2013-08-14 / Political Page

Glendale Homeless Shelter Opposed

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. has come out strongly opposing the placement of a homeless shelter in Glendale.

Vallone said he supports smaller group homes and believes such a large homeless shelter, which would house 125 families, would overburden the community’s infrastructure, including transportation and schools.

Vallone, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for Queens borough president, issued a statement saying:

“Small group homes have been essential in securing the safety of our vulnerable populations, but it would be difficult for any neighborhood to support an influx of hundreds of people— especially one with some of the most overcrowded schools in the city. The residents of Glendale have spoken and they do not want this shelter, and I will do everything I can to ensure their voices are heard.”

Vallone (D–Astoria) also recently introduced a resolution in the Council calling on the state legislature to amend the Padavan Law and allow for greater community input in regard to the location of large residences for low income people with illnesses or mental disabilities.

Glendale Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and a large contingent of local residents spoke out forcefully recently against the plan to convert a vacant factory at 78-16 Cooper Avenue into a homeless shelter. The sponsor is Samaritan Village and the building is reportedly owned by Michael Wilner of Wilner Realty Management. The proposed plan is being reviewed by the Department of Homeless Services.

Crowley and local leaders thwarted a similar plan last year and recently declared she and the community would block it again. The lawmaker vowed, “With every fabric of my being, I’m going to fight this.”

Reportedly there are three schools near the building in question which have serious overcrowding problems and would be unable to take in more school-aged children from the proposed shelter.

Crowley said the proposed building is zoned for manufacturing, but temporary housing, including homeless shelters, have been permitted in the past without any city approval needed.

Converting it doesn’t appear to be economically feasible and she would rather see it used for manufacturing.

GIANARIS SPRINGS GREAT BIKE NEWS FOR ASTORIA: State Senator Michael Gianaris’ efforts to get Astoria and other Western Queens areas included in the Citi Bike program is paying off, he said.

The legislator announced last week that the Department of Transportation (DOT) “has agreed to include Astoria in future plans for Citi Bike”, the city’s new bike sharing program.

Gianaris, a lifelong Astoria resident who regularly bikes around the area, said he’s “pleased that Citi Bike is on the horizon for Astoria”.

The lawmaker stated, “Citi Bike will be a great addition to Astoria, which has a growing cycling community and is already one of the most bike-friendly neighborhoods in the city. Bike share will allow people to enjoy the neighborhood in a fun and healthy way and will help people to more easily travel around Western Queens, an area in dire need of better mass transit. I look forward to the day when all of Western Queens will enjoy the benefits of Citi Bike.”

Gianaris said Citi Bike is already slated to expand into Long Island City and Greenpoint, after which DOT plans additional rounds of expansion. Astoria has now been added to the list of neighborhoods DOT is planning to reach in those future Citi Bike expansions, joining Sunnyside, Park Slope (Brooklyn) and Manhattan’s Upper East and West Side on that list. The planning for Astoria, which will include evaluations of the best specific locations for Citi Bike stations, will begin later this year.

Gianaris said he formally requested that Astoria be included in these plans for future Citi Bike expansion in a letter to the Mayor and DOT several weeks ago and is committed to working with DOT to successfully bring Citi Bike to Astoria and make these exciting plans a reality as soon as possible.

Gianaris also took the opportunity to urge DOT to complete the planned Long Island City expansion as soon as possible. Long Island City was originally included in Citi Bike’s first phase, but equipment damaged during Hurricane Sandy caused a delay, so for now the borough of Queens remains without bike share.

Gianaris said he hopes that Citi Bike will be in Long Island City before the weather turns cold so that Queens residents can enjoy the program which other parts of the city have put to great use this summer.

CFB ADDS INSULT TO LIU’S INJURY: It wasn’t bad enough that City Comptroller John Liu’s chances of being the city’s next mayor never got off the ground and he’s been stuck next-to-last in the Democratic six-candidate primary field since the beginning.

But last week the city Campaign Finance Board (CFB) voted to withhold the $3.5 million Liu would have received as matching funds. Without the funds, Liu will likely be unable to close out his dragging campaign with a television advertising program that would soften the blow of eventually losing his chance to get the mayoral nomination.

For Liu, it’s a sad ending of a dream to become the first Asian American to run for mayor, after having become the first to serve as a councilmember and city comptroller.

In rendering the unprecedented punishment, the board cited the federal convictions of two of Liu’s fundraisers, as well as other irregularities in other fundraising efforts.

Liu “utterly” disputed and repudiated the CFB’s action and vowed to continue the campaign, which will end with the primaries on September 10.

Besides Liu’s huge setback last week another Democratic mayoral poll was released which found City Council Speaker Christine Quinn continuing to lead the field with 25 percent, followed by Bill Thompson (16 percent), Bill de Blasio (14 percent) and Anthony Weiner (10 percent). Liu and former Councilmember Sal Albanese each drew less than five percent.

The latest New York Times/Siena College poll confirmed Weiner’s fall out of contention that was first recorded shortly after the revelations that he had continued the sexting antics that forced him to resign from Congress.

Thus the possibility exists that although Quinn is strongly favored to lead the Democratic Party’s voting on September 10, her winning margin over Thompson and de Blasio will not reach 40 percent of the vote, forcing a runoff primary election on October 1.

As for Weiner, he continued with his campaigning as the “Ideas Candidate” with the publication of a new book of ideas called Even More Keys to the City-61 Additional Ideas to Keep New York City the Capital of the Middle Class.

Among the new ideas proposed is to fit city cops with tiny video cameras to record their frisks; he also calls for a review of the city’s “inefficient and byzantine” property tax structure and argues for reform of how we hire teachers to allow more non-education college majors in the classroom.

THOMPSON MAKING ANOTHER LATE MOVE? Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson is regarded as a candidate who generates strength in the late stages of a campaign, as he did in the 2009 contest against Mayor Bloomberg. When it ended, Thompson lost by only four percent after being expected to lose by much more than the eventual losing margin.

In his present situation—trailing Quinn by seven points and leading de Blasio by five— Thompson is in a position to stage a late move to overtake Quinn, but will it happen? Patterns established thus far in the race make it appear Thompson won’t be able to pull it off.

Consider that to date in his campaigning, Thompson, the only black candidate in this mayoral race, has not been able to gain the support of black voters at a level of strength necessary to improve his position against Quinn in straw polls already held.

Political pundits have written that in those polls, black voters had been favoring Anthony Weiner and boosting his numbers, while bypassing Thompson. Thompson may have more success now that Weiner is dropping steadily in the polls, except that Weiner’s black followers may be staying loyal to him while other Weiner factions desert him.

But the opening for Thompson to attract the black vote appears to exist. But can Thompson get his natural constituency back in the 40 or so days remaining before the voting is held on September 10? If he can do it and at least run second it may improve his chances to win the runoff on October 1.

DE BLASIO ENDORSEMENTS: Candidate Bill de Blasio, the city’s incumbent public advocate, picked up two endorsements from outside the political community—one from former Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon, the other from liberal businessman and philanthropist George Soros.

Nixon recorded a robocall urging voters to vote for de Blasio and Soros put out a release which highlights de Blasio’s qualities and says he fits the description of what New York’s next mayor needs: “…intelligence and a clear vision for where they want to take the city”.

De Blasio also ran his first TV ad of the campaign, a 30-second ad which features his 15-year-old son Dante. The message is that de Blasio is “the only Democrat with the guts to really break from the Bloomberg years… who will raise taxes on the rich to fund early childhood and after-school programs…and has the boldest plan to build affordable housing”.

REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES DEBATE: The GOP candidates for mayor— John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota and George McDonald—staged their first debate on ABC TV, and it generally focused on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s three terms and partly on Rudy Giuliani’s reign. All three said they would try to build on what Bloomberg has done generally and specifically follow his lead on schools and NYPD policies.

Lhota emphasized strict budgets and delivery of services, no increases in taxes and no back pay for unions. But he defended teachers and directed criticism at their union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).

Catsimatidis praised Bloomberg for having “reached great new heights”, which he hoped to duplicate. But he criticized Bloomberg for not giving them some kind of a raise. Regarding teachers, he said the city is not hiring the best prospects and he would offer some benefits to attract the better ones. The millionaire grocery chain mogul would freeze taxes, he said.

McDonald praised Bloomberg for leaving the city in great shape. The homeless advocate said he wouldn’t raise taxes and would work to increase employment opportunities.

Lhota disagreed with Bloomberg’s soda ban and Catsimatidis criticized his efforts to open up city streets to bike riders, saying they created traffic problems.

Lhota, who served as a deputy mayor under Giuliani, praised his former boss’ mayoral years, but said if he’s elected he would develop his own style and policies. One story quoted him as saying, “Rudy Giuliani and Joe Lhota are two very, very different people.”

CUOMO SIGNS ADDABBO BILL TO PROTECT NEWBORNS: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. reports that Governor Cuomo has signed into law a bill sponsored by him that helps to ensure that fewer newborn babies in New York state will suffer from serious and undetected heart defects.

Under the new law, Addabbo said, birthing facilities throughout the state, including general hospitals and clinics, “will be required to test newborn babies for congenital heart defects using a painless procedure known as ‘pulse oximetry screening’”.

Addabbo said that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “congenital heart defects occur in almost one percent of all live births in the nation and are the leading cause of death in infants who lose their lives as a direct result of birth defects”.

He added that undetected congenital heart defects “can also lead to serious physical and developmental disabilities in children who survive”, but these can be mitigated with proper treatment.

The new law will take effect 180 days from its initial signing, which was July 31. New York will be joining nearly half of all states in the country which already require pulse oximetry screening. The procedure was recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since 2011.

GOLDFEDER DEMANDS MAYOR MAKE REPAIRS: Citing a “rapidly deteriorating” seawall along Jamaica Bay in the Rockaways, Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder has urged Mayor Bloomberg to get moving to remedy the situation because the beachfront is vulnerable “to any storm, not just major Sandy-sized hurricanes”.

Goldfeder (D–Rockaway) pointed out in a letter to the mayor that the seawall runs along the northern side of the Rockaway Peninsula, adjacent to Jamaica Bay, and serves as the first barrier for homes against storms and rising seas.

The lawmaker explained, “It’s been nearly 10 months since Superstorm Sandy and currently the only protective measure for homeowners living near the Bay is quickly disappearing.”

Goldfeder pointed out that, “The rapid rate of the decaying bulkhead is alarming, leaving many communities vulnerable to any storm, not just Sandy-sized hurricanes. We must act now and quickly to ensure our communities are protected and are able to recover.”

Goldfeder said Rockaway resident Christina Russell had told him decaying bulkheads “have been an ongoing issue for many years, and now, after Sandy, the damage of the bulkhead is threatening our property”. In fact, she said her father-in-law “is unable to pull into his own driveway without the risk of falling into Jamaica Bay”.

Goldfeder said that as far back as December of 2011, he had sent the mayor a letter informing him of the decaying bulkhead “throughout the Peninsula, fearing that any storm would be devastating…” And after Sandy, he said, the danger is being felt in Belle Harbor, Rockaway Beach, Arverne and Far Rockaway.

The lawmaker said “it is unfortunate that it has taken a natural disaster to demonstrate how vulnerable we really are”. He pleaded with the mayor “to make the Bay wall a top priority in recovery and help our communities better prepare for future storms”.

MARSHALL OKS ADVANCING REZONE PLAN: In a move to prevent commercial development from encroaching into residential areas of East Elmhurst and Corona, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall has recommended the approval of a rezoning proposal affecting sections of those areas.

The proposal is focused on rezoning all or part of a 127-block section of East Elmhurst and a 14-block section of Corona located on the south side of Roosevelt Avenue, Marshall said. She explained:

“This rezoning proposal was crafted to address community concerns about out-of-character commercial development taking place in the areas’ residential sections, which consist primarily of one- and two-family detached and semi-detached homes. If enacted, the proposal would prevent commercial development in predominantly residential sections and would instead promote such development along the areas’ main thoroughfares.”

The proposal was developed by the Department of City Planning “with a large amount of community input and has been well received by the community boards, elected officials and civic organizations that represent the impacted areas”, she added. “I am also very impressed with the proposal and am very happy to recommend its approval.”

Marshall explained that the current zoning of the areas involved have not been changed since 1961 (a half-century ago) and “allow for an unpredictably large range of building types that may not be compatible with the traditional character of the area’s residential sections”.

To address this problem, she continued, the proposal calls for much of the area to be redesignated according to zoning district categories that did not exist in 1961. These categories better reflect, she said, the character of the area’s existing residential structures and will limit the range of possible new construction to what already exists in the affected zoning districts.

Marshall said Queens Community Boards 3 and 4 reviewed the proposals and both voted unanimously to recommend approval. The Queens Borough Board took similar action, Marshall said.

Summing up, Marshall stated: “I commend the Department of City Planning for doing an outstanding job of using its available tools to stop out-of-character development in residential areas while promoting appropriate growth and encouraging business development in the commercial areas where it is most suitable.”

The proposal must be reviewed by the Planning Commission, the City Council and the mayor before it can be enacted.

KOO EXTENDS SYMPATHY: Councilmember Peter Koo (D–Flushing) issued the following statement following the tragic death of Yingyi Li in Kissena Park in Flushing recently when she was struck by a falling tree:

“I would like to express my most sincere condolences to the Dikov/Li family for the loss of their beloved family member, Yingyi Li. This appears to be a tragic accident, however, my office has contacted the Parks Department and they informed my office that they are currently investigating the incident. I hope to meet with the family to express my sympathies in person and also offer any assistance during their mourning for their loved one.”

NOLAN’S LIBRARY AID LAW SIGNED: Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law Assemblymember Catherine Nolan’s bill requiring school districts to distribute informational materials to students on how to apply to a local library. The new law does not apply to New York City because it is covered by a similar local law.

Nolan (D–Ridgewood) thanked the governor for signing the bill “because it is important that we provide to our students the information on how to access library services”.

Nolan, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, explained that under the new law, “The library would have to request and provide the materials for the school district to distribute to students. The Public Library would also be responsible to coordinate with the school to make sure it has a sufficient number of copies for each student. If there is no library located in the boundaries of a school district, then that school district shall not be required to comply with this section and school districts are not required to expend additional funds to comply with this section.”

MENG MOVES CHILDREN’S AGENDA: Congressmember Grace Meng has been named a co-chair of a bipartisan coalition formed in the House of Representatives to work on issues related to child safety. The new coalition is a first in congressional history.

Named the “Kids’ Safety Caucus”, the fledgling group will hold educational forums for members of Congress and their staffs, provide data and research and act as a resource for congressmembers to provide safety information and best practices to parents and caregivers back in their districts.

Along with Meng, the other co-chairs are: Congressmembers Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D–FL), Jon Runyan (R–NJ) and Kevin Cramer (R–ND). Collectively, they have 13 children and one grandchild.

Meng (D–Flushing) stated, “Nothing is more important than protecting our kids, and it’s essential that we do all we can to keep them safe. More deaths of children aged 19 and younger are preventable, and tragedies such as accidental poisonings, drowning and car accidents are easily avoidable. I hope that this new caucus we are launching will make the public more aware of the many dangers that threaten our children, and reduce the number of kids that are put in harm’s way each year. Our children deserve noting less.”

Meng is the mother of two young boys, Tyler, five, and Brandon, three.

PERALTA COMMENTS ON CLINIC’S CLOSING: Commenting on reports that the city administration will close the Corona Health Clinic, state Senator Jose Peralta issued the following statement:

“The city on the one hand will argue that Corona’s population is exploding, and on the other it will cut an essential children’s health service provider. Parents in this community already have a hard time finding a seat for their children in a real classroom, now the city wants to make it harder for them to get their kids immunized for school.”

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