Tag Archives: Toby Ann Stavisky

Flushing leaders want 149th St. Bridge barriers removed


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Melissa Chan

A coalition of Flushing business owners joined two local leaders to say the city’s gridlock in not removing barriers on a busy commercial corridor has wreaked havoc on their revenue and has mobbed surrounding streets with more traffic congestion.

“It’s a clear lack of accountability and transparency by city government,” said Assembly hopeful Ron Kim. “The city of New York and Mayor Bloomberg always say that we are a friend to small businesses. This is a clear sign that they’re not.”

Kim and State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky called out the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) for not telling the public the exact completion date for the agency’s bridge capital improvement project on 149th Street in Flushing.

The project, which Kim said began in March 2010, was slated to be completed in January 2011. Later that year in June, Kim said the city agency opened up the pedestrian sidewalk but failed to remove the concrete walls and orange barrel barriers that close off the main street from through traffic.

According to a spokesperson for the DOT, “the bridge will not be opened to vehicular traffic until work is complete and is currently open to pedestrian traffic at the community’s request.”

But Kim said the project’s completion was obvious.

“All they have to do is bring a truck and lift everything up and clear the road. That’s it,” said Kim, who is running for election in the Assembly 40th race to replace current Assemblymember Grace Meng. “They kept stalling. Enough is enough. Let’s get this road open, so small businesses can survive.”

A city sign posted above the barriers near Roosevelt Avenue and Barclay Avenue was put up to inform the public of the project’s completion, Kim said, but that date had been scratched out. Kim said he also heard rumors of possible contract work not being properly negotiated.

The bridge, which has been closed for more than a year, serves a large Korean residential and business community, Kim said. The barriers, he said, deprive more than 20 local businesses of “much-needed visibility” when customers decide to shop elsewhere rather than venture into the neighborhood inflamed with traffic.

Kim claimed the agency said it received no complaints from small businesses.

Meanwhile, Kim and Stavisky said they collected 16 petitions in 30 minutes from local business owners who say their revenue has gone down by up to 20 percent.

Yang Yong Yi, an employee at local Korean restaurant Hahm Ji Bach, said she has visually noticed a drop in customers, as well as several car accidents caused by the swelling of traffic.

“It’s been closed for so long. We have to open it,” said Yi, 53. “There are too many problems with everyone going around [the closed off street].”

John Messer kicks off campaign against state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo by Lev Radin

An Oakland Gardens attorney officially launched his second try at defeating a nearly 13-year State Senate incumbent, hoping a newly-redrawn majority Asian district and a one-on-one primary will give him a leg up this time around.

John Messer, 42, pointed out that since the new 16th District, which is now 53 percent Asian, no longer includes Bay Terrace — an area that voted largely for State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky in a primary race two years ago — he foresees a more level playing field. He also expects this year’s two-way battle to bode well in his favor.

“Everybody knows that when you bring more people into a race and you divide the vote, it gives an opportunity for an incumbent to win even though they don’t have a majority of the votes,” Messer said.

Stavisky won a three-way 2010 primary challenge against Messer and Isaac Sasson, a retired professor and cancer researcher, with 45 percent of the vote. Sasson is now supporting Messer, who rallied supporters at his July 22 campaign kickoff at the Flushing Mall.

“We hear the same thing over and over again,” said Messer, who has thrown in $351,000 of his own money to the campaign. “Voters of this district want change. Nothing I believed in two years ago has changed.”

Messer accused Stavisky of never hiring an Asian staffer in her dozen years as Flushing’s senator while pointing to his own two Asian campaign co-chairs, as well as his Chinese wife and three kids.

But Stavisky’s spokesperson, Josh Goodman, said the claims were false. The incumbent senator, he said, has had Asian-American staffers over the years, as well as Chinese and Korean language services available at her Flushing district office.

“Anybody in the community can always get help from Senator Stavisky regardless of her ethnic background and linguistic issues,” Goodman said. “I think it’s a little insulting of Mr. Messer to suggest she doesn’t understand a community that she serves so well.”

Stavisky — the first woman from Queens elected to the State Senate — has the backing of every Asian elected official in the city, Goodman said, as well as the Queens County Democratic Party and both U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer.

The winner of the September 13 Democratic primary will take on Republican candidate J.D. Kim.

Northeast Queens political races heat up


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Endorsements are rolling in for candidates making a run for district seats in northeast Queens.

The Queens County Republican Party unanimously endorsed Joseph Concannon for State Senate in the 11th District, where the Republican and retired city police officer from Bellerose will challenge incumbent State Senator Tony Avella for the seat.

In a statement, GOP Chair Phil Ragusa attacked Avella, saying the democrat “by every benchmark has simply failed the community” and “has not lived up to his campaign promises.”

GOP Law Chair Vince Tabone touted Concannon as a “brass tacks kind of guy with the common sense and the intelligence to fight for our community and make a difference in Albany.”

The Queens County Republican Party also endorsed civic leader Ralph Cefalo to run in the 26th Assembly District race, pitting the challenger against Assemblymember Ed Braunstein. According to the GOP, Cefalo — a Malba resident — has a 35-year record of community service, including a long tenure leading the Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance and volunteering with the Order of the Sons of Italy.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky also recently picked up support from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, Communications Workers of America District 1 and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500. Earlier this month, the incumbent since 1999 gained the endorsement of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer for her try at re-election in the newly-formed Asian-American majority 16th District.

Stavisky will face a Democratic primary battle against John Messer, an attorney from Oakland Gardens. The pair battled it out in a primary two years ago before Stavisky beat him out for the seat. If she prevails once more, she will then go up against Republican runner Jung Dong “J.D.” Kim — a Korean-American attorney from Flushing who is also the Queens County Republican Party’s pick.

 

Pols argue over whose co-op/condo legislation is best


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A coalition of co-op and condo owners in northeast Queens had one message for its elected officials after arguments erupted over whose bill was best: no more lip service.

“What you see is the dysfunction in Albany. This isn’t a Republican-Democrat issue. It’s about homeowners who don’t want to be pushed out of their homes,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners, Inc. and cofounder of the President’s Co-op Council.

The Council — which represents about 100,000 co-op shareholders — joined close to one dozen elected officials and more than 900 concerned Queens residents at North Shore Towers on April 12 to rally for action against the city for another year of property tax spikes.

While Friedrich said a solution could not be reached without the cooperation of state lawmakers, some electeds — with pointed fingers — turned the meeting into a heated political debate.

“There’s been a little too much lip service tonight. I sat here and got madder and madder as I listened to every speaker,” said Senator Tony Avella. “We had an opportunity last year, and we blew it because of politics on both sides of the aisle.”

Currently, there are three bills on the table in Albany on how to address the issue, which Avella said is a clear sign of disconnect between state leaders who he said may each be pushing for their own legislation to pass.

“It’s not that the Republicans don’t want to move the bill to address this — it’s which bill should they support? Which one gets passed? This has to stop. I don’t care if it’s my bill or somebody else’s bill, but this has got to stop. We’re not working together,” he said.

Avella’s own bill, which he called the “best solution,” would create a new property tax class — called Class 1A — for co-op and condo owners. He said the bill would provide the same protections that exist for Class 1 properties, capping any single yearly tax increase at 6 percent and 20 percent over a five year period.

An earlier law put forth by Assemblymember David Weprin would propose similar provisions, classifying co-ops as Class 1 and capping increases at the same percentage, while other legislation by Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein would see co-ops paying only 75 percent of their legal fees in a successful certiorari suit. They said the law would also stabilize assessments for two years following a successful challenge, capping spikes at 3 percent to prevent the necessity of an additional proceeding.

Councilmember Mark Weprin fired back, saying each elected official was in fact “working hard” together to create a solution by this year.

“With all due respect, you’re the one who hasn’t been to most of the meetings,” Weprin said. “This is a very delicate situation, but to say that people here are just giving lip service is just nonsense. This is not about whose bill we’re going to sponsor. We’re all trying to solve a problem here, and I think we’re all open to whatever solution we can get adopted that will save co-op owners. That’s the goal here, and that’s why I took a lot of offense.”

Senate and Assembly officials have only until the end of June this year to agree on one single bill and have it passed by both Houses, Weprin said. While the City Council is not directly involved in the legislation process, Weprin said councilmembers have an upper hand in trying to get the mayor on board.

“I’ve seen bills drafted, signed and passed in 12 hours. We just have to work together,” Weprin said. “I thought [the meeting] was a good case of democracy in action.”

Pols: New district lines ‘as bad’ as before


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Recent revisions to district lines have done little to darn the disharmony between Republicans and Democrats.

The New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) — made up largely of Republican senators due to their current control of the chamber — released its updated district maps on March 12, angering Democrats due to the miniscule modifications made over the past month.

The new lines, which no longer couple the districts of Senators Michael Gianaris and Jose Peralta, still combine the regions of Senators Tony Avella and Toby Ann Stavisky. Slight changes were also made to the first-ever Asian American majority district created in the initial maps.

Despite their districts no longer being threatened, both Gianaris and Peralta have spoken out against the maps and are hopeful Governor Andrew Cuomo follows through on his pledge to veto any partisan proposals.

“The lines have barely changed at all,” said Gianaris, who called the pairing of himself and Peralta a harassment tactic. “The first proposal is the worst gerrymandering in the history of New York State, and the second proposal is 98 percent as bad. The real problem is the way they are dividing communities around the state and that is what has yet to be fixed. The best hope now is for the governor to veto the lines and let the court do it fairly.”

Frank Sobrino, a spokesperson for Peralta, says the situation is “bigger” than the two senators, and the new lines do not provide any progress from the initial maps, which were considered to be “blatantly partisan.”

“I want the governor to follow up on his commitment to veto these lines,” Peralta said.

Scott Reif, spokesperson for the Senate GOP and LATFOR, says he expects the maps to be approved by both the Senate and Assembly.

“We expect these to be the final lines for the Senate and Assembly,” Reif said. “We held nine additional public hearings [across the state] and we made changes from what we were hearing from different communities.”

Along with the updated maps, LATFOR also introduced legislation that would create a bipartisan commission to draw district lines. Based on the bill, the commission would be composed of 10 members — two from each party from both the Senate and Assembly and an additional two members chosen by the initial eight.

If approved, the commission would be in charge of deciding district lines the next time they are up for revision in a decade — a length of time deemed unacceptable by many Democrats.