Generation Q celebrates grand opening of Forest Hills location

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By Steven Goodstein

TimesLedger Newspapers

A Queens program for LGBTQ youth has moved to a new, more accessible location in Forest Hills.

Generation Q held a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 28 to celebrate the grand opening of its brand new center located at 107-20 71st Road.

The new Generation Q center, located just off Austin Street, is easier to reach than its previous location and is within close proximity to Queens Boulevard as well as the 71st St-Continental Ave. transportation hub.

For almost 20 years, Generation Q, a program of Queens Community House, has provided a safe, secure environment for the LGBTQ community’s youth as well as their allies and supporters.

Nearly 100 supporters, which included participants and partners, attended the event, along with City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights)and Larry Menzie, who founded the program in 1999.

“I hope that each time a young person walks into this space they feel special and welcome,” Menzie said. “When they are here, it should be a moment they never forget.”

Menzie started Generation Q in his living room back in April 1999 and would actively recruit new young people and invite them to participate in the program. It became incorporated with QHC in 2001 as a once-a-week program by the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee.

In 2004, the Pride Committee asked Queens Community House to take over Generation Q’s operation, based on its extensive experience with youth development programs along with their demonstrated commitment to the LGBTQ community.

Generation Q has been expanded to a five-day-per-week program, now offering a variety of LGBT health, wellness and support services, which include counseling, health workshops, social events, support groups and other beneficial activities.

The new center in Forest Hills is the organization’s only Generation Q location.

The Generation Q center was previously located in the bottom level of a public housing unit on 62nd Drive and Colonial Avenue for nearly a decade.

“I’m excited about this new space, in part because it has so much more accessibility to public transit,” said Ben Thomases, executive director for Queens Community House. “It has huge growth potential and sitting on top of this transit hub, we have the opportunity to bring young people from all over the borough.”

QCH has provided a wide network of comprehensive services to Queens residents, families and communities since its founding in 1975. In total, QCH has 32 sites in 14 neighborhoods across the borough. The organization, which supports 22,000 people annually, is also a member of United Neighborhood Houses.

To learn more about Generation Q, like its Facebook Page @GenerationQRules or visit www.qchnyc.org.

Reach Steven Goodstein by e-mail at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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Source: Times Ledger

Flushing rabbi charged in extortion scheme

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By Carlotta Mohamed

TimesLedger Newspapers

A Queens rabbi and a Long Island man were arrested and charged with engaging in a scheme to extort $7 million from an individual in exchange for not providing incriminating information to law enforcement authorities last month in Brooklyn federal court, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District said.

The defendants, Rabbi Igal Haimoff, 67, of Flushing, and Mark Weissman, 54, of Lawrence, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak June 18 and were each released on a $250,000 bond, federal prosecutors said.

“As alleged, Haimoff and Weissman attempted to characterize the millions of dollars they expected to receive from their extortionate threat as a charitable donation,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. “This office, along with our law enforcement partners, will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who seek to hide their criminal conduct behind the cloak of a charity.”

Haimoff and Weissman played roles in helping a third defendant — Andrew Tepfer, (Person A), who was arrested and released on a $500,000 bond June 21 — coerce the victim into transferring funds in exchange to not tell law enforcement about the victim’s illegal activity, according to the criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office.

If convicted, Haimoff and Weissman each face up to five years in prison.

In or about 2010, the victim pleaded guilty in a federal criminal case pending in the Eastern District of New York, to conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to the complaint. In February 2015, the victim was ordered to pay $12.7 million restitution to victims of the fraud charged in the case, according to the complaint.

The three defendants thought the victim had money from the fraud case and sought to accuse the victim of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against him.

Weissman enlisted Haimoff to allow his charity to receive the extorted funds as a way to disguise the purpose of the transaction, the court papers said. Haimoff and Weissman created and transmitted a fraudulent charitable donation letter to the individual they believed would be sending the extorted funds from overseas, accordng to the complaint.

The letter, on the charity’s letterhead from Haimoff, said: “Thank you so much for your pledge of $6,000,000 towards our building campaign. Your generous donation will enable us to complete the construction of our yeshiva building which is so vital for the continued growth of our Queens community. It is the generosity of donors such as yourself that provide us with the strength and ability to continue being there for the community. Thank you for being our partner in this most important endeavor. For your convenience, you can fire (sic) the funds to our bank account as follows [bank account details].”

Unbeknown to the men, they were actually communicating with an undercover FBI agent when transmitting the letter.

Haimoff later indicated that Tepfer (Person A) was increasing the demand to $7 million and the victim indicated that he could provide the funds, and Haimoff asked to be provided with a letter indicating why the “donation” was increasing to $7 million. On or about June 6, 2018, Haimoff and the undercover FBI agent, exchanged the following e-mails, which read in part:

Undercover FBI Agent: “Dear Rabbi Haimoff, I have learned that there is additional structural work required for the construction of the yeshiva building for the charity. As such I would like to increase my pledge from $6,000,000 to $7,000,000 to assist you with the project… Kind regards…”

Haimoff: “… Thank you very much… that you doing with our yeshiva because of your good heart open hart (sic) for mitzvahs we will be able to expand our bldg to the maximum capacity now we don’t have any more space for new kid’s (sic) to come after the construction will be done we will be able to double the amount of children!!…thank you so much. Rabbi haimoff.”

“Charity of all kinds, especially related to children, is esteemed to be noble, honest, and true,” said William F. Sweeney, FBI assistant director-in-charge. “By allegedly attempting to extort and blackmail this victim in the name of charity, Haimoff and Weissman gravely undermined these values. By the arrests of these individuals, it is clear that regardless of cunning cover-ups, all injustices will ultimately be revealed.”

Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmohamed@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4526.

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Source: Times Ledger

Queens residents charged in healthcare fraud schemes

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By Julia Moro

TimesLedger Newspapers

Thirteen individuals, including four from Queens, and two pharmacy owners have been charged with participating in fraudulent schemes in which Medicare and Medicaid programs were billed more than $163 million, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

The list of the accused includes five doctors, a chiropractor, three licensed physical and occupational therapists and two pharmacy owners in the Eastern District, covering Queens, Brooklyn, State Island and two counties in Long Island.

Mayura Kanekar, 43, of Bayside; Artem Ashirov, 42, of Rego Park; Yuriy Barayev, 43, of Briarwood and Dr. Harold Bendelstein, 57, of Far Rockaway were among the 13 defendants, according to federal prosecutors.

The charges filed in federal court in Brooklyn and Central Islip, N.Y., are included in the nationwide health care fraud bust led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which resulted in criminal charges against 601 individuals for their alleged schemes involving approximately $2 billion in fraudulent claims.

“As alleged, the defendants charged throughout the Eastern District of New York as a part of the nationwide health care takedown abused their positions to enrich themselves, while bilking Medicare and Medicaid,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue.

“They did so without regard to the elderly and vulnerable citizens whose health depends upon these essential programs. Licensed medical professionals and others who cheat the system will be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Artem Ashirov of Rego Park, a pharmacist and sole proprietor of ABO Pharmacy in Brooklyn, has been charged with five counts of violations to the Anti-Kickback Statute, according to the U.S. attorney. The charges originate from a scheme in which Ashirov is accused of paying off and offering kickbacks for prescriptions filled at his pharmacy.

Between 2015 and 2018, the defendant billed more than $14.9 million to Medicare and Medicaid, according to federal prosecutors.

Yuriy Barayev of Briarwood, another pharmacy owner, was indicted on one count of health-care fraud. Through his Queens pharmacy, Woodhaven Rx Inc., he allegedly submitted claims for medications that were purportedly dispensed by his pharmacy, but on the contrary, they were never dispensed to the beneficiaries according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

From November 2013 to December 2015, Medicare reimbursed the defendant’s pharmacy approximately $6.6 million for pharmaceutical claims.

Dr. Harold Bendelstein was charged with one count of health-care fraud and two counts of making false claims, Donoghue’s office said. Bendelstein allegedly billed Medicare and Medicaid for incision procedures to patients’ ears, when in fact the defendant either did not perform the procedure specified or performed no procedure at all, according to federal prosecutors.

Between January 2014 and February 2018, Bendelstein billed Medicare and Medicaid around $585,000 and was paid approximately $200,000 on those claims, the U.S. attorney said.

“Medical doctors and medical professionals should be some of the most trusted people in our lives,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge James Robnett.

“Medicaid fraud is not a victimless crime. Those engaged in schemes like this prey on the most vulnerable New Yorkers, rob the health care system of vital resources, and waste taxpayer dollars,” said Office of Medicaid Inspector General Dennis Rosen. “My office will continue to work closely with our federal partners to hold wrongdoers fully accountable.”

Reach reporter Julia Moro by e-mail at jmoro@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4574.

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Source: Times Ledger

Comrie talks taxes, housing and more in 2018 race

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By Naeisha Rose

TimesLedger Newspapers

State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who is running for re-election, hopes that with a possible Democratic majority in the Senate next year, he will be able to bring about more effective change to his district and New Yorkers as whole.

At present he does not have a challenger in his bid for a third term in the Sept. 13 primary or the Nov. 6 general election.

“I like what I do and I would like to do it at a majority level,” Comrie said Monday in an interview with TimesLedger reporters. “We really have an opportunity to take the majority in the state Senate and direct the agenda, and control the type of legislation that is coming forward.”

Comrie believes that if there were a Democratic majority, common sense legislation that protects consumers, increases voter turnout in New York and brings about tax reform would no longer be “bottled up in the Senate,” controlled by Republicans.

“We have to embrace technology, we have to embrace change and we have to make it easier to make people to want to vote,” said Comrie.

In January, Comrie introduced two voting bills that would authorize ballot by mail by removing the cause for absentee voting and eliminate the requirement that affidavits need to have a voters previous registerd address, instead if there is an issue with an finding a voter’s updated address they can use a Board of Elections form to vote, according to www.nysenate.gov.

“No voter should ever face unnecessary scrutiny at the polls because of errors that are outside of their control,” said Comrie. “The requirement that voters disclose the

address at which they were previously registered is onerous and unnecessary.”

Both bills are currently being reviewed by a committee and have only received co-sponsorship from fellow Democrats, according to www.nysenate.gov.

After Equifax was hacked and the credit agency failed to report the July 2017 data breach to its 143 million customers for six weeks, Comrie introduced three pieces of legislation that following September to require such agencies to disclose data breaches within 15 weeks. He also proposed automatic security freezes on consumer reports and a regulatory mandate over consumer credit reporting agencies by the Department of Financial Services.

All three bills are being reviewed by a committee and only have support from Democrats, according to www.nysenate.gov.

“Our district is over taxed and underfunded,” said Comrie. “When you look at our tax rolls, we get audited more frequently and tax reviewed more frequently then other parts of the city and that imbalance has to be fixed… and I think it’s illegal to a degree.”

The city is currently pushing a $400 tax rebate for middle-class homeowners for fiscal year 2019, but many elected officials want more to be done about the city’s property tax system.

Comrie’s 14th Senate District represents Briarwood, Cambria Heights, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Hillcrest, Jamaica, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens, Laurelton, Queens Village, Rosedale, South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.

“We have a lot of condos and co-ops in Queens that are facing some major taxes, because their taxes haven’t been corrected in years and it’s going to be a big financial hit for them, and we are going to have to address that,” Comrie said.

The senator also has ideas about how to safeguard affordable housing, create criminal justice reform and provide access to specialized high schools.

“We need to come up with a Mitchell-Lama housing plan where we create opportunities to make more buildings at an affordable rate for multi-family units,” said Comrie. “We need to be able to make sure that we are creating opportunities to sell our properties at affordable rates as well.”

Comrie also wants to address how petty crimes are handled in his district.

“This borough is the only borough where we only have one opportunity for people to have relief from minor violations … and not go straight to jail,” said Comrie. “We need to have alternative justice programs… there is work release, educational programs, there are guidance and rehab programs, and we need to advertise to people that these things exist.”

Many Democrats have been divided recently on the mayor’s plan to eliminate the Specialized High School Admissions Test to create access to the institutions for low-income, black and Hispanic students, with some elected officials saying the SHSAT needs to remain and that more prep tests and schools are necessary. Supporters of the mayor agree that there should be more forms of acceptance to elite schools instead of a single test.

Comrie falls in the middle. He agrees with having more test prep for students in all districts and not relying solely on a single test, but he believes the best solutions are specialized middle schools and the development of more specialized high schools for the city’s more than one million pupils.

“In my district there are students of color that passed the specialized high school test, but don’t go because their parents don’t want to have to send them to Brooklyn, Bronx, and Manhattan,” Comrie said. “We need another specialized high school in Queens… there is not enough for the borough for the students who want to attend specialized high schools.”

There are eight specialized schools that require only a one-test option and only one of them is in Queens: the Queens High School for the Sciences at York College in Jamaica.

“I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to enhance the community,” said Comrie. “I will constantly work to be an accessible and open elected official… and my continued focus will be to make sure my community is empowered, enlightened and informed.”

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

Transit advocates urge state candidates to adopt initiatives

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By Mark Hallum

TimesLedger Newspapers

Transit advocates are pushing for a set of agenda items to be adopted by candidates running for state office that will improve roads and fix the ailing public transportation system in the city.

Up to eight organizations signed on to the call for political hopefuls and incumbents to get on board with supporting funding for New York City Transit President Andy Byford’s 15-year plan to overhaul subway infrastructure and buses expected to cost around $19 billion, a commitment to pass legislation that would enact Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s congestion pricing plan and another agenda item to authorize safety enforcement cameras.

John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance, was confident that if candidates adopted the agenda items as their campaign promises the public would be able to better hold them accountable.

“These days, no one should be able to run for office in New York without telling their constituents how they’re going to fix the subway system and make buses more reliable,” Raskin said. “This transportation agenda is a ready-made package that every candidate for state-level office should adopt, and then we the people have to hold them to their promises when they’re in office. This election season, frustrated transit riders are looking to elect leaders who can demonstrate that they understand the depth of the crisis and have credible, realistic plans to address it. With the release of our transportation agenda, candidates may say they don’t want to fix the transit system, but they can’t say they don’t know how.”

Byford’s $19 billion plan to modernize public transit will start by bringing Communication-based Train Control to every subway line within five to 10 years to replace the analog signal system mostly in place across the city.

In Queens, the No. 7 train will see a complete install of CBTC in 2018, allowing for about two more trains per hour, followed by the E, M, F, R and G trains in the next five years, and then installations will begin on the N, R, W and A within 10 years.

Paul Steely White, who heads up Transportation Alternatives — an organization which mostly advocates for more bicycle and pedestrian friendly streets — said cars should not have the run of the roads throughout the city.

State law limits the ability of the city Dept. of Transportation to deploy speed and traffic enforcement cameras, which could makes streets safer for biking and walking.

“Our streets are a tremendous asset, but we need to make better use of these rights-of-way,” White said. “New York can’t continue to be a world class city if we squander this valuable space by handing it over to cars. We know what it takes to make our streets safer, more efficient and more equitable for all users, but it will require leadership from elected officials, a commitment to proven solutions, and critically, an end to the deference to drivers.”

The Regional Plan Association, a think tank for economic improvements within the state, issued a statement backing up the claims of the city and state comptrollers that an investment in transit infrastructure would see good financial returns for all.

“New York City needs a safe, reliable, equitable and efficient transportation network to support its economy and mobility,” Kate Slevin, senior vice president of State Programs and Advocacy at the Regional Plan Association, said. “With more political will, we can fix the subways, improve bus service, make our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and build the vital transit projects our region needs to thrive.”

The New York state Democratic primary is scheduled for Sept. 13, with the general election set to take place Nov. 6.

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

Bayside’s 111th Precinct fights against mailbox fishing epidemic

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By Steven Goodstein

TimesLedger Newspapers

Fishing has rules and regulations. Mailbox fishing is illegal.

After previous waves of mailbox fishing occurred in other boroughs, the crime has become an ongoing issue within the confines of the 111th Precinct, in Bayside dating back to the beginning of the year.

Classified as grand larceny, mailbox fishing involves a perpetrator stealing mail from a blue USPS mailbox by either using a contraption (usually a water bottle and mouse traps or glue) or simply opening the box.

Once the perpetrator obtains the envelope, he or she alters the amount of money on the check by washing it in acetone and rewriting the dollar amount, then cashing the check at the bank.

“People are mailing checks in part because they don’t deposit checks at banks as much anymore,” said Sgt. Joseph Saviano of the 111th Precinct, who also discussed the ongoing issue at the 111th Precinct Community Council meeting June 26 at the Colonial Church of Bayside. “This has been an issue in Manhattan, the Bronx, Long Island City – and the problem is continuing to move further east. Once we handle this issue, it will pop up again in the Long Island counties.”

Saviano cited an example just last week, when a Bayside resident reported a check that was cashed for $18,000 after it originally read $1,000 and the check was washed with acetone.

These incidents usually take place at nighttime, right after the last mail pick-up for that day.

Some of the targeted mailbox addresses within the 111th Precinct confines include 61-43 Springfield Blvd., 250-10 Northern Blvd., 212-35 42nd Ave., as well as 73rd Ave. and Bell Boulevard, which were each hit three times in a 28-day survey period.

In total, the mailbox at 212-35 42nd Ave. has been hit a total of eight times since February.

Trends based on charts provided by the 111th Precinct, also reveal that many of these instances usually occur on Tuesdays and Sundaysand are more than twice as likely to occur during the first two weeks of the month.

In the past few years, mailbox fishing had been a continuing problem in Manhattan and the Bronx. The issue has since been resolved after all the mailboxes in both boroughs were retrofitted.

According to the Police Department, once locks on mailboxes have been replaced, complaints decrease and the criminal activity shifts to other areas.

The NYPD suggests that anybody who is mailing checks to write them with high-quality, pigmented permanent ink pens, such as a Uni-ball, to make it difficult for perpetrators to wash away the ink on the check.

The 111th Precinct has been working and sharing information with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to combat these crimes, It is not an easy task with 206 mailboxes in the confines of the 111th Precinct.

“For those who are concerned about mailbox security in their neighborhood, we encourage them to place mail in a collection box in another area, use secure receptacles, deposit their mail at a post office or hand your mail to a uniformed mail carrier,” said Donna Harris, spokeswoman for the USPIS’s New York division. “We will continue to meet with the NYPD, share information with them and come up with solutions to deter the perpetrators from engaging this activity.”

Harris also suggested that residents should check the pick-up schedule posted on the mailbox so they can be assured that their mail will not sit in the box overnight or over the weekend.

The 111th Precinct has been well prepared, however, conducting surveillance operations with plainclothes officers and regular directed patrols with marked cars. It also created a “key-catcher” contraption to either trap or breaks the key of the perpetrator, which the NYPD uses to collect DNA and other evidence.

The police also advise residents to drop mail directly inside the post office instead of dropping it into the mailbox to avoid becoming a victim of mailbox fishing. Anyone who sees evidence of anybody tampering with a USPS mailbox should call 9-1-1.

The NYPD has not yet given a timetable about when all the mailboxes in Queens will be retrofitted with new keys, as they are in Manhattan and the Bronx.

On June 27, the 111th Precinct said it arrested 50-year-old Forest Hills resident Frank Akinnuoye for allegedly stealing mail from personal mailboxes, within the vicinity of 42nd Avenue and 214th Place.

Reach Steven Goodstein by e-mail at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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Source: Times Ledger

Ecological upgrades clean up polluted Flushing Bay

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By Carlotta Mohamed

TimesLedger Newspapers

Flushing Bay no longer stinks.

City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Vincent Sapienza joined community leaders and environmental advocates June 29 to announce substantial progress has been made on more than $200 million in ecological improvements for Flushing Bay.

The investment in environmental upgrades to improve the health of the bay in the vicinity of the World’s Fair Marina has allowed for dredging of 89,000 cubic yards of sediment, an upgraded sewer system to prevent 225 million gallons of pollution from being discharged into the bay each year, and ongoing construction of more than three acres of new wetlands that will naturally filter the water in the bay.

“Removing historical pollution, increasing the capacity of the sewer system to reduce overflows, and building new wetlands that will filter the water and provide a habitat for wildlife has created a new start for the ecological health of Flushing Bay,” Sapienza said.

Bordered on the west by LaGuardia Airport and the Grand Central Parkway, on the south by Northern Boulevard, and on the east by College Point, Flushing Bay serves as a vital route for boats, ferries, and other vessels heading to the East River.

Flushing Bay residents have long complained about the stench in the area.

The built-up sediment in the bay contained a lot of decomposed organic material creating a “rotten egg smell,” according to Roy Tysvaer, DEP project manager. Tysvaer said the lingering odor is gone now since the material has been removed.

The $15.4 million project to dredge portions of Flushing Bay in the vicinity of the World’s Fair Marina and two combined sewer outfalls began in January 2017 and was completed the same year, according to the DEP.

“This work has significantly reduced nuisance odors in the area,” said Tysvaer. “Long-reach excavators situated on the floating barges dredged 91,000 cubic yards of sediment over a 17.5 acre area.”

The shoreline is now filled with 110,000 plugs of switchgrass, saltgrass, seaside goldenrod, smooth cordgrass and other wetland plants, the DEP said. Most of the work, including the $19.2 million wetlands restoration component, will be completed by the end of July. The planting and monitoring of the wetlands will continue for the next several years.

Non-native trees, 78 deteriorated timber piles, and an abandoned pier were also removed to improve views along a portion of the 1.4-mile long Flushing Bay Promenade. Tysvaer said it’s “aesthetically pleasing.”

According to the DEP, wetlands help to absorb storm surge, filter impurities from the water, increase dissolved oxygen levels, reduce coastal erosion, capture greenhouse gases, and serve as a productive ecological habitat and nursery for juvenile fish.

“This investment in Flushing Bay represents a good first step to reclaiming our waterfront, and I thank DEP for working in good faith with our community,” said Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing). “I look forward to continuing these important efforts together to seek new way to make sure Flushing Bay and Creek are able to live up to their currently unrealized potential as sources of environmental pride.”

In addition, the city completed $33 million subsurface sewer upgrades in the spring targeting five locations between the Long Island Expressway and LaGuardia Airport: 108th Street and the Horace Harding Expressway, 108th and 43rd Avenue, Ditmars Boulevard and 31st Drive, Ditmars and 100th Street, and the LaGuardia Airport Maintenance Yard.

The work focused on raising and lengthening the weirs that direct the wastewater to the Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant. By directing additional wastewater to the treatment facility, the project has reduced sewer overflows into Flushing Bay by 225 million gallons annually.

The long-blighted Flushing Bay is one of the city’s most precious waterways,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), chair of the City Council Committee on Environmental Protection. “Rebuilding our ecosystems doesn’t just reopen areas of Flushing Bay to the public, it makes all of New York City more sustainable for the future.

The sewer optimization, environmental dredging, wetland construction and green infrastructure projects are part of agreements between the DEP and the state Department of Environmental Conservation that aim to improve harbor water quality throughout New York City.

The DEP also has ongoing construction in College Point of more than 400 new catch basins and nearly 12 miles of new sanitary and storm sewers that will continue through 2021. This work will remove three existing combined sewer outfalls that empty into Flushing Bay, thereby avoiding the release of nearly 50 million gallons annually of combined sewer overflow.

Existing wetlands in the vicinity of MacNeil Park will also be expanded with the planting of an additional 10,000 square feet of Saltmarsh Cordgrass.

James Servino, a marine biologist who lives in College Point and the environmental chairman of Community Board 7, said the DEP’s installation of storm pipes at McNeil Park last year were destructive and are killing the marine habitat, where there are oysters, shellfish, fishery, horseshoe crabs and a wide variety of wildlife.

“Into construction, the pipes that they installed are spewing out contaminated waste and street affluent into McNeil Park and have killed a state-protected habitat that I have a permit for to grow shellfish,” said Servino.

Servino said during the pipe installations his home was damaged.

“One of the pipes was running past my block. They reconnected the wrong pipes and did damage to the pipes and flooded my basement with sewage,” said Servino. “We have a lawsuit with the city. We’re suing the contractor and for damages to my personal home.”

Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmohamed@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4526.

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Source: Times Ledger

Bressler aims to win Assembly seat from Braunstein in Novemeber election

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By Steven Goodstein

TimesLedger Newspapers

Bay Terrace businessman David Bressler is currently fine-tuning his campaign to run against state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) for the second time.

Bressler spoke about key issues that would be part of his campaign last week in a sit-down with the TimesLedger Newspapers editorial staff, including student safety, preserving the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, legislative term limits, proper budgeting and tax reduction.

The Republican challenger wants to improve student safety — a top priority of his campaign — by deploying ex-military members and former police officers in schools to prevent potential threats. He also wants to install metal detectors in schools and limit entry for visitors.

Bressler is a strong advocate of retaining SHSAT, contending that eliminating the test for the city’s elite high schools would lower educational and academic standards while sending the message that test prep and high test scores are obsolete.

“I oppose Mayor De Blasio’s proposal to end the SHSAT,” Bressler said. “The answer is not eliminating this test but continuing to reward the students who score high on these tests, just like baseball players get better contracts when they hit more home runs, have a higher batting average, etc.”

He also stressed the importance of expanding tutoring programs and fixing the city’s outdated educational system by, for example, dropping rubber rooms for teachers accused of misconduct.

Bressler also believes the state’s elected officials should be limited to two four-year terms, similar to the City Council and the mayor’s office, in an attempt to halt the dysfunction in the state Legislature, which he said was the most corrupt legislative system in the country.

After launching a run against Braunstein in 2016, Bressler was forced to drop out when the signatures on his nominating petition were challenged. Braunstein was elected to the Assembly in 2010 to replace Ann-Margaret Carrozza, who represented voters in the 26th District, which stretches from College Point to Little Neck before leaving politics for her private law practice.

The regional manager for Bimbo Bakeries between 2003 and June 2018, the nation’s largest bakery company, Bressler said he would also like to improve funding and budgeting while reducing taxes. He claimed that nearly $4 billion in taxpayer funds has been wasted — $2 billion on NYCHA budgeting and $1.8 billion that has been paid in Medicaid premiums.

“There needs to be more accountability and more transparency on spending,” Bressler said. “Based on my experience, budgeting is my field of expertise and I’m confident that I will reduce taxes and government spending to help families once I am elected.”

The Whitestone native said one way to fix the budget issues is to implement a new system that would require review of receipts and invoices, as well as approvals from high level management within government agencies.

Bressler’s campaign support comes from endorsements by the Queens County GOP, along with the Conservative and Reform parties. He has said that while he does not expect any endorsements from Democratic elected officials, he is “open to working with anyone who shares the same concepts and wants to build on those ideas – whether Democrat or Republican. I’m not a Republican with a wall.”

Braunstein, who ran unopposed in 2016 in both the primary and general election, has been District 26’s assemblyman since 2011. As an incumbent, he has been largely unchallenged.

Bressler officially announced that he was going to run against Braunstein at the Queens Village Republican Club’s Lincoln Dinner March 18. The general election is Nov. 6.

A lifelong Queens resident, Bressler graduated from Bayside High School. He has lived in Bay Terrace since 1994.

Bressler was until recently the president of the Bay Club’s board of managers, of which he is still a member. The Bay Club is a gated community near the Bay Terrace Shopping Center which houses 2,400 residents.

“I’m running in this election to challenge Braunstein on a political level, not a personal level,” Bressler said. “I’ve met him a few times – he’s a gentleman, a family man, but I don’t agree with his policies as an assemblyman.”

Reach Steven Goodstein by e-mail at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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Source: Times Ledger

Paul Simon will wrap up historic farewell concert at Flushing Meadows Corona Park

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By Tammy Scileppi

TimesLedger Newspapers

Imagine what legendary artist and “Queens boy” Paul Simon must be thinking as he prepares for his historic farewell concert at Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the final performance of his “Homeward Bound” tour, set for September 22.

What an emotional time it must be for the singer and songwriter. After all, that location is just a stone’s throw from where he grew up and isn’t far from Forest Hills High School and Queens College, his alma maters.

It seems like destiny. Simon came of age singing and playing the guitar in his family’s modest Kew Gardens Hills home in the ‘50s. And, as fate would have it, he happened to live next to his soon to be friend, Art Garfunkel, who also had a good voice. As teens, the two started a duo called Tom and Jerry, singing doo wop.

After Simon and Garfunkel continued to connect musically and professionally, they took their show on the road and folks everywhere couldn’t get enough of their sound.

After a while, Simon went solo. There was no stopping him. The beloved singer and performer was worshipped by millions of music lovers and his iconic songs have been described as some of the most important ones written by any artist during the rock era.

It seemed as if the music gods had smiled down upon this dynamic star. He possessed a rare sense of poetry and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice after winning 16 Grammys, three of those for Album of the Year. His unforgettable “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” sold an estimated 25 million copies worldwide. “Graceland” sold an estimated 14 million.

Fast forward 50-plus years and “Homeward Bound – The Farewell Performance” will be a celebration of a renowned touring career that began in the 1960s. As Simon looks back at his amazing musical achievements, perhaps with a tear in his eye, is he feeling a sense of sadness, now that this awesome journey is coming to an end, as well as a sense of excitement as he gets ready to return to the place where it all began?

No doubt, his final ‘so long’ will be shared by thousands who have loved his music from the start.

Simon’s band will bring to the stage a memorable, career-spanning repertoire of timeless hits and classics, as well as a unique selection of songs the artist has chosen for this once-in-a-lifetime show.

This performance will be the first major concert event at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in decades.

“Queens adores the fact that Paul Simon has chosen to come home for the final concert of his Farewell Tour. As a lifelong fan, I am absolutely thrilled,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “The news, however, is bittersweet. The city of New York could have – and should have – turned this long-anticipated homecoming of Paul Simon into a free concert for all in the park, not limited to those who can afford to pay concert ticket prices at the expense of the surrounding community. In fairness to all New Yorkers, the city should figure out a way to make this historic performance free and accessible to everyone.”

As of this writing, there is no word yet on that, according to Katz’s office.

Katz previously outlined her concerns and the need for the city to develop a consistent policy and selection process for applications from for-profit companies to run paid admission events in our public parks, in a couple of media outlets.

“Everybody knows Paul Simon’s music. He is a local product as some of his songs, such as ‘Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,’ reflect. So, it’s simply fantastic that he is returning to his home borough for the final concert of his illustrious career,” said Rob MacKay, director of tourism at Queens Economic Development Corporation. “The salmon has swum upstream, and I hope residents flock to his show and treat him with tremendous respect.”

Even Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in.

“When Paul Simon sings ‘Homeward Bound’ there’s no doubt he means New York City,” he said on Twitter June 20. “Join us in welcoming the legendary songwriter home to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the final performance of his farewell tour!”

The event is produced by The Bowery Presents and Madison House Presents, New York City’s premier concert producers. The artist will be donating all personal net-proceeds from the event to a previously-selected cause, which will be announced at a later date.

“In summer, there’s no better place to enjoy live music than outdoors in a city park, and what a night this will be,” said city Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver. “Thank you, Paul.”

Upon the announcement of his Farewell Tour this past February, Simon wrote the following letter to his fans:

“I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to reach the point where I’d consider bringing my performing career to a natural end. Now I know: it feels a little unsettling, a touch exhilarating, and something of a relief.

“I love making music, my voice is still strong, and my band is a tight, extraordinary group of gifted musicians. I think about music constantly. Sadly, we lost our lead guitarist and my friend of 30 years, Vincent N’guini, who died last December. His loss is not the only reason I’ve decided to stop touring, but it is a contributing factor. Mostly, though, I feel the travel and time away from my wife and family takes a toll that detracts from the joy of playing. I’d like to leave with a big Thank You to the many folks around the world who’ve come out to watch me play over the last 50 years.

“After this coming tour, I anticipate doing the occasional performance in a (hopefully) acoustically pristine hall, and to donate those earnings to various philanthropic organizations, particularly those whose objective is to save the planet, ecologically. Once again, I am very grateful for a fulfilling career and, of course, most of all to the audiences who heard something in my music that touched their hearts.

“It seems more like fate than coincidence that I should do the final show on this final tour at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. I could have ridden my bike from home to the park in about 20 minutes, when I was a kid. But this is less a goodbye than a farewell. Thank you all for the ride, I had a great time.”

For tickets, visit www.axs.com/events/356590/paul-simon-tickets.

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Source: Times Ledger

Lowe’s ready to put its stamp on Douglaston Plaza

See this story at TimesLedger.com.

By Mark Hallum

TimesLedger Newspapers

With Macy’s and MovieWorld out of the picture at Douglaston Plaza, as well as the nod of approval from the city Board of Standards and Appeals, Lowe’s Home Improvement is primed to make dramatic changes to the shopping center, which could redeem its relevance for shoppers.

Jon Popin, an attorney from Duane Morris representing the landlord — known as Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation and Lowe’s — claimed the mega store came with the support of condominium owners within the immediate area who feared the nearby shopping center was falling into ruin and having a “ghost town” effect on their property values.

“We didn’t know how this would play out because this is going to be a new-built, large format hardware store coming almost into their back fence,” Popin said. “They were very concerned with Macy’s going out and Macy’s being really the main anchor — the only anchor — at the shopping center that if Lowe’s didn’t come in and no one else really wanted to, that it was really going to become a darkened site and affect their property values ultimately. Maybe it was economic reason that drove their support more than friendly neighborliness, but both of the issues were definitely at play.”

Douglaston Townhouse Condominiums Association fully backed the measures necessary to bring in Lowe’s and even petitioned the BSA to illustrate its support.

Feelings toward the proposal were different for many across northeast Queens, however, with a number of residents concerned about losing a cheap, locally owned movie theater.

Members of Community Board 11 narrowly passed a recommendation to approve the variance Lowe’s needed to expand the sub-cellar level of the space, making their store feasible, at a Feb. 5 meeting. The debate at that meeting got contentious and often personal.

During the public discussion period, many residents, including one MovieWorld employee of 14 years who gave an impassioned speech, voiced their support for preserving the theater as the best option for affordable tickets for schools and the elderly on fixed incomes.

Ashkenazy exercised the buy-out option in its contract with MovieWorld, which still had five years remaining, and officially closed July 5.

“There was a lot of support in favor of maintaining the movie theater,” Popin continued. “It’s unfortunate the local, community people wanted the movie theater to stay, but if Lowe’s didn’t come in,” he trailed off. “My client had been trying [almost a year] to find a new tenant to fill the space and there was none.”

The space in which Macy’s operated was 157,000 squarefeet, but Lowe’s needs 250,000 to operate. The BSA granted a 15,000-square-foot extension of the sub-cellar which was approved in just a month, according to Popin.

The nearest shopping hub is in Long Island almost 10 miles away, Popin pointed out in closing.

“Farewell. Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened,” MovieWorld tweeted out on its last day.

Macy’s closed hundreds of stores in 2017 as a result of the inability of its brick-and-mortar locations to keep up with online markets, executives of the company said. In April 2017, this included the location at Douglastion Plaza.

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