Tag Archives: State Senator Jose Peralta

Parents call for permanent annex at Corona’s P.S. 143 to alleviate overcrowding


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Parents at one Corona school are saying enough is enough and are calling on officials to give their children more room to succeed.

Over a hundred parents and children gathered on Tuesday morning with state Senator Jose Peralta outside of P.S. 143, The Louis Armstrong Elementary School, located at 34-74 113th St., to propose the building of a permanent addition to the school to help alleviate the chronic overcrowding.

According to Peralta, the Corona elementary school was originally built to accommodate 900 students, yet currently there are about 1,800 students enrolled at the site. This causes some children to have lunch at 9:50 a.m. and a large number of students have to take their classes outside of the school’s building.

The new annex would replace a mini building and six temporary classroom units, also known as trailers, which are found on the side of the school’s original building. Some students have also been moved to an annex located at 98th Street and 38th Avenue. 

“We need to have real classrooms for our children. A trailer is no place for a kid to be learning and that’s something that we’ve been saying time and time again to the administration,” Peralta said. “No kid should have to learn in a trailer. Forget about the state-of-the-art classrooms, state-of-the-art technology, we just want every student to sit and get an education in a real classroom.

Peralta first proposed the idea of the annex to the Department of Education two years ago, and was told that the agency agreed with the need for a solution to alleviate the overcrowding at P.S. 143. However issues arose because the property where the building would go is owned by the Parks Department. 

Yet the senator said that the building of a new annex would not affect the recreational areas because it would only take up the space already being used by the mini building and trailers. 

“Enough of the talk – we need the walk, we need actions. It is time to act now,” Peralta said. “This is the 21st century. We need to treat our kids like we are in the 21st century,”

Parents said they are concerned because their young children, mostly first-graders, have to go from one location to another during bad weather conditions and are also learning in classrooms with over 30 students. 

The parents added that they call on representatives of the Department of Education, Parks Department and School Construction Authority to believe that it was their children being made to learn in these conditions. 

“We are fighting and no one listens to us and we are tired of this situation,” said Juana de los Santos, who has two children attending P.S. 143. “I believe our children deserve a good education because they are the future of this country. We want an answer and soon, we don’t want them to tell us ‘Here, in five years it will happen.’ We are tired and our children are suffering.”

According to DOE spokesman Jason Fink, the agency is “working with the Parks Department to explore ways to add capacity at this school.”

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Organization serving domestic violence, human trafficking survivors opens center in Elmhurst


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of New York Asian Women's Center

One organization is expanding its outreach in helping victims of domestic violence and human trafficking in Queens as it opens a new home in the borough.

The New York Asian Women’s Center (NYAWC) celebrated the opening of its new Elmhurst site, located at 86-26 Broadway, on Friday afternoon. Along with opening the location, the organization was also selected by the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) to receive a contract making it the only provider of core non-residential domestic violence services in Queens.

With the three-year renewable grant, NYAWC will be able to provide needed resources and services to help survivors and their children recover from trauma due to domestic violence.

“NYAWC is proud to have a team of counselors that come from different cultural backgrounds and experiences, and speak many Asian languages and dialects and Spanish,” said Larry Lee, executive director of NYAWC. “To meet the growing demands for our services in Queens, we are doubling the number of counselors that will be stationed at the new Elmhurst office.”

NYAWC also received a two-year grant from the U.S. Office for Victims Crime to serve survivors of human trafficking with services such as counseling, case management, English classes and employment services. At the new Elmhurst office, NYAWC will also aid survivors of sexual assault.

The organization offers a 24/7 hotline at 888-888-7702, advocacy, financial education to survivors, healthy relationship workshops for teens and aid for teens in abusive relationships. All services are free and confidential.

“The work of the New York Asian’s Women Center is priceless and exemplary, and above all, culturally sensitive. They provide a very vital and important service to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, labor and sex trafficking, and many other crimes,” state Senator Jose Peralta said. “With the opening of this new center in Elmhurst, the organization will keep providing these crucial services to a very vulnerable population.”

For more information visit www.nyawc.org.

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LeFrak City cuts ribbon on new courtyard as part of multimillion-dollar renovations


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

A new era has begun at LeFrak City as the Corona apartment complex celebrated the grand opening of a brand-new courtyard filled with amenities just in time for the warmer weather.

The West Courtyard, located at 96-04 57th Ave. in LeFrak City, was officially opened on Wednesday morning after a ribbon-cutting ceremony including local elected officials, LeFrak Organization representatives and residents of LeFrak City.

The courtyard, which is the first phase of projects aiming to transform the outdoor amenities at LeFrak City, features new trees and shrubs, walkways, a new seating area with benches and picnic tables, and two athletic courts currently used for basketball and tennis.

“We’re going to be able to have a great summer and spring here in LeFrak City, but it only works if we keep it clean, if we respect ourselves and respect the facility and we allow the residents and children to enjoy this in that kind of atmosphere,” Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry said. “We can do this. This is not so hard; we just have to work together, communicate together and enjoy the diversity that LeFrak City has promoted for so many years.”

Aubry also added that the new projects were a “new era” for the Corona apartment complex. Along with the West Courtyard, the next outdoor project will be adding a new playground with state-of-the-art equipment for young children.

Plans are even being drawn to bring a new swimming pool at the East Courtyard in 2017, according to Jamie LeFrak, principal of the LeFrak Organization.

“LeFrak City is more, it’s much more and by that I’m not talking about the spacious, sun-filled apartments or the lively, growing neighborhood with its library and schools and shopping malls,” LeFrak said. “The more in LeFrak City is the people. LeFrak City is 20,000 amazing people in 5,000 families and more than 200 maintenance workers, safety officers and administrative staff.”

All the outdoor projects are part of a multimillion-dollar renewal and modernization of LeFrak City which began three years ago.

The overall renovations include five new lobbies with 10 new mail rooms, hundreds of renovated apartments, 20 new laundry rooms, 10,000 brighter and more efficient light fixtures, 60 fully modernized elevators, 80 restored façades, eight reconstructed garages, five new security and intercom systems including more than 1,000 new HD video cameras and a residential rooftop solar energy installation.

“LeFrak has always been a destination and now it will continue to be even a better destination with this courtyard. This is the new beginning,” state Senator Jose Peralta said. “LeFrak has gone through some recent tragedies but today is a day of celebration. Today is a day of celebration because today is about a new hope, a new beginning where we are going to transform LeFrak into what LeFrak was going to be envisioned for.”

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DHS removes sex offender living at Westway motel homeless shelter


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

The cries of an East Elmhurst community have been heard, as a convicted sex offender has been removed from the homeless shelter at the Westway Motor Inn.

James Bryant, 49, who in 2004 was convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl in 2003 and faced 10 years in prison, was living at the hotel located at 72-05 Astoria Blvd.

After hearing the news that the 49-year-old was living in the same facility that is home to over 100 homeless families, local elected officials and community leaders voiced their outrage.

“We are totally outraged, not only as a community, but we are saddened for those people who have children and now have among their group a pedophile who certainly should not have been selected to go into any shelter that has any children,” Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, previously told The Courier.

By Thursday, the city’s Department of Homeless Services announced that Bryant had been removed from the shelter.

“After we applied pressure, convicted sex offender removed from Westway Hotel,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris via Twitter. “We will continue to work on other issues surrounding Westway.”

Last July, the city’s Department of Homeless Services approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn into a shelter that would be managed by social services provider Women in Need.

Residents of the surrounding neighborhood, local elected officials and community leaders were outraged they were not told or asked in advance about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

“I have learned that the convicted sex offender has been removed from the premises at the Westway housing facility,” state Senator Jose Peralta said. “While I am pleased to hear this news, I remain extremely concerned by the lack of adequate policies and procedures in place at the Department of Homeless Services that would have prevented this dangerous circumstance from occurring.”

According to Councilman Costa Constantinides, the DHS has assured him they will be more sensitive when relocating individuals in the future and will be “considerate to the needs of the residential neighborhoods.”

“We will keep working to ensure that our neighborhood’s concerns are addressed in this process,” Constantinides added.

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Fire safety education campaign launched at LeFrak City following fatal New Year’s Eve blaze


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

A new campaign has been launched at LeFrak City to help educate residents to prevent a tragedy like the New Year’s Eve fire, which killed three people, from occurring again.

Just minutes before ringing in 2015, an unattended pot of a traditional Haitian soup cooking on a stove sparked a fire that left three dead in their Corona apartment and sent flames shooting from the ninth-floor balcony, officials said.

The FDNY determined the blaze was accidental, and no working smoke detectors were found in the home.

Police identified the victims, all residents of the apartment, as Nadia Donnay, 37, Louise Jean-Charles, 59, and Napolean Michel, 69.

In response to the fire, state Sen. Jose Peralta, together with the FDNY, LeFrak City Organization and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, announced on Thursday the launch of a fire safety education campaign for the apartment complex. 

“New Yorkers awoke on New Year’s Day to news of the horrific tragedy that struck LeFrak City just as we were all ringing in 2015 and looking forward to the promise the new year held for us and our loved ones,” Peralta said.

During this campaign, the FDNY will conduct fire safety education presentations for tenants on Jan. 14 and Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Continental Room of the Rome Tower of LeFrak City, located at 96-10 57th Ave. 

Food Bazaar Supermarkets donated $500 worth of smoke detector batteries, which will be available to tenants who attend the presentations, made possible by the FDNY Foundation.

“The lesson from the fire is that a working smoke alarm can be a life-saving piece of home safety equipment,” Peralta said. “An operating smoke detector provides a quick and early warning, providing the extra few seconds needed to escape a fire and potential tragedy.”

According to Gerald Rivera, general manager of LeFrak City Maintenance Services, owners are required to periodically replace smoke detectors upon expiration of their life, which is about 10 years. The replacements must then have a non-removable and non-replaceable battery that gives power to the alarm for a minimum of 10 years.

“LeFrak City has a proactive program to replace all campus detectors over a two-year period, a full year in advance of the required deadline,” Rivera said. “Since December 2013, we have replaced 1,600 of the old smoke detectors and will complete all remaining 3,006 replacements by the end of 2015.”

Malikah K. Shabazz, a tenant and president of the LeFrak City Tenants’ Association, said she will inform other tenants about the presentation by working with management to post notices on each floor and in the lobby, and send emails reminding people.

“We get comfortable and take a lot of things for granted and a lot of times we have to constantly be reminded to take precautions when you’re cooking or whatever you are doing that uses flame. You just have to be very careful,” Shabazz said. “It’s a blessing for them to come into our community and assist us in any way that they can.”

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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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