Tag Archives: Tony Avella

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

Sen. Tony Avella, park advocates sue to stop Citi Field mega mall


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy NYCEDC

State Senator Tony Avella and a long list of Queens park advocates are suing the city to stop a mega mall from coming to Citi Field.

The 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center is part of a major $3 billion project by Sterling Equities and Related Companies to redevelop Willets Point.

The ambitious and controversial plan, approved Oct. 9 by the City Council, also includes the cleanup of 23 acres of contaminated land and the eventual construction of housing units with commercial and retail space.

The group filed the suit Feb. 10 in New York County Supreme Court, saying the project cannot proceed without state Legislature approval under a doctrine that protects state parkland.

The suit also seeks annulments of city approvals.

“It’s a serious principle here,” Avella said. “If the city is allowed to get away with this, what’s to stop them next time? If we keep giving it away, someday we’ll wake up and there will be no parks.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Op-ed: Prohibit the installation of tolls


| oped@queenscourier.com

 STATE SENATOR TONY AVELLA

Once again, congestion pricing plans, which include the imposition of tolls on the East River bridges, have been circulating throughout the city.  Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg first began to push his own congestion pricing plan in 2008, I have been vehemently against congestion pricing in any form whether it is through charging drivers a fee to enter Manhattan or through the implementation of tolls on the East River bridges.  Congestion pricing in any form is nothing more than an undue tax on working and middle class families and small businesses. That is why I recently held a press conference with Assemblymember David Weprin, the Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Queens Civic Congress, announcing legislation I will be introducing in the State Senate that would prohibit the installation of tolls on any bridges controlled and operated by the City of New York, which include the East River bridges.

The imposition of tolls on the East River bridges, including the Willis Avenue, Third Avenue, Queensborough, Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, is not a revenue-generating option that the residents of this city should be forced to endure.  Such tolls would place an unfair burden upon Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Manhattan residents who would be forced to pay to travel between the boroughs.  Given the always increasing cost of living in the city and with constant bus and subways fare hikes, city residents are in no position to again face another huge increase in their daily living expenses.

Penalizing businesses, especially small businesses, and individuals for using their cars is not a viable option or solution for reducing traffic.  New Yorkers still need to get to work and conduct business and raising taxes should never be the first option.  It would have a devastating effect on those families near or at the poverty level.  Everyone agrees that we need to address traffic congestion problems throughout the city, but the first step has to be improving mass transit.

A popular plan being circulated by an organization called Move NY, led by former Transportation Commissioner Sam Schwartz, would charge all drivers that enter Manhattan by crossing either the East River or 60th Street a toll, while drivers on bridges linking the other boroughs, would see their tolls go down.  According to Move NY, this would lead to more funds dedicated to transportation in the region, with the majority of it going to improved transit service.

In a perfect world, this plan could work.  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world; we live in the real world, where the next fiscal crisis could be just around the corner.  What happens to this plan then?  What happens when the legislature raids the funds dedicated to transportation, which has happened time and again? How can this plan guarantee that the tolls for the outer borough bridges don’t go up again, when more funds are needed?  As the saying goes, there are only two guarantees in life-death and taxes.

In the end, congestion pricing and any plan to impose tolls on the East River bridges is merely another revenue generating plan, not a traffic-reducing plan.  It should be the responsibility of the leaders of the city to find ways of decreasing traffic congestion without placing a new fiscal burden upon those who can least afford it.

Avella represents the 11th Senate District

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens legislators balk at plans to toll East River bridges


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A plan to reduce five Queens bridge fares by nearly half is not worth tolling free city crossings, some borough lawmakers say.

Under a proposal by transportation coalition, Move NY, drivers in the cash lane would have to pay $7.50 one way and $15 round trip to travel across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Ed Koch Queensboro bridges. 

It would also cost the same amount to cross 60th Street in Manhattan, north and southbound.

As a trade-off, E-ZPass tolls on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial and Cross Bay Veterans Memorial bridges would be lowered by 47 percent. Cash fares on those bridges would go down by 33 percent.

“We toll nearly every single crossing between every borough in the five boroughs of New York City already, yet we’re giving over half a million folks a free ride,” said Move NY Director Alex Matthiessen. “It’s not fair to transit riders and certainly not fair to other drivers, who are paying through the nose in tolls.”

The electronic tolling plan, which would require no booths, would raise $1.5 billion in net revenue toward improving the state’s mass transit infrastructure, create 35,000 new jobs and restore bus service cut in 2010, Matthiessen said.

Motorists paying cash would be billed by mail, easing gridlock by dispersing traffic throughout the city, according to Matthiessen and Kendra Hems, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association.

But some Queens legislators balked at the idea.

“I am skeptical about tolling the free bridges because once the free bridges are tolled and the infrastructure is in place, we all know from experience that it would be very hard to reverse that,” said Assemblymember David Weprin.

The plan also failed to get support from Councilmember Eric Ulrich and State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who have been fighting to eliminate the $3.75 cash toll residents have to pay on the Cross Bay Bridge to enter the Rockaways.

“Imposing tolls on motorists on bridges that are currently free is not the right way to go,” Ulrich said. “The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not ‘take this or that.’”

While the Cross Bay Bridge toll has been a “major thorn” in the community’s side, Addabbo said the swap is not enough.

“At this point, cutting it in half would ease the pain by half,” he said. “It would still be half the pain.”

It also costs residents on the peninsula the same amount to get into Brooklyn on the Gil Hodges.

State Senator Tony Avella said the rates, while discounted in the first year, would only increase annually. He plans to introduce a bill that would prohibit tolls on East River bridges.

“The two things for sure in this world are death and taxes,” he said.

Move NY is led by Sam Schwartz, a former city traffic commissioner. The ambitious tolling plan is in its drafting stage, officials said, and still requires public input.

“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have tolls at all,” Hems said. “But, unfortunately, we do and we have this inequity right now.”

THE COURIER/File photo by Walter Karling

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Council vote OKs Bayside school on Keil Bros. site


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A controversial proposal to build a school in Bayside sailed through the City Council last week, despite the community’s overwhelming opposition.

The city’s School Construction Authority (SCA) needed the Council’s final ruling in order to go through with plans to build a new elementary school at the site of the Keil Bros. Garden Center and Nursery.

Owners of the popular garden center sold their 210-11 48th Avenue property to the city for an undisclosed amount earlier this year.

The City Council approved the application last Thursday, with only Queens legislators Mark Weprin and Peter Vallone Jr. voting no.

“I had opposed the school because I didn’t think it was the best site for a school to begin with,” Weprin said. “I wasn’t even convinced about the need for the school.”

Nearby homeowners said the 456-seat institution would destroy their quality of life, worsen parking and traffic and lead to dangerous crossing conditions for students.

The contentious plan even led to two rowdy residents threatening SCA officials in May, when the proposal was first presented to the public at a heated Community Board 11 meeting.

The board had just shot down the application in an advisory vote when a male resident threatened to break an SCA representative’s legs and a woman allegedly followed another official in a car, The Courier reported.

“The community is very much against it,” Weprin said. “The Department of Education decided we needed a school there. I haven’t met anybody in the community who is dying to have a school there.”

But many local educators who support the plan said the new school would relieve heavy congestion in the district’s 21 elementary schools. At least three schools have had to put classrooms in space originally meant for libraries or music rooms, according to Susan Seinfeld, district manager of CB 11.

The SCA said its site selection process began in 2008. The authority honed in on the Bayside location this April. The DOE did not comment on when construction would begin.

Meanwhile, a battle still brews between the district’s state senator and its new councilmember.

State Senator Tony Avella claims Councilmember-elect Paul Vallone snubbed the community by supporting the proposal behind closed doors.

Vallone, who does not cast a Council vote until January, has “never voiced support for the school site,” his spokesperson said.

“Tony must not have gotten the memo — he’s not the councilman anymore,” said spokesperson Austin Finan. “Moving forward, Paul Vallone will not be responding to the lies perpetuated by Senator Avella who has clearly demonstrated he is more focused on personal vendettas than he is the future of northeast Queens.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Star of Queens: Janet McEneaney, president of Queens Quiet Skies, Community Board 11 member


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Janet McEneaney

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Janet McEneaney works as an attorney, arbitrator and mediator and is a professor on the adjunct faculty at New York University, where she teaches law and business subjects, in addition to her work with the community. After experiencing some neighborhood problems shortly after McEneaney arrived in Bayside, she began a civic association.

In 2008, State Senator Tony Avella appointed McEneaney to serve as a member of Community Board 11. In 2012, after noticing an increase in noise from airplanes, McEneaney organized Queens Quiet Skies.

“Queens Quiet Skies has worked with Congressmembers Steve Israel and Grace Meng, Senator Tony Avella, Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, many other elected officials and representatives of aviation community groups and municipalities in Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau County and northern New Jersey,” explained McEneaney. “Together we have pushed to established a Community Aviation Roundtable, to increase the number of noise monitors on the runways at our local airports, to convince the FAA to implement a current environmental study rather than relying on a study from 2007, as they plan to do, and to have the Port Authority conduct noise compatibility studies in our communities around the airports.”

BACKGROUND: McEneaney was born in Brooklyn, lived in Rego Park for 25 years, then moved to Bayside where she has lived since. McEneaney received her J.D. degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a Masters of Law degree from the University of Leicester School of Law in England.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My best recent moment was when we received a letter from the entire Congressional delegation headed by Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand that endorsed the establishment of a Community Aviation Roundtable; that felt like a victory for everybody.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: McEneaney says her biggest challenge has been “to not get bogged down in interpersonal relationships and to always keep your eyes on the prize.”

INSPIRATION: “I’ve been thinking a lot about [advocate] Bella Abzug, she really was somebody who was committed to the welfare of ordinary New York people. There have been a lot of people who have worked very hard for the benefit of their communities, and they have been my inspiration.”

MELISSA FERRARI

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES