Tag Archives: Tony Avella

Open house tour given at alleged illegal hotel in Flushing


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

State Senator Tony Avella was given a tour of an alleged illegal hotel in Broadway-Flushing as part of the owner’s effort to demonstrate their intention to use the building as a family residence.

The senator had previously appeared at the home, located at 35-20 156th St., to attend a rally planned by the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association drawing attention to allegations that the home is being renovated to house a transient hotel with 14 bedrooms.

While around 80 people had been in attendance at the demonstration, as well as several local media outlets, the owners of the home were not notified in time to make an appearance on their own behalf. As a way to reach out to the community, Robert Wong, a lawyer hired by the Yang family, set up the meeting attended by Avella, local urban planner Paul Graziano, owner Qin Jin Yang and her husband, and the project’s architect, Shiming Tam.

“They want to carry on with the construction, but complaints are pouring in every day,” Tam said. “And the inspectors are forced to come here, and they pick on little things to justify why they are here.”

On April 27, the Department of Buildings (DOB) notified Qin Jin Yang of their intent to revoke the original building approval because of what deem a “questionable layout for a single family residence.” As part of the tour, the senator was led through the skeleton of a structure, with unfinished walls which afforded peeks of the street outside and a second floor which still had open holes straight through to the level below.


Avella said that he would be willing to discuss the matter further with the family to come to a conclusion.

“I appreciate the fact that you reached out,” Avella said. “That always shows good intentions.”

The Yangs originally submitted a plan for the home to have 14 bedrooms in March 2014, which was approved. After deciding that they wanted fewer bedrooms, the family amended the site plan to include 10 bedrooms and submitted it in April 2015. That site plan was rejected because it had fewer than the 18 bedrooms listed on a 1978 certificate of occupancy. According to Wong, the Yangs will submit a new plan, again with about 10 bedrooms, but the family wanted to first settle any remaining public contention.

Since 1989, the home has racked up 50 complaints with the DOB, but 42 of these occurred before the current owners came into control of the house in October 2013. Many of those complaints have similar allegations of the one-family home being illegally converted to accommodate transient hotel rooms or multiple separate dwellings.

Robert Hanophy, president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, has said that when the most recent renovations began, residents feared that they were in another battle against an illegal hotel in their neighborhood.

When asked if he would attend the tour of the home with Senator Avella, Hanophy told The Courier that he felt there was no need to participate because the association did not plan to pursue the matter further if the Yang’s moved in as a single family.

Although the signs may indicate that the community may have been wrong about 35-20 156 St., illegal conversions have been so pervasive in Queens that in March 1997 the Department of Buildings created the Queens Quality of Life Unit (QOL Unit) to oversee the increasing problem.

According to a report by the city Department of Buildings under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, investigating illegal conversions can be a challenging process because inspectors can be denied access to a property by its owner. The inspector would then have to get an access warrant, which can be difficult or nearly impossible to obtain. In 2008, the QOL Unit did not receive access to nearly 40 percent of properties for which they received complaints.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Broadway-Flushing residents renew fight for landmark status


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

State Senator Tony Avella and residents of Broadway-Flushing are continuing the fight to have the neighborhood designated a landmark district.

A previous attempt to get the neighborhood recognized by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) only resulted in an offer to designate a few homes with landmark status,  a compromise which was not accepted by residents. The community is renewing its efforts due to a change in leadership at the LPC last year.

Although the area is listed on State and National Registers of Historic Places, residents are seeking landmark status because this would give the structures within its boundary protection against overdevelopment under New York City Landmarks Law.

“This community has, through the civic association, fought to maintain the quality of life, going to court, spending their own money, for probably two decades at this point,” Avella said. “They shouldn’t have to do that. That should be the city’s job, protecting their neighborhood.”

According to Richard Hourahan of the Queens Historical Society, the development of the Broadway-Flushing area came at a time when the local character was changing from rural to suburban with the introduction of the Long Island Rail Road. Most of the homes in the area were built in the same time period in the first two decades of the 20th century.

“It’s a historical epoch that has been identified as being a progressive era [in the] United States,” Hourahan said. “It was the beginning of suburbanization of Queens.”


Maria Becce, a member of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association, said that suburban life in a big city offers the best of both worlds and this an important aspect of the area.

“Instead of having to move to New Jersey or Long Island, or upstate New York, Westchester, here we are, 21 minutes by Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station, and I get exactly what I’m looking for — a one-family neighborhood, with a front garden, backyard, and where there are trees on the street and neighbors know each other,” Becce explained.

Sandi Viviani, a former president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association said achieving landmark status would preserve Broadway-Flushing’s history even after the current residents are gone.

“This is one of the most important things we are trying to do is to preserve this community for generations to come,” she said.

RECOMMENDED POSTS

Community shows strong support against alleged Flushing hotel


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

Scores of residents attended a rally Thursday that state Senator Tony Avella and the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association held against a single-family home they allege will be turned into an illegal hotel on 156th Street.

“We will not stand by and watch this property be turned into an illegal hotel that disrupts the lives of each and every one of the residents in this neighborhood,” said Avella before a crowd of about 80 people. “The work that was approved for this site authorizes a single-family residence only, but all signs point to a hotel.”

Paul Graziano, a local urban planner and consultant who is heavily involved in the efforts against the house, said that much of the suspicion stems from the interior design of the house, which he believes indicates the house’s true intended purpose. Graziano alleged a room situated in the center of the first floor seemed positioned as if to host evening musical events, and that that a half-wall built into the home was designed to serve as a reception desk for the residence.

“Single-family homes do not have a reception areas,” Graziano said.

There were so many people at the rally that the crowd spilled onto the street of the otherwise quiet neighborhood, with onlookers peering into the commotion to view signs with messages such as “single-family only” and “enforce zoning.”

“Definitely there’s something up here, and that’s why I’m concerned,” said Tom Otto, a neighborhood resident. “I wouldn’t want to see this happening here, or anywhere else for that matter.”

Members of the homeowner’s association have said that if the building department were able to inspect the building, the issue would be determined much more easily. According to a report by the city Department of Buildings under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, investigating illegal conversions can be a challenging process because inspectors can be denied access to a property by its owner. The inspector would then have to get an access warrant, which can be difficult to nearly impossible to obtain.

Avella said that this issue has spurred him to introduce legislation which would require anyone who applies for a construction permit to allow the Department of Buildings access to the property whenever the agency should request it. According to Avella, if access is not granted, building permits for the any application will be revoked.

The association has been circulating information that says the three-floor home, which is at 35-20 156th St., will be renovated to have 14 bedrooms and eight bathrooms to accommodate visitors at an illegal hotel. The owners of the home, however, maintain that they will be living there with their own extended family of nine people.

In a released statement, the family said that although original plans for the home had 14 bedrooms, they sent in an amended plan on April 15 to reduce the number of bedrooms to ten which was rejected by the Department of Buildings.

Robert W. Wong, an attorney whom the family retained Wednesday night, said that his clients are recent  immigrants from China, some of whom do not speak fluent English and cannot understand why they are under so much scrutiny. He said that he is looking to meet with members of the association and Avella to straighten out the situation, and that his clients have good intentions which have been distorted by outside assumptions.

“Ms. Yang together with her family are hardworking Chinese immigrants from the Fouzhou province of China,” Wong said.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Study aims to improve northeast Queens buses


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

Major changes could soon be underway for mass transit users in northeast Queens.

In their most recent meeting last week, Community Board 11 members updated the community with news of a $500,000 allocation in state funds to study bus service restoration in northeast Queens.

The funding was secured by state Senator Tony Avella during negotiations before the state budget was passed on March 31. As part of the deal, the MTA is now required to immediately begin a yearlong study on ways to improve bus service and examine the effects of budget cuts implemented in the last five years.

As part of the study, the MTA is also required to seek public input. Representatives of the transportation agency have already been meeting with community boards in affected areas to facilitate the dialogue and present the preliminary results of an assessment study on northeast Queens bus service which is slated to be finished in May.

Chris Petallides, co-chair of Community Board 11 Transportation Committee, said that although the board did submit a wish list of needs and particular concerns, how to ultimately streamline and improve bus service is a decision that rests with the MTA.

“Not that I want to downplay our input, but we are not experts in this,” Petallides said. “The best we can do is give them our personal experiences about delays, specific lines.”

Workshops have also been held to assess public opinion on what services are needed for bus riders in northeast Queens. Issues raised at these meetings included requests for more routes, requests for later service on existing routes, and complaints of drivers not stopping to pick up customers because buses are crowded, among other concerns.

In a released statement, Avella underscored the lack of transportation options faced by his constituents.

“Northeast Queens, and specifically the 11th Senatorial District, has always been underserved in terms of bus service and mass transportation options,” said Avella. “That is why it is vitally important for the MTA to do this study and thoroughly examine the feasibility of extending or rerouting existing bus routes in these neighborhoods.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Briarwood station name shortened


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Assemblyman David Weprin

What’s in a name? A lot, according to the MTA and local subway riders.

The subway station formerly dubbed “Briarwood-Van Wyck Boulevard” will now simply be known as “Briarwood” after a name change on Friday. State Senator Tony Avella, Assemblyman David Weprin and Briarwood Community Association President Seymour Schwartz unveiled the renaming outside the station, which is located near the Briarwood library at the intersection of Main Street and Queens Boulevard.

The original name of the station came from its proximity to Van Wyck Boulevard, a thoroughfare later widened and converted into the Van Wyck Expressway. Residents have long campaigned to have the name changed to avoid confusion for newcomers finding their way around the community.

“It took us 14 years, but we did it, and the initiative taken on our behalf by our representatives, Assemblyman David Weprin and state Senator Tony Avella, helped us to reach this terminal goal,” said Schwartz.

“It is about time that the name of this neighborhood’s only train station reflects the people who live here, not a street that once ran through the area,” Avella said.

The station is served by the E and F subway lines and is adjacent to the Van Wyck Expressway, a major thoroughfare running from JFK Airport to Northern Boulevard.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Sen. Avella calls conditions at proposed Pan Am permanent shelter ‘horrendous’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

State Sen. Tony Avella has joined the opposition to the planned conversion of an emergency homeless shelter at the former Pan American Hotel into a permanent facility due to what he called “horrendous” conditions at the site.

Avella, who is chairman of the Senate’s Social Services Committee, joined residents and local leaders to speak out against the proposal to convert the shelter at 7900 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst to a permanent facility under a $42 million contract with the city.

“It is an outrage to take an abandoned hotel, warehouse homeless families inside it, ignore shocking City Code and HPD violations, waste an exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars in the process, and then award a $42 million contract to a questionable-at-best organization, making the entire situation permanent,” Avella said.

According to the senator, the shelter houses over 700 residents, made up of families of which many have small children. Each unit at the shelter holds four to five people.

Because the shelter uses former hotel rooms, they are not equipped with cooking facilities. The senator and organizations such as Elmhurst United claim this goes against a NYC Administrative Code requiring that each unit at a family shelter have a kitchen, and in order to do this, there would need to be major renovations at the site.

Photo courtesy of Sen. Tony Avella's office

Photo courtesy of Sen. Tony Avella’s office

The shelter has also had a large number of violations such as failure to provide hot water or heat for days, reports of bed bugs, peeling of lead paint in one unit, and garbage left sitting in front of the entrance to the children’s play area, according to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“As chair of the State Senate’s Social Services Committee, I understand the vital importance of addressing our growing homeless population and I am committed to working to resolve these issues,” Avella said. “However, this cannot be at the expense of homeless families and children or the community as a whole. We must look to fix this broken system, not warehouse those people that need our help most.”

Due to all these conditions, Avella said he calls on the city to reject the contract that would covert the former hotel into a permanent homeless shelter because he believes it is “not fit for long-term housing for the homeless.”

According to the city’s Department of Homeless Services, the hotel was remodeled before the agency began using it as a shelter. The building also always has hot water, yet sometimes there is a lack of pressure, and hot water has been at full capacity since Dec. 7. Additionally, there have been no problems with the heat. Bedbugs were identified in five units and are currently being treated by an extermination company, and the facility has been lead-free since July.

“We have worked swiftly with our provider to respond to all concerns in the building,” said a DHS spokesperson. “Providing adequate shelter for families in need is a priority for this administration, and it’s heartening to see the community concern about the welfare of these families – an encouraging development after unfortunate and regrettable opposition to this shelter.”

The city is wrestling with a record number of homeless people. More than 59,000 people are currently in the shelter system.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Incumbent Tony Avella wins state Senate race against John Liu


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Anika Chowdury

State Sen. Tony Avella won the primary for the 11th state Senate district against his challenger John Liu in a hotly contested race Tuesday night.

Avella appeared at CJ Sullivan’s in Bayside at 10:30 p.m. that evening with his wife Judith to announce his victory to a room full of supporters and staffers.

“This victory happened because of all you guys,” he said to a roaring crowd. “It takes a lot of money to win. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s how it is. I’ve never been with a better bunch of people who care about this state and I thank you all.”

According to unofficial results, with 95.4 percent of the precincts reporting, Avella had 6,813 votes, or 52.2 percent of the votes, and Liu received 6,245, or 47.8 percent. While Avella declared victory, Liu didn’t think he lost.

“I feel very proud about this campaign. I’m confident that the Board of Elections will get the fair results, no matter how long that takes,” Liu said.

After serving as city councilman for Queens from 2002 to 2009, Avella stepped down to run an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 2009. He ran and won for state senator the following year.

Avella has represented the area for 12 years and received several endorsements, including police and fire unions and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Avella kicked off primary day in the morning by voting in P.S. 184 Flushing Manor.

“Our support has been incredibly positive and when the polls close, we are confident that our campaign will be victorious,” Avella said earlier in the evening. “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.”

On issues like airplane noise and property taxes, the two agree.

But during the race, Liu sold himself as a “real Democrat” and criticized Avella for joining the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC). During debates, Liu argued that Avella prevented major legislation — like increasing the minimum wage — in New York from being passed by creating an alliance with Republican state senators.

Avella’s choice to join the IDC led the Queens Country Democrats to convince Liu to run against him, according to the New York Daily News. During a debate in Flushing this summer, Avella responded to Liu’s criticism and said that he joined the IDC to pass important legislation by working with both parties instead of getting caught up in internal political battles.

Because of Avella’s decision to join the IDC, Liu received the backing of the Queens Democratic Party and most of its elected officials as well as several unions. Despite all of this support, Avella still won the race.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Primary Day 2014 coverage


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

IMG_0120

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.” 

BxHTQ2tIAAEt_cO

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.

BxHPbzFIIAAzMXk

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. 

BxGPmgoIEAEkToM

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.”

BxFsOCTCcAISopb

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 = *

Historic Bayside cemetery receives much-needed renovation funds


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Asha Mahadevan

Bayside’s historic cemetery received $50,000 in state funds to renovate and extend the site’s cast-iron fencing.

State Sen. Tony Avella helped allocate the funds for the 1967 historic landmarked site, the Lawrence Cemetery.

“It’s one of the last ties to Bayside’s colonial past,” said Peter DiBenedetto, president of the Bayside Historical Society. “It’s hard to come by grants from the state so we’re really thankful for this money.”

The site is named after former owners John and William Lawrence. The Lawrence family gained the land in 1645 under the Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam. While the site is known today as a cemetery, it wasn’t until 1832 that the first burial took place. The last one happened in 1939.

The cast-iron fence only surrounds half of the site and the other half of the perimeter has a chain-link fence that DiBenedetto describes as “dilapidated.” With the new grant money, the historic society will replace the chain-link fence with iron.

_3Cemetery-3

For the last five years, DiBenedetto said, the Bayside Historical Society hasn’t received any state senate grants, making this new source of money a welcome addition to their coffers.

The money will also be used for general maintenance work.

“Some of the gravestones are looking pretty shabby,” DiBenedetto said.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

E. Gluck Corp. to lower giant Little Neck wall following protest


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


Watch-maker E. Gluck Corporation will lower a newly-built, giant 36-foot wall, which surprised and disturbed residents near the company’s new location, Little Neck politicians announced.

Under the new design, which has been approved by the Buildings Department, the wall will be scaled down 14 feet to 22 feet, the company said Monday. In addition, E. Gluck will include 20 flowering pear trees and 75 white pine trees around the property at 60-15 Little Neck Pkwy.

“We are pleased to reach a solution that addresses the public’s concerns,” said Murray Stimler, senior vice president at E. Gluck. “Our goal is to be a good neighbor in Little Neck and a beneficial part of the community for many years to come.”

Last month, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, Councilman Mark Weprin and state Sen. Tony Avella protested the wall with more than 100 residents. The current height blocks sunlight after certain hours and residents were afraid that it would hurt property values.

E. Gluck is moving this year into the lot, which is being developed by Steel Tribune LLC, and is the former site of electrical wiring company Leviton.

Initially, E. Gluck promised to put a one-story warehouse on the site, according to politicians. But residents woke up one day to find the towering dark gray wall, which sits on a hill that is about 10 feet high off the curb and extends nearly halfway through the block. The solution to lower the wall was welcome news for the elected officials.

“I appreciate that E. Gluck is making changes to its building plans to address some of the concerns raised by their neighbors and elected officials,” Braunstein said. “I am hopeful that moving forward the company will continue to make efforts to ensure that its operations do not negatively impact the surrounding community.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens Dems endorse John Liu in state Senate race against Tony Avella


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


Updated 2:30 p.m.

John Liu is ready to challenge state Senator Tony Avella in the primary this September, according to the Queens County Democrats.

The organization unanimously endorsed Liu in the race Monday, Queens County Democrats Executive Secretary Michael Reich said.

The group is backing the former city comptroller over the incumbent after Avella joined the New York state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a breakaway faction of Senate Democrats who share majority control of the chamber with Republicans, according to Reich.

“I believe that John Liu will not only be a breath of fresh air, but a viable candidate for this position,” Reich said, who likened Avella joining the IDC to “leaving the party.”

After designating Liu during the organization’s meeting this morning, his name can now be included on the county petition, according to Reich. Liu was reportedly not present during the endorsement.

Liu, who was also a city councilman from 2002 to 2009, unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for mayor last year.

During his time as comptroller, he had been the subject of a campaign finance probe. Though he was never accused of any wrongdoing, the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB) denied him public matching funds shortly before the primary.

In March, he announced he was suing the (CFB) for withholding the money, claiming that the move “crippled” his chances in the race.

Avella, who has represented the 11th state Senate District since 2011, said he is proud of his record “fighting for the working class residents of Queens.”

“I work for the people I represent — not for the Queens party bosses or political insiders,” he said. “Whether it’s helping our seniors, passing marriage equality, or protecting our environment, I have always fought for the issues that matter most to the people of my district and I look forward to discussing my progressive record in the months ahead.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Contentious Whitestone sidewalk café bid up for vote later this month


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

An application for a Whitestone sidewalk café will go up for a City Council vote at the end of the month without support from the area councilmember. 

“It was pretty clear that the community opposed it, and I will make my case against it,” Councilmember Paul Vallone said. “It’s just not the right fit.”

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) approved Nonna’s Pizzeria & Trattoria owner’s bid last year to wrap an outdoor sitting area around his restaurant at 22-30 154th St.

City lawmakers will vote on the application March 26, though Vallone says the legislative body will likely follow suit with his “no” vote and shut it down.

The sidewalk is not wide enough for outdoor seating and too close to residential homes, said Vallone and State Senator Tony Avella.

Some residents also feared it would bring excessive noise and take away parking spaces.

“A sidewalk café at this location is simply wrong,” Avella said. “If this application is approved by the City Council, abutting residents will suffer significantly increased traffic and noise.”

But Joe Lobue, who manages the Italian restaurant, said the sidewalk café would let customers kick back and enjoy a meal in the sunshine.

“I think it would actually help the community,” he said. “It would be a place for them to sit down and relax. I disagree with the negativity.”

Hans Roessel, a 73-year-old regular of the restaurant — who also lives across the street — welcomed the plan.

“It doesn’t bother the neighborhood,” he said. “They’re going to make it nice. Why can’t we sit outside?”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

John Liu endorses Congressmemeber Grace Meng for re-election


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Congressmember Grace Meng

Former Comptroller John Liu put an end to rumors he may run against Congressmember Grace Meng by endorsing the popular Flushing representative for her re-election bid Monday.

“I thank John Liu for his endorsement and for highlighting the important work I’ve done in Congress during my first year in Washington,” Meng said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with him to make our city, state and borough an even better place to live.”

Liu, after an unsuccessful bid for mayor, has reportedly been eyeing a spot back in elected office.

However, the current part-time Baruch College professor has not confirmed or denied any rumors that include possible challenges to Congressmember Nydia Velázquez or State Senator Tony Avella.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Tony Avella joins NY State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

State Senator Tony Avella is joining the New York State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), he announced Wednesday. 

He will be the fifth member of the breakaway faction of Senate Democrats — led by Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx — who share majority control of the chamber with Republicans.

“Under Senator Klein’s leadership, the IDC has developed a clear, progressive agenda for New York’s working families,” Avella said. “They have shown an ability to get big things done, without the dysfunction of years past.”

The cross-aisle conference, formed in 2011, also includes Senators Diane Savino of Staten Island, David Valesky of Oneida and David Carlucci of Westchester.

Avella, elected to the Senate in 2010 after two terms in the City Council, is also the only member from Queens.

State Senator Malcolm Smith, of southeast Queens, joined the conference in December 2012 and helped the IDC and Republicans take leadership. Klein stripped Smith of his IDC membership, however, after his arrest last year on federal corruption charges.

Conference members praised Avella for his passion and knowledge.

“Senator Avella has built a career fighting for those who are most in need, so I am thrilled to welcome him to the IDC,” Carlucci said. “He has the experience, passion and know-how to make a major impact on state policy.”

Klein said Avella’s public service experience makes him the “type of seasoned legislator who knows how to get things done.”

“He will be a major asset in our fight to make New York more affordable for working families,” Klein said.

The switch, however, is said to hurt Senate Democrats’ efforts to reclaim control in the chamber.

Senate Democratic Conference spokesperson Mike Murphy said in a statement that it was “unfortunate that progressive policies continue to be stymied because of divisions created by senators who choose to empower Republicans.”

Astoria Senator Mike Gianaris, the deputy minority leader, declined to comment.

The move also upset some of the senator’s usual supporters.

“It’s  disloyal and it’s not fair to the people of the 11th Senate District who have worked very hard for Tony over the years,” said Democratic State Committeeman Matt Silverstein. “What he did was self-centered and disgraceful.” 

Avella is up for re-election this year. He dropped out of a contentious race for Queens borough president last year, citing “unfinished business in Albany” as a major factor to his decision.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

EXCLUSIVE: Officials tweak contentious T Building plan


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A controversial plan to turn the historic T Building into housing for mental and chronic health patients has slightly changed, but it is still on the table, The Courier has learned.

In late 2012, Queens Hospital Center (QHC) was in talks with Comunilife, a nonprofit human services agency, to develop the dilapidated 10-story building on its Hillcrest campus into 251 units of affordable housing for people with low-income and chronic health conditions.

Residents would include veterans and people suffering from psychiatric diagnoses or a range of illnesses, from diabetes to AIDS.

The bid was met with fierce opposition from a coalition of civic leaders and elected officials, who said the “questionable population” could put children at nearby schools in danger.

Now a new version of the project is being bandied about, said sources close to the hospital and confirmed by local leaders.

Hospital officials hope to compromise and house fewer patients than originally proposed. The number is still up in the air, but a source said there would still be more than 100 patients.

“The plan keeps changing, but never actually gets formally introduced,” said Councilmember Rory Lancman, who learned of the new concept last week. “I don’t know if this idea will gel into a plan more than the last one.”

Several proposals are on the table, said Celia Dosamantes, a spokesperson for Assemblymember David Weprin, though the Comunilife plan is still front and center.

“There is room for discussion, which is good news,” she said.

Last month, Community Board 8 approved a resolution to demolish the T Building after a request from State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblymember Nily Rozic.

“This building is in serious disrepair,” Avella said, adding that it costs the hospital $2 million a year to maintain. “Money that is going into that building is taking away from patient care. That building should come down.”

But Queens preservationists are appealing to the city and state to save and landmark the former tuberculosis clinic.

“This hospital is part of a great war against disease, poverty and hardship,” Queens Preservation Council Chair Mitchell Grubler said.

The next step for the site heavily depends on money.

Funds for the multi-million dollar housing unit have not been secured yet, sources said, and it was unclear how much it would cost to dismantle.

“It’s hard to distinguish between a plan and merely an idea that isn’t going anywhere,” Lancman said. “Last time, there was all smoke and noise and nothing ever came of it.”

Queens Hospital Center spokesperson Cleon Edwards said officials are still working to find a resolution that “seeks to balance concerns” of the community with the hospital’s “obligation to provide high quality healthcare services to its patients.”

Comunilife did not respond to a request for comment.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES