I read with much sadness the news of the passing of Queens Republican Party Chairman Phil Ragusa. I met him on many occasions during a number of political campaigns I was involved with, for former Mayor Bloomberg, former state Sen. Frank Padavan and for Bob Friedrich, president of our Glen Oaks Village Co-op Association, when he ran for City Council and state Assembly.
I found Phil Ragusa most personable, honest and a man of integrity. I also found him to be concerned for the community and its residents, with ideas to make things better for all concerned. He will be truly missed for he was the voice of all we hold most dear.
God bless you, Phil, for all that you stood for, and let me also offer my heartfelt prayers for your family, who are missing you at this sad time of mourning.
A meeting intended to ease local tensions over a controversial co-location in Queens Village’s Martin Van Buren High School on April 24 wound up enraging area residents who supported the new school but then may have had their own children shut out of the enrollment process.
Hoa Tu, who is slated to be principal at the Business Technology Early College High School in September, dropped by the monthly meeting of Community Education Council 26 to introduce herself and to talk about plans for September.
In the last week a number of elected officials have lamented the Department of Education’s decision not to withdraw the co-location plans at Martin Van Buren High School. Unfortunately, these local elected officials are out of sync with the local community on this issue.
Just prior to the mayoral election, civic leaders from nine of the largest civic associations in eastern Queens, representing thousands of families zoned for MVB, met and voted unanimously with one abstention to support the DOE’s P-Tech co-location proposal. A P-Tech school focuses on certain technical skills with a pathway to a tuition-free college education and a career.
Decades of failure have transformed MVB from a school having deep community roots into one where 96 percent of its student population comes from outside of the local area. The thousands of families represented by these civic leaders are in distress over sending their kids to MVB. The P-Tech co-location initiative attempts to fast-track the turnaround of MVB and create a safe school environment.
Local parents of high school-age students are stressed out by the thought of sending their kids to MVB. Despite valiant attempts at improvement, MVB’s School Environment Rating is stuck at an unacceptable “D.” Recently installed school Principal Sam Sochet, who is popular with the local community, has had some success, raising the school report card to a “C,” but more than a decade of decline has made that job difficult for one person. The MVB “brand” is dead and needs to be reinvented. This reinvention begins with P-Tech: a school within a school providing its graduating students with a tuition-free two-year college education at Queensborough Community College and a pathway to a career with one of the “Fortune 500” corporate partners of the program.
Handled properly, the P-Tech co-location will attract a student body from the local community that is more engaged in the educational experience. Over time this will boost local enrollment of students as parental perception changes and the excellent programs being initiated by Principal Sochet take root and become more widely known.
I urge Councilman Mark Weprin, state Sen. Tony Avella and Assemblyman David Weprin to rethink their opposition and embrace the P-Tech co-location rather than seeking its demise. Join us in our support of this initiative and help return this failed school to its storied and illustrious past.
A rash of tire thefts since January in Glen Oaks and Bellerose has put the neighborhoods on high alert.
Glen Oaks Co-op President Bob Friedrich told the Chronicle that at least nine thefts have been reported to the 105th Precinct. “It’s a real problem and we’re telling car owners to get tire locks and for residents who wake up in the middle of the night to look out their windows to spot trouble,” Friedrich said.
It was straight out of a Saturday morning children’s television comedy — a man confined to a hospital is able to confound security by the ingenious tactic of switching clothes with one of his visitors and allegedly sauntering right out the door.
Only residents, elected officials and police are not laughing over the fact that Raymond Morillo, who was confined to Creedmoor after completing a sentence for manslaughter and assault, was able to do just that on Jan. 28, and get more than 1,000 miles away before he was caught at a bus station in Memphis, Tenn. the next night.
Community boards 12 and 13 now are working in formal unison to get a skate park built at the Laurelton Playground on Brookville Boulevard.
Greg Mays, the Parks chairman at CB 12, spoke at Board 13’s monthly meeting on Monday night, saying the closest skate parks now are between six and eight miles away.
City offers more data on campaign finance
In their letters to the editor appearing in most of the local press, Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Mark Weprin make a valiant effort trying to spin the Community Safety Act as measures that will not jeopardize public safety. Mr. Weprin says, “Intro. 1080 does not prevent police officers from using stop and frisk and would still permit the use of race, gender, age and other relevant information when pursuing criminal suspects.” What he doesn’t say is that doing so could result in finding those officers guilty of biased-based profiling if the crime-fighting tactics employed by the police disproportionally impacts people on the basis of those very same characteristics.
So how would this would work in the real world? Imagine a string of vehicle break-ins has victimized a middle-class community like Rosedale. A grainy security video that is inconclusive suggests that a group of white teen males may be responsible. While on night patrol a cop sees a white teen male i
n this predominately black neighborhood walking with no purpose, and looking into parked car windows. Although those actions are not illegal, common-sense tells us to stop and question this individual. Unfortunately, doing so would subject the police to bias-based profiling charges under this bill because the stop was based on the color, gender and age of the individual and not some other factor. Simple suspicion is not sufficient, so we can toss common-sense out the window.
In another neighborhood, the police have responded to community concerns about a local bar that has been the scene of numerous gun and alcohol-related problems. In a proactive effort to stop this, every Friday and Saturday night for the next month the police have set up a vehicle checkpoint a block from the bar. After the first week, the bar patrons wise up to the police action and are on their best behavior when leaving. Although many were stopped, no arrests were made and the neighborhood finally gets needed relief. Unfortunately, these actions by the police subject them to biased-based profiling under the bill since most of the bar patrons are people of color and the police cannot prove that their police actions were definitively responsible for the reduction of crime.
Proactive police actions such as these will soon end as the NYPD and individual officers come under challenge for bias-based profiling. Since the law permits full attorney fees and expenses, this financial bonanza will keep attorneys employed for years to come at taxpayers expense. Contrary to the assertions of Councilmembers Williams and Weprin, these bills will not make our streets safer, they will put a serious crimp on proactive policing and will turn the focus of law enforcement away from the most vulnerable neighborhoods. That is why the nation’s most respected Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, the PBA and the Chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee are opposed to this measure and do not want our city to backslide into the morass of crime and despair it once was.
The last two weeks have provided a steady list of reasons to be cynical about government as a whole, and the doling out of taxpayer funding in particular. But running on parallel tracks has been an attempt at opening up the decision-making process to three Queens lawmakers’ constituents.
Councilmen Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) were three of eight city legislators to enroll in Participatory Budgeting, which allows constituents to vote on the allocation of up to $1 million in discretionary funding.
A recent decision to ban smoking in two Hollis co-ops is sparking a heated debate between health activists and defenders of smokers’ rights.
Antismoking advocacy group Queens Smoke-Free Partnership helped administer a ban on indoor smoking at 200 units of the Hilltop Village co-op last week, intensifying talks over the role landlords and city officials should play in regulating household smoking.
Presidents of Queens co-ops and condos have joined elected officials in decrying what they called a discriminatory loophole in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s post-Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
What they call a bit of misinterpretation by FEMA has left co-ops and condos looking for Sandy help at the Small Business Association, even though they are residential entities.
Co-presidents of the Presidents Co-op/Condo Council Warren Schreiber, left, and Bob Friedrich joined state Sen. Tony Avella in calling for the tax abatement’s prompt passage this fall.
Leaders in Albany have promised to finally enact the extension of a tax abatement for co-ops and condos, but some won’t celebrate until it passes an official vote.
Gov. Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) promised to extend the abatement, which was left on the legislative floor in Albany this summer and subsequently put on the back burner after Hurricane Sandy. The bill would be retroactively enacted to its original June 30, 2012 expiration date. The assured passage did not come with a specific timeline.
A legislative snafu has some co-op and condo owners up in arms, decrying the prospect of increased property taxes if the state legislature does not reconvene before January. Others are seeking to cool tempers, taking Gov. Cuomo at his word when his office promised a property tax abatement will be at the top of the agenda when lawmakers return to Albany in January. Blame Hurricane Sandy.
At the heart of the kerfuffle is a property tax abatement for co-ops and condos, which expired on June 30. The lost tax break could cost some $1,200 per unit, a figure many say would break the backs of owners already on a tight budget.
State Sen. Tony Avella, center, wants a coordinated mosquito spraying effort between the city and Nassau County. Among those with him are Bob Friedrich, front left, of Glen Oaks, and Diane Shamlian and Michael Castellano, both of New Hyde Park.
The depth of corruption in New York politics is unfathomable. If the indictment of State Sen. Shirley Huntley for using taxpayer money to fund her family’s lavish lifestyle isn’t enough, we now learn that Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver authorized $103,000 in taxpayer dollars to pay hush money to female victims of sleazy Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s unsavory advances.
The details of the sordid Lopez episode have only begun to emerge. While our community begs for library funds and desperately needed curb and sidewalk repairs, our elected leaders secretly throw our tax dollars at the accusers of their political pals to keep these travesties under cover and out of the public eye. Sickening!
Of course Lopez should immediately resign his Assembly seat, but there must be no lesser penalty for Silver, who covertly used taxpayer funds to silence the female victims of Lopez & Co. Lopez was Silver’s handpicked Brooklyn Democratic Leader. The attempt to use this secret stash to save face at taxpayer expense by keeping this sordid affair out of the media and public scrutiny is repulsive.
Where are the Democrat Assemblymen calling for Silver’s ouster or at least demanding that he step down as speaker? Why have first-time “reform-minded” candidates such as Jerry Iannece and others suddenly gone mute?
My local assemblyman, David Weprin, is absolutely silent on this matter, as is his brother, Mark, who worked with Shelly in the Assembly for almost two decades before he and brother David swapped political seats in a clever bid to circumvent term limits. But they’re in good company. Assembly members seem to have forgotten that their allegiance is to their constituents — not the Assembly speaker.
How many more indictments, arrests and boorish behavior must we accept before we say enough is enough? Fortunately, voters will have an opportunity to answer that question in two months.
The writer is a former candidate for office.
The co-op and condo community were abandoned this past week as the legislative season drew to a close. Three vital bills affecting the lives of every co-op and condo owner were left on the scrap heap of an adjourned legislature. The working class residents and seniors living on a fixed income who mostly live in these communities struck out by a legislature and governor that threw them nothing but curve balls.
Strike 1 was the failure to renew the decades-old J51 program that provides millions of dollars to co-ops to help build and maintain their aging residential infrastructure.
Strike 2 was the failure to renew the city co-op tax abatement program that provided co-ops with millions of dollars of tax relief as a way to partially correct the inherent unfairness of a tax system that taxes co-ops at significantly higher rates than single-family homes.
Strike 3 was the failure to resolve the property tax valuation debacle of the past two years that led to double- and triple-digit increases in valuations on co-ops and condos throughout Queens.
While Team Cuomo extolls the success of this legislative session and politicians embark on summer-long vacations, we will soon begin to hear self-aggrandizing stories of their legislative accomplishments via press releases and taxpayer-funded newsletters. When their failures are exposed, they will point fingers at others to blame.
The blame for this colossal failure must be shared by Gov. Cuomo and state Senate and Assembly leaders Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver — the proverbial “three men in a room,” and our elected officials whose “tireless efforts” on our part produced zero results.
In business, you accept responsibility for failure and work even harder to produce better results next time. In politics you never accept responsibility for failures and simply point fingers at others or blame partisan politics.
Where was the political leadership among our Assemblymembers to corral the Queens Delegation to march into Sheldon Silver’s office and demand action on these bills on behalf of hundreds of thousands of their constituents? These are not politically sensitive issues like abortion or same-sex marriage. They are simply extenders of existing laws which already have a wide range of support for their renewal. I can assure you that if the legislation had passed, each and every elected official would have issued a press release and taken credit for it. If they can take credit for success they must assume some responsibility for failure. Until we begin to hold legislators accountable and not allow them to redirect blame to others, the dysfunction of Albany will continue. Co-op and condo owners will be paying a steep price over the next few years when their monthly maintenance assessments are forced to rise as a result of Albany’s dysfunction.Thank you.
It was a land-use heavy agenda at the Community Board 13 meeting on Monday, with four items to be voted upon. A convenience store, gas station and group home got the green light, while a nonprofit’s proposal to use an emergency access point at the Creedmoor campus got a big thumbs down.
The first application was for a variance to build a store in a residentially zoned area. The proposal, presented by architect Gerald Caliendo, was for a retail establishment at 177-60 South Conduit Ave. in Springfield Gardens.
Everyone from next-door neighbors to Congressional candidates turned out on Sunday to urge the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the old Brinckerhoff Cemetery on 182nd Street from development. Civic leader Bob Friedrich, second from left and inset, displayed last week’s Queens Chronicle with the front page headline “Grave Indifference” during the rally.
The cost of tap water, which has been rising year after year after year, will go up 7 percent in fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1. The city considers that an accomplishment because it had initially projected water rates would go up 9.3 percent.
Water rates have been skyrocketing every year since fiscal 2007, often at double digits. Critics say the sharp increases are effectively tax hikes, given the necessity of water, putting the lie to the mayor’s frequent boasts that he keeps taxes down.
Calling the city’s Department of Finance the “Department of Fantasy,” and saying that the agency’s property valuation numbers make “no sense,” Glen Oaks Village President Bob Friedrich presided over a packed town hall meeting last Thursday at North Shore Towers in Floral Park.
Friedrich, who has led the fight against the city and its skyrocketing property tax hike for the past year, is an accountant and founder of Presidents Co-op & Condo Council, an organization of board presidents that represents nearly 30,000 housing units. He organized the meeting, which drew more than 900 Queens co-op and condo owners in protest of increasing property valuations and corresponding tax hikes that would have reached double and triple-digits in some cases.
Residents of Glen Oaks Village are wondering what is causing squirrels to set up housekeeping under the hoods of vehicles in their co-op.
The situation has gotten so bad that one car was declared a total loss by an insurance company and another required rewiring. In the latest case, a car was left unattended for 36 hours and one of the furry critters had time to build a large nest on top of the engine.
While investigations by both the state attorney general and inspector general continue, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) announced at a rally on Saturday that he was calling for a federal investigation into the redistricting process that removed a key piece of land from his 11th Senate District.
At the sidewalk gathering, held on Winchester Boulevard in the shadow of the Creedmor Psychiatric Hospital campus in Queens Village, Avella told the two dozen civic association leaders and concerned area residents in attendance, “Hopefully, the investigations will get to the bottom of this. Whoever did this, if you think that is going to stop me, you’re crazy.”