Archive for the tag 'politicians'

buildbackBuild It Back and a handful of non-profit organizations will be on hand at the Ancient Order of Hibernians tomorrow night, December 12, to assist those affected by Super Storm Sandy.

The eight-hour long event, hosted by State Senator Marty Golden, will be held from 12pm to 8pm. This is a good opportunity to keep up with your application to Build It Back.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians is located at 2750 Gerritsen Avenue.

To learn more, call (212) 615-8329 between Monday and Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm, email housing@recovery.nyc.gov or go to www.nyc.gov/html/recovery/html/home/home.shtml.

If you have any questions or need additional information, call Golden’s office at (718) 238-6044 or email golden@nysenate.gov.

Sure is cold out there today. (Photo by Robert Fernandez)

Sure is cold out there. (Photo by Robert Fernandez)

Bills can be a pain for any family. But for those in the most dire need, it can mean choosing between staying warm this winter or putting food on the table.

For those who struggle, help is on the way. The Heartshare Neighborhood Heating Fund is now accepting applications for their program to provide up to $200 a month to put towards keeping warm this winter.

The program was founded by National Grid in 1983 to help low-income families and individuals, and in 1993 was taken over by HeartShare Human Services. It assists more than 1,200 recipients each season, from December through March. To qualify, you must fall within HEAP income guidelines.

Locally, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz’ office at 1800 Sheepshead Bay Road is once again an official NHF application receiving site. Applications are available at the office now and his staff will assist constituents in his district in completing them.

The NHF program runs until funds are depleted, so residents are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

“The winter is a particularly difficult time for low-income residents who must struggle to cover their basic needs,” said Cymbrowitz in a press release. “I am pleased that the Neighborhood Heating Fund is available to lend a much-needed helping hand.”

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ office is open Monday through Thursday, 9:30am to 5:30pm, and until 5 p.m. on Fridays. You can call and make an appointment at (718) 743-4078 or just walk in.

Update (3:32pm): Councilman Chaim Deutsch’s office is also a designated application center for the NHF. His district office is at 2401 Avenue U. Call (718) 368-9176 to make an appointment.

800px-Coney_Island_Boardwalk-2

Can our beloved boardwalk be saved?

Councilman Mark Treyger asked the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to make Coney Island’s Riegelmann Boardwalk an official “scenic landmark” yesterday, an effort to block the city from replacing its planks with concrete and plastic, reports the New York Daily News.

“This is a globally recognized iconic structure that draws millions of visitors each year,”  Treyger told us. “Many New Yorkers recall stories from their childhood when their families took them to the boardwalk. We strongly believe that the boardwalk is worthy of being designated a city landmark, and is worthy of the same designated services every other piece of our local infrastructure has.”

As we previously reported, the city began construction to replace the boardwalk this month, despite fierce protests from residents, politicians, and activists, who say the concrete will ruin the walkway’s historic character and who question the environmental impact of the project. Shortly after Superstorm Sandy, activists filed a lawsuit demanding a full environmental review of the boardwalk project before construction commenced, pointing out that concrete has not necessarily proven to be more resilient against extreme weather, but a judge ruled against them.

Now the boardwalk’s fate is in the hands of the LPC. The landmark approval process is notoriously sluggish, and it will likely take at least a year for the boardwalk to reach the panel, but Treyger believes the move will put increased pressure on the Parks Department to halt the project.

“Money has been allocated [by local politicians] to make changes to the boardwalk instead of replacing it. This is very much counter to what the community desires,” Treyger said.

The boardwalk’s tropical wood planks have been around since the 1920s. If approved by the LPC, the boardwalk would become Brooklyn’s fourth scenic landmark. Currently, only Prospect Park, Eastern Parkway, and Ocean Parkway are protected scenic sites.

scarf-flier

Brrr! It sure is getting cold out there!

While the rest of us bundle up, not all of the neediest in the city’s school system have the means to get a helpful hat or a solid pair of gloves. To help them out, Councilman Chaim Deutsch has launched a hat, scarf and glove drive to bring some warmth this winter.

Hoping it will become an annual effort, the local pol is collecting winter gear specifically for students with disabilities at a local District 75 school. District 75 students are those with severe disabilities, ranging from autism to significantly cognitive delays and physical impairments.

“As the weather gets colder, it is essential that every child has the appropriate protection against the wind and chill,” said Deutsch in a press release. “Please donate new hats, scarves, and gloves to benefit special needs children in our community.”

All donations can be dropped off at Deutsch’s district office at 2401 Avenue U, prior to December 17. For more information, please call 718-368-9176.

Signage for bus lane enforcement (Source: DOT)

Signage for bus lane enforcement (Source: DOT)

Councilman Chaim Deutsch is set to introduce legislation that will create a five-minute grace period in the hours of enforcement of the city’s dedicated bus lanes, which he said has created an onslaught of unfair violations for drivers caught in the lane just seconds after the cameras turn on.

Camera enforced bus lanes are the norm for the city’s Select Bus Service routes, including the B44 SBS traveling on Nostrand Avenue. Though some bus lanes are in effect all day, many are only in operation during peak commuting hours. The councilman said his office has received several complaints from constituents that they’re being ticketed just seconds after the enforcement rules begin, a “gotcha” practice that levies fines on drivers whose dashboard clocks are slightly out of sync.

“I always say ‘no two watches have the same time,’” said Deutsch. “That’s why I’m proposing a five-minute grace period, so that people wont get ticketed.”

Deutsch said one of his constituents showed him a $125 ticket for being in the Nostrand Avenue bus lane – just 10 seconds after cameras were set to turn off.

“It’s ludicrous because if someone’s watch is a minute or two off, or five minutes off … people should have a fair shot,” he said. “Same goes for if a cop pulls you over in a bus lane. On his watch, it should be at least 7:05 [if cameras turn on at 7:00].”

The bill is currently being drafted and should be introduced to the City Council in approximately 30 days. It will be sent to the Transportation Committe, which will hold a hearing on it before putting it to a vote.

Deutsch previously battled issues stemming from SBS bus lane enforcement, which first came into effect late last year. Over the summer, dozens of constituents complained that they were unaware of the new regulations and were busted driving in the lanes. But bureaucratic bungling at the Department of Transportation and Department of Finance caused a delay in mailing out the violations, so many received multiple fines before they were aware of the law. The city later agreed to waive all but the first fine during the backlogged period.

With additional reporting by Rachel Silberstein.

Photo by Ned Berke

Photo by Ned Berke

by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz

Back in 2008, my Assembly colleague, Alec Brook-Krasny, and I were able to secure $10 million in capital funding for the repair of the Riegelmann Boardwalk. The purpose of this money was to give the Boardwalk the rehabilitation it deserves and ensure that generations of New Yorkers will have the opportunity to enjoy this iconic wooden structure.

One thing this money was not supposed to do was destroy the Boardwalk as we know it. That’s why I’m outraged by the city’s decision to rebuild the Boardwalk out of concrete and plastic, effectively turning our Boardwalk into a sidewalk. To repurpose the money and change the scope of the project is an underhanded misuse of funds by this administration, and it’s something I won’t tolerate.

Since the start of this new Mayoral administration I have attempted to open a dialogue and stress the need to rebuild the Boardwalk out of wood. Unfortunately, the city has chosen instead to fast-track the destruction of our iconic landmark and has been unwilling to listen to the people of our communities. We’re the ones who have a vested interest in the Boardwalk. We’re the people who know how badly the concrete sections were damaged during Sandy. Clearly this is not a material that promises flood resiliency.

The contract for the funds I allocated is set to expire on December 31, 2014. The city is hoping to extend this contract but I have other ideas. I am committed to doing everything in my power to block the extension of the contract and rescind the money that was allocated.

Thank you for your letters, emails, tweets and calls. My confidence is strengthened with the knowledge that I have the support of my community and activists like you.

Please remember that I’m here to help you with any issue or problem and I’d like to hear your thoughts and ideas. My district office is located at 1800 Sheepshead Bay Road and we’re open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Fridays until 5 p.m. Feel free to call me at (718) 743-4078 or email cymbros@assembly.state.ny.us.

Steven Cymbrowitz is the 45th District’s representative to the State Assembly, representing the Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach and Gravesend.

electeds and principals ps11 national blue ribbon school awards
Sheepshead Bay’s PS 254 (Dag Hammarskjold) and Clinton Hill’s PS 11 (Purvis J. Behan) schools’ 2014 National Blue Ribbon School Award wins were honored on November 20 with a ceremony at Brooklyn Borough Hall. School principals Alonta Wrighton (bottom left) and Linda Alhonote (bottom right), as well as Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assemblyman Walter Mosley, and Council members Laurie Cumbo, Chaim Deutsch, and Education Committee Chair Daniel Dromm were all in attendance at the event to celebrate two outstanding Brooklyn learning institutions.

“[I]t is my privilege to celebrate this success,” Councilmember Deutsch, whose district covers PS 254, told the crowd. “Together they are an example of excellence and I commend Principal Alhonote and Principal Wrighton, as well as the staff and students for exemplifying a quality that can be upheld as a model for others.”

“The academic excellence of [these schools] is a direct reflection of our community’s unwavering commitment to… the success of our administrators, faculty, parents, but most importantly our students,” Councilmember Cumbo said at the ceremony, during which students from the chosen schools performed. “The designation of these two institutions as the 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools… recognizes the hard work of the staff, the dedication of the parents, and the strong leadership of [these ] Principals… it is important that we continue to support our schools and inspire the future leaders of our city, state, and nation.”

Principals Wrighton and Alhonote each received special citations at the event, and PS 11 and 254 were presented with New York City Council Proclamations.

Congratulations again to all the students, faculty, and other supporters of this year’s Blue Ribbon schools, and keep up the good work!

Photo courtesy Councilmember Laurie Cumbo

The Parks Department says it can avoid routine maintenance by replacing wooden planks that warp over time, seen above, with concrete and plastic. (Photo by Ned Berke)

A site trailer and construction fence were installed at Brighton 15th Street this month – a first step in a controversial plan to replace the Riegelmann Boardwalk’s iconic wooden planks between Brighton 15th Street and Coney Island Avenue with cement and plastic. But several elected officials are expressing outrage about the work, and at least one is threatening to cut off funding to the project.

Construction on the Coney Island Boardwalk officially began on November 11, the Parks Department confirmed, despite fierce objection from community members, advocates, and local politicians who disagree with the plan to replace the boardwalk with artificial materials.

“I remain very disappointed that the Parks Department is moving forward with this major change to the boardwalk without completing any safety studies to determine the impact it will have on the community,” said City Councilman Mark Treyger. “The Parks Department is also ignoring the will of the local state lawmakers who allocated this funding for repairs, and not for a new concrete road down the middle of the iconic boardwalk.”

The state lawmakers in question are Assembly members Alec Brook-Krasny and Steven Cymbrowitz, who together allocated $10 million to the Parks Department in 2009 for general repairs and improvements to the 2.5-mile span. The funding can be cut off at the lawmakers’ discretion – but only before the contracts are signed. That time has passed, but Cymbrowitz said he’s still going to find a way to close the funding spigot.

“I am outraged that Mayor [Bill] De Blasio and Commissioner [Mitchell] Silver have fast-tracked the destruction of an iconic landmark in southern Brooklyn. As I wrote to Mayor de Blasio, concrete and composite plastics are a poor approximation for a boardwalk. It’s a boardwalk, not a sidewalk. There are also significant safety concerns with this project since no impact study has been done,” said Cymbrowitz in a statement. “This is an underhanded misuse of the money and the mayor knows it. I will work to make sure that the millions of dollars I allocated are cut off. I fought hard for the boardwalk to be repaired, not to fund the elimination of the boardwalk as this community and all New Yorkers know it.”

He’s backed up by both Treyger and Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who say that the funders’ intentions should be considered in how their money is spent.

“The money came from Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, and whoever gave the money for the boardwalk should have a voice in it,” Deutsch told this outlet.

Even though Coney Island’s boardwalk survived Superstorm Sandy relatively unscathed compared to the Rockaways’ concrete walk, Mayor Michael Bloomberg deemed all wooden boardwalks insufficient to withstand the ocean’s surges, and commissioned them to be replaced with concrete. That was the plan anyway, following a 2008 directive from Bloomberg’s office that city agencies would stop using tropical hardwoods – the type used to construct the boardwalk – for environmental reasons. The de Blasio administration has continued to press forward with those policies.

“Using tropical hardwoods could contribute to the climate change that helped destroy the boardwalk in the first place and it would be more expensive,” said a spokesperson for the Parks Department. Critics point out that there are other options, including sustainable domestic hardwoods such as Black Locust or White Oak, that can be used.

But the lower cost of maintaining concrete, long a part of the Parks Department’s justification for switching to cement, does not necessarily mean it will hold up better during storms, said Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who represents the Brighton Beach portion of the Riegelmann Boardwalk. He, Treyger and Cymbrowitz want an impact study that considers the performance of concrete in storm surges. Other areas, including Manhattan Beach and the Rockaways, saw huge concrete chunks barrel through the streets as they broke up during the October 2012 storm.

“[This is] about what is safer with the community in case another storm comes in,” he said. “It has to be safe, not just more resilient in terms of repairs, but what’s safe in regards to any kind of surge.”

Even before the storm, advocacy groups filed a lawsuit hoping to stop the plan, demanding a full environmental review. But just weeks after Superstorm Sandy, a judge ruled that the project did not need to undergo such a study since it would not constitute a signficant change the existing structure.

The boardwalk construction is expected to be completed in time for the 2016 beach season, according to the Parks Department. Elected officials are asking the city to terminate all construction until the concerns of residents are addressed.

Here is a map of the proposed plan via the Coney Island Boardwalk Alliance:

boardwalk-map

Click to enlarge

– With additional reporting by Ned Berke.

Source: katerha via flickr

Source: katerha via flickr

The first City Council hearing on a proposed mandatory fee for plastic bags at grocery stores and supermarkets took place yesterday, and it’s already proving to be one of the most divisive issues to come before the usually lockstep Council body.

Capital New York reports:

The bill, Intro. 209, is being championed by Council members Brad Lander of Brooklyn and Margaret Chin of Manhattan and would impose the fee on all plastic and paper bags issued by grocery stores, bodegas, liquor stores and the like in city limits. The intent is to cut back on the estimated 100,000 tons of plastic bags that find their way to the rivers, streets and trees in the city and encourage New Yorkers to use reusable shopping bags. Plastic bags constitute 2 percent of the city’s waste stream.

… Supporters maintained the 10 cents does not constitute a tax as no money would go to government coffers. Store owners would keep the 10 cents on each bag.

That, of course, hasn’t stopped opponents from describing it as a tax. One of the most vocal opponents so far has been Councilman David Greenfield.

The Daily News reports:

“Quite frankly, I’m ashamed to sit here today and talk about actually raising taxes on New Yorkers,” said Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn), who said he buys 30 bags of groceries for his family every Thursday night. “Now I’m going to have to pay three bucks extra a week.”

While proponents like Lander and Chin, who represent some of the city’s tonier districts, argue that such fees have successfully reduced the use of plastic bags in cities including Washington D.C., other elected officials say that it would unfairly hurt low-income families.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch is instead proposing a “recycling education campaign” to urge New York City residents to scale back on the roughly 9.37 billion disposable bags used in the five boroughs every year, most of which ends up in landfills.

“While our environmental goal should be to enhance programs which encourage recycling, the absolute wrong way to accomplish this worthwhile objective is by implementing a tax on plastic or paper bags,” said Deutsch in a statement. “I would rather support a recycling education campaign than support a tax, imposing an unfair financial burden on so many.”

Deutsch noted that though the bill’s provisions exempt food stamp recipients, not all of the city’s cash-strapped residents are on food stamps.

The de Blasio administration and Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have not taken a position on the bill.

Update (November 24, 11am) : Councilman Mark Treyger also objected to the bill when he spoke to us on Friday, November 21.

“I do not believe that 10 cents is going to change a behavior. It’s just going to place another burden on working class families in New York,” he told us. “I believe we should look at alternative types of bags that are biodegradable.”

Hrm. I wonder why Avenue Y's overpass gets so messy. (Photo by John)

Hrm. I wonder why Avenue Y’s overpass gets so messy. (Photo by John)

The trash problem beneath the Brighton line subway overpasses in Midwood and Sheepshead Bay is finally going to get a little better after years of complaints from residents.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch is sending $15,000 in additional funding to the Midwood Development Corporation to expand its Project Sweep Program, which is now responsible for cleaning garbage, debris and graffiti from beneath all subway overpasses spanning from Avenue M to Avenue Z. The project will also send cleaners to Sheepshead Bay Road, the Holocaust Memorial Park and a handful of other areas known to be eyesores.

The group goes out twice a week to hit several of the spots, according to information from Deutsch’s office. Cleanups began in October and will continue until the end of June.

Project Sweep employs adults with developmental disabilities who work alongside job coaches to clean commercial strips. Since 1990, they’ve been tidying up other business corridors including Newkirk Avenue, Courtelyou Road and Avenue M.

“Graffiti and litter adversely affect our quality of life, and can even cause an innocent homeowner to incur summonses due to littered trash blowing onto their property. My goal is to enhance the beautification of our neighborhoods,” said Deutsch in a press release. “I am eager to work with the leaders and members of Project Sweep on this endeavor.”

If you’d like to report an area you want to see cleaned, contact Deutsch’s office at (718) 368-9176.

Similar cleanups are being announced in other neighborhoods, including funding from Councilman Mark Treyger to local groups for cleanup initiatives on Mermaid Avenue and Stillwell Avenue.

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