Tag Archives: State Senator Tony Avella

PAC attacks City Council candidates in District 19 race

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Melissa Chan

Three City Council candidates who recently had their faces plastered on smear mailers are calling for an end to “one of the worst mudslinging campaigns” the district has ever seen.

“I am very disappointed and saddened by the false attacks which have been made on the personal character of the candidates,” said Chrissy Voskerichian. “False accusations and outright lies have no place in what should be a spirited, focused and honest campaign.”

Voskerichian, Austin Shafran and Paul Graziano have been targeted in at least five hit pieces this month which were paid for by a political action committee (PAC) called Jobs for New York.

They are running against two other Democrats in a primary for the District 19th seat currently held by indicted Republican Councilmember Dan Halloran.

John Duane has not yet been mentioned by the PAC and Paul Vallone has been endorsed by them.

Graziano, in the latest mailer, is seen engulfed in flames under a headline that reads “Let’s not get burned by Paul Graziano.”

The urban planner is accused of saying in 2006 he would “take advantage of racial strife in the community” and is called “an embarrassment” in another flyer.

“It’s really an outrageous situation,” said Graziano, who also called the hit pieces “amusing” and “ridiculous.”

Voskerichian, who served as Halloran’s chief of staff for three years, is labeled “the captain” of the scandal-scarred politician’s “sinking, corrupt ship.”

Shafran, the Senate Democrats spokesperson in 2010, is blasted for “staunchly defending” State Senator Malcolm Smith, who allegedly conspired with Halloran and GOP leaders to run for mayor on the Republican line.

The four candidates called for Vallone to put an end to the negative campaigning — “the worst” the district has seen, according to State Senator Tony Avella, who used to be the area’s councilmember.

“I consider Paul Vallone a friend, and I know he’s better than this,” Duane said. “It’s time for him to stand up and do the right thing by publicly repudiating this insidious, negative campaign that is being perpetrated on his behalf.”

The PAC, headed by the Real Estate Board of New York, spent $113,134 on Vallone’s campaign, according to The Real Deal.

Austin Finan, a spokesperson for Vallone’s campaign, said candidates, by law, have no control over outside spending.

PACs can spend as much money as they want on behalf of candidates but cannot coordinate with them.

“Those opponents of Paul Vallone who repeatedly lie about these facts continue to demonstrate they lack the honesty and integrity to represent northeast Queens in the City Council,” Finan said.

The candidates, however, said Vallone is still tied to the tactics.

“Anyone who benefits from these reprehensible attacks and fails to denounce them is as bad as the people behind those attacks,” Shafran said.



Law to alert community boards about contaminated site cleanups

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of State Senator Tony Avella

The state is set to begin notifying community boards when cleanups of contaminated land are planned in their areas.

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently approved a bill that would make the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) responsible for alerting community boards of brownfield site cleanups.

Quoting Public Law, the DEC defines a brownfield as “any real property, the redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a contaminant.” Brownfields can include industrial sites or abandoned gas stations with hazardous waste or petroleum.

The DEC currently notifies adjacent property owners, nearby schools and local newspapers in the event of a cleanup. There is a 30-day public comment period after a cleanup request is made.

Under the new law, residents who attend their community board’s monthly meetings will be given more time to develop a comment before scheduled public hearings.

State Senator Tony Avella, who sponsored the bill, said the advanced warning is needed because significant environmental brownfield cleanup projects often lead to large developments that can affect locals.

“Community boards are our first line of defense in protecting our quality of life,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, who introduced the law.

The cleanup of the Waterpointe-Whitestone brownfield site sparked the legislation, lawmakers said. Community Board 7, which represents the area, said it was never informed of the initial cleanup application.

“Providing board members with information about brownfield sites will ensure that the community has eyes and ears on the ground to make certain that all remediation is done appropriately,” Braunstein said.



Bellerose residents demand mosquito help after years with no West Nile spraying

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of CDC

Bellerose residents say they live in a forgotten land when it comes to the city’s efforts to eliminate mosquitoes.

“You can’t go outside. You can’t make it from your car to your front door,” said Maria Donza.

The bloodsuckers are keeping residents on house arrest and even alert indoors, said Donza, who added she sits with a bottle of bug spray at home.

The city has not sprayed the area since before 2011.

Pesticide was scheduled for Bellerose in August 2011, but the order was eventually canceled, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) website.

The department recently targeted neighborhoods north of Bellerose, spraying parts of Bayside, Douglaston, Douglaston Manor, Glen Oaks, Little Neck and Oakland Gardens on July 25 and early the next day.

“Everywhere else in Queens has been mostly getting sprayed,” said resident AJ Sonnick. “I don’t understand why Bellerose has been forgotten.”

The 20-year-old said he was bitten four times in the 20 minutes he was in his backyard the other day.

“This is a beautiful neighborhood. It’s a great neighborhood to live,” Sonnick said. “It’s a shame that we just can’t sit outside.”

A DOHMH spokesperson said Bellerose has not been sprayed because no West Nile Virus activity has been detected there.

The virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can cause encephalitis and meningitis.

Insects carrying the potentially fatal virus were recently found in Auburndale, College Point, Holliswood, Middle Village, Pomonok and the areas north of Bellerose sprayed last week.

The pesticide is taken as a last resort in areas where there is a high risk of West Nile Virus transmission, the department said.

Catch basins in Bellerose have been treated with larvicide twice this season.

“Though there may be an increase in floodwater mosquitoes citywide, these mosquitoes do not transmit West Nile Virus,” the DOHMH spokesperson said.

However, State Senator Tony Avella said the city should take measures before Bellerose makes the infected list.

“Every year, we have deaths from West Nile Virus. Every year, it resurfaces,” he said. “So why don’t we do a much more proactive spraying to reduce that population rather than wait until it explodes on us?”

Mosquitoes “don’t know what a boundary is on a map” and can fly into new nearby territories, the legislator added.

The city urged residents to call 3-1-1 to report standing water, which can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.



Whitestone residents rally against bus route

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of State Senator Tony Avella

Buses are still going down a narrow residential street in Whitestone and often getting stuck, residents say, despite two years the community has spent pushing for another route.

“It is incomprehensible that the MTA would consider such a narrow street for the routing of a city bus,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “This is an accident waiting to happen and is ruining the quality of life for the residents on this block and jeopardizing their safety.”

The Q15A bus route has run through 10th Avenue, between Clintonville and 152nd Streets, since 2010, when the MTA axed Q14 service.

Officials said the line was created to serve former Q14 riders and continues on the old route along 150th Street to 7th Avenue.

But since then, residents say they have been squeezed in as buses rumble down the tight two-way street.
“Residents living on this block are very fearful when driving out of the driveway due to the dangerous traffic pattern created by this bus route,” said Whitestone resident Kevin Leibowitz. “Due to the buses speeding down this narrow street, many drivers are fearful of getting hit and damaging their cars.”

Karen Babizh, whose family owns Clinton Restaurant, said the eatery lost four parking spots and is constantly interrupted by traffic jams.

“Buses often get stuck as they go down on the street, and whenever it happens, the bus driver would come into our restaurant, asking customers to move their cars,” she said.

An MTA spokesperson said the agency looked into having the alternate route join the Q15, but the changes were not effective.

“At the community’s request, the MTA did look at having the Q15A travel on 7th Avenue, Clintonville Street, and 14th Avenue to rejoin the Q15,” said MTA spokesperson Deirdre Parker. “However, this would take many of the riders along a long, circuitous, U-shaped routing and greatly slow their commute.”

The MTA believes 10th Avenue is “a wide enough street” for both buses and cars, Parker said. The authority does not have plans to reroute either lines.



Bill to preserve city parkland

| mchan@queenscourier.com

A bill introduced in the State Senate would make it more difficult for private companies to get a hold of city parkland.

“Parkland is sacred and should be preserved for generations to come, not given away to private developers, especially without just and equal parkland compensation,” said State Senator Tony Avella, who penned the legislation.

The law would allow for a review process of proposals to change parkland use. It would also require replacement green space to be three times the size of the parcel being alienated and within one mile of that parcel.

Three separate proposals around Flushing Meadows-Corona Park are at the root of bill’s target. Developers want to expand the US Tennis Association (USTA) stadium, transform Willets Point and build a Major League Soccer stadium there.

“[These projects] threaten to take crucial parkland from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and together constitute perhaps the biggest land grab for parkland not only in Queens, but also in the entire city,” Avella said.

The USTA wants to lease 0.68 acres of city property to expand the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. That would allow them to shift the grandstand stadium and the southern tennis courts.

In exchange, the association agreed to give the city back 1.56 acres it currently leases, though project opponents say a parcel of that land is already publicly accessible.

The state legislature gave its end-of-session approval last month, passing a bill required when municipal parkland is sold or leased to a private entity.

But Avella said the mandated bill is just a legal precedent based on previous court decisions. He added that it only recommends — and does not require — that parkland be replaced.

Park advocates who support the bill say open space is a nonrenewable resource meant for the public and loopholes need to be closed.

“We would like to see park alienation made even more difficult,” said Frederick Kress, founder of Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces. “It needs to be really toughened up.”

Alfredo Centola, founder of Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a group opposed to private development in the park, said the law is “a good idea because it’s going to actually make it extremely difficult for the land to be stolen.”

The Senate’s Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee will have to decide whether to move the legislation forward to the full Senate after the summer recess is over.

“Unfortunately, once lost, municipal parkland is difficult, if not impossible, to recover,” Avella said.



Pols push for two-state study of airplane noise

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Airport operators have become the target of the latest localized effort to quiet Queens skies.

The state legislature has passed a bill that would require the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to conduct a one-time study to determine the effects of aircraft noise on Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Jersey residents.

“With this study on aircraft noise, we can best determine the use of certain runways and flight paths and use federal funding to solve this serious issue,” said Assemblymember Edward Ra, who represents parts of Nassau County.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a new flight pattern last December, much to the dismay of residents who say the procedure causes nonstop noise from low-flying planes.

The bill would require the bi-state authority to submit its findings to both state legislatures by next June, depending on when it is enacted.

It awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature in New York and ultimately needs Governor Chris Christie’s approval in New Jersey, though it was only introduced in the New Jersey Senate last month.

“We’re confident that if we get this study done, it will prove that there is a significant impact on our communities and the FAA and Port Authority will be required to find measures to remediate this problem,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein.

The legislation would also require the Port Authority — which operates five hubs in New York and New Jersey, including John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airports — to hold biennial public hearings.

“It is about time that all the communities that are affected stand up and say to the FAA and the Port Authority, ‘We’re not going to take it anymore,’’ said State Senator Tony Avella. “We may live by the airports, but when we all moved here, the air traffic was nothing like it is now.”

The FAA has since formed a committee to review its decision-making process, officials announced in May, and has agreed to hear out impacted communities.

10 years after deadly staged accident, family wants Alice’s Law passed

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The family of the 71-year-old Queens woman killed 10 years ago in a staged car accident said bureaucratic delays have held up justice — and a proposed law to stiffen penalties in such cases.

“It should have passed,” said Daniel Ross, 56, of Bayside. “I don’t want another family to go through what we went through.”

His mother, Alice Ross, died in 2003 when her car was struck in Bellerose by another vehicle.

According to the district attorney, Waurd Demolaire of Brooklyn intentionally rammed his car into hers to collect insurance money under the state’s No-Fault Law. He was convicted of manslaughter and conspiracy in 2006 and released on probation last October.

“The perpetrator got off with a very reduced sentence, considering the fact that he murdered my sister,” said Alice’s brother, Don Peters. “Now he’s free to walk the streets of New York again.”

Legislation dubbed Alice’s Law has been proposed in the State Senate and Assembly. Both bills would impose tougher criminal penalties on people who engage in staged accidents. But legislators said failure to compromise on two different versions of the law has stalled the ratification process.

The Assembly wants to classify staging accidents to defraud insurance as a class E felony, the lowest felony offense. It carries a prison sentence of one to five years.

A bill passed in the State Senate would make the crime a class D felony and upgrade it to class B if the accident causes serious injury or death to another person. That could mean a prison sentence of five to more than 25 years.

“It’s continually frustrating that there seems to be a philosophical difference between the State Senate and Assembly,” said State Senator Tony Avella, a cosponsor of the Senate bill. “Increasing penalties for any sort of crime, [the Assembly] just won’t do it.”

Assemblymember David Weprin, a sponsor of the bill in the lower house, said he is optimistic that both houses will reach a compromise and get the legislation passed this year.

The legislature has less than one month to resolve differences and get one bill approved in both houses before the session ends June 20.

Last year, the State Senate passed its bill in March and sent it to the Assembly. But according to records, the Assembly’s amended bill reached the Senate on June 19 — too late for action by the upper house.

Alice’s Law was first proposed in 2007 and has been reintroduced every year since 2010.

“It’s been too long in coming,” said Peters, 78, of Saratoga Springs. “The process has been much too slow. I wish it would become law. I think it would be a very appropriate recognition of that anniversary.”

Daniel Ross showed The Courier a copy of a letter from authorities saying the man responsible for his mother’s untimely death was now free.

“That was murder,” he said. “It could have been anybody’s mother.”





Barry Grodenchik drops out of BP race after key endorsement goes to Katz

| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

Former assemblymember Barry Grodenchik has ended his borough president bid less than a day after being beat for a key county endorsement.

“The next borough president must focus like a laser on jobs, education, healthcare, economic development and Sandy recovery,” Grodenchik said. “I am proud to have brought those issues to the forefront of the debate. But at this time, I believe that it is in the best interest of my family, team and party to end my candidacy.”

Grodenchik, 53, served as deputy borough president from 2009 to earlier this year, when he stepped down in order to run for BP.

The Queens County Democratic Party endorsed his rival, Melinda Katz, on Monday.

Sources close to the race said the endorsement, coupled with Grodenchik’s exit, was meant to give Katz a much-needed boost over front-runner Peter Vallone Jr. The councilmember leads the race both in polls and in fundraising.

Sources said Grodenchik’s move could also give Katz a better chance of securing key votes from the Orthodox Jewish community, where Grodenchik had strong support.

Katz already has the endorsement of several southeast leaders including the Reverend Floyd Flake, senior pastor of the 23,000-member Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica.

Vallone, chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, has the support of law enforcement groups including the Detectives Endowment Association, the New York City Fire Marshals Benevolent Association and the NYPD Captains Endowment Association.

Councilmember Leroy Comrie and State Senator Tony Avella are rumored to be thinking of dropping out of the beep race. Neither campaign returned calls for comment.

Political insiders said the county’s leadership has been increasing efforts to hurt Vallone’s chances.

“It’s very obvious that this was an ‘ABV’ choice,” said a Queens political operative, meaning “Anybody But Vallone.”

The Queens County Democratic Party did not immediately comment.

Vallone, often seen as being too vocal, said the recent developments have not hurt his campaign.

“That’s fine,” he said. “As I’ve said from day one, it doesn’t matter. I never expected county support, and it doesn’t matter to me if there are two candidates or 10. I’m still going to be in this until the end, and I intend to win it.”

Historic Fresh Meadows horse stable faces eviction

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Melissa Chan

Horses in a historic Queens barn may have their last trot in a century-old stable.

“Everyone’s saddened to see that it’s in jeopardy,” said equestrian master Joy Tirado, 43.

The Western Riding Club in Fresh Meadows—and its seven steeds—faces eviction now that property owner John Lightstone, 87, has put the land up for sale after three decades of ownership.

He currently leases the stable at 169-38 Pidgeon Meadow Road to Tirado for $600 a month.

Lightstone’s attorney, Jeff Schwartz, said it has become increasingly difficult for the widower octogenarian to manage the 5,539-square-foot plot on his own.

“He wants to sell his home and move into a smaller home with a simpler lifestyle,” Schwartz said. “It’s his property. He should be allowed to sell it.”

Tirado has until May 19 to exercise the “right of first refusal” clause in her lease, meaning she must substantially match the $800,000 offer already made by another party to buy the property no later than August.

“We need to maintain this horse stable here that has been a major factor within this community because its historical value is immeasurable,” said Tirado, who adopts rescue horses.

She also offers free therapeutic services every day to about 20 youths, seniors and cancer patients.

“It’s a wonderful community resource that unfortunately we may lose,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “We don’t do enough to preserve the unique character and history of each neighborhood.”

Avella called for the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to review the barn for landmark designation.

“The stable brings us back to the days when all of Queens was farmland,” he said. “To this day, it remains one of the few stables left within a residential community.”

Nearly 200 people have signed an online petition to save the barn by giving it landmark status.

“This is a real heritage,” said Beverly McDermott, president of the Kissena Park Civic Association. “If the city had half a heart and any brains, they would give [Lightstone] fair purchase price for this property and run it as a facility for children and for adults who need special therapy.”

Schwartz shot down rumors that the land—which preservationists say could fit four homes—would be sold to developers. He also said Lightstone loves and sympathizes with the horses.

“In this present economy and in this industry, it is almost universal that when somebody buys a property,” the attorney said, ”they don’t want to buy it with a tenant in place. They want it vacant.”



Town hall highlights transit issues in northeast Queens

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Idle buses and a lack of adequate service are some of the transit problems plaguing northeast Queens, residents say.

About 25 people aired their grievances to bus, subway and LIRR officials during a town hall meeting on Thursday.

“I think we can all agree that we are under-serviced by mass transit in this district,” said State Senator Tony Avella.

Some residents said they were outraged at buses that park for as long as an hour with their engines running along the service road of the Clearview Expressway near Bayside High School.

The MTA said it would find a different location for the vehicles to park, according to Joseph Raskin, the agency’s assistant director of government and community relations.

He encouraged residents to call the MTA with the time of the incident and bus number to further curb the problem.

“We take that very seriously,” Raskin said. “We do not tolerate [drivers] leaving their busses running. We will take care of it.”

Leaders from St. George’s Church on 135th Street and 38th Avenue in Flushing said an increasing number of buses end their routes right outside the church. The vehicles, they said, were re-routed to Main Street between 38th and 39th Streets.

“We’re surrounded by buses that are idling and blocking traffic,” a church representative said.

Raskin said the move was due to the popularity of the Main Street station in Flushing. He called it “by far the largest transfer station in our whole system.”

Many commuters also argued for a free transfer from the LIRR to the subway at Penn Station.
LIRR official Bob Brennan said the agency might not be able to supply that service.

“Over 80 percent of our customers transfer to the subway,” he said. “Quite frankly, as most of you know, the MTA is on an austerity budget. Things like that cost money.”

Rider Al Matican said he wanted the MTA to implement a pilot program that would install sliding doors between platforms and rails in subway stations.

“The most important thing is saving lives,” he said. “Making the yellow lines bigger won’t stop someone from pushing you off the platform. If an elevator door was missing, it would be fixed right away.”
Raskin said the MTA was looking into the sliding doors and “a lot of different solutions to stop this from happening.”

“It’s a huge capital investment [but] it’s going to be addressed,” he said.




Comfort station coming to Little Bay Park

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of State Senator Tony Avella

Local leaders broke ground on a comfort station at Little Bay Park, marking the start of construction to a long-awaited project.

“A comfort station at a great park like Little Bay Park has been long overdue,” said State Senator Tony Avella.

Residents have urged the city’s Parks Department for about seven years to put public restrooms in the Bayside park. There are only three port-a-potties currently stationed there.

Plans were stalled when funding provided by the state’s Department of Transportation required additional review and time for comments, a Parks spokesperson said.

The site’s coastal wetland location and the need for new sewer connections also called for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and city’s Department of Environmental Protection to provide approvals on design and construction documents.

But now plans are back on track, officials said at the April 2 groundbreaking ceremony.

“The community has waited a long time for this groundbreaking,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “[We are] pleased that it is finally becoming a reality — a facility that will make a visit to Little Bay Park more pleasant for everyone.”

Construction is expected to last one year, officials said.



Borough President candidates making the rounds

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BP candidates


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.



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.



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.”



Borough president candidates pick up endorsements

| tcullen@queenscourier.com


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.