Commuter van drivers protest Jamaica redevelopment

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

Members of the commuter van industry are infuriated about the redevelopment plans for Jamaica, which include an apartment complex being built by Sutphin Boulevard and a pedestrian plaza on Parsons Boulevard that will force them to operate at 153rd St. between Jamaica and Archer avenues.

The van drivers who were mainstays at Parsons Boulevard believe the 153rd Street spot is already crowded by other vehicle operators, they say it floods frequently and think they are being pushed out so that the area can be gentrified for outsiders who aren’t from the community.

Vehicle operators in the commuter van industry were so incensed about the move they held a rally April 11 against City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) outside his office at 172-12 Linden Blvd. in St. Albans for supporting the relocation, which is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero Plan to eliminate congestion in the area.

“They are piling the vans on 153rd where vans already occupy space and there is absolutely no infrastructure there,” said Hector Ricketts, the president and CEO of the Commuter Van Association of New York. “They want to give the space to the farmers from upstate New York who don’t live in our community and don’t spend their money in our community.”

Ricketts was referring to the pop-up Down to Earth Farmers Market that runs twice a week from June to November and operates at Parsons Boulevard between Jamaica and Archer avenues on Fridays and 160th Street off of Jamaica Avenue on Saturdays. Four of the vendors are from upstate New York and one is from Long Island.

Miller disagreed with Ricketts’ sentiments and said the changes were made because of the mayor’s safety concerns, and said that three-quarters of the vendors who work on that corner in Parsons are from the area.

“When the mayor came in and began to implement his Vision Zero program, part of it was to create street safety zones, and these public plazas are in areas that had some of the highest accident rates,” said Miller. “Parsons Boulevard between Jamaica and Archer was one of the areas with the highest accident rates in the city and in the borough as well.”

A city Department of Transportation spokesman said the changes are from months-long feedback from community stakeholders of the Jamaica Now effort and as a response to accidents on Parsons, which has 1,000 pedestrians per hour on that block.

The Parsons corridor was designated a Vision Zero Priority Area because it ranks in the top 10 percent boroughwide with 70 crashes from 2012 to 2016. In those accidents 30 of those injuries involved pedestrians.

The alterations include a sidewalk extension to create additional space to Parsons. The DOT said that the one-block move to 153rd for the van drivers will be beneficial since there are three spaces for authorized van operations.

On April 19 the signage for the commuter van stops on Parsons were removed, new signs were installed on the east side of 153rd St. and planters that were on the east side of the boulevard were moved to the west side of the sidewalk. From April 23 to April 27 there will be replacements for the old markings for the sidewalk extension. From April 20 to May 4 there will be installations of more planters, and granite blocks will make way for a pedestrian space similar to the ones in Manhattan.

Ricketts said the move was ridiculous because there are 100 van operators in the southeast Queens area and they serve around 120,000 riders a day and to put them near an area that floods would be what is truly unsafe.

Miller said the van protesters are grasping at straws with the flood zone accusation, and according to FloodHelpNY.org, a flood mapping website, that part of downtown Jamaica is not a flood zone area.

Ricketts also thinks the mayor is lumping his safety concerns on legal van drivers when the real solution should be sending enforcement agents from the Taxi and Limousine Commission to remove the illegal van drivers who sometimes park at bus stops and block traffic at 153rd St. between Jamaica and Archer avenues.

“They want to pool us all together,” said Ricketts. “They have never drawn a distinction between legal van operators and the illegal van operators.”

Miller reiterated that the main concern will always be safety in the area.

“We cannot enjoy any of the enhancements or development going on if we are not safe. This is about safety,” said the councilman.

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

Comment on this story.

Source: Times Ledger

Community leader Jack Friedman memorialized with street co-naming

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Mark Hallum

TimesLedger Newspapers

Community leader Jack Friedman once again drew attention from Queens leaders with a street co-naming in his honor, three years after his death.

Friedman was an advocate for the elderly and business services in the eastern part of the borough and served as executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce from 2007 until his death in 2015 at the age of 56.

“My father, ‘Mr. Queens,’ dedicated his life to this borough and the people in it. Every time we drive by, we will be reminded of the incredible impact he made on all of our lives,” Cara Friedman, the daughter of Jack Friedman, said.

The southwest corner of 254th Street and Union Turnpike in Glen Oaks will carry the name Jack Friedman after City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) sponsored the bill to have his contribution to his community memorialized.

“It is hard to believe that three years have gone by since Jack M. Friedman passed away,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing). “Jack was a great advocate and resource for the business community in Queens, and he worked tirelessly to assist local business owners and strengthen our borough’s economy. I miss working with him and tapping into his expertise. I also miss the excitement and enthusiasm he constantly showed for helping entrepreneurs succeed.”

State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) remembered Friedman for his contribution not only as a business leader, but also as his chief-of-staff during his tenure in the City Council and chairman of the Finance Committee.

“The co-naming of 254th street as ‘Jack M. Friedman Way’ could not be a more appropriate way to honor a man so dedicated to his community and the borough of Queens,” Weprin said.

Corey Bearak, chair of the boards of Services Now For Adult Persons and the Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council, said having worked with Friedman for up to 30 years made clear how important family and friends were to the man.

“Jack and I knew each other and worked together for some three decades,” Bearak said. “His most distinguishing feature was putting family, friends, colleagues, and the public before himself. We served on Community School Board 26 (which I left after one term as planned) where Jack’s colleagues later elected him president… We also served together until his passing on the SNAP board, which we collaborated to strengthen, and on Community Board 13Q. As one might imagine, Jack proved an invaluable connector for so many.”

Tom Grech now serves as the executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

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

Comment on this story.

Source: Times Ledger

Woodhaven pop-up museum will launch in May

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

A pop-up museum on the history of Woodhaven is set to launch in May.

The new mobile exhibit, The Museum of Woodhaven History, will detail the history of Woodhaven. The exhibit was created by the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society and will use hundreds of photos to tell the story of the dynamic neighborhood in central Queens.

The society will be hosting a launch party on Thursday, May 3, at the Woodhaven Manor, located at 96-01 Jamaica Ave., from 4 to 8 p.m.

The exhibit features 25 six-foot-tall panels.

The Museum of Woodhaven History was created using discretionary funding through the New York City Council and a grant from the Citizens Committee for New York City. The museum will be available for loans to local schools, either in pieces or the entire exhibit.

Ed Wendell, executive director at the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society, said the idea behind the museum was providing Woodhaven residents with a comprehensive look at their neighborhood’s history.

“People in any community love looking at old pictures of where they live,” he said. “People like talking about the history of their community and how it’s different and has changed. It’s about sharing. We wanted the exhibit to be a shared experience for the people of Woodhaven, It’s an opportunity to learn about the local history.”

Some of the exhibits will pay homage to John Pitkin, the founder of Woodhaven and East New York, as well the cyclone of 1895 and famous locals like actor Adrien Brody and baseball pitcher Don Gordon.

He said the society plans on expanding the exhibit to feature different topics, There are currently three panels now on loan to PS 60 and PS 97.

Wendell said the historical society gave students at the school $200 worth of art supplies so they could create artwork that they plan on featuring at the launch party.

“I can’t wait to see what they come up with,” Wendell said. “That’s the idea of it — provide something to help generate kids’ interest in their community.”

He said the reaction from the community so far has been a lot of curiosity.

Wendell said the project began last June and is still ongoing because there are so many as-of-yet uncovered topics. He said the organizers plan on tackling schools and churches next. He wants the exhibit to be featured at street fairs and other community events.

“Hopefully, the exhibit can be on display a couple times a year,” he said. “This is a pop-up museum. I want people to be loud. It’s not a quiet museum. It’s about getting people talking and interacting.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

Comment on this story.

Source: Times Ledger

Bayside native brings vintage Vegas vibe to Studio 54

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Tammy Scileppi

TimesLedger Newspapers

It was that unforgettable era of sex, swagger and swing – when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin and Sammy Davis, Jr. were household names.

With his irresistible charm and polished, old-fashioned style combined with a flair for singing those iconic songs of yesteryear, Bayside native Jonathan Poretz, wonderfully recreates the heyday of a young Las Vegas, bringing a retro ‘60s vibe to the Feinstein’s/54 Below stage, where he performs his swoon-worthy production of “When Vegas Was VEGAS!” Tickets are on sale for the 7 p.m. show scheduled for Tuesday, May 15.

Feinstein’s/54 Below is a popular nightclub in the theater district, located a few blocks from the heart of Times Square and just below the legendary Studio 54, at 254 W. 54th St.

Backed by his swingin’ mini-big band, the modern-day crooner and San Francisco resident, will be pulling out all the stops when he returns to his hometown of New York City after 35 years.

So, if you’re in the mood for a dose of vintage Vegas, you and your date can almost step back in time when you experience music, comedy, and uniquely told stories from a bygone era.

Poretz, who has toured the United States and Europe in various tribute shows as Frank Sinatra, puts his unique stamp on every song he belts and wows audiences with authentic, big band arrangements of everyone’s favorite songs from the vast catalogs of Sinatra, Martin, Darin and Davis Jr., including “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Fly Me To The Moon,” “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head,” “That’s Amore,” “What Kind Of Fool Am I,” “Mack The Knife,” “Splish Splash,” “My Way,” “New York, New York,” and many more.

The all-star band is led by drummer extraordinaire Michael Berkowitz, a Broadway and concert veteran who has served as musical director for Marvin Hamlisch and Liza Minnelli, among others.

Poretz left his beloved Queens behind for sunny California in 1995 and has been living in the Bay Area for 23 years.

“While Thomas Wolfe wrote ‘you can’t go home again,’ this ‘prodigal Son-atra’ believes otherwise,” Poretz said in an interview with TimesLedger. “I’ll be coming home to perform in May, and bringing with me my 90-year-old dad (also from Bayside, by way of Brighton Beach), who’ll be making his last visit home to see/hear his son perform in our home city.”

The journey back to New York has been a lengthy one, Poretz said.

“When I left New York City, I had pretty much put my music career and ambitions on hold,” he said. “My PR day job was taking me out to Silicon Valley almost monthly and leaving was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. Sadly, it was my mother’s passing, the same year I moved to California, that made me realize I needed to get back to doing what makes me happy. After all, life is short.”

The Bayside High School and Queens College graduate said his initial re-entry into music was through musical theater. He played Sky Masterson in a community theater production of “Guys & Dolls” in 1997 — 22 years after he played Sky in the Bayside High School Production of that show in 1975.

“Once again, I was hooked on performing. After several shows, I realized my true passion was singing,” Poretz said.

The rising musician said he has his parents to thank for building his love of music at a young age.

“I was fortunate that my parents took my brother Andrew and I to jazz concerts throughout our adolescence,” Poretz said. “I’d say I heard Mel Torme at least a half-dozen times when he’d come into town with the Newport/Kool Jazz Festival. I was also a huge Sinatra fan, mostly because of my brother, who played his music constantly on my record player in my room. When he took me (at my parents urging) to a Sinatra concert in 1975, I was mesmerized. It was then that I really began exploring his music and appreciating the lyrics of the songs he sang.”

The singer’s road to New York City was by way of Feinstein’s at the Nikko, in San Francisco, where he initially debuted “When Vegas Was VEGAS!” in 2016. “My sold-out shows there enabled me to get booked in my hometown. Guess, unlike the song, ‘New York, New York,’ I had to make it everywhere before I could make it in New York,” said Poretz, noting that while NYC and Queens had changed dramatically since he last lived in Bayside in 1984, “the Sicilian pizza at VI Pizza on Bell Blvd. was just as good as I remembered.”

So, what do you love about vintage Vegas?

“Vegas in the ‘60s was pure, unadulterated entertainment. Performers didn’t rely on light shows, explosions and special effects,” he noted. “Sinatra and the Rat Pack – they performed on a pretty stark Copa Room stage at the Sands. Just them, a big band, a few props and, oh yeah, booze. Back then, you could see all the greatest performers of that time in any one of the main showrooms. If you couldn’t get in to see Frank, Dean and Sammy, well, you could go check out Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, Jack Jones, Nat King Cole, etc. And if you couldn’t get into see them, well, you’d have to ‘settle’ for the Lounge – as in Keely Smith and Louis Prima (that’s a joke). They were amazing!”

While his journey took him across the country, Poretz said he really misses living in Queens.

“Growing up in Bayside was special. I miss the Q13 and 28 rides from Bay Terrace to Flushing,” he said. “From there I always enjoyed the short hop to Shea Stadium and Flushing Meadows Corona Park.”

He also remembers playing football on a field behind his building in Bay Terrace and how his music career began as a teen in the borough.

“Being the young rock singer in the Buddy Brooks Orchestra at Ripples on the Water, in Whitestone, from ages 15 to 19, playing hundreds of weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, I received the best musical education from those players,” Poretz said of his early band.

But it’s the little things that he remembers the most.

“I loved my old shopping center; the bowling alley where you could bowl three games and eat a hot dog, french fries and a coke for $1.25; the coffee shop where we’d have a celebratory sundae after performing in chorus at PS 169; sitting through four showings of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ when it opened at the newly minted Bay Terrace Theater,” he recalled.

Poretz said he uses Facebook to connect with his family and friends in Queens and is thrilled to have the opportunity to see them again in May.

“I’m very excited that so many of them will be on hand at Feinstein’s/54 Below for my homecoming,” he said. “We’re planning a family reunion on the weekend I get in.”

The performer is especially thrilled to see his father, and the feeling is mutual.

“He’s ecstatic. He knew this was my dream, so he wanted to be part of it,” Poretz said. “He’ll be 91 in June, so, as he said, ‘I want to make one more trip to New York City while I’m vertical.’ Although I joked to my dad that I bought him a one-way ticket, he’s coming back with me. But not before we paint the town during the week we’ll be visiting.”

Calling his show, “a swingin’ big band tribute to the icons of a generation and the men who transformed a desert’s heat into an oasis of cool,” the performer says. “It was the music of Broadway coupled with the sound and interpretation through jazz that attracted me to the Great American Songbook. The more I listened to Sinatra and his phrasing, the more I realized just how amazing the lyrics to these great melodies were. I believe that it’s the lyrics that will keep this music going.”

“We all go through everything these songs talk about — love, loss of love, heartbreak, happiness — articulated in ways that speak to us, or at least to me. So, I’m just doing my part to keep this music alive,” Poretz added.

Visit www.54Below.com to get tickets or more information. There is a $35-$45 cover charge and a $25 food and beverage minimum. To get tickets on day of show after 4 p.m., call (646) 476-3551.

Comment on this story.

Source: Times Ledger

Police provide funeral for infant boy discovered dead at Dutch Kills Playgound in March

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

Nearly a hundred officers from the 114th Precinct in Astoria joined emergency responders, Nassau County Police and community leaders Saturday to help give a proper funeral for the newborn boy who was discovered dead and wrapped in plastic in a garbage can at Dutch Kills Playground March 17.

No one ever came forward to claim the child, so The Children of Hope Foundation, a non-profit started by paramedics working for the Nassau County Police Department, took custody, named him Baby Dutch James Hope, and paid for the funeral expenses.

Baby Dutch James Hope became the 139th abandoned child to be laid to rest at the Holy Road Cemetery in Westbury since The Children of Hope Foundation began operating in 1999, according to its founder, Capt. Timothy Jaccard, who spoke during the funeral mass at Most Precious Blood Catholic Church in Astoria.

“For every child that we’ve buried, and we’ve had to do that 139 times which is painful, others have been rescued,” Jaccard said. “Because of the media attention, other desperate women out there may call a crisis hotline instead. More than 3,669 babies have been rescued since we started.”

That message resonated with Al Perna, the founder and president of the Corona Community Ambulance Corps, who attended with a half dozen members of his team.

“It’s all very sad, when I first heard about the baby discovered at Dutch Kills I was heartbroken,” Perna said. “But that baby has a family today and we hope that this funeral raises the awareness of the next person who feels lost, afraid, hurt or has the feeling that she can’t have that child. There are people who can help in these situations.”

Jaccard helped draft New York’s Safe Haven Law, which allows a parent to leave a child 30 days or younger with an appropriate person or a suitable location, such as a hospital, police station, firehouse or church where the parent promptly notifies an appropriate person of the child’s location. A parent who wishes to leave their child can call the Safe Haven Hotline in New York at 1-877-796-HOPE and the child will be picked up by child care workers.

Once the funeral mass came to a close, Baby Dutch James Hope was given an escort by members of The Blue Knights motorcycle club and vehicles from the NYPD and the Nassau County Police Department for the funeral procession to Holy Road Cemetery.

“I’m not surprised but the beauty, the dignity, the love that the NYPD offered this child is so very moving,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “It’s an unspeakable tragedy what this baby endured but the fact that they went to such lengths to give this child what he didn’t have in life is something that I will never forget. It’s just so decent to send him off in this way which is so different than how he died. The NYPD just gave him a state funeral which was so incredible decent.”

There have been no arrests and the investigation is ongoing by the 114th Precinct’s Detective Squad and the Queens North Homicide Detective Squad. Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.

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

Comment on this story.

Source: Times Ledger

Espinal running unnoposed in Tuesday’s special election to fill District 39 Assembly seat

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Bill Parry

TimesLedger Newspapers

As New Yorkers head to the polls Tuesday for a special election to fill 11 vacant seats in the state Legislature, only one office representing Queens is open. Corona resident Ari Espinal, 30, is running unopposed for the District 39 Assembly seat vacated by her old boss and mentor Francisco Moya when he won election to the City Council last year.

“As a lifelong resident of central Queens, I understand the challenges facing our diverse and growing community,” Espinal said. “I am the proud daughter of a union family, and I know that our communities thrive when there are good jobs with fair-paying wages. Now, more than ever before, our state leaders must be a bulwark against the hate and divisiveness coming from the Trump extremists in Washington. I am ready to continue making New York a progressive beacon for our nation. Closer to home, I will be an aggressive advocate to solve local neighborhood issues, making our corner of Queens a great place to live, raise a family and retire.”

Espinal is the daughter of Dominican immigrants and has been working since the age of 13 to improve the lives of her neighbors in Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights as a community organizer and later as Democratic District Leader. Espinal spent seven years as director of Constituent Services for then-Assemblyman Moya fighting for the rights of immigrants, women and union laborers. In that role she organized and ran a number of soup kitchens, coat drives, and mobile office events and established herself as a capable resource for assisting the community.

“I am proud to endorse Ari Espinal for state Assembly,” Moya said. “We need leaders like Ari to fight for us in Albany because she truly understands the issues facing Queens families and seniors. Ari will stand up for our values and work hard to deliver for us. She is a true champion for all working families, immigrants, and New Yorkers.”

Espinal also received endorsements from U.S Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), The United Federation of Teachers, the NYS AFL-CIO, the Working Families Party, the Women’s Equality Party and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

“1199SEIU has had a tremendous impact on my life,” Espinal said. “My mom, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, is an 1199 member. Her union job is what provided world-class health care for our family, a pension for a secure retirement, and a path to the middle class. To have the support of the more than 300,000 1199SEIU members in New York means so much to me, and I will fight hard to protect the health and well-being of those who work every day to keep our families healthy.”

Espinal will face a challenge in the September Democratic primary from Catalina Cruz, 35, a Dreamer who served as chief of staff to former Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland whose retirement allowed Moya to run for her seat on the City Council.

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

Comment on this story.

Source: Times Ledger

Chase banker milks dead sisters’ estates: DA

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

A 27-year-old bank employee from Far Rockaway, was accused last week of grand larceny for allegedly siphoning more than $650,000 of estate funds from two deceased sisters’ who were his private clients at the JP Morgan Chase bank in Hollis where he was employed, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

The DA’s office issued a criminal complaint April 11 that said after the sisters, Edith Thompson and Marjorie Thompson, died, Joshua Stephens-Anselm allegedly used checks and then set up a mobile Chase account on his cell phone using the bank’s app to pay his bills with their money at first. But as time went on, he started to live a life of luxury, according to Brown.

“This trusted bank employee took advantage of his access to enrich himself,” Brown said. He used “the accounts as if they were his own personal piggy banks.”

Stephens-Anselm was the Thompson’s private client banker at the bank — located at 205-19 Hillside Ave. — and in December 2013 Edith died. Marjorie died a year later. From 2016 to 2017, the defendant allegedly funneled the money from sisters as checks then electronic payments.

He allegedly began to steal money by issuing checks to himself from the sisters’ accounts to his living expenses for rent, cable bill and utilities.

Once Stephens-Anselm got the mobile account, he stepped up his lifestyle by allegedly using the funds to purchase alcohol, clothes, trips and hotel stays, Brown said. He paid off his friend’s Victoria’s Secret credit card and used the money to frequent hookah lounges, according to the DA.

“The defendant was alleged to have not only paid his living expenses, but also spent the money on luxuries like hotels and vacations and partying at hookah bars. If the allegations are proven true, the defendant will face a long term of incarceration as a result of his greed,” Brown said.

A forensic examination of the two estates showed that $590,000 was stolen from Marjorie and $70,000 was taken from Edith.

Both accounts have been reimbursed in full by JP Morgan Chase.

The defendant is awaiting an arraignment and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

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

Comment on this story.

Source: Times Ledger

Changing the terms of office for federal executives

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By William Lewis

TimesLedger Newspapers

Our president is restricted to two four-year terms in office. It was the tradition in the U.S. government before it became law with the 22nd Amendment.

That tradition has been carried on in the history of our country, with the exception of Franklin Roosevelt, who was elected and re-elected three times. Few traditions have held as much as the four-year terms.

It was George Washington who set the tone of serving two terms as president before relinquishing office. There may have been many reasons why he did this. The one primary reason seems to be he was tired of the press that opposed him, attacking him in their newspapers. They were constantly accusing him of being a dictator and wanting to become king of our nation. He gave up the presidency after two terms since he was weary of these relentless attacks against what he considered his integrity.

The U.S. Constitution states that U.S. senators serve for six years and the U.S. House of Representatives members serve for two years. There have been few attempts to change that and few criticisms of the policy, although President Lyndon Johnson indicated that he would like to see the House members given a three-year term. Nothing came of it during his presidency.

With all the talk about term limits during recent years, it is time to consider the length of office that our highest public officials serve, especially in the federal government. If we are going to make these changes, the time has come to consider a Constitutional Convention where these matters can be debated and given serious thought. It has also been said that our term of office for the presidency should be extended to three four-year terms from the present two.

When we consider term limits at the highest level of government, we are considering our highest elected officials in such a way as to not give the people a chance to vote for whoever they wish since the incumbent has been eliminated as a potential candidate.

Democracy has many aspects to it, and one of them is that we may vote for whoever we wish. When voting is restricted to everyone except the incumbent who has served the maximum number of terms, it limits democratic alternatives. It could be said regarding the limits that the people are not trusted to vote for a new fresh candidate and they will continue to vote for the incumbent. It is the right and privilege of voters to vote for whoever they wish including the incumbent officeholders. However, this matter should be debated before a Constitutional Convention or something close to it.

We are at the time when our high officeholders, especially those in executive positions, have the knowledge and experience to carry on successful policies. That is especially true in foreign policy. We have a Constitution that has been strong and enduring, but from time to time, changes are needed. Just consider all the amendments that have been added to this document.

We need to have our officeholders stay in office long enough to establish policies and continue with them to hopeful success.

Comment on this story.

Source: Times Ledger

Mayor pushes to extend deadline for Nepali TPS holders

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan urging an 18-month extension for the Temporary Protected Status designation of Nepali New Yorkers.

If the Nepali TPS holders don’t get an extension on or before the April 25 deadline, their status will expire on June 24, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website.

There are 8,950 Nepali TPS holders across the country, according to the National Immigration Forum, an advocacy group for immigrants. Approximately 8,000 Nepali TPS holders are in New York City and 7,000 live in Queens, based on data from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

Most Nepali Queens residents live in Jackson Heights, brickunderground.com, an online real estate magazine, says. Nepali people also live in Ridgewood, Sunnyside and Woodside, according to ethNYcity, a website that tracks global cities.

Global cities consists of large populations of people from other parts of the world in one city, according to ethNYcity.

EthNYcity contends most Nepali people choose Queens, especially Jackson Heights, because of the borough’s diversity and the neighborhood’s large Southeast Asian population, which according to the U.S. Census, also includes Bengali, Pakistani and Indian populations.

Some members of the Nepali community came to the United States after their home country — located in the Himalayan mountain range in Southeast Asia — suffered two devastating earthquakes in 2015.

“I stand with Nepalese New Yorkers — the largest Nepalese community in the country — and call on the Department of Homeland Security to extend Nepal’s TPS designation for a full 18 months,” de Blasio said. “Forcing TPS recipients to return to a country still recovering from two calamitous earthquakes would be heartless and cruel.”

Nielsen of DHS had no comment.

On April 25, 2015, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, which led to inadequate housing, infrastructure, health care and schools in the country, according to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

The first quake struck the northwestern region of the capital city of Kathmandu and was followed by more than 100 aftershocks that led to the death of 8,500 people, many of whom were trapped in collapsed buildings, according to Oxfam, a global organization that works to tackle injustice and poverty. Hundreds of thousands of Nepali people were left without food, shelter, or medical care after the quake.

The United Nations reported that 90 percent of health facilities in four districts were severely damaged and that up to 90 percent of houses in two rural districts were destroyed in Nepal, the fourth poorest country in Asia.

On May 12, 2015, just 17 days later, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake shook the country, this time triggering landslides. Buildings that were damaged from the previous quake eventually collapsed, according to Oxfam.

The landslides blocked roadways, wrecked agriculture, killed livestock, and devastated the country’s markets. There were 22,000 people injured and about 750,000 houses were destroyed.

In 2016, representatives of Oxfam sent sleeping mats, blankets, solar lamps and seeds and provided shelter for 480,000 people. More than 200,000 toilets and 46 percent of the water supply in Nepal was destroyed. To help, the organization built 7,200 latrines and installed 159 water systems to prevent waterborne diseases. Still, there are 270,000 Nepali people displaced.

“Conditions in Nepal have not improved enough for the nation to reabsorb individuals who currently hold TPS status,” de Blasio said. “Nepalese New Yorkers with TPS would be forced to abandon the stability and livelihoods that they have found in New York. I urge you to recognize the extraordinary hardships caused by the country’s still incomplete recovery and extend Nepal’s TPS designation for an additional 18 months.”

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

Comment on this story.

Source: Times Ledger

We need to make sure our trees are safe

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By John Amato

TimesLedger Newspapers

As the summer season approaches, more and more people fill the sidewalks and parks of our city. There are the thousands of trees that line those sidewalks and fill those parks. Are they safe to walk under?

The city Parks Department is responsible for the maintenance and inspection of all street and park trees. In Queens alone, there are over 248,000 trees. With so many trees in one borough, the job of maintaining and inspecting them requires nothing less than a Herculean effort.

While the forestry division in each borough works very hard to do the job, there needs to be several more professional arborists, pruners, climbers and tree inspectors hired.

The Parks Department should request state and federal assistance to get this massive task completed.

With early predictions of another very active Atlantic hurricane season by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this should be another impetus for the Parks Department to really get moving on this.

Trees add beauty and peace to the landscape and supply us with oxygen, while taking in carbon dioxide. Their leafy canopies give us cool shade on hot summer days and their roots also hold soil in place and prevent erosion, especially on hillsides. They give off brilliant displays of color in autumn.

Their maintenance, which includes pruning and feeding on a regular basis in order to be kept healthy. Those trees which are weak, dead or dying must be removed to prevent possible injury, death or damage. New Yorkers should be able to walk down tree-lined streets and in city parks without having the fear of a tree or a part of a tree falling on them.

When homeowners or business owners are requesting that a tree in front of their property be removed because they believe it is a hazard, those trees should be taken down without question.

Tree inspectors must take into account the concerns of these people, while also inspecting and evaluating the tree. A written report signed by the tree inspector should be given to the homeowner or business owner explaining how the inspection was done and why he or she deems it necessary or unnecessary to have the tree removed.

John Amato

Fresh Meadows

Comment on this story.

Source: Times Ledger