Tag Archives: Toby Ann Stavisky

MTA, DOT scrap plans for Main Street bus-only lane in Kew Gardens Hills


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Rory Lancman's office

Facing community and political opposition, the MTA and the city Department of Transportation slammed the brakes on a proposed dedicated bus lane for the limited Q44 bus line on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills.

The news came during Wednesday night’s meeting of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association. The MTA planned to take one lane in each direction of Main Street to convert the Q44 between Flushing and Jamaica into a Select Bus Service (SBS) route.

Civic leaders and elected officials protested the plans previously, claiming the lost lane of traffic would increase vehicular traffic on Main Street while also depriving both residents and shoppers of valued parking space.

“A dedicated bus-only lane in Kew Gardens Hills was always the wrong choice for our community,” Councilman Rory Lancman said in a press release Thursday. “The proposed bus-only lane would have increased congestion, reduced parking spaces, hurt businesses and diverted cars onto residential streets.”

Lancman, along with Rep. Grace Meng, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Senators Joseph Addabbo and Toby Ann Stavisky, praised the MTA and DOT for hearing concerns about the bus lane and ultimately nixing the plan.

According to Lancman, the DOT and MTA will seek other methods to improve traffic flow on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills, including potential street reconfiguration, off-board fare collection and re-synchronizing traffic lights.

A source familiar with the plan indicated a bus-only lane is most likely for areas of Main Street north of the Long Island Expressway. However, it is not likely a bus lane would be created on Main Street south of Kew Gardens Hills due to a lack of street space.

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Op-ed: Why I voted against the education budget


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY STATE SENATOR TOBY ANN STAVISKY

As a former teacher and as the ranking member of the Senate Higher Education Committee, it was with great reluctance that I voted ‘no’ on the policies put forth by Gov. Cuomo in the budget-related education bills. While Gov. Cuomo has been a leader on a number of progressive policies, such as the SAFE Act, same-sex marriage and universal pre-K, I was disappointed by the largely regressive policies that were present in the budget as related to education.

The 2015-2016 budget that was finalized on April 1 included a $1.6 billion spending increase for education, with $1.33 billion earmarked for school aid. Though this was significantly lower than the $2 billion in state aid that was requested by the State Education Department and that my Democratic colleagues and I fought for, it still brings education funding to its highest level ever.
Unfortunately, my colleagues in the Legislature and I were forced to choose between desperately needed school aid or passing a problematic teacher evaluation structure that could be harmful to the performance of both students and teachers for years to come. This ham-fisted strategy was designed to force legislators to approve the governor’s policy on teacher evaluations, which I believe relied far too heavily on testing to determine a teacher’s effectiveness.

The governor’s original proposal would have made student scores on state tests 50 percent of a teacher’s rating (which currently count for 20 percent) and reduce principal evaluations to 15 percent (now at 60 percent). The remaining 35 percent would be determined by observation from an independent evaluator.

Making student test scores half of a teacher’s evaluation is overly punitive to hardworking educators and to students who are now steered to learn how to test well, not necessarily how to succeed in college or careers.

Many years ago when I taught at Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica, I was assigned to teach math even though I was licensed in social studies. There was a shortage of qualified teachers for STEM subjects and I was the only teacher available who had completed the relevant math coursework. I had reservations about teaching outside of my license but I did what had to be done. Faced with the same situation today, I fear high-stakes testing would have discouraged me from teaching the class.

I agree that reforms must be made to our education system so that all teachers receive the support they need and all students receive the high-quality education they deserve. But I also believe that high-stakes testing is a wrongheaded strategy. Test scores should be a smaller portion of a teacher’s score and principal and peer evaluations should carry more weight. I also agree with NYSUT that this plan unfairly strains the collective bargaining rights of teachers in their annual performance review.

Making teachers the enemy will not improve education. In fact, I fear it will only increase animosity in a debate that instead needs more collaboration and understanding between teachers, students and parents.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky represents the 16th Senatorial District covering parts of many neighborhoods in central Queens.

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Hoping for Lunar New Year holiday, lawmakers move to end Brooklyn-Queens Day


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/File photo

State lawmakers introduced on Tuesday a bill that would eliminate Brooklyn-Queens Day from the New York City public school calendar.

The measure sponsored by state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky aims to clear a day on the calendar to permit public schools to close for the Asian Lunar New Year in the winter. Brooklyn-Queens Day, which falls on the first Thursday of June, marks the foundation of the first Sunday schools in both boroughs during the 19th century.

For decades, local Protestant churches celebrated Brooklyn-Queens Day with parades through their communities, but the parades stopped in recent years as Protestant congregations plummeted. The last major Brooklyn-Queens Day parade took place in Ridgewood in 2009, ending a century-long tradition.

Nevertheless, schools in Brooklyn and Queens remain closed the first Thursday of June, but many of them use the day for staff development.

The bill states that “there is no reason to continue this anachronistic holiday in state statutes when there is pressure to increase the time students spend in school.” However, Stavisky noted, the elimination of Brooklyn-Queens Day gives the city Department of Education (DOE) flexibility in adding another holiday such as Asian Lunar New Year.

“As a former teacher, I understand the mayor and the Department of Education have a mandate to make sure students are receiving as much classroom instructional time as possible,” Stavisky said. “But educating our students and allowing them to observe important cultural holidays should not be opposing goals. I believe that removing the now defunct Brooklyn-Queens Day and replacing it with the Lunar New Year is a pragmatic solution that the mayor and the Department of Education must consider.”

Among those who joined Stavisky at a Tuesday press conference in Flushing in support of the bill were state Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymen Ron Kim and Edward Braunstein, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and City Councilman Peter Koo.

“The history of Brooklyn-Queens Day demonstrates how observance of this day on the public school calendar has changed over the years to meet the changing demographics of our city,” Koo said. “Today, approximately 15 percent of our New York City public school students identify as Asian-American, and we must take this into consideration as we prepare the school calendar for future years.”

According to Stavisky’s office, city public schools in Asian-majority neighborhoods report absentee rates as high as 80 percent on Lunar New Year, which is “the most important cultural celebration on the Asian calendar.”

Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation declaring two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as school holidays beginning this September. Koo criticized the mayor in March for failing to grant the same holiday status for the Asian Lunar New Year.

Last December, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation granting the DOE greater flexibility to close schools on cultural and religious holidays. By law, all New York City public schools are required to hold at least 180 school days every year.

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Flushing students drink from the upstate nectar of maple syrup


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky's office

John Bowne High School students went outside today for a little sweet talk.

Students from the upstate school Verona-Vernon-Sherrill High School traveled down to Flushing to meet students at John Bowne High School. The northern folk came with a sweet mission: exchange information about the science and technology behind modern maple production in New York with their fellow downstate students.

State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky was also at the school to welcome the upstate students, who drove from Verona near Oneida, N.Y. in a vehicle named the Mobile Maple Trailer. Students from both schools are part of  a learning program, Future Farmers of America, that puts an emphasis on agricultural education. Future Farmers of America is a research organization that works with the U.S. Department of Education to develop agriculture-based curricula.

“The Mobile Maple Truck is another example of how upstate and downstate economies are strongest when they support each other,” Stavisky said. “I always look forward to the yearly exchange of ideas and information between the Future Farmers of America programs at Verona-Vernon-Sherrill and John Bowne High schools. These students are learning the skills in agriculture, science, technology and business today so that they can lead these fields in our state tomorrow.”

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Primary Day 2014 coverage


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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Check back here for The Queens Courier’s Primary Day coverage from the casting of ballots to the election results.

12:03 a.m. 

The District 11 race has been called: Incumbent state Sen. Tony Avella defeats John Liu.

11:05 p.m.

Leroy Comrie has been declared the winner in the State Senate District 14 race, defeating incumbent Malcolm Smith at 70.9% with 81.7% of the precincts reporting.

10:55 p.m.

Incumbent Toby Stavisky wins her race in State Senate District 16.

10:35 p.m.

Incumbents state Sen. James Sanders and Assemblywoman Margaret Markey have been declared winners in their races.

10:22 p.m.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been declared the winner in the Democratic primary, Kathy Hochul in the lieutenant governor race: AP

9:00 p.m.

Polls are now closed.

6:16 p.m.

Leroy Comrie: “Honored to have Mayor @BilldeBlasio here in the 14th Senate District to help #gotv for our final push!”

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

5:06 p.m. “Speaking to voters in Briarwood with Assemblyman @DavidWeprin and @ElizCrowleyNYC”: 14th District State Senate candidate Leroy Comrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

3:18 p.m. State Senate candidate John Liu admonishes a Queens resident for wearing a Yankees shirt: “We’ll get you a Mets shirt.” 

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THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

3:11 p.m. The Queens Courier found this John Liu  taxi getting the word out during Primary Day.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

3:01 p.m. State Sen. Avella’s crew lays a stake at P.S. 191.

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THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

2:37 p.m.  11th District State Senate candidate John Liu talks to a parent at P.S. 191, who told him to do something instead of just making promises.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

2:26 p.m. “Happy to do my civic duty this Primary Day. #nycvotes,” Toby Ann Stavisky tweeted.

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

1:52 p.m. State Sen. Tony Avella talks to a constituent near the voting site at P.S 169. The polling place has recorded 400 votes since 6 a.m.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

12:08 p.m. State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, who is up for re-election: “All smiles on Primary Day with @AndrewHevesi @CMKoslowitz”

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

11:30 a.m. John Liu votes this morning, hoping to defeat incumbent state Sen. Tony Avella. “Running and voting as a proud #truedemocrat, joined by @MelindaKatz on #PrimaryDay”

Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork

Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork

10:44 a.m. 30th District Assembly candidate Dmytro Fedkowskyj: “So proud of my daughter, Deanna, who is voting for the 1st time today. Let’s vote for change! #PrimaryDay #AD30″

Photo via Twitter/@FedkowskyjForNY

Photo via Twitter/@FedkowskyjForNY

10:22 a.m. State Sen. Tony Avella’s crew passes around fliers in Bayside just off of Bell Boulevard. 

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THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

10:04 a.m. “Our support has been incredibly positive and when the polls close, we are confident that our campaign will be victorious, ” Tony Avella said in a statement after the incumbent state Senator voted this morning. “Voters understand that this race boils down to which candidate they trust to uphold this office with honor and integrity, and John Liu doesn’t pass the laugh test on either account.”

Photo courtesy of Tony Avella

Photo courtesy of Tony Avella

9:38 a.m. Leroy Comrie casts his vote. “I just voted! Thanks @TishJames for joining me! #gotv”

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

9:10 a.m. Public Advocate Letitia James joins 14th District State Senate candidate Leroy Comrie in Queens.

Photo via Facebook/Leroy Comrie

Photo via Facebook/Leroy Comrie

7:48 a.m.

11th District State Senate candidate John Liu greets voters at the LIRR Bayside station.

“Greeting morning commuters bright and early with @edbraunstein reminding people to vote.”

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Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork

 

 6:00 a.m.

Polls are open and will close at 9 p.m. You can find your poll site location at http://nyc.pollsitelocator.com or by calling the voter Phone Bank at 1-866-VOTE-NYC.

Here are the list of Queens candidates in the Democratic primary for state Senate and Assembly, as well as the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor:

State Senator (10th District)
Everly Brown
Gian Jones
James Sanders Jr. *

State Senator (11th District)
Tony Avella*
John Liu

State Senator (14th District)
Munir Avery
Leroy Comrie
Malcolm Smith*

State Senator (16th District)
S.J. Jung
Toby Ann Stavisky*

Assembly (30th District)
Dmytro Fedkowskyj
Margaret Markey*

Governor
Andrew Cuomo*
Randy Credico
Zephyr Teachout

Lieutenant Governor
Kathy Hochul
Timothy Wu

Incumbent = *

90-year-old Mets fan, WWII vet honored at Citi Field


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky

BENJAMIN FANG

A veteran’s service to wounded soldiers earned him recognition with his favorite team.

Longtime Mets fan Leonard Merer, 90, was given a New York State Senate proclamation on the night of his birthday, Aug. 4, by state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky. The Mets selected him as its Veteran of the Night.

Merer was a medic during World War II. His notable service included tending to the many casualties in Normandy after D-Day.

For his service, French President François Hollande recently awarded Merer the Insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

 

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Op-ed: SCRIE and EPIC for thousands more New York seniors


| oped@queenscourier.com

 STATE SENATOR TOBY ANN STAVISKY

I am pleased to announce that starting this week, thousands more New Yorkers will be eligible for two state programs that help keep rent and prescription drugs affordable for senior citizens. The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exception (SCRIE) and Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) are designed to protect seniors on a fixed income from the steadily rising cost of rent and prescription drugs.

Expansions to EPIC took effect immediately after the budget was passed on April 1 and changes to SCRIE took effect on July 1. The new eligibility requirements are as follows:

To qualify for SCRIE, seniors must:
• Be 62 years or older
• Live in a rent-regulated apartment (rent stabilized, controlled or Mitchell-Lama)
• Be listed on the lease
• Currently pay or will pay with a lease renewal a rent that exceeds one-third of their income
• Have an income of $50,000 or less (increased from $29,000)

To qualify for EPIC, seniors must:
• Be 65 years or older
• Be enrolled in Medicare Part D
• For individuals, have a yearly income of $75,000 or less (increased from $35,000) and for couples, have a yearly income of $100,000 or less (increased from $50,000)

I am glad that my fellow legislators recognized the importance of these programs for thousands of seniors across New York State. This year’s budget marks the first time that SCRIE has been expanded since 2009 and the first expansion of EPIC since 2001.

The new income requirements are expected to cover over 10,000 more eligible seniors this year alone.

While I applaud these long overdue changes, I am concerned that for some, this might be too little too late. The affordability of rent and prescription drugs for seniors are too important to be held at the mercy of Albany’s political whims.

To avoid this annual battle, I co-sponsored Senate Bill 1218, which would peg the maximum income allowable to be eligible for SCRIE to reflect yearly increases in the regional Consumer Price Index. So as the cost of living for more senior citizens rise, so should the number of senior citizens eligible for this critical rent assistance. The same should be done for the maximum income requirement for EPIC.

Hopefully, these reforms will be enacted when the legislature returns to Albany in January. In the meantime, I encourage all senior citizens who are now newly eligible for SCRIE and EPIC to apply for the benefits.

For more information about both of these programs, including detailed eligibility requirements and applications, visit the New York City Department of Finance website for more information about SCRIE (www.nyc.gov/SCRIE) and the New York

Department of Health (www.health.ny.gov/health_care/epic/) for more information about EPIC. You may also contact my district office at 718-445-0004 or call 311.

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky represents Senate District 16, which includes Flushing, Forest Hills, Elmhurst, Woodside, Electchester, Pomonok, Bayside and Rego Park. She is the assistant leader of the Democratic Conference and serves on the Committees on Aging and Finance.

 

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United Adult Ministries to honor advocates of older adults


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

KATRINA MEDOFF

United Adult Ministries will present the Rose Kryzak Senior Leadership Award to three honorees at the Flushing House Gala at Flushing Town Hall on May 8.

Honorees state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, Steven Goodman, Ed.D., and Alan Weinberg, LCSW, “have all soldiered on in the tradition of Rose Kryzak, making major contributions of service and caring for older adults,” said Robert F. Salant, Flushing House director of community relations.

The UAM Older Adult Ministry Award will be presented to Doris Walker, an elder of the Hollis Presbyterian Church, and Doris Ramsay, a deacon of the Valley Stream Presbyterian Church.

Tenor Daniel Rodriguez will perform at the event and will be honored with a special award for his support of various nonprofits, especially those that serve older adults.

All proceeds from the fundraising gala will support an endowment fund that allows Flushing House to remain affordable for many of the older adults who live there.

For more info, call 347-532-3025, email rsalant@uam.org or click here.

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Stop for school bus or lose license for 60 days: state Senate


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

Repeat scofflaws who zoom through school bus stop signs could face stiffer penalties under a bill the state Senate passed last week.

The legislation calls for a 60-day license suspension for drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus more than twice within 10 years.

“It’s bad enough that a driver passes a stopped school bus once, but to do it twice is unacceptable,” said upstate Sen. John Bonacic, who penned the law. “This bill is intended to make our roads safer for our school children.”

Committing the crime twice within three years is currently punishable by up to $750 and 180 days in jail. But only the monetary fine — up to $1,000 — increases for each new offense after that.

The new law, in line with citywide “Vision Zero” strides to reduce pedestrian fatalities, would temporarily yank dangerous drivers from the wheel.

“Drivers who are reckless with their lives and the lives of others, particularly with the lives of children, must be punished and taken off the roads,” Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky said.

The bill now awaits movement by the state Assembly’s Transportation Committee.

 

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Op-ed: From a lifetime of war to a final search for peace


| oped@queenscourier.com

STATE SENATOR TOBY STAVISKY

On Jan.11, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon passed away at the age of 85.

Although he could be a polarizing political figure and his policies have had many critics, I found Henry Kissinger’s remembrance of Sharon in the Jan.13 issue of The Washington Post to be an accurate and fair representation of Sharon’s legacy.

Kissinger described him as a fierce warrior. From a young age, Sharon was made famous by his talent for an unfortunate fact of Israeli life—war. He is credited for commanding the battle that turned the tide of the 1973 war, earning a reputation as a hawk.

But like many of his peers, Sharon came to understand that the best way for Israel to become a secure state was to work toward establishing a lasting peace.

In 2002, I was invited by the Israeli government to join Jewish legislators from around the world in Israel for the Sixth International Conference of Jewish Ministers and Members of Parliament. The conference included 55 legislators from 23 different countries and I was asked to serve on a panel on education.

We met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in his office on January 8, 2002. I took extensive notes during my week in Israel. Describing Sharon, I wrote:

“He is a jovial, grandfatherly general who spent 28 years in the army. Mr. Sharon spent about 45 minutes talking about the millions of people who came to Israel to build the country with a plow in one hand and a sword in the other. He told us that he grew up on a farm and is looking forward to spending more time riding his horses and that his only ambition is to bring security and peace to the people of Israel. As one who has seen the horror of war, he understands, more than many politicians, the importance of peace. He described his beloved nation as one consisting of people from 102 countries speaking 82 languages. I was thinking that Flushing is still more diverse.”

Several years later in 2005, Sharon presided over the withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip, an operation that was hailed by leaders worldwide as a remarkable act of diplomacy.

As I reflect on his life, I find myself admiring Sharon not only for his political and military prowess, but also for his unwavering dedication to serving his people. I mourn along with the people of Israel the passing of leader whose life and work shaped a nation, a region, and the world and hope that his great ambition for peace can soon be realized.

 Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, the first woman from Queens County elected to the State Senate and the first woman to Chair the Senate Committee on Higher Education, represents District 16.

 

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Op-ed: We cannot forget the Philippines


| oped@queenscourier.com

STATE SENATOR TOBY ANN STAVISKY

Just over a month ago, the strongest storm ever recorded crashed into the coast of the Philippines. Wreaking devastation over large swaths of Southeast Asia, Typhoon Haiyan has affected over 12 million people in the region and claimed thousands of lives. Even today, the death toll continues to rise. At press time, the latest count was over 6,000 casualties.

It sometimes can be difficult to fathom the magnitude of a storm’s destruction and damage from half a world away. When the victims do not share our common traditions, history or culture, we may feel only remotely affected but that does not diminish the need to help others.

I and many of my Filipino constituents have seen this growing apathy towards the storm’s aftermath, evident in waning press coverage and conversation about the disaster. Our feelings were confirmed by a recent Pew poll which found more Americans were following news about the healthcare rollout than the aftermath of Haiyan. Fundraising numbers also corroborate this—one week after the typhoon hit, Americans raised about $33 million for relief efforts compared to $300 million in the immediate wake of Haiti earthquake in 2010.

So let us be clear—the disastrous denouement of Typhoon Haiyan was total and utter destruction for millions.

New York had a very small taste of the damage that natural disasters can bring when Hurricane Sandy struck our shores just over a year ago. Our friends and family in Staten Island, the Rockaways and Coney Island watched as their cherished homes and livelihoods were swept away by the storm surge. And as New Yorkers, we responded and rallied around our neighbors.

I urge the people of Queens to see the victims of Typhoon Haiyan just as they saw and were moved to action by the victims of Hurricane Sandy. I urge you to treat them as your friends, your family, your neighbors.

Which for many residents of the 16th Senate District, is true. According to a recent Asian American Federation analysis, Filipinos make up the fourth-largest Asian group in New York City, with most Filipinos living in Queens. The 16th Senate District alone is home to more than 10,000 Filipinos who mostly live in Elmhurst and Woodside, more than any other district in the state.

Last week, my colleagues Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilmember Daniel Dromm and I joined many Queens-based Filipino groups to observe the one-month anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan at a candlelight vigil and to review fundraising progress.

I was proud to stand with them that night and I pledge to stand with them until the rebuilding effort in the Philippines is finished. I hope you will join us.

Contributions can be made to the American Red Cross specifically to support Philippine typhoon relief at www.redcross.org. Various Filipino such as organizations Gawad Kalinga are also accepting donations and are able to deliver services with very low overhead costs.

If you are unsure if a non-profit is reputable, you should check their rating on Charity Navigator.

Toby Ann Stavisky, the first woman from Queens County elected to the State Senate and the first woman to Chair the Senate Committee on Higher Education. She currently represents the 16th Senate District.

 

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Op-Ed: Election equality long overdue


| oped@queenscourier.com

STATE SENATOR TOBY ANN STAVISKY AND ASSEMBLYMEMBER DAVID WEPRIN

Last Friday, we joined many leaders of the South Asian community from across Queens to commend the Board of Elections for its plan to provide voter assistance in Bengali for the upcoming elections.

While we were heartened by the plan put forth by the Board of Elections, which would include translated ballots at 60 Queens polling sites and expanded language assistance, these necessary improvements to our election process are long overdue.

On October 13, 2011, the Census Bureau indicated that Queens County was required under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act to provide language assistance to Bengali-speaking voters. Since then, four primary and general elections have come and gone and Bengali-speaking citizens, 60 percent of whom have limited English proficiency, have not been provided the assistance they deserve to fully participate in our democratic system.

To live in, to work in and to vote in Queens is to be a part of one of the most diverse communities in our state. This diversity must be reflected in our electoral process.

We have been assured that the Board of Elections will follow through with their plan to provide Bengali language assistance in the upcoming primary and general elections, critical contests that will decide the future of our city.

Also on the ballot this November will be six constitutional amendments, including casino gambling. An informed electorate is essential in determining how to vote and voters need to understand these proposed amendments.

We also urge the state legislature to reconsider our bill that directs the Queens Board of Elections to provide written language assistance in Punjabi in addition to the languages currently available.

We’re both so proud to represent such vibrant communities made up of voices from all over the world. Now it’s time to make sure those voices, no matter if they’re English-speaking, Bengali-speaking or otherwise, are fully heard this coming Election Day.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky represents District 16 and Assemblymember David Weprin represents the 24th Assembly District. 

 

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Library expansion breaks ground in memory of Queens activist


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Their eyes looking to the skies in memory of a lost beloved leader, elected officials drove their golden shovels into the dirt to break ground on a long-anticipated library expansion project.

“It feels so good to be standing here today, knowing that construction is beginning,” said Queens Library President Thomas Galante at the Friday, April 19 ceremony.

The $10 million renovation project at the Kew Gardens Hills Library was a longtime pet project of Pat Dolan, a Queens activist who was struck and killed by a car last November. She was 72.

“Her memory lives on,” Galante said. “The library she loved so much is now officially located on Pat Dolan Way, and this [expansion] will be her legacy to the community. We will always know she is looking on.”

There will be an extra 3,000 square feet of space when the branch at 72-33 Pat Dolan Way reopens in 2015, officials said.

The library will also have twice as many computers, a bigger meeting room, an energy-saving roof and larger, separate spaces for adults, teens and children.

“This will be a fantastic library. It’s going to be a great place,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “Libraries are important because they’re full of knowledge. Little children, teenagers, seniors—they’re good for everyone to absorb knowledge.”

The branch closed for construction on February 22. A temporary library is open at 71-34 Main Street, library officials said. Nearby branches are also located in Hillcrest, Briarwood and Pomonok.

 

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branch

Legislators come thru for co-op, condo owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com

State leaders will end up keeping their pledge to co-op and condo shareholders in the city.

According to Governor Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Legislature has reached an agreement on tax relief legislation and will sign it into law when officials return to Albany.

The city will also issue tax bills based on new and lower rates, they said, and the tax abatement — which reduces the difference in property taxes paid by Class 2 co-op and condo properties and one, two and three family homes in Class 1 — will be retroactive.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said the J-51 program, which gives owners partial property tax exemptions for capital improvements, will also be extended to June 30, 2015.

These assurances come after widespread panic in co-op and condo communities at the end of June, when the Legislature adjourned session without extending the city’s J-51 program and the expired abatement. Fear mounted in November after elected officials said the Legislature would not reconvene to pass promised relief.

Assemblymember Ed Braunstein said the Legislature would likely pass his bill, which would increase abatements for middle class co-op owners from 17.5 percent to 25 percent this year and over 28 percent in three years, based on assessments.

Incumbent Stavisky, newcomer Ron Kim defeat Republican challengers


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/PHOTOS BY ALEXA ALTMAN

Political veteran State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky welcomed in a new generation of local leadership when she and first-time candidate Ron Kim celebrated their general election wins of Senate District 16 and Assembly District 40, respectively.

Stavisky, the first woman from Queens to be elected to the State Senate, defeated Republican opponent J.D. Kim with 76 percent of the vote and garnered 40,355 votes according to unofficial results, retaining her seat in Senate District 16 for what will be her seventh term.

“I’m always nervous,” said Stavisky before the results poured in on Tuesday, November 6. “And I think that’s a good thing because you can’t take voters for granted. Every election is different and I’m optimistic but the voters have spoken.”

Celebrating alongside Kim, who swept a victory from Philip Gim with 67 percent of the vote, Stavisky applauded the political newcomer’s “remarkable job” and indicated his key to success as continuing along his current trajectory.

“It’s very difficult when you run for office for the first time but [Kim] instinctively knew what to do, he knew what positions to take — it’s a lot different when you’re a candidate. It’s one thing to study political science and be familiar with the issues and it’s quite different when you’re a candidate.”

Kim, who was endorsed by Assemblymember Grace Meng, whose seat he will be taking, outraised Gim by a more than 2 to 1 margin.

During Kim’s victory speech, he thanked his staff, volunteers and family. Kim named New York City Comptroller John Liu as his “mentor” and “advisor,” saying that had it not been for Liu, he would have not won this election.

“When an elected official makes an endorsement it’s usually a photo op and a piece of advice,” said Kim. “But John was there every single night — he was so dedicated. I learned so much about what it is to run a campaign the right way and do it the clean way and just pure hard work.”

He then thanked Stavisky for her guidance, saying the Senator stood with him from the beginning of his campaign and their successes were the result of a combined effort.

“We ran as a team and we won as a team,” said Kim.