Tag Archives: State Senator Tony Avella

Borough President candidates making the rounds


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BP candidates

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

Borough President candidates are blazing through Queens, participating in forums and allowing the community to hear their positions.

The six Democrats hoping to replace current Borough President Helen Marshall most recently gathered at the Hollis Hills Jewish Center in Fresh Meadows and attended the Ridgewood Democratic Club’s monthly meeting.

State Senators Tony Avella and Jose Peralta joined City Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Leroy Comrie, former Assembly and Councilmember Melinda Katz and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik to speak to members of several Democratic clubs across Queens.

In Fresh Meadows, discussion of mayoral control of the Board of Education (BOE) dominated the forum.
Grodenchik said he has mixed feelings towards the issue, but he wants to “bring some measure of control back to the boroughs.”

The controversy surrounding development of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was also heavily debated. Peralta said he in favor of the proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium, but would ensure that the park space used not only has to be replaced, but improved.

“It has to be better,” he said, calling soccer “the sport of the world.”

Despite his support for the stadium, he is opposed to the proposed plans for a shopping mall and an expansion of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) center.

Vallone said that he wanted to eliminate overexpansion in the park and bring it to areas in the borough that are “yearning for that kind of development.”

Avella, however, said he is the only candidate that is steadfastly against all three proposals for development.

All of the candidates will continue to campaign and participate in forums across Queens until election day on

Tuesday, November 5. The next forum will be held at St. John’s University on Friday, April 12.

 

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Couple will not demolish historic Douglaston home


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Courtesy photo

The newlywed owners of a historic Douglaston house say they have no plans to harm the 19th century remnant after neighbors rallied outside their home last week, The Courier has learned.

Property owner Xiu Jun Zhai and his wife received a partial job permit by the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) on March 4 to change the number of stories in their 38-60 Douglaston Parkway house, according to an application.

The proposal angered neighboring residents, who said construction would destroy the character of the community and ruin a relic.

Plans were not specific but called for “vertical and horizontal enlargement” of the 1,800-square-foot structure and partial demolition that “affects the exterior building envelope,” the application said.

The house dates back to the 1860s, according to preservationists. It is located within the proposed Douglaston Historic District Extension, which was calendared for landmark designation in 2008.

But the couple, who tied the knot last April and purchased the home in September, said they only plan on demolishing two structures in the backyard that were built without permits after 1952. They include a wood deck with a roof and a separate smaller residence to the rear left of the house.

According to a close friend to the property owners, Zhai does not plan on altering the exterior of the main house on the 9,000-square-feet of land.

“The owner is not taking down the house,” the source said. “They want to start family there.”

The DOB did not confirm the plans in time for press.

Zhai bought the property for $660,000, according to State Senator Tony Avella. The building has been vacant for five years.

 

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Neighbors rally against changes to historic Douglaston home


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Neighboring residents of a historic Douglaston house rallied last Friday to save the 19th century remnant from proposed changes.

The new owner of the 38-60 Douglaston Parkway site has submitted plans to the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) to significantly alter the house. The department issued a “partial job” permit to property owner Xiu Jun Zhai on March 4 to change the number of stories in the building, according to an application the DOB approved in February.

The plans were not specific but called for “vertical and horizontal enlargement” of the 1,800-square-foot structure and partial demolition that “affects the exterior building envelope,” the application said.

“We’re talking about saving a tiny bit of history,” said Paul Di Benedetto, president of the Bayside Historical Society. “Once it’s gone, it never ever will be replaced. If you erase the history of an area, then you take away its character and its soul.”

The house, which sits on about 9,000-square-feet of land, dates back to the 1860s. It is located within the proposed Douglaston Historic District Extension, which was calendared for landmark designation in 2008. The approximate 20 homes in the extension mark the area’s transition from its rural origins to smaller farms and suburban estates, preservationists said.

Elisabeth de Bourbon, spokesperson for the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), said the agency is still “actively considering” giving landmark designation to the extension.

Zhai bought the property last October for $660,000, according to State Senator Tony Avella. The building has been vacant for five years.

According to a source who did not want to be named, the property owner plans on making changes only to the inside of the home to make it “livable.” He does not want to alter the building’s exterior, the source said.

But the city allowing the new homeowner to alter the historic home sets a precedent, Avella said.

“It’s like a domino effect,” the legislator said. Before you know it, you’ve lost the character and the historic nature of this very wonderful neighborhood.”

 

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Borough president candidates pick up endorsements


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

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As the candidates start to get out and campaign, the race is heating up for the next Queens borough president.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who has led in terms of fundraising since mid-2012, was the most recent candidate to officially kick off his campaign with an event on Monday, March 11 in his native Astoria. Norman Seabrook, president of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, gave the group’s endorsement at the rally.

Former councilmember and former assemblymember Melinda Katz has picked up the backing of the late former Mayor Ed Koch, and the Rev. Floyd Flake, a former congressmember and current senior pastor of the Greater Allen A. M. E. Cathedral of New York.

“It’s been 20 years,” she said of her relationships and endorsements. “I’ve been extremely fortunate in my life to have made a lot of friends.” As former chair of the Land Use Committee, Katz said she gained considerable experience working with the entire borough, either to preserve neighborhoods or help economic growth in others.

State Senator Jose Peralta, representing mainly Corona, has been an advocate for replenishing portions of his district, particularly developing Willets Point and cleaning up Roosevelt Avenue. Union 32 BJ SEIU endorsed Peralta’s candidacy on Friday, March 8.

“No one fights harder for working families and immigrant New Yorkers than SEIU 32BJ, and I am thrilled that they have joined our campaign,” Peralta said. “The thousands of 32BJ members who live in Queens know that we need new leadership to make sure that every child receives a great public school education, that families have a chance to succeed no matter where they come from, and that no neighborhood or borough is left behind when it comes to city services and public safety.”

Former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik has been backed by Queens-based Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “It is an honor to have the support of Local 3, and the thousands of Queens residents that belong to this great union,” Grodenchik said. “Together we’re going to bring hands on, visible leadership, and continue the fight to bring good paying jobs to Queens.”

Representatives for Councilmember Leroy Comrie and State Senator Tony Avella were contacted regarding their races, but did not return calls as of press time.

 

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Dangerous Whitestone intersection made safer


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

A dicey intersection near a Whitestone elementary school just got a little safer.

The city installed a four-way stop on 154th Street at the intersection of 11th Avenue after residents petitioned for more controls. The accident-prone school crossing is half a block away from P.S. 193.

“This has been a problem location going back to my days in the City Council, and the community has been very vocal on the need for additional traffic controls at this location for years,” said State Senator Tony Avella.

“Ensuring the safety of our children as they go to school should be one of our top traffic priorities.”

Before the change, there were only two stop signs for vehicles going east and westbound. Residents said cars constantly parked illegally in a “No Standing” zone impaired the vision of drivers trying to go straight on 11th Avenue or make a right turn, The Courier reported last September.

Having to slowly inch up halfway into the intersection, they said, makes them sitting ducks for speeding cars zooming down 154th Street.

There were no reported injuries at the location between 2006 and 2010, said a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT). There was only one crash in 1996, which resulted in one injury, according to crashstat.org.

But Devon O’Connor, president of the Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association, said he witnessed at least four collisions there last summer. The intersection, he said, has been a problem for over a decade.

Support for the traffic controls came from the school, parents, elected officials and Community Board 7, O’Connor said.

“It’s definitely going to reduce speeding and car crashes,” he said. “I stood there for a while watching [the intersection with the new stop signs]. You can definitely tell it’s a whole different vibe.”

 

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State senator wants to landmark Flushing Meadows-Corona Park


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Landmark the park.

That’s what State Senator Tony Avella wants for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to block development in the area.

These include an entertainment center at Willets Point — an area that is technically parkland — along with expansions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and a proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium.

The projects are either inside or on the edge of the park, but only the proposed soccer arena would require replacement parkland to be installed somewhere relatively close to Flushing Meadows. Normal park users, however, will not get the same access to this new park, Avella said, and Flushing Meadows would become overcrowded.

“Normally when you have some alienation, [and] you have some land coming in, you have to replace parkland of equal acreage some place everyone can agree upon. You may actually replace the amount of acreage, but the number of people who use it would be significantly less.”

Landmarking includes a review of the park for its historical and cultural value. The independent commission will look at these and decide whether or not it goes to a full vote.

“We put together what I think are very significant reasons why it should be done,” said Avella. “The historic aspect of the park in terms of two Worlds Fairs, housing the United Nations for a period of time and the fact that it is the borough park.

All three projects require a vote from the City Council, and then approval from the state because green space will be lost. Avella said should the bill go to the state level — in order to approve any removed parkland — he would push his colleagues in the chamber to vote down the expansions.

Risa Heller, spokesperson for MLS, said the league wanted to help refurbish the park and have a long working relationship with the parks department.

“MLS is deeply committed the long term health and vibrancy of FMCP which is why we will make a significant investment in the park in addition to replacing community fields,” she said. “We plan to be a long term partner for the park and plan to do everything we can to ensure it meets the needs of the surrounding communities.”

Spokespersons for USTA and the Willets project were reached for comment, but were not able to respond by press time.

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Queensborough students connect with Korean ‘comfort women’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Queensborough Community College

Ok Sun Lee was kidnapped by Japanese soldiers at age 15.

She was raped on average 30 times a day.

She spoke so history would not repeat itself.

Korean “comfort women” recounted their tales of survival to a group of students at Queensborough Community College’s Kupferberg Holocaust Center. The survivors represent a small handful of the 200,000 young women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army in World War II, according to accounts.

“She was just a little girl,” said student Alexander Crombez. “When you’re face to face, hearing about completely horrible events, things we can’t imagine as being possible, it feels much more immediate. These are people who are grandparents.”

Crombez, 19, of Flushing, said he and eight others studied the history of World War II in East Asia before receiving a firsthand account of the brutalities from the comfort women through videoconference. Most of them are now in their 90s, living in South Korea, students said.

“That’s when it moved from an academic type setting to a more personal, emotional trip,” he said. “It’s hard not to imagine the terror she went through when she was a young child.”

Student Wei Wu Li, 22, said he interviewed Ilchool Kang. Soldiers in the comfort station, he said, cracked the back of her head open because she drank water without permission.

“That was a heartbreaking story,” Li said.

The group of scholars said it was their goal to ensure the tales are remembered.

“It is because these students have studied the atrocities committed against the women of Korea during World War II that they have emerged as spokespersons for social justice,” said Dr. Arthur Flug, executive director of the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center. “By doing so, they have guaranteed these women that they will not be forgotten.”

Councilmember Peter Koo said he is pushing for a Flushing street to be named in honor of the comfort women. State Senator Tony Avella hopes to soon announce a resolution memorializing them.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Overcast with a chance of rain. High of 63. Winds from the NE at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 30%. Tuesday night: Overcast. Low of 55. Winds from the NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Meet the Candidates

St. John’s is holding a Meet the Candidates night from 7 p.m.to 9 p.m. at the Belson Moot Courtroom in the School of Law, where candidates for the New York State Legislature will take part in a public forum to discuss issues of importance to college students and the local community. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

 Grand jury probe likely in shooting

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on Monday said a grand jury would have to decide whether criminal charges are warranted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed motorist in Queens last week by a detective. Read more: Wall Street Journal

Four teens killed in horrific car crash on Long Island; teen at wheel only had learner’s permit

They died on Dead Man’s Curve. Four Queens teenagers were killed Monday when their car — driven by a 17-year-old with only a learner’s permit — sped off a treacherous stretch of a Long Island highway and wrapped itself around a tree. Read more: New York Daily News

Churches battle liquor store next door

Two churches in Queens are now in the middle of a nasty battle because of what’s in the middle between them. Read more: ABC New York

Residents upset over calls that accuse State Senate candidate of supporting Muslim radicals

Joseph Concannon is a relatively unknown Republican State Senate candidate but he’s created an uproar in the 11th district. Bayside residents like Andy Rothman are crying foul over a Concannon robocall that accuses incumbent State Sen. Tony Avella of supporting Muslim radicals. Read more: NY1

U.S. meningitis cases mount from thousands of patients at risk

More cases of fungal meningitis tied to contaminated steroid shots are expected to be confirmed on Tuesday, U.S. health officials said, and some patients who received the injections may have to wait weeks to know if they are infected. Read more: Reuters

Sandusky to learn sentence in child sex abuse case

Jerry Sandusky will learn what penalty a judge considers appropriate for the 45 counts of child sexual abuse for which the former Penn State assistant football coach was convicted in June. Read more: AP

Whitestone waterfront for sale, development


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of Massey Knakal Realty Services

House hunters searching for outer-borough bliss may soon find sanctuary on a scenic Whitestone cove, as 13 acres of waterfront property — the single largest building site in the borough — is now for sale.

The site, located at 151-45 6th Road, is currently overseen by real estate agent Stephen Preuss of Massey Knakal Realty Services. He is confident that sale price maximization will be possible over the next few months. Preuss alleges the property, which became available via short sale, has already been approved for the construction of 52 single-family homes by the City Planning Commission as well as the “proper community channels,” including Community Board 7.

“We shouldn’t have any problems picking up these plans and moving forward,” said Preuss.

According to Preuss, the land will most likely be purchased by a single developer rather than broken up into smaller plots, adding that the buyer may choose to build in phases as opposed to assembling the entire area at once.

Five of the 13 acres are submerged underwater, which, according to Preuss, the builder would most likely convert into a marina or boat slips.
“It’s one of the most desirable areas in the borough,” he said.

The average waterfront home in Whitestone sells for $2 million, according to Preuss.

State Senator Tony Avella supports the development so long as it adheres to the current plan of 52 single-family homes. Straying from this, Avella threatens, will meet “fierce opposition from the community and me.” As the land is currently an industrial site, Avella believes the addition of a well-thought-out housing complex will be an asset to the community, rather than a detriment.

“A lot of work was put into this plan which will match the character of the neighborhood and set a precedent for future development,” said Avella.