2013-05-15 / Political Page

Vallone Blasts Parkland Sale For Pro Soccer Team

Taking a stand on one of the thorniest issues of the moment, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. last week joined the Fairness Coalition of Queens to denounce the Bloomberg administration’s proposal to sell 13 acres of Flushing Meadows- Corona Park to a billionaire Middle Eastern sheik for $1-a-year.

The kicker in the deal, Vallone says, is that the moneybags in this deal, Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan “is aiming to build a 35,000-seat soccer stadium” on those 13 acres, which is “expected to house an expansion Major League Soccer franchise”.

Vallone (D–Astoria), who is one of six Democrats running for Queens borough president this year, has opposed the stadium proposal, which surfaced late last year, because he disagrees with giving New York City public parkland away to a private entity.

“One dollar for land in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park?”, Vallone asked incredulously. “That’s the worst land grab since Peter Minuit paid $24 for the island of Manhattan, said Vallone, answering his own question.

Speaking at the Fairness Coalition of Queens protest rally outside the United Arab Emirates Embassy to denounce the Bloomberg administration’s proposed parkland sale, Vallone stated:

“Sheik Mansour’s self-serving financial scheme would never fly in Central Park, and it shouldn’t be able to take flight at the expense of precious parkland in Queens,” Vallone declared, sounding a familiar Queens first theme. “Queens residents deserve a say in this process, and the billionaire can bet his bottom dollar I’ll make sure their voices are heard.”

Standing alongside Vallone, Leandra Requena, a Queens resident and member of the community activist group Make the Road New York, said, “We’re here protesting today because our park is not for sale. It’s outrageous that the Bloomberg administration is considering giving away our public parkland to a billionaire. Building a soccer stadium in the middle of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park would be devastating for the park and for the residents who use the park. Major League Soccer should build the stadium somewhere else in Queens. I’d also like to thank Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. for being here with us today to show his support, and all the other groups in the Fairness Coalition of Queens who are here today.”

According to one recent story, Mansour is an old hand at rebuilding rundown soccer teams. He took over a second-rate soccer team in Manchester, England, and took the rubber band off his bankroll, built training camps and rebuilt the stadium, trying to make it a contender. Apparently he would use the same formula with plans for a team here, but he’ll have to overcome strong resistance here, if Vallone and the Fairness Coalition of Queens have anything to say about it.

CROWLEY, MENG ESCORT S. KOREAN PRESIDENT: Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Grace Meng were part of the prestigious group which escorted President Park Geun-hye of South Korea into the House chamber last Wednesday for her address to a Joint Session of Congress.

Park, the first female president of the Far East country, who took office last January, visited Washington to officially meet with President Obama.

Meng stated, “Being selected to help escort President Park to the House chamber for her historic address to Congress is a tremendous privilege. With Korean Americans in my family, I’m personally honored to be among those who will meet and greet President Park as she prepares to speak to America. The excitement surrounding her upcoming speech continues to grow, and I’m looking forward to it with great enthusiasm.”

Meng (D–Flushing) was the first East Asian in history to gain a seat in Congress when she was elected last year.

In his comment, Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) pointed out, “Korea is one of our most important allies and I am honored to be a part of the escort committee for President Park’s historic visit. President Park’s visit during these trying times is a clear sign of the enduring ties between our two countries, and I look forward to her remarks on how we can continue to build upon our strong relationship.”

MENG TAKES ON SCHUMER OVER IMMIGRATION BILL: Besides participating in welcoming President Park’s first visit last week, Meng got involved in an argument last week with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D–NY) over a pending immigration bill. Schumer is part of a bipartisan push for an immigration overhaul bill in the Senate.

However, Meng charged, according to a New York Daily News story, that Schumer’s bill includes “a number of provisions that are disadvantageous to the Asian American community…”

More pointedly, Meng directed her displeasure at a change to a program that lets people sponsor their family members for visas for the purpose of sibling reunification.

The Flushing lawmaker stated, according to The News:

“The need for family reunification is foremost in the hearts of the Asian American community…” But the Senate overhaul measure would limit to 31 the age of adult children who can seek reunification with their parents.

A spokesperson for Schumer responding to Meng’s complaint said, in effect, that under Schumer’s bill more Asian Americans would come to New York and America than presently, and it is difficult dealing with requests to change the Senate bill because of its bipartisan nature.

SIMOTAS BILL OK’D; PROTECTS HOME GAS, ELECTRIC CUSTOMERS: A bill to ensure a residential customer’s right to an actual meter reading upon discontinuation of services has passed the Assembly under the sponsorship of Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (D–Astoria). The bill further mandates that utilities companies must be transparent and forthcoming about this when doing business, the lawmaker said.

Simotas stated, “We have a right to be charged only for the services we actually use. Consumers should not have to spend hours on the phone to challenge estimated bills. It should be the duty of responsible public utilities to see to it that this commonsense standard of service is upheld.”

Simotas noted that under current law customers may be charged based on estimated usage, which can result in customer overcharges that fail to be corrected or refunded. But, she said, “Hardworking New Yorkers shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of excess charges based on speculation.”

The bill now goes to the state senate for consideration.

CROWLEY BLASTS ‘PAY CHINA FIRST’ ACT: Last week Congressmember Joseph Crowley spoke out in opposition to a Republican-sponsored “Pay China First” Act, legislation that would ensure, Crowley pointed out, “that if Republicans cause a default of our nation’s economy, bondholders from China and other foreign regimes and banks will be paid before our veterans, enlisted troops and seniors on Medicare”.

Crowley reiterated, “Let me say that again: this bill not only pays China first, but it increases the deficit.” The Queens lawmaker continued explaining:

“What the Republican majority is doing with this bill is announcing to the world— everyone from small businesses who sell services to the government, to grandmothers buying savings bonds for their grandchildren— that this Congress is serious about not paying our nation’s bills. I could not disagree more strongly—especially when the reality is that we just paid down $35 billion of the deficit this month.”

But, Crowley continued, “The majority has us here debating a bill that will not only put China first, but will actually increase the debt. If you ask me, I’d say their priorities are completely out of whack. This extreme Republican Congress has gone to a new level with this bill.”

Pointing to visuals, Crowley asked, “Why don’t we ask the American people who should be paid first? The majority has made the decision. I don’t think that is the choice of the American people. Oppose the ‘Pay China First’ bill. And let’s keep America first.”

WEPRIN PROPOSES RESTORING Q 75 BUS ROUTE: Councilmember Mark Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens) is urging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to use part of its “unexpected surplus of $40 million in its midyear budget” to restore the Q 75 bus route for riders in Eastern Queens.

Before the route was eliminated in 2010, it provided service between Oakland Gardens and the subway station in Jamaica, Weprin explained. Now, he argues, “It is the MTA’s obligation to prioritize restoration for commuters in areas where residents rely heavily on buses. Eastern Queens has no subway service, so bus service is critical.”

Presently, Weprin said, since 2010, the MTA has eliminated 32 bus routes, including the Q 75 local bus service. In parts of Oakland Gardens, the elimination of the Q 75 made transit much more difficult for commuters, some of whom are no longer within walking distance of a bus route or have to take two buses just to reach a subway station.

MILLER APPOINTMENT ANNOUNCED: State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has announced the appointment of Assemblymember Mike Miller (D–Woodhaven) as chairman of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities. Accepting the appointment, Miller said he was honored that Silver “trusted me with this responsibility”, and he is looking forward to attending the upcoming Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day (LDAD) in his new capacity as chair of the Task Force.

Miller explained, “This event provides an opportunity for legislators, their staffs and the general public to be educated on the issues that the disability community faces, and at the same time, to recognize the achievements of advocates and people with disabilities. The LDAD will be held in Albany on June 3.

ADDABBO BACKS CUOMO’S ELECTION BALLOT CHANGES: When Governor Cuomo proposed changes to election ballots last week to make them easier to read, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. applauded the move because he had sponsored similar legislation for several years.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) said the proposed changes would improve the state’s electoral process and fight public corruption, which had long been a priority of his. “Acting to improve New York’s paper election ballots will greatly improve the overall democratic process, particularly for seniors and other voters with impaired eyesight,” Addabbo said.

Under his legislation, he said, the ballot would be “easily readable bold-faced typeface”, with candidate’s names on paper ballots printed in capitals and lower-case letters. “For any variety of reasons, I believe it is imperative that the typeface be enlarged to help senior citizens and visually impaired voters read their ballots and cast their precious votes with confidence that their individual election wishes are being properly recorded,” he stated.

GENNARO PRAISES FR. HARRINGTON: Commenting on Father Harrington's recent retirement as St. John’s University’s president after 24 years at the helm, Councilmember James Gennaro (D–Fresh Meadows) stated:

“I want to thank Father Harrington for his years of service, not only to St. John’s University, but to the furtherance of Catholic education worldwide. In the 24 years since he took over as president, I’ve seen a university steeped in local tradition transformed into a world-class educational and athletic powerhouse.

“Under his leadership, St. John’s has seen its endowment increased more than five-fold, achieved new heights of academic excellence and expanded its charitable mission to serve the wider community. Father Harrington leaves an indelible legacy of educational and spiritual enrichment for thousands of students, faculty and alumni.”

MAYORAL RACES: Republican hopeful Joe Lhota dug up a photo of himself and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, recalling the pair’s heroics on September 11, the day of the World Trade Center attacks.

But according to a press report, the picture was taken on September 17, six days after 9/11 and shows Giuliani and Lhota, his then-deputy mayor, surveying the scene as they started making plans to rebuild the area.

Actually, the picture was used as part of Lhota’s first mailing of his mayoral campaign, which was mailed to Republican primary voters last week. It is captioned, “Rudy Giuliani and Joe Lhota made New York work again. Let’s put that experience back to work.”

It’s a powerful picture and message, intimating that Giuliani will be a hands-on supporter in Lhota’s campaign to snatch the Republican nomination against John Catsimatidis on Primary Day in September, setting up their battle with whomever wins the Democratic primary and nomination in the general election.

The always controversial Lhota could get some flack for invoking the 9/11 tragedy to make campaign gains. But Lhota obviously feels it’s worth the risk reminding voters of the fearless, takecharge manner which Giuliani and his first deputy employed to rally New Yorkers on that horrendous day and afterward.

Polls show that GOP primary voters are more likely to go for a candidate who has Rudy’s support, but they also show Giuliani could be an albatross for a candidate in the general election.

ENDORSEMENTS: Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, the former city comptroller was endorsed by former Congressmember Floyd Flake, the leader of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica. It’s the largest church in the city with more than 23,000 black followers. So it figures to help Thompson get a maximum push from his prime source of voters on Primary Day.

There was also a report last week that the United Uniformed Workers of New York, a law enforcement union, was poised to align its 120,000 active members behind Thompson’s campaign.

Also receiving an endorsement last week was Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who got the nod from Russell Simmons, the liberal black activist. Simmons said he was won over to de Blasio’s side by the candidate’s call for taxing the wealthy and also his opposition to the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn still has a comfortable lead in the mayoral race for the Democratic endorsement in the primary. Also in the race, behind Thompson and de Blasio, is City Comptroller John Liu.

CATSIMATIDIS ENDORSED BY LIBERAL PARTY: Republican mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis got a blast from the past last week as he was endorsed by the Liberal Party, the all-but forgotten third major political party in New York politics.

The party’s chairman Jack Olchin likened Catsimatidis to Fiorello LaGuardia, a Republican-Liberal fusion candidate who won in the 1940s.

Catsimatidis, the millionaire grocer, recalled the Republican-Liberal alliance worked for Giuliani in his two successful mayoral elections. Catsimatidis also hailed the endorsement as “a game changer” and predicted, “The potential votes on this line give us the ability to win in November.”

Perhaps the greatest value from the Liberal endorsement is that it guarantees Catsimatidis a ballot line in November if he doesn’t win the Republican primary election over Lhota.

Other than receiving the Liberal endorsement, Catsimatidis met with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to discuss her educational organization called iCivics. The organization prepares young Americans to become knowledgeable and engaged citizens, and to take the place of civics classes, which are no longer taught in public schools.

COUNCIL RACES: Councilmember Peter Koo, a Democrat in Flushing seeking re-election, has been endorsed by the Detectives’ Endowment Association (DEA) in the 20th City Council district. President Michael Palladino, head of the 17,000-member union, said that after looking over all the candidates in the contest, Koo is “the candidate… who best understands the needs and concerns of the DEA.

22nd District (Astoria/Long Island City): Lynne Serpe, a employee of the Queens Library, announced her candidacy in the race to succeed Peter Vallone Jr. in the Astoria district. Serpe will run on the Green Party line. Running against Vallone in 2009, she got 24 percent of the vote. Her platform includes expanding library services, building more affordable housing and creating “good green jobs”.

19TH DISTRICT (FLUSHING/WHITESTONE): The crowded field of Democratic hopefuls added another last week as Chrissy Voskerichian entered the race for the Democratic nomination. A lifelong resident of North Flushing, Voskerichian boasts an extensive list of community involvement. She is presently vice president of the Station Road Civic Association and past president of the 109th Precinct Community Council.

Voskerichian is retired after 31 years of business experience, her last corporate job being a top executive position in the telecommunications industry. Her most recent job was director of Constituent Services for the current councilmember representing the 19th District, Dan Halloran, Republican who is not seeking re-election.

Other Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for the 19th District seat are Paul Vallone, former Assemblymember John Duane, Austin Shafran, and Paul Graziano. The Republican Party is supporting Dennis Saffran as its candidate.

PERALTA NOT SUSPECTED: State Senator Jose Peralta, a candidate for the Queens borough president’s office stated that he has been assured by the U.S. attorney’s office that he is not under any suspicion in their inquiry. “I was not approached by investigators. I engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever. After I was identified as one of the elected officials recorded, my attorney spoke to the U.S. attorney’s office. The U.S. attorney’s office made it clear that I am not a target of the investigation.”

Seven elected officials have been recorded during visits with former state Senator Shirley Huntley, who, having been convicted of stealing $87,000 from a children’s charity, cooperated with the FBI in ferreting out further corruption among government officials. Huntley has been sentenced to one year in prison and three years of probation in addition to restitution of the funds.

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