CB6 advocates for enhanced COVID protocols

Locals worry about increased positivity rate

As Omicron and its subvariants, BA.5 and BA.2.12.1 continue to affect New Yorkers, one Queens Community Board is taking action and spreading awareness where the city is lacking.

Earlier this month, Mayor Eric Adams and health officials discreetly removed the city’s COVID alert system, leaving it up to individuals to assess the data on their own.

NYC.gov provides daily, weekly, and monthly data regarding COVID-19 cases, including statistics in certain areas—Kew Gardens, Rego Park, and Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park among some of the most affected.

While positivity rates over 20 percent are already a cause for concern, Heather Beers-Dimitriadis, chair of Queens Community Board 6, worries that the numbers are actually higher than what is being reported.

“We remain concerned that we see an increase, especially in Queens, considering all we have endured in 2020,” Beers-Dimitriadis said. “We are concerned about the statistics, because there’s no longer that self reporting mechanism. So we are concerned that the positivity rate is not as accurate as it could be, because I don’t believe it takes the home testing into account.”

Beers-Dimitriadis argues that at-home COVID tests are important tools for taking precautionary measures, due to their rapid result time and fairly wide availability.

To keep them accessible to residents of Queens, Queens Public Library offers free at-home COVID-19 test kits on a first-come-first-serve basis at every location.

Through a partnership with the city’s Test and Trace Corps, test kits are available for pick up during regular business hours, until an hour before closing—with a limit of two test kits per person.

“When thinking about what [at-home tests] cost over the counter, we want to remove the economic barrier for people and get them to these tests,” Beers-Dimitriadis said. “We are grateful for Queens Public Library being a valued partner in our community, and stepping in here and being a distribution center for these tests.”

Beers-Dimitriadis pointed out that a simple family of four with one COVID-positive person goes through, at a minimum, 21 home tests during that seven-day period.

She added that the CB6 office has had a limited supply of at-home COVID tests as well as other PPE to distribute to the community, courtesy of Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi.

In response to the recent surge in cases, Beers-Dimitriadis and Frank Gulluscio, district manager of CB6, penned a letter to Councilwoman Lynn Schulman, asking her to support a short-term mask mandate until positivity rates go down.

In addition to serving Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, and Richmond Hill as a councilperson, Schulman also serves as chair of the City Council’s Committee on Health—which has jurisdiction over New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Emergency Medical Services, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

In the letter, CB6 also asks that the City Council work with the MTA to amplify its policy of mask wearing on public transit. One ride on a subway or bus will reveal that as many as half of riders no longer wear their masks in these settings.

Despite this new behavior of subway and bus riders, the MTA continues to inform riders of the mask requirement, through announcements and signage in stations as well as the words “Wear a Mask” in their social media screen names and bios.
Riders who refuse to wear a mask could still face a $50 fine.

“This new highly transmissible variant, plus an increasing number of tourists, coupled with our own neighbors traveling and students in summer programming we set the stage for case numbers to continue to rise,” the letter to Schulman says.
“We recognize that none of us want to go back to full masking, especially in the hottest part of the year. However, we must also recognize how crucial it is to keep our neighbors safe and healthy,” it continues. “We believe that if the variant is not halted in its tracks, it will negatively impact our capacity to get our city and our economy back on track.”

A staffer from Schulman’s office could not confirm or deny that she has seen the letter, but said that the councilwoman has actively been in contact with Mayor Adams to find a feasible solution for the increased case numbers in local communities.
CB6 has also been an advocate for other health issues concerning the city, such as monkeypox and skin cancer during the summer months. They have also shared resources for safe and legal abortions on their Twitter page.

In terms of COVID-19, Beers-Dimitriadis emphasized that the city’s shutdown of the alert system, not taking home tests into account for the data, and lessened presence of the Test and Trace Corps will not stop the community board from working on the ground.

“The ultimate goal is to keep the community safe, keep people able to go to work, keep students able to go to school and do those things safely, and knowingly safely… those tests do that,” she said. “For us as a community board, we want to make sure that we are alerting the community to every opportunity they can to engage with free testing, especially at the convenience of being able to do it at home.”

Local gymnastics group performs at Barclays

Although the New York Liberty lost last Tuesday’s game against the Aces, another New York team walked out of Barclays Center victorious.

Students of Forest Hills Rhythmic Gymnastics & Dance gave the performance of a lifetime that evening, dazzling the audience with intricate choreography, captivating stage presence, and bendy poses that are enough to make you cramp up just looking at them.

Forest Hills Rhythmic Gymnastics & Dance

Forest Hills Rhythmic Gymnastics & Dance has been providing intensive physical education to the Forest Hills community since 1991—with rehearsals in the basement of the Forest Hills Jewish Center.

It is owned and operated by the Spivak family, who hails from Ukraine.

Dedicated to teaching girls ages 4-16, the studio places an emphasis on organization, discipline, and growing self esteem through the art form and sport of rhythmic gymnastics.

“Rhythmic gymnastics is an elegant, century-old women’s sport that comes from Eastern Europe where girls express themselves through music and choreographed routines. It is very different from traditional gymnastics—there are no bars, beams, vaults, or trampolines—instead, they use ropes, ribbons, balls, hula hoops, and batons,” Alex Spivak said.

“It’s a mix of dance, choreography, ballet and gymnastics,” he continued. “They don’t come to play, they come to work.”

The girls attend two-hour practices for several days each week, each class consisting of stretches, warm-ups, laps around the room, and practicing routines.

The routine performed at Barclays Center was choreographed by Mila Spivak, and has been in the works since January.

It consists of four songs, open floor, hula hoop, and rope sections. Each girl wore a different color bodysuit to bring a sea of color to the court, with their hair tightly wrapped into a bun—or else they would probably step on it.

Although there was the typical sense of nervous energy backstage, the girls were excited to perform the routine they worked so hard to perfect for months.

The Gymnastics & Dance team performs at Barclays Center during the NY Liberty game.

“I really like how much rhythmic gymnastics challenges me and motivates me to continue doing it. And the coaches are all really nice,” Elizabeth Velasco, an 11-year-old student of Forest Hills Rhythmic Gymnastics & Dance, said.

“When I watch the other girls who are way more professional, I say to myself, ‘I want to do that, too,’” she continued. “So then you keep on trying to do it, and next time I go to class I might try to learn that trick. You could end up doing it in one of the routines.”

“I think it’s really cool once you’ve been here for a couple of years, and then you tell a friend in school who doesn’t do gymnastics or isn’t flexible. When you show them a weird trick, it just completely freaks them out,” Leana Rogovskaya, 11, said. “It’s so much fun to see their reactions.”

Their coach, Mila Spivak, said that a lot of the young women who come into her studio often stay there for years, and eventually go on to become coaches themselves.

She takes much pride in her students and loves them like her own, keeping every gift, drawing, or personal item they give her forever.

“I am so proud of the girls; they did an amazing job,” Spivak said. “Some of them are five and six years old, and just started this year. It’s important that they listen to the music and work together.”

The girls were congratulated by all their supporters once they got off stage, and performed a group cheer to commemorate the moment.

Spivak informed them that they will start a brand new routine once summer vacation is over, and that they will all move up a level.

Beaming smiles and excited giggles filled the room.

Team poses for a group photo

Electeds, GrubHub bring meals to homeless vets

O’Neill’s of Maspeth donates 500 meals

Last Friday, the cafeteria of Borden Avenue Veterans Residence in Long Island City looked a little bit different.

Instead of their usual meals, the residents were surprised with having the option of sausage and peppers, chicken, or pasta from O’Neill’s of Maspeth—courtesy of Councilman Robert Holden, Councilwoman Julie Won, and Grubhub.

As part of their first-of-its-kind Serving the City program, Grubhub will donate quality meals to underserved communities.

“This is a first-of-its-kind program for Grubhub and launching in New York City—touching all five boroughs and partnering with every single city council member—is the perfect way to leverage our resources and address food insecurity for those in need,”

GrubHub representatives and local elected officials provide meals from O’Neills in Maspeth

Brett Swanson, Grubhub’s senior manager for community affairs and social impact said. “To have the greatest impact, we’re going hyper-local, working with the city council members to understand specific needs in the community and then partner to address them.”

The Borden Avenue shelter is a program of Institute for Community Living, a New York-based non-profit dedicated to serving folks who are homeless or mentally ill, as well as those diagnosed with mental illness, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities. ICL also runs the Tillary Street Shelter for Women in Downtown Brooklyn.

Jody Rudin, ICL’s president and CEO, was pleased to say that with the 500 meals donated, the 200 residents would have the option to go up for seconds and thirds.

“We’ve been partnering with Councilmember Holden in his role as chair of the City Council’s Veterans Committee, and he has been focused on the needs of the 200-or-so men living here, all of whom are veterans,” she said.

“Clients often don’t have the best experience dealing with systems and getting the attention, support, and dignity that they deserve—so to have this happen for them, and to have the councilmembers come and allow a chance for them to talk about things that could be improved here is so important,” she continued. “This is about more than the food. It’s about care, compassion, and attention for this population that served our country and is now homeless.”

While addressing the cafeteria, Holden acknowledged that upon visiting the shelter a few months ago, the top complaint he heard about was the food, and said he is committed to improving it in the long term.

“I held up the food that’s served in the trays at one of the hearings, and the mayor promised to improve the food, and also the entire shelter, giving everybody a private space eventually,” Holden said.

Veterans were given a chance to share their concerns with local electeds

He assured the group that he is there for them for anything they need, and thanked them for serving their country.

Councilwoman Julie Won echoed Holden’s sentiment, and assured the residents that she strives to ensure that their needs are met.

“We heard you when you said, ‘we want to have better food on a daily basis.’ We’re going to continue to work together to make sure that our city is paying attention to the food that is served to you—that it’s culturally competent, nutritious, of the right quantity, and hot and fresh food,” Won said. “In addition to that, we hear you. We know that we have an affordability crisis on our hands for this district that I represent.”

The council members and ICL staff eventually gave the floor to the residents of the shelter, allowing them to voice their concerns and needs regarding their daily lives.

Hiram Bonet, a veteran and resident of Borden Avenue Veterans Residence, brought up mental health and quality of life issues.

“Some veterans who are here are being underserved. They don’t belong among the rest of us. They need a better, higher level of care for their mental health issues,” he said. “It’s not fair to some of us, them, their families, or our families. It needs to be addressed.”

To combat this issue, he suggested a clinical assessment on intake to appropriately evaluate the level of care they need, as opposed to merely receiving referrals from the city based on veteran status.

Bonet also brought up the fact that the dormitory areas where the men sleep at night are not air conditioned, and they are not allowed to purchase their own portable units or fans.

“I work nights at the Department of Sanitation, and when I come back, exhausted from a shift, I can’t sleep because I’m drenched in sweat. I can’t sleep with clothes on because it’s just impossible,” Bonet said. “There’s also a window in my cubicle, so I feel uncomfortable sleeping without any clothes on, but I have to.”

“On the AC issue, the long term story is we are working with the Department of Homeless Services on a real solution. We think the suggestion of fans in rooms is a good one, and we’re going to do that,” Rudin said.

“You have a commitment there, and thank you for raising these concerns.”

Reconstruction resumes at Bowne Park

A virtual Town Hall meeting was held last week to discuss the progress of the $2.014 million Bowne Park Pond Reconstruction project, following a more than half-decade-long delay in the construction schedule.

The project has been pushed back several times over the years. The designs, which were expected to be completed in 2016, were not approved until June 2018. Then the procurement of the project, which was slated for March 2019, was pushed back due to COVID-related impacts. This portion of the project was not actualized until March last year.

The event was coordinated by City Councilwoman Vickie Paladino, in cooperation with representatives from the Parks Department and the office of Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

“I am confident that we will continue to work together and finally, after seven-and-a-half years, present a completed park to the community,” Paladino stated.

“The people asked, and I delivered. I have been in meetings with the Parks Department since January, urging them to complete Bowne Park. As a constant advocate of total transparency, I told my constituents that I would facilitate constructive and open dialogue between them and the Parks Department, and that is exactly what the point of this Town Hall was. Promises made, promises kept.”

The event opened with updates from Queens Parks Commissioner Michael Dockett on the various projects at Bowne Park, which was followed by a substantive Q&A session with constituents focusing on the timeline, explanation of delays, and overall scope of work.

“I thank Council Member Paladino for convening this community meeting to discuss capital projects in the park, and was happy to share that work has resumed and the projects are progressing,” Dockett stated. “Community engagement is paramount for successful, thriving community greenspaces, and we will continue to work collaboratively with the Council Member and the community to ensure that Bowne Park continues to be a Flushing gem.”
Borough President Richards said that Bowne Park is a key part of the Queens community that has long been overdue for reconstruction.

“I am glad that progress is finally being made on that front,” Richards said in a statement. “My family and I look forward to enjoying an improved Bowne Park very soon.”

Work on the pond and bocce court plaza are expected to be completed by Spring 2023.

Newtown Creek Alliance demands action to open creek

Public Land for Public Use’

Hidden behind a chain link fence and construction sites in Long Island City, the beginning of Newtown Creek is easily forgotten by nearby residents. The shoreline on 29th Street at the Dutch Kills tributary is often overlooked. However, the Newtown Creek Alliance has made it their mission to ensure that its inaccessibility and unappealing, debris-filled appearance does not allow it to be ignored or disregarded.

Council Member Julie Won leads organizers in the chant “Public Land for Public Use”

In a press conference on Friday, July 15, organizers from the Newtown Creek Alliance called upon elected officials — specifically State Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams — as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the NYC Department of Transportation, and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, to address unsafe conditions of the bulkhead and adjacent roads, rebuild the shoreline, and incorporate public access to the water.

Newtown Creek stretches between Queens and Brooklyn, eventually flowing into the East River. It is nearly four miles long and is comprised of five small branches: Maspeth Creek, Whale Creek, the East Branch, the English Kills, and the Dutch Kills. The latter of which, the Dutch Kills Shoreline, is where the Newtown Creek Alliance and members of the Long Island Community, demand action for what has been deemed dangerous and deteriorating conditions around and in the water.

Currently, the street neighboring the Dutch Kills tributary in Long Island City is owned by the MTA, and it is used by DOT.

Among the elected officials who attended the press conference include Councilwoman Julie Won, Borough President Donovan Richards, and Assemblyman-elect Juan Ardila.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. gives his full support for making the Dutch Kills tributary accessible, saying he is “not a fair weather friend.”

As Frederick Douglass so eloquently put it, without struggle there is no progress,” Richards said under some heavy summer heat. “This is going to be a long struggle, but I want you to know that you have my 2000 percent commitment. I am not a fair-weather friend. As you can see, I will be with you when it’s hot, when it’s raining, when it’s storming and when the snow is out to make sure that we get this done.”

The bulkhead shoreline on the MTA-owned street is collapsing into the waterway, with the most recent taking place in February 2022. Following this collapse, the Newtown Creek Alliance sent a letter to the heads of the MTA, DOT, and the DEC to take action to restore the tributary.

Given the ownership of the land by MTA (Block 115, Lot 86); the use of the property as a through street managed by NYC DOT (29th street); and NYS DEC’s regulatory authority regarding waterway pollution and shoreline construction, we firmly believe that all three agencies have an obligation to address this issue,” the letter reads.

The letter continues on to detail what the creek needs to be revitalized, placing further responsibility upon the MTA for the creek’s continued destruction. In the EPA’s Superfund investigation, the MTA/LIRR was named a “potentially responsible party” for the tributary’s decline.

Given this potential liability that MTA/LIRR has in contributing to the historic contamination of Newtown Creek, we believe that DEC has an even stronger obligation to require a shoreline redesign that incorporates ecological benefits such as intertidal habitat, as well as public access to this historically damaged and inaccessibly waterway.”

LaGuardia Community College can be found directly next to the Dutch Kills, and leaders within the college’s community have expressed complete support for the demands of the Newtown Creek Alliance. Faculty and students do research on the waters of Newtown Creek, however, they currently have to travel several miles from campus to access the water and collect the samples, despite having the creek directly behind the college’s C building.

Kenneth Adams, the president of LaGuardia Community College, said he felt “extremely confident” that Newtown Creek would be transformed.

Representing the college at the press conference was its president, Kenneth Adams.

Let me just recommit LaGuardia Community College as an anchor institution in Western Queens,” Adams said. “We recommit to this project, and to do all we can in partnership with our elected officials and all of [the] advocates to make it happen. It’s going to happen.”

Newtown Creek, however, is currently unsafe for any potential LaGuardia College students or local swimmers. Until the second half of the 20th century, industries would dispose of their unwanted chemicals or byproducts into the waters with little-to-no government regulation. The natural depth of the creek once was 12 feet, but now can be as shallow as four feet in some places.

In 2010, Newtown Creek was named a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency. Through this designation, the creek became part of a program that works to mediate some of the nation’s most contaminated areas.

Hanging along the fence encompassing the creek were the community-led plans for the site, shown for the first time to the public. These plans include a salt marsh, terraced seating, and benches so the creek could be used and admired by residents.

For more information on the proposed future and further advocacy of the Newtown Creek Alliance, visit www.newtowncreekalliance.org.

Brooklyn, Queens Pols sound off on redistricting

The New York City Districting Commission released its preliminary maps for the 51 city council districts across the five boroughs—and not everyone is happy about it.

Federal law requires that the city to redraw council boundaries every ten years to account for population changes in the U.S. Census. From 2010 to 2020, the population of New York City has grown from 8.2 million to 8.8 million. To reflect the increase, the new plan would raise the average number of residents per district from 160,710 to 172,882.

One major change to the maps focuses on the Asian population within Brooklyn – and throughout the city – which has increased heavily since 2010. Census data shows that Kings County has welcomed 100,000 more Asian residents in the last ten years, making it the fastest-growing racial group in the borough.

The Asian majority district would be a redrawn version of the 43rd council district, currently represented by Justin Brannan. Current boundaries stretch from Fort Hamilton and Bay Ridge to Dyker Heights and Bath Beach. The proposed district consists of different swaths of Sunset Park, Bensonhurst, and Dyker Heights taking chunks of the current districts from Councilwoman Alexa Avilés, Councilman Justin Brannan, and Councilman Ari Kagan.

As a result, Justin Brannan’s hometown of Bay Ridge would shift into the Sunset Park and Red Hook-based district currently represented by Alexa Avilés. Meanwhile, Red Hook would move into the district represented by Shahana Hanif, as part of the redistricting.

Neither pol is a fan of the plan.

“It is perplexing that the creation of an AAPI-majority seat in southern Brooklyn would lead to the dissolution and division of Red Hook, Sunset Park – in addition to Dyker Heights – and it is certainly not necessary,” a joint statement from Brannan and Avilés reads. “By combining our current districts 38 and 43, you are dividing our district and further diluting the power we have to advocate for our community-specific, shared needs and goals.”

Brannan and Aviles also questioned the decision to create an asian majority district by eliminating the 38th – which was created to bolster Hispanic representation.

“We look forward to seeing future proposals, because this ain’t it,” the statement continues.

The Districting Commission’s preliminary lines could potentially impact communities in Queens too, where elected officials are concerned that the new lines could potentially cut out portions of existing Black enclaves.

Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers said that based on the preliminary maps, the new lines would cut remove portions of Springfield Gardens and institutions like the Robert Couche Senior Center out of the district.

“Council District 31 residents are a unique mosaic of ethnic communities that share similar values, a major economic driver – the JFK International Airport – and are racially and ethnically cohesive, and should stay that way,” Brooks-Powers said in a statement. “History has shown that redrawing the lines in this way will dilute Council District 31’s voting power and misalign the community’s collective voice.”

Brooks-Powers added that she feels strongly that the Rockaway community remain as it exists and not be adjusted.

“The current Peninsula representation includes a vibrant Jewish community, several NYCHA developments, Arverne by the Sea, and everything in between,” she added. “There is no need to disrupt the Peninsula representation. I appreciate all of the work the Commissioners have invested to date and look forward to further engagement around the future of Council District 31.”

The commission will be holding an additional set of public hearing across the five boroughs for residents to voice their concerns. The hearings are currently scheduled for Aug. 15, 16, 17, 18 and 22.

Adams announces Ferry Forward Plan

Providing Service to an Astoria Transportation Desert

Mayor Eric Adams has announced his “NYC Ferry Forward Plan,” an attempt to make the city ferry system cheaper for low-income New Yorkers and more expensive for casual riders or tourists.

The announcement, which comes following an audit on the ferry system for exceeding the budget expectations — took place at Astoria Landing, next to the NYCHA Astoria Housing housing on Thursday, July 14.

“This is a transportation desert, and although we have a waterway here, we did not have real access to moving about,” Adams said. “We had to figure that out. These residents deserved a way to get to work, play recreation, and really just be invited to other parts of the city.”

Beginning on September 12, lower-income New Yorkers in the MTA Fair Fares program, seniors, and those who have a disability under the New York City Ferry Discount Program can ride the ferry for $1.35. People can apply to be part of the New York City Ferry Discount Program online or by mail, and they will then buy tickets on the New York City Fair app or in-person at Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan. Those who live in NYCHA households within a mile of the ferry’s landing will receive two free rides so residents can see the appeal and promote the convenience of the ferry system.

For “frequent flyers of families,” a 10-pack of rides can be purchased for $27.50, which will average to $2.75 — the current price of a subway ride.

For all other people interested in taking the ferry, the cost of a single trip will increase to $4, to “offset the cost of those who are everyday New Yorkers that need to use the program,” Adams stated. However, in light of the recent ferry audit that discovered how the previous administration downplayed the cost of the ferry service, the increase may very well likely be an effort to keep the program on an even keel.

Adams also introduced a direct-to-beach service to the Rockaways called the “Rockaway Rocket.” This service starts Saturday, July 23, and requires seats to be booked in advance for a direct service from Pier 11 to the Rockaways. The ferry will operate on summer weekends and on holidays until September 11 — the end of the summer schedule — and will cost $8 in each direction.

New York is what it is because of the East River, the Hudson River, all the waterways,” said Adams. “It is what makes this city special, access to the city through our waterways. More and more New Yorkers are using the New York City Ferry, but too many are not aware of the great benefits from it. They think it’s out of reach and they think that it’s not something that they can utilize.”

Among other elected officials and community leaders joining Adams included Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr., Maria Torres-Springer, the deputy mayor for economic and workforce development, and Andrew Kimball, president and CEO of NYC Economic Development Corporation.

Our fleet of vessels, you see right behind me, were built at a lower cost than any other publicly procured ferry fleet in the country over the last 15 years,” Kimball said. “That’s astonishing and a true testament to the public/private partnership we have with our operator.”

More information on the NYC Ferry Forward Plan can be found at www1.nyc.gov.

Sunset Cove Park begins $4.2 million Phase II

Transforming waterfront dumping ground into a picturesque park

Closed for more than a decade, Sunset Cove Park reopened in 2019 following the restoration of 4.5 acres of salt marsh and seven acres of maritime upland along Jamaica Bay, which aimed at enhancing public waterfront access, improving the wildlife habitat, and providing important storm protection to reduce wave and wind impact on the Broad Channel community.

Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue

New York City Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue joined local elected officials, community leaders, and representatives from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, last week, for a groundbreaking ceremony on phase two of the project.


“I am thrilled to break ground on the second phase of the Sunset Cove project, as we continue to revitalize a space that was for years inaccessible to the community,” Donoghue said. “This project strikes at the core of our work here at Parks, at the intersection of greenspace expansion, environmental resiliency, and fun educational amenities for the youth in our communities – we look forward to unveiling the new boardwalk and outdoor classroom in the near future!”

The $4.2 million phase two project includes the construction of a new boardwalk—made from reclaimed wood taken from the former Rockaway Beach boardwalk, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012—and a new outdoor classroom designed to help build the next generation of environmental leaders.

Partially funded through a New York Rising grant, the $4.2 million project has received additional support from Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr., Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, and former-Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder.

Sunset Cove Phase 2 Groundbreaking (Photo by Daniel Avila)

“Thanks to its unique location, Sunset Cove is well positioned to tell the story of how Jamaica Bay’s wetlands perform critical functions that safeguard our environment,” Richards said in a statement. “The kids who will walk this boardwalk and use this classroom will be able to learn about their surroundings in a way they couldn’t before, giving them a more thorough understanding of the environment and the threats posed to it. Hopefully, the lessons learned here will prompt our next generation of leaders to be more supportive of what needs to be done to protect our environment and our communities, which have been devastated time and time again by Sandy, Ida, and other severe weather events that have been exacerbated by climate change.”


Plans call for the construction of an eight-foot wide boardwalk adjacent to the newly restored wetland area and a covered outdoor classroom with interpretive elements, including inset seasonal sun position information and binoculars. Two new bioswales will also be built at the park entrance to help collect stormwater.

Council scrambles to stop education cuts

Education advocates, public school teachers and parents have filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that New York lawmakers improperly approved the controversial education budget.

The suit, filed on July 17 with the New York Supreme Court, alleges that DOE Chancellor David Banks improperly utilized an emergency declaration to circumnavigate public hearings and failed to provide sufficient evidence about the size of the cuts.

The New York City Council voted for the budget on June 13, ten days before the Panel for Education Policy—the governing body for the Department of Education—voted on June 23. The lawsuit seeks to place an injunction on the current budget allowing for a revote on the budget in August.

“In at least twelve out of the past thirteen years, since at least June 2, 2010, several different New York City Schools Chancellors have invoked a similar ‘emergency’ using the same boilerplate language in order to immediately adopt a budget prior to a vote of the City Board (Panel for Education Policy) and prior to the City Council vote,” the complaint reads.

A large part of the city’s education budget is determined by the Fair Student Funding formula, which allocates resources based off of enrollments and disenrollments. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio prevented cuts to schools over the last two years by utilizing federal funds to cover the fluctuations in enrollments.

Overall 1,100 schools are expected to receive cuts from their budget totalling to $469 million, while 354 schools will be receiving increases to their budget, according to an analysis by the Comptroller’s office.

Over the last two years, enrollments in NYC public school have dropped by 80,000. Public school enrollments are expected to drop by 30,000 more students this fall, according to data shared with the New York Post.

Plaintiffs include Sarah Brooks, a special education teacher at P.S. 169 in Sunset Park, Melanie Kottler, a parent with a rising 2nd grader at P.S. 169, Tamara Tucker, a parent of two children at P.S. 125 in Harlem, and Paul Trust, a music teacher at P.S. 39 in Park Slope, where the music education program is under the chopping block.

“I have students who have gone on to the finfest conservatories and those who have formed the loudest of rock bands. All this will go away with these budget cuts,” Trust said in a statement. “I can only hope that this will not be the last year I am able to continue to serve the school community I love.”

On Monday July 18, a day after the suit was filed, members of the New York City Council rallied outside the Department of Education, to protest the cuts with advocates despite a number of the councilmembers previously voting for the budget.

“As more information was released, it became clear that the cuts to school funding were far more overreaching than originally communicated,” Councilwoman Jennifer Gutiérrez, who voted for the budget, said in a statement. “I take responsibility for my vote, and demand the Mayor and the Chancellor also take responsibility for the thousands of students whose education will be diminished by these funding cut, by fully restoring education funding before August 1st in a moment when we need it most.”

“Principals in my district have repeatedly shared that in FY22, COVID stimulus funds enabled them to fully fund academic intervention programs, support for English Language Learners, and music and arts programs for the first time,” Councilwoman Shahana Hanif said in a statement. “These programs are not superfluous, but essential to student’s holistic development.

M.S. 839 Teacher Frank Marino, whose school was slated to lose $226,557 after a 1.66 percent drop in enrollment, echoed similar sentiments in an interview with the Brooklyn Downtown Star last month.

“It’s always the schools [getting cut], we should be at this point, as teachers and students and families demanding more. And yet again, we’re here on the defensive, fighting for the bare minimum fighting for our school to have an art program,” Marino said.

Members at the rally suggested that Mayor Adams could utilize reserve funds to cover the cuts made to the budget.

“Since day one, the Adams administration has been committed to uplifting students throughout the five boroughs. As was reflected during the budget process, there are more city funds in DOE’s FY23 budget than last fiscal year,” City Hall spokesperson Jonah Allon told The Brooklyn Downtown Star. “While enrollment in public schools dropped, the city has maintained the unprecedented commitment to keep every school from every zip code at 100 percent of Fair Student Funding.”

Pol Position: Who is the real progressive in NY-10?

Is Rivera for real?

She locked up the endorsements of fellow progressive legislators. She racked up key union endorsements like 119 SEIU. But is she the real deal progressive in the race?

Rivera, the city councilwoman for the Lower East Side who is running in NY-10 congressional race, which stretches from Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods to lower Manhattan, certainly likes to brand herself as a progressive who gets things done. But she definitely has no qualms taking money from some of the biggest real estate players and lobbyists in the city.

A recent filing disclosure, first noticed by Twitter user Todd Fine, shows that Rivera has raised over $400,000 between April and June of this year. The raw filings show that Rivera has taken $5,800 from Jed Walentas, the billionaire developer of Two Trees Management; multiple donations in the thousands of dollars from CMW Strategies lobbyists, one of the most powerful real estate lobbying groups in the city; and $2,900 from Fulcrum Public Affairs lobbyists that represent large corporations like JP Morgan, Johnson & Johnson, and Alphabet (Google), among others.

In the city council, Rivera has been a fundraising machine, being one of 14 candidates who were able to raise over $1,000 – with her largest donations coming from the real estate industry.

Yuh-Line Niou, the assemblywoman also from lower Manhattan,who is vying for similar votes in the race (and was endorsed by the left-leaning Working Families Party), has not taken any lobbyist money but has also taken money from the heads of corporations. Niou has taken money from the CEO of Platinum Inc., a maintenance and service provider for commercial buildings; and two donations of $5800 from the owner of Upland Capital, a real estate firm based out of New England.

Niou also took $1500 from Park-It Management’s Gary Spindler, a garade developer who Niou returned a $500 donation in 2020, after a Crain’s New York article highlighted the discrepancy.

A campaign advisor for Niou told BQE Media that Spindler has donated multiple times in the past despite returning the money in years past, and is currently in the process of returning the donation again.

“Yuh-Line has long made the commitment to reject developer money or corporate PAC money and will not accept those dollars in this race,” the campaign said in an official statement.

A recent poll from the Working Families party showed that Yuh-line Niou and Carlina Rivera were essentially tied among NY-10 voters. Beyond support for candidates, the poll also asked voters to decide the four issues or factors that were most important in deciding who they voted for. Fighting for low-income and marginalized communities topped the list with 60 percent of respondents agreeing, followed by priorities like raising taxes on the wealthy to fund social service programs and affordable housing, as well as supporting a Green New Deal. Toward the end of the list are campaign pledges about rejecting real estate developer money or corporate money; with only 14 percent of respondents registering the former as a top concern and only 12 percent of respondents saying that latter was a top priority.

So maybe where candidates get their money from isn’t a top priority for NY-10 primary voters. But it should be. Whether politicians have a financial incentive to cater to special interests, is an issue for democracy and ensuring representation centers around voters and not those who can just cut a check.

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