodhaven are being treated as pawns in Albany’s gerrymandering games.”

According to published reports, Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised to veto the plan, which he deems partisan.

Repeated attempts to contact the governor’s office went unreturned.

Waste transfer station meets with opposition


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

College Point the city's solid waste  - 01

A local advocacy group is hoping the city trashes its plans for a waste transfer station near LaGuardia Airport – which it says attracts flying objects other than planes.

The members of Friends of LaGuardia Airport believe the North Shore Marine Transfer Station, which is currently under construction in College Point and expected to be completed in 2013, will increase the likelihood of midair collisions between airplanes and birds.

“The main issue is that it is a hazard to aviation because it is a bird magnet. January 15 is the anniversary of the miracle on the Hudson,” said group president Ken Paskar, referencing the emergency landing by US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger in the Hudson River after his plane was struck by a flock of birds. “I believe that these are miracles, and we can’t expect every single incident to be a miracle. If this station is built, I believe it is a question of when, and not if, there will be a bird strike.”

According to a report commissioned by Friends of LaGuardia, the station, which is roughly 100 feet high, would also make it impossible for the airport to implement a low visibility precision instrument approach procedure (IAP), which aids pilots during inclement weather landings. Economist David Berkey, who conducted the study, says LaGuardia currently reroutes planes away from its main runway in low-visibility weather, increasing the number of delayed and cancelled flights.

“If they build this transfer station, the airport cannot use IAP, and in inclement weather, they will continue to reroute planes from their main runway,” said Berkey, who claims he used highly reliable data from airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the study. “This is costing between $74 million and $183 million a year in cancellations and delays. Right now, because they don’t have IAP, they are also delaying half a million to a million people a year – and this will only get worse with the station.”

Due to an ongoing lawsuit filed by Friends of LaGuardia, the FAA deferred comment to the United States Justice Department, which declined comment.

Julie Wood, a spokesperson for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, says the installation if IAP at LaGuardia was deemed impossible – regardless of the station’s construction – due to the “many technical and physical obstacles at the airport.” Bird collisions are also not considered a serious threat, according to Wood.

“Experts at the FAA have studied bird patterns thoroughly and believe that this transfer station will absolutely not increase the risk of bird strikes,” said the spokesperson. “Anyone who says otherwise is scaring people for no good reason. Building this transfer station will allow us to achieve the important goals of our waste management plan – making it cleaner and greener by taking trucks off the street.”

Despite the assurances of the FAA and due to concern for their constituents’ safety, Assemblymembers Grace Meng and Michael Simanowitz recently introduced a bill that would prohibit the construction of transfer stations near airports in New York City. Senator Toby Ann Stavisky plans to introduce the bill in the Senate as well, according to Meng.

“It is not fair to Queens to have the station placed so closely to the airport and so close to where people live,” said Meng. “People are scared of another accident like what happened with Captain Sullenberger.”

Beyond increased difficulties and dangers to aviation, Paskar believes the station will also create foul living conditions for College Point residents.

“A lot of the garbage in the borough will be brought to this station to be transported out of Queens,” he said. “So the people of Flushing and College Point will now have to bear the burden of approximately 3,000 tons of garbage a day from throughout Queens in their community. Hundreds of garbage trucks will be coming to this transfer station and destroying the neighborhood’s transportation infrastructure as well.”

[Update] Queens postal center to remain open – for now


| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Steve Mosco

Elected officials joined union representatives and several community leaders to deliver a clear message to the United States Postal Service (USPS) — don’t even think about closing Queens’ distribution center.

And for now, it seems the USPS got the message.

Just days after State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Congressmember Joseph Crowley led a rally to protest the impending closure of the Queens Processing and Distribution Center in Whitestone, the Postal Service acquiesced and struck a deal to freeze all postal closures until May 2012.

“This is good news for Queens, and for the country. Hundreds of families in Queens can breathe a sigh of relief, but only temporarily,” said Stavisky. “We will continue to fight for a better alternative. Revamping the Postal Service should not require laying people off and hurting local businesses.”

In a plan that Stavisky called the “wrong decision at the wrong time,” the Postal Service announced earlier this month that it would “consolidate” Queens’ distribution center with another in Brooklyn. Stavisky said that this action would force residents and businesses who patronize the facility to travel to Brooklyn’s processing center — over 13 miles and hours of traffic away.

Officials also said that closing the facility will cost Queens over 1,000 jobs in mail handling, mail carrying, clerk jobs, maintenance workers and drivers. Local businesses would also feel the pinch, as many generate business from their proximity to the plant.

“The USPS plan is flawed. Their study has been rushed and is deceiving,” Stavisky said. “We can’t afford to be hemorrhaging jobs in this economy. We need time to find alternative measures that would not be as catastrophic for Queens.”

Crowley added that taking away jobs is not the kind of Christmas present the borough was expecting, so this reprieve is a welcomed – if temporary – holiday gift.

“The simple fact is we need more jobs in Queens, not less,” said Crowley.

The American Postal Workers Union, the Queens Chamber of Commerce and several civic associations were also on hand at the December 9 rally. With the announcemnt of the closure freeze, it seems the USPS heard the calls for more public comment time.

According to those in attendance at the rally, the USPS has yet to release the contents of its feasibility study — which the Service used to determine the need for closure. But Stephen Larkin, executive vice president of the American Postal Workers Union, said the USPS is ignoring the facts.

“It’s our concern that the level of distribution of mail to Queens, specifically people who are waiting to pay bills, rent and mortgages, are going to find an increased delay,” he said.

This reprieve gives Queens elected officials more time to do the work necessary to keep postal service in Queens.

“While this decision does not mean our postal facilities are in the clear, it does allow for more time to seek alternatives to help USPS meet its financial obligations,” said Crowley. “I understand the Postal Service has a bottom line, but balancing its books on the backs of Queens’ and Bronx families is not the answer.”


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

On Sunday, November 13, a new law went into effect that bans smoking in outdoor areas of ticketing, boarding and platforms on stations operated by the MTA. This law was passed by the State Legislature with bipartisan support and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in August 2011.

Everyone has the right to breathe clean air, and this legislation is good public health policy that protects New Yorkers from secondhand smoke. The North Shore LIJ Health System, Queens Smoke Free Partnership, Senator Toby Stavisky and Senator Andrew Lanza applaud this initiative.

There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. Just 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of blood clots and lead to more frequent asthma attacks in children. Secondhand smoke contains more than 250 chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic. Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are inhaling many of the same cancer-causing substances and poisons as smokers. Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and adults who do not smoke.

Now that the law is in full effect, we would like to encourage Queens and Staten Island residents to quit smoking. Did you know that the Rockaways has the highest percentage of smokers (22 percent), followed closely by northwest Queens (20 percent), northeast Queens (18 percent) and central Queens (17 percent)? Staten Island residents have a smoking rate of 17 percent, while the New York City resident rate is 14 percent.

Protect yourself and those you love by helping someone quit smoking today. Why not? It’s free. Call the New York Smokers’ Quitline at 866-NY-QUITS (697-8487) or visit nysmokefree.com.

If you would like more information on cessation or smoke free outdoor policies, please call the Queens Smoke Partnership at 718-213-1550or visit www.nycsmokefree.org/Queens.

 

Sincerely,

Nancy Copperman, MS,RD,CDN                                                                                        Director of Public Health Initiatives                                                                                        North Shore LIJ Health System

 ANDREW J. LANZA
Senator, 24th District

 Toby Ann Stavisky                                                                                                               Senator, 16th District

Donating a love of learning


| jlane@queenscourier.com

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Patrons of the Rego Park Library can now learn about the Republic of Tatarstan directly from the source.

Upon returning from a trip to Russia and Tatarstan, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky visited the library, located at 91-41 63rd Drive in Rego Park, on September 21 to donate three books she acquired on her journey. Tatarstan’s capital city, Kazan, is the subject of all three books, which are written in English and Russian.

“I am delighted to donate these books, because I know the Queens Library is known for its diverse collection,” said Stavisky, who was on the trip with a legislative delegation. “I hope my Russian-speaking friends enjoy them.”