Letters to the Editor
To The Editor:
This month I have been focused on business plan contests. And I happily report that the Queens Economic Development Corporation was on the awarding and receiving ends of two, while I got to serve as a judge in a third challenge.
At Queens Taste 2012, we announced the winners of the StartUP! Business Plan Competition that QEDC sponsored with the Citi Foundation: Kenneth Chen and Ann Yu, who founded the Itizy Gourmet Ice Cream Truck; Cynthia Strauss, who manufactures a label kit designed to organize purses and other types of handbags with “Seez-it” labels, and Sonyu Sangohee and Elizabeth Schwartz from Better Speech Now, which provides accent-reduction services.
A few days later, QEDC won $100,000 for placing first in Competition THRIVE, a city-sponsored contest for financially sustainable business plans that address the challenges immigrant entrepreneurs face in New York City.
And last week I was a judge in a business plan competition for high school students.
Helping people fund their start-ups was terrific! Winning a citywide competition was wonderful! Watching the high school teams present their business plans was truly special! It gave me a great deal of hope for the future, but reminded me of the inequalities that must be addressed as we move forward to building a just society. The teams of high school students were from the New York region. Some were from schools well known for their academic prestige; others from newer schools with less of a track record. Each team was top-notch: the students were energetic, prepared and able. Every effort was made to make this a level playing field—but in reality it was an uphill struggle for many.
It brought to mind the epic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel which partially takes place in Queens, The Great Gatsby. Narrator Nick Carroway states: “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’
As a nonprofit dispensing advice on business development, it is important to keep this advice in mind. Everybody starts their new business at a different place. If QEDC—and other organizations that work with entrepreneurs are truly to serve our clients—we need to be keenly aware of these differences. This understanding, combined with knowledge, technical help and funding, are the tools for success.
This week, Itizy Ice Cream will roll out its truck, providing refreshing treats with a plan to support the Food Bank for New York City once the owners generate income. With the award from Competition Thrive, QEDC can offer our Home Improvement Contractor Training program to many more immigrant businesspeople. The students I had the privilege of judging will soon be going to a national competition.
Some have had advantages, while others clearly have not, but rooting for the “Little Guy” is a cherished American tradition. We love it when underdogs become top dogs—but when they do, I hope they remember the wise words of Nick Carroway’s father.
QEDC Executive Director
A Memorable Day
Another Memorial Day has passed and as we remember our loved ones who served in the armed forces, I must give thanks to those wonderful giving and thoughtful people at Quinn’s Funeral Home in Astoria. For 19 years, they have run coaches for those of us who can’t make it on our own on the 70 miles to Calverton Cemetery and for the wonderful service ending with taps and the release of white doves, and not to forget, the many volunteers who helped to make it a truly memorable day. I’m sure I speak for all who made the trip, how much we appreciate the kindness shown by all the associates who go out of their way to make it as pleasant as possible, I say many thanks.
Mrs. Eve Forbes
Show Me The Money
To The Editor:
My monthly Social Security check for 2012 has been reduced by $219.80 because of my income level in 2010, and I was told I could wait more than a year for a response when I submitted the following:
Social Security Administration May 29, 2012 Request For Reconsideration - form HA 501-US attachment
I disagree with your review decision to take $219.80 ($2,637.60 total) from my 2012 monthly Social Security check as “income-related monthly adjustment”- higher premiums (i.e. taxes) for Medicare Part B based on my income in 2010. I request a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and have signed your form HA- 501-US. I await your promised letter from the ALJ that “will explain the law” and “what has to be decided”.
The purpose of this attachment is to: protest the law, if any, that allows this; or obtain any possible exception under the law for the major decline in my “adjusted gross income” in 2011 to a level “below the lowest amounts in the table” so that I would have no “income-related monthly adjustment” in 2012 if you used my 2011 income rather than my 2010 income; and summarize my argument. (original detailed argument attached).
None of the facts have changed, and I believe we can agree on them: Since I filed my 2010 tax return, I have “reduced work hours”, worked for myself at home with my only sources of cash income being Social Security, minimal interest and dividends, and trading profits.
I suppose a tax code is naturally arbitrary, capricious, and even sometimes whimsical. I must protest, however, when the tax code becomes systemically inconsistent, outright self-contradictory, and retroactively confiscatory by applying marginal tax rates of 300-400% of marginal income two years prior!
Also, rather than using an income averaging approach to obtain a “normalized” income level for determining a tax rate, you are taxing my income in 2012 based totally upon my income in 2010. Has this ever been done before? Can there be any justification for such a ridiculous tax policy? Wouldn’t a business lobbyist easily knock down any such attempt to tax a business for the current tax year based upon income earned two years prior? The tax rate for every year should be based on the income level in that year, not on the level two years prior.
Not only that. You are violating your own tax code that limits the capital gains tax rate to 15 percent. The last $194 of capital gain that I decided to take in 2010, based upon your then current and supposedly still existing maximum capital gains tax of 15 percent, will increase my total income-related monthly adjustment two years later in 2012 by $720. That means that my last $194 of capital gains will be more than confiscated by being taxed at 371 percent in 2012 in addition to the taxes I paid on it in 2010.* Could you get away with this kind of mugging with a corporation?
Just as the Internal Revenue Service is burdened with the implementation of more and more ridiculous tax legislation, the Social Security Administration is now called upon to implement higher premiums for Medicare Part B (i.e. taxes) based upon income levels two years prior. I conclude that this is being done either out of ignorance or total disregard for my intelligence and economic welfare. A tax policy this unfair and this dumb promotes non-compliance.
*I had $194 of income above your top income tier for determining Social Security monthly check reductions, but if I had only $1 of income above the top tier, my checks in 2012 would be reduced by the same $720, and the marginal capital gains tax calculations would be even more
Rockaway Beach Rail Line
To The Editor:
It is no secret that I have been an outspoken advocate for the complete restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line. Rehabilitating this train service would be a boon for all of Queens, by providing affordable and reliable transportation options to Queens families, spurring economic growth for our businesses and cutting down on traffic throughout the borough. I fully support the total restoration of the line and will continue to work tirelessly to make this dream for many residents, a reality.
Recently, there has been some debate and a lot of false information disseminated regarding the restoration of this rail line and I feel compelled to respond and clarify a few points.
In recent news articles, critics have claimed that the city’s strained budget and our struggling economy will hamper funding for the restoration. I believe that the restoration would pay for itself in the form of economic development and job creation. The increase in tax revenue from the economic activity spurred by the new train—not to mention the thousands of construction and infrastructure jobs that would be created—makes this the perfect project to undertake sooner rather than later. Additionally, Resorts World Casino, which has already created 1,700 jobs at the Aqueduct Racetrack has publicly stated that they would help fund part of the infrastructure rehabilitation.
It has also been said that rehabilitating the line will be disruptive and intrusive to residents who have built homes near the abandoned line. When one builds a home on or near railroad tracks, regardless if the tracks are in service at the time of purchase, one may run the risk of noise or potential return of transportation. I live near JFK Airport and constantly hear air traffic over my house, but I would never expect the airport to close down in order to suit my needs nor would it be realistic to just assume that if it did it would never again be reopened.
Technologies have been developing to mitigate both noise pollution and the environmental impact of trains and railways. In the United Kingdom, scientists and engineers have developed a rail system called SilentTrack which will reduce rail traffic noise by up to 50 percent. Soundproofing walls may provide an additional level of mitigation for neighboring residents. New York is known as the capital of innovation and I would expect us to reclaim our greatness by utilizing the most advanced technology to ensure the best experience for passengers and pedestrians alike.
Transportation options for Southern Queens and Rockaway residents are severely limited.
Restoration of this forgotten rail line as an adequate transportation alternative to current subway lines would be welcome news to many residents, especially those who currently suffer with commutes of well over an hour to Midtown Manhattan. In addition, there are currently no trains in place that run from north to south within the borough. Rapid development is demanding a greater reliance on public transportation for residents, yet, there are few solutions, and, as a result, commuters are burdened with heavy travel time and crowded subways and buses.
Restoring service to the Rockaway Beach Rail Line would significantly reduce the commute time from Southern Queens and the Rockaways to Midtown Manhattan to 45 minutes. It would also increase the number of people visiting Queens, by making it more accessible to travelers, whether it is for the racetrack, casino, beaches or any of the other wonderful attractions our borough has to offer—all of which would help create jobs and enable small businesses to thrive.
I understand that some will be opposed to this plan and I recognize some of their concerns and would hope that we could work together to find a solution. Those strongest in opposition already have a direct 35-minute train ride to Midtown Manhattan and all that we are asking is for the same privilege for others.
Despite limited transportation options, Southern Queens has seen a large population and construction boom, the opening of the Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack and the renaissance of the Rockaway Peninsula as a tourist haven in recent years. In order to capitalize on that growth, but more importantly to look to the future, we need to be focusing on ways to improve our transportation infrastructure and not putting up roadblocks to economic advancement.
Queens families have been fighting to restore the abandoned rail line for the past 20 years and they deserve adequate commute times and crosstown public transportation. I will do everything that I can to advance this proposal and work with every interested party to do what is in the best interest of the entire borough.
Member of Assembly
Fix Traffic Lights
To The Editor:
Mrs. Sadik-Khan (Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation Janette Sadik-Khan), please, enough bicycle lanes, what we need here in Astoria desperately, is left turn signals at all major intersections, especially the 49th Street overpass and, of course, please synchronize the lights crossing from north to south Astoria Boulevard, which at times can take up to three or four lights to get across, and some thoughtless drivers [who] completely tie up the intersection, which then doesn’t allow the traffic flow coming north to pass along the boulevard. We here in the Upper Ditmars area would certainly appreciate it, and it would make our motoring a lot easier.
Mrs. E. Graham.