Bayside Attorney runs for Judge

Bayside’s own Karen Lin will be in the running for Queens Civil Court Judge in the upcoming Democratic Primary on June 28.

Lin officially announced her candidacy back in April, kicking off her campaign with a show of support from local elected officials including U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, State Senator John Liu, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, and District Leader Carol Gresser.

With 25 yeast of legal and courtroom experience, Lin is running to increase representation in the judiciary and to make history as the first East-Asian American woman elected judge in Queens.

“As judges, our job is to serve the people,” Lin said in a statement. “I would love the opportunity to be someone who serves the people of Queens. This is my home, this is the place I love, and these are the streets I know. Representation matters, having people who are diverse on the bench matters.”

Last year, former NYS Assemblywoman and countywide Judge Michele Titus and Judge Laurentina McKetney Butler were elected to the New York State Supreme Court’s 11th Judicial District, leaving behind two open seats for Queens Civil Court Judge. Lin, along with attorney Thomas Oliva, were selected by Queens County Democrats to replace them.

On Monday, May 23, a press conference was held in front of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association to announce U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez’s endorsement of Karen Lin for Queens Civil Court Judge.

“We need judges on the bench that can relate to the people over whom they preside,” Velázquez said during the press conference. “We need diversity on the bench as it is an essential component of a fair and impartial judiciary. Bringing a range of experiences and perspectives allows judges to make better-informed decisions and increases public confidence in their rulings.”

Lin began her career as a civil rights and family law attorney at a small firm, representing families in New York City Family Court and the State Supreme Court. She subsequently left for an opportunity to work for New York State Senator Catherine Abate in lower Manhattan.

From her experience, she gained new insight into the needs of New Yorkers regarding issues such as affordable housing, fair wages, and labor rights, which she hopes to bring to the table if elected to the Queens Civil Court.

“I am deeply honored by Congresswoman Velázquez’s endorsement and support for my civil court race. In the most diverse county of Queens, Asian Americans remain vastly underrepresented in the judiciary,” Lin said in a release. “This is why I’m running. A qualified judiciary is more than just the sum of their professional experience. A judiciary that reflects the community it serves is the most legitimate and effective option. My commitment is and will always be the same: ensuring equal justice under the law for all.”

The Democratic Primary election will be held on June 28.

GOP didn’t just do well in Council races

The unthinkable is about to happen in the a race for a seat on the bench in Queens County.
Republican Joseph Kasper first ran for a judicial seat in 1995. From 1998 to 2000, his name was on the ballot every year. He took a decade-long break, and then resumed running nearly every year since 2010.
He never won; it’s nearly impossible for a Republican to overcome the built-in advantage Democratic candidates have among registered voters. And since very few voters pay attention to the judgeship races and know very little about the candidates, those who do bother to fill out that portion of the ballot are likely voting strictly along party lines.
Even though Kasper never came close to sniffing victory, he felt it was his obligation to run just to give voters a choice. He believed in the two-party system.
But maybe the 20th (or however many times he has run) was the charm!
After the polls closed, Kasper held a 1,700-vote lead over former councilman Paul Vallone in the race for the 3rd Municipal Court District, which includes Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood, as well as parts of Ozone Park and Howard Beach.
Not only was Vallone running as a Democrat, voters would no doubt be familiar with his last name. His grandfather, Charles Vallone, served as a judge in Queens Civil Court for 12 years, while his father Peter Vallone was the second-most powerful man in the city when he served as speaker of the City Council from 1986 to 2001, when term limits forced him from the Astoria seat he represented since 1974.
And his brother Peter Vallone, Jr. is also a former councilman who is now a judge himself in Queens County Civil Court.
There were 2,400 absentee ballots sent to the Board of Elections, which they are counting this week. If Kasper’s lead holds, it will be the first time in a very, very long time that a Republican went up against a Democrat for a judgeship in Queens County and actually won.
Kasper was probably helped by the strong showing that Republicans had in several City Council races throughout the city, including Joann Ariola, who easily defeated Democrat Felicia Singh in a district that partly overlaps the 3rd Municipal Court District.
Although, several people familiar with the race told us that Vallone was also overly confident that a victory for him was a lock. They told us he did very little to connect with voters, figuring his name and his party affiliation would be enough to cruise to a win.
And while Kasper didn’t even have a campaign website, he attributed his strong showing to good old-fashioned campaigning, motivating voters and volunteers and meeting with a lot of people.
It took 26 years, but the next time Kasper’s name is on the ballot, it might be as the incumbent, not as a token opposition candidate.

Judge rules Gowanus rezoning can move forward

This past Monday a Brooklyn judge lifted the temporary restraining order on the controversial Gowanus rezoning. The land use proposal is now allowed to move ahead to the public hearing phase of the approval process after months of bitter legal battles.
The rezoning was originally conceived by ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg, but found new life under Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It would rezone an 80-square-block area of the neighborhood to make way for new developments, including a controversial plan to build a complex on the highly polluted “Public Place” site along the Gowanus Canal.
The grassroots community group Voice of Gowanus, as well as other elected officials and organizers, have consistently opposed the plan. Their criticism is directed at both the legal process to approve the rezoning and the environmental risks that could come with new development.
In a meeting last month, Voice of Gowanus members argued that the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for city projects should be halted during the pandemic. Alicia Boyd from the Crown Heights group Movement to Protect the People, explained how Virtual ULURP hearings were inaccessible for many New Yorkers.
“Forty percent of our community did not have access for an online hearing,” Boyd explained. “It’s another way to silence people’s voices, there is no way to protest.”
Jason Zakai, an attorney for the group, applied for a motion from the courts that would compel the city to conduct ULURP in person or otherwise more adequately, resulting in the restraining order.
“Before we even get to the political process, we need to make sure it is done correctly,” Zakai explained during last month’s meeting. “We want the city to follow New York City law.”
This past week, that restraining order was reversed when New York Supreme Court Justice Katherine Levine ruled to allow the city to continue with the public review process so long as an in-person hearing option was offered for those without internet access.
The in-person hearing will take place at J.J. Bryne Playground in Park Slope and will coincide with the virtual hearing. The date and time are yet to be announced.
However, Voice of Gowanus is still fighting the rezoning.
“The lifting of the temporary restraining order was provisional and contingent upon the city meeting certain requirements, which it has not yet done,” Zakai clarified in a new statement. “The court proceeding continues, and Voice of Gowanus will not waver in its fight on behalf of the community to ensure there is increased public participation, access, and transparency at any public hearings on the massive and controversial rezoning plan.”
Despite the pushback, the two City Council members representing the area — Brad Lander of and Stephen Levin — support the rezoning. In a statement, Lander’s Land Use and Budget director Julia Ehrman spoke of the need for the rezoning and the importance of forthcoming environmental review processes.
“The Gowanus neighborhood has been changing around us with as-of-right development over the last decade,” Ehrman wrote. “As we emerge from the pandemic, we have a chance to steer its future in the direction of a more integrated, affordable, and resilient community.
“Now that the public process is moving forward, we can have the conversations we need to ensure the rezoning plan addresses critical issues in Gowanus,” she added, “including the clean up, infrastructure, and funding for NYCHA.”
The Gowanus Canal is one of the most polluted waterways in the world, due in large part to its history as a former hub for industry.
Voice of Gowanus members are concerned that development along the waterway, especially at the Public Place site, could release residual contamination into the neighborhood.
Yet even as the rezoning moves towards public hearings, there is no guarantee that the project will see the light of day. The ULURP process typically takes seven months, leaving time for a new mayor and City Council to change course in Gowanus.

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