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Contract reneg

Dear Editor,
It is unfathomable what the city is attempting to do to over 250,000 retired city employees, as well as every person who is currently working for New York City by forcing us off of original Medicare and replacing it with a private Advantage program.
No job is perfect. When someone decides to take a city job, they realize they are making a trade-off. Working in the private sector rewards you with a higher salary, but working for the city offers better benefits, especially once you retire and are able to take advantage of the superior health insurance package and pension.
This is the sacrifice we all made when we accepted our jobs. It is unconscionable to remove this important benefit now that it is too late for us to rethink our profession.
If this new “special” Medicare Advantage program is as good as the city claims, then why don’t they allow us the option of opting into it, instead of automatically switching everyone onto it and requiring us to pay almost $200 per month in order to maintain the plan which was in our contract when we took our jobs?
Now we have two options: accept the new health insurance, which limits our choice of doctors, requires pre-authorizations, and costs us additional money for co-payments, or keep the Medicare we already have but spend about $2,300 per person annually.
This would be effectively reduce our pensions. In essence, the city is giving us a choice of which benefit we want reduced.
Needless to say, the secrecy the city utilized is a great cause for concern. This plan has actually been in the works since 2014. That was when the UFT negotiated with the city to get well-deserved raises for teachers.
The problem was the way they did it. First they took over $1 billion out of our health account fund. Next, they made a deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Office of Labor Relations to cut the amount of money the city spends on our health care by $600 million per year.
Over the past seven years they secretly discussed ways to do this. Then, in spring 2021 they decided to switch our health coverage from federal Medicare to a privately owned Medicare Advantage Program. There was no discussion or opportunity for us to vote on it.
Now the city is trying to rush everything along. Originally they set a deadline of October 31st to opt out. An amazing group of concerned retirees formed The NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees for Benefit Preservation.
We have over 10,000 members and were able to hire a lawyer to fight this. Our goal is simple: do not change what is in our contract.
The city has been using the tier system for the last 48 years. Periodically, they create a new tier, but current and retired employees are grandfathered into the tier that was in effect when they were hired. This would be the obvious and fair thing to do.
Then, new employees would be able to decide for themselves if they are willing to take a job with these different retirement benefits.
Sincerely,
Lee Rottenberg
Middle Village

Glendale Kiwanis welcome club governor

On August 29, the Queens West Division of Kiwanis International held a dinner at the West Side Tennis Club hosting Kiwanis International New York State Governor Brenda Leigh Johnson, the granddaughter of the late Dale Carnegie.
The Queens West Division consists of 17 Kiwanis Clubs, and guests consisted primarily of members of the Forest Hills and Glendale clubs.
Missouri native Dale Carnegie, who passed away in 1955, lived at 27 Wendover Road, a charming 1920 Forest Hills Gardens house.
He was a lecturer and writer who developed courses in public speaking, self-improvement, corporate training, and salesmanship. “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” published in 1936, is his signature book.
An underlying theme of his work was the potential for changing other people’s behavior by changing one’s behavior towards them. He founded the Dale Carnegie Institute in 1912, which today operates as a business training firm with over 200 locations in over 85 countries.
“Leadership is not something that we are born with, it’s a skill that needs to be practiced often,” Johnson, who founded the Long Island Alzheimer’s Association, told the crowd. “Leadership is not a job title, it is a way of thinking and we are all leaders in some way. Every day we make decisions, small or large, that affect people around us.”
Johnson’s mother Rosemary was Carnegie’s stepdaughter.
“Although I have no memories of Dale, he is alive through his books, letters, and photos, and I think he was a most humble man who loved Forest Hills and embraced all it had to offer,” said Johnson.
Carnegie enjoyed tending to rose gardens down the street from his Wendover home.
“As a child, it was a special place to walk to and was filled with varieties of roses,” she said.
Although the Wendover property was sold in the late 1960s, Johnson recalls visiting it often.
“There were always cocktail parties and lots of fun and laughter,” she said. “For Christmas dinner, there were lots of toasts and cheers.”
Her grandma added a sun room and maintained a home office overlooking a back garden.
“There seemed to be a robin singing every time I would go in there,” Johnson said. “It was filled with books and a couple of easy chairs, making creative thought something that was easy to do.”
Johnson began working for Dale Carnegie & Associates while in high school.
“I knew from the time I was a young child that I wanted to work for the family business,” she said. “During my breaks and after work, I would pour over files. I helped my sister-in-law create a room for the archives to be enjoyed by visitors.”
Today the international headquarters is in Melville.
“I created ‘Dale’s office,’ as if Dale just stepped away for a few minutes,” she said. “His desk, books, favorite pictures and, of course, the original manuscript, of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ is there.”
Eleven years ago, Lieutenant Governor Kerrie Hansen was inducted into the Kiwanis Club of Glendale, along with her husband Steve, eventually serving as president before being elevated to her current position.
“Our Kiwanis family offered opportunities to do service and enjoy fellowship,” she said. “I found a global family, who wished to improve the world one child and one community at a time.”
Hansen called Johnson a hands-on governor and amazing leader, mentor, and navigator who traveled statewide during a very complicated time of the pandemic.
“She is akin to the Dale Carnegie legacy, but also as a leader teaching people how to use their skills to make their reach more powerful and impactful,” she said. “Even during challenging times, our 17 clubs commit their service, make generous donations, and fundraise for their communities.
“It may not have been in the traditional ways we accomplished these achievements, but each club, which has a different personality and spirit, succeeded with some creative thinking,” Hansen added.

‘Art in the Parks’ grant winners announced

Local artists Sherwin Banfield and Haksul Lee each receive $5,000 grants to create temporary art installations in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“In addition to supporting Queens-based artists, we look forward to activating the park with new artworks as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Elizabeth Masella of the Parks Department. “Both artists’ work highlights eco-friendly technology like solar and wind power, while honoring the park’s past, present, and future.”
The “Going Back to The Meadows: A Tribute to Queens Hip Hop Legend LL Cool J” and “Performance at FMCP” by Banfield will be located at David Dinkins Circle near the boardwalk ramp entrance to the park from the 7 train at Willets Point.
Banfield describes it as “a sculptural sonic performance artwork that evokes the feeling of Flushing Meadows Corona Park as an event space, channeled through the sonic frequency and artistry of Queens hip-hop legend LL Cool J.”
Banfield’s recent exhibitions include sculptures for the Queens Central Library, Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport, Socrates Sculpture Park, and the Factory LIC Gallery.
“The Giving Tree” by Lee will be located on the lawn bounded by Herbert Hoover Promenade, United Nations Avenue North, and Avenue of the Americas.
Lee describes it as taking the form of a tree, “to bring awareness of the environmental concerns in the Queens community.”
The main structure will be made of recycled materials collected locally. The top of the sculpture will function as a wind turbine to power a charging station in the tree’s trunk.
Lee’s work was recently exhibited in The Immigrant Artists Biennial, at the Korean Embassy in Beijing, and the Phyllis Harriman Gallery.
“The grant is intended to help transform these selected sites into art destinations through a series of rotating exhibitions with supporting events and programs,” said Alliance for FMCP executive director Janice Melnick.

Why endorse one when you can back two?

A few weeks back, we wrote that endorsements would be hot commodities this election cycle with so many candidates running in local and citywide races.
After all, there would only be so many major endorsements to go around – such as those from labor unions and prominent elected officials and community leaders – before candidates would have to start scraping the bottom of the barrel (no offense intended!) to prove they have a broad base of support and deserve your vote.
But we forgot about ranked-choice voting, which this year will allow voters to list their top five favorite candidates in order of preference
That means if you are a candidate, just because you weren’t the first choice of say the UFT or PBA, doesn’t mean you can’t court one of those unions to state that if they had to pick a second candidate to back, it would be you.
We wondered how many candidates would swallow their pride and go after those type of endorsements, but as it turns out, the endorsers themselves are ahead of the game.
Two elected officials from northeast Queens recently decided to endorse not one, but two candidates in two different City Council races.
Assemblyman Ron Kim announced that he would be co-endorsing both Ellen Young and John Choe in the Democratic Primary for the City Council seat being vacated by Councilman Peter Koo at the end of the year.
In a statement announcing the “first-of-its-kind” endorsement, Kim said he believed both would be “worthy elected leaders for the community.”
Of course, Young was eager to publicize that Kim had endorsed her, so she sent out her own press release touting his support. Naturally, there was no mention of the fact that Kim also endorsed one of her opponents in the race.
About a week later, State Senator John Liu announced he was endorsing two candidates in the Democratic Primary to replace Councilman Barry Grodenchik. But unlike Kim who co-endorsed two candidates, Liu actually stated his preference.
He announced that Linda Lee was his first-choice candidate, followed by Jaslin Kaur at number two. Liu said Lee would “be a most thoughtful and effective member of the City Council,” but also said Kaur would “lead District 23 towards guaranteeing dignity for all.”
We’re so confused!
Lee also sent out a press release announcing the endorsement, which makes sense because she was the top choice. But Kaur seems perfectly content to be a close second in Liu’s eyes. She posted news of the endorsement on her website and social media channels, making it very clear that she was indeed Liu’s second choice.
We guess not only does ranked-choice voting mean that candidates can still get the support of a group or person who has already endorsed their opponent, but it also gives an out to the endorsers who don’t have to choose between two people they already have close relationships with.

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