2015-08-26 / Political Page

Special Democratic Primary For Vacant 23rd Council Post

Six Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for the vacant 23rd district City Council seat in the Northeastern section of Queens are running out of time because there are only 15 days left until Thursday, September 10, which is Primary Day.

That’s right – we said Thursday, September 10, not Tuesday, which is the day most elections are usually held. The Board of Elections had to schedule it on a Thursday because there are so many Jewish holidays coming up next month.

So candidates Rebecca Lynch, Ali Najmi, Celia Devi Dosamantes, Barry Grodenchik, Satnam Singh Parhar and Bob Friedrich have to push their election campaigns into high gear because there are only 15 more days left until their day of decision.

By the way, the winner of the nomination will have to face the Republican candidate, Joe Concannon, in the general election, which is scheduled on November 3rd. Concannon is a retired NYPD captain who resides in Queens Village.

Reviewing how well prepared each of the six Democrats are at this late stage, we think candidate Grodenchik is clearly in the most comfortable position. The 55-year-old pol, who’s been active in local Democratic activities for most of his adult life, has won the endorsement of the Queens Democratic County organization for the vacant seat. And of special note, the two people who have served as Councilmember representing the 23rd Council district – David and Mark Weprin – have personally endorsed him.

David Weprin, now an Assemblyman, held the Council seat for 12 years (2001-2012). Brother Mark succeeded him, and was the Councilman there until last June, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo added him to his staff. That’s how the vacancy was created.

David Weprin, in endorsing Grodenchik, stated, “He’s got the most experience for the job. We expect to provide him the kind of support we had from Glen Oaks, New Hyde Park and Bellerose that helped to get us elected.”

Candidate Friedrich, who has been a longtime ardent foe of the Weprins and is a business leader from Glen Oaks, has been a tough opponent, although not a victorious one, so we would expect he’ll be in the thick of it for the next 15 days left in the campaign.

Candidate Lynch, also from Glen Oaks, comes into the race with the endorsement of the Working Families Party, an aggressive group, so she should have some effective support leading up to Primary Day. As we said, the WFP is an effective and aggressive organization, so we would expect they’ll make their presence felt.

Candidates Parhar and Najmi are both part of a growing and active South Asian community, said to number 250,000 in a recent Gazette story. In it, Najmi was said to be campaigning to have Diwali, one of their important holidays, recognized as such so their young ones could be off from school on the holiday.

Najmi was joined by Councilman Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) in his effort. Najmi, also a Glen Oaks resident, said, “I am running for the City Council to make sure that all communities are respected and included.”

Democratic candidate, Parhar, a New Hyde Park resident who came here from India many years ago, is very active in the Sikh religion. In the primary, he has been endorsed by state Senator Tony Avella (D–Northeast Queens). Parhar, in this country for 40 years, said he has worked on campaigns conducted by Avella, and both Weprins. We think there’s a chance that the Najmi and Parhar votes could be split on Primary Day between the South Asians in the district.

Which leaves only candidate Celia Devi Dosamantes to report on.

Dosamantes is the Executive Director of The Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group, and has been endorsed by South Asians for a Strong America.

SCHUMER, AVELLA SIMANOWITZ SEEK TO SILENCE HELICOPTER NOISE IN NE QUEENS AREA: Citing the sharp increase in helicopter traffic between Manhattan and Long Island, and the resulting noise in northeast Queens, United States Senator Charles Schumer, state Senator Tony Avella and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz have besieged the FAA with pleas to address “the helicopter noise pollution” in northeast Queens.

The lawmakers have also urged the Federal Aviation Administration to make changes to helicopter flight patterns to “all-water routes” and to also track helicopter flight paths, frequency and noise levels “that have negatively impacted the quality of life for the residents of that area.

Whitestone and Malba Garden residents were singled out as having been “afflicted by more instances of helicopter noise than prior years.” In their letter appealing, to the FAA, the lawmakers explained that, “while rerouting traffic might add additional travel time or fuel expenses for those using helicopter service for their commute, the working families whose property values have suffered from the excessive noise would benefit from this reform.”

Senator Schumer (D–NY) explained: “An over-the-water helicopter route for northeast Queens communities will provide long-sought relief for so many residents that have had to endure onerous helicopter noise overhead.”

The powerful lawmaker explained, “There is ample space and safe all-water routes that East End-bound helicopters can travel which will relieve communities like those in northern Queens from the incessant drone of low-flying helicopters, and I will fight hard to expand the all-water route. The FAA must do everything possible to alter its helicopter route and better track helicopter flight patterns, frequency and noise levels to better protect quality of life in these communities.”

Avella (D–Whitestone) stated: “The absurd level of noise caused by helicopters has become a daily issue for the residents of northeast Queens. If the travel time for these wealthy commuters needs to be increased by a small fraction so as to alleviate homeowners from excessive noise pollution that decreases their property values, so be it. I call on the FAA to monitor this phenomenon, and redirect helicopter traffic to all-water routes.”

Assemblyman Simanowitz (D–Flushing) said, “The helicopter traffic over Northeast Queens has reached unreasonable levels in recent years. Residents have grown frustrated by this issue which can be mitigated by a number of proposed solutions. The FAA should explore these options to address this problem that has quickly become a quality of life and fiscal concern.”

Schumer has long advocated for solutions to curb low-flying helicopters. For years, Schumer has worked with officials from the FAA, New York metropolitan area helicopter operators and airport manager to establish solutions to eradicate onerous helicopter noise. In 2012, Schumer successfully pushed the Department of Transportation to finalize and publish regulations that mandate over-water routes for helicopters flying on the North Shore, and he has worked hard to further expand this route to cover all communities in Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island.

SCHUMER’S ONE-TICKET LOTTERY FOR POPE’S CONGRESS VISIT: United States Senator Charles Schumer, aiming to give some lucky New Yorker a chance to experience a historic event, is conducting a statewide lottery for one ticket to attend the Pope’s visit and address to a Joint session of Congress on September 24.

Schumer (D–New York) received one guest ticket and he reports, “requests are pouring in from across New York from those trying to see Pope Francis and experience a piece of history.” Pope Francis will be the first Pope ever to address both houses of Congress.

Schumer will also offer 100 pairs of tickets to the Papal Audience on the West Lawn of the Capitol following the Pope’s address to Congress.

Schumer’s office will distribute tickets during “a random drawing” that will be held tomorrow. The deadline to submit requests will be today, August 26 with requests ONLY being accepted through Schumer’s website.

Tickets for the Joint Meeting of Congress and the Papal audience are only provided through Congressional offices and are free of charge.

Schumer stated: “Pope Francis’ speech before Congress will be a historic moment for all of us, but especially for one lucky New Yorker who will get to attend the speech in person with a ticket from our office.

“If it were up to me, I would fill up the entire gallery with New Yorkers, but sadly, each Senator only received one guest ticket. Still, I encourage all New York residents to go to my website and enter the lottery for the chance to see the Holy Father at his Audience outside the Capitol or hear him speak before Congress.”

To enter, New Yorkers should go to www.schumer.senate.gov/papal-visit-lottery, and fill out the entry form (due to volume, requests cannot be accepted by phone). Entrants will be asked to submit their name and contact information. One Joint Meeting ticket winner and 100 winners of a pair of tickets to the Papal Audience will be notified personally after the lottery is held. Schumer noted that only the names of the winners will be made public.

CROWLEY PLEDGES TO ‘PRESERVE’ SOCIAL SECURITY: Marking the 80th anniversary of the Social Security program, Congressman Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, pledged “To continue my efforts to preserve and improve Social Security.”

“Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, Social Security was created at a time when the American economy had crumbled and was struggling to recover,” Crowley recalled. “Pensions were almost nonexistent, and a majority of seniors were unable to support themselves after retirement,” Crowley recounted.

But today, the lawmaker continued, “More than 50 million Americans, including over 93,000 in New York’s 14th Congressional District, rely on Social Security’s guaranteed benefits for retirement security or to make ends meet, put food on the table and stay in their homes.”

Paying tribute to the program, Crowley said, “No institution does more to protect the financial security and dignity of retired and disabled Americans than Social Security. One of the most effective federal programs ever created, Social Security provides millions of seniors with a secure income throughout their golden years and provides vital protection for disabled American workers and their families.

Crowley concluded: “It was Democrats who created Social Security, and it is Democrats who are working hard today to protect it. I will continue my efforts to preserve and improve Social Security, and will continue to be a strong advocate for Queens and Bronx seniors.”

STAVISKY PRAISES SMOKING BAN NEAR AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS: Governor Cuomo’s signing legislation banning smoking near after-school programs and education institutions brought praise from state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who noted the bill had been passed unanimously by the Senate in June.

Stavisky (D–Flushing) stated: “The harmful effects caused by secondhand smoke can negatively affect children’s health and development,” Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said. “Smoking is already banned in restaurants and bars, workplaces, schools and playgrounds, so it is only logical that it be banned near afterschool programs. This is especially necessary today as we live in a time when many parents work full-time and rely on after-school to provide a safe atmosphere for their children. This law gives them the peace of mind they deserve.”

Stavisky explained that smoking was banned in all workplaces in New York in 2003 when the Clean Indoor Air Act was passed. Since then, however, there have been no restrictions on smoking near after-school programs and entrances to school buildings where children enter and exit, she noted.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Stavisky pointed out, “Even brief exposure to second hand smoke can cause respiratory infections and increase cancer risks for children. Senate bill S. 993-A prohibits smoking within 100 feet of afterschool programs, schools and their entrance. It is crucial that our children are able to learn and play in a safe and healthy environment.”

ROZIC SECURES $ FOR SENIOR CENTERS: In celebration of National Senior Citizens’ Day on August 21, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic announced that she is allocating a total of $20,000 in funding to local senior centers throughout her district.

Rozic (D–WFP–Fresh Meadows) said the allocation has been set for the Catholic Charities Bayside Senior Center, New York Armenian Home, Korean Community Services Flushing Senior Center and the Chinese-American Planning Council Nan Shan Senior Center.

Rozic explained, “Our senior centers are more popular than ever and provide quality care and vital services to seniors that can only continue with the proper funding. It is critical to guarantee they continue to help our families, friends and neighbors. I have seen first hand the great work that they do and I am happy to make this necessary investment to better serve seniors in Eastern Queens.”

Funding for the senior centers comes from the FY 2015-16 State Budget to support priority programs and projects in New York. She said each of the centers will receive $5,000 in support of various projects, including home meal deliveries, infrastructure and equipment upgrades and educational programming.

AVELLA PLEASED MAYOR DECLINES COURT BATTLE OVER CITI FIELD PROJECT: State Senator Tony Avella (D–Northeast Queens) issued the following statement regarding the de Blasio administration’s decision to not appeal the Appellate Division’s decision which declared that the Willets Point West development near Citi Field can go no further without state legislative approval.

Avella stated: “I am pleased to hear that the city administration has decided not to appeal the Appellate Court’s unanimous and well-reasoned decision.

“Unfortunately,” Avella added, “the developers, in filing their appeal, have refused to see the fundamental flaws in the Bloomberg plan in all its variations that would take away city parkland, displace small businesses without just compensation and fail to make substantial commitments to provide affordable and market rate housing. Instead they are demanding a giveaway of millions of dollars of taxpayer money without any real public benefit being given back to this city.”

Avella concluded, saying, “I want to thank the administration for seeing the flaws in this plan and choosing not to continue this indefensible fight.”

Although the mayor has chosen not to appeal the Appellate Court’s decision, the developers, a combo of the N.Y. Mets and the Related Companies, are going through with the appeal on their own. Those owners had envisioned building Willets Point West, a sprawling retail mall, at an estimated cost of $3 billion. The site would consist of the former Willets Point auto junkyards and the former Shea Stadium. But before they can get the project off the ground, they’ll have to do a huge environmental cleanup where the auto junkyards existed. Also anticipated was building a lot of new housing, including Mayor de Blasio’s vision of much of it affordable housing.

But the Appellate Court’s decision, based on the fact that the Shea Stadium property was deemed park land means before any development can commence, the state legislature will have to charge that parkland designation, and that’s a major hurdle.

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