Assembly passes bill to curb PD sexual misconduct

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By Mark Hallum

TimesLedger Newspapers

A Bayside lawmaker’s bill passed unanimously in the state Assembly that would make any sexual activity between peace officers and those in their custody a felony due the “power dynamic” distorting what it means to consent in that situation.

Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) introduced the bill in November in support of Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn), who drafted the legislation after a September 2017 incident in which two detectives in Brooklyn, who have since resigned, were alleged to have had sex with a teenage girl in their custody who they claimed consented.

“The power dynamic between an individual in custody and a law enforcement officer is such that the person in custody is powerless to consent to sexual activity,” Braunstein said. “This legislation will ensure that individuals in police custody are free from coercive sexual behavior committed by officers exploiting their authority.”

While Treyger’s bill sought to change the penal code to make sexual conduct between a peace officer and a person in their custody a misdemeanor, Braunstein’s bill would make the offense punishable as a Class E felony.

“I was shocked to hear that the two NYPD detectives involved in the recent high-profile rape case in Brooklyn have offered the defense that the sexual contact was consensual,” Braunstein said in November when the bill was introduced. “The power dynamic between someone in custody and the officers themselves is such that the person in custody is powerless to consent to sexual activity. State law already prohibits sexual contact between correction officers and parole officers and those in their custody. The legislation I am introducing at the state level will amend the penal code to also include state and local police officers.”

The bill was picked up by state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) in recent weeks, according to a spokesman for Braunstein, and has seen support from leaders at both city and state levels, including state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).

“This legislation helps ensure that New York’s laws regarding consent protect all individuals, including individuals held in police custody, from sexual abuse,” Heastie said. “It is simply wrong that someone exercising custodial government authority, such as a police officer, would violate the trust that should exist between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Public Advocate Letitia James got behind the bill in November.

Terrace

“There have been a wave of high-profile, powerful men accused of sexually abusing and harassing vulnerable women and men — and officers who sexually harass and abuse vulnerable individuals in their custody are no different,” James said. “While the vast majority of officers are hardworking and deeply principled, we must have laws in place to hold those few unscrupulous officers accountable. The bills introduced by Assemblyman Braunstein and Council Member Treyger to ensure that sexual activity between officers and those in their custody is prohibited are common-sense measures to ensure that no individual is above the law.”

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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Source: Times Ledger

Graduation rates rise, dropout rates decline

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By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

The mayor’s office announced last week that out of the five boroughs, Queens had the largest improvement in terms of graduation and dropout rates.

The graduation rate in Queens increased by 1.7 percent to 77.8 percent in 2017, up from 76.1 percent in 2016, according to a chart from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office.

The dropout rate for Queens’ students is depicted in the chart as going down by 1.3 percent to 6.4 percent in 2017.

According to de Blasio, the city’s four-year high school graduation rate is the highest on record at 74.3 percent and the dropout rate is now the lowest ever at 7.8 percent.

Most Holy Redeemer

“New York City is showing that when we invest in our students, they rise to the challenge and do better and better,” said de Blasio. “Our kids are graduating high school and going to college at record rates, while dropping out less than ever before. If we are going to make New York City the fairest big city in America, it starts with giving our kids the education they deserve, and we are executing this vision every day.”

The improvements in graduation rates and the decline in dropout rates were also seen across all ethnic groups as well.

Asian students had the highest percent gain in graduation rates, while the biggest decline in dropout rates was among black students.

Nearly 30 of the renewal schools across the city had improved, too.

Renewal schools are institutions that have struggled for a few years or were persistently struggling for several years, but receive funding in hopes that student test scores, college readiness and enrollment will turnaround within three years or face being shutdown, according to city’s Dept. of Education.

The Brian Piccolo Middle School (MS 53) and the Robert Vernam School (PS/MS 42) are the two renewal schools in Queens on the chopping block for this year, according to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

The graduation rate for 28 renewal schools increased by 5.7 percent to 65.7 percent, according to the mayor’s office. The dropout rate for students at renewal schools went down by 2.2 percent to 16.4 percent in 2017.There were 12 renewal schools in Queens as of Fall 2017.

Last year also saw the highest numbers ever for city students taking and passing Advanced Placement exams, said Fariña. This year also saw the highest college readiness rate on record, and 64 percent of high school students graduated on time.

With the SATs now being free of charge for juniors, 61,800 students took the exam last year, according to the chancellor.

For the second year in a row, city students outperformed their upstate counterparts in English, while elementary to middle school students made gains in state english and math subjects, said Fariña.

De Blasio and Fariña hope that through the Equity and Excellence for All initiative, which has introduced education to students as young as three and is strengthening foundational skills and instruction earlier, that the graduation rate will be 80 percent by 2026.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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Source: Times Ledger

Chirlane McCray visits Flushing Muslim center for domestic violence campaign

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By Mark Hallum

TimesLedger Newspapers

First Lady Chirlane McCray toured the city last Saturday as part of her “Weekend of Faith in Action Against Domestic Violence” to promote NYCHope, an online portal for communities to educate themselves on abuse, seek help or learn how they can help someone they know who may be a victim.

McCray’s rounds took her to the Muslim Center of New York, located at 137-58 Geranium Ave., in Flushing, where she spoke to the congregation about the city initiative.

“We all know that Islam is a beautiful, life-affirming religion, of justice and peace, and a powerful force generosity and kindness,” McCray said. “But these days, it’s too often portrayed as a religion of oppression and violence, especially toward women. Domestic violence is a topic that is difficult for anyone to talk about, but members of the Muslim community must feel they must defend against the barrage of misconceptions. There’s extra pressure not to expose private struggles and pain, not to air dirty laundry, as some people say.”

McCray invoked the words of the Prophet Muhammad to explain why it is important for the community to have open conversations about issues within families and communities, even if it is uncomfortable.

The creation of the NYCHope portal was set in motion by the city’s Domestic Violence Task Force, co-chaired by McCray and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. By visiting www1.nyc.gov/nychope/site/page/home, residents can learn about how to identify domestic violence, organize safety plans and find family safety centers.

BAYSIDE HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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Source: Times Ledger

QNS Rail study shows feasiblity at low cost: DOT

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By Mark Hallum

TimesLedger Newspapers

The results of a city-funded feasibility study shows that reactivation of the LIRR’s Lower Montauk Branch, commonly known as the QNS Rail, could see 5.6 million riders annually, as well as provide service as a freight line, at an estimated cost of $2.2 billion.

The unused 8.5 miles of elevated right-of-way runs from Jamaica Center to Hunters Point, but low ridership caused the MTA to discontinue service in 2012.

Former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley funded the study with $500,000 from the city’s FY 2017 budget and it was performed by AECOM, which found that to restore commuter service would cost $1.1 billion and another $1.1 billion to make the tracks compatible for freight.

“Too many of our Queens communities are transportation deserts,” Crowley said. “Our hard-working residents lack decent, local access to public transit, and then wind up spending too much time commuting on unreliable service.”

The study, released in a city Dept. of Transportation report, claims that about 180,000 residents, 95,000 jobs and three important industrial zones are within a half mile of the tracks. Housing costs along the line are 60 percent less than the city average, and it would bring relief to transit riders on the over-burdened E, F, G, and L subway lines.

The DOT touted the fact that reactivation of the track would cost 90 percent less than the 2nd Avenue Subway — about $2.5 billion per mile — since the MTA already owns the right-of-way, and claimed the project would spur development on 129 million square feet of unused land without requiring a zoning change.

Terrace

But Crowley’s successor, who won a narrow victory over the incumbent in the November 2017 general election, saw the study as little more than wasted funds on a project that will never happen amid turmoil currently rocking the MTA.

Councilman Robert Holden (D-Glendale) pointed out that the city, state, and MTA are still arguing over how they should split the $800 million needed to fund MTA Chair Joe Lhota’s short-term plan to stabilize the ailing subways, which City Hall is reluctant to pay for.

“This study was a colossal waste of money that could have otherwise been used to benefit my district…. Instead, those tax dollars went to fund a study for a project that is both infeasible and undesirable,” Holden said. “Despite projected population growth in the area, I don’t believe renewing service to the Branch is the best solution to the transit issues faced by Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, and Woodside…. The fact that half a million dollars in Speaker’s funds were spent to procure this study shows a complete lack of understanding of the community and its transportation needs.”

With stops in Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, Ridgwood and Richmond Hill, the QNS Rail could see a weekly ridership of 21,000 people and has already been approve by the five community board within its range.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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Source: Times Ledger

Community rallies against Far Rock school closure

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By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

Rowdy attendees disrupted a Feb. 8 School Construction Authority meeting at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, protesting against one school’s closure and a lack of funding for repairs and additions at others.

Parents, students, and teachers from PS/MS 42 railed against the Far Rockaway renewal school’s closure — which Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced last year — repeating chants of “Save 42!” before the meeting even began.

Terrace On The Park

The school issued a press release days after the meeting, stating that it only reached five out of its seven target goals for improvement. But the learning house managed to incrementally increase its math and ELA scores by 10.5 points, received an 86-percent score for rigorous instruction, and clocked a 97.3-percent teacher-attendance score from the DOE, according to the Feb. 13 release, which noted the Far Rockaway school’s effective leadership and collaborative teachers.

Reps from the William Cullen Bryant High School also attended the session, where they complained about a host of issues including broken lockers containing rat feces, damaged auditorium seats, an antiquated sound system, peeling paint, asbestos, and an athletic field with broken turf that resulted in one student’s injury.

“When the paramedics said ‘wiggle your feet’ and she couldn’t wiggle them, I honestly didn’t think she would be able to walk again,” the school’s Assistant Principal Bill Manolios said about his student’s accident on the field.

The U.S. Department of Education classified the high school at 48-10 31st Ave. in Astoria as “Title 1,” which means a large percentage of its pupils come from low-income families, and its principal told meeting attendees that investing in the facility is critical to her students’ success.

“A majority of our students, 90 percent, are low-income,” said Namita Dwarka. “Our students are doing amazing things, but in order for us to show them that they could reach their capacity and full potential, we need to create a really good environment for them.”

William Cullen Bryant is one of five schools with arts students performing at a March 19 competitive showcase at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre, in Manhattan, but the rehearsal space in its dilapidated auditorium is lacking compared to those at other nearby schools, according to a faculty member.

“The chancellor and the mayor are talking about equity and access, but what we have is not comparable,” Art Director Allissa Crea said in reference to the facilities at the Frank Sinatra Arts High School, a few blocks away on 35th Ave. in Astoria.

SCA Project Manager Danielle Schaaf said that she will help the school get in touch with someone about the asbestos and decrepit lockers, but that auditoriums and fields are not considered high priorities, and that their renovations are typically funded by City Council or the Borough President via Resolution A grants.

And SCA spokesman Bed Goodman told attendees that the organization is amending its previous budget of approximately $15.5 billion to incorporate an additional $940 million towards capital-construction projects including new clean-energy boilers, pre-schools, physical-education spaces, seats, and repairs to some schools’ existing exteriors.

But a leader of the Queens High School Presidents’ Council took issue with the capital plans, arguing they neglected the needs of local high schools by largely focusing on improvements at pre-K and intermediary learning houses.

The civic honcho noted that the Academy of American Studies at 28-04 41st Ave. in Long Island City still lacks an auditorium, despite locals requesting to add one for 20 years, and that a previous proposal to build a new hall at the school was abandoned in recent plans for it.

“You as a planning group have to understand that every high school deserves basic facilities,” said Nancy Northrop. “These buildings will last 100 to 200 years.”

But Schaaf said the previous proposal Northrop referenced did not include adding an auditorium, and that building one would likely require Resolution A funding.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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Source: Times Ledger

Simotas introduces new family-friendly legislation

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By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

Parents and caregivers with small babies and toddlers would have easier access to places of entertainment under legislation written and introduced by state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) which will make spaces more accommodating and family friendly.

The Family Accommodation in Entertainment Act would help bring down the barriers and solve the problems that overwhelm parents when they try to attend events with their young children and can’t find a decent place to change diapers, leave a stroller or breastfeed with privacy.

“This is a practical way to ease the burden on parents and babysitters who want to enjoy entertainment outside their homes,” Simotas said. “If we’re going to claim the moniker of ‘family-friendly’ let’s really help moms and dads who have to grapple with diapers, strollers, feeding and keeping babies safe just to attend an event.”

The new legislation would require places of entertainment such as stadiums, arenas, convention centers, theaters, gardens or other places of amusement to provide accommodations, if readily achievable, including high chairs and booster seats, changing tables in all public restrooms, stroller parking and a private, hygienic location for nursing or pumping breast milk. In addition, public restrooms would have at least one stall with a child protection seat mounted on the wall so that parents and babysitters can use the bathroom without having to juggle the baby.

Christine Serdjenian Yearwood, the fonder and CEO of UP-STAND, an organization that advocates for pregnant women, said, “These accommodations enable parents, caregivers, and children to safely and fully participate in public life and our economy.”

During her 11 years in Albany, Simotas has become a champion of family-friendly and child protection legislation. Measures that she has sponsored or introduced have included establishing the “newborn health and safe sleep pilot program,” permitting pregnant women to enroll in the state health insurance exchange at any time, prohibiting day care centers from using toxic toys, among others.

Lutheran School of Flushing and Bayside

Kathleen Boyle, founder of the Queens-based Postpartum Project, which advocates for new parents, applauded the introduction of Simotas’ Family Accommodation in Entertainment Act.

“Access to family friendly facilities will greatly aid new mothers: in the first few months of motherhood, establishing a social support system makes a huge difference,” Boyle said. “If new moms know they can care for their children and themselves whenever they go, they will be happy patrons of local establishments.”

A Better Balance co-founder and co-president Dina Bakst is another supporter of the legislation. A Better Balance is a group whose goal it is to make society more hospitable to families.

“It’s time our laws catch up with the reality of modern parenting and ensure that all parents, regardless of gender, have access to the resources they need to care for their families,” she said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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Source: Times Ledger

Pols must do more to improve USPS

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By Larry Penner

TimesLedger Newspapers

Complaints by Queens Congress members Joe Crowley, Grace Meng and Gregory Meeks to Postmaster General Megan Brennan concerning problems with delivery of mail to constituents offer no solutions (“Queens pols fight for better USPS service” Naeisha Rose, Feb. 2).

All three Congress members need to consider providing regulatory relief for reforms which could assist the Post Office in providing better services. The United States Post Office averaged quarterly losses of $550 million in 2017. This will now result in the price of a first class stamp going up by a penny from 49 cents to 50 cents later this year.

One wonders why they first decreased the price of a first class stamp from 49 cents to 47 cents, before bringing it back to 49 cents. Part of the problem is that Congress in 2006 mandated that the Post Office fully fund 75 years of retirement benefits for employees. This has contributed billions to the Post Office’s long-term debt. While many private and other public retirement plans are underfunded, the Post Office’s is vastly overfunded. It is time for Congress to amend legislation and afford the Post Office ability to fund its retirement plan at a more reasonable level.

There are other initiatives which could assist the Postal Service in avoiding frequent postage stamp increases. The Post Office should continue with more joint business ventures like Amazon in expanding Sunday delivery. This could be the start of something big. Taking advantage of underutilized assets and facilities on Sunday could generate badly needed revenues. This would assist in developing alternatives to increasing the price of first class stamps every few years.

QUEENS THEATRE

Why not consider going after other available untapped potential revenue streams? Consider these untapped sources to reduce operating deficits and perhaps even turn a small profit. The US Postal Service could sell advertising space on the sides of mailboxes, inside and outside the post offices along with the small Jeeps, regular trucks and heavy-duty long-haul trucks. Sell off some of the valuable real estate and move to less expensive locations.

Why not join banks and fast-food restaurants that sublet space at Wal-Mart and other big box stores to open smaller post offices? Generate both revenue and customers by subletting excess capacity at underutilized post offices to other village, town, county, city, state or federal agencies along with private sector businesses. License corporations to sponsor stamps for a fee.

Have members of Congress including Crowley, Meeks and Meng, State Legislatures and other elected officials pay the real, full costs for their annoyingly frequent bulk-rate mailings to constituents. They are nothing more than free re-election campaign brochures subsidized by taxpayers. Charge the full price for all junk mail. Future increases in the price of stamps should be directly tied to inflation.

The Post Office should apply free-enterprise solutions to provide a more cost-effective product, reduce deficits and prevent more branches from closing, thus keeping its commitment to serve the public well.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

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Source: Times Ledger

Pols must do more to improve USPS

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Larry Penner

TimesLedger Newspapers

Complaints by Queens Congress members Joe Crowley, Grace Meng and Gregory Meeks to Postmaster General Megan Brennan concerning problems with delivery of mail to constituents offer no solutions (“Queens pols fight for better USPS service” Naeisha Rose, Feb. 2).

All three Congress members need to consider providing regulatory relief for reforms which could assist the Post Office in providing better services. The United States Post Office averaged quarterly losses of $550 million in 2017. This will now result in the price of a first class stamp going up by a penny from 49 cents to 50 cents later this year.

One wonders why they first decreased the price of a first class stamp from 49 cents to 47 cents, before bringing it back to 49 cents. Part of the problem is that Congress in 2006 mandated that the Post Office fully fund 75 years of retirement benefits for employees. This has contributed billions to the Post Office’s long-term debt. While many private and other public retirement plans are underfunded, the Post Office’s is vastly overfunded. It is time for Congress to amend legislation and afford the Post Office ability to fund its retirement plan at a more reasonable level.

There are other initiatives which could assist the Postal Service in avoiding frequent postage stamp increases. The Post Office should continue with more joint business ventures like Amazon in expanding Sunday delivery. This could be the start of something big. Taking advantage of underutilized assets and facilities on Sunday could generate badly needed revenues. This would assist in developing alternatives to increasing the price of first class stamps every few years.

QUEENS THEATRE

Why not consider going after other available untapped potential revenue streams? Consider these untapped sources to reduce operating deficits and perhaps even turn a small profit. The US Postal Service could sell advertising space on the sides of mailboxes, inside and outside the post offices along with the small Jeeps, regular trucks and heavy-duty long-haul trucks. Sell off some of the valuable real estate and move to less expensive locations.

Why not join banks and fast-food restaurants that sublet space at Wal-Mart and other big box stores to open smaller post offices? Generate both revenue and customers by subletting excess capacity at underutilized post offices to other village, town, county, city, state or federal agencies along with private sector businesses. License corporations to sponsor stamps for a fee.

Have members of Congress including Crowley, Meeks and Meng, State Legislatures and other elected officials pay the real, full costs for their annoyingly frequent bulk-rate mailings to constituents. They are nothing more than free re-election campaign brochures subsidized by taxpayers. Charge the full price for all junk mail. Future increases in the price of stamps should be directly tied to inflation.

The Post Office should apply free-enterprise solutions to provide a more cost-effective product, reduce deficits and prevent more branches from closing, thus keeping its commitment to serve the public well.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

Comment on this story.

Source: Times Ledger

New web series focuses on food-obsessed Astoria couple

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By Tammy Scileppi

TimesLedger Newspapers

A lot of cool stuff happens in Astoria. So why not a comedy web series about a struggling, food-obsessed real-life Astoria couple?

“Doing stand-up comedy is such a loner activity that we thought collaborating together in a web series would be a great way to spend time, let alone doing what we love,” co-creator Amy Jans said. “We really wanted to make fun of the fights that couples have that are so unimportant.”

Out of that, came “Babe and Bave.” Jans is Babe and her significant other, Dave Rosinsky, is Bave. The title is based on the offscreen nicknames the two comics have for each other.

As a young couple in love, Jans, who is in her mid-20s, said she and Rosinsky, in his late 30s, were “always playing and having fun, goofing around.” So, sharing their funny shenanigans with YouTube audiences seemed like the logical next step on their comedic journey. “Babe and Bave” launched in January and new episodes come out every Friday. If you need a good laugh and a temporary break from all the craziness of everyday life, you should check it out. It’s like free therapy.

“We chose food as the first set of themed series, as we find it so funny how many fights in any relationship — mom, dad, sister, brother, best friends, co-workers, boyfriends/girlfriends, kids, adults, etc. — comes from the topic of food,” said Jans, who brings curiosity and wonderment into a character she describes as a hopeful dreamer. They say opposites attract, and the assertive and direct Brooklyn-born, Staten Island-raised Rosinsky proves to be the perfect sparring partner, with his character’s sharp, quick joke structure.

“Food truly does connect everyone, and everyone can relate to overreacting due to being hungry or disagreeing due to taste,” Jans said. “Food can be the ultimate unity, or ultimate separation at times. The funny thing is down the line, it’s just food!”

The series is based somewhat on the couple’s personal experiences but “only a small ounce,” according to Jans. “We may take inspiration from something we experienced, but then bend it out of shape and stretch the situation to be exaggerated and entertaining.

“We have so much fun playing around with writing… the places we both exaggerate to, it cracks us both up. We just love to have fun while filming. We play from a super exaggerated version of ourselves, so there is a big cushion-y space between the reality, but there is always an acorn of truth.”

BAYSIDE HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The motivation behind the duo’s joint endeavor is a familiar one to many comics, who feel a burning desire to express themselves beyond their creatively limited comedy club scene gigs.

“I took a digital storytelling class at FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology); our class project was to create a web series. [It] is a perfect project for a comic to invest their time in because it allows you to get content out in a world that is permanent, which is complimentary to doing stand-up, as you could do a ten-minute set, and that’s it… it’s over,” Jans said.

“As for the birth of ‘Babe and Bave,’ I knew I wanted Dave to be a part of it. He is one of the funniest New York City comics, yet is ‘anti-social media.’ Being ‘anti-social media’ in the entertainment industry can hurt your career, as agents and managers will only give you the time of day if you have a following.”

Jans, a New Jersey native, says she created the series on a waitress’ salary.

“Being on a budget in real life, but still wanting to create content with a web series, I realized I would have to edit and film it myself. So, I bought a DSLR camera and learned an editing program. We shoot at locations that are public, like a lake, or just film in our apartments.”

The comical couple thought about crowd funding, but said they always felt “weird asking for things.” Also, by not crowd funding, they said they’d have more freedom to experiment, so they could find a more focused series down the road.

“Series develop over time. We are doing ‘Babe and Bave’ by having fun and filming and learning with each episode as we do it,” says Jans. “The low stakes definitely give us a nice platform for learning and growing on our own terms.”

When the couple first started dating, Jans recalled that she loved coming out to Astoria where Dave had his digs so much, she ended up moving five blocks from him.

“The food is amazing; the family energy, the park community, the special events, like the Fourth of July fireworks and the summer movie series in the park, are so special,” she said. “Living in New York City but having a family community feel is really special. It’s a truly great neighborhood.”

These days, you can catch Jans doing stand-up, mostly at bar shows around Manhattan (Karma Lounge, East Village), Brooklyn (Legion Bar), and sometimes in Queens. Rosinsky, who also does freelance legal work for a law firm, performs locally at times, at Q.E.D., and at Gotham and UCB in Manhattan.

As “Babe and Bave” continues to entertain YouTube audiences every Friday, with new episodes centered around food drama, Jans said she and Dave plan to take it from the focused theme of “Food Fight” to “zooming out to just ‘Babe and Bave.’”

They’re also excited about a once-a-month live stand-up comedy show, which is in the works, as they search for a venue either in Astoria or Manhattan.

Like all couples, Babe and Bave bicker about the little things. They always have some kind of zany misunderstanding to iron out, and in their case, it’s usually food-related.

When you watch the series, you may wish to ponder this question: Is this just about eating… or is there something else going on?

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Source: Times Ledger

Cuomo needs to consider early voting to improve voter turnout

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By Magdalen Sangiolo

TimesLedger Newspapers

Thank you to state Senators Michael Gianaris, Joseph Addabbo, and Leroy Comrie for their efforts to improve voter turnout by making it easier for New Yorkers to register to vote.

These reforms are critical, but they alone will not solve New York’s staggeringly low voter turnout rate, which is 41st in the country.

The key to unlocking higher voting participation lies with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Gov. Cuomo must include early voting — the ability for New Yorkers to cast ballots for 12 days leading up to Election Day — in his budget.

When I lived in North Carolina, early voting was the difference between many of my neighbors voting and not voting. People who work unpredictable jobs or long hours; have trouble physically getting around; or care for children or elderly parents all depended on the flexibility of early voting in order to vote.

The $6.4-million price tag for early voting in New York is an investment in equity, fairness, and equal representation — in addition to being a drop in the bucket compared with our state’s $168-billion budget. No one should be at risk of missing the opportunity to cast a ballot based on his or her job, physical abilities, or family situation.

Gov. Cuomo: money talks. Show your constituents that you value us, and our voices, by investing in early voting!

Magdalen Sangiolo

Brooklyn

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Source: Times Ledger