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Click the heading above to view social issues events this month in Queens. Click the following links to go directly into one of these Queens Neighborhoods: Astoria, Flushing, Jackson Heights, Jamaica, Long Island City and Sunnyside.

Mayor de Blasio in Jackson Heights & Schools Chancellor Farina In Jackson Heights | nyc public schools mayor de blasio in queens schools chancellor carmen farina queens public schools testing school crowding queens universal pre k queens schools trailers queens
Mayor de Blasio in Jackson Heights & Schools Chancellor Farina In Jackson Heights

Mayor de Blasio & Chancellor Farina in Queens

Mayor & Chancellor in Queens Town Hall about Public Schools

November 16, 2015 / Jackson Heights Neighborhood / Queens Public Schools / Queens Buzz.

There was a town hall at PS 69 in Jackson Heights Thursday evening where NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Public Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina talked about what they are doing to reform the NYC public school system to improve both teachers’ and students’ performance.

I arrived a bit late, following the coverage of a gig nearby. There was a small crowd of a couple dozen people waiting to get in because the auditorium had been filled to a standing room only crowd. Over the course of the evening all the folks who waited long enough were able to enter, as I confirmed this with the police contingent on my way out.

As I entered the auditorium they had just completed the presentation portion of the program [I think about a half hour, possibly less] and they were moving on to taking questions and answers from the audience.

I video recorded most of the session, and then edited down as much as I could to shorten the viewing time required to get the gist of what they’ve done and are planning for the future.

All in all it was a very interesting and very informative session. I spoke to quite a few folks after the town hall and generally they were pretty positive, including a number of folks who did not vote for de Blasio. Essentially most believed that the Mayor and Chancellor were trying to correct the failings of the system and that they were taking an intelligent approach. Several mentioned that the Mayor seemed pretty honest in his assessments of things.

For me, one of the most important things I learned tonight, was why getting universal Pre-K was so important. Essentially the thinking goes that the earlier you are able to start working with these kids, the more you will be able to prepare them for school, and hopefully reap the benefits of teaching them the joy of learning throughout their stay in the public school system.

Click here to read our full report including a segmented video about Mayor de Blasio on NYC public schools with Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and NYC Councilmember Daniel Dromm.

Van Bramer & Peralta Support $8 Tolls on Queensboro Bridge | congestion traffic pricing plan move ny plan erect tolls on east river bridges tolls queensboro bridge brooklyn bridge tolls manhattan bridge tolls williamsburg bridge tolls
Van Bramer & Peralta Support $8 Tolls on Queensboro Bridge

Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan

Proposal To Toll Tax Away NYC Traffic Congestion Caused By A Century Of NYC Infrastructure Designed With Manhattan As The Hub

Van Bramer & Peralta Support 'Move NY' Plan Which Calls For The Installation Of $8 Tolls On Queensboro, Brooklyn, Manhattan & Williamsburg Bridges

November 9, 2015 / Queens Neighborhoods / Queens Government & Politics / News Analysis & Opinion / Queens Buzz.

NYC Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and 14 Democratic Progressives recently embraced the Move NY Congestion Traffic Price Plan, which among other things, calls for $8 tolls [or $5.54 with the use of an EZ Pass] on all East River Bridges, including Queensboro, Brooklyn, Manhattan & Williamsburg Bridges.

NYS Senator Jose Peralta of Jackson Heights / Corona has been an early advocate of the Move NY Congestion Traffic Price Plan.

Most of the rest of the Queens government officials do not support the plan. And hence we decided to take a closer look into the plan, to better understand what the issues are.

And we were more than a little bit surprised at what we found.

How Do The Plan Assumptions Stack With Known Realities?

In this report we’re going to describe the Move NY repackaged Congestion Traffic Price Plan. Specifically we will explore the assumptions upon which the plan is based, and then go behind the curtain to explore some of the relationships between the different groups pushing the plan, in order to better understand the economics of the politics.

Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan Organizers & Shadow Lobbyists

move ny congestion pricing traffic plan jose peralta photoAfter the meeting I started investigating the Move NY Fair Plan and stumbled across a website name that feeds into the Move NY organization's website. The current Move NY official website name is www.iheartmoveny.org - but you can also get there using www.move-ny.org - which will forward you to the same site.

The owners of the www.move-ny.org site are listed as Blue State Digital, which is a public relations firm. Their website says that they,

"... build and galvanize communities on behalf of some of the world’s leading nonprofits, advocacy groups, and brands."

They were written up in a New York Times OpEd piece by Thomas Edsell entitled Shadow Lobbyists, as a new class of public relations firms that galvanize public opinion in the same way that one galvanizes support for political candidates. It's still public relations, but the techniques are different. We'll probe the vested interested parties in more detail a bit further into the story.

In Move NY 'Fair' Plan There's More Than A Dozen(s) Of "Komanoff Assumptions or Estimates"

charles komanoff balanced traffic analyzer BATCharles Komanoff is a consultant for the Sam Schwartz Move NY 'Fair' Plan. The Move NY Plan appears to have relied very heavily [or entirely?] on Komanoff's BTA or Balance Transportation Analyzer. In a quick perusal at some of the underlying math, I found easily more than a dozen estimates and assumptions which were entitled 'Komanoff Estimate' or 'Komanoff Assumption'.

It's worth noting that in general, economic models such as the Balanced Transportation Analyzer or BTA, can be made to produce any conclusion one wants, if one is in control of the underlying assumptions.

Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan Assumptions & Pricing Elasticity

There are many underlying assumptions baked into the Move NY Plan that are worth questioning in far greater detail. But the biggest key assumption to congestion traffic pricinginvestigate is the pricing elasticities baked into the plan. Pricing elasticity predicts whether or not people will drive over a bridge or a road, if the price of the toll on the bridge / road increases or decreases.

Based on a number of studies done over the past decade, including two in the New York City area, some drivers will adjust the time of day they travel over a toll bridge or road slightly, in order to obtain a discounted rate, but few appear to decide whether or not to use a bridge or toll road because of a toll price increase.

Part of the implicit positioning of the plan is that it will reduce carbon emissions. Implicit because both Komanoff who provided the BTA [Balanced Transportation Analyzer] econometric model for the Move NY Plan, and Matthiessen who runs the public relations firm lobbying for the Move NY organization, are on the board of the Carbon Tax Center. More on this later.

Independent Studies Have Shown That Toll Price Increases Negligibly Impact WHETHER Or Not Drivers Will Use Bridges Or Roads Vs Public Transit, But Can Impact WHEN

congestion traffic pricingThe studies of the impact of toll price changes on roads and bridges, were done by independent institutions like established universities and governments. The goal was to determine if pricing can be used to alter traffic patterns. We will provide you with the results of some of these studies further into this report, so you can judge for yourself whether or not to rely on the assumptions embedded in the Make NY Plan by consultant Charles Komanoff.

For those of you who didn't get a chance (or weren't interested) in studying economics, price elasticity is:

"… is a measure of the responsiveness of demand or supply of a good or service to changes in price. The price elasticity of demand measures the ratio of the proportionate change in quantity demanded to the proportionate change of the price."

An elastic price means if the price goes up, the quantity goes down and vice versa. An inelastic price means that people won't change their behaviors much in response to price increases move ny congestion traffic pricing- oftentimes because they don't have what they consider to be reasonable alternatives.

Take electricity into your household prior to deregulation as an example. If the monopoly power company took a price increase, you didn't quit using the lights, stove, TV, furnace or washer / dryer because the options weren't that reasonable. Apparently the folks who use the toll bridges and toll roads don't feel they have good options either. So if the price of a toll bridge or toll road goes up, there's a negligible change in usage behavior - except with respect to shifting the time of use.

Of course in this case, the Move NY Plan is really advocating more than a toll price increase, as they are advocating the introduction of tolls where they had not been.

Toll prices appear to influence bridge / road usage times [eg. motorists plan their trips either immediately before or after peak periods] but do not appear to alter the means of transportation chosen [eg. take the car vs take the train]. The implication is that there may not be an ecological benefit to this plan.

NEW: Congestion Pricing Experience In London

London, Stockholm and Milan have implemented Congestion Traffic Pricing Plans in parts of their cities. One cannot underestimate the differences between New York City and its European counterparts including road widths [the plans targeted European Medieval town centers], the population density [Manhattan is many times more dense than of any of them], the geography [Manhattan is an island connected by 18 bridges and tunnels, while London, Milan & Stockholm are not] and so forth.

That said, London was the first city to implement congestion traffic pricing in 2003. We will take a brief look into some of the outcomes of that implementation later in this report, but the two key findings that stick with me are: 1) London never went forward with extending the Congestion Traffic Pricing zone and 2) it's been reported that the implementation infrastructure costs were very sizeable.

New York City Transit System Designed in 1900 & Built by 1961 When NYC Was A Different Place

gridlock sam schwartz llc consultingIn 1900 Manhattan represented 52% of the population of New York City and Brooklyn represented 33% - the remaining 15% was spread in the other three boroughs which were somewhat rural and low density population areas.

Around the turn into the 20th century city planning, by necessity, came into vogue. And it was also the time during which New York City mass transit began being built. By 1940 most of the build out was completed save the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (1950), the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (1961) and the Throgs Neck Bridge (1961).

Today Manhattan represents about 20% of the population, while Brooklyn is about 30%, Queens 27%, Bronx 17% and Staten Island 6%. If you look at the map below, you'll see how the bridges and tunnel transportation infrastructure converges on Manhattan because that's historically and still the New York City hub.

Can The City Toll Price Its Way Out Of A Century Of Infrastructure Design & Build?

gridlock sam schwartz llc consultingThe total bridge / tunnel crossings of the outer four boroughs is 28 and 15 of them are with Manhattan. Manhattan by itself has a total of 18 crossings, including the 15 just mentioned and another 3 major crossings coming in from New Jersey.

Decades of prior New York City Mayors and New York State Governors & the respective legislative bodies have failed to recognize and address perhaps the most basic reality and issue facing the New York City transportation system today - that the overall transportation infrastructure was designed and built 70 to 100 years ago to serving Manhattan as the hub.

While the population densities of the boroughs has changed significantly, Manhattan still remains the center of the city in terms of commercial and cultural activity and this is due in part to its accessibility.

How Fair Is The Move NY 'Fair' Plan?

Sam Schwartz's Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan appears to be a socially and economically regressive tax increase because if it succeeds, the brunt of the pain will be borne by the lower and middle income wage earners who will bear the costs if they can't leave their car - and if they do, who will put an even greater strain on the subway system which already appears to be running near full capacity. The subway system is a transit category upon which the Move NY Plan only marginally touched upon.

Geographically the burden targets the Bronx, Manhattan and other motorists who cross Manhattan at 60th Street and the motorists including from Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan who cross the East River. They are not, as the Move NY Plan states, crossing for free because they contribute plenty to the public coffers in high rents, property taxes and municipal taxes that support both New York City and New York State infrastructure. And many of whom likely need to use their cars to enter Manhattan because they probably don't have good choices, contrary to what Move NY Plan hypothecates.

The Move NY Plan will certainly raise needed funds for public transit, and might possibly reduce carbon emissions IF the motorists re-schedule their trips AND the new tolls REDUCE bottlenecks at the East River Bridges and along 60th Avenue in Manhattan - not make them worse. Currently neither the bridges nor the 60th Street cross line have tolls.

The research indicates that the plan will not likely reduce the number of motorist trips as toll pricing appears to be inelastic and thus not a deciding variable as to whether or not people use their cars. And if the London experience is any guide, expect a sizable chunk of new revenue to go toward creating and managing the implementation of the Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan in lieu of investments in other public transit.

Click here for the rest of our story about the Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan as we explore in greater detail a connected web of people, lobbyists and organizations behind Move NY Congestion Traffic Pricing Plan and their possible motivations. We critique the plan including a review of the assumptions, and a closer look at independent studies done with regard to motorists response to toll prices and changes.

LaGuardia Airport - Airplane Noise - LGA NYNJPA FAA | laguardia airport airplane noise lga nynjpa new york new jersey port authority lag FAA federal aviation administration queens jackson heights nyc
LaGuardia Airport - Airplane Noise - LGA NYNJPA FAA

LaGuardia Airport - Airplane Noise

Jackson Heights, Corona & Queens Voice Concerns Regarding LGA Airplane Noise

FAA Considering Extension of LaGuardia Airport Hours & Other Changes

October 19, 2015 / Jackson Heights Neighborhood / Queens Issues LaGuardia Airport Noise LGA / Queens Neighborhoods / News Analysis & Opinion / Queens Buzz.

I attended a town hall meeting about the airplane noise coming from LaGuardia Airport at PS 69 in Jackson Heights. The town hall had been organized by NYS Senator Peralta’s office and the panel of speakers included local government officials and representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] and the New York New Jersey Port Authority [NYNJPA].

Standing Room Only at PS 69

The auditorium was packed and there were people lined up along the walls as well as standing in the back of the auditorium. Airplane noise has emerged as a big issue for Jackson Heights due to a couple of construction projects going on at the airport – both of which will be completed at the end of November.

Cynical Audience Member's Point of View

The timing of the town hall meeting, only six weeks before the construction was to end, led one of the local pundits to cynically suggest that this was merely political theater, rather than an effort to accomplish anything substantive.

There was an earlier town hall meeting organized about two years ago by NYC City Councilmember Dromm, to tackle the problem in its early stages, and while it was happening - not after it was all over - which is what we're close to today.

But that said, these town hall meetings are not just political theater, although inevitably that is some of it, which you will see in the video. And while the immediate problem will subside, we discovered that there a number of efforts either underway or in the planning stages, in which the community has a vested stake in the outcomes.

Not Said In Meeting: Federal Register States That Consideration Is Being Given To Extending LGA's Operational Hours & Slots

In doing follow up research I found a piece on the Federal Register government website that informed me that the FAA is considering changing the operational hours and slots for LaGuardia Airport. This was not discussed at the town hall [click into story for additional detail]. We also found other things that were either scarcely touched upon or not addressed, which we included in this report.

Click here to read the rest of this report about LaGuardia Airport Airplane Noise and the NYNJPA & FAA in Queens. The report includes video presentations, including some audience interaction, and a photo slide show and other information about FAA air traffic changes, airplane noise and what you can do about it.

Newspapers, Magazines, Television Producers, Filmmakers, Artists, Photographers, Journalists, Actors, Musicians, Writers & Software Developers

Copyright Law Change Alert: Pending Legislation May Curtail Your Ownership Rights

July 5, 2015 / Queens Notices / News Analysis & Opinion / Queens Buzz. Click the Queens Notices link to view proposed overhaul of copyright laws which would significantly curtail the ownership rights one has to their own work. It includes a bit about how you can help by sending a notice to the government regarding this effort to overhaul copyright law.

According to the report, the law would weaken content creators' ownership rights and thus their ability to monetize their creations. They also allege that the big internet companies are pushing this. We surmise that this is because the big internet companies are using everyone's content, collecting revenue for organizing and distributing it, and not compensating the content creators for the use of it. This may leave a huge outstanding, unestimated legal liability on their balance sheets.

The weakening of copyright laws has disturbing societal implications as well, as it completely destroys the economic incentive for artists, filmmakers, writers, journalists, photographers, actors, recording artists and software developers to invest their time and resourcess in the creation art, film, journalism, photography, music, software and other media content and entertainment. And in doing so, paves the way for considerable consolidation and control over freedom of speech and what media and entertainment content we as a society consume.

The net effect of the law is to curtail content creator ownership rights, and thus in some good measure transfer the ability to monetize content from the content creators to the content distributors. But it's not too late for you to do something about this.

The deadline for comment is July 23rd, 2015. Click Queens Notices and scroll down to first notice. There are links there to the authors of the report, as well as instructions and links to making a comment to government officials. Is retaining ownership rights to your work worth 10 to 15 minutes of your time?

"Many hands make light work." Chip in and make your concerns heard.

Albany Legislative Session To End Friday

Pending Bills: Public School Funding & Rent Stabilization Law

nys governor cuomo photoJune 15, 2015 / Queens Neighborhoods / Queens Politics / Queens Buzz.

There are two important bills expected to be finalized by the New York State Legislature this week: 1) one having to do with taxation and funding for the public schools and 2) the second having to do with NYC rent stabilization law.

I've been paying some modest measure of attention to both of these bills, and the following is a brief snapshot of a critical talking point in each bill.

Use Public Money To Fund Private Education?

From what I can gather, perhaps the most contentious item in the public education funding bill is the provision for sizeable tax deductions for those who choose to send their children to private, not public schools.

As I understand it, these tax deductions would be included as part of the funding for the public schools budget and therefore will reduce what's left for the NYS / NYC public school systems.

It's worth noting that private school tuition in NYC can cost in the range of about $5,000 to $30,000 per year per student. And that there are about 900 private schools in NYC alone, so depending on how these proposed deductions are ultimately structured, the funds reallocated from the public schools to private individuals would be in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars and possibly more.

You might want to contact Governor Cuomo's office at 1.518.474.8390 to let him know you support or oppose the measure, since we understand that he's been the major force pushing for this public school funding change. You can also send him an email via the Governor's contact form.

Albany & Expiring Rent Stabilization Laws

rent stabilzation laws queensThe Rent Stabilization Laws are due to expire tonight, June 15, 2015.

There was talk earlier this year that there would be a push to expand or strengthen the Rent Stabilization Laws given the rapid growth in homelessness in New York City. The NYC homeless population is currently estimated at over 60,000 or nearly 1% of the entire NYC population. About 70% of New York City residents are renters, of which about two million of less than eight and a half million residents, live in rent stabilized apartments.

Over the past decade or so, the Rent Stabilization Laws have been curtailed in the favor of the free market and landlords. The curtailment of rent price control legislation is believed to have spurred additional real estate development investment, as the profits of most new buildings are no longer affected by rent stabilization laws.

Much of the rapid growth in homelessness over the past decade is believed to be the result of tenants losing their rent stabilized apartments, as new owners of buildings have found ways to circumvent the laws. A recent NYU Furman Center Study has shown the loss of over 330,000 unsubsidized affordable apartments since 2002, due in part to the rent stabilization legislative changes referenced above.

NYS legislative insiders told me that tenants rights supporters were hoping to make legislative gains this year, but that the NYS Assemblypeople and NYS Senators opposing the changes, were going to allow the rent stabilization laws to expire as a negotiating tactic.

Vicki Been, Commissioner of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, informed us that the current rent stabilization laws remain in effect through the term of existing leases and leases up for renewal that are already in the hands of the tenants. She also said that tenants should call 311 with any questions or problems.

Cuomo & NYS Officials - Quinnipiac Poll

nys polls june 2015On June 3, 2015 Quinnipiac released a poll showing voters are feeling negatively about the NYS Legislature as a whole, while continuing to favor their local representatives. In the poll Governor Cuomo has only a 2% margin of those favoring him.

Governor Cuomo had a 44% approval rating versus 42% disapproval rating, as voters are not satisfied with his handling of the corruption scandals that have plagued Albany this year. In February 2015 Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver [Democrat Manhattan] was indicted on federal corruption charges. And in May 2015 NYS Senate Leader Dean Skelos [Republican Long Island] was indicted by a federal Grand Jury.

Less than a year ago, NYS gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University surprised polls by garnering nearly 2 votes for every 3 won by the governor in the NYS Democratic primary. Ms. Teachout did not have much in the way of significant private backing or union support, but won nearly 40% of the vote waging an online campaign.

According to the Quinnipiac poll, voters by a margin of 52% - 32% said that with respect to Albany's corruption problem:

"... the Governor is part of the problem, not part of the solution."

As for the NYS Assemblymembers and NYS Senators the Quinnipiac Poll reported the following:

"Voters disapprove 60 - 26 percent of the job the State Legislature is doing, but approve 44 - 37 percent of their own Assembly member and approve 54 - 31 percent of their own state senator."

"At the same time, 45 percent of voters say their state senator should be thrown out in a general house-cleaning, while 40 percent say their senator deserves reelection."

"Voters are divided 41 - 41 percent on whether their Assembly member should be reelected or thrown out."

As you can see, the sentiments collected in the Quinnipiac poll seem a bit contradictory, as the answers received depend on how the questions are stated. Nonetheless, this looks to be an interesting legislative week as things wind down in Albany, and as the 2016 election cycle begins to ramp up.

A Look Inside Renaissance Charter School

One Of The Finest & One Of The First NYC Charter Schools

renaissance charter school jackson heightsFebruary 23, 2015 / Jackson Heights / Queens Schools / Queens Buzz.

I spent parts of a couple of days at the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights recently. One of the visits was to hear testimony given by the community with respect to renewing the school's NYC Department of Education charter. The second visit was to tour through the school to view the classrooms, facilities and become aquainted with the curriculums. What follows is an account of these visits, supplemented by a bit of outside research into ongoing debate and battle about the role of charter schools in the NYC public school system.

I arrived around lunchtime and met Peggy Heeney of the Development & Outreach department of the school. After a brief orientation and discussion about the tour upon which we were about to embark, we headed toward the back of the building on the first floor of the school. The Renaissance Charter School is located just off 37th Avenue at 81st Street in Jackson Heights.

Peggy told me that the building was previously a department store and that the school had moved into it several years after its founding. She informed me that the Renaissance School actually preceded the incorporation of charter schools in the NYC public school system in the 1990's.

We'll have more later this week about the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights.

Affordable Care Act Insurance Deadline

February 15th Is Final Day To Begin NYS Insurance Enrollment

Deadline For Enrollment Completion Extended To February 28th

ny state of health obamacare affordable care act queensUpdated February 15 / February 12, 2015 / Manhattan Healthcare / Gotham Buzz.

New Enrollments For ACA Health Insurance Ends February 15, 2015. Those who have begun the enrollment process by February 15th will have until February 28th to complete them. The deadline is February 15th to begin an enrollment. We received reports that many folks were having difficulty in getting through to a telephone operator, so it looks like there was a spike in demand near the deadline, which also happened in 2014.

On Saturday, NY State of Health extended the enrollment deadline by two weeks to enable those who do not complete their enrollments by Sunday, February 15th. Hence, enrollees now have until February 28th to complete enrollments in the New York State health insurance plans associated with the Affordable Care Act. It's worth mentioning that the NY State Of Health does not have operators available on Sunday and that they are only available Saturday from 9 am - 1 pm.

Enrollment On Target With Government Incentives. According to recent national news services, there were already 9.5 million enrollees in the Affordable Care Act plan as of a few weeks ago [mid / late January 2015]. The total enrollment target nationally for this year is 10.5 million. Last year the New York State of Health - which runs the NYS Affordable Care Act enrollments - signed up nearly 371,000 people. There were reports in January 2015 that the number of NY State of Health enrollees has grown this year. We also understand that the folks who enrolled last year and are currently participants in a plan will be automatically renewed in their Affordable Care Act Health insurance, so they are not required to update their enrollment with the state. But that said, they must renew their status with their health insurance provider around the time of the anniversary of their enrollment.

One news site recommended that folks already enrolled in the plan ought to review and update their enrollment to make sure they want to stay with their present insurer, and that they fully understand the tax consequences of their healthcare choices.

Tax Penalties 2015. One report noted that the majority of Affordable Care Act enrollees get some measure of monetary incentive to enroll in the plan. In 2014 the tax penalty for not having health insurance was $95 per adult or 1% of household income. In 2015 the penalty rises to $325 per adult or 2% of income.

Click here to view the New York State of Health website.

In Search Of A Civilization Lost By Mass Media

LaGuardia College Performing Arts Center Uses Theater & Art To Stimulate Cross Cultural Community Conversation

queens theaterFebruary 9, 2015 / Long Island City / Queens Theater / Queens Buzz. It was nearing sunset on Saturday evening as I made my way through a beautifully quiet Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The clean white snow glistened gently in the fading light, and the leafless trees along the road provided what felt like an ancient natural cathedral.

I checked in at the admissions desk and made my way to the second floor of the Queens Museum. The Queens Museum was once the home to the United Nations and hence provided the perfect context for this community conversational performance. The floor to ceiling windows looked out onto the landmarked Unisphere which emanated a universal vibe. In the long wide hallway a crowd was engaged in clustered conversations following the conclusion of four performances shown that afternoon. I had seen the performances at an event earlier in the season.

I began talking to Tasneem, a member of the audience who is shown in the photo at right standing alongside a photo taken by a friend of hers who is shown in the photo. Tasneem came from beyond sacred laguardia performing arts centerJordan twelve years ago, only two years after 911. She said that it's important for the general populace of Muslims to stop being afraid of showing they're Muslim, because otherwise New Yorkers and the rest of America will be left with the picture of Islam as depicted by a few extremists which is amplified and continually repeated by the American mass media.

I couldn't deny it. It seems American television stations, radio stations, newspapers and magazines are obsessed with providing the Islamic terrorists all the publicity they want.

But here, tonight, in the Queens Museum; I would not see any of the faces shown by our mass media. I would see only the faces of everyday Islamic New Yorkers who generally receive no publicity at all. Muslims who hail from dozens of cultures around the world. And there wasn't a single terrorist among them. Hence - and likely not coincidentally - there also wasn't a single mass medium reporter covering this event.

Tasneem told me how she, like many other American Muslims, fears showing she's Muslim because of the stereotypes created by the terrorists and perpetuated and blown up by the American mass media. The notion of a silent majority came to mind.

It occurred to me that the gore of the Islamic extremists must be good for tabloids and TV ratings. And I pondered what it must feel like to be stereotyped by this relentless, distorted depiction of one's culture and people. Andy Warhol's characterization of the mass production of images came to mind.

beyond sacred queens theatreI thought about what it would be like if I lived somewhere else in the world where the nation's media mass produced stereotypes of Americans, depicting us as murderers, rapists and thieves. That could easily be done if a nation's media decided to portray Americans by solely covering the 5.6 million violent crimes and the 17.1 million property crimes that took place in this country in 2011 alone [source: Wikipedia / Bureau of Justice Statistics]. That just wouldn't be right ... would it?

And yet, it seems that this is exactly what's been happening to Muslims in America, because of the unbalanced coverage of Islam by the big American mass media companies. The TV and newspaper tabloids make a living by sensationalizing - spinning things out of context - but aren't the real journalists supposed to provide perspective by putting things back in context?

This seems generally not to have been done.

And so the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center applied for and received a grant to begin such an effort. An effort to provide exposure to the lives and contributions of the other billion Muslims who go peacefully and productively about their lives each day, just like most of the rest of us. An effort to create a community conversant with a deeper and broader understanding of a millenial and centuries old culture that is embedded in the lives of over a billion people on the planet. People who live in dozens of nations around the globe, and none of whom are terrorists - and hence generally not represented in the American mass media.

I met American born Charles Bernett of Rego Park who had traveled to Cairo in 1979. Thirty-five years ago he was about to embark on his second trip through Africa ... [see photo at right].

Click here to learn more about the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center exploratory, year-long, theater and arts, cultural endeavor entitled Beyond Sacred: Unthinking Muslim Identity.

NYC Small Business Financial Aid Small Business Financial Programs NYS | lic partnership finance workshop nyc business incentives nye financial aid to businesses queens ny licl
NYC Small Business Financial Aid Small Business Financial Programs NYS

LICP Seeks To Balance Community Growth

Effort Underway To Guide Neighborhood Evolution

February 2, 2015 / Long Island City LIC / Queens Business / Queens Buzz. The LIC Partnership applied and received a grant to explore approaches through which government and business can work together to develop the LIC neighborhood in a communal way. This means somehow enabling the measured growth of multiple categories of human endeavor including residential growth, office growth, commercial growth, industrial growth and cultural growth. Based on some of the comments I heard at the workshop, I believe it may also include trying to maintain some measure of ethnic and income diversity within the community.

One of the panelists noted that generally what happens in real estate development is that everyone seeks to convert their real estate holdings to the highest price per square foot use. In NYC this is frequently the conversion of the current zoning to residential housing.

One of the problems that evolves over time is that the neighborhood loses some of its desirability as residents must start traveling longer and longer distances for basic amenities such as dry cleaning, groceries, recreational shopping and dining. Hence, to that end the LIC Partnership offered this workshop to help those working in the industrial and commercial real estate development categories to find government sponsored programs and financing designed to incent them to maintain, evolve or create space designed to maintain a diversified mix of real estate capacity within the Long Island City neighborhood.

Click here to read our report on the LIC Partnership Business Breakfast On Industrial & Commercial Incentives and Financing.

NYC Small Business Financial Aid Financial Programs NYS

Battle For Public School Budget Underway

Constitutional Right To Education & Public School Funding

queens schoolsJanuary 12, 2015 / Jackson Heights / Queens Schools / Queens Buzz News & Analyis. I attended a Town Hall Meeting entitled State Of Our Schools at PS 69 in Jackson Heights on Thursday evening. The town hall included a number of panelists who spoke about some of the top concerns and issues facing NYC and Queens public schools in the current round of budget negotiations currently underway in the NYS state capitol of Albany.

Cathy Nolan, NYS Assembly Chair of the Committee on Education, and Daniel Dromm, Chair of the NYC Council Education Committe, were joined by speakers representing The Alliance for Quality Education, Make The Road NY, Jackson Heights People For Public Schools, Community Education Council 30 and the Parent Association of PS 69.

The intent of the town hall was to inform residents about the issues currently being debated in the NYS State Capitol as the Assembly and Senate work on budget bills to fund public education in the state of New York.

Some of the issues discussed included every citizen's constitutional right to a quality public education, which was interpreted by the Courts to mean providing every citizen with the skills to compete in the 21st century economy and the capacity to function as a contributing member of society.

Other issues included discussion of the current tax cap bill - which would cap property taxes at 2.5% - and thus limit the money available for public education. Currently about 30% of NYC residents are property owners. Over the past decade an increasing percentage of city property has been acquired by large corporations known as Real Estate Investment Trusts. It's worth noting that one of the NYC tabloids, the NY Daily News, is owned by the billionaire founder of an NYC Real Estate Investment Trust.

Property owners say they already pay too much in taxes. One homeowner opined that government and school officials need to manage the funding more efficiently, and develop innovative / technological methods to achieve their educational goals. Many of the older, original charter schools were opened to do just that by exploring different approaches to educating the public.

Another initiative underway is to cap charter schools expansion. As mentioned above, many of the original charter schools were founded to explore different approaches to providing a quality public school education. In recent years some of the newer charter schools, particularly the charter school groups [Ed Note: such as Success Academy Charter Schools], have been seen as limiting the promise of an equal opportunity in public school education.

Charter School groups have been accused of targeting areas where they can attract high performing students away from the publicly run schools and then demand equivalent public funding per child. Charter school groups allegedly claim their test scores are attributable to their educational efforts, not the higher quality of their student enrollment [this alleged claim is at odds with independent studies]. As of this date only a small percentage of the charter schools have been audited as one of them - Success Academy - filed and won a lawsuit that prevented the NYS Comptroller from auditing them based on a NYS Supreme Court Justice Thomas Breslin ruling in June 2013. Its worth noting that Success Academy Charter Schools also reportedly receives funding from Hedge Fund b/millionaires who may also have stakes in Real Estate Investment Trusts.

Public educators note that the schools that service the broader based demographic population have higher per student funding requirements in order to assist students with special needs. They go on to note that standardized testing doesn't account for progress made with a broad based diversified student population that includes students with special needs such as: children with disabilities, children from troubled homes, children with less aptitude or less motivation, and children who need to learn English [English Language Learners ELL] in addition to the general curriculum. Additional resources are required to fund different approaches / programs designed to reach, motivate and develop these children's intrinsic abilities [eg. band students perform higher in math] and enable them to become contributing members to their families, their employers and the community.

A tax break for private education is also being debated at the state level. The tax break for private education was portrayed by one of the speakers as another tax break for those who already have the means and have chosen to send their children to non-public schools. Just as the property tax cap is expected to limit public education funding, so too the private school tax break is expected to limit the total funding available to educate those who attend public schools.

Families who send their children to private schools argue that they are reducing the strain on public school resources. They note that they are not asking for a total reimbursement [meaning total payback of private tuition] but rather a deduction, which would reduce their tax bill by some percentage of their private school tuition payments. It's worth mentioning that according to the 2012 Census update, the NYC Public School system paid over $20,000 per student per year, which is a far higher cost per student than any other public school system in the nation. The Boston public school system was a close second and the Washington DC public school system came in third.

This is just a summary of some of the challenges and issues discussed at the Town Hall related to NYS public school education funding. We'll delve into these in a bit more detail at a later date.

Role of Daily News Coverage In Queens Library Takeover | queens library sacks ceo gal ante queens library trustees dismiss thomas galante daily news coverage of queens library crisis of confidence
Role of Daily News Coverage In Queens Library Takeover

A Closer Look into Role of the Daily News Coverage in Takeover of Queens Library

  • Real Estate Billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman's Daily News Continuously Portrays the Fiscally Sound, Award Winning Queens Library Board of Trustees & CEO in a Negative Light

  • While Lauding the Brooklyn Public Library Trustees for Sale of Real Estate to Developer to Obtain Needed $40 Million Cash

  • The Queens Library has 62 Branch Locations Sitting Atop Some of the Best Real Estate in Queens Worth Hundred$ of Million$ or more

  • Queensborough President Melinda Katz Appears to have had Prior Relationship with Daily News Owner Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties as Lobbyist

Updated December 20 / December 16, 2014 / Queens Library / Queens News Analysis & Opinion - Issues / Queens Buzz / By Michael Wood / Edited By Agnes Wood.


Please note that to date no public official have spoken about any development deals using Queens Library property.


Daily News Publication of Leaks with No Announcement of Real Wrongdoing - What Happened to Presumption of Innocence?

I’m going to work under the assumption that Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante is innocent of all charges until proven guilty. That is the way things are supposed to be done in America.

Many leaks of all kinds of confidential information about the Queens Library CEO have made their way into Real Estate Billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman's Daily News this year - including plenty of minutiae - but not a single word about any real wrongdoing.

Daily News Headlines Appear to Play Role in Queens Library Takeover - Urging Replacement of Governance Team

The Daily News appears to have done more than just report on the Queens Library crisis of confidence. In fact, the Daily News was the first to report the crisis - and they appear to have played a major role throughout it - as their organization urged the dismissal of Galante and the trustees who supported him on numerous occasions in the headlines alone. The following are some examples of headlines taken from stories in the NY Daily News:

  • March 31, 2014 - Headline reads: "Turn The Page On Tom / Why the Queens Library Chief can no longer be trusted"
  • June 27, 2014 - Headline reads: "Sack them all / Bye-bye to Queens Library chief Tom Galante — and the board members who enabled his reign of greed"
  • July 24, 2014 - Headline reads: "Sack Galante next / Incompetent Queens Library board being dismantled"
  • December 11, 2014 - Headline reads: "Fat city fathead / Thousands of reasons to fire Tom Galante"

The Daily News - Name Calling CEO Galante in its Editorial Coverage

daily news coverage queens libraryLast week, the Daily News provided the public with more details of Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante’s expense reports over the past (few) year(s). Their presentation of the information appeared one-sided and cast Queens Library CEO in a negative light, as little effort seems to have been made to explain the business purpose or provide context for the expenditures.

The Daily News also published an editorial, which resorted to name-calling including calling Galante:

  • “fathead”
  • "little piggy"
  • "emperor"
  • and characterizing his spending as “preposterous”

This was not the first time they called him names in their publication this year.

We'll explore recent coverage by the Daily News in a more detail further down in this report, as it is reflective of their coverage of this crisis of confidence in the Queens Library all year. A crisis which the Daily News in fact began, with a series of exclusive reports earlier in the year.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz Appears To Have Had Prior Relationship with Daily News Owner Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties as a Lobbyist

According to a source, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz appears to have had prior relationship with Daily News Owner Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties as a lobbyist working for Greenberg Traurig law firm in 2012.

A New York Observer story dated, April 10, 2012, states:

"... Still, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has expressed skepticism toward the project, which he would like to see reduced in size, and the community panned the rezoning outright."

"To help makes its case, NYU recently retained Ed Wallace and Melinda Katz, two land-use attorneys who have helped shape a number of important development projects as they wended their way through public review—not least because both of them also once spent time as members of the  City Council, the body that will have the ultimate say on NYU’s rezoning."

And a bit later in the story.

"Mr. Wallace served as the councilman-at-large for Manhattan and chief of  staff to the council president back in the old days of the Board of Estimate, after which he joined Mort Zuckerman’s Boston Properties before moving over to Greenberg Traurig, the law firm where he is now co-managing partner of the New York office. Ms. Katz joined the firm in 2010 as a partner in the real estate division after serving two terms in the council, one of which was spent as chair of the influential land-use committee, where she oversaw a number of redevelopments similar to NYU’s."

The NYC government maintains a website showing registered lobbyists' relationships with clients. We took this image from the NYC.gov website which shows that from March through December of 2012 - one year before she became Queens Borough President - Melinda Katz was a registered lobbyist working for the lawfirm of Greenberg Traurig, with a client relationship with Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties.

melinda katz former lobbyist for boston properties


Click here to read our report regarding the Queens Library controversy and the Daily News reporting of it.

Queens Library Trustees Drop Lawsuit | queens library trustees drop lawsuit queens boro president melinda katz says its dismissed
Queens Library Trustees Drop Lawsuit

Queens Library Trustees Drop Lawsuit

Whistleblower / Freedom Of Information Law Request Continues

QBP Katz Does About Face On Providing Public With Transparency

 Updated Dec 12th / December 1, 2014 / Queens Library / News Analysis & Opinion / Queens Buzz / By Michael Wood. Last week the six former trustees of the Queens Library decided to drop their lawsuit against Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Attorney General Schneiderman and the State of New York.

The Judge signed their Notice of Dismissal [shown at right] on November 26, 2014. The Notice of Dismissal states:

"PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that whereas no party has served an answer or motion for summary judgment, Plaintiffs, by their undersigned counsel, hereby dismiss the above-captioned action, and all claims asserted in it, without prejudice, pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure."

The Queens Borough President issued a press release stating,

"Judge dismisses lawsuit against BP Katz".

What actually happened is that the Notice of Dismissal was made at the request of the plaintiffs as shown in the document to your right and signed by the Judge.

Many of the local newspapers re-published portions of the press release without citing that the dismissal was at the request of the plaintiffs - thus making it appear as though the Judge had decided to dismiss the case - not that the plaintiffs had decided to drop it. Since we first published this piece, several have updated their reports.

Air Beam: What Are You Breathing?

Adventurous Bike Ride With TA Queens ... On The Road To Find Out

air beam air quality queens nycNovember 10, 2014 / Queens Neighborhoods / Biking Queens / Queens Buzz. I just returned from a bike ride that began at the Central Park Boathouse and ended in Jackson Heights at 34th Street and the BQE Expressway. Celia Castellan, who is the organizer for Transportation Alternatives Queens [aka TA Queens] collaborated with me on this story which is about Queens & Manhattan air quality and also about biking. Celia is shown in the photo to your right, atop the Queensboro Bridge around 6 pm Monday night as we bike commuted from Manhattan to Queens.

It was a beautiful night with clear, dry air and temperatures around 60. Our mission was to test the Air Beam, a new device designed to enable people to measure the air quality, and then map the information to a public website, so that the public can begin to see what's going on with the air they breathe. The Air Beam is a blue, slightly-larger-than-a-cell-phone device, that you wear to measure the air [quality].

We began the ride in Central Park. We were on our way after receiving only a couple minutes of instruction. The device is brand-spanking new and must be sync'ed to an Android cell phone. The inventors work for a non-profit and are trying to raise a bit of money to mass produce it.

I'm going to take you on the rest of the ride, including a sampling of the air quality readings along the way, and provide some photos of the Queensboro Bridge bicycle commute a bit later this week. In the meantime, check out the Air Casting website and if you want to help, there are a few more days left on their Kickstarter campaign.

Affordable Housing In Queens - Hunters Point South | affordable housing queens hunters point south affordable housing lic sunnyside queens
Affordable Housing In Queens - Hunters Point South

Hunters Point South Opens Spring 2015

'Affordable' Housing Applications Begin Mid October

September 29, 2014 / Sunnyside NY / Sunnyside Real Estate / News & Analysis / Queens Buzz. On Monday evening I headed over to Sunnyside Community Services Center to attend the Hunters Point South Affordable Housing meeting. Several years ago the Hunters Point South development was approved by Community Board 2 and subsequently approved by the New York City Council and Mayor. Click the link above to read the earlier report.

The site has been under construction for years, and according to a Related Companies spokesperson at the meeting, the two towers containing affordable housing are to open to residents in the Spring of 2015. Naturally this assumes that all goes according to plan.

Hence on Monday evening, Related Companies representatives in tandem with Community Board Chairman Joe Conley, NY CCM Jimmy Van Bramer, NYS Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan [and NYS Senator Michael Gianaris was scheduled to appear but did not make it] - began the outreach to the community regarding the application process for the low income and affordable housing units in the two buildings.

hunters point south affordable housing aptsAttendance and interest by the community was very high and folks who arrived late were turned away as the Sunnyside Community Service Center was filled to capacity. That said there are two more of these outreach programs scheduled, the details of which you can find in our Things To Do calendar in the Business section. Click these links to gain a broader perspective of the Long Island City Neighborhood in which these units reside, as well as of the LIC real estate market for apts and condos or the Long Island City real estate market in general.

Full Report Contains Slides & Info On Qualification & Application Process For Hunters Point South Affordable Housing Units In LIC & Evaluation Of Affordability Versus Income & Apt Rents In LIC

Click here to read the rest of our report, including a photo slide show of the presentation of Affordable Housing in Hunters Point South in LIC Queens. I left out most of the presentation that dealt with how to set up a Housing Connect Profile and how to fill out the online application as it seemed pretty straightforward and you can also call the NYC Housing Authority [aka NYCHA] if you need help.

Queens Schools - NYC Public Education Issues | queens high schools queens intermediate schools jackson heights people for public schools jackson heights queens
Queens Schools - NYC Public Education Issues

People For Public Schools – In Jackson Heights

Dromm Discusses Educational Issues & What Can Parents Do To Help

May 28, 2014 / Jackson Heights / Queens Schools / Queens Buzz. I attended what was essentially a communal sit down dialogue Daniel Dromm, Chair of the NYC City Council Education Committee. He met with a six-month-old group that goes by the name of the Jackson Heights People For Public Schools. And together they discussed the plethora of issues being grappled with by educators, policymakers, parents and pupils in the wake of the Bloomberg Administration’s departure.

I consider myself to still be in the learning mode of trying to understand all of the issues faced by those managing public education so what follows is essentially a partial record of the discussion.

As background based what I do know from prior coverage in the Queens educational arena, the Bloomberg Administration embarked on an effort that appeared in some respects to favor de-unionizing and privatizing the NY Public School system via the closing of public schools which were staffed with generally experienced, unionized teachers; and opening privately run charter schools, generally run by fairly new teachers who worked for non-union wages. The Bloomberg Administration also moved toward splitting schools into smaller entities.

Click here to read more about a dialogue with Daniel Dromm, NYC City Council Chair of the Education Committee, about education & public schools in Queens.

Making Vision Zero Happen

Corona Residents Respond To Call To Action

vision zero corona jackson heights queens vision zero vision 0July 27, 2014 / Jackson Heights & Corona Neighborhood / Queens Issues / Queens Buzz. I attended a Vision Zero Workshop at the Corona Library on July 16th. The event was sponsored by Transporation Alterantives in conjunction with a host of other organizations and some local government officials, all of whom I will name at the end of this story when I complete it.

As you can see from the photo, there was no shortage of interest in the effort, as Jackson Heights and Corona are one of the 'Ground Zero' places where pedestrians are being killed or injured by motorists.

The effort had a number of components to it including education, law enforcement and untangling a road, biking and pedestrian system that was put together piecemeal instead of as a holistic approach to human movement ... like dance.

We'll post more about this at a later date including photo slide show.

Queens School Changes

Educational Infrastructure Lags Population Growth

queens schools proposed changesJanuary 28, 2014 / Jackson Heights & Woodside Neighborhood / Queens Schools / Queens Buzz. I attended a Department of Education meeting to discuss the proposed changes scheduled for Intermediate Schools 230 and 145 in Jackson Heights. The plan calls for adding new space to I.S. 230, and then redrawing the district map for the two schools, so that going forward some children who would have attended I.S. 145 will enroll in I.S. 230. The children currently attending I.S. 145 will not be affected.

The intent of the plan is to alleviate the overcrowding in I.S. 145 which is operating above capacity. The overcrowding would be addressed by redrawing the school district maps following the completion of the new building at I.S. 230, so that fewer students would enroll in I.S. 145 going forward. The meeting was well attended as the I.S. 145 auditorium was fairly full when I arrived.

About half or better of the attendees were spanish language speakers and the Department of Education had not brought enough Spanish translation headsets to conduct the meeting bilingually without having the English presentation followed by a Spanish translation by a volunteer in attendance. A couple of community leaders drew my attention to this, and one of whom - an educator himself - was very irate. He explained that by not having enough headsets, the meeting would now accomplish about half as much in the same time period because of the time consumed in explaining things first in English and then in Spanish. With the headsets, the explanations would be been communicated simultaneously. He also noted that the translator was a volunteer and there wasn't any mechanism in place to ensure that the volunteer's translations were correct.

I.S. 145 recently suffered a tragic loss, as a student was killed by a motorist only blocks away from the school. Within the past six months three school age children living in the Jackson Heights vicinity have been killed by motorists, and the safety plan for the new building was one of the many concerns on the agenda. We'll post more about the meeting, and include an update about some of the proposed changes to address overcrowding in a Woodside school as well.

It seems that Queens schools, like other aspects of Queens public infrastructure [the #7 subway line / mass transit] and affordable housing, are lagging well behind Queens population growth and private development.


Affordable Healthcare Deadline Monday

Enrollment Trending Toward 7 Million Target

affordable care act enrollment nysNew York State Of Health Surpasses 1.1 Million Applicants & 782K Enrollees

March 31, 2014 / Jackson Heights / Queens Healthcare / Queens Buzz. Get ready for an endless spin game about the enrollment numbers of the Affordable Healthcare Act aka Obamacare.

It appears the Administration is on target to achieve the first target they had set, prior to running into innumerable problems in October 2013 with the federal healthcare insurance website - healthcare.gov - when enrollments first began. Following the opening website debacle, the Administration lowered the enrollment targets from seven million to six million. They hit the six million number last week and the application and enrollment activity has spiked during the final week to submit an application.

affordable care act in queensThere are 36 states participating in the rollout of the national health insurance plan and 14 states which have opted out of the plan. New York state is one of the 36 participants and as of Sunday night, New York State had received over 1.1 million applications and nearly 800,000 people had enrolled. These numbers are up significantly versus three weeks ago, when applications were at about 900,000 and enrollment at about 500,000. As of early March, we were informed that about 70% of the enrollees were people who had not previously had health insurance. Hence by that metric the plan appears to be achieving its goal in New York State.

According to national reports, it also appears that the late applicants are skewing younger, which was another important metric for the Administration. The composition of young and older ages is needed to enable insurance company participants / healthcare plan providers make the financials work.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act [ACA] say that the enrollment numbers are inflated, as the enrollment numbers don't take into account enrollees making their first payments. Some opponents are also predicting that the enrollees are largely comprised of folks who will need government subsidies to pay their insurance premiums. Proponents have said that giving tax deductions for health insurance to people trying to maintain their health, is no different than providing tax deductions for interest on loans used to purchase a home.

We've attended a number of sessions about the Affordable Care Act and the regular folks attending these sessions have made statements saying that they are no longer locked into jobs they don't like because of health insurance, that the Affordable Care Act has significantly lowered their healthcare costs and that they are relieved to finally be covered by health insurance. Some healthcare providers we've spoken to have said that the Affordable Care Act will negatively impact their businesses, as while volume will possibly increase, the revenue per client will decrease.

Applications must be submitted no later than 11.59 pm Monday night, March 31st. We understand that national applicants will have another 7 days to provide documentation for application submissions that fail to meet the application criteria. And in New York State that deadline appears to be April 15th, but in both cases we suggest you confirm it by calling the group with which you're working.

Jackson Heights Beautification Group - JHBG | jackson heights beautification group jhbg jackson heights neighborhood
Jackson Heights Beautification Group - JHBG

JHBG Celebrates 25 Years Of Service

Jackson Heights Beautification Group Celebrates 25

September 30, 2013 / Jackson Heights Neighborhood / Queens Issues / Queens Buzz News. I had the pleasure of spending some time at the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group’s existence. During the course of the evening I had the opportunity to talk to a number of members, many of whom had been with the organization for decades. And during the course of these conversations I came away having learned something about their collective accomplishments, and in some senses, the early to modern history of Jackson Heights.

Some of the JHBG's Accomplishments

The Jackson Heights Beautification Group [also known as JHBG] started when a group of residents decided to 'take back the neighborhood' from vandals doing property damage [grafitti], real estate developers knocking down high quality edwin westley photo jhbg jackson heights beautification grouphistoric buildings, people breaking sanitation laws [doggie doo], and developers trying to obtain zoning variances that would downgrade the neighborhood. But the community organization was not just about participating in the governance process and ensuring that the city laws and ordinances were enforced; they also sought to enhance the quality of neighborhood life.

Hence the Jackson Heights Beautification Group sought funding for summer concerts, helped bring a farmers market to Jackson Heights, worked collaboratively to create more public parkland [78th Playstreet & the Garden School Athletic Field], and most recently helped start an orchestra. They will be the first to tell you that they didn't do these things by themselves, but however modest, they did play an important role.

In the photo above City Councilmember Daniel Dromm gives an award to Jackson Heights Beautification Group President Edwin O'Keefe Westley honoring the neighborhood group's service to the community.

And so you may click here to learn a bit about the formation and history of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, as well as a bit about the 20th century life in Jackson Heights as told by those who lived it.

1964 Worlds Fair - NYC World's Fair 1964 - 1965 | flushing meadow corona park 1964 - 1965 nyc worlds fair flushing meadow corona park developments shea stadium flushing meadows municipal stadium robert moses walter omalley brooklyn dodgers NY Mets nyc stadiums flushing meadows corona park 1964 1965 world's fair
1964 Worlds Fair - NYC World's Fair 1964 - 1965

The NYC World's Fair: 1964 - 1965 in Flushing Queens

NYC Stadiums: Battle of the Titans - PART II - Battle for the Heart of a Park & ... and the Soul of a Borough

January 21, 2013 / Queens Neighborhoods / Queens Issues / Queens Buzz. Click here for Part I of our report series on Developments in Flushing Meadows Corona Park where we journeyed back to the Corona Ash Dump, immortalized in the Great Gatsby, and later transformed into a World’s Fair utopia by Robert Moses, Fiorello LaGuardia and the 1939 World’s Fair committee.

The 1939 World’s Fair attracted over 40 million people, but lost over $100 million, as it opened the year Nazi Germany began invading its European neighbors, and while Japan was busy invading China. Nonetheless, in spite of a financial failure for the 1939 World’s Fair bondholders, the fair had enabled NYC and Robert Moses to complete phase one of his vision to transform the Corona Ash Dump into NYC’s premier city park, and build a whole new network of highways around it.

Ebbets Field in Brooklyn & The Brooklyn Dodgers

We resume our story, after WWII, as a young lawyer in Brooklyn began working for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers played at Ebbets Field just east of Prospect Park in what was once part of the Flatbush neighborhood [now Crown Heights] of Brooklyn. The year is 1943 as a 40 year-old lawyer, Walter O’Malley, leaves the Brooklyn Trust Company where he had oversight responsibilities for troubled companies, including the Brooklyn Dodgers.

You can click here later today to read Part II of our report on proposed developments in Flushing Meadows Corona Park entitled NYC Stadiums & Battle of the Titans.

Or click this link in the meantime to view Part I of our report series about the beginnings of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the 1939 World's Fair

Development, Healthcare, Education - Queens News | education healthcare news from around queens healthcare news astoria education news lic long island city education news corona healthcare news flushing immigration news astoria education news sunnyside healthcare news woodside education news jackson heights healthcare news education news in queens
Development, Healthcare, Education - Queens News

Development, Healthcare, Education & Social Issues in Queens - News Briefs

News Briefs About Real Estate Development, Health, Education & Social Issues in Queens

February 24, 2013 / LIC & Astoria / Queens Buzz.  This is a collection of art news briefs from Queens nieghborhoods.

Click here for more Real Estate Development, Healthcare, Education & Social Issues in Queens News briefs.

Click to quick scroll down to:

real estate development in queens

Queens Library Lawsuit Controversy Reform Bill | queens library trustees fired queens library trustees sue borough president melinda katz nye senators pass queens library reform bill
Queens Library Lawsuit Controversy Reform Bill

Queens Library - Report Series

CEO Galante & Trustees Controversy

September 12, 2014 / Queens Neighborhoods / Queens Issues / Queens Buzz.  Given the ongoing importance and drama associated with the Queens Library lawsuit, controversy and Reform Bill, we decided to create a section dedicated to it so that readers interested in learning more about it, may find a public record of what is happening to the Queens Public Library system.

Click here to read our reports about the Queens Library lawsuit, controversy & Reform Bill.

CB Votes Split On USTA Expansion Plan

usta expansion plans in flushing meadows corona park fmcpMarch 14, 2013 / Flushing Corona / Issues Facing Queens / Queens Buzz. The USTA has asked the city of New York to give it .68 of an acre of Flushing Meadows Corona Park so that it can proceed with an expansion plan. The expansion plan is estimated to increase the sports complex capacity for the U.S. Open by about a third, while increasing the USTA footprint in the park by .68 of an acre. The USTA informed the audience attending the Community Board 3 meeting that this will result in more jobs in Queens. They also talked about the positive estimated annual $784 million economic impact that the USTA has had on NYC - according to a study done by a private consulting firm named AKRF, Inc.

The detractors informed the audience that this is the first step in a much larger effort toward a massive privatization of Flushing Meadows Corona Park by several large, well-flushing meadows corona parkfunded corporate interests. The opponents talked about three other proposals which were not a part of the USTA plan. These other proposals to develop private interests on public parkland include the development of a shopping mall by a private investment group in tandem with the owners of CitiField; 2) a condominium / hotel complex done by another group of private investors; and 3) a 13 acre soccer stadium by Major League Soccer, which is also a privately held corporation.

Community Board Tally & Boro Prez Candidates Positions

In the end Community Board 3 voted against the expansion plan, citing among other things, promises not kept when the USTA asked to expand its footpint in 1993. All six Community Boards have now voted on the USTA Expansion proposal, with three voting for it and three voting against it. We'll post a far more complete report on this Community Board Meeting at a later date.

While I was attending the Community Board 3 Meeting in Corona, all six Queens Borough Presidential candidates were attending a forum about the issues facing Queens at the Greater Astoria Historical Society in Astoria. The issue of turning over public parkland to private interests came up during the forum. To date only City Councilmember Tony Avella has come out against giving up public parkland to private interests. NY Senator Jose Peralta is the only other candidate to take a stance on the issue, but only on one of the proposed developments, namely the erection of the MLS Soccer Stadium on 13 acres of FMC Parkland [which he conditionally supports if MLS fulfills all of their promises]. All four other candidates have taken a wait-and-see stance on the issue.

Click here to read our past reports related to the proposed development plans for Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The first report provides an early history of Flushing Meadows Corona Park I and the second report provided an intermediate history of Flushing Meadows Corona Park II which included a number of relevant historic lessons related to sports complex developments in FMCP as well as NYC.

Jackson Heights Beautification Group - JHBG | jackson heights beautification group jhbg jackson heights neighborhood
Jackson Heights Beautification Group - JHBG

JHBG Celebrates 25 Years Of Service

Jackson Heights Beautification Group Celebrates 25

September 30, 2013 / Jackson Heights Neighborhood / Queens Issues / Queens Buzz News. I had the pleasure of spending some time at the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group’s existence. During the course of the evening I had the opportunity to talk to a number of members, many of whom had been with the organization for decades. And during the course of these conversations I came away having learned something about their collective accomplishments, and in some senses, the early to modern history of Jackson Heights.

Some of the JHBG's Accomplishments

The Jackson Heights Beautification Group [also known as JHBG] started when a group of residents decided to 'take back the neighborhood' from vandals doing property damage [grafitti], real estate developers knocking down high quality edwin westley photo jhbg jackson heights beautification grouphistoric buildings, people breaking sanitation laws [doggie doo], and developers trying to obtain zoning variances that would downgrade the neighborhood. But the community organization was not just about participating in the governance process and ensuring that the city laws and ordinances were enforced; they also sought to enhance the quality of neighborhood life.

Hence the Jackson Heights Beautification Group sought funding for summer concerts, helped bring a farmers market to Jackson Heights, worked collaboratively to create more public parkland [78th Playstreet & the Garden School Athletic Field], and most recently helped start an orchestra. They will be the first to tell you that they didn't do these things by themselves, but however modest, they did play an important role.

In the photo above City Councilmember Daniel Dromm gives an award to Jackson Heights Beautification Group President Edwin O'Keefe Westley honoring the neighborhood group's service to the community.

And so you may click here to learn a bit about the formation and history of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, as well as a bit about the 20th century life in Jackson Heights as told by those who lived it.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park - History & Development | flushing meadows corona park history and proposed developments flushing meadows corona park
Flushing Meadows Corona Park - History & Development

Flushing Meadows Corona Park History & Development

Reports About Proposed Developments & History of Flushing Meadows Corona Park

July 14, 2013 / Flushing / Queens History / Queens Buzz. This section of the site is dedicated to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a park for all of the people of Queens & NYC.

Some public officials seem ready to trade off publicly owned open space for the promise of jobs and public housing. Promises that, as we've seen in other boroughs, are not always kept. 

There are plenty of other places in Queens and NYC that need real development.  Public parkland shouldn't be one of them - which is why there are laws protecting public parkland as if it were sacrosanct.  That said, the NYC Parks Department could use additional funding to enable them to raise the level of maintenance and security in many Queens & NYC parks, and in particular, Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Click here for our reports about the history of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and about proposals and plans to develop it.

Pedestrian Malls In Queens - Newtown Plaza Astoria | newtown avenue plaza pedestrian malls in astoria pedestrian malls in queens newtown avenue pedestrian mall
Pedestrian Malls In Queens - Newtown Plaza Astoria

Pedestrian Malls In Queens

Meeting On Astoria Pedestrian Mall Tuesday

September 10, 2012 / Astoria / Queens Community Issues / Queens Buzz. On Tuesday evening September 11, there’s a Community Board 1 meeting at the Astoria World Manor on 25-22 Astoria Blvd. One of the topics on the agenda is which DOT [Department of Transportation] proposal to approve, regarding changing the traffic configuration in and around the intersection of Newtown Avenue and 30th Avenue in Astoria.

According to the Queens DOT, this intersection is the site of numerous accidents, and is more dangerous than approximately 90% of all intersections in Queens. It’s not difficult to understand why, as it is the nexus point for five roads: east & west on 30th Avenue, north & south on 33rd Street and northwest on Newtown Avenue [see map on next page]. The photo to your left was taken on August 25th when Newtown Avenue was temporarily converted into a pedestrian plaza.

Click here to read our report on the Newtown Plaza, in which we include related reports on other pedestrian malls in Queens, NYC and NYS.

Community Development in Queens

hospitals clinics dentists doctors medical professionals ophthalmologists healthcare in queens

Doctors in Queens Astoria LIC & Sunnyside | doctors in lic astoria sunnyside long island city queens doctors
Doctors in Queens Astoria LIC & Sunnyside

Finding Dr. Right - Doctors in Queens

Doctors and Healthcare in LIC, Astoria, Sunnyside, Woodside & Queens

February 16, 2012 / Long Island City / Queens Buzz. I attended a community lecture put on by Mount Sinai Queens entitled Finding Doctor Right. It was hosted at the Avalon Riverview, which is located down on 2-01 50th Avenue near the East River in LIC.

When I arrived, I took note of the audience demographics which had a female / male skew of about two to one; and the ages ranged from starting a family to planning retirement. Our speaker was Dr. Nierman, VP of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer, and one of the people responsible for hiring doctors at Mount Sinai Queens.

Click here to read our report and view photos about finding Dr. Right – doctors and healthcare in LIC and Queens.

Elmhurst Hospital - Queens | elmhurst hospital queens ny public hospitals in queens ny healthcare in jackson heights elmhurst queens
Elmhurst Hospital - Queens

Elmhurst Hospital - Jackson Heights

April 19, 2010 / Elmhurst & Jackson Heights / Queens Buzz. I arranged to conduct an interview and take a tour of the Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. The hospital’s Associate Executive Director of External Affairs, Dario Centorcelli made time in his schedule to accommodate my visit. I arrived mid morning and we immediately struck up a lively dialogue about Elmhurst and Queens hospitals which would last past lunchtime. During that time I found Dario had a near encyclopedic mind about the hospitals in Queens. In the photo to your left you see surgery being performed at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.

Click here to read the rest of the story including numerous photos and a slide show of Elmhurst Hospital in Queens NY.

Hospitals, Clinics & Healthcare in Queens


education schools in queens

Proposed Changes For PS 122 | ps 122 astoria dept of ed planned changes for ps 122 astoria charter schools in astoria queens intermediate schools gifted and talented programs at queens schools
Proposed Changes For PS 122

Astoria Moms Defend Children’s Rights

Madmen: Bloomberg Dept of Education Does A Don Draper

March 19, 2013 / Astoria Neighborhood / Queens Schools / Queens Buzz.  Editorial / Report.  We attended a Community Board One Meeting Tuesday evening, following up on the concerns of Astoria parents, regarding the proposed changes to PS 122, which were recently announced by the Department of Education [DOE]. 

Having spent a week in pursuit of information from the DOE about the proposed changes – statements regarding the difficulty in obtaining information from them - rang true. 

In the photo above, Anastasia Cunningham and her son talk about how the Dept of Ed hasn't put anything in writing, hasn't conducted any impact study, ps 122 queensand she talked about how the changes could possibly destroy the learning environment that contributes to the success of PS 122 in Astoria.

Click here to read the rest of our Editorial / Report on the Community Board One Meeting regarding Department of Education proposed changes to PS 122 Astoria.  Story & photos by Michael Wood.

Dept of Ed Plans Big Changes For PS 122 | ps 122 astoria dept of ed planned changes for ps 122 astoria charter schools in astoria queens intermediate schools gifted and talented programs at queens schools
Dept of Ed Plans Big Changes For PS 122

Battle For Control Of PS 122 Astoria

Dept of Ed Announces Big Changes & Few Details

Public Education Could Be Defining Issue Of NYC Mayoral Race

March 17, 2013 / Astoria Neighborhood / Queens Schools / Queens Buzz.  The Department of Education announced its intention to make sweeping changes to PS 122 on February 28, 2013 to the PTA of the school. We were told of the general gist of these changes by PS 122 PTA members and parents.  We then followed up with the Department of Education, to be sure we understood the Department of Education’s announcement correctly.

Before we discuss the general gist of the Department of Education plans for PS 122, it helps to have a bit of background to better understand what appears to be happening. 

ps 122 astoriaThere are several important elements that seem to be at the core of the issue: 1) the Department of Education’s plans to reconfigure one of the most successful public elementary / intermediate schools in Queens and the NYC school system, 2) the Department of Education’s sudden interest in providing the school children of PS 122 grades K through 5 with the opportunity to continue matriculation within the same school [building] throughout all eight grades [6 – 8], and 3) Success Academy Charter Schools announcement that they plan to open a new charter school in Queens school district 30 in August of 2014. 

Click here to read the beginning of our DRAFT report about the Department of Education Plans to reconfigure PS 122 in Astoria.  Be advised that there is a Community Board One Meeting March 19, Tuesday evening beginning at 6.30 pm at the Astoria World Manor and a PEP Meeting on March 20th in Brooklyn. The large top photo above was published with permission by Nigel McKenna and the second photo was taken by Queens Buzz of NYC Comptroller and possible Mayoral candidate John Liu listening to concerned PS 122 parents at a United Community Civic Association meeting in Astoria.

Education & Schools in Queens


social issues immigration in queens

Occupy Astoria LIC | occupy astoria lic occupy queens occupy wall st occupy astoria lic
Occupy Astoria LIC

Occupy Astoria, LIC & Queens

August 20, 2012 / Astoria & LIC / Social Issues in Queens / Queens Buzz. I attended the Occupy the Citi rally on June 27th at Citibank to learn a bit more about the Occupy Astoria / LIC movement. As it was only a few days before a number of large Queens high schools were to be re-opened as new schools [on July 1st, 2012], I found several teachers participating who were anxious about being able to keep their jobs. There were also a number of musicians in attendance and one of them was playing a tune on his sax.

As this was a protest of sorts, I had kind of expected to see a more angry crowd, but instead I encountered more of a mellow mood. Disillusionment? To be sure, but also some good old fashioned American optimism and tenaciousness right alongside it.

Click here to become more familiar with the Occupy Astoria LIC movement in Queens, as we introduce you to some of its members and include a photo slide show.

U.S. Census Data 2010 - Queens | 2010 queens census jackson heights corona flushing woodside elmhurst 2010 u.s. census queens ny
U.S. Census Data 2010 - Queens

Queens Census 2010

For Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Flushing & Woodside

October 25, 2011 / Jackson Heights Neighborhood / Real Estate in Jackson Heights / Queens Buzz. I just returned from a fascinating look into the Census data for Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst, Flushing and Woodside.

Fascinating? Yes, fascinating. Fascinating because there have been significant demographic shifts in these neighborhoods over the past decade. And because Steven A. Romalewski, Director of CUNY Mapping Services, gave us a demographic map presentation, the likes of which I’d never seen before. Arturo-Ignacio Sanchez of Community Board Three added quite a bit of qualitative flavor to the presentation, reminding me of some of my best college professors [because he was knowledgeable and enthusiastic]. Danny Dromm, the NYC City Councilmember of Jackson Heights was the sponsor of this presentation.

But I digress. Click here to view our report on the 2010 Queens census [with exclusive emphasis on Jackson Heights / Corona / Elmhurst & adjacent neighborhoods], including slide show with many of Steven Romalewski’s slides and a link to an interactive mapping site.

Social Issues & Immigration in Queens


laws compliance crime in queens

Queens Employment - Jobs Sectors & Employment In Queens | jobs in queens employment categories and sectors in queens astoria employment lic sunnyside woodside jackson heights employment flushing jamaica ny bayside whitestone employment unemployment
Queens Employment - Jobs Sectors & Employment In Queens

Queens County Employment Bests NYC

Queens is one of NYC’s Top Employment Performers

December 19, 2012 / Queens Neighborhoods / Employment in Queens / Queens Buzz.   Tis the season to be jolly and reflect on what’s happened economically over the past year while contemplating and planning for what lies ahead.  To that end we did a bit of research into Queens current economic trends, specifically in the employment area.

Queens Employment & Economy is Diversified

Queens has a relatively diversified employment base.  Queens County industries include: 1) transportation facilities such as JFK and LaGuardia Airports, Long Island Railroad stations, a network of MTA subways and buses, and a network of federal, state and local roadways,
2) energy infrastructure including two major power plants along the East River,
3) a growing hospitality section including hotels, a large casino, two horse race tracks, a major league baseball team, thousands of small to large retailers,
4) an array of about 2,200 restaurants,
5) a full service construction industry,
6) some light manufacturing and
7) government / social services / education as Queens is home to about a dozen hospitals [both private & public] and over three hundred public schools.

Click here to read our report on employment, unemployment & industry in Queens

Political Advertising Workshop In Astoria Queens - Museum of the Moving Image | political advertising workshops in queens teens take the city ymca program in queens teens take the city political advertising workshop at the museum of the moving image in astoria queens nyc
Political Advertising Workshop In Astoria Queens - Museum of the Moving Image

Analyzing & Creating Political Advertising

Museum of the Moving Image & The NYC / Queens YMCA

November 1, 2012 / Astoria / Film in Queens / Queens Buzz. I visited the Museum of the Moving Image Friday evening to observe a political advertising educational program, being offered to the YMCA’s Teens Take The City group.

Although New York has the second highest state population in the nation and is home to the second highest number of Electoral College votes; the state has not been the recipient [or shall I say victim] of a barrage of political advertising – as are not the inhabitants and voters of one of the 2012 swing states.

But, Christopher Wisniewski, the Museum of the Moving Image Deputy Director of Education, reminded me that in 2013 we will likely be inundated with a whole barrage of political ads, as the coming municipal elections include the selection of a new mayor and city council members.

In the photo above you can see one group of teens discussing the infamous ‘Daisy’ commercial broadcast by Lyndon Johnson during the 1964 presidential election. Click here to read more about the Museum of the Moving Image political advertising film workshops in Astoria Queens.

Lessons of a Queens Hurricane Chaser | lessons of hurricane sandy in queens ny hurricanes in queens nyc lessons of hurricane sandy damage nyc astoria lic long island city sunnyside woodside queens jackson heights flushing jamaica ny east river
Lessons of a Queens Hurricane Chaser

Lessons of a Queens Hurricane Chaser

Chasing Hurricane Sandy in Queens

October 30, 2012 / Queens NY / Queens Weather / Queens Buzz.  It was 5 pm Monday evening as I set out on my bicycle to truly experience the tropical winds of Hurricane Sandy.  I chose the evening hours because it was after the high winds would have arrived, shaking loose (hopefully) most of what was to be shaken loose, so I would not be hit in the head by any debris.

The early evening was also just a few hours ahead of the ‘tidal surge’ we had been warned about, which was supposed to peak in the East River at about 8 pm.  And since it would still be light out, I could get some photos of my journey into the tropical storm as it hit Queens.

In the photo above you can see a tree bending to the winds of Hurricane Sandy, with the new LIC skyscapers along the East River in the background. The winds were blowing fiercely along the East River.

Click here to read more about The Lessons of a Queens Hurricane Chaser - photos of Hurricane Sandy in Queens.

Elections, Laws & Compliance in Queens


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Member Opinions:
By: PeterParker on 11/17/12
Hi Carol, You can post events by clicking into the Member Events Calendar which you can find by hovering over the 'Things To Do' button on the top tool bar.

By: CarolLacks on 10/16/12
Dear Queens Buzz, I could not find where to post this community event on your website. Thanks, Carol

Adults and Children of all ages are invited to Maple Grove’s GREAT Halloween Event & Carved Pumpkin Contest on Saturday, October 20, 2012 at Maple Grove Cemetery, 83-15 Kew Gardens Road, off of Lefferts Boulevard. This spooktacular event is sponsored by the Friends of Maple Grove, www.friendsofmaplegrove.org.

Beginning at 2:00pm sharp! to 3:30pm, the day's program will be launched for adults and children 12 years of age and older. The Strange and Unusual with a Touch of the Paranormal Walking Tour is an annual Halloween favorite and Maple Grove's historian, Carl Ballenas, will lead the tour. Carl, who cares deeply about the stories of those buried at Maple Grove, will share some true tales that should only be told at Halloween!

At 3:45pm, the Children’s portion of this GREAT Halloween Event will begin with a 15-minute Costume Parade. At 4:00pm, there will be expert storytelling, face painting, holiday crafts and lots of carved pumpkins to admire.

For those who would like to participate in the Carved Pumpkin Contest (adults and children), please bring along your pre-carved pumpkin with a candle inside. Pumpkin drop off is from 3:00pm-5:00pm and viewing from 5:00pm-6:00pm, almost sundown at the cemetery. Judging and prizes will be awarded to; TOP Pumpkin, Funniest, Scariest, Cutest, Most Original or any other categories that the judges might invent. Judges will consider alternative vegetables such as eggplant, water chestnuts, endive or any carved vegetable. Anything goes! Be creative!

This year we will not be howling at the moon but we will have a very special evening program, City Skies. Using a Celestron Telescope, Astronomy specialist, Conditions permitting, Randy Baron will show you the gems of the sky; the waxing crescent moon, the Andromdeda galaxy and beautiful star clusters.

Donation: $5, Friends of Maple Grove Members and children under 12 years FREE
For more information: (917) 881-3358, info@friendsofmaplegrove.org

Mark your calendar for Maple Grove’s GREAT Halloween Event & Carved Pumpkin Contest on Saturday, October 20, 2012!

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