Thursday, April 23, 2009

This Week's Forum South and West

Group Makes Plea for JVP Dog Run

By Conor Greene

After months of asking Community Board 5 to support a dog run in Juniper Valley Park, a group of dog lovers formally pitched the idea to the advisory board’s Parks Committee meeting on Tuesday.

Despite the poor weather, a large group of area dog owners - including members of the Juniper Valley Dog Association - attended the meeting at the park’s Brennan Fieldhouse. While the Parks Committee was receptive to investigating the idea, major issues moving forward include where the dog run would be located within the park and how it would be funded.

Joe Pisano, president of the dog association, said his group is seeking a one-year test to see if a dog run would work in Juniper Valley Park. With the creation of the dog run, the current off-leash hours between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. would be eliminated. “We love this park – that’s why we want to be here. If you give us the opportunity, we will make it the best dog park in the city” he said, noting that volunteers are ready to help out. “We will clean it up and fundraise… We’re ready to do whatever we have to do.”

Pisano said his group’s preference is to have a permanent dog run built in the location between the baseball fields that is currently used during off-leash hours. “Everyone seems to feel like the spot we’re in is the best spot,” he said. “We would like to stay there if we could… We think it’s the right size, location and has great drainage.”

However, the Parks Committee and Juniper Park Civic Association are opposed to placing a permanent dog run in that area due to the damage caused to mature trees by dog urine. The Parks Committee instead suggested three alternate possibilities: behind the bleachers at the roller hockey rink, behind the fieldhouse near 71st Street and Juniper Boulevard South or between the end of the track and the nursery house near Lutheran Avenue and Juniper Boulevard North.

According to committee chairman Steve Fiedler, the JPCA “consistently and constantly” has received complaints about noise in the park. “Some locations, unfortunately, are just not set for [certain] things,” he said. “The ground has worn away since you’ve been there.” He added that he didn’t think the location was a good for off-leash hours because the noise has been disruptive to neighbors.

JPCA Vice President Lorraine Sciulli, who lives near the park, said that the dogs are disruptive to the neighborhood. “The park is completely surrounded by houses,” she said. “I don’t know why you think nobody is hearing your dogs barking.”

Pisano responded that the dog run would allow canine owners to use the park at all hours, meaning there would be fewer people at a time. Currently, dogs are only allowed off-leash between when the park opens at 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. “Isn’t it loud when a baseball game is going on?” he asked.

Manny Caruana questioned why a section of the park would be set aside for animals. “You got to remember – the park was not built for animals, it was built for humans,” he said. “I never thought about taking a part of the park for my dog.”

Pisano said there are more than 100 dog runs and parks throughout the city. “It’s not like it’s never been done,” he said.

Fiedler noted that a formal process must be followed for the proposal to become reality. That would include a public hearing after a specific design is complete. “No location will be picked without these procedures,” he said. “This is the first step,” with the discussion expected to continue at future Parks Committee meetings this summer. “If a location can be established, fine. If it can’t, fine too,” he said.

Much of the discussion centered on damaged caused to the trees and grass in the current off-leash area, and a Parks Department employee said that the impact on that section of the park is caused by a combination of factors, including drainage from the ballfields. “The dogs definitely contributed to the loss of grass,” he said.

Paul Toomey, president of the dog group K-9 Korral in Forest Park stressed that it’s important to provide shade for the dogs. “Whatever the plan is, they should have trees there,” he said. Toomey also questioned whether it’s appropriate for Fiedler to run the meeting since he is also a JPCA member. “You obviously have a biased opinion about the dog run,” he said.

Fiedler responded, “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have an open mind. I don’t think that’s a conflict at all.”

Dog owner Rich McGraw tried to keep the focus on how to best move forward on this request. He said there is likely one location out of the three or four suggested “that we could all live with… I don’t think any of us want to see the trees die… If we know some of the potential pitfalls, we can start looking at resolutions.”

Robert Holden, president of the JPCA, said his group would support a dog run in Juniper Valley Park provided it is done properly. Otherwise, “it will quickly become an unhealthy dust bowl,” he said, adding that “the JPCA won’t support just a fence.” He suggested that the group ask Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) for capital funding to help defray the costs. “We just want to see it done properly,” he said. We will work with you.”

In a statement, Crowley said she supports the idea of having a dog run in Juniper Valley Park. “I believe a dog run would be a healthy addition to the community. I look forward to working with community members on a proposal that best suits the interests of our neighborhood.”

Hit and Run Driver Kills Deliveryman

Charged With Leaving the Scene and Driving While Intoxicated

By Patricia Adams

The 27-year-old driver involved in Saturday night’s hit and run on Jamaica Avenue was released on $30,000 bail after being arraigned on Sunday in Queens Criminal Court. Sources say Gus Pappeliou’s father posted his bail. Pappaeliou was charged with criminally negligent homicide, operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and vehicular manslaughter in the second degree.

Pappaeliou is accused of striking 42-year-old You Yuan Zhou, as he drove his scooter to make a delivery for the China House Restaurant on Jamaica Ave around 11:45 PM Saturday night. Witnesses watched in horror as Pappeliou’s Volkswagen Jetta sped into Zhou’s scooter, sending him off the bike and up into the air. Seconds later he hit the ground dead, his helmet and a sneaker yards behind his body.

A half-block from the body lay the crushed scooter, which was dislodged after Pappaeliou threw his car into reverse in an attempt to get the scooter off his car. Witnesses were not surprised that the driver left the scene of the accident. One man, who identified himself as John, is a regular customer at Sam’s Deli on the corner of 80th street.

“These kids think this is a speedway. Just a few weeks ago that other woman was killed on the avenue the same way. They kill people with their cars and just keep going. Animals.” On April 8, 71-year-old Virginia Montalvo was killed on Jamaica Avenue by a hit and run driver as she made her way across the street collecting bottles and cans for recycling.

Zhou was pronounced dead at the scene - a crushed Volkswagen hood ornament left behind showing the impact of the hit that killed him instantly. A father of two, Zhou came to America a little more than 10 years ago, seeking a better life for his wife and children.

“He was a really nice guy,” said a resident who knew deliveryman as quiet, smiling guy. “We used to call him Bruce. It’s such a shame. He was a good guy, a hard worker who really cared about his family. Especially his kids.”

Now friends and family say his wife and children are faced with a tremendous financial struggle as well as the tragic death of the man who supported them by working six long days every week. “My father was kind,” 18-year-old Kai Qiang Zhou told reporters. “I didn’t believe it when I first heard this.” The freshman at New York City College of Technology wonders now how he will continue with the education his father dreamed of for him. “He always said, “You have to stay in school. You’ll get a good job and be able to spend more time with your family.”

Hours after the incident, police went to the home of Gus Pappaeliou, blocks away on 78th street and 85th Avenue. There they found the red Jetta, behind a fence at the house. The grill of the car was shattered, its front windshield blown out.

Pappaeliou surrendered without protest but refused comment without an attorney. Seen on the news, the young man seemed calm, as though he were unaffected. Before getting in to a waiting squad car, he looked back toward his house. “Bye mom. I’ll see you later. I love you.” Pappaeliou was smiling. A date of May 4 has been scheduled for Pappeliou’s return to court.

A Push for Reform After Beloved Collie is Euthanized

By Conor Greene

After a 94-year-old grandmother’s beloved collie was euthanized at a city animal center just hours after arriving at the facility, a group of animal lovers and a Queens City Councilman are working to prevent this from happening again.

Officials at the city’s Animal Care and Control say that 13-year-old Angel was euthanized shortly after arriving at the Manhattan facility on April 9 because she collapsed and was unable to walk. The dog, which had wandered away from Jane Guardascione’s Astoria home, didn’t have identification and didn’t match the description of any missing dogs.

However, according to the contract AC&C has with the state Health Department, dogs brought into its facilities must be held for at least 72 hours before being euthanized or released for adoption. The only exceptions are if an animal is critically injured.

In a statement, AC&C officials expressed their “deepest sympathies” to the family and said that Angel was suffering and was put down to prevent additional pain. “Because of her deteriorating condition and advanced age of over 13 years, the vet made the decision to euthanize Angel in an effort to prevent any additional suffering,” it read. “It is our goal to avoid euthanasia unless we deem it absolutely necessary.”

However, family members said that although the dog had been slowed by arthritis, it was still able to walk and probably became scared after being taken to the loud, unfamiliar shelter. Guardascione was “heartbroken” and began suffering chest pains when she found out what happened to her “beloved companion,” according to local animal activist Phyllis Taiano, who had tried to find Angel before she was put down.

In response to the incident, City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has submitted a request for AC&C records, specifically as they relate to animals that were euthanized at the shelters. He is now calling for an investigation into AC&C’s “practices and procedures… to prevent this tragedy from happening again.”

“It was extremely startling to learn of the unfortunate euthanization of Angel, which has caused a tremendous amount of grief for Ms. Guardascione, who saw the dog as a true companion,” said Avella. “In this instance, there appears to be a complete breakdown of the Department of Health and Hygiene’s policy to keep strays for at least 72 hours by NYC AC&C.”

Avella is seeking to obtain all records regarding euthanizations, length of stay for animals brought into city shelters, physical examinations, as well as records concerning owner notification, according to his office. He will hold a rally on the steps of City Hall at noon on Sunday along with other animal rights groups to bring awareness to the situation.

Taiano, a Middle Village resident who helps rescue lost dogs, was also distraught over the situation. She found out that Angel was at the AC&C just after 5 p.m. that evening, less than an hour after she had been euthanized. “Now that Avella has submitted a request for [records] we want to keep this [issue] alive and in the forefront,” said Taiano. “Angel’s case is not going away. Our protest is in honor of Angel and to raise more awareness that the AC&C continues to practice unethically. That shelter is in desperate need of reform.”

In light of recent alleged improprieties at AC&C shelters, an online petition is being circulated asking the City Council and Mayor to convene an Animal Care Task Force “to oversee the replacement of the existing Board of Directors… which has created this crisis.” The petition notes that while law requires the city to have five fullservice animal shelters, there currently are only three.

Residents, Officials Testify Against LNG Island Plan

Group Wants to Build Facility 13 Miles Offshore

By Conor Greene

More than 100 residents and elected officials crowded into the auditorium at PS 114 in Belle Harbor on Sunday to air concerns about a company’s proposal to build an island off the Rockaway coast to store and process imported liquid natural gas.

The Atlantic Sea Island Group has submitted an application to the federal government seeking the permits needed to construct the island about 13 miles offshore from Long Beach. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who lobbied the Coast Guard to hold the hearing after two others took place on Long Island and in New Jersey, called the proposal “unprecedented” but said he is keeping an open mind on the idea.

However, other local elected officials took a strong stance against the proposal, including Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and Councilman Eric Ulrich. Groups including the Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers and the Surfrider Foundation also spoke against the plan.

The public hearing was part of the Coast Guard’s effort to create an Environmental Impact Statement that will be used to determine whether approval should be granted. While issuing permits for these types of projects falls under the jurisdiction of the federal Maritime Administration, Gov. David Paterson has the option of vetoing the application.

According to the application, the Safe Harbor Energy Island would be at least 60 acres at the water surface and more than 110 acres at the ocean floor. It would require about 700,000 truckloads of fill and would be about 14 times larger than Giants Stadium. Tankers would deliver the liquid natural gas from foreign nations, before the substance is converted back into natural gas and distributed through pipelines.

Weiner declined to take a position on the proposal, noting that “right now we have far more questions than answers.” He said there have been several other similar applications filed in the past, including for a facility in the Long Island Sound that was rejected by Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, “but nothing like this.”

“In 2009, knowing what we do about the environment, does having LNG brought here… help us towards energy independence, or does it asseverate the path we’re already on?” wondered Rep. Weiner. “It’s not like what we’ve seen before. I want to hear what the experts have to say.” Still, he recognized that the Rockaway peninsula is the most heavily populated barrier island in the world and home to many people concerned about the environment. “Our relationship with the water is not just a casual one,” he said.

However, other elected officials and environmental groups are already certain that this project will not benefit local residents and isn’t worth the risks or negative impact on the environment. Pheffer argued that only the corporation would benefit from the island and vowed to ask Gov. Paterson to veto the application

“I join the Surfrider Foundation, the Eco Watchers and countless other community groups in expressing my opposition,” said Pheffer to loud applause. “The environmentally-sensitive waterways of our community cannot be jeopardized by this project… The safety and wellbeing of my community cannot and will not be jeopardized” by a project that would be “significantly intrusive and incredibly harmful to the local and global environment.”

Ulrich, who was recently elected to the City Council, said he opposes the plan for several reasons. First, he questioned the need to import liquid natural gas from foreign nations when “American natural gas is in abundance… made right here by American workers.” He is also concerned about impacts on the environment and wondered where the governor stands on the issue. “Is he going to flip like Jon Corzine in New Jersey and sign off on this proposal?” asked Ulrich.

Others including Democratic District Leader Lew Simon, Community Board 14 Chairwoman Dolores Orr and Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg testified against the proposal.

Dan Mundy, Jr. of the Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers said he is concerned about the impact it would have on “the very important habitat [which is] home to many species” and the potential terror target it would create. “It will put the local population at risk as a first-of-its-kind project,” he said. “There is no way at the end of the day you can turn around and guarantee to us there won’t be a problem.

In a statement, the Surfrider Foundation noted that LNG must be cooled to -265 degrees Fahrenheit to be converted back to natural gas. As a result of that process, its carbon footprint is roughly equivalent to coal. In addition, it is only available from foreign sources, and if spilled, is extremely flammable and can be ignited by something as innocuous as a boat engine or cell phone.

“The people of Long Beach and their City Council gave a loud, unanimous “no” to LNG after the hearing in January,” said Chris Wade, chair of the local Surfrider Foundation chapter. “But now that we’ve had a hearing in the light of day, here in New York City, we hope that Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council will come out against LNG as well,” he said.

Shoppers, Business Owners Outraged Over Parking Meter Rate Hike

By Conor Greene

Drivers who park at metered spots along local shopping strips will have to shell out a little more change to avoid a ticket, now that the city has reduced the amount of time a quarter gets you from a half hour to twenty minutes.

The city Department of Transportation recently finished reprogramming the borough’s 17,842 meters to reflect the new parking rates. Mayor Michael Bloomberg first announced in January that the rates at the city’s least-expensive meter would be increased for the first time since 1992 to raise an additional $16.8 million and help bridge the city’s $4 billion budget gap.

However, because the decision came as part of the mayor’s overall budget proposal, it didn’t receive widespread attention at the time. As a result, many shoppers and businesses say they were caught off-guard when the rates were recently increased literally overnight.

“Queens shoppers are being nickel-and-dimed at the expense of small businesses,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens and Brooklyn) at a press conference along Jamaica Avenue last Thursday. “We want to help local neighborhood stores, not drive shoppers away.”

Weiner was joined at the press conference by Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), Maria Thompson of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. and several local small business owners. The meter rate increase is being phased in for 47,000 single-space meters and 730 muni-meters citywide. Adding insult to injury, the city has also increased fines that accompany parking tickets each of the past four years, said Weiner.

According to the congressman, the city expects to collect $66 million more this year from parking tickets. In 2008, ten million parking tickets were issued citywide, and the number of parking tickets issued between 2002 and 2008 has risen by 42%. Along Jamaica Avenue between 91st and 92nd streets, more than 1,000 parking tickets were issued from 2007 to 2008.

“It’s hard not to see the impact of the economy on the neighborhood shopping strip,” said Weiner, whose office recently completed a study showing more than 200 vacant storefronts along eight shopping districts, including 80 along Jamaica Avenue alone. While recognizing the need to have spaces turnover on a regular basis, Weiner questioned the motive behind the increase. “The issue is whether or not the city is interested in helping the businesses or just filling the coffers… This is a time we should ask the city to take its foot off the gas.”

Addabbo questioned the manner in which the city implemented the change, and stressed that the ten minutes “truly is going to hurt” local businesses. “We need to find another way… without constantly hurting the middle class and small businesses,” he said. On a personal note, Addabbo said he is “hurt” by the closure of Jason’s Toy Store, which now stands shuttered across the avenue from where the press conference was held. “My father took me to Jason’s when I was a small kid. It represents part of my childhood,” he said.

Thompson noted that small businesses “put up with so much everyday” and took the city to task for not publicizing the rate increase better. “No one told us. There was no warning, no hearing, no input,” she said. “I think that’s very unfair to the community.”

Several small business owners along Jamaica Avenue said the increase has already hurt them. Steve Esposito, owner of Orthopedic Shoe Clinic, said he fears the increased rates will make customers from Long Island less likely to come to his store. “If they get a ticket, they aren’t going to come back,” he said. “Since he [the mayor] can’t tax us anymore, he’s fining us to death.”

Matthew Xenakis, who owns Park Place Greenery and Florist, said drivers will be tempted to head for the malls, where parking is less expensive and spaces more plentiful. He said a delivery man recently got a ticket after dropping flowers off at his shop. “I felt bad so I gave him the money. No one told us anything about it or give us a warning,” he said.

State Reopens Aqueduct Bidding Process

By Patricia Adams

Gov. David Paterson, along with Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, announced last week the re-opening of the solicitation process for the Video Lottery Terminal facility at Aqueduct racetrack. In the wake of the collapsed deal with Delaware North, officials are seeking developers in a new bidding process. Applications are due on Friday, May 8 by 5 p.m.

After defaulting on their $370 million deal, Delaware North President, William Bissett cited deteriorating credit and financial markets in the recession economy for the failed bid and maintains that his company will be back. “While we disagree with their conclusion that a re-bid is necessary,” said Bissett “we nonetheless remain interested in developing Aqueduct and look forward to continue work with the administration to achieve that goal.”

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. said: “I am more optimistic today about the future of Aqueduct and our surrounding communities now that the VLT solicitation process has begun. I intend to inform my residents and ensure their involvement in the process that pertains to protecting Aqueduct.”

Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer said: “After countless delays and false starts, I am happy that VLT’s at Aqueduct are finally back on track. We will learn on May 8th, the companies that have a true and realistic plan for Aqueduct. I remain committed to ensuring that our community’s vision for the “new Aqueduct” becomes a reality.”

As with the original proposal, the selected operator will be chosen by a unanimous agreement between the Governor, Majority Leader of the State Senate and the Assembly Speaker. “Growing our economy through job creation and economic development projects such as the implementation of VLTs at Aqueduct will move our state toward the type of new economy New York needs to get back on track,” Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said. “Though it is disappointing that the process has been slowed due to the struggling economy, I am confident that we can find a new partner to build Aqueduct into a gaming location that bolsters the local and state economy.”

Developers expected to bid in the second round will most likely match those from the first time around, and will probably include Delaware North, Capital Play and SL Green. According to a press release issued by the governor’s office the winning bidder would pay the full amount of their proposed up-front franchise fee no later than ten business days following the execution of the new Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU).

The State would issue personal income tax bonds through the Empire State Development Corporation in the amount of $250 million in order to finance eligible VLT project costs. The net amount borrowed would be advanced to the selected bidder to be used for project capital costs incurred in the construction of a VLT facility at Aqueduct. The VLT facility would be constructed by the VLT Vendor, which will be responsible for its design and construction subject to the terms of the MOU and applicable laws and regulations. Neither ESDC nor the State will be responsible for construction or cost overruns.

The State would enter into an agreement with the winning bidder for a fixed period of 30 years, with a possible 10-year extension based on the attainment of reasonable benchmarks that ensure satisfactory performance.

Vendors may propose modifications to this MOU as part of their bids. Their proposed changes will be considered by the Governor, Majority Leader, and Speaker in making their selection.

Along with Delaware North, Capital Play and SL Greene, are expected to enter bids in the new process. SL Green, thought to be the frontrunner in the last bid, this week filed a lawsuit against Delaware North. Lawyers for SL Green say that the Buffalo based firm teamed up with them in the first round to get inside information and essentially used trade secrets for their own purposes.

According to published reports, this lawsuit alleges Delaware North “agreed to non-competition, confidentiality, and exclusivity restrictions” when it joined with SL Green in 2006. Although Delaware North ultimately did not remain with the SL Green effort, the suit alleges that prior to Delaware North’s departure "SL Green gave DNC access to confidential and proprietary business information... " It goes on to allege that since at least October 2007, Delaware North improperly competed with SL Green for the video lottery terminal rights at Aqueduct.

As has been the case throughout the lengthy process to establish a racino at Aqueduct, rumors continue. Delaware North partnered with R. Donahue Peebles and his development company in their quest to win the bid last year. Among the current batch of rumors is one that indicates Peebles is exploring forming a new team to bid on the project now. If true, that has the potential to further muddy the waters as another similar lawsuit could loom depending on what the terms of Peebles’ partnering with Delaware North involved.

The Governor’s announcement of the reopening of bidding for the VLT rights at Aqueduct and the lawsuit are the latest developments in what has been a long process to redevelop the racetrack. “We thought the VLT development would finally get underway when Delaware North was selected back in October. It took years to get to that selection in a process that began in the early part of this decade.

Community Board 10 Chairperson Betty Braton said, “Although we preferred the proposals put forth by others, with Delaware’s selection in the fall we thought that finally all the delays were over, and we were willing to accept them despite our misgivings due to the State’s pressing financial situation. We’re concerned that apparently Delaware will be allowed to participate in this new bidding process. This time around, the Community Board’s opinion is simply: ‘not Delaware North’ – and we have expressed that to Senator Addabbo and Assemblywoman Pheffer.”

Life Sentences Handed Down in Forest Hills Dentist Murder

By Conor Greene

The Forest Hills woman accused of having her husband murdered in broad daylight was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The gunman, who was paid $20,000 to carry out the murder, received the same sentence.

Mazoltuv Borukhova and her uncle by marriage, Mikhail Mallayev, were sentenced Tuesday by Justice Robert Hanophy after being convicted in March of first-degree murder and conspiracy in the shooting death of Dr. Daniel Malakov.

According to prosecutors, Borukhova, 35, paid Mallayev about $20,000 to shoot Malakov in broad daylight near Annadale Playground in October 2007. Malakov, 34, had just won custody of the couple’s five-year-old daughter, Michelle, and was dropping her off to visit her mother when he was killed.

As she had throughout the trial, Borukhova proclaimed her innocence before the judge handed down the sentence. “I have nothing to do with this murder. I didn’t kill anyone. I have nothing to do with it,” she said.

Mallayev, 51, also claimed he had nothing to do with the murder before he was sentenced. “I didn’t kill nobody in my life,” he said. “I live by the Ten Commandments… I feel comfortable with myself. I’m good in front of myself and in front of God.”

Before he sentenced Borukhova, the judge warned her of the consequences of seeking revenge. “Your husband lies in a natural grave. You are about to enter your 8-by-8 above ground cell, where you will spend the rest of your natural life,” he told her. “Your daughter is now without a father and for all practical purposes is without a mother. What a legacy to leave your daughter.”

Mallayev was linked to the crime after detectives matched a fingerprint from a homemade silencer found at the murder scene to his prints, which were on file from a previous fare-beating arrest. Prosecutors used cell phone records to prove he was in the city at the time of the murder, and say the pair exchanged 90 phone conversations in the weeks leading up to the murder.

Although she was standing just feet away from Malakov when he was shot, Borukhova told the police and jurors that she never saw the gunman or heard any shots. An eyewitness who was walking her dog at the time of the murder identified Mallayev as the gunman.

Following the sentencing, Malakov’s family said they are pleased with the outcome but expressed concern for Michelle. The girl, who witnessed the murder, has been cared for by the slain man’s uncle Gavriel Malakov, who hopes to adopt her. “As Michelle grows up she will ask a lot of questions and I will somehow have to answer those questions,” he told reporters. “I’m afraid as I’m going through feelings of excitement and joy, I may feel extremely devastated tomorrow… I feel scared for tomorrow.”

He also wondered if life could return to some semblance of normalcy for Michelle. “Will Michelle every stop having those nightmares? Will she every have those sweet dreams that a typical six-year-old has when they go to sleep at night?”

The slain man’s father, Khaika Malakov, said that the sentencing was “reasonable and right’ but added that “nobody wins in this case… Everyone lost. Everyone lost because I lost my son, Michelle lost her father....”

Both defendants were sentenced to life without parole for first-degree murder, along with an additional consecutive sentence of 8 to 25 years for second-degree conspiracy. Mallayev was received a 15 year sentence, to run concurrently, for illegal weapons possession. Attorneys for both said they plan to appeal the verdicts.

Public Review of Downzoning Begins

The formal public review of the long-awaited rezoning of 300 blocks in Middle Village, Maspeth and Glendale began on Tuesday, meaning it could be approved by the fall.

The formal Uniform Land Use Review Process for the proposal began Monday, which gives Community Board 5 60 days to review it. It then goes to Borough President Helen Marshall, the City Planning Commission and finally to the City Council to be approved.

The proposed area to be rezoned is bounded by the Long Island Expressway, Woodhaven Boulevard, Forest Park, Mount Carmel Cemetery, Cypress Hills Cemetery, Fresh Pond Road and 59th Street and is adjacent to three rezonings completed in 2006. Much of the zoning within the area has remained unchanged since 1961 and allows a range of uses and housing types that can be inconsistent with the prevailing lower density character, according to the Department of City Planning.

“Since 2002, the Bloomberg Administration has rezoned 4,000 blocks in Queens to create a sustainable blueprint for the future, protecting neighborhood character and channeling development away from auto-dependent neighborhoods,” said City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden. She said that this downzoning effort is one of the largest rezonings to date in Queens and will protect “three of Queens’ most attractive neighborhoods.”

The rezoning is intended to serve several purposes, including protecting the neighborhoods’ one-and-two family homes by implementing zoning districts that “ensure that new developments match the existing scale and density of surrounding houses.” It will also eliminate infill provisions, which allows for development at a higher density than would otherwise be allowed.

In addition, it provides “modest housing opportunities along Woodhaven Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue” provided that it is consistent with the three-and-four-story mixed-use buildings along those strips. Finally, it will update commercial overlays to reflect the current land uses and “support retail continuity” along shopping areas on Cooper, Myrtle, Flushing, Grand and Metropolitan avenues and Woodhaven Boulevard. Commercial overlays would be eliminated or reduced to prevent commercial intrusion on residential blocks.

“After three years, the Department of City Planning has finally moved forward with the rezoning…” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley in a statement. Since day one in office, I have made rezoning a priority because it is necessary for limiting overdevelopment and to protect the character of our community. I will continue [to push the DCP] and work with the Community Board and Borough President to ensure the rezoning plan is implemented as soon as possible.”

The effort began more than three years ago, when volunteers from the Juniper Park Civic Association and other residents went door-to-door collecting information about the type of development that currently exists. However, the effort then languished, leaving residents frustrated as they watched small modest homes being torn down and replaced by multi-family units.

“It should have started at least two years ago. Since then, almost every block in our neighborhood has been victimized by overdevelopment,” said Robert Holden, president of the JPCA.

Community Board 5 will hold its public hearing on the proposal at a meeting on Monday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Christ the King High School.

Officials Discuss Impact of Federal Stimulus Plan

By Conor Greene

To make sense of the federal stimulus plan, two Queens lawmakers held a town hall meeting last week to explain how the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009 will impact the average resident.

Rep. Anthony Weiner and Senator Joseph Addabbo met with several dozen residents last Wednesday afternoon in PS 254 in Woodhaven. They explained that the $787 billion will result in about $24 billion in aid to New York State, with about $5 billion coming to the city. Of the money coming to the state, about $6.2 billion will be used to help bridge the $17.7 billion budget deficit. The money must be spent over the next two years.

State officials are “still working to allocate the dollars effectively” and in a “transparent” manner, said Addabbo (D-Howard Beach). He called the aid “one shot for the most part” but both lawmakers said they hope this stimulus plan will have longer lasting impacts compared to the previous stimulus plan under the Bush Administration.

The money can be used for several purposes, including helping bridge state budget gaps, to prevent cuts to healthcare and education, for energy and infrastructure projects, for public safety and for housing and foreclosure prevention – something Addabbo called a “rising issue in our surrounding communities.” The money will primarily be distributed through 25 state agencies and the Governor’s Office, with the federal government overseeing some areas.

Weiner explained that there are several goals for the bill which “all need to be done in concert” to reverse the economy’s “downward direction.” The first is to provide money to states to avoid “giant slashing of their budgets.” However, he stressed that the “federal government didn’t do New York State any big favors – this is your money that’s been shortchanged.”

The bill is also intended to create jobs through construction projects including roads, bridges and schools, said Weiner, adding that the dual benefit is “having people at work” and having something to show in return for the cost. “They’re going to get a better state,” he said, in contrast to the tax cuts for the wealthy and the Iraq war, for which we have nothing to show.

Along those lines, the bill is also intended to provide tax cuts for the middle class. “We want to make sure people here have a few dollars in their pocket so they can go out to the neighborhood shopping strip,” said Weiner, adding that the top 2% will get no relief under the plan. “Every single middle class resident of Queens has something coming to them in that bill.”

Instead of receiving the entire relief within a single check, however, the relief is coming in the form of a reduction in federal withholdings in each paycheck over the next nine quarters, starting now. Those not working will receive the relief in their tax return at the end of the year. Last time, said Weiner, the stimulus plan helped China, not America. “It didn’t have the true stimulating month-by-month effect we hope this will have.”

Several residents asked if the money could help prevent some of the drastic service cuts the MTA is considering under its budget. Specifically, residents at the meeting were concerned about the impact of cuts to the B52 bus, which runs along Jamaica Avenue, and the Z Train.

Weiner explained that “the short answer is no” since the stimulus can only be used for capital projects, such as repainting the tracks the run above the avenue. He said the problem is a restriction against using federal dollars to help support MTA operations, which lawmakers “need to reverse.” Under the plan, the MTA is receiving about $1 billion for capital projects.

Addabbo said the looming MTA cuts will “have to be addressed in Albany… Certainly we’re not going to sit on the sidelines” as deep cuts are made. “I don’t believe the MTA is very good at accounting,” he added. “You’re handing them a lot of money… and then they’re back a year from now talking about [additional] fare increases and service cuts.”

The lawmakers also addressed the recent closings of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals and said the stimulus bill doesn’t provide money towards hospitals. “I think the government has done a terrible job,” said Weiner. “There is a shortage of healthcare in New York… we’re going to realize it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to keep it open. I think it was a huge mistake.”

Addabbo said the state Health Department made it clear that “they wanted out” after providing millions of dollars in funding the struggling hospitals over the past few years. “To me that was the easy way out, to stop funding and let it close. It’s something the state government is going to have to try to find a way.”

Foundation President Honored by ACS

The President of the Howard Beach Columbus Day Foundation, Mario Faulisi, has been named as an honoree by the American Cancer Society (ACS) for the First Annual Howard Beach Relay for Life to be held on June 13th – 14th at Charles Park.

Event chairs Phyllis Inserillo and Melissa Fochetta along with Special Events manager for the ACS, John Link, were on hand Tuesday night at the membership meeting of the Foundation to announce their decision.

“The Event Planning committee of the 1st Annual Howard Beach Relay for Life is proud to announce that the Relay will be named in honor of Mario Faulisi for his courageous battle with cancer, his victory over the disease and his constant dedication to the community,” said Inserillo. “It is people with his integrity that make Howard Beach the community it is.”

Faulisi was diagnosed last year with a rare and aggressive lymphoma and has recently completed a successful course of chemotherapy and radiation. “I am blessed with the opportunity to help get the word out,” said Faulisi. “You can battle this disease and you can win, but everyone who encounters cancer needs as much help as they can get.”

Foundation member and media personality, Valerie Smaldone, was on hand to congratulate Faulisi on his honor and also to encourage participation in the event. “I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer about 8 years ago. I came from a time when that meant death, but due to the tremendous research efforts and the development of medication and therapy, we are seeing more survivors.”

In his honor the Foundation has made a $5,000 donation to the Howard Beach Relay and will act as one of the event's corporate sponsors. “It’s a really great thing when we can not only honor a survivor, but help so many other people,” said Angelo Gurino, the Foundation treasurer.

The Foundation encourages all Howard Beach residents to bring their friends and family to the event in June in support of this cause. For more information please contact the Howard Beach Columbus Day Foundation at 718-738-7035 or e-mail