2013-06-12 / Political Page

Funding Sought For FMCP

Several weeks ago, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. made a strong argument against giving up space in Flushing Meadows- Corona Park to a developer who wants to build a soccer field there so a professional soccer team can play its games there.

Still advocating on behalf of the almost 900 acre park, Vallone says he intends to file legislation to ensure FMCP receives funding to maintain it properly as other New York City parks are.

The Astoria lawmaker argues:

“FMCP, which is one of the largest parks in the city at 897.6 acres, has been allowed to deteriorate for years due to lack of maintenance— the park has only 18 full-time maintenance workers. Despite being smaller (at 843 acres) than FMCP, Central Park has 300 workers and Prospect Park (at 585 acres) in Brooklyn has 135.”

To establish fiscal parity with the parks in the other boroughs, Vallone says he is going to introduce a bill requiring all park conservancies with more than $5 million to donate 20 percent of their funds to maintain parks that have received a grade of unsatisfactory for two consecutive years;

To show that FMCP is a stepchild compared to the others, he said that in 2012, $100 million was donated to Central Park, while $20 million was given to the High Line park in Manhattan in 2011 and $40 million was pledged to construct a field house in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. During that time period, he said, only $5,000 was donated to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Vallone’s bill would be modeled after one introduced in the state senate by Senator Daniel Squadron of Manhattan.

Vallone noted, “In The Great Gatsby, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was referred to as the ‘valley of ashes’, and if Manhattan has its way, our park would go back to being an ash dump. In this case, the grass actually is greener on the other side of the county fence.”

On another subject, Vallone defended a bill he recently introduced which would create a registry of animal abusers. During a City Council hearing, Deputy Health Commissioner Daniel Kass testified that the registry would be a ‘burden’ and ‘ineffective’.

Vallone responded that Kass’ characterizations were “outrageous”, and said the registry would be “a gift if you love animals— not a burden”. The lawmaker further explained that the registry was similar to both the sex and gun offender registries, which have been highly effective, and that a year in jail for failing to report to the registry would be deterrent enough for animal abusers.

Crimes that would result in inclusion in the registry are animal fighting, abandonment, aggravated cruelty and failure to provide proper sustenance, among others, Vallone explained, and all persons included on the registry would be prohibited from owning an animal.

Once on the registry, criminals would remain on it for five years following their first offense, and 10 years for any subsequent convictions. Anyone who fails to report to the registry, or who owns an animal while being listed on the registry faces a one-year prison sentence and a $1,000 fine.

The reason for the bill, Vallone explained, was, “Right now, there’s nothing stopping an animal abuser from walking out of prison, going to his neighborhood pet shop and buying a new animal to hurt. Our shelters are doing an excellent job of trying to keep animals safe, but they have no way of knowing if they are handing a puppy off to a violent criminal—my registry fixes that problem.”

VAN BRAMER, DROMM ENDORSE KATZ: Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm, the LGBT leaders in Queens, announced their endorsements of former Councilmember Melinda Katz last week for Queens borough president.

Both emphasized Katz’ “strong track record in support of LGBT rights and dedicated work on affordable housing and healthcare issues”.

Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside), a former municipal library official, said Katz similarly was a library supporter. But, “more than our shared background… I know that Melinda and I share a vision for Queens”.

Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) explained he supported Katz “because she has always been a staunch supporter of LGBT rights and a defender of our community”. Dromm, who is gay, added, “She has supported our right to marry since being first elected to the state Assembly in 1994.”

Thanking Van Bramer and Dromm, Katz said, “These trailblazers have overcome extreme prejudice to help lead our borough, city and state in the right direction.” She added, “As Queens borough president, I will work with all of our leaders and communities to fight for improved public transportation, better health care, improved education and smarter development in Queens.”

The endorsements of Katz by Van Bramer and Dromm follow last week’s endorsement of Katz by former campaign challengers Barry Grodenchik and state Senator Jose Peralta. Katz is still locked in a duel with Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. (Astoria) and Leroy Comrie (Jamaica) and state Senator Tony Avella (Northeast Queens) for the Democratic nomination for borough president.

CROWLEY PRAISES RICE PICK AS NSC HEAD: Following President Obama’s selection of Susan Rice as National Security Advisor, Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) issued the following statement:

“There are very few people in this world with more skill, experience and commitment than Ambassador Susan Rice. Between her extensive work in academia and her time in public service, Ambassador Rice’s experience and expertise are virtually unmatched.

“Ambassador Rice has excelled during her time at the United Nations. She has made human rights and women’s rights a top priority, and she has helped to strengthen our relationships around the globe. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Ambassador Rice, and I look forward to continuing our work together in her new capacity as National Security Advisor. There is no question that we have serious issues to confront around the world and Susan Rice is the kind of experienced leader we need right now.”

MENG’S BILL PROTECTS INFANTS: Congressmember Grace Meng (D–Flushing) has introduced legislation requiring stores to stop selling baby formula after the expiration date stamped on the bottle because it puts infants at risk. Meng said that although federal regulations require an expiration date on bottles of baby’s milk sold in stores; there is no federal law that prohibits the sale of such milk after the expiration date.

“This legislation is a no brainer, and it’s unbelievable that it’s even necessary,” said Meng. “It is unconscionable that many stores have such a reckless disregard for our babies, and it’s another example of putting profits ahead of safety.”

Meng’s bill, entitled the Infant Formula Protection Act, makes it illegal for stores to sell baby formula after the product’s “use by” date has passed, she said. Stores that fail to comply could be fined up to $200,000, she explained.

P. VALLONE ENDORSED: Three uniformed organizations, the NYC Correction Officers Benevolent Association (COBA), the Lieutenants Benevolent Association and the Fire Mashal’s Benevolent Association have announced endorsements of Paul Vallone in his race for the Democratic Party nomination for the City Council 19th District seat in Northeast Queens. The district includes Bayside, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Douglaston and Little Neck.

President Louis Turco, of the Lieutenants group, said Vallone “has consistently shown overwhelming support for this city’s law enforcement agencies and personnel”.

COBA President Norman Seabrook, head of the 15,000 member prison guard union, said Paul Vallone will fight vigorously to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers and he can be trusted to maintain public safety and ensure our law enforcement officers, especially Correction Officers, have the resources they need to maintain care, custody and control of the second largest jail system in the nation.

Fire Marshal’s union President William Kregler stated, “We fully support Paul and look forward to him taking over the reins of the 19th council seat and moving forward to a more positive future.”

Vallone, son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. and brother of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., thanked all three organizations for their support, saying public safety is at the forefront of his priorities. “A commitment to public safety means better schools, thriving small businesses, and greater property values, all of which will help keep Northeast Queens the best place to live in New York City.”

Vallone has been endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party organization in this race.

‘MOST DIVERSE COUNCIL DISTRICT’ IN NYC: Councilmember Mark Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens), commenting on the 51 new council districts being approved by the federal government, declares his district, 23, “will be the most diverse district in New York City”.

To make the point, Weprin points out, “District 23 residents are made up of approximately: 14 percent Hispanic; 12 percent African American; 14 percent South Asian; 10 percent Korean; 12 percent Chinese; 15 percent Jewish (includes Modern Orthodox, Secular and Russian Jews; 15 percent White Ethnic (Italian, Greek, German, Polish, Irish etc), and eight percent other. Nearly 70 percent of the population are people of color, many of whom are first and second generation immigrants.”

He adds, “I have always prided myself on bringing diverse groups of people together for the common good.”

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall has always described the borough’s population as the most diverse in the city and now Weprin’s claim if true, narrows Marshall’s observation down to the most diverse City Council district being this enclave in the Northeast section of the borough.

District 23 in Northern Queens includes Oakland Gardens, Floral Park, Glen Oaks, Hollis Hills and parts of Little Neck, Douglaston, Fresh Meadows, Bellerose, Queens Village and Bayside. It is very similar to the state senate district previously represented by Frank Padavan.

GILLIBRAND ALSO WAGING WOMEN’S CRUSADE: Another woman legislator presently waging a battle on behalf of women is New York’s junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D). Gillibrand was out front last week at a hearing in Washington, dressing down a group of military leaders over the epidemic of sexual assaults in the ranks.

Gillibrand last week proposed to Army General Martin Dempsey as well as the heads of other military branches that sexual assaults in the military be taken out of their hands and given over to civilian prosecutors.

While the military leaders acknowledged they haven’t done enough to protect the women victims in their ranks, all also agreed that they don’t agree with Gillibrand’s proposed solution.

But Gillibrand blasted away anyway, lecturing her high ranked audience at one point, “Not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape because they merge all of those crimes together. You have lost the trust of the men and women that rely on you that you will actually bring justice in these cases.”

NOLAN FIGHTING TO BLOCK MIXED MARTIAL ARTS OK: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who’s in a battle to hold on to his job, is also under heavy pressure to block approval of a bill legalizing mixed martial arts by the Assembly.

Among the groups urging Silver to KO the bill are women’s groups, and one woman legislator leading the charge is Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood). She recently described the sport as brutal and barbaric.

SERPE KICKS OFF 22ND DISTRICT COUNCIL CAMPAIGN: Lynne Serpe, the Green Party candidate for the 22nd district City Council seat covering Astoria and Long Island City, kicked off her campaign last Wednesday. She said she will run on a platform “urging sustainable development, access to healthy food, expanded compost and recycling programs, energy efficiency and green jobs”.

Serpe ran for the seat in 2009 against Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. and lost by a three-to-one margin. Vallone is running this year for the Queens borough president’s seat. Serpe is expected to run against the winner of the Democratic primary to be held September 10 against Costa Constantinides and John Ciafone.

Serpe is a product consultant for the Greening Libraries Initiative at Queens Library and also an independent election administrator. She’s a strong advocate for election reforms such as Instant Runoff Voting, and proportional representation.

Serpe said her previous experience working for the government was in New Zealand, where she worked in that country’s parliament as the voting system reform coordinator.

Serpe is the co-founder of the Triple R Events: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and an active member of Two Coves Community Garden and other local community organizations.

‘KEEP FT. TOTTEN POOL OPEN’: That’s the message City Council Speaker (and mayoral candidate) Christine Quinn and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein (D–Bayside) sent the Parks Department last week, charging it threatens to close the pool each year at this time “as a budget negotiating tactic”.

“Closing this pool would be an insult to the taxpayers of Northeast Queens,” charged Quinn and Braunstein. Quinn explained:

“As we have done for the past three years, the New York city council fully expects to find the funds necessary to ensure that all of New York City’s families are able to enjoy a full season at all of the city’s pools again this year.”

Braunstein noted: “As the only free pool in Northeast Queens, the Fort Totten pool is a tremendous resource to our community, and as such, the Parks Department should not annually propose its closure as a budget negotiating tactic.”

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, backed up the two lawmakers, saying:

“Closure of the Fort Totten pool, the only free public pool in Northeast Queens, would prevent children, senior citizens, families and others from escaping summer’s heat in what has become a valuable facility.”

The only alternative for all those people would be, Schreiber said, for them to find a private pool “that can cost up to $2,000 for the season”, and that’s not a real option.

SCHUMER APPLAUDS ‘NO SMALL KNIVES’ ON AIRPLANES: When the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) proposed allowing airplane passengers to carry small knives on flights, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer opposed it strongly. When the TSA reversed its position last week, Schumer stated:

“It seemed obvious to most travelers and airline employees that the decision to allow knives on planes was wrong, and we’re glad that the TSA, after further review and input, has seen it our way. This decision will allow TSA agents to focus on more important things than measuring the length of knives, and sorting the ‘good’ knives from the ‘bad’. Their move is the right one, and I’d like to thank them for listening to our input and the input of the flying public.”

OK ADDABBO BILL AUTHORIZING PEACE OFFICERS/AT RACINO: The state senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering has passed state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr.’s bill to require peace officers to be installed at the Resorts World Casino NYC in Ozone Park in the lawmaker’s district. Addabbo noted that presently the casino employs security guards to protect visitors and to patrol the area, but says the guards are not empowered to make arrests.

Addabbo introduced the bill authorizing peace officers to serve at the casino “to increase public safety and deter criminal activity in and around” the gaming facility. He explained the officers would be prohibited from carrying or possessing firearms while carrying out their duties, but would provide “added law enforcement presence… and send a message that criminal behavior would not be tolerated”.

Addabbo said, “In the event of any criminal activity or disruptive behavior that could be dangerous to the public or casino employees, the security guards can detain offenders, but must wait for local NYPD officers to arrive to carry out any procedural arrests.”

But, he added, “I think that the threat of immediate arrest might serve as a greater deterrent to those who are seeking to cause trouble in the area, and peace officers would have that authority.”

With the gaming committee’s approval of the bill, the full senate can now consider it for further action. A similar bill is being considered by the Assembly.

In another matter, Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) announced that he is opening another district office in Broad Channel on Friday. Constituents there presently have been served at his Howard Beach district office, but he feels constituents there and in the Rockaways would be more conveniently served at the new office located at 88-08 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Beach (Room 311, third floor of The Wave newspaper building). It can be reached by phone at 718-318-0702.

MILLER’S BILL EXTENDS ‘NO SCHOOL BUS IDLING’ LAW: The state Assembly has passed Assemblymember Mike Miller’s bill to extend the law banning bus idling on school grounds.

Miller (D–Woodhaven) said afterwards: “Extending the no school bus idling law while parked or standing on school grounds is a simple, pragmatic and a no-cost approach to deal with idling vehicles outside school and childcare grounds. It continues to stop the wasteful and dangerous idling of dozens of school buses in areas congested with children, and protects our children from breathing in toxic fumes.”

The bill now goes to the state senate for approval. The law’s continuation goes hand in hand with New York’s commitment to “Going Green” and to provide clean air policies.

Miller explained that each school day, over 2.3 million children board over 55,000 diesel-powered school buses and are exposed to lung-irritating chemicals, leading to possible asthma attacks, and other respiratory problems.


CUOMO ON ABORTIONS: Announcing that it is “strongly opposed” to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s bill to “codify” the state’s abortion law, the state’s Conservative Party argues:

“The governor’s proposed bill states that it seeks to break down barriers that perpetuate discrimination and equality based on gender, and if that were the true purpose of the bill, it would not include expanding abortion ‘rights’ in New York state. Nine of the 10 major proponents of the proposal could stand alone in separate bills and most likely pass (note: some are already in statute) overwhelmingly, but Part 5, protecting a woman’s freedom of choice is an affront to all women except the extremists who support killing an infant just prior to its natural birth.”

Instead, the party says the governor just “wants to remove any restrictions placed on abortions under the guise of ‘codifying’ New York’s abortion laws based on the Roe v Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973) case, a case which it says we have learned was based on a lie”.

The governor’s proposal, the Conservatives say, “brings women back to the back alley that Roe v Wade was supposed to eliminate”.

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