Public officials from Queens are going out of their way to give more than toys to needy children during this holiday season.
City Councilmember James Gennaro announced that he has given 40 coats collected by his staff to preschoolers in a special school in his district; Borough President Helen Marshall distributed shoes donated by a local business in Forest Hills to homeless kids, and Councilmember Tony Avella donated part of his paycheck to seven senior centers in his northeast Queens council district.
"The children at Positive Beginnings and children around the city should never have to go through the winter without a coat," Gennaro (D–Fresh Meadows) said, referring to the special education preschool in Kew Gardens Hills in his 24th Councilmanic District and to New York City at large.
The coat drive has been a focus of the City Council since October, when it was announced by Speaker Gifford Miller and other councilmembers. Previously, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. ( D–Astoria) held a collection drive and distributed a number of coats.
Gennaro said the National Cleaners Association (NCA) agreed to participate by professionally dry cleaning all the coats collected by councilmembers before they are distributed.
In Gennaro’s case, Ed Roth of UN Cleaners on Union Turnpike made the coats look like new. "Its our way of sharing the warmth of the holiday season and being able to help families in our local community," Roth said.
Borough President Marshall distributed shoes donated by Udi Maor of Blue Elephant Shoes on 71st Street in Forest Hills. The shoes were given to children residing at the Carlton House facility for homeless families in South Ozone Park. The facility is a former Best Western Hotel and the largest homeless facility in the city, with a capacity of 335 families.
Giving shoes to the needy is nothing new for Maor. He and former Councilmember Karen Koslowitz, now Deputy Borough President, made the donations a frequent event when she was in the council, and Maor has continued with Koslowitz’ successor, Councilmember Melinda Katz.
Marshall thanked Maor for his generosity of spirit and his creativity in thinking that the shoes "would be a good fit" for children currently without permanent homes.
Avella’s generosity took the form of donating 5 percent of his annual $90,000 salary, which comes out to $4,500, to seven senior centers in his district, including Bayside, Whitestone and College Point. Each of the centers received $640.
The money will be used as the members of each facility decide. Avella said some recipients had said they will attend some entertainment event, but at least one, according to its director, will use the windfall for an educational or recreational purpose.
About a year ago, at the height of the city’s fiscal crisis, Avella offered to give back 5 percent of his annual salary as a gesture, he said, or as an example to others to try to help the city in a time of need.
Neither Mayor Michael Bloomberg nor the City Council took him up on the offer. Avella then donated the amount offered to the Queens Borough Public Library, which at the time was threatened with severe service reductions because of budget cuts.
During this holiday season, Avella said he felt giving some aid to the seniors in his district would be appropriate.
PADAVAN CITED: Good deeds are rewarded any time of the year, judging by the recent presentation of the annual Humane Legislator of the Year award for 2003 to state Senator Frank Padavan by the League of Humane Voters of New York state.
Padavan (R–C, Bellerose) received the award in recognition of his commitment to animal protection issues. Among these was legislation to ban "canned" hunts, in which animals have little chance of eluding hunters, and force feeding of ducks, and making cruelty to wildlife a felony offense.
Accepting the award on December 19, the veteran lawmaker said, "To be honored for basically just doing what you feel is the right thing is really a nice early Christmas present."
LAWMAKERS APPLAUD TRIBORO BRIDGE PROJECT END: Assemblymember Michael Gianaris and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., both Astoria Democrats, applauded the announcement that all lanes of traffic in both directions on the Triboro Bridge will be reopened tomorrow, Christmas Day, marking the end of a long bridge rehabilitation project.
The lawmakers said they were pleased that a long period of inconvenience to their constituents in Astoria was over. As part of the project, the original concrete roadbed was replaced with a lightweight steel orthotropic deck, which will lessen noise pollution by eliminating the sound of trucks bouncing on the original bridge deck, Vallone said.
MONSERRATE SECURES MORE COPS: Councilmember Hiram Monserrate (D–Corona) says that Police Department officials have informed him that the communities of Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights in his council district will be getting a large number of graduates from the mid-January Police Academy graduating class.
Monserrate, an ex-cop, said gang activity has increased in the district. "Extra officers will allow families and residents to take back their streets from gangs and criminality," he said.
Monserrate had more good news last week. He was joined by Borough President Helen Marshall for the $500,000 expansion of the Corona branch library, a project he has advocated for some time.
CHANGE AT CITIZENS UNION: Officials at the Citizens Union good government organization have announced that Linda Stone Davidoff has resigned as executive director and will be replaced by Dick Dadey on January 20. The CU announcement said Davidoff, whom it credited with bringing Citizens Union to new levels of achievement during her tenure had resigned in order to devote her energies to fighting leukemia, from which she is suffering.
Dadey is currently the executive director of City Parks Alliance, a national organization that works to strengthen support for city parks throughout the country.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS: In signing off, we want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah as the case may be.