Yesterday, State Senator Tony Avella, John Duane, Chrissy Voskerichian and Austin Shafran stood with me to denounce the "hit pieces" being paid for by real estate PAC Jobs For New York on behalf of Paul Vallone.
AVELLA AND CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES TO DENOUNCE ATTEMPTS BY REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY TO BUY 19TH COUNCIL SEAT
Tomorrow at 12:00 PM, Senator Tony Avella will join four out of the five Democratic candidates for the 19th City Council District, John Duane, Paul Graziano, Austin Shafran, and Chrissy Voskerichian, at a press conference denouncing the negative tactics used by Jobs for New York, the political action committee backed by the Real Estate Board of New York, the City’s strongest and biggest pro-development advocacy group. Jobs for New York has endorsed Paul Vallone in this race.
Many of the council candidates have been the target of mailers from Jobs for New York attacking their respective records while often distorting the truth.
With overdevelopment being one of the biggest issues in this district, Avella will blast the attempts by the real estate industry to buy this important election and undue all the gains the community has made against overdevelopment.
WHO: Senator Avella, John Duane, Paul Graziano, Austin Shafran, and Chrissy Voskerichian
WHERE: 213th Street and 41st Avenue in Bayside, Queens (near Bayside LIRR station)
WHEN: TOMORROW, TUESDAY, August 27 at 12:00 PM
Graziano Stands in Solidarity with Senator Avella, Teachers, Parents & Students at P.S. 29 Calling for the Removal of Rogue Principal
Dozens of teachers, parents and students of P.S. 29 in College Point, as well as State Senator Tony Avella and local community leaders including 19th Council District candidate Paul Graziano, called for the removal of Principal Jennifer Jones-Rogers this morning and an immediate investigation into numerous allegations of misconduct and misappropriation of funding.
"During the past year, I've heard from a number of teachers and parents about very disturbing things happening at P.S. 29, and the considerable slide in academics that began when Principal Jones-Rogers began her tenure there," Graziano said. "Intimidation, harassment and punishment seems to be the norm in her behavior towards the teachers in her school. Anyone - whether teachers, parents or students - who disagrees with Principal Jones-Rogers is treated horribly, with teachers given a "U" or unfavorable rating, students removed from classrooms and placed in Special Eduation or expelled from the school and staggering disrespect towards the parents. Additionally, the continued misallocation of funds meant for the students, including the dismantling of a computer lab that Senator Avella funded when he was a Councilmember and over $100,000 payed out to "consultants" who have done absolutely nothing to help school performance is completely unacceptable."
P.S. 29 used to be a very high-achieving school, one of the best in School District 25, according to Graziano.
"Since Principal Jones-Rogers tenure began, P.S. 29 has become one of the lowest performing schools in the 19th Council District," Graziano stated, "which is absolutely tragic, as it's hurting our future: our kids. It's happening to a greater or lesser degree across School Districts 25 and 26 and jeopardizing the future of these neighborhoods as, historically, young families have moved here to send their kids to the best schools in the city, among other things.
"This slide in educational achievement is substantially due to Mayoral control of our schools through the Department of Education, which has removed what schools are supposed to be about - teaching and learning. It has been replaced by a corporate model that seems intent on wanting to make our public schools fail so they can be replaced by privatized charter schools and other 'educational alternatives.' This is why I have called for an immediate ending of Mayoral control of our schools and a reconstitution of the Board of Education in modified form, which would emphasize local control with significant parental input in the decision-making process for our public schools in northeast Queens."
ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION IN NORTH FLUSHING IDENTIFIED AND HALTED; DEVELOPER FINED $5,000 FOR VIOLATING STOP WORK ORDER AFTER INTERVENTION BY GRAZIANO, NEIGHBORS
Several weeks ago, a construction fence went up around 156-10 32nd Avenue, a quiet block in Broadway-Flushing across the street from Bowne Park. The house's new owner, Jian Wen Zhu, had recently applied for an alteration permit known as an "ALT 1" which specifically states that over 50% of the building must be retained, including the basement or cellar. In other words, an alteration permit means just that: an alteration to an existing building, not a new building.
Two days later, the building was more than 50% demolished; within another two days, almost the entire building had been removed, except for two exterior wall stubs.
Paul Graziano, candidate for the 19th Council District, had contacted the local homeowner association as well as State Senator Tony Avella, and wrote a "Zoning Challenge" to the Department of Buildings, as it was clear that the architect on record, Ling Li, had self-certified a project that violated the R1-2A zoning - New York City's most restrictive - which covers much of Broadway-Flushing.
After a series of 311 calls were made and official complaints were lodged by residents of the area, the Buildings Department sent an inspector, who stated that 'No violation warranted for complaint at time of inspection; site is fenced, gated and secure with permits posted and current for ALT 1 - no workers on site.'
"This was an outrage," Graziano stated, "as the complaint that was filed with 311 called for a Stop Work Order, as the demolition for the house far exceeded what an ALT 1 permit allows and the permit itself should not have been granted as the floor area was over what is allowed under the R1-2A zone. The 311 operator had listed that the complaint was concerned with safety, and the Buildings inspector responded to that instead of what they were supposed to."
One week later, the Department of Buildings finally responded to the correct complaint, after much pressure from Senator Avella, Graziano and local residents. On Thursday, July 18th, a Full Stop Work Order was served to the owner for demolition contrary to approved plans. However, the contractors at the site continued to work on Friday, July 19th and Monday, July 22nd.
On Monday morning, Graziano and a resident involved with the homeowners association confronted the foreman of the construction crew - which numbered at least a dozen - and engaged him in a heated exchange which lasted for more than 10 minutes. The foreman stated that he was allowed to work and "do maintenance" to the property, and that they hadn't done anything wrong. When pressed as to why there was a Stop Work Order and they were still working, he stated that "the house had some extra rot in it so we had to take down more of it than we thought." He followed this statement with a discussion about how this was America and it was the owner's right to build what he wanted.
That afternoon, again pressed by Senator Avella, Graziano and the homeowners association, the property was inspected by the Buildings Department a third time. A violation of the Stop Work Order was issued for "failure to obey stop work order" and a $5,000 civil fine was levied.
Now, the owner must apply for full demolition and new building permits as well as file new plans, which must be approved by the Department of Buildings.
"I'm glad the Department of Buildings finally did what they were supposed to do," said Graziano, "but it shouldn't have taken so long. More importantly, this house, along with all of the other teardowns that have occurred in the last decade, would have never happened if Broadway-Flushing had become a New York City landmark historic district as more than 85% of the residents have supported. The homeowners association and residents of this area have spent significant time, money and effort to protect their century-old neighborhood from speculative developers."
All of Broadway-Flushing was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 and was downzoned in 2009 with the most restrictive "anti-McMansion" zoning in New York City (R1-2A and R2A), both of which were authored and designed by Graziano.
"Last week's victory against the developer who tried to break the restrictive covenants and split a corner property is wonderful and the Stop Work Order is welcome," Graziano stated, "but if Broadway-Flushing had been landmarked almost a decade ago as it deserves, neither of these - nor other - bad development situations would have happened. The house at 156-10 32nd Avenue was a beautiful house and there was absolutely no reason to tear it down in the first place. Should I be lucky enough to be elected by the people of the 19th Council District in November, landmarking Broadway-Flushing and our other historic neighborhoods in the 19th Council District will be one of my absolute top priorities to make sure this doesn't ever happen again."
Stop Work Order / Civil Penalty for 156-10 32nd Avenue can be viewed here:
Paul Graziano, Candidate for the 19th City Council District, stood with State Senator Tony Avella, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and dozens of residents of Bayside on Friday, July 19th to protest the School Construction Authority's elementary school proposed at Keil Brothers nursery at 210-11 48th Avenue.
"Keil Brothers is a terrible place for a new school," Graziano stated later on Friday, "as 32 houses adjacent on either side of the site would be directly affected because of its mid-block location. The immediate neighborhood is already significantly impacted by two schools - P.S. 31 and M.S. 158 (Marie Curie) - only a block away. While the neighborhoods of northeast Queens are very open to new educational facilities, as education is a top priority for the residents here, to propose a school in such an awkward location, especially after overwhelming opposition from the neighborhood and Community Board 11, is incredibly tone-deaf and must be stopped immediately."
Senator Tony Avella was joined today by preservationists and several area civic groups at a press conference protesting the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) decision to reject landmark designation for Flushing Meadows Corona Park (FMCP).
The 1,255 acre Flushing Meadow Corona Park is the Borough of Queens’ most prominent park and provides open space and recreational benefits to thousands of borough residents and low and middle income families. The Park is a valuable asset for the City and the residents of Queens not only because of its green space and natural areas, but also due to its embodiment of historical structures and leading cultural and educational institutions. The Park also has a unique history, serving as host to two World Fairs in 1939 and 1964, plus hosting the General Assembly of the United Nations from 1946 to 1950.
That is why, earlier this year, Avella asked LPC to review landmark status for Queens’ most prominent and historic park, which is under the threat of devastating development interests. Currently, the Mets organization is floating the idea of building a Mall in the park, the United States Tennis Association is proposing to expand and Major League Soccer is still interested in building a stadium that would further eliminate parkland.
Unfortunately, LPC recently denied this request and indicated that the park did not meet the criteria for designation.
Avella stated, “I am very disappointed in the Landmark Preservation Commission’s decision to not designate Flushing Meadows Corona Park as a landmark. It is clear to me that with its rich history and importance as Queens’ most significant and treasured park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park deserves landmark recognition, especially now. With three separate development proposals threatening to take away valuable parkland, Flushing Meadows Corona Park needs to be preserved now more than ever.”
“Parkland is sacred,” continued Avella. “The City should not be entertaining these proposals which would radically reduce open and recreational space for the hundreds of thousands of Queens residents who use this park on a yearly basis. Instead, the City should landmark this vital borough park to ensure its continued usage for generations to come and send a clear message that parkland is not for sale!”
“That is why I am calling on the Landmarks Preservation Commission to immediately reconsider their decision and demand that they hold a public hearing on this important issue. At the very least, the residents of Queens deserve to have their voices heard,” concluded Avella.
Paul Graziano, representing Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and a candidate for the 19th City Council District blasted the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the decades-long neglect of important historic structures in the park. "The first preservation battle that I ever got involved in was the Aquacade, which stood just to the south of the Long Island Expressway on Meadow Lake," stated Graziano, "and it was an incredibly important as it was one of the last remaining buildings from the 1939 World's Fair. The building suffered neglect in the 1980s and 1990s, and former Borough President Claire Shulman drew up a plan for its restoration - until she decided to hand a demolition contract to one of her financial supporters."
"We also almost lost the façade of the Queens Museum a decade ago, when the plan was to radically alter its façade. Thankfully, the financial crisis of the last few years ended that terrible plan - but it could have easily happened, and the place where the United Nations first met would have been unrecognizable to future generations."
"The New York State Pavilion also stands as a ruin, due to the neglect of New York City. This amazing structure by Phillip Johnson - one of the greatest architects of the 20th Century - stands as a testament to the lack of support that the remainder of the World's Fair fairgrounds and park plan has been jeopardized by the Landmarks Commission and city government for decades. It must end through the immediate landmarking of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and subsequent funding to restore and enhance our borough's 'Central' park."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
On Thursday, May 30th, 2013, Senator Tony Avella endorsed Paul Graziano's candidacy to become the next Councilmember for the 19th District, which includes Auburndale, Bayside, Bay Terrace, College Point Douglaston, Little Neck, North Flushing and Whitestone.
Avella stated that he was endorsing "not only a good friend but a great community activist and somebody that I really look forward to doing a great job as the next Councilmember for the 19th Council District."
Describing his extensive qualifications, Avella touched on Graziano's decades of community service, especially zoning, landmarking and preservation issues, which have historically been some of the biggest concerns to the residents of the 19th Council District.
"Given the last council member, who unfortunately was elected to represent this district and has done his very best to undermine some of the work that Paul and I did, I'm so happy to support Paul because I know that all the things that I worked on as Councilmember he will continue and even go further - not only the zoning, but the landmarking, preservation, road construction and other issues - you name it he's been involved in it."
"He knows the process, he knows city government, he knows the community - I can't think of anybody else, personally, to represent this Council District," Avella stated, "So I'm happy to endorse you. I wish you well and you'll be a great Councilmember and I will do everything I can to get you elected."
In response, Graziano thanked Avella for his support and stated that in the 19th Council District "our focus on constituent needs and services, focus on this district's interests, are really simple: Overdevelopment, is the number one issue, followed by Education, the number two issue, followed by Quality of Life issues, which is really your constituent services...There's a lot of other issues that are important, too. I look forward to working on them with Tony when he's the Borough President."
The entire press conference can be viewed here:
A full transcript of the press conference is listed below:
TRANSCRIPT OF SENATOR TONY AVELLA'S ENDORSEMENT OF CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE PAUL GRAZIANO - MAY 30th, 2013
I'm happy to stand here and endorse not only a good friend but a great community activist and somebody that I really look forward to doing a great job as the next Councilmember for the 19th Council District.
I could probably stand here for the next day and a half telling you about all the projects that he has helped me with. I mean, first and foremost of course, he helped me design the new R2A zoning category. He helped me design - and did design - outlined the entire rezoning for the 19th Council District, which I then used to persuade City Planning to rezone this whole area.
You can't put a price tag on the value of the quality of life that has been improved because of those rezonings, and this is one of the few districts in the City of New York where, you can't say stopped completely, but at least we have slowed down dramatically the deteriorating quality of life in terms of overdevelopment. Of course, there's always much more that needs to be done, but accomplishing that rezoning was a tremendous victory for every resident in this council district, and I couldn't have done it without him. And, whenever there's a zoning issue - no matter where it is, whether it's Queens or some other borough - I call upon Paul and he always takes time out to look at the plans, give me suggestions and also work with the civic groups. Irrespective of him working with me, he's worked with, I think, almost every civic group in the borough. They all know him, they all like him, they all support him - he will be a great council member.
Given the last council member, who unfortunately was elected to represent this district and has done his very best to undermine some of the work that Paul and I did, I'm so happy to support Paul because I know that all the things that I worked on as Councilmember he will continue and even go further - not only the zoning, but the landmarking, preservation, road construction and other issues - you name it he's been involved in it. He knows the process, he knows city government, he knows the community - I can't think of anybody else, personally, to represent this Council District.
So I'm happy to endorse you. I wish you well and you'll be a great Councilmember and I will do everything I can to get you elected.
Thank you, Tony. Ill just say a couple of things. I'm really have to thank Tony for all of the help, not only when he was in the Council but obviously in the State Senate as well and I look forward to him being Borough President of Queens.
It's a very interesting race that's going on there, as many of you know. I think both of us are the good government, anti-politician caucus here, and we're both also not what you would describe as long-shots, so I think that's very important for people to realize. There are people who are great people who really don't have a chance to get elected. I believe that not only does Tony have a chance to get elected, he's got an extremely good chance of being elected, and I believe I have a very good chance of being elected in this district from the work that I've done and the work that Tony's done over the years.
Again, it's funny because people come up to me and say '"You and Tony are a lot alike.' I think we have very similar goals. I think we have different styles, but that's normal, because we're different people.
Basically, I think our focus on constituent needs and services, focus on this district's interests, are really simple: Overdevelopment, is the number one issue, followed by Education, the number two issue, followed by Quality of Life issues, which is really your constituent services. Those are really the three big issues. There's a lot of other issues that are important, too. I look forward to working on them with Tony when he's the Borough President. There's is nobody out there who will do a better job in the Borough Presidency than Tony and I say that in all seriousness. That might have some people who are supporting other candidates laugh at that, but if you speak to almost every civic leader in Queens, they will tell you that Senator Avella - soon to be Borough President Avella - is the best choice that we have and the best chance that we have to change things that need to be changed. here.
So - I'm looking forward to running with you and supporting you as well. We have about three months now until D-Day, and we're both going to run to the end. Any questions?
Do you guys plan on campaigning together, making stops, doing press conferences together?
I'm sure we will. Obviously until the end of June, I'm going to be tied up in Albany. He'll be campaigning in the district. But, we'll be campaigning together in the Council District. I'll obviously be around the borough. This is a crucial election beyond who the next mayor is going to be because of the Borough Presidency, the Council Districts. They're going to determine, for most likely the next 8 years, who's going to represent the people of Queens, and certainly in the 19th Council District.
I started out as a community activist; Paul started out as a community activist. That's where people should come from who run for political office. It shouldn't be people who come out of the political clubhouse, just because they happen to be the next in line. They shouldn't be people who are running on a family name. Why not have people who really earned their stripes, so to speak, working in the community because they care about the community? I think Paul is that type of person - again, that's how I started.
The way I describe myself is that I'm a democrat with a small 'd' - I didn't belong to any clubs until about a week ago, but now I am a member of the Michels Democratic Club which is a small independent club in College Point. I have no relationship with County. I feel, should I get elected, I will deal with whatever I need to deal with in order to get what I need for my district.
I believe I'm different from the other people running in this race. I'm the only one who's not affiliated or has a position as a state committee person or district leader or with a particular club, except for the Michels club, which is very recent. My background in community activism is 20 full years. 20 years, I've been doing this and, actually, effectively. I'm running on my record.
Well - he has a record, a very good record.
I couldn't think of anybody better to work with and run with. I know this is a 'love-fest' but it's the truth. I've worked with many elected officials, and many of them did the right thing, but they did it for political gain, they did it for a reason that was for an outcome that would benefit them politically. It was great that they were doing the right thing, but the 'math' wasn't right. They should be doing the right thing to do the right thing. Tony's one of the few people that I've worked with who's doing the right thing for the right reasons. Something you [Tony] said to me a long time ago: I'm doing the right thing and I don't care what the consequences are.
And I still say that.
Right. So I'm very similar in that outlook, for sure. Any other comments, questions?
Do you have any advice for him?
I don't think I have to give him advice. I can't tell you how many people I've spoken to over the years and it probably goes back now 35-40 years that I've been involved in the community who want to run for political office and I always tell them to get involved in the community - and they never do! It's amazing - they never do. I don't have to give him that advice because he's already done it. That's why I'm proud to be here endorsing him with no reservations whatsoever.
END OF TRANSCRIPT
Sunday, April 21st, Paul spoke at a rally sponsored by State Senator Tony Avella, NYC Park Advocates and Queens Civic Congress against the proposed expansion of the USTA National Tennis Center. Paul is a founding member of the Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Coalition, which is against commercial development inside the park. Read Paul's testimony against the project here:
Democratic candidate for 19th New York City Council District