2014-01-22 / Political Page

Queens Led Traffic Deaths Last Year

While Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration works furiously to develop an action plan to deal with spiraling traffic deaths, in the city which only a week ago the mayor had targeted with his “Vision Zero” strategy, the tragic fatalities continue unabated.

Amidst the continuing carnage, the Daily News, in an exclusive story, revealed that figures to be released later this month by the NYPD will show that pedestrian deaths in traffic accidents in Queens totalled 46 during 2013, the highest in the city.

For local residents, that should come as no surprise, considering the reputation Queens Boulevard has earned over the years as the Boulevard of Death.

As De Blasio watches, along with the rest of the city as the carnage grows, a special inter-agency group he designated on January 15 under his Vision Zero strategy is due to report on an action plan by February 15. That group consists of the city’s police, transportation and health departments.

The mayor’s plan aims to reduce the number of deaths involving vehicles in the city to zero within 10 years. The initiative would include tougher NYPD enforcement efforts, improvements in at least 50 corridors and intersections per year citywide, increasing the number of 20 mph speed zones. The plan would also seek state legislative approval of more red light and speed enforcement cameras at busy intersections.

Present at the January 15 meeting in Woodside, Police Commissioner William Bratton said the NYPD would increase its Highway Division from about 220 to 270 offices. Bratton also said precinct commanders had been ordered to submit plans for pedestrian safety, according to news stories that covered the event. The PC also promised more thorough investigations of serious crashes to coincide with potential prosecutions. He also said the increased attention to vehicles involved in serious or deadly accidents would likewise focus on pedestrians’ involvement.

Present at the Woodside meeting Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz endorsed the mayor’s plan.

Crowley said in a prepared statement that he welcomed the mayor’s Vision Zero announcement.

“We have lost too many members of our community to the hazardous conditions that compromise our local roadways. A comprehensive approach is needed to ensure the safety of our streets and I commend the mayor for making pedestrian safety a top priority. I will continue to work on this issue on behalf of the families who deserve to walk the streets of our neighborhoods without fear of being struck by a vehicle.”

Katz said her mother was killed by a drunk driver, “so I take traffic safety issues very personally”. She added: “We need innovative measures and regulations to make our streets safe. Pedestrian accidents and fatalities are not a foregone conclusion. With concrete action, we can reduce the number of accidents and save lives that would have otherwise been lost.

“I look forward to working with the mayor to implement the preventive strategies needed to make sure that tragedies… will never happen again.”

ISRAEL OPPONENT EMERGES: Queens’ congressional representatives— Joseph Crowley, Carolyn Maloney, Grace Meng, Gregory Meeks and Nydia Velazquez—all Democrats and mostly all veterans—don’t usually get challenged by a threatening candidate at election time because most of their districts are heavily Democratic and the lawmakers are responsive to their constituents.

However, the newest congressmember in the Queens delegation, Congressmember Steve Israel, is also a Democrat, but wound up with a small portion of Queens in his predominantly Long Island district under the 2012 reapportionment.

We recently learned that a Republican who challenged Israel in the 2012 election and ran very creditably in his first election try, has decided to challenge Israel again and feels he can improve on his initial try and possibly defeat the incumbent.

The Republican challenger is Stephen Labate, a 36-year-old financial advisor from Deer Park in Suffolk County. He is a member of the Northeast Queens Republican Club, which includes two Republicans who have done well enough to get elected in Democratic districts—Eric Ulrich, the councilmember from Ozone Park who has been elected and re-elected a couple of times; and Bob Turner, a former Congressmember who won former Congressmember Anthony Weiner’s seat after Weiner resigned the post.

Labate has told us he will run against Israel again this year because in the 2012 contest Labate lost a very close election because the newly reapportioned 3rd Congressional District (CD) was not known to him and he didn’t get a chance to get acquainted with the whole district. Despite this, he said, “I got 47 percent of the vote and feel that with more campaigning, I can improve enough to win.”

Labate and Kevin Ryan, the president of the Northeast Queens Republican Club, described the 3rd CD as including “Jackson Heights to Little Neck in Queens and from the Long Island Sound to south of the Grand Central Parkway”.

Israel, who’s from Huntington and grew up on the South Shore of the island, inherit- ed the area south of the Grand Central Parkway in the reapportioned district. But also included in the new district, besides Jackson Heights to Little Neck, and Northeast Queens, are Bayside, Douglaston, College Point etc.

Labate, who has only been in politics for “two or three years”, said he only had about four months to campaign in the 2012 campaign, but is “focusing on getting to campaign much more in areas I didn’t get to in 2012 and to concentrate on Queens and Northeast Queens a lot more”.

At this point, he said, he hasn’t spoken about an endorsement from the Queens Republican Party organization and hasn’t met with its chairman Philip Ragusa, nor have we. We will be talking with Ragusa and also expect to be talking to Israel for our next issue, because we were only contacted by Labate late last weekend.

However, the fight for control of Congress, which is now controlled by the Republican Party, should be fierce by both parties. While all of the incumbent Democratic lawmakers from Queens appear safe, that may not include Israel, so that bears watching from now to Election Day.

In that respect, we spotted a three-paragraph story from the Associated Press recently, saying New York Republicans are “increasing their outreach to Asian- Americans”, of which there are many in Queens, including the 3rd CD, so that will be interesting if there’s an Israel vs Labate contest this year.

MALCOLM SMITH SAYS HE’S RUNNING: When state Senator Malcolm Smith was arrested early last year amid charges he was paying a pair of Republicans to get him the Republican nomination for mayor, that seemed to be the end of his senate career.

But Smith, 57, who was sometimes under estimated in the past, as when he came from out of nowhere to win the senate Democratic leadership, his announcement that he’s going to run for re-election should perhaps be taken seriously.

Although he pleaded not guilty to bribery charges and is awaiting trial, his communications director Ann Marie Costella announced last week that he’s “running for re-election based on a solid record of progressive accomplishments…”

Smith may not get the Queens Democratic organization’s endorsement, and he didn’t say anything about running in a primary. But he may have to because two candidate hopefuls are eyeing the post.

They are Clyde Vanel, 39, who lost a bid last year for the City Council and Munir Avery, 36, counsel to Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz (D–Flushing) and vice president of the Adlai Stevenson Regular Democratic Club.

Smith was elected in 2000 and never quit his Hollis assemblymember post after being involved in the alleged bribery case.

STRINGER TO AUDIT NYCHA: City Comptroller Scott Stringer has announced he will audit “the troubled history and dysfunctional” NYC Housing Authority at the urging of Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens-Manhattan), Grace Meng (D–Flushing) and Gregory Meeks (D–Southeast Queens, and several labor leaders who represent 12,000 NYCHA workers.

Maloney declared, “I commend Comptroller Stringer for beginning the comprehensive audit and I look forward to its finding—whatever they may be. One thing is clear, though: with the comptroller’s commitment, a new administration and a soonto be announced new chairman, it will no longer be business as usual at NYCHA. Reform is coming.”

PERALTA ENDORSED: State Senator Jose Peralta, who’s running for re-election to his Jackson Heights-based seat, has been endorsed by three of the city’s largest labor unions: SEIU 32BJ, the Hotel Trades Council, and the Mason Tenders District Council. The trio represent more than 120,000 members. Peralta has already received $80,000 in campaign contributions.

“My record in the senate,” Peralta (D–Jackson Heights) said, “illustrates my commitment to working families.”

KATZ INSTALLS: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will swear in Morty Povman and Charlotte Scheman, as Democratic district leaders of the JFK Regular Democratic Club of Queens, and Sandra Povman as the club’s president on January 26 at the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills, 71-25 Main St., Flushing at 11 a.m.

MILLER VALENTINES FOR VETERANS: Assemblymember Mike Miller (D–Woodhaven) announced he is sponsoring a Valentines for Veterans Drive and his office will be collecting donations until Tuesday, February 12, to distribute them on Valentine’s Day.

Miller said his office will be collecting cards, candy (sugar-free snacks a plus), toiletries and new clothing items for the men and women veterans hospitalized at St. Alban’s VA Hospital and the NYS Veterans Nursing Home.

Bring donations to Miller’s district office at 83-91 Woodhaven Blvd., Woodhaven. Miller can be contacted at his office at 718- 805- 0950.

VALLONE COMMITTED TO PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING: Councilmember Paul Vallone came out strongly last week for participatory budgeting, which gives the community a greater voice in selecting programs and allocating city dollars to pay for them.

The new Northeast Queens councilmember stated: “I am absolutely committed to bringing back participatory budgeting to my district. In the interest of ensuring an effective and well-planned participatory budgeting process that engages a wide range of residents of this district, my office will work with members of the Participatory Budgeting NYC Steering Committee in the coming months to make sure we can hit the ground running in August 2014.”

Vallone (D) was joined by Sondra Youdelman in backing the plan that brings a greater community voice to such an important function.

Youdelman, executive director of Community Voices Heard, stated, “We are excited to learn of Councilmember Vallone’s commitment to lead a full and robust PB process in his district starting this summer for the following fiscal year.”

Youdelman, whose organization is the lead community engagement partner from Participatory Budgeting NYC, added, “Like more than a dozen of his colleagues that are taking office this January and are also committed to a robust PB process, we have urged Councilmember Vallone to use the first half of 2014 to build a district committee, which will serve as the backbone of a local PB process for the full PB cycle that will run from August, 2014 through April, 2015.”

MALONEY’S STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF SPENDING BILL: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens, Manhattan) issued the following statement in support of the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act:

“This legislation offers a substantial improvement in how we fund our nation’s priorities. I commend Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey for their success in finding the compromise necessary to avert another government shutdown.

“The bill improves funding for everything from nutritional programs and public housing to education and veterans assistance.

It also fully funds job creating infrastructure investments in the district I represent, including $14.6 million for the Second Avenue Subway and $215 million for the East Side Access project.

“I am also pleased to see that, unlike past appropriation bills, there isn’t a single antichoice rider that would threaten women’s access to comprehensive health care. The bill isn’t perfect—no compromise ever is. There are other priorities I wish we had addressed, such as more funding for the National Institutes of Health and an extension of unemployment insurance. Even so, the bill offers a vast improvement from our current budget, and I’m happy to support it.”

ADDABBO SEEKS COALITION FOR MORE SCHOOL FUNDING: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. has been busy recently trying to round up support to convince Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide almost $2 billion more for the state’s primary and secondary schools in the education budget.

Addabbo will get his answer today because the governor was scheduled to present his 2014-2015 executive budget to the state legislature yesterday.

The $2 billion Addabbo seeks if delivered, would fulfill the promise made to children in New York City and other undeserved districts under the dictates of the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision handed down by the courts some years ago.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach), a longtime member of the senate’s Education Committee, has joined with other legislators in urging the governor to provide the almost $2 billion. He stated recently, “I am very pleased that New York’s schools received greater funding in the last two state budgets, but… that increased aid still did not meet rising costs shouldered by our primary and secondary schools.”

Schools still have not been able to meet students’ needs, so Addabbo and his colleagues urged Cuomo to put the $1.9 million in additional education aid in the budget he presented yesterday in Albany.

Most of that funding, Addabbo said, represents what the state owes ($5.3 billion) under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity agreement.

CUOMO SIGNS ADDABBO’S ANIMAL WELFARE BILL: On another subject— animal welfare and protection— Addabbo hailed Governor Cuomo’s approval of a new law, sponsored by Addabbo, which is designed “to crack down on pet dealers and breeders who neglect to provide humane treatment for animals in their care”.

Commonly known as “the puppy mill bill”, Addabbo said, the new law allows municipalities throughout the state to enact local laws “to regulate and license pet dealers and breeders… that are stronger than state regulations already on the books”.

Addabbo said he’s been pushing the new law for many years and is glad the governor finally signed off on this one.

The lawmaker added: “If anything, increases local efforts to root out animal cruelty and neglect will prevent ‘bad apples’ in the animal business from tarring reputable dealers and breeders with the same brush.”

NOLAN PRAISES GOVERNOR’S STATE OF STATE SPEECH: Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood), commenting on Governor Cuomo’s State of the State speech, said she “looks forward to working with the governor to build on progress already achieved during his first term.

Over the past three years, said the Chair of the Education Committee, “We’ve passed on-time budgets that closed over $12 billion in deficits while boosting the economy, increasing funding for our schools, creating jobs and cutting taxes.” Also increasing the minimum wage, delivering the lowest middle-class tax rate in 60 years and increasing education funding. “The Assembly has fought for the issues that are important to working class families, and this State of State speech supports that.”

In the year ahead, Nolan said, the needs of working families need to be addressed, including obtaining and maintaining jobs, which is, she said, “One of the biggest obstacles women face is finding adequate care for their children.”

Nolan concluded, “We need sustainable and effective universal pre-K and afterschool programs. As the only member of the Assembly appointed to the governor’s education reform task force I participated in hearings around our state, I know every child deserves a good education, and parents should have support in being able to effectively balance work and family.”

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