Thursday, August 26, 2010

This Week's Forum South and West

Ulrich Joins Summer Service Students at MS 210

Council Member Eric A. Ulrich (R-Queens) joined students from the Cross Island YMCA Beacon Center at M.S 210 for a day of fun to celebrate the culmination of the group’s summer service project to take a stand against violence in the community.

The Cross Island YMCA Beacon Center provides these students with an outlet to express their creativity and continue learning outside the classroom,” said Ulrich. “So many of our young people really want to make a difference but sometimes they just don’t know how. I am so glad to see that so many are taking advantage of this opportunity.”

This summer’s project ended with fun day activities and the painting of a community art mural on the school building on August 13. Over the prior five weeks, the teens explored and conducted workshops to educate other youth about the impact of bullying, cyber-bullying, teen dating violence and gang violence, as well as ways to combat these types of violence.

From design to completion, the project was led by the teens, their good work expected to continue throughout the school year at ongoing workshops at the Beacon Center’s After-School program and other local youth programs.

The project was part of the City’s Department of Youth and Community Development’s Summer of Service initiative, in partnership with NYC Service and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. It was funded through a donation from the Neuberger Berman Foundation.

New Floor at Divine Mercy

INSTALL NYC Members volunteered their time to install 4,500 feet of vinyl composition tile flooring on Saturday, July 31, 2010 in five classrooms and two offices of the Divine Mercy Catholic Academy, Ozone Park, NY.

The project was initiated by Council Member Eric Ulrich and coordinated by Warren Hutchinson, Local 2287, who served as the foreman on the job. Twenty-one members of both Local 2287 Floorcovers Union and the New York City District Council of Carpenters helped to install the new flooring at the school.

“It worked out great,” Hutchinson said. “Everyone was glad to work on this charity project and we completed the installation very quickly as a team.”

“I am truly grateful for the helping hands the New York District Council of Carpenters and INSTALL extended to Divine Mercy Catholic Academy. These volunteers are the most dedicated and skilled floor coverers in the city. Thanks to them, students within the school will not only continue to reap the benefits of a quality education, but also enjoy learning in the newly renovated classrooms,” said Council Member Ulrich.

The Divine Mercy Catholic Academy is the combination of Nativity BVM and St. Stanislaus BM Schools for Kindergarten through Grade 8 classes.

Livery Cab Driver Arrested in Ozone Park Murder

Two men were arrested and charged for the murder and robbery of Ramarin Matadin, a Brooklyn man who was killed in Ozone Park last Tuesday.

Deevan Jagmarine, 21, a livery cab driver from Jamaica, and Alex Gobardham, 19, from Ozone Park were charged second-de- gree murder, first-degree robbery, second- degree robbery and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property. If convicted, they face a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

According to police, the cab driver confessed that he picked up the victim and his brother at the Golden Arrow Bar on 101st Avenue in Ozone Park. The brother wanted to stop by his own house to get some clothes because he was spending the night at the victim’s house but when he got out of the car, the cab driver left with the victim.

The driver then allegedly called a friend to say he had an easy mark with a roll of cash in the car who was intoxicated. He then went to pick up the friend and they drove to a dead-end on Arion Road, where a struggle ensued.

According to reports, the defendants allegedly punched the victim in the face and robbed him of his cell phone, wallet and a gold bracelet. The cause of death has been determined to be cardiac arithmic and blunt trauma of the head.

Police reportedly found a gold bracelet in Jagnarine’s home and a cell phone in Gobardhan’s home.

“This is a disturbing case that ended with the death of an innocent man,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. “These defendants now face lengthy prison terms if convicted of this senseless crime.”

Addabbo Hosts Voting Machine Demo

State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Chair of the Senate Elections Committee, is sponsoring a series of free town hall meetings for voting machine demonstrations around his district to help familiarize Queens voters with the introduction of the new optical scan voting machines in the primary elections next month. When voters show up at their polling place on September 14 Primary Day and the November 2 General Election, instead of the old mechanical lever machines, they’ll now mark their votes on a paper ballot that is run through a scanner to be recorded. Senator Addabbo arranged for the NYC Board of Elections to conduct open public demonstrations of the new system, using the scanner and ballot marking device, with the first in his series on Tuesday, August 31 at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters, 78-15 Jamaica Avenue, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Senator Addabbo and his Elections Committee have worked through many public hearings on the testing and performance of the new machines in a pilot program throughout the state. The change is a result of the federal Help America Vote Act, which mandated that voters in New York State must have new voting machines this year. The new system electronically records a vote from a paper ballot that a voter marks.

“As we prepare for this change, I want to assure all voters that their votes will be counted accurately and will work toward ensuring the reliability of the new voting machines,” said Addabbo.

For more information, please call Senator Addabbo’s Howard Beach district office, 718-738-1111 or his Middle Village satellite district office, 718-497-1630.

Low Compliance Rate Among City Supermarkets

Half of the city’s supermarkets are scamming customers. That was the finding of the New York City Department of Con- sumer Affairs (DCA), which inspected 700 supermarkets across all the five boroughs and found only 48 percent complied with DCA rules.

The DCA conducted 983 inspections throughout the course of this year and issued 516 violations. The non-compliant supermarkets could face fines more than $380,000.

There are several DCA guidelines supermarkets must follow. Scales, with a DCA seal, must be available within 30 feet of prepackaged food areas. Unit or item pricing must be visible, either on the item or as a tag on the shelf, but there are certain exceptions for items like snack foods and fresh produce.

The DCA found the majority of violations occurred when items did not have proper price tags. Supermarkets were also penalized for inaccurate prices at checkout scanners, taxation of non-taxable items and improper weighing and unavailability of scales for customers, according to the DCA press release.

DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz is adamant that these violations stop, and consumers receive the protection they deserve. “It is a supermarket’s responsibility to ensure that its products are accurately priced and its customers are correctly charged,” he said, “But with half the supermarkets in the City receiving violations, it is clear that they are failing their cus- tomers.”

Mintz promised to double the number of inspections in supermarkets next year.

DOT Truck Strikes Pedestrian

A Department of Transportation truck struck a pedestrian Tuesday morning on the corner of Grand Avenue and the eastbound Long Island Expressway service road in Maspeth.

According to reports, 83-year-old Giovanno Casale was in the crosswalk when the truck, which was making a left turn off Grand Avenue, hit him. He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center with bumps and bruises.

The man was struck while walking in the crosswalk, but no charges or summones were filed against the driver.

A DOT official said the department will review the matter and offered no other comment.

Judge: Seminerio Remains Jailed

Former state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio’s attempt to leave prison was rejected by Manhattan federal Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.

Seminerio, who represented the Assembly’s 38th District, which includes Woodhaven, Glendale, Ozone Park and Richmond Hill, for more than 30 years, was sentenced in February to six years in prison. He pleaded guilty last year to theft of honest services for accepting money from companies through a consulting firm he operated from his home.

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D- Woodhaven) replaced Seminerio after he resigned when allegations of the scandal arose.

Seminerio petitioned the courts to free him from jail as he appealed his corruption conviction. According to the New York Post, Judge Buchwald said Seminerio “was unlikely to win a reversal of his guilty plea.”

Vehicle Etching at Forest Park a Huge Success

Area residents drove more than 100 vehicles to Forest Park last Saturday to participate in an anti-auto theft Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Etching event sponsored by local elected officials.

The process is a technique which is used to deter car thieves by making a car less appealing to steal. It involves etching the VIN into the windows of the car, making the car easier to identify and making it harder to take the car apart and sell it for parts. In addition to deterring thieves, VIN etching can also aid in vehicle recovery.

State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), Assemblyman Mike Miller (D- Woodhaven) and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) co-sponsored the etching held at the Seuffert Bandshell and partnered with the 102 pct in order to offer the community a powerful tool in combating the continuing rise in auto theft throughout neighborhood precincts.

All vehicles got their VIN number etched on the glass of car windows, with those vehicles also receiving eligibility for auto insurance discounts as a result of their participation in the program.

“Perhaps as a result of the difficult recession, there has been a spike in auto thefts in our communities once again,” said Sen. Addabbo. “I urge residents to take advantage of opportunities like this because they offer a much better chance to recover your car if it is stolen.”

Recent NYPD statistics show that auto theft is up in several local precincts. The 102nd Precinct has reported 165 car thefts so far this year, a 19 percent increase from last year’s 138. The 104th Precinct has already had 239 car thefts, up 35 percent from last year’s 177. The news is slightly better in the 106th Precinct, where 175 vehicles have been stolen, up 3 percent from last year’s 169 thefts, and in the 112th Precinct, which has reported 61 thefts, up just one from last year.

Additionally, Addabbo said that some precincts did not have updated equipment to perform the etchings and that he would be looking into measures to provide funding for all area precincts to be fitted with updated equipment used in the etching process.

More events will be scheduled for etching sessions in the future. All those interested in
upcoming dates can contact the office of Crowley at (718) 366 3900 or by visiting 64- 77 Dry Harbor Road in Middle Village.

Ridgewood Intermodal Terminal Opens to Riders

MTA NYC President Thomas Prendergast at the opening ceremony with elected officials.
By Eric Yun

A confusing mess of bus and subway transfers at the Myrtle/Wykoff subway stop, which serves the L and M lines, was improved last Friday. Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials and local politicians held a press conference introducing the new Ridgewood Intermodal Terminal.

Previously, the Q55, Q58, B13, B26, B52 and B54 busses all made stops in various locations near the station, which caused confusion among riders. Now all busses will stop at the new terminal, which is on Palmetto Street north of Myrtle Avenue, making transfers to the L/M subway lines and other busses simpler.

There were also cosmetic changes made to the area to make riders more comfortable. A canopy was erected under the elevated tracks to shield waiting customers from the elements and new benches and lighting were installed.

“This facility creates a much improved transfer point, making it easier for our customers to transfer between our bus and subway services,” said Thomas Prendergast, NYC Transit President.

Residents of Ridgewood have clamored for improved bus service for many years. Ted Renz, executive director of Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District, has been working with the MTA and community activists to make transit options in Ridgewood better. “I’m glad it was finally completed. It will make transfers to bus and subways more convenient,” he said.

Gary Giordano, District Manager of Community Board 5, said the new benches, canopy and sidewalk repaired will make trips more comfortable for the community’s riders. He believes the MTA could make some more changes to make bus rides better. Giordano wants a system in place where bus dispatchers alert bus drivers to wait at the station because a train is coming. This will help riders from being stranded, especially at night, waiting for the next bus.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridge- wood) helped fund the terminal with $4 million dollars from the state’s capital reserve fund. Rep. Nydia Valázquez (D-Bushwich)also allocated $485,000 of federal funds.

Nolan said the new terminal will “benefit our Ridgewood community,” and she fought hard to secure funding because she believes “mass transit is the economic and environmental lifeblood of our city.”

Valázquez added, “Residents of Ridgewood deserve reliable and effective transportation.” She also believes the bus terminal will help bring more visitors to the neighborhood.

Renz hopes the new intermodal terminal will bring visitors and businesses. “We believe it will be a catalyst for private development,” he said. A simple and clean transportation hub in Ridgewood increases the possibility that business and residential development could occur around the new terminal.

Votes Still Needed for Trash Train Legislation

By Eric Yun

Trains hauling garbage through the neighborhood emit nauseating odors that have residents demanding action. In response, state Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) have introduced a number of bills targeting these noxious “stink trains.”

Residents have been complaining for the past year about idling trains and the smell from trains transporting trash through the neighborhood. Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES) have been pushing to curb idling trains, noise and security in Middle Village and Glendale. As a result of the community’s concerns, Addabbo and Hevesi have sponsored four bills aimed at eliminating the odor.

Bill S7153/A10176 creates new guidelines for waste trains at New York transfer stations. The bill would require waste trains to have hard lids or tarps to prevent odors and spills that might occur. The Environmental Conservation Committee voted 13-0 in favor of the bill, and the Rules Committee passed the bill 22-1.

Similarly, Bill S7591/A10819 would call for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to require trains hauling trash to install hard lids or tarps. The MTA leases their railways to companies to haul waste. Bill S7591/A10819 passed the Senate Rules committee 21-2.

Both bills are being held as Addabbo and Hevesi work to get the votes needed to pass a full vote.

One person who appears to be the biggest critic of the bills is Senior Assistant Majority Leader and Transportation Committee Chairperson Martin Malavé Dilan (D- Brooklyn). Dilan was the only nay vote on Bill S7153 and one of the two nay votes on S7591 committees.

A cursory look at Dilan’s campaign finance reports reveals he has received numerous donations from railroad companies in the last two years. CSX, one of the companies that transport waste through the area, donated $600 last year.

A spokesman for Senator Dilan’s legislative office explained to The Forum that the bills are a duplication of industry standards that are already in place. Companies generally use mesh netting for non-putrescible waste and hard caps for putrescible waste. He also explained adding hard tarping to non-putrescible waste can lead to breaking debris that destroys hard tarping.

Furthermore, Dilan’s office contends that waste haul through railroads is necessary. One railcar transporting trash replaces hundreds of garbage trucks travelling through the city. They added the legislation would be an unnecessary burden for rail companies, as it would add roughly $1.20 per ton of trash to install hard caps.

Two other bills dealing with waste trains have also been introduced. Bill S7595/A10820 provides provisions for railcar companies to reimburse neighborhoods in the event of a spill or disaster. Bill S7261/A10396 increases civil penalties for rail companies that do not follow current environmental laws.

Work Begins on Kew Gardens Interchange Upgrades

By Eric Yun

Drivers on the Kew Gardens Interchange can expect more delays, but eventually, the congestion and confu- sion on one of Queens’ busiest stretch of roads will be alleviated. The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) held a ground breaking ceremony for their new $148 million re- construction project last Wednesday.

The interchange is a traffic and safety nightmare for drivers: the Van Wyck Expressway, Grand Central Parkway, Jackie Robinson Parkway, Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike all meet at the interchange.

“The Kew Gardens Interchange is one of the most tangled knots of congestion in all of New York City, impacting the economy of the city and affecting the quality of life of all Queens residents,” said NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee. “Under the leadership of Governor David Paterson, the New York State Department of Transportation has worked with elected officials and community members to develop a plan that will untangle the knots, providing a smooth, safe flow of commuters and commerce in Queens.”

The reconstruction, expected to last five years, involves adding auxiliary lanes to the Van Wyck Expressway to ease traffic between Union Turnpike and Hillside Avenue. Work will also be done on a quarter-mile stretch of Queens Boulevard over the Van Wyck Expressway. Aging bridges will also be replaced, and three pedestrian plazas will be built along Queens Boulevard and the entrance to the Briarwood/Van Wyck Boulevard subway station will be renovated.

Local politicians applauded the NYS- DOT for beginning work on the project.

“At long last, motorists will finally have easier access to the roadways that take you to the different parts of Queens,” said Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills). “As I look out my of- fice window, everyday I see the entan- glement and backup that the interchange creates. The improvements to the interchange will be a welcome relief.”

Besides making roadways safer for drivers, the construction will provide jobs for the community.

NYSDOT has future plans to improve the Van Wyck Expressway north of Jewel Avenue, and sections of Grand Central Parkway and Jackie Robinson Parkway.