Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Mientras los aeropuertos reanudaban los vuelos y ConEdison confirmaba la restauración del servicio eléctrico a la mayoría de sus clientes, las arterias de la ciudad seguían llenas de nieve y cientos de autobuses y ambulancias continuaban abandonados en medio de calles intransitables.
En rueda de prensa Bloomberg dijo ayer que estos vehículos han demorado la limpieza reportando que solamente en el Cross Bronx Express se habían rescatado mil autos. El alcalde informó que se están utilizando todos los recursos de la ciudad, que se ha pedido ayuda a las empresas particulares y se está recibiendo equipo de otras localidades. Defendiendo la actuación de la ciudad recordó que hasta las 9:30 p.m. del lunes no cesó de caer nieve.
Sin poder recurrir a sus vehículos o a tomar un taxi los neoyorquinos se enfrentaron a trenes sin servicio o con servicio muy limitado y todas las líneas de trenes subterráneos con retrasos. "Estamos trabajando con el Departamento de Limpieza para dar prioridad a la limpieza de la nieve en las rutas de los autobuses", indicó en un comunicado la Autoridad Metropolitana de Transportes (MTA).
El Concejal Daniel Dromm de Jackson Heights, Queens, calificó la respuesta municipal a la tormenta de "desastrosa" y se preguntó: "En qué mundo vive el alcalde si es que verdaderamente piensa que ha sido satisfactoria".
"Algunas veces la alcaldía parece olvidar que hay cinco condados. Partes de mi distrito están completamente cubiertas de nieve", dijo el concejal Dan Hollaran que representa el distrito 19 de Queens.
Ayer el presidente del senado estatal, Malcolm A. Smith y funcionarios electos de Queens solicitaron en rueda de prensa una investigación para determinar las causas de la inadecuada respuesta de la ciudad. No fueron los únicos.
El defensor del pueblo Bill de Blasio solicitó información a las agencias municipales sobre cómo se prepararon y pidió a los neoyorquinos que además de llamar al 311 llamaran a su oficina 212 669 7250 para reportar. "Estoy cada vez más preocupado de que la ciudad no tomó las medidas necesarias para minimizar los trastornos", dijo de Blasio quien espera que esto ayude para las próximas tormentas. Por su parte la portavoz del Concejo Christine Quinn anunció el inicio de audiencias públicas el 10 de enero.
El Senador Rubén Díaz afeó las risas del alcalde durante la rueda de prensa del lunes en la que dijo "que no era el fin del mundo". "Puede que para su mundo o para los espectáculos de Broadway, pero hay neoyorquinos que dependen de los servicios municipales que nuestros impuestos están supuestos a proporcionar". Asimismo preguntó: "Sabíamos que la tormenta venía pero nadie puso cadenas a las ruedas de los buses, los camiones de limpieza o las ambulancias".
Pidiendo a los neoyorquinos que tuvieran paciencia y asegurándoles que se estaba haciendo todo lo posible, el alcalde solicitó ayer donaciones de sangre, ya que los bancos de la ciudad se encuentran bajo mínimos. Los voluntarios pueden llamar al 1-800-933-2556.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
From 1010 WINS: By Juliet Papa
City Councilman Daniel Dromm shook his head and came short of stamping his feet on two feet of unplowed snow on 75th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens.
“The fact that there has been no plow in this neighborhood at all is a disaster,” Dromm said. “It’s hard to understand why the city was so unprepared for this storm because we knew for a long time that it was coming.”
“This is going on day three and usually what we see is a plow coming down the street on the day when the storm starts, then you see something coming the day after and basically the third day you expect it to be clear but that’s not what happened here,” he added.
Many are putting the blame on Bloomberg. “He is not doing what he is supposed to do,” one woman said. ”He’s not running the city, we’re wondering what is happening.”
“I think the Mayor must be living in another world if he thinks that the response to this has been satisfactory,” Dromm said.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
One of the first garden communities in the U.S. could be the site of a new six-story, mixed-use building whose current design, if approved by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, won't include any green space at all.
Phoenix Manor, the proposed apartment building, is planned as a Georgian-style structure with 45 units and street-level retail property. The project's planned site is at the corner of 37th Avenue and 84th Street in the Jackson Heights Historic District in Queens.
Approval by the landmarks commission is needed because the project falls within the historic district, which covers roughly 38 blocks from Northern Boulevard to Roosevelt Avenue and from 76th to 88th streets.
Locals have been circulating petitions opposing the building proposal for several months. Daniel Dromm, a Jackson Heights councilman who opposes the project in its current form, described the design as an "architectural blight" at a landmarks commission hearing this month. Noting it doesn't include "an inch of green space," he said it was out of character for the area.
The project's attorney, Howard Weiss, said that much of the opposition was originating from the proposed building's immediate neighbors who were used to having a one-story structure next door.
"It's a fact of life in an urban environment," said Mr. Weiss. "When development occurs, sometimes people lose their views."
He added that the design was in compliance with the historic district guidelines, and said he expected the landmarks commission to vote for it. No date has been set for the vote.
The site of the proposed building is currently a vacant lot that formerly housed eight mom-and-pop stores destroyed in a fire earlier this year. Some of the businesses that lost nearly everything in the fire have since found new homes in the area.
Colony Wine and Liquor store, a fixture in the community for decades under different owners, reopened just down the block four months ago, while the former Willo Barber Shop now stands as Marcos Barber Shop.
Others have been less fortunate. Eighty-three-year-old Thomas Kourakos, whose shoe-repair shop on the stretch dated to 1956, is among those who haven't returned.
Still others are struggling to regain some semblance of stability. Maria Solano, owner of Lalita's party-favors store, now operates out of a Laundromat on 37th Avenue where she has selling space set up at the front. New businesses also have opened up on 37th Avenue in the past few months, including Slim's II Bagels and La Gran Uruguaya Bakery.
A steady influx of professionals and young families has boosted the area's commercial real estate as well as its residential prices in recent years.
The neighborhood is a quick hop (15 minutes) to Manhattan and is one of the best-connected sections in Queens, with the Roosevelt Avenue subway stop linking the 7, E, F, G, M and R lines.
For foodies, there are mainstays like El Chivito D'Oro, an Uruguayan steakhouse on 82nd Street, and Jackson Diner, an Indian restaurant in "Little India" on 74th Street that also just opened an outpost in Greenwich Village. Numerous Colombian bakeries and Mexican food carts have been around for years, along with growing numbers of Nepalese-Tibetan restaurants.
But rising commercial rents are making the area unsustainable for some retailers, especially in light of recent economic woes. Fashion Heights, a clothing store, is slated to close this month, while Primos Discount, just a couple of doors down, hasn't been able to negotiate new lease terms.
"This is the worst business has been since I opened 36 years ago," said Sue Lee, owner of the Ho flower shop on the same block as Fashion Heights and Primos. "When times are tough, you don't need flowers, but you still need to eat."
Michele Beaudoin, a broker with Beaudoin Realty Group who is a Jackson Heights native, thinks the ownership of the area's retail spaces makes a difference.
"Unlike the individually owned stores you find in Astoria or Forest Hills," she said, "many 37th Avenue stores are owned by large building owners, corporations and huge landlords, which makes them less affordable."
Local business owners, meanwhile, have mixed feelings about the Phoenix Manor proposal and the prospects of having a new apartment building in their midst.
"It's bittersweet for me because on the one hand there will be more people who need our services," said Alex Chin, owner of Kelly Cleaners, which stands next to the proposed building on 37th Avenue. "But by the time the new building goes up, my lease will expire and I probably won't be able to afford the rent anymore."
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) announced Monday that he had fulfilled a campaign promise to ensure his office was handicap accessible.
Previously, accessing the Jackson Heights office was a challenge for both seniors and constituents with disabilities, he said. Dromm unveiled a newly constructed ramp on the side of the building, equipped with a new door wide enough for wheelchair and walker access. In addition, the office’s restroom was modified to accommodate wheelchairs.
“Coming into the City Council, it was imperative for me that my office is accessible to all in my district,” said Dromm. “This was the first step in an effort to help provide services to our constituents with disabilities. I want to commend building owner Fernando Arias for working with us to provide these much needed accommodations.”
Arias said he was happy to oblige. “It was a pleasure to work with Councilmember Dromm on this initiative,” he said. “We are extremely proud to have outfitted our building to meet the needs of people with disabilities.”
Members of the 504 Democratic Club, the first of its kind dedicated to people with disabilities were also on hand to champion the building’s improvements.
“Virtually every candidate appearing before 504’s forums pledges to make their offices accessible,” said second vice president of the club, Michael Schweinsburg. “Not all keep their promise. Council member Dromm has always gone the extra mile to keep his promises that all his seniors and people with disabilities will face no barriers in accessing government service.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990 states that government buildings must be made handicap accessible. However, there is an exemption for public offices like Dromm’s and post offices.
Disability rights advocates congratulated Dromm for going the extra mile to work with their community. “I am pleased that Councilmember Dromm reached out to me during the design phase to ask for my suggestions about how to make his office more accessible to persons with disabilities,” said leading disabilities advocate, Marvin Wasserman. “I applaud him for his commitment to serving the needs of all his constituents.”
Dromm promised to continue working toward making other buildings in his district accessible, including the United States Post Office located on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights.
“This has been a huge point of contention for many people in our community. I am currently working with postmaster Bill Rogers to install a ramp. I am grateful that the postmaster is working with us, because federal buildings were exempt from the law when it was originally enacted. I strongly believe that all buildings should be accessible to every New Yorker,” Dromm said.
Elected officials, gay rights advocates and veterans celebrated in Jackson Heights on Saturday after a Senate vote paved the way for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the military policy which prevents gays and lesbians from serving openly.
On Wednesday, President Obama signed legislation that will bring an end to DADT.
For some Queens residents, the moment was emotional. Gay Army and Navy veteran Denny Meyer of Kew Gardens said he was “ecstatic” when he heard the news. Meyer is the president of the New York chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights. “We have been working on it for six or seven years,” he added.
Meyer served from 1968 to 1978, but never came out as gay. “In those days the phrase was we ‘served in silence,’” he said. “In those days, if you were found out, you could be killed, and if you weren’t killed, you would be dishonorably discharged.”
However, according to Meyer, times have changed. “Today many young people serving in the military have never been in the closet, they came out in junior high school.”
Meyer said DADT forced people back into the closet or left them to come out at their own risk.
The policy prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military. More than 14,000 men and women have been discharged from the armed forces since 1993 under DADT, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
Though the repeal has been set into motion, it will not immediately take effect. Military leaders must first examine and re-write policies and certify that repeal won’t negatively impact the armed forces.
Under DADT, investigations are not supposed to be initiated regarding sexual orientation, but if servicemember is reported to be openly gay, there could be a hearing and he or she could be discharged.
Former Queens Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Dan Hendrick said that was exactly what happened to him in 1992.
A Navy linguist for over three years, Hendrick expressed interest in another service member whom he thought was gay. Rather than simply rebuffing him, the man reported Hendrick. An administrative hearing was launched and Hendrick was publicly confronted by his accuser.
He said it was a traumatic experience. His clearance level was downgraded and his colleagues knew something was going on. People stayed away from him for fear of being implicated. “It’s a bit of a blemish to have been kicked out,” Hendrick said.
He had to return home and explain what had happened to his family. “I had to come out to my family. It sort of hastened all that process,” he said.
Rather than going back into the closet as a gay man, he went into the closet as a veteran. “It made me be quiet about my military experience,” he said.
Now a spokesman for the New York League of Conservation Voters, Hendrick said he cried when watching the vote on Saturday. “This means the government and Congress is catching up with society,” he said.
Hendrick’s discharge papers gave him an unfavorable re-enlistment code. It is his hope that men and women discharged for being gay will be able to change that code so that they may re-enlist if they chose to.
“One of the next steps is correcting the record of history and really celebrating the contributions of gay servicemembers,” he said.
The repeal of DADT will enable gays and lesbians to have military careers, he added. “Being in the military had been the only profession where you were compelled to be let go if you were found out,” Hendrick said, noting the milestone.
Still, gays and lesbians are often subjected to workplace discrimination, according to openly gay Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights).
At a celebratory press conference in front of a U.S. Army recruitment office on Roosevelt Avenue, Dromm said he was happy that the government was moving to repeal DADT and looked toward the future. “Now, we must move forward and press Congress to pass the inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would forbid discrimination in the workplace,” he said.
The bill would make it illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been introduced continuously since 1994.
“Unfortunately, many states still do not protect members of our communities from this type of discrimination and people still get fired for being LGBT,” Dromm said.
Though there are many hurdles faced by members of the LGBT community, the proposed repeal of DADT brings hope.
“This is a long road. There is work behind us and there is work in front of us. I think marriage equality is really the next big thing,” said Hendrick, who resides in Sunnyside with his long-term partner, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Sale by Garden School would allow expansion of Travers: Dromm
“Right now we’re in a race against the clock about them opening up the sale to a possible developer vs. going through the process of the city,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights).
Dromm’s office has secured $4 million and Borough President Helen Marshall has $1 million to buy land from the Garden School, a private institution at 33-16 79th St. in Jackson Heights. The Garden School is selling the yard for $5.25 million.
“The idea is that we can then extend Travers Park,” Dromm said, referring to the 2-acre park on 34th Avenue between 78th and 79th streets, across the street from the Garden School.
Officials from the Garden School did not respond to calls for comment.
Dromm said he had been working with the Garden School’s board and headmaster, Dr. Richard Marotta, to purchase the land and had been dealing with the city Department of Parks and the city Department of Design and Construction to speed the process along.
But Dromm said school officials had told him the school is in financial straits and needs to sell the land soon.
“They did not inform us of the immediacy,” Dromm said.
The councilman said he believes selling the land to the city would be best for both the people of Jackson Heights — an area which has the second smallest amount of park space in the city — and the school, whose students would still have use of the park during school hours. He said selling it for development would also decrease the value of the school not only financially, but would be a detriment to the students.
“The Garden School is a valuable asset to Jackson Heights,” Dromm said.
The councilman said he was also unsure whether selling to a developer would get money for the school more quickly. He said the city was about a month into the seven-to-eight month process of buying the land.
Ed Westley of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group said he was surprised by the school’s rush to sell the land since he had thought the talks between the city and school were going well.
“They’re doing what they think they need to do,” Westley said.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
"The precedent is very troublesome," said Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, noting the city plans to appeal. "We've got a multibillion-dollar deficit. ... How do we protect patients or families in need of services or shelter for the homeless if we have every special-interest group appealing to a judge for special protection?"
At issue are 150 carpenters, electricians and plumbers who were scheduled to be laid off from city public hospitals in September until their unions - together with three City Council members - sued to save their jobs.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger last week ruled that the job losses would undermine public safety, and barred the city from issuing pink slips.
The city says it's losing $1 million a month because of the lawsuit and will have to cut other programs instead.
The Council members behind the suit - Daniel Dromm, Karen Koslowitz and Julissa Ferreras, all Queens Democrats - hailed the victory for workers and for the patients who use the hospitals. "We got a judge ... who saw the connections between the layoffs and the quality of care and service that the patients need and should be provided," Dromm said.
The Council members are also looking at the precedent - especially as Mayor Bloomberg plans to slash 889 jobs from libraries, cultural agencies and the Administration for Children's Services by the end of June. "This could be a potential threat," Ferreras said. "As the administration starts to consider other layoffs, they can make a reference to the lawsuit and say, 'Wait a minute ... let me really, really think hard about these layoffs before we do them.'"