Tag Archives: State Senator Jose Peralta

Reward leading to arrest of pregnant Corona woman’s killer doubled


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos via Google Maps/Facebook

The reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer of a pregnant mother of four who was gunned down the day before Thanksgiving in Corona has doubled to $12,000.

Brandee Anastasia Massey, 27 — who had just dropped off three of her four children at school — was murdered outside her 98-15 Horace Harding Expressway apartment on the morning of Nov. 26, police said.

The LeFrak City resident was shot in the chest and arm and taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was about six months pregnant, and doctors were able to deliver her baby, police said. But the child, a girl, died several hours later.

Police were considering Massey’s uncle as a possible suspect, according to published reports. The day after the Nov. 26 shooting, Police Commissioner William Bratton said the incident may have involved a domestic dispute with the uncle.

Food Bazaar Supermarkets has agreed to contribute $4,000 and Queens Center mall is donating $2,000, according to state Sen. Jose Peralta, who has already offered a $2,000 reward in the hope of developing leads in Massey’s murder investigation.

The LeFrak City Organization and NYPD additionally each offered $2,000 last month.

“Food Bazaar Supermarkets and Queens Center have deep roots in this community and understand that the most important thing we can do right now for the Massey family is to help law enforcement bring Brandee’s killer to justice and make whoever is responsible pay for this brutal crime,” Peralta said.

Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras' office

Joseph Massey, Brandee Anastasia Massey’s husband, and their four children. (Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ office)

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras announced last week that she has opened an education fund and launched a public fundraising campaign for Massey’s children, who are all under the age of 10.

LeFrak City Maintenance Services has made an initial pledge of $15,000. Anyone who would like to donate to the education fund can do so through www.rally.org/MasseyFund.

“These innocent children have suffered the greatest loss,” Ferreras said. “And while we cannot save them from the lifetime of pain and difficulty they will face growing up without a mother, as a community, we can give them a fighting chance at a better future.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights lights up for the holidays


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Councilmember Daniel Dromm's Office

Councilmember Daniel Dromm gathered with State Senator Jose Peralta, the nonprofit SUKHI NY, Moin Choudhury of Association for Justice Inc., Friends of Diversity Plaza and local residents at Diversity Plaza, located at 37th Road between 73rd and 74th Streets in Jackson Heights on Sunday to light the plaza’s 16-foot holiday tree.

The Friends of Diversity Plaza includes members from the office of Councilmember Daniel Dromm, the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership and the Birchwood House.

“I want to thank everyone for pulling together to make this space better each year,” said Dromm. “The second annual tree lighting was a success.”

 

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Strip club billboard above Corona church taken down


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Senator Jose Peralta’s office

On the heels of community complaints, a billboard promoting a local strip club has come down. The billboard sat above the New Hope Baptist Church at 105-13 Northern Boulevard.

“Common sense and decency have prevailed,” said State Senator Jose Peralta, who had called for the ad to be removed.  “Like everyone else that I spoke to who had seen the billboard, I thought that the female pictured looked far too young to be featured in an ad for a strip club.  It was a jarring image that was offensive and sickening.  That it sat above a church was an especially twisted mockery.”

 

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Queens street vendors, businesses compete for customers


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Johann Hamilton

While a bill that would regulate the number of mobile street vendors still sits in the state Senate, businesses remain frustrated as they continue to battle to keep their customers.

For the past few years, businesses said they have seen mobile street vendors growing to a point where pedestrians can find a handful on one block. They provide residents and visitors with an endless amount of handmade goods.

Yet, even as their popularity has grown there are also the questions of whether these street vendors affect larger businesses and if they should receive letter grades from the city’s Department of Health like restaurants.

Food vendors are licensed and inspected by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). According to the DOHMH, it attempts annual on-the-street inspections at each mobile vending unit and also conducts inspections after receiving complaints.

According to the DOHMH, records of inspections are available to the public by calling 3-1-1 and giving the food cart’s permit number or license number.

Mobile food vendors are subject to the Health and Administrative Codes, but do not receive letter grades.

State Senator Jose Peralta introduced legislation in 2011 to grade the food vendors the same way as restaurants in order to ensure the best quality for buyers and help remove vendors that sell goods illegally. The bill still sits in the Senate’s Health Committee.

“Whether buying a meal in a restaurant or from a mobile food vendor, consumers should know that what they’re eating has met certain health and safety standards,” said Peralta. “New York City street food is famous around the world. With a letter-grade system, our street food will also be known for its safety and cleanliness.”

Peralta’s office also continues to hear from local businesses about the growing number of vendors that cause them problems.

To sell or lease other goods and services in a public space, potential vendors need to apply for a General Street Vendor License from the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Potential vendors must have both a food vendor license and permit for their cart. DOHMH issues a maximum total of 5,100 different food unit permits and over the last few years, the number of applications for licenses have increased.

The Courier took to the streets to speak to some vendors and businesses in Bayside and Jackson Heights, two areas in the borough that have a large presence of mobile street vendors.

“I’ve been in this same spot for 16 years because it’s in my neighborhood,” said John Amanatidis, who owns a shish kebab stand on the corner of Northern Boulevard and Bell Boulevard in Bayside. “We do have problems with parking because sometimes people park in this parking lot while they get food here.”

Amanatidis’ stand and a hotdog vendor on Northern Boulevard are being accused of invading private property as their customers use the parking lot owned by CVS Pharmacy and Party City. According to the businesses, this has their potential patrons thinking twice about coming back.

“Business has been very slow because of the street vendor competition,” said Sonia Chawle, owner of Fine Indian Cuisine and Sweets in Jackson Heights. “It’s very different from how it used to be, and I think it’s like that for everyone who has a restaurant around here right now.”

Vendors say they are trying to make a living and do not want to harm the surrounding businesses.

“I put my cart here because it’s where I can make the most business,” said Aman Bachoo, who owns a halal cart in Jackson Heights. “That’s the same reason the restaurants are here too, so I’m not doing anything wrong.”

Even with the conflict between some vendors and businesses, some brick-and-mortar establishments find no problem with the presence of street carts.

According to one employee at Mita Jewelers in Jackson Heights, the jewelry vendors don’t affect business because they sell artificial items compared to the 22 karat gold jewelry available at the store.

“They have their customers and we have ours,” said Alfredo Herrero, manager of Nuevo Tacos Al Suadero. “They’re making competition but not that much.”

Rosendo Medina, a Jackson Heights resident who often eats at a vending cart called Tacos Del Carrito, said the food he gets from the vendors has a unique flavor that keeps bringing him back.

“Sometimes the food here is more delicious,” he said. “Restaurants hire chefs and they don’t know the seasoning. With restaurants you have to wait 20 to 30 minutes for food.”

Food cart patron Steven James echoed the sentiment.

“Even if they [falafel stands] were farther away and more expensive, I would still go out of my way to find them, it has nothing to do with not wanting to give other places my business,” he said.

Additional reporting by Johann Hamilton, Benjamin Fang and Zachary Kraehling

 

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Op-Ed: Cashing in on tourism


| oped@queenscourier.com

STATE SENATOR JOSE PERALTA

While New York struggles to recover from the recession of 2008, it is clear that at least one of its major industries is thriving like never before–New York City tourism.

In 2012, the city welcomed a record-breaking 52 million visitors, despite the devastation wrought by Sandy.  According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, these tourists, who paid for a total of 29 million hotel room nights, poured more than $55 billion into the city’s economy.

What’s more, the city’s hotel occupancy stands at 87 percent, the highest in the nation. Better yet, there is good reason to believe that tourism remains a growing industry, with much of its potential still untapped, particularly outside of Manhattan.  In the past six years, 72 new hotels have been built in boroughs other than Manhattan and a record-high percentage of non-Manhattan hotels are under development for the next four years.

Bloomberg and the city’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization, NYC & Company, deserve enormous credit for nurturing the tourism boom.  They are doing excellent work in promoting tourism beyond Manhattan with initiatives like “Neighborhood X Neighborhood,” which is designed to support local businesses and encourage tourism in communities outside traditional tourist locations throughout the five boroughs.

Indeed, NYC & Company recently announced that Corona, Forest Hills and Jackson Heights are the next destinations to be featured in “Neighborhood x Neighborhood.”

NYC & Company is to be commended for this increased emphasis on non-traditional attractions to go along with its promotion of big-name sites and destinations.

In fact, it only makes sense to turn at least some portion of the responsibility for promoting places to see and things to do outside of Manhattan over to the people that know their home boroughs better than anyone else.

That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to give each borough a portion of its own Hotel Occupancy Tax Revenue, based on the tax revenue each generates, up to a maximum of $300,000.  Manhattan would still get the bulk of the promotional dollars, but it would increase revenue for Queens.

Among other initiatives, the funding would support continuous updates and strategic distribution of the “This is Queens” app, developed by the Queens Chamber of Commerce to provide visitors—and locals too, for that matter—with information about where to go in Queens, what to do and how to get there.  The free app was unveiled recently to rave reviews.

With the resources for the job in hand, we would widely and unabashedly promote the fact that not only is Queens home to a host of great restaurants featuring as diverse an array of international cuisines as there is to be found anywhere, but that you can enjoy unique and memorable meals here at much lower prices than in Manhattan.

We would also tout that Queens is home to some of the city’s most popular destinations, including Citi Field, the National Tennis Center and Resorts World Casino, a world-class gaming hall overlooking world-class thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct.

We would let bird watchers and hikers know about the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and arts lovers about our galleries and museums.  In case they weren’t already aware, we would let fans of top-flight college sports know all that’s available at St. John’s University.

Highlighting bargains, unearthing gems and underscoring the city’s vibrancy and vitality outside of Manhattan would help foster the growth and expansion of New York City’s tourism industry.

As for Queens, everybody else would come to learn what we already know: As the most diverse county in the country, perhaps the most diverse area in the world, Queens represents what New York City is really all about.

Peralta is Senate Minority Whip representing the 13th Senate District

 

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Peralta drops out of borough president race


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

State Senator Jose Peralta is dropping his bid for borough president and endorsing county pick Melinda Katz for the job.

“I want to thank the thousands of Queens residents and civic and community leaders that I had the pleasure of meeting during the course of the campaign,” Peralta said in a statement. “Your warm reception of my candidacy and your encouragement and support are enormously appreciated.”

Peralta, along with Councilmember Leroy Comrie, was thought at one point to get the county’s Democratic Party endorsement for Borough Hall. District leaders ultimately backed Katz, a former councilmember and former assemblymember who’s second in polls and fund raising.

The second-term state senator is the second candidate to drop out and endorse Katz. Former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik threw his support behind Katz last week after dropping out.

Insiders believe Democrats have been pressuring candidates to drop out and make way for Katz.

Whoever wins will likely face a general election as Republican Tony Arcabascio has declared an interest in running.

The race is now down to four Democrats in the narrowing primary: Katz, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., the front runner in polls and money raised, State Senator Tony Avella and Comrie, who is expected to officially announce his candidacy Monday.

Peralta, in his statement, said he plans on continuing to fight for issues he laid out in his beep campaign. Those include fighting for more seats in schools, getting more affordable housing in the borough and kindling economic growth.

Since officially announcing last fall, Peralta has raised a total $301,316 on the road to Borough Hall, according to the city’s Campaign Finance Board. That number is comparatively lower than that raised by Vallone Jr.—well over $1 million—or Katz—more than $400,000—but still ranks him third of the six declared candidates.

 

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State Senator Peralta goes on the record on Huntley wiretap


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

State Senator Jose Peralta says he did not have any illegal discussions with his former colleague, Shirley Huntley, when she secretly recorded him last year.

“I was as surprised as anybody to have my name on this list,” Peralta told The Queens Courier. “I did no wrong-doing whatsoever. I know that nothing on these tapes would implicate me on anything with the exception of the fact that I was recorded.”

Peralta said his lawyers were assured by authorities that he is not the topic of a federal investigation, unlike some others on the list released last week. State Senators Malcolm Smith and John Sampson were arrested within a month of each other on federal corruption charges. Prosecutors have not confirmed whether

Huntley’s cooperation with the FBI aided in those arrests.

Because there are still ongoing investigations, Peralta could not say what he discussed with Huntley.

However, he did say that it was nothing of substance and “people will be scratching their heads” at the content recorded.

Peralta’s own tenure in the Senate came on the heels of another legislator’s removal from the chamber.

He won a special election in March 2010 after the Senate voted to expel disgraced pol Hiram Monserrate, who was convicted of a misdemeanor. Monserrate tried to reclaim his seat in the special election, but with the loss of the Democrats’ backing, he finished third.

“I ran against someone who really shocked the confidence of his constituents,” Peralta said. “I wanted to make sure I was as transparent and as forward-thinking as possible.”

Peralta said the recordings of seven elected officials and two political consultants were an effort by Huntley to point fingers and divert charges away from her.

“She must have thought she can get [a plea bargain] by pointing fingers at others,” he said. “I’m not saying there are no bad apples,” but “most of us are hardworking, transparent individuals.”

Peralta told The Courier that since he is not under investigation, the wiretap will not impact his run for borough president.

“I think it’s a minor setback, of course,” he said. “But I’ve been on the campaign trail and people see it for what it is.”

 

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Queens pols among elected officials secretly recorded by ex-State Senator Shirley Huntley


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photos

Former State Senator Shirley Huntley secretly recorded three Queens elected officials, among others, for federal authorities last summer, according to court documents.

State Senators Jose Peralta and Malcolm Smith and Councilmember Ruben Wills were named in a memorandum unsealed by a federal judge this afternoon.

The filing also named Brooklyn State Senators Eric Adams, John Sampson and Velmanette Montgomery; Bronx State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson; Melvin Lowe, a former political consultant and associate of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman; and Curtis Taylor, a former press consultant for Smith.

None are necessarily accused of wrong-doing.

Federal authorities reportedly claim three of the recorded politicians were helpful in building cases.

Smith was arrested on April 2 after federal prosecutors said he tried to bribe Republican county leaders to let him switch parties and run on the GOP ticket for mayor. Sampson was arrested on Monday, May 6 and accused of embezzling money from the sale of foreclosed homes.

According to the court filing, federal officials approached Huntley last summer—before she herself was charged for allegedly covering up money funneled through a non-profit she helped establish. Schneiderman brought those charges.

In February, she pleaded guilty to trying to help cover up the $87,000 embezzlement. She will be sentenced in federal court on Thursday, May 9.

According to the memorandum, Huntley told government officials she knew of corruption that involved elected officials. She reportedly spoke with them over a course of six months.

Huntley, who lost a primary last September, invited the leaders into her home and recorded conversations on behalf of the FBI, the document said.

“The defense is aware that the government is currently investigating public officials based in part upon the information provided by Ms. Huntley and her recorded conversations,” Huntley’s lawyer, Sally Butler, said in the memorandum. “Ms. Huntley has not revealed her proffers or recordings publicly so as to maximize the government’s current efforts.”

A spokesperson for Smith said the embattled legislator could not comment on anything related to his arrest last month or new allegations that he met with Huntley. Wills’ office also did not have a comment at this time.

An inside source told The Queens Courier more names are expected to be released.

Two of the officials named in the filing are seeking higher office this year. Peralta is one of six candidates running for Borough President. Adams was vying to be the first black Brooklyn Borough president. A Peralta spokesperson would not comment at this time.

All elected officials in the probe were Democrats, shaking an already unsettled party in Albany. A Senate Democratic Conference spokesperson issued a statement on behalf of the caucus following the news.

“This is an extremely trying time in Albany,” he said. “If any charges are brought, the conference will take appropriate action.”

– With additional reporting by Maggie Hayes and Melissa Chan

 

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Small biz shows support for Queens soccer stadium


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

John Ferrera, head of the Junction Boulevard Merchants Association, noted that a professional soccer arena in the heart of Queens would spur local culture and be an economic boon to the area.

“You’ll see for yourself, whenever there’s a major soccer match between countries, how excited the neighborhoods get in Queens,” said Ferrera, who’s been in business on Junction for more than 30 years. “It is a perfect time and place.”

More than 1,000 small businesses have signed letters of support, and put up signage, to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) Stadium to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The announcement, held at El Sabor Latino in Elmhurst on Friday, January 18, featured elected officials, business leaders and shop owners in the neighborhood.

Should a potential 25,000-seat arena go into the park, MLS officials expect businesses in nearby Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst to see significant patronage from fans before and after games. Though there is no concrete amount of economic activity the stadium could bring to northern central Queens, it should be significant, said Brett Lashbrook, the league’s point man for the project.

Lashbrook cited MLS’ “March to the Match,” in which fans will often meet up at a local establishment in walking distance from an arena. The national and international tradition, he said, has been widely successful for businesses around stadiums.

“We all know what it can do potentially,” said State Senator Jose Peralta. “And that’s why Major League Soccer has the support of over 1,000 small businesses in the, because they understand that the backbone of this community, the small businesses, will also receive an improvement in their bottom line while working towards debt consolidation.”

Peralta said the city and residents should not turn down a potential good deal when they see it, but promised to “hold [league officials’] feet to the fire” on fulfilling the promises attached to the project. Some of these include pouring money into Flushing Meadows to revive the park.

Components of the project are still left wide open, including who will own the team, where displaced parkland will go and what ramifications are yet to come.

Any lost parkland would have to be replaced in a relatively close area. Lashbrook said the league had not picked out a site for the potential new greenspace, but acknowledged a portion of the Queensway — a proposed walkway from Rego Park to Ozone Park — has been suggested as a possibility.

But while fans are expected to be drawn to businesses along Roosevelt Avenue, known for hosting passionate crowds during international games, there are currently no plans in the works to repair the pothole-ridden thoroughfare, which has been infected with questionable activity, through city financing.

“[T]here won’t be any city financing,” Lashbrook said. “[We are] committed to replacing the parkland…committed to improving and upgrading all the soccer fields in the park, as well as making a significant investment — that’s millions and millions of dollars — in upgrading the park as a whole as well as the adjacent neighborhoods.”

 

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Op-Ed: Essential steps in the fight against gun violence


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Peralta new

BY STATE SENATOR JOSE PERALTA

As the sponsor of 14 gun bills, I couldn’t be happier to see long overdue action fi nally taken on common-sense measures to protect New Yorkers from gun violence.

From revoking the gun permits and confi scating the fi rearms of domestic abusers and the mentally ill, to requiring background checks and law enforcement oversight for private gun sales and ammunition purchases, to requiring periodic statewide recertifi cation of gun licenses, a good deal of the legislation I have sponsored and fought for is in this package.

After what we saw happen in Newtown, Connecticut, and in Rochester, strengthening New York’s assault weapons ban became an urgent and pressing priority. And we are adopting perhaps the toughest assault weapons ban in the country.

I applaud the governor for his perseverance and commitment. Above all, I want to thank him for his leadership. Making it harder for criminals to get guns, and keeping fi rearms out of the hands of the mentally ill, are essential steps in the fight against gun violence.

We also need to make it easier for law enforcement to put gun criminals in jail by making use of available technology.

That’s why we need to require microstamping, a simple, inexpensive technology that stamps a code—invisible to the naked eye—on the shell casings ejected when a gun is fired.

The microstamps on recovered shell casings give law enforcement the ability to identify a gun used in a crime and determine where and when it was purchased and who bought it.

Not surprisingly, my bill requiring that handguns made or sold in New York be equipped with microstamping technology has the support of police and prosecutors throughout the state.

And there’s absolutely no logical, coherent reason for not requiring microstamping in New York—or at least not one that has been articulated yet.

We’re told that requiring microstamping would put our state’s gun manufacturers out of business. Yet one of the reasons we needed to toughen New York’s assault weapons ban is because many high-powered rifl es now in production are exempt from the current ban.

Why? Because manufacturers altered their products to circumvent the law.

So ignoring the law is profi table, but complying with a microstamping requirement would be bad for business?

That’s a business model that has no business in New York.

In addition to making it harder for criminals to get guns, we need to make it easier for law enforcement to put gun criminals in jail. Longer jail sentences won’t make a difference if we’re not catching the people who need to be locked up.

And please: Let’s not waste any more time on the nonsense that a microscopic code on a shell casing constitutes an assault on the Second Amendment rights of sportsmen and law-abiding gun owners.

New Yorkers deserve better than that. Especially those waiting on justice for a loved one lost to gun violence.

Senator Jose Peralta serves on the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee. He represents the communities of Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona, Jackson Heights and Astoria.

 

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NY passes toughest gun laws in country


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's flickr

Less than a week after Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to make New York the leader in gun safety, the State Legislature voted in favor of the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement, or NY SAFE Act, that would effectively keep weapons away from the mentally ill and crack down on illegal guns.

The State Senate voted 43-18 in favor of a broad gun package around 11 p.m. on Monday, January 14; the Assembly voted 104-43 the following day, after hours of debate, to make the bill official.

Many opponents in the Assembly argued the bill was hastily thrown together in order for the state to be an example for the country. As a result, opponents said, registered gun owners would suffer.

Cuomo ratified the bill at the Capitol shortly after the Assembly’s approval:

“This was an extraordinary accomplishment by the legislature of this state,” Cuomo said before signing the bill. “This is a gun control bill if you will that actually exercises common sense.”

Cuomo said the limitations and amendments in the bill would not harm legal owners.

Limiting gun magazines to seven bullets was necessary, Cuomo said, “because the high capacity of magazines that give you the capacity to kill a large number of human beings in a very short time is not sensible for a civil society.” The seven-bullet cap, he added, would be enough for hunters and target shooters, while being too little for a gunman to do harm before police can respond.

People who are deemed unsafe to own a weapon by mental health professionals will have their licenses revoked or suspended under the bill. It also extends Kendra’s Law through 2017 to provide additional out-patient care for the mentally ill.

Assault weapons will now be banned under a “one-feature” test that will examine if a weapon has a detachable magazine that is associated with military weapons. The state formerly had a “two-feature” test that also factored in a gun that was semi-automatic.

Gun owners with weapons that will fall under this ban have one year to register the weapon with State Police from the bill’s effective date.

Queens senators immediately spoke to the success of the bill passing, promising that it would help make both the state and the borough safer against gun violence.

“As the first state in the nation to act on the need for more sensible gun laws following the horrific shootings in Webster, New York and Newtown, Connecticut,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “New York is saying “enough” and establishing itself as a leader in the fight against the brutal gun culture plaguing our nation. An early advocate for more sensible gun laws, I am proud one of my proposals is included in the NY Safe Act, whose passage sets the bar for the rest of the country to save the lives of innocent people.”

Senator Jose Peralta said the passage was the first step in curbing gun violence and aiding police to fight crime. The next step, he said, was to push for micro stamping on weapons, which would help crime fighters track guns.

“We also need to make it easier for law enforcement to put gun criminals in jail by making use of available technology,” he said. “That’s why we need to enact microstamping legislation, which has the support of police and prosecutors throughout the state.”

Senator Malcolm Smith, who has pushed for tougher gun laws in wake of the violence last summer, said the bill was a bipartisan success as gun violence affects all New Yorkers, regardless of party or location.

“Gun violence is a problem that affects all of us, urban and rural, Republican and Democrat,” he said. “That’s why we worked so hard on a bipartisan basis to address this critical problem.”

Smith dedicated the bill’s passage to mothers and families in southeast Queens who have lost their sons to gun violence.

“I hope today’s vote provides some level of comfort to the grieving mothers – Donna Hood, Shanee Johnson, and the families of Lloyd Morgan, Kenneth Archbold all of whom lost a love one due to the use of illegal guns.”

 

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Pols call for safety measures after second subway shove death


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Hokachung

After a second New Yorker was pushed to his death in a subway station last month, a pair of local pols are calling for the MTA to take measures to ensure the safety of city straphangers.

Sunando Sen, 46, was killed Thursday, December 27 when he was shoved in front of an oncoming No. 7 train at the 40th Street/Lowery Street station in Sunnyside.

Police arrested and charged Erika Menendez, 31, of Rego Park, with murder as a hate crime after the suspect allegedly told investigators she pushed Sen because of her scorn for Muslims and Hindus.

“I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims. Ever since 2001 when they put down the Twin Towers I’ve been beating them up,” she allegedly told detectives.

Menendez, who was seen at the station muttering to herself before shoving Sen, is reportedly undergoing psychiatric evaluation to determine if she is mentally stable.

“The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter’s worst nightmare — being suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train,” said District Attorney Richard Brown. “Beyond that, the hateful remarks allegedly made by the defendant and which precipitated the defendant’s actions can never be tolerated by a civilized society.”

This marked the second incident in December that someone was pushed to their death in a subway station. Ki-Suk Han, 58, of Elmhurst, was killed on December 3 when he was pushed in front of a Q train at the 49th Street-Seventh Avenue station. Suspect Naeem Davis was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Aside from the two push deaths, 52 other straphangers were killed on subway tracks this year, whether by accident or suicide.

Among the safety steps State Senator Jose Peralta and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer proposed to prevent further fatalities were installing sliding doors, an intercom system that could connect riders with the Rail Control Center and more security cameras.

“It does strike me that in a post-9/11 world that there are no cameras at any stop,” Van Bramer said at a recent press conference.

The station where Sen was killed did not have any working cameras; Menendez was captured fleeing by nearby surveillance cameras.

“In less than a month, two of my constituents have been pushed onto subway tracks and killed,” Peralta said. “I urge the MTA to immediately act on common-sense measures to improve rider safety and security.”

Installing barriers between passengers and the train would “be both expensive and extremely challenging,” the MTA said in a statement. The agency did say though that they are considering testing such equipment “on a limited basis.”

— Additional reporting by Maggie Hayes

Queens politicians eyeing run for borough president


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

bp

Although Helen Marshall still has one year left on her third term as borough president, several big names are rumored to be eyeing a run for the job.

Councilmember Peter Vallone said that although he hasn’t made an official announcement yet, he’s seriously considering running for the borough presidency. Vallone, who currently represents Astoria, said he’s been traveling throughout Queens and getting a good reception from residents.

“I’m getting a great reception,” he said. “I am very pleased with the amount of support we’re finding.”

Vallone went on to say he would further his work in the city council if elected borough president.

“I’ve lived every day of my life in Queens,” he said, “and I’ve been fighting for Queens for the last 10 years.”

About $1 million has been raised for Vallone’s campaign, which he said is significantly higher than any other potential candidate.

While State Senator Jose Peralta’s office could not comment as to whether he is considering running, a committee has been formed called “Peralta 2013,” according to the State Board of Elections (BOE). The committee is active and is listed as a local committee for Queens County, said John Conklin, a representative from the BOE.

Another councilmember expected to run is Leroy Comrie, who currently represents the 27th District in the borough.

At deadline, Comrie was not available to discuss his interest in running for the spot. A campaign page on Facebook, however, was created in December 2011.

Others who have been rumored to run for BP were not able to confirm or deny a potential campaign.

Help prevent foreclosure


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

By State Senator Jose Peralta

The mortgage crisis has wreaked havoc across the country.  Millions of Americans have lost their homes.

Queens has consistently been at or near the top of the list of counties in the state hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

And the crisis is not subsiding.  According to a study recently published by the New York Federal Reserve Bank, one in nine homeowners in Queens is currently delinquent 90 days or more on their mortgage – or is in foreclosure.

Some of the communities I represent have been hit especially hard by the crisis.  In Corona, nearly 20 percent of homeowners are currently delinquent 90 days or more on their mortgage or are in foreclosure.  The rate is 15 percent in East Elmhurst and 10 percent in Jackson Heights.

In light of the alarmingly high rates of seriously delinquent mortgages, I hosted a forum recently for struggling homeowners in conjunction with State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and local non-profit agencies working on foreclosure prevention.

The attorney general’s office and community-based organizations, such as Queens Legal Services and Neighborhood Housing Services of Northern Queens, provided advice and hands-on assistance to homeowners facing potential foreclosure.

But in a single two-hour session, it’s impossible to even scratch the surface of the problem.

That’s why I am also asking Governor Andrew Cuomo to continue funding a program that provides homeowners with counseling, legal assistance and help negotiating with banks.  Funding for the state’s $25 million Foreclosure Prevention Services Program expires at the end of the year.

Four recent studies conducted by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found that housing counseling increases the likelihood that homeowners will be granted a loan modification by 200 percent and that counseled borrowers received more favorable terms on their loan modifications, including lower monthly payments.

Similarly, legal representation at the mandatory settlement conferences helps to level the playing field for homeowners.  The banks they are negotiating with are always represented by an attorney.  When homeowners are also represented, the process is more fair, more efficient and ultimately more successful in achieving the best possible outcome.

The impact of foreclosed and abandoned homes can be costly and devastating on communities.  Studies show that violent crime increases on blocks where a house goes into foreclosure.  Other costly effects include lost tax revenues and declining home values.

We are all well aware of the intense and competing demands for painfully limited budget resources.  But investing in foreclosure prevention helps save money, keep families together and preserve communities.