2015-10-28 / Political Page

Election Day Next Tuesday

Queens voters will go to the polls next Tuesday to elect a new City Council Member, DA Richard Brown, and former Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who’s running for a Civil Court judgeship.

Rounding out the ballot in these off-year elections are candidates seeking State Supreme Court and county Civil Court judgeships.

The battle for the City Council seat involves the vacancy for the 23rd Council District post in northeast Queens, which was created when Mark Weprin resigned the seat to join Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff in May.

The candidates seeking the post are: Joseph Concannon, Republican; Barry Grodenchik, Democrat; and Rebecca Lynch, Working Families Party.

The first order of business on Tuesday will be to reelect DA Brown and elect Vallone, both of whom are unchallenged on Tuesday’s ballot. So the first time anyone pulls down a lever for either of them, they’ll be reelected.

After Brown was appointed by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo to succeed John Santucci who resigned the DA’s job in 1991, Brown ran for election that year and won, but Brown was never challenged for the job when he came up for reelection the next six election days, including this year’s. As usual, Brown was endorsed for reelection by the Democratic, Republican, and Conservative parties.

It’s obvious no one is challenging the Democratic DA because he has compiled amazing conviction statistics year after year. His office, when asked to explain the phenomenon, issued this statement recently:

“Judge Brown, as Queens County’s District Attorney, has a 24-year record of excellence, competence and achievement, earning him the overwhelming support of Queens County’s voters, as well as the respect of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

“A challenger would need a reason to run against Judge Brown’s leadership of this highly professional prosecutor’s office.”

Amen to that!

The Republican candidate against Grodenchik for the NE Queens City Council seat is Joseph Concannon, who’s retired from the NYPD as a captain. Concannon also has the Conservative Party endorsement.

Concannon’s support is centered on the venerable Queens Village Republican Club, which dates back many years, but is still a vibrant, community oriented organization.

Concannon, having achieved the captain level in the NYPD, continues to champion police services for the 23d Council district and generally all public services such as sanitation. We have contacted him at his home in Queens Village, trying to sound him out on his Council candidacy, but he has never responded to our calls.

The third candidate in the Council race is Rebecca Lynch, the Working Families Party’s standard bearer, who was among the six candidates Grodenchik defeated in the Democratic primary election in September.

We received reports on Lynch from political sources who praised her work for Bill de Blasio in the 2013 NYC mayoral contest, won by de Blasio. It earned her a job in the mayor’s office after the mayoral election, but we were told she had since left the job.

The Working Families Party has a well deserved reputation as a political organization where election campaigns are concerned, and we expect that will be borne out for Lynch in this Council election next Tuesday.

Peter Vallone, likewise, is not challenged in his bid to win a Civil Court judgeship for the first time. Like DA Brown, Vallone was endorsed by his own Queens Democratic Party, as well as the Republican and Conservative Party organizations.

The latter two political parties are as well aware of Vallone’s only other public service record as the public is. It took place between 2002 and 2013, when Vallone served as a member of the City Council, representing Astoria and Long Island City.

That 12-year period, three terms and three elections were concluded by the term limits law.

The general public and his constituents got to know his work habits – excellent attendance record at City Council meetings at City Hall, including meetings of the Public Safety Committee which he chaired for 12 years. The 54-year-old attorney had an equally good record as a lawmaker authoring legislation when a need arose or when he perceived a new law was needed.

Vallone was also on the job outside of City Hall and in his Astoria office, tending to constituents who had problems, and groups of them when a situation arose community-wide.

I’m sure you’re getting the picture. But one thing more – we’ll find Vallone is extremely well suited for wearing the judicial robes and interpreting civil law – fair and capable.

Turning our attention to the City Council contest, Grodenchik, 55, emerges as the favorite in that race by virtue of his being officially endorsed by the Queens Democratic County organization, which is the dominant political party in the borough. Chaired by Congressman Joseph Crowley Democrats in the borough, who outnumber Republicans by about a 4-to-1 margin in registration generally support and vote for candidates endorsed by the county organization in elections.

Grodenchik earlier this year won the Democratic Party primary election, defeating several other Democrats to become the party’s official candidate for the 23rd Council District seat. The district includes Queens Village, Oakland Gardens, Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Fresh Meadows, Hollis Hills, Douglaston, Bayside, Little Neck, Bellerose, and Glen Oaks and Grodenchik campaigned hard there for the September primary, and then continued campaigning there in preparation for Tuesday’s vote.

Grodenchik, who is Director of Community Boards and Parks Liaison at Queens Borough Hall, also held similar positions in other administrations and feels it helped him in gaining experience to handle the City Council post. He was Deputy Borough President under Helen Marshall and Chief Administrative officer under Claire Shulman before that for a total of about 20 years.

“In that environment – Borough Hall – we were constantly involved in discussions with councilmembers and their aides on a broad range of topics that involved our office,” Grodenchik explained. “Over time that experience becomes a part of your make up.”

Another major factor aiding Grodenchik’s chances of winning Tuesday’s election are the endorsements he has received from Assemblyman David Weprin and his brother Mark. They both represented the 23rd Council district seat until David was term limited out of office. In all, David Weprin was the councilmember representing the 23rd District, for eight years, from 2002 to 2009, when term limits forced him out of office. At which time Mark Weprin quit the Assembly and became the councilman from 2009 to 2015, when he joined Governor Cuomo’s staff.

During those years, the Weprin brothers both made many, many loyal friends and allies who helped them in their election campaigns. Now, both Weprin brothers have endorsed Grodenchik’s bid to win the seat and are bringing their total political power to bear on behalf of Grodenchik’s campaign. The brothers were also behind Grodenchik’s Democratic primary campaign and helped him win that easily. They’ve been behind him since then and will be there again, they’ve pledged, right up to Tuesday’s showdown.

Finally, one other important endorsement Grodenchik received for his campaign came from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), a formidable organization in an election campaign. The UFT was also in Grodenchik’s corner in the Democratic primary election in September, which made Grodenchik the Democratic candidate in next Tuesday’s voting.

In other election activity on Tuesday, November 3 three sitting Queens State Supreme Court justices, all Democratic Party nominees, will be seeking reelection to 14-year terms. The only opposition they face is from a Republican, a Long Island resident whose home in Oceanside is within the 11th Judicial District. Voters are directed to vote for three of the candidates.

The three Democratic Party candidates are: Martin Ritholtz, of Far Rockaway; Peter O’Donoghue, of Bayside; and Duane Hart, of St. Albans. Ritholtz is also on the Republican and Conservative Party lines, O’Donoghue also has the Conservative Party line, and Hart is only on the Democratic Party ballot line.

The Republican candidate, running against the three Democrats is Anthony Caronna, of Oceanside, and he’s on that single line.

KIM MEETS WITH JAPAN’S LEADERS, S. KOREA NEXT: After arriving in Japan on October 12 and meeting with high level Japanese government leaders, Assemblyman Ron Kim was looking forward to similar meetings with South Korean leaders “to discuss steps toward deeper collaboration” between those Far Eastern nations and the United States, he said.

“This trilateral cooperation is critical in promoting long-term democratic-based prosperity in the Asian and international communities,” Kim (D–Flushing) stated.

“As I wrap up my stay in Japan and continue my trip in Asia to South Korea,” he explained, “I feel accomplished in meeting with key officials to discuss ongoing challenges surrounding full acknowledgements of human rights issues, such as the ‘comfort women’ issue, and pending territorial conflicts,” Kim explained.

“My basic message to the Japanese leaders charged with foreign relations was simple,” he stated. “There’s a disconnect between their intent and outcome because their actions or inactions are hurting their neighboring countries. Their intent might be genuine in supporting a healthy democratic region, but as long as other nations feel emotionally scarred or hurt, Japan should de-escalate the situation by acknowledging their neighbors’ sentiments.”

Kim continued: “It is absolutely critical that South Korea and Japan overcome their recent rift in order to ascertain a brighter future based on shared democratic values. We need to find common ground to promote healthier democracies in this region to make sure the next generation of young people, particularly those who feel marginalized, have a better quality of life and more opportunities to succeed.”

Kim concluded; “I applaud Prime Minister Abe and President Park’s decision to come together for a summit to focus on moving these great democracies forward in the 21st century. As the first summit under both leaderships, there will be many challenges, but I feel optimistic we can overcome them.”

GOVERNOR HAILS METS: Governor Andrew Cuomo congratulated the New York Mets and their exciting victories that have put them into the World Series.

Cuomo stated: “For Mets fans everywhere, the long wait is over. Determined youth combined with strong and experienced leadership have jolted the ‘Amazins’ to the pinnacle of National League success. As a Queens native, I couldn't be prouder that my hometown team is bound for the World Series.

“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I congratulate Manager Terry Collins and the entire Mets organization on this tremendous accomplishment. They have made one of the most faithful fan bases in all of professional sports incredibly proud. I can’t wait to see the Mets of New York Town give it their all in next week’s World Series – because I’m confident they’ll go all the way.”

BP KATZ SALUTES METS: Hailing the Mets’ victory in the NLCS victory, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz declared: “Congratulations to the New York Mets on this victory in the National League Championship Series! The Amazins played with true grit, determination and heart – trademarks of every New Yorker – in clinching their first National League championship since 2000. New York is united as one sea of blue and orange behind the Mets in this captivating fun. The Mets have done all New Yorkers proud, redeeming millions of loyal fans and even inspiring a few more. It’s time to bring the World’s Series back to the World’s Borough. Ya Gotta Believe – now Let’s Go Mets!” Katz noted the Met’s last World Series wins were in 1969 and 1986.

PERALTA PRAISES METS’ VICTORY: State Senator Jose Peralta congratulated the Mets on their NLCs victory, looking ahead to “the last and biggest battle” which began last night too late to report the result here.

Peralta (D–East Elmhurst) declared: “Congratulations to the Amazin’ Mets on winning the National League Championship Series. The Mets dominated the series, and its time now to gear up for the World Championship where they will be facing the Kansas City Royals. I want to congratulate the Cubs on a series well played and wish them the very best for next season.”

Peralta said last week, “Before the first pitch of the World Series, I cannot wait to grab a slice of Chicago’s deep-dish style pizza, although it’s needless to say that our pizza is superior. My State Senate colleagues Senators Joseph Addabbo, Michael Gianaris and Leroy Comrie and I will be receiving these pies from Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton as part of a friendly bet we made last week,” when the Mets were finishing off the Chicago Cubs.

With yesterday’s World Series opener in the record books, and Game 2 also to be played in the American League ball park, the action will shift to the Mets’ ball park Citi Field, on Wednesday which is in Peralta’s district.

Now the action shifts to the World Series, the Mets against the Kansas City Royals. Game One was played in Kansas City and the Gazette was going to press, so we don’t have the result of that game.

GOLDFEDER SHOCKED AT FAR ROCKAWAY COPS MURDER: Speaking of the “senseless” murder of Far Rockaway native Police Officer Randolph Holder last week in East Harlem, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D–Rockaway) stated:

“Words can’t describe the shock of losing yet another brave NYPD in such a short time span. Our feeling of grief and sorrow is only made greater by the fact that Officer Randolph Holder was a son of Far Rockaway. In dedicating his life to the service of others, Officer Holder exemplified the best of our community and served as a guiding light for us all. Today I join families in Rockaway and across the city in mourning this senseless murder. My thoughts and prayers are now with him and his family.”

VALLONE PROPOSES CHANGES IN SCHOOLS SITE SELECTION: After clashing again with the School Construction Authority (SCA) over its “flawed” school siting process, Councilman Paul Vallone (D–Bayside) has decided to introduce two bills aimed at improving their method.

Vallone and community members have been holding meetings and discussions with SCA regarding the proposed high school to be built at the site of the Bayside Jewish Center, the lawmaker said, but the “flawed site selection process has come to the forefront as a major issue that needs to be addressed.”

Vallone is proposing two bills, the first would require the SCA to provide yearly reports to the City Council that list, by borough, potential school sites that the SCA has reviewed and “deemed ineligible for a school.”

The second bill, the lawmaker said, would require the SCA to provide the ability for residents to suggest school sites through the SCA website for consideration and review.

“Both these bills directly address the lack of transparency in the site selection process,” Vallone explained.

“Nobody supports the SCA’s site selection process and it’s clear that it needs to be changed,” Vallone added. “Our continuing community engagement meeting have been critical in gathering input on how to fix this process while also better addressing our children’s needs and the overcrowding in our schools. Nobody knows the community better than those who live here, and increasing their involvement is critical in improving the process.”

MALONEY: ‘LATINOS BIG HELP TO ECONOMY, STILL CHALLENGED AS COMMUNITY’: “There’s good news and bad news for Hispanics” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in a report released last week.

“The good news is that for many, the American dream is alive and well,” Maloney continues. “Hispanics born in this country are more highly educated and earn higher incomes than their immigrant parents. Hispanics outpace all other Americans in forming their own businesses… and will represent fully one-third of US population in just 45 years and an economic force of great consequence.”

But the bad news, said Maloney (D–Queens-Manhattan) is that “Latinos for instance earn just 55 cents for every dollar earned by a non-Hispanic white man and Latinos as a whole lag significantly behind whites in education, income and wealth.”

Maloney, the Ranking Democrat on the powerful Joint Economic Committee, says it’s all contained in a report released in collaboration with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) on the economic state of the largest minority community in America, entitled “The Economic State of the Latino Community in America.”

Maloney says the report “has up-to-date information on what the Latino community in America looks like today.” Among the findings in it, she said, are:

• Overall, Hispanic workers earn 72 percent of non-Hispanic white workers.
• The median income of Hispanic households is $42,500 – about $18,000 less than the median income of non-Hispanic white households.
• The median net worth of Hispanic households is approximately one-tenth that of non-Hispanic white households.
• Almost 30 percent of Latino children live in a food-insecure household.

Maloney said Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez, Chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) stated: “These aren’t just numbers we’re talking about. There are hard-working families struggling to achieve the American dream. This is the state of our community and what it means to be Latino in America. The prospects of our community are only going to improve if we invest in the very people that make up that community. The success of our country depends on the success of the Latino community.”

CHC First Vice Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham observed, “This report reinforces the huge potential Hispanics have to shape the future of our great nation. It’s up to us, as a growing and dynamic community, to realize that potential.”

And Congressman Raúl Grijalva stated: “The Latino community is America’s largest ethnic group, and in the years to come we will comprise one-third of this nation’s population. Despite these significant numbers, the Latino community continues to face appalling barriers to fair compensation for a hard day’s work.

“The wage disparity – and wealth disparity – between Latino workers and their families compared to their white counterparts is staggering, amounting to only one-tenth when considering median net worth. Such inequality is immoral, unjustifiable and completely unsustainable for our society. This report highlights that fact, and hopefully will help lead to the solutions we desperately need.”

‘NEW LAWS/BRING WOMEN CLOSER TO FULL EQUALITY’ MILLER: A number of important womens equality bills were signed into law last week, Assemblyman Michael Miller (D–Woodhaven) reports, marking significant progress in the Assembly’s “longstanding efforts to strengthen women’s rights.”

“The march toward full women’s equality in New York State took a big step forward today,” Miller said. “While there is certainly more work to be done, it is important to recognize the real improvements contained in the laws enacted today.

“In addition to cracking down on human trafficking and helping domestic violence victims, the structural workplace discrimination that saps women’s economic potential will be curbed under these laws.”

Several of the new laws address women’s rights in the workplace, Miller added, including ensuring equal pay for equal work. Employees are also now protected from retaliation for sharing wage information, making it easier for women to find out whether they are being paid fairly (A.6075). And when certain discrimination does occur, he said, successful plaintiffs may now recoup attorney fees (A.7189).

In addition, Miller said, all employees are now protected against sexual harassment, even those at very small companies that were once exempt (A.5360). Employers must also provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees who may need adjustments in their work schedules or job duties due to their pregnancy (A.4272). In addition, employers can no longer discriminate based on an employee’s family status (A.7317).

But unfortunately, Miller said, women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence and acutely harmed by human trafficking. He said, “It is crucial to address these disturbing crimes as we work toward equality. He explained, a new law will now protect individuals from being discriminated against or evicted from their homes based on their status as victims of domestic violence and allow survivors of domestic violence to electronically request temporary orders of protection without needing to appear in court and face their abusers (A.6354-B; A.6262).

Miller noted the laws also bolster the state’s existing human trafficking measures, increasing penalties for perpetrators, providing training for law enforcement and empowering victims to sue for damages (A.506).

Miller concluded: “Whether at home or at work, women have historically faced unfair barriers to success, economic security and even safety. These new laws represent progress and making full women’s equality a reality. The fight continues on.”

RECREATE TOLL-FREE TAX AID LINE, ADDABBO REQUESTS: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. notes that constituents fill out their own state income tax returns, may not have a computer to help them and can’t afford calling the state Department of Taxation and Finance.

What they need, he said, is for the state to re-create the toll-free number that once existed so that they can “better address tax-related inquiries” to experts at Taxation and Finance.

That’s what he said in a letter to Governor Cuomo, focusing on the need for an 800 number to be reactivated “to provide assistance and walk New Yorkers through filling out and submitting tax forms.”

The last one that existed here was shut down in 2011, Addabbo said, during the most recent recession.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) explained, “Tax season is stressful enough, and forcing residents to worry about how they will pay for a long-distance call (to Taxation & Finance in Albany) just to get help with mandatory tax forms or related questions doesn’t make it any easier.

“Aside from tax season, throughout the year our current system unfairly punishes New Yorkers who live outside Albany with costly calls placed to a 518 number, especially when that call can at times become lengthy because of high demand, long wait times and subject matter.” Refusal to call could lead to many other problems, including costlier ones.”

In response to this unfair burden placed on many of New York’s residents, Addabbo suggests that the state “reinstate its toll free number that can be accessed by all New Yorkers needing assistance with tax issues. Doing so would reap significant benefits while having a minimal cost impact on the state.”

Signing off, Addabbo said, “It’s time for the state to do the right thing and give all residents free access to the help they need from the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.”

KOSLOWITZ PRESENTS PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING TO CONSTITUENTS: Over the last several weeks, many residents of City Council District 29 which includes Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and parts of Richmond Hill, have been kicking around hundreds of ideas on how to spend a million bucks to make their district a better place to live in.

The idea was advanced by the districts Councilmember Karen Koslowitz, and she’s even supplying the $1 million which she gets from the Council to make the whole idea, called “participatory budgeting” work by bringing in district residents to advance ideas, discuss them and then campaign to find enough other residents who agree with them and vote with them, and if you find enough “yes” and Koslowitz agrees with them (and maybe even if she doesn’t agree), the idea will be proposed for the budget.

Koslowitz (D) - said the project’s first step, to collect ideas from anyone who cares to submit one (or more), was done, and there were many, ranging from making safety street improvements to upgrading the district’s schools.
Next was “where the suggested ideas are developed into concrete proposals,” which will be undertaken by Budget Delegates. Koslowitz explained; “These delegates can choose the committee [education, parks, libraries etc.] that original ideas go to for discussion. They met once or twice a month from November to March and they develop and refine the original ideas. They can even confer with city agencies as they prepare the proposals to be ballot-ready for the district-wide vote in April.”

We’ll keep you posted and will report which ideas were selected, how much funding was proposed and which make it into the budget.

To participate or ask any questions call Koslowitz at her office, 718-544-8800 or email Alex Anderson at anderson@council.nyc.gov. There’s still time to submit ideas online by going to www.ideas.pbnyc.org/page/guidelines.

NOLAN REQUESTS TRAFFIC LIGHT IN SUNNYSIDE: Mindful of all the traffic accidents occurring these days and the sometimes tragic results, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) sent several letters to the city’s Department of Transportation last week, asking for several traffic calming measures, including a traffic light to be installed at the intersection of 42nd Street and 47th Avenue near PS 343 in Sunnyside. A traffic light at this intersection would help keep both parents and students safe while they walk to and from school.

Nolan said in a release, “Mayor Bill de Blasio has made his ‘Vision Zero” program a priority to protect the public by keeping our streets safe.  As a supporter of this program, I believe the administration could make a real impact by putting several traffic calming measures at this intersection.”

ADDABBO SPONSORS FREE MAMMOGRAMS: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. is once again partnering with the American Italian Cancer Foundation to sponsor two free mammogram events in his 15th Senatorial district next month.

From 9 am to 4:30 pm on Friday, November 6, the organization will be at the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center, at 6200 Beach Channel Drive in Arverne to provide no-cost digital mammograms and clinical breast exams to women who are eligible. The American Italian Cancer Foundation will also be conducting these free exams on Friday, November 27 from 9 am to 5 pm at Maspeth Federal Savings Bank at 56-18 69th Street in Maspeth.

Addabbo stated, “It’s an unfortunate reality that many people today are still without health insurance or cannot afford exams such as these, which go a long way toward preventing a potentially serious diagnosis.

“The inflated cost of healthcare should never stop someone from getting the care they deserve. By partnering with the American Italian Cancer Foundation, we can make sure everyone gets the chance to protect themselves and possibly save their life by having a mammogram. This is a foundation that does amazing work for so many people and I am proud to work with them on not one, but two events next month.”

Addabbo also mentioned that he would like to work with the American Italian Cancer Foundation on future mammogram events throughout the district next year.

To qualify for the free exams, women who have health insurance must be 40 or older, and women without insurance must be 50 or older. Candidates must also be current New York City residents and must not have had a mammogram in the last 12  months prior to the appointment.

The test requires no co-pay, Addabbo said, and any deductible will be waived. Exams will be given by appointment only. To make an appointment, call 1-877-628-9090.

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