Archive for the tag 'tony avella'

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Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

New York State Department of Conservation “wildlife specialists” opened fire on a pair of mute swans in upstate New York last Tuesday, orphaning their four baby swans and defying a two-year moratorium on lethal population management techniques that had just passed the Senate and Assembly.

The incident took place in Black River Bay, when residents spotted an unmarked boat approaching a group of swans. Moments later, gunshots rang through the air and two of the swans were dead. Residents, thinking the gunmen poachers, chased them down to discover that they worked for the environmental agency.

“DEC was carrying out a long-standing protocol to manage this invasive species that threatens other species in this sensitive habitat,” the DEC said in a prepared statement to the local television station.

The news riled up two New York City legislators who led the fight to protect the swans.

“This is an outrage,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in a press release. “We’re doing everything we can do [to] safeguard the swan population in my own Sheepshead Bay community and elsewhere, but clearly DEC did not get the memo.”

“I am absolutely outraged at these horrific turn of events, which occurred almost simultaneously as the State Senate passed a two-year moratorium on your agency’s careless and controversial plan to eradicate all wild mute swans in the state by 2025,” State Senator Tony Avella of Queens. “What is even more troubling is that the shootings happened in broad daylight, in front of passerbys enjoying their day near the Bay.”

Cymbrowitz and Avella introduced the legislation creating the moratorium in the Assembly and Senate, respectively. Although it passed both houses, Cuomo has not yet signed it into law.

The moratorium came after the DEC revealed a draft plan in January to eliminate entirely the mute swan population across New York State. The plan was sharply criticized by animal advocates and those who see the swans – which have populated some areas in the state including Sheepshead Bay for more than a century – as a welcome part of the community. The agency announced in March that it would hold off using any lethal population management techniques until a new plan was made that was more sensitive to the community’s wishes.

The agency appears to have reversed course yet again, spurring criticism from the pols.

“Even without the moratorium being signed into law, the implication was that DEC would stand by its good-faith promise and keep the swans off death row until further notice,” said Cymbrowitz. “Instead, we’re getting a clear indication that DEC can’t be trusted and still plans to engage in the sanctioned killing of mute swans.”

Both pols have sent letters expressing their outrage to Joseph Martens, the commissioner of the DEC.

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Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The following is a press release issued yesterday by the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

New York’s mute swans may at last have a voice in their future.

The Assembly today passed a bill introduced by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) that would effectively save the state’s 2,200 mute swans from a state-mandated death sentence.

The legislation (A.8790A) establishes a moratorium on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan to declare the graceful bird – as iconic to Sheepshead Bay as the fishing boats and the Emmons Avenue promenade — a “prohibited invasive species” and eliminate the state’s entire population by 2025.

The bill requires DEC to hold at least two public hearings and to respond to all public comments before finalizing any management plan for mute swans. In addition, DEC would be required to prioritize non-lethal management techniques and include scientific evidence of projected and current environmental damage caused by the mute swan population.

In late January, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz launched a well-publicized outcry when DEC announced that it would kill the swans because of the damage they purportedly cause to the environment and other species such as ducks and geese. But experts remain conflicted about whether the birds inflict much damage at all, the lawmaker said, making it imperative to examine the issue further.

Other states including Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut currently use non-lethal methods to control their mute swan populations, “which demonstrates that the precedent is there for using a humane alternative,” he said.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ pro-swan advocacy has attracted the attention of animal advocacy organizations like GooseWatch NYC and Save Our Swans. Locals from Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach, especially those well-versed in the daily struggles of non-native residents, also feel a kinship to the plight of the immigrant species.

“We know all too well the challenges that make acceptance difficult in a new and sometimes unforgiving land. For people, and for every living being, we need to extend a helping hand,” he said.

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Swans on Webers Court. Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Legislation that would require more community input in the state’s plan to manage the population of mute swans across New York was given a stamp of approval by the state Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, bringing it one step closer to becoming law.

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in February, following the release of a plan the month before by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to eradicate the species’ presence statewide, including the dozens of iconic swans that live in Sheepshead Bay. The plan called for capturing and killing 2,200 swans, as well as the destruction of their eggs and nests. It also proposed limiting their sale in the state, release in the wild, and a public education campaign urging residents not to feed the fowl, which they claim destroy habitat for native species. Mute swans are not native to the area, and are considered an invasive species.

The legislation, a similar version of which is being pushed by Queens State Senator Tony Avella in the Senate, would require that the state agency hold at least two public hearings and respond to concerns before finalizing any population management plans regarding mute swans. It also puts a two-year moratorium on allowing the agency to declare the mute swan a “prohibited invasive species,” a label that marks it for death.

Additionally, the agency would be required to not only prioritize non-lethal management techniques, and back up their arguments with scientific evidence. According to the sponsors, scientists remain conflicted about whether or not the mute swan population poses a significant threat to the habitat or people.

“Wildlife experts and environmentalists are not unanimous in their belief that exterminating the mute swan population is justified, and there’s plenty of debate over whether eradicating mute swans will be even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or our environment,” Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “It is incumbent on the Department of Environmental Conservation to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans,” he said. “It is also critical that the people of our community have a say in what happens to our feathered neighbors.”

In Sheepshead Bay, residents of Webers Court off Emmons Avenue told Sheepshead Bites they’ve lived alongside the birds for decades and can’t recall a single instance of an attack, as the DEC claims could happen.

“I don’t see them destroying anything,” said Cliff Bruckenstein, who has lived on Webers Court for 25 years. Bruckenstein went on to challenge the DEC’s claim that the mute swan can be bellicose. “They’re really not an aggressive species. They only get protective around their nests.”

The bill may come for an Assembly vote soon, followed by the Senate.

However, the agency has already turned tail on the issue, announcing in late February that they would seek non-lethal methods of population management in regards to the swan. The reversal came after they received more than 1,500 comments from individuals and organizations, as well as 16,000 form letters and 30,000 petition signatures.

A new plan is being drawn up, and will be followed by a public comment period.

Photo by Brian Hoo

Queens State Senator Tony Avella has introduced a bill that would establish a two-year moratorium on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan to eliminate 2,200 mute swans – the same scenic species that populates Sheepshead Bay’s marina. Local Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz announced today that he will follow suit with an Assembly version, having previously spoken out on the issue.

The Senate bill has been referred to the Senate’s environmental conservation committee.

The news was announced last week in a press release by Friends of Animals, an animal protection organization. From that release:

“I was horrified to learn that our state wildlife agency would make such an extreme, unfounded proposal, and do not believe that the DEC has provided evidence to justify the elimination of these beautiful swans,” Avella said. “The public outcry has been severe—many New York residents do not want to see mute swans eliminated and animal advocacy organizations, wildlife experts, rehabilitators and others have also joined the chorus of opposition.  In addition, to imposing a two-year moratorium, my bill requires DEC to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

… Donald S. Heintzelman, ornithologist, author and authority on Northern migratory swans and mute swans states,  “My professional opinion is that these public disputes about mute swans are overblown and unnecessary. These birds do not cause catastrophic damage, although most state wildlife agencies have engrained in their official mindsets the notion that mute swans should be destroyed merely because they are non-native species that might compete with native tundra swans and more rarely trumpeter swans. In fact, tundra swans very rarely are seen in New York State (and hence are irrelevant to the agencies’ mindsets).

“As for the few trumpeter swans living at two locations in the state, they are geographically far removed from Long Island and thus are not impacted by mute swans on Long Island. Certainly, mute swans are not pushing out New York’s small population of trumpeter swans. Furthermore, arguments that mute swans are aggressive, and also consume large amounts of submerged aquatic vegetation, are greatly overblown—and represent bad science.”

Cymbrowitz’s office issued a release this afternoon confirming that he would be the Assembly sponsor. From their release:

“Wildlife experts and environmentalists are not unanimous in their belief that exterminating the mute swan population is justified, and there’s plenty of debate over whether eradicating mute swans will be even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or our environment,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. Also, while it makes for a good anecdote, there is evidence that nary a human has been attacked by a mute swan, he said. While the graceful birds may hiss in an effort to protect their young, experts said the swans are rarely if ever moved to unprovoked aggression against people.

He noted that three other states – Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut – currently use non-lethal methods to control their mute swan populations. Only Maryland exterminates the birds, “which demonstrates that the precedent is there for using a humane alternative,” he said.

The community can comment on the DEC’s plan until February 21. To do so, write to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us (please type “Swan Plan” in the subject line).

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There are at least a dozen cameras between these houses.

John Hockenjos successfully won his freedom after fighting a false arrest in 2011, but he remains mired in a legal battle that threatens to see his property turned over to what he says is an unscrupulous developer. This month, a Queens-based state senator joined the battle, saying Hockenjos is another in a long line of victims of malfeasance and incompetence at the Department of Buildings.

Hockenjos and his wife, Irina, have been fighting with their East 23rd Street neighbors Elen and Argo Paumere since June 2009, when the Paumeres purchased the home next to them with plans for an ambitious overhaul. According to the Hockenjoses, red flags flew fast when they were approached to sign documents turning over a two-foot easement to their new neighbor.

They didn’t sign, and that triggered an all-out war between property owners, according to the Hockenjoses, which includes allegations of physical violence, corruption and even involvement in the false arrest. It has also cost them their jobs, their health, and more than $150,000 in legal fees, they say.

“We’re jobless. We’re money-less. Our health was destroyed tremendously. We lost our reputation,” Irina Hockenjos told Sheepshead Bites. “[The neighbors say] we’re criminals in all kind of ways. We’ve sued them in civil court because they’ve said we’re insane, and that John is a Russian mobster and he walks naked in the street.”

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Source: Nydailynews.com

An angry neighbor in front of the “Homecrest Tower” (Source: Nydailynews.com)

The Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) ignored a state judge’s plea to re-examine the plans put forward by the shady developer of the so-called “Homecrest Tower” (1882 East 12th Street). Reports indicate that the BSA declared that developer Joseph Durzieh does have the right to continue building the enormous addition to his home, much to the consternation of his neighbors.

The last we reported on the building, which is a 53-foot tribute to horrendous taste, Judge Yvonne Lewis had sided with neighbors who called for a halt to the project. The judge didn’t have the authority to tear down the structure but had ordered the BSA to re-examine the case. Durzieh had argued that he had the proper permits to make the alterations, claiming that he was building a new addition for his family. Neighbors argued that this was unlikely considering that Durzieh tore down most of his house to accommodate the addition and that his plans called for the installation of an exterior staircase and an elevator. The speculation was that Durzieh was looking to build and rent out condos.

When the BSA finally ruled last week, they declared that Durzieh’s permits were indeed valid, stating that architect Shlomo Wygoda made an error by not filing for a “new building” permit. The BSA decided that this error was “administrative” in nature, effectively giving Durzieh the go ahead on his plans.

Brooklyn Daily described the angry reaction of State Senator Tony Avella:

Tony Avella, a state senator from Queens who crusades against unscrupulous developers, visited the tower on E. 12th Street earlier this year and cited the agency’s decision as further evidence of why the mayor should get rid of it.

“This is one more example of why the Board of Standards and Appeals should be abolished,” said Avella. “It’s just incomprehensible that this developer got away with this huge building. It’s a monstrosity, and not only that, but its a dangerous accident waiting to happen.”

In fact, the board appears to have performed no additional investigation or review beyond the consulting the buildings department, and based its decision largely on the testimony of the department it is supposed to police.

Attorney Stuart Klein, who represents the neighbors opposed to the structure, spoke to the unfair relationship between the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the BSA.

“This decision says that the BSA is going to rubber stamp anything the DOB does,” Klein told Brooklyn Daily.

Photo by Erica Sherman

With the cost of renting out storefront property perpetually on the rise across the city, it comes as no surprise that many local politicians are having trouble meeting the budget limitations set for their respective headquarter bases. State senators based in New York City are allotted $40,000 a year for rental expenditures, but many have gone over that line, according to a report in the New York Post.

One of the state senators marked for going over their rental budget allotment is our own Marty Golden who rang up a yearly rent bill of $48,000 for his Bay Ridge headquarters. Still, its hard to blame Marty when a typical small storefront property on Sheepshead Bay Road goes for more than $4,000 a month.

Golden isn’t the only local politician having trouble meeting the limit:

Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) paid $49,723 for his district office at 38-50 Bell Blvd. He insisted the Senate Republicans negotiated his lease — claiming he didn’t even know he was over the limit.

Even imprisoned ex-Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) and indicted former Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Queens) got in on the fun, despite having represented lower-rent neighborhoods, spending $45,000 and $47,452, respectively.

[Jeff] Klein cut his annual rent by $15,000 by leaving his East Tremont Avenue district office for the Hutchins Center, where he pays “market rate,” said spokesman Eric Soufer.

“Believe me, nobody comes to work for us because of the accommodations,” Soufer said. “I’ve had college dorm rooms that are bigger than our office.”

The problem politicians like Golden face is that they could rent cheaper space on higher levels in office buildings, but they would lose on-the-street contact and easy access to their constituents.

We put the question to our readers as to what is more important; paying extra to keep your local politicians closer to the ground and more accessible, or saving costs by pushing their headquarters into harder to access office spaces?

There’s a lot of voter outrage towards the mayor these days. The term limits fiasco, challenges to the mayoral control of schools policy, increased taxes and a crumbling of the political infrastructure statewide (okay, not sure if we can blame him for that one) – the challengers have a lot of ammo. Bloomberg, though, has even more bucks, and that means the other mayoral candidates will be kicking their campaigns old school: meet and greets.

“There is a Choice in the 2009 NYC Mayoral Election” is the main topic for the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association’s meeting on Thursday, June 18, at 7:30 p.m., in the auditorium of the King’s Chapel, Quentin Road and East 27 Street. Announced Democratic Party candidates Comptroller William Thompson and Councilmember Tony Avella have been invited to make statements and take questions. So bring your questions about their community and citywide initiatives, especially about important local issues like mayoral control, development and economic recovery.

This is Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic’s final general meeting of the season. Also in attendance will be representatives for the 61st Police Precinct, the Department of Buildings, and elected officials.

When: June 18th at 7:30 p.m.
Where: King’s Chapel, Quentin Road and East 27th Street