2016-09-28 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

TPS For Ecuadorians

A copy of this letter was received at the
Queens Gazette.
September 22, 2016
Dear President Obama:

We write to once again convey to you the urgency facing our many constituents who are from Ecuador or who have loved ones living in Ecuador. In the approximately five months since an earthquake devastated the nation, we have received letters, taken phone calls, and had meetings with Ecuadorians who immediately came together to call for Temporary Protection Status (TPS). We reiterate our support for TPS for Ecuador.

As you know, TPS was created precisely for situations of natural or environmental disasters, ongoing armed conflict, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. (See INA § 244(b), 8 U.S.C. § 1254(b).) The earthquake that struck Ecuador on April 16, 2016 had a magnitude of 7.8 with numerous aftershocks in the days and weeks that followed. The death toll has risen to at least 670, with countless others injured, and tens of thousands left homeless. The pervasive damage is estimated to cost around $3.3 billion. With such significant devastation and the need to focus on rebuilding, Ecuador is not in a position to adequately receive its nationals. TPS would provide Ecuadorians living in the U.S. with a stable and safe home, the ability to work here and the opportunity to send remittances to Ecuador, all of which would go a long way toward facilitating the recovery effort.

As steadfast advocates for TPS for Ecuador, we have communicated regularly with both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State which must collaborate in this process. Certain key steps must take place before DHS can designate TPS for a foreign country. Ecuador has already made the official request for TPS on May 18, 2016, and the Department of State has made and transmitted its evaluation of TPS for Ecuador to DHS in July. We now wait for DHS to make the final decision on this matter—it is the last step in this process.

The nearly five months that have passed is already too long for the Ecuadorians facing heartbreak and uncertainty in the aftermath of a national tragedy. We urge you to act swiftly and compassionately in responding to the needs of our Ecuadorian constituents and grant TPS for Ecuador.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

Luis V. Gutierrez, Member of Congress...

(Editor’s note: This letter was circulated by Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) and signed by: Reps. Joseph Crowley; Hakeem S. Jeffries; Carolyn B. Maloney; Grace Meng; Nydia M. Velázquez of the Queens Districts, in addition to 44 other Congress Members; and CC’ed: Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security; John Kerry, Secretary of State.)

De Facto Shelter

Dear Friends,

Several community members have notified my office that for the last several months, the City’s Department of Homeless Services has been housing homeless families at the Holiday Express Inn, located at 113-10 Horace Harding Expressway, in Corona. The number of rooms being utilized for that purpose has exceeded 30 to 40 percent of the hotel’s capacity. The community and I are very understanding of the City’s obligation to house the homeless, but we are not going to stand quiet and let this Administration act without involving community members and the elected officials. It is my hope that this hotel is not converted into a permanent homeless shelter, as happened with the Landing. News that a permanent conversion may be in the works is troubling, particularly following the City’s failed attempt to transform the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth into a shelter. We will fight any attempts by the Administration to convert yet another facility in the District into another shelter. A successful effort to address the pervasive issue of homelessness starts with a dialogue between DHS, the community and elected officials.

If you have any questions or need help, do not hesitate to stop by my office or to call us at (718) 205-3881.

Jose Peralta
State Senate, District 13

Make Gateway Safe

A copy of this letter was received at the
Queens Gazette.
September 19, 2016
Secretary Sally Jewell
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Secretary Jewell,

I am writing on behalf of families across southern Queens and Rockaway in New York City to request the installation of public safety infrastructure within the Jamaica Bay unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area (Gateway).

As you may know, our community recently faced unspeakable tragedy, as one of our own young residents, Ms. Karina Vetrano of Howard Beach, was brutally murdered last month while jogging in the Spring Creek section of Gateway. This location has long been an area of concern to local families, as its relative isolation, limited visibility due to overgrown grass, and lack of safety infrastructure make it potentially dangerous for unaccompanied park-goers. Additionally, the park’s long history of attracting encampments of homeless populations coupled with its location in a dense urban environment do little to discourage criminal activity.

The infrastructure currently in place at Gateway is simply inadequate to respond to these concerns. Our own Queens Borough President Melinda Katz recently committed resources needed to install security cameras on city streets bordering the park, and our local NYPD has done tremendous work conducting the criminal investigation in the Vetrano case. However, permanent security cameras and blue light emergency call boxes within the park itself are needed in order to ensure the safety of local families and all visitors to Gateway. It is my understanding that both blue boxes and security cameras are already in place on other National Park Service properties and, given its urban location and many visitors, Gateway deserves to have this infrastructure in place as well.

I respectfully request that you direct the appropriate personnel to investigate this situation and review the possibility of installing security cameras and blue light emergency call boxes within the confines of Gateway National Recreation Area. Please inform me of any actions taken. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at 347-619-2240.

I thank you in advance for your prompt attention and response to this urgent matter.

Stacey Pheffer Amato
Democratic District Leader
New York State Assembly District 23

Street Closure

To the Editor

Our family has lived on 34th Street, between 34th and 35th Avenues since 1963. We’ve seen some changes in the the neighborhood but on the whole our block has really stayed the same. On August 18 while I was out walking my dog I looked up and saw this sign at the corner of 34th Ave/34th St: “Street Closed 10:45 am-1 pm, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. School Days – Play Area.”

I was shocked...as were my folks and their neighbors. How was this even allowed without canvassing the street for feedback? My parents are elderly and have several medical issues that require frequent doctors’ visits. Their neighbors are in the same situation. By closing the street this creates a nightmare for those (like my parents and their neighbors) who require transportation to and from all essential services (not just doctor visits, but grocery, meal, and medication deliveries). They require assistance just getting out of ANY vehicle, as do their surrounding neighbors. How will they be able to do this if the street is blocked?? And what happens if they need an ambulance, as my Dad did last November?

We’d like to know who approved this. I hope the Gazette can provide answers to these questions in a timely manner.

Shireen Witkowich
Doris and Cristino Abril

Honoring Richmond Hill

To The Editor:

When I moved from Clinton Hill to Richmond Hill into a house on 102nd Street in 1967, the 102nd Street station of the BMT JJ train was at the border of Richmond Hill and Woodhaven. The station was then structurally closed and renamed 104th Street. I would like to propose to the MTA New York City Transit that the present name be changed to “Richmond Hill - 104th Street,” in view of its strategic location and the historicity of Richmond Hill. Fond memories light the corners of my mind, from hikes with teen friends in verdant Forest Park, warm Joe of Joe’s ice cream truck, the extravagant shows of the Dorr Dance Studio, the congenial Reverend Monsignor Leonard of Holy Child Jesus Roman Catholic Church, Jahn’s Ice Cream, and the New England religious ambience of churches such as Pilgrim Congregational and Community Bible Free Evangelical Church, both on 89th Avenue. Decades later, I can proudly proclaim: Richmond Hill is my station.

Joseph N Manago


To The Editor:

This week’s Gazette really showed humanity at its best. I applaud the Gazette for relating stories about honoring the Eastern Stars Organization upon its 100th anniversary with a Proclamation. In addition, I applaud Self Help and the NORC program also celebrating its 80th anniversary.

Self Help NORC played a crucial role in my life from 2011-2012 through its social service program, its counseling programs and its giving me the courage and help to overcome the trauma I suffered after my twin brother suddenly passed away five years ago. Self Help gave me the independence and confidence to be able to move here to Brandywine after one year of their help. They are indeed a blessing – may they continue to help improve the lives of countless thousands of senior citizens in need.

In addition, I am elated to learn that Rabbi Pearl, the spiritual leader of my Astoria Center of Israel Synagogue was one of the speakers at Saint Michael’s Cemetery’s Remember Me Run program on Saturday, September 17th. Rabbi Pearl has been such a dedicated chaplain, giving hope and reassurance to the 9/11 families since 2001. In addition he performed such miracles in my life after I suffered my traumatic crisis after my twin brother passed away in 2011. He helped me overcome obstacles, mend a broken heart and encouraged me to move forward as I have done. He indeed is the most wonderful spiritual leader I have ever known providing help to all, of all faiths and creeds.

Cynthia Groopman
Little Neck

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