Thursday, September 2, 2010

This Week's Forum South and West

JHS 226 Again Labeled Persistently Dangerous

For the second straight year, JHS 226 in South Ozone Park has been labeled “persistently dangerous” by the State Department of Education (DOE) in an annual review conducted under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Schools are listed as “persistently dangerous” if they have two successive years of “serious incidents.” These incidents could include homicide, forcible or other sexual offenses, robbery, assault resulting in physical injury, arson, kidnapping, reckless endangerment and possession, use or threatened use of a weapon, according to the State DOE.

City DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg said city schools are making progress. “Under old rules, [the schools] would no longer be on this list,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Forum, “But the safety of our students is of the highest priority.”

Schools that are deemed persistently dangerous will receive additional support, Feinberg said. This includes “professional development in positive behavior interventions, peer mediation and conflict resolution.”

Parents have the option of transferring students from persistently dangerous schools to another school in their district.

JHS 226, also known as Virgil I. Grissom School, is located at 121-10 Rockaway Boulevard. It was the only school in Queens named to this year’s list of dangerous schools.

Get Savvy at Your Supermarket

After a recent study by the Department of Con- sumer Affairs (DCA) showed more than half the supermarkets throughout the city were “abusing” their customers, The Forum decided to take a look at several supermarkets in our readership area.

Violations were issued to more than 700 supermarkets during the DCA investigation for a number of infractions including inaccurate or unavailable scales for customer weighing, the col- lection of tax on non taxable items, the lack of in- dividual price tags on specified items and insufficient data on date freshness labels.

Shoppers would be well advised to scrutinize their supermarket receipts to see that they have not been overcharged for individual items or paid tax on exempt products.

Here are some tips we have come up with in order to keep you from getting ripped off, save you money at the supermarket and also to protect your rights while shopping:

•If you are buying sale items make sure the price is in agreement with the advertised or circular prices. Remember that if you want to purchase a sale item that is out of stock, you are entitled to a rain check for the maximum amount of the item advertised. For example if the limit is 4, then you should get a rain check for that amount of product.
•In smaller stores watch for adjustment of prices sometime in the middle of the sale run. Many smaller grocery stores have been sited for false ad- vertising for not honoring the complete sale pe- riod. This does not usually happen with the chain markets.
•Always check your receipt to make sure you were not charged tax for non-taxable items. One commonly repeated violation of this type is in charging tax for bottle deposits in addition to the beverage itself.
•You should also check your receipt against individual prices in the store to see that you were not charged more than the labeled price.
•Use the unit-price label under each product to compare prices of different brands. This can be a very useful tool in saving money at the consumer level. This pricing tag must be listed on the shelf below most products.
•Supermarkets must have a scale within 30 feet of their prepackaged food section. Check for short weight and tare weight deduction—the deduction taken for the weight of the empty container from the gross weight. The scale must have a DCA seal on it, start at zero, and come to rest before weight or price is quoted. The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs requires that an accurate computing scale of adequate capacity, which displays weight and price/lb, must be available within 30 feet of the prepackaged display counter.
•Item Pricing - All market commodities sold or of- fered for sale in New York City must have a stamp, tag or label giving the item’s cost, except:
- milk - eggs - fresh produce - some frozen foods - baby food in jars - vending machine products - snack foods - food sold for on-premise consumption - tobacco - bulk-food sales - display items at the end of the aisle - items on sale for seven days or less
• “Open” or “Freshness” Dates - These dates show the last recommended sale or use date, and must be marked on perishable food product packages, such as egg cartons, dairy products, meat and baked goods.

City to Reopen Kew Gardens Jail

By Eric Yun

Not in my backyard. Kew Gardens’ residents are weary of a comprehensive overhaul of the New York City Department of Corrections fa- cilities, which includes reopening the 467-bed Queens Houses of Detention near Queens Boulevard Kew Gardens.

The city Department of Corrections (DOC) revealed the plans to reopen the detention facility, located at 126-01 82nd Street, on August 11. DOC officials claim the overhaul repre- sents the most cost effective way to upgrade and maintain their facilities while ensuring they have enough space for prisoners. The department hopes to have the Kew Gardens facility reopened within a year.

The plans call for 50 deteriorating housing buildings at Rikers Island to be torn down and replaced with a new 1,500-bed jail that will be completed in 2017. DOC Deputy Commissioner Sharman Stein explained the 50 houses were originally intended to be temporary solutions when the city needed extra beds during the crack epidemic in the late 1980s. Overall, as a result of the project, the capacity of Rikers Island will decrease by approximately 3,000.

To compensate for the lost beds, the DOC will reopen a 759-bed Brooklyn jail along with
the 467-bed Kew Gardens jail. This plan replaced an earlier idea to build a new facility at Hunts Point in the Bronx and doubling the capacity of Brooklyn facility. The total cost of that proposal was $1.1 billion. The new plan, however, is expected to cost approximately $660 million—a taxpayers’ saving of approximately $415 million, according to the DOC.

The Kew Gardens jail was closed in 2002 due to budget concerns. There is now concern among residents regarding safety as a result of the plan to move inmates back to the neighborhood. Council Member Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) pledged to diligently work to ensure necessary precautions are met.

“I will be working closely with community leaders, residents and elected officials in the area to ensure that the number one concern—safety—is at all times met,” said Koslowitz. “Our community has always been vigilant, and I have expressed this sentiment to [DOC] Commissioner Schriro. The commissioner has assured me of her commitment to the safety of the community.”

Community leaders are concerned about the type of inmates who are held at the jail. “The Kew Gardens Civic Association and myself need to have more information on the type of clientele that will be held there,” said Mary Ann Carey, District Manager of Community Board 9. The community does not want murderers, rapists, or other hardened criminals living next door."

Carey said the Community Board was not co tacted about the DOC’s plans until after they made inquires about the project.

DOC Deputy Commissioner Stein said the agency have been in contact with, and will continue to work with, the community about their concerns.

Fighting Back Against Raccoons

By Eric Yun

New York City has seen a steady rise in the raccoon population, and community residents and local politicians have had enough. Coun- cilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) introduced legislation last week that would require the city Department of Health to remove a raccoon from a public or private property upon request, regardless of whether the animal has exhibited signs of rabies or other illnesses.

“Raccoons may seem like cute little bandits, but they can be unsanitary, filthy and a big nuisance for New Yorkers,” Crowley said.

Local residents Mary Borzelino, Sherry Ortega, and Carole Aiello agree. They’ve noticed an increase in raccoon sightings that have them fearing for their families’ safety. The three women decided to take action and asked local politicians for help. “Finally, something is being done,”
said Borzelino, who is afraid to go outside to take out the trash because of raccoons.
Ortega said she is sick of raccoons “using the pool as a local watering hole.” She also noted raccoons seem to be fighting with the local cat population.

Aiello first noticed the problem two months ago when nobody would help her remove a raccoon from her backyard. “I panicked because it was during the day,” she said. Calls to Environmental Protection, Pest Control, ASPCA and 311 all resulted in similar answers: take care of it yourself. Finally, with the help of Assemblyman Mike Miller (D- Woodhaven), two police officers helped her capture the raccoon.

Crowley unveiled the new legislation this week at Mafera Park in Ridgewood where she was joined by Assemblyman Miller and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood).

“These raccoons have been a nuisance to our community for years,” said Miller. “They not only frustrate residents but also pose a potential health risk to the neighborhood.” Miller said he sees raccoons by his house frequently.

Nolan had similar experiences. She’s personally sighted seven raccoons on her street. “With the increase number of raccoon sightings, we need to set a policy for effectively dealing with this issue,” she said. Nolan believes if the city and state continue to ignore the problem it will lead to “bed bug two” and become an even bigger issue.

Under the proposed legislation, captured raccoons will be humanely relocated away from residential areas. “Euthanizing is not the answer,” Crowley said.

Councilman White Loses Battle With Cancer

Served Residents of Southeast Queens for Decades

Councilman Tom White (D-South Ozone Park) passed away Friday after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 71.

White was City Councilman from 1992-2001 before leaving office because of term limits. He reclaimed the office in 2006 after residents urged him to run once again. For years, White has fought for years for his southeast Queens community.

“[White] searched for ways to break the cycle of poverty and violence. He fought for job training and placement programs and investments in long term economic growth,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said in a statement.

White was a strong advocate for community programs for senior citizens and youth in his district. He was especially diligent fighting for alcohol and substance abuse. He was the cofounder and executive director of J-CAP, one of New York’s largest alcohol and substance abuse residential treatment programs.

In a statement, J-CAP commended White’s dedication to helping cure addiction in his community: “His lifelong mission was the promotion of individual self empowerment and higher education. Emphasizing the importance of reconnecting with family and community, he inspired tens of thousands of individuals in recovery. His commitment to the treatment of addictions in the Southeast Queens community and beyond will live on through the pro- grams he created and the people he helped.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said White’s “legacy will live on in the results of his work”
and praised White for serving as chair of the Council’s Economic Development Committee.
He is survived by his mother, Mrs. Marie White; his son, Bryan D. White and wife, Seleste; his daughter, Lucille Precious Middleton; and two grandchildren, Lamar White and Jacob Tom.

Bloomberg Visits Forest Hills Civic

Mayor Bloomberg addresses the large crowd inside Our Lady of Mercy Church as Forest Hills Community and Civic Association President Barbara Stuchinski looks on.
By Eric Yun

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and commissioners from a several city agencies joined the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association for a town hall meeting at Our Lady Mercy Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday night.

Mayor Bloomberg opened up the evening speaking about the progress New York City has made. He noted that the local unemployment rate is lower than the national average and city schools are improving. The mayor also stressed the importance of tourism. “Tourism is the second biggest industry next to Wall Street,” he said, adding that it’s important for the city to keep attracting foreign tourists because it is a multi-billion dollar industry.

The mayor also mentioned that crime is down 36 percent citywide since 2001, and gave special mention to the 112th Precinct where crime is down 60 percent over the same period.

After his short speech, Mayor Bloomberg and the commissioners answered questions from residents. There was a heated discussion about immigration and undocumented aliens getting jobs. Bloomberg said immigration is a federal problem, but more needs to be done. “Employers need to know if you’re legal,” he said, but social security and green cards are too easy to counterfeit. Bloomberg also stated immigration is good for small businesses and employment. “I would offer a green card to anyone who opens a small business and employs 10 or more people.”

Another question that elicited some spirited discussion was the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. Bloomberg once again stressed the importance of religious freedom. “The U.S. government should not be involved in who they pray to and where they pray,” Bloomberg said.

Many residents had some concerns about landmarks in Queens. One person eventually stormed out of the meeting because he felt the city was not doing enough to help landmark important Queens’ structures. There was also a strong contingent of residents hoping Mayor Bloomberg could help preserve the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium.

At the end of the night, Mayor Bloomberg thanked Barbara Stuchinski, President of the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association, and presented her with a rosary as a gift.