Tag Archives: Toby Stavisky

Verizon workers protest contract changes in Bayside rally


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

Verizon employees banded together Thursday in a rally outside a Bayside building owned by the company during ongoing contract negotiations over benefits and additional job demands.

Nearly 300 people were estimated to be at the rally, which attracted approving honks from passing cars and had its own on-site DJ. Union members sang pro-union chants cheering for district leaders and supportive politicians, including state Senator Toby Stavisky, state Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic.

According to union leaders, Verizon workers were having similar demonstrations all over New York and across state lines as far away as Virginia. Labor force organizers charge that pension plans and health care co-pays may be changed under the proposed new contract, and job security may be threatened by initiatives that would enable Verizon to transfer workers to job sites far from their homes.

“The company basically wants to eliminate the entire contract,” said Michael Ciancarelli, president of the Local 1106 chapter of the Communications Workers of America. “They want to take away things guys have had for 30 years.”

Jeff Branzetti, a field technician who works as the district steward of a Verizon garage in Hollis, said that many of his co-workers are especially concerned with proposed changes to pension plans.

“We’re all getting older,” Branzetti said, adding that every worker in his garage had been with the company for at least 17 years. “You don’t yank the carpet out under people like that, who’ve worked their whole career for you.”

Sen. Stavisky said that she would be supportive to the cause for as long as it took to get a living wage for the working men and women of Verizon.

“We’re here today to let you know that we care,” Stavisky said. “I sent a letter to Verizon letting them know they’ve got to bargain in good faith because people need a job, and they need a job that pays a decent wage and has proper benefits.”

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A spokesperson for Verizon said the communications giant was committed to reaching a contract that is fair to both employees and customers. Representatives have had discussions this week with union leaders and state that they are willing to meet with them again to continue the discussion.

“We respect the rights of our employees to hold rallies, but we truly believe the best way to achieve a new contract is not at a [street] rally, but through serious and meaningful negotiations,” the spokesperson said.

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State senators butt heads over Flushing pedestrian plaza plan


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

State Senator Tony Avella rallied with community activists Monday against a plan which would permanently close down a stretch of Flushing’s Roosevelt Avenue to create a pedestrian plaza.

The project has Avella at odds with a legislative colleague, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who represents the district where the street is located and supports the plaza proposal. Avella’s Senate district is adjacent to Stavisky’s area.

“If she’s in favor of it, that’s asinine, absolutely asinine,” Avella said, adding that he did not think the street could be shut down without affecting traffic conditions in the whole area. “Toby Stavisky should be ashamed of herself for supporting something that’s going to add significant traffic congestion and make dangerous situations already worse.”

When contacted by The Courier for comment, Stavisky staffers fired back at Avella, taking offense at his involvement in a cause centered in within their district boundaries. Both Councilman Peter Koo — who represents the street in the City Council as part of District 20 — and Councilman Paul Vallone of neighboring District 19 have also supported of the plan.

“Tony Avella has made more crazy allegations than Donald Trump and now he’s at it again,” said Mike Favilla, Stavisky’s chief of staff. “Considering that Tony only received 52 percent of the vote in his last primary, perhaps he should spend more time in his own district, rather than looking for fights elsewhere.”

The Korean American Association in Queens originally proposed the public plaza idea to the DOT last year. The proposal calls for the closure of Roosevelt Avenue between 155th Street and Northern Boulevard, adjacent to Leonard Square.

A public workshop held on April 16 solicited public feedback before two trial street closings, the latest of which occurred on Friday, Aug. 7, with a DOT information booth and children’s activities.

While the targeted street is slightly outside the boundaries of his constituency, Avella objected to not being notified of the plan by the Department of Transportation (DOT), and community groups attending the rally also complained of not having been sufficiently informed.

“I only found out about this on Thursday, and my first reaction was, what idiot came up with this,” Avella said on Monday. He cited concerns of traffic congestion around Northern Boulevard that could be worsened by the change.

Avella said that a side street on which cars would be re-routed from Roosevelt Avenue is too small for such a purpose, and would quickly become overrun by the additional vehicles and back up congestion onto Northern Boulevard.

At the trial street closing on Friday, residents were divided in their opinion of whether the street closure would be an asset to the neighborhood or a nuisance they would be forced to circumnavigate.

“I’m just totally against blocking the traffic here in front of the library,” said Chris Viv, a resident of the neighborhood for nearly four decades who believed that the move would complicate traffic in other areas. “Everyone’s been coming here for years driving up and down. It’s a good flow of motor vehicles, and I think it would definitely be a hazard to the area, especially with kids going around.”

Another resident, Michael Addea, said the street in question would actually be made safer if closed off to cars and that he would utilize the proposed plaza as a spot to eat lunch.

“A lot of times cars are double parked for the restaurants because people are coming out of the strip mall,” he said. “I think closing this off would be a good idea.”

The issue will be discussed again in an upcoming public workshop before being put to a vote by Community Board 7 in September.

 

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