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Incumbent I Daneek Miller Wins Primary Election

Council Member I Daneek Miller

 

Incumbents across all city primary election races from Mayor to City Council fared very well without a single City Council incumbent defeated.  Council Member I Daneek Miller won his primary race against his challenger by a wide margin of 78% to 22%.

Miller spoke to Communities of Color News about the focus of his upcoming term, the reason why voters supported his re-election and the Democrat party.

“We laid a foundation around affordable housing, the wealth of our community and making sure people stay in their homes.  We are going to keep that going.  The affordable housing that is being built in our district, we want to make sure the MOU’s (Memorandum of Understanding) [agreements] that we have established are adhered to, that we are providing affordable housing and providing opportunity.  We are on our way.  Two thousand units.  We are going to make sure people live up to their word.  We are not going to sleep on that.  [We want to] make sure there are qualified applicants and that we [fill those units] with 50-65% of our community.”

Miller believes collaboration was a key factor in his re-election.  “The work that we have done here, delivering services back to the community, the idea of a community and elected officials working together for a common cause.  This wasn’t an individual campaign.  We work collaboratively with community organizations, with faith based organizations and colleagues in government to achieve overall goals that are greater than individual goals,” he said. He is excited about Adrienne Adams’ primary election win.  He also believes he has a “great partnership” with Council Member Donovan Richards (who also won his primary election race). 

“We don’t have borders in Southeast Queens.  If you look at the policies and budget it reflects all of Southeast queens.  What is most important is that we are doing the work collaboratively.”

Speaking on the hit the Democratic Party took during this election with its party placement candidate and his direct challenge from his opponent that he is a machine candidate, the Council Member nixed those ideas.  “Most important, the Democratic Party…should reflect the values of the community.  As a District Leader that is what is important to me.  Austin Street understands…the values of Southeast Queens.”

Miller concedes he learned from his first term.  “I think there is always things you learn by virtue of experience.  The first year [it was] understanding the minutia of government, particularly city hall policy, budget [etc].  I think we have that part down.  I think we have a better understanding of the institution that we can utilize in a better way.  I think there are always things to learn and we also have the benefit of having experience around such as former [City Council] Deputy Leader Senator Comrie to advise you.”

Council Member I Daneek Miller and will face two challengers in the general election each from the Republican and Green Parties

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Adrienne Adams: Community is Priority One

Adrienne Adams

Minutes after the primary election results were announced, Adrienne Adams talked with Communities of Color News to discuss her upcoming priorities and dispel some of the issues that arose during the campaign.

Adams primary win places her close to securing the seat which, due to the lack of an incumbent, would begin her term on November 8, 2017.

“The people of district 28 will finally be connected again.  We will have transparency to the office of City Council.  [We will have] discretionary funding and Participatory Budgeting, just like our [neighboring] districts.  We are going to have open communications with our community.  And we will finally have a voice again,” she said. 

Her priorities for the district will be housing, shelters and sanitation. 

“We have a long laundry list of what we have been deprived of, of what we have needed for so long.  The priorities to start are anywhere from the housing problem, a shelter problem, sanitation issues,” she said. 

Her plan is to govern with transparency and the community in mind.  “The difference is going to be there will be transparency.  I invite the community to govern with me.  What we are going to do together to govern our District,” she said.

On the subject of being placed on the ballot and not petitioning, Adams spoke directly to constituents saying “hopefully constituents know what I have been saying all along.  The ballot was a democratic process. The incumbent vacated the seat and I was nominated to take the seat.  That is the democratic process.” 

Her plans on uniting constituents on both sides of the Van Wyck.  “I plan to have two offices…Richmond Hill and Jamaica.  The Richmond Hill office will be staffed with the varied cultures that live within the area to address the issues.  And to educate me, quite frankly as to what those needs are”.

The one thing Adams wants constituents to know.  “My heart, my soul, my mind and my spirit have been with District 28 ever since I became a part of that community 28 years ago.  I raised my family there and my grandchildren now walk the same ground that my children have walked.”

If elected on November 7, 2017, Adrienne Adams will be the first woman to hold the City Council seat for District 28.

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Adrienne Adams Wins City Council Seat Vacated by Corruption

Adrienne Adams with Assembly Member Viviann Cook and District Manager Yvonne Reddick

It was the shout of “We Won” in the parking lot of the JFK Hilton that was the indication that the election night headquarters received the news that Adrienne Adams had secured the win.

Prior to that, it was a nail biting scene.  Who would secure the vote as Adams and opponent Richard David battled for top spot.  David initially started the night ahead, but as additional precincts reported, Adams pulled ahead.  Hettie Powell remained behind the duo for the entire night. 

In the end, Adams win inches her closer to the securing the office, and history, if she wins the general election.  The final count displayed just how close and how hard a race for District 28 was.

District 28 was without an incumbent as its predecessor, Ruben Wills, was convicted and sentenced to prison for corruption charges.  It was two person race of David and Powell until Adams entered the race through a Democratic Party nomination.  Although criticized for being nominated and not petitioning by several news organizations, that did not prevent the win.

The close race was evident in the streets and in candidate forums.  The candidates displayed their strengths as they battled it out in several forums the week prior to the election.  As Democratic candidates, they took similar positions on key issues making it even more important that they stand out and distinguish themselves, one from another.

Adams edge was that she was currently doing the job as Community Board Chair #12, her massive party support including Governor Cuomo and being ready for the job day one.  Powell stood on her community works and willingness to stand against corruption.  David displayed new visions and brought in the underserved constituents in overlooked areas of the District. 

Primary Election 2017 results. 100% Precincts Reporting

The three battled it out until the bitter end with robocalls every ½ hour, canvases by car convoys and lots of representation at polling sites throughout the community.  Up until the polls closed at 9PM, volunteers could be seen at sites encouraging voters and handing out flyers. 

Adrienne Adams will face Ivan Mossop, Republican, in the general election.  At press time it was still unknown whether Powell or David will seek to run in the general election.  Adams win in the general election will make her the first woman to hold the Council Seat for District #28.

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First Lady McCray Hosts Conversation on Mental Illness

NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray

How are you feeling?  Are you or a loved one depressed or anxious?  Would you know what to do or where to go for help?

First Lady Chirlane McCray hosted a community conversation on the subject of mental illness and the Thrive NYC program.  The goal was to connect individuals, and their loved ones, to services which help those affected by the disease.  Thrive NYC is a collection of programs which offer help and support.  One phone call to 888-NYC-WELL can start the process. 

Assistance is not just a phone call away, but many of the Thrive NYC programs are proactive and reach out to connect with those who might be most in need.  The ‘Respect for All’ program which extends care to students and their families is currently located in over 130 schools in Queens.  There are initiatives that are evaluating new mothers for signs of maternal depression and treatment.  There are social workers and mental health care practitioners in senior centers and outreach is available to homeless individuals living on the streets. 

Thrive NYC is not only about connecting individuals to the care they need but is about changing the way mental illness is viewed and addressed as a health issue.

“We know what to do when people are bleeding.  Do we know what to do when people are having a panic attack or are depressed,” asked McCray.

To that end, Thrive NYC is looking to train a quarter of a million New Yorkers on how to identify and respond to those who may be affected.  Targeted for that training are those who are currently in caregiver positions, i.e. teachers and clergy.  To-date, the program has welcomed over 2,000 members of the clergy to be on the frontlines.

“You can only do so much praying before you have to get that person some help,” said the First Lady.

The conversation addressed questions submitted by those in attendance.  First Lady McCray brought an army of agency directors from the various city agencies involved in the program to help address those questions and to share information about their individual initiatives. 

However informative that army was, they were definitely well represented by McCray who was able to respond to each question.  She displayed a confidence and ease while providing feedback advising individuals on resources.  There was no faltering of tone or shying away from sensitive topics, just an earnest compassion toward every situation.  These are the examples individuals need as they grapple with erasing the stigma which accompanies mental illness.

“We all have a story,’ said First Lady McCray.  When she asked those who also had a story to raise their hands, almost every person responded affirmatively.

Ninety percent of the questions submitted to the conversation were signed anonymously, confirming the sensitive nature surrounding expressing concerns regarding mental illness.  Questions were asked about ways to get help for those who may be in crisis and what to do in a drug overdose situation.  The First Lady and NYPD Chief Ward stressed that individuals should not worry about arrests for those in a narcotic crisis, even if they have drug or drug paraphernalia in their possession at the time.  The goal is to get that individual assistance. 

The conversation fielded concerns about connecting young people with assistance against bullying and peer situations.  Addressing youth issues was an important component of the program as the First Lady shared statistics about teen suicide attempts and early onset of addiction during teen years.  A pivotal moment of the event came when one brave soul stood up after the First Lady opened the floor to questions. 

“I am suffering from severe depression…I’ve been in a shelter for two years.  I’m suffering so much and I see all the doors closed,” he said. 

“Thank you for having the courage to stand up.  I hope you can feel the support around you.  This is a safe place, a supportive place.  We want to do our best to direct you to services,” said the First Lady.

“We do have people here.  I want to address you as an individual and not as a policy issue.  I want to connect you with resources,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Major for Health and Human Services.

This exchange was a real life example of how individuals will be addressed by the program.  Someone reaches out, there is a response about resources with no judgement or shame. 

The First Lady admits Thrive NYC continues to be a work in progress despite its many strides.  Although the program boasts counselors that speak more than 200 languages, the program is working on building a workforce which reflects the city’s population and cultures.

The event took place on Tuesday, June 13 at the Queens Library Central Branch and was streamed live on Facebook.

Here is what you need to know about the free Thrive NYC service.

Phone Number: 888-NYC-WELL

Text: “WELL” to 65173

In Schools:  Assistance is available for both students and their parents.

Clergy Connection:  Ask your church if its leadership is connected to the program

Website. www.thrivenyc.cityofnewyork.us

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Senior Appreciation Month 2017_Event Listing

Its time to celebrate seniors. Check out this very extensive list of great programs for seniors.  Events include concerts, luncheons, movies, bowling and more.  There is something for everyone!

 

 Senior Appreciation Month 2017

 Elected Official Event / Date Arrival Time Location Contact Name Contact Phone
Mayor Office of Community Affair Sept. 7, 2017

“Oldies But Goodies”

1pm – 4pm Jamaica Performance Arts Center

153-10 Jamaica Avenue

Jessica Douglas 212-442-0508 (phone)
Senator

James Sanders

Sept. 8, 2017

Movie “Fences”

10am – 12pm Jamaica Multiplex

159-02 Jamaica Avenue

Hayden Horsham 718-327-7017 (phone)
Council Member I. Daneek Miller

Co-Sponsors: Public Advocate James & Assembly Member Vivian Cook

Sept. 9, 2017

Gospel Concert

2pm-6pm York College Performance Center

153-10 Jamaica Avenue

Margaret Denson 718-776-3700 (phone)

718-587-3580 (fax)

646-300-1913 (cell)

Congress Member Gregory Meeks Sept. 11, 2017

Movie “Detroit”

10am – 12pm Jamaica Multiplex

159-02 Jamaica Avenue, Jamaica NY 11432

Patsy Simmons 718-883-9800 (phone)
Council Member I. Daneek Miller

Co-Sponsor: Public Advocate James

Sept. 12, 2017

Senior Breakfast

9am-12p Thomasina Catering Hall

205-35 Linden Boulevard

Margaret Denson 718-776-3700 (phone)

718-587-3580 (fax)

646-300-1913 (cell)

Council Member Donovan Richards Sept. 12, 2017

Doo Wop

3pm-5pm Springfield Park Jessica L. Luina 718-471-7014 (phone)

718-327-4794 (fax)

Senator

Leroy Comrie

Sept. 18, 2017

Senior Breakfast

10am – 1pm Thomasina Catering Hall

205-35 Linden Boulevard

Lois Menyweather 718-765-6359(phone)

718-454-0186(fax

Assembly

Member

Clyde Vanel

Sept. 21, 2017

Variety of Entertainment

12pm – 2pm Majority Multi-Purpose Room

115-21 Farmers Blvd

Aaron 718-926-5960 (cell)
Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman Sept. 22, 2017

Senior Bowling

10am-12pm JIBS Lane

67-19 Parsons Blvd

Cherise Parson 718-723-5412 (phone)

718-810-3019 (cell)

Assembly Member Michele Titus Sept. 23, 2017

Senior Fitness

Springfield Park

147th Avenue & 184th Street

Norman Jones 718-327-1845 (phone)

718-327-1878(fax)

Councilman Barry S. Grodenchik Sept. 25, 2017

Senior Information session

10:30am 11:30am SNAP Senior Center

80-45 Winchester Blvd

Irene Cheung 718-468-0137 (phone)

718-468-0178 (fax)

Council Member

Rory I. Lancman

Sept. 27, 2017

Senior Musical Performance

11am Highland Church

160-20 Jamaica Avenue

Ronnie Sylvain 718-217-4969 (phone)

347-561-6116 (Fax)

Assembly Member

David I. Weprin

Sept. 28, 2017

Senior Comedy

11am – 12pm Holliswood Jewish Senior Center at Young Israel of Holliswood

86-25 Francis Lewis Boulevard

Rianna Young 718-454-3027 (phone)

718-454-3178 (fax)

All Elected Officials

 

Sept. 29,2017

Senior Luncheon

12pm Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center

172-17 Linden Blvd

Margaret Denson 718-776-3700 (phone)

718-206-2748 (fax)

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NYC Releases Voter Guide & Candidates Video Statements for Election 2017

 
Its your city, vote for what you want.
The primary election is Tuesday, September 12.
 The city’s official, nonpartisan Voter Guide for the primary elections on Tuesday, September 12 is now available.  The print edition of the Guide will be delivered to every household with an eligible registered voter in the five boroughs.  
 
Candidates’ video statements can be viewed online and on cable television.  Click here to view online statements. Below is a listing for broadcast times to view the voter guide and candidates statements.  The video edition of the Guide will air on local cable television stations starting Sunday, September 3 and runs through the primary election during the following times and dates:
 

Dates Times Station
Sept. 3 7:00 PM NYC Gov
Sept. 4 7:00 PM NYC Gov
Sept. 5 7:00 PM NYC Gov
Sept. 6 7:00 PM NYC Gov
Sept. 7 7:00 PM NYC Gov
Sept. 8 7:00 PM NYC Gov
Sept. 9 7:00 PM NYC Gov
Sept. 10 7:00 PM NYC Gov
Sept. 11 7:00 PM NYC Gov
Sept. 12 4:00 PM NYC Gov
You can find NYC Gov on the following channels depending on your carrier:
 

NYC Gov Channels and Carriers
Spectrum (TWC) 74
Verizon FiOS 1960 HD | 24 SD
Cablevision 74
RCN 81
Over the Air (Broadcast) 25.2
The video guide will also air on borough-based public access stations starting September 3. Check local listings for time and dates on BRIC, and QPTV
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Candidates Forum Signal Race for Wills’ Open Seat is Underway

Forum Moderators and candidates from l to r: William McDonald, Richard David, Ivan Mossop, Rodney Reid, Jean Hall, Adrienne Adams, Shawn Chandler

The room was full for the candidates’ forum for City Council District 28 on August 29, a rainy and dreary night.  Democratic candidates Richard David and Adrienne Adams were joined by Republican candidate Ivan Mossop.  The other Democratic candidate for the seat, Hettie Powell, did not attend.

The forum began with candidates’ introductions, proceeded to panel’s inquiry and finally audience submitted questions.  The moderator’s panel included a representative from each of the collaborative organizations hosting the event. 

It was government experience versus party weight as David and Adams were the key competitors at the forum.  Mossop, although not battling the other candidates, shared his platform views while adding some food for thought and comic relief. 

On many subjects David and Adams agreed.  Both candidates will make restoring money to the District a priority.  Bringing the Participatory Budget process to the area was also high on both their to-do lists.  Both agree on Mayoral control of schools with increased community involvement.  However, Adams believed that control should be tweaked and David believed certain areas like renewal schools should be expanded.  He also wanted to see additional funding from non-profits to support schools and parents. 

Both candidates agreed that they would stress keeping Rochdale Village affordable.  In terms of necessary upgrades, David spoke to partnering with Rochdale’s Board of Directors on creating a rainy day fund and finding ways to isolate extreme need cases for upgrades “building by building…circle by circle” versus the entire complex. 

Despite their agreement on several issues, there were some key differences in candidates’ platform.  Richard represented a change and new perspective.  As a Guyanese American, he spoke frequently about the communities on both side of the Van Wyck Expressway.  The Wyck divides the community with a larger East Indian immigrant community on the West and an African American community on the East.  Adams represented the current Democratic party stronghold in the area.  Adams brought with her a large contingent of current Southeast Queens elected officials to the forum.  Despite entering the race just a few weeks prior to the debate, she has the backing of the Queens Democratic Party, a bevy of endorsements and announced the endorsement of Governor Cuomo. 

Adams was confident and at ease during the forum.  The election seemed to be in the bag with many references to “when” and talk of already doing the job.   “We are already talking.  We have plans for you.  I am already at the table with two elected officials,” she said during her closing statement referring to the Council Members serving the area. 

David was still working on convincing the largely African American audience that he would work for them also.  Not as confident as his opponent and labeled “nice” by her, David accepted the “nice” designation.

“I don’t have a complete plan.  I want to keep listening to you,” said David.  He did address the elephant in the room, corruption and business as usual, in a careful and measured manner.  “The one defining issue [coming from this campaign] has been emerging from corruption…We need those who are not going to tell you what they are going to do,” he said.  He made sure to reference “on a local level” when speaking of corruption to a room filled with current and former elected officials, some who had paid the price for their deeds and others who continue to draw suspicion.

When candidates had the opportunity to ask each other a question, it came down to experience and background.  David asked Adams about her experience requesting a full disclosure of her background.  Adams asked David about the specific action he took as an ACS employee in the case 5 year old Michael Guzman.  It was a question she asked in a previous forum to which David countered that Adams was politicizing the death of child.  It was a stance he reiterated at this forum before speaking to the illegalities of city employees being able to insert themselves in an issue despite their level of passion. 

Adams gave a resume which included graduating college, working as a flight attendant and a corporate trainer and adult day care worker educator.  She fielded a similar question during the audience Q&A where asked if she had direct experience in education.  She reiterated her trainer status and adult day care worker training.

The candidates were asked about how they, in their previous roles, allocated funds to the District.  In 2015, the former Councilman was stripped of powers to allocate discretionary funds.    David conceded that in his government role, he did not make funding decisions.   “We are a community emerging from corruption, I want to see those streams [of funding] return”.  Adams used her time to dispel any myths surrounding her tenure with Goldman Sachs. 

Both candidates put fair distribution as it relates to homeless shelters at the top of their legislative priorities.  “We bear the burden,” said Adams.  “In 2014 we had 32% [of shelters], Bayside has zero”. 

Both agreed MTA needed improvement.  David said there were simple things that could be done right away like a countdown clock at bus stations. “Seniors don’t have an app.  These things are easy things.  We haven’t had a voice”.

On the question of getting the Federal Government to restore funds to NYCHA, Adams spoke to the very difficult task Democrats face due to Republican control.  She would “continue to encourage and to fight”.  David wanted to strike a compromise.  While not supporting the current White House, he thought there were ways pieces of legislation could be used as leverage to advance community issues.

The answer was indicative of what was displayed during the debate.  Both candidates agreed, however David would have something extra to add, either another perspective or a little more that could be done by the office. 

Would that be enough to change the minds of the audience, largely from East of the Van Wyck, to give their vote to the young Indo-Caribbean immigrant.  Quite possibly.  Many attendees shared after the debate, their favorable positive impression of David, even adding that the District was about to have a real race for the seat. 

Several candidates’ forums are set to be held in the coming two weeks prior to primary day which is Tuesday, September 12. 

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Political Process without Petitions Raises Doubt

Candidates Richard David, Hettie Powell and Adrienne Adams

“I did it the way it was supposed to be done,” said Hettie Powell candidate for City Council District 28 at a candidate’s forum on Wednesday, August 30 in Richmond Hill.  The candidates were fielding questions submitted by the audience and an individual asked about how they felt about the fairness of getting on the ballot the old fashion way, petitioning, versus one candidate not having to petition. 

“We worked really hard, over months…months” said candidate Richard David.  “Yes I think it was unfair.  Yes I do think the process was kinda shady.  But here we are today”, he sald.

The candidate being referred to was Adrienne Adams.  At her turn at the mike, she explained “the Democratic process” that led to her being on the ballot. 

“There is a committee of vacancies comprised at Queens County that handles the situation when an incumbent becomes unavailable to continue his tenureship or as your city official.  That is what happened in this case.  Queens County deemed me most qualified to get on that ballot and to fill that vacancy,” she said.

She is correct…for the most part.

Adams was listed on the Campaign Finance Board as being a participant in the 2017 election.  What role she was going to play in that election was undefined.  This is most likely the exploratory committee Adams mentioned in her response at the forum.

“What happened this year was I opened an exploratory committee to run for city council in 2021.  This year an incumbent was on the ballot for District 28, for city council.  I was not ready to run against another incumbent in 2017,” she said due to her recent contest against incumbent Senator James Sanders Jr. and lost.

Adrienne Adams candidacy came days after Ruben Wills was convicted on charges of corruption.  It came as no surprise as many felt that was the plan all along going back to when she ran for state Senator.  

What was different about this campaign was, although filing her intent for the upcoming election with no clear indication of which seat she sought, she did not go through the petitioning process.  That made people wonder if she was going to run. 

Petitioning is what a candidate does in his District to secure a place on the ballot.  He must collect 450 signatures (or 5% of the party’s members) from registered party voters in the district.  Those signatures must be valid and once a person signs for one candidate, they cannot sign the petition for a rival candidate in the district. 

According to the New York State Board of Elections

Persons wishing to run for elective office may be nominated either by a political party or through the filing of an independent nominating petition. Party members may also circulate petitions to create the opportunity to write in the name of an unspecified person for an office in which there is no contest for the party endorsement.

While Powell’s campaign was soliciting signatures of in front of the local Walgreens and at the shopping mall in Rochdale Village, and David was locking down Richmond Hill there was no contingent of volunteers from Adams campaign petitioning.  A curious items as voters in Southeast Queens take their elections seriously. 

Candidates Adrienne Adams, Richard David and Hettie Powell at Richmond Hill Forum (k.clements)

Petitioning is no easy task.  Volunteers carry a candidate’s petition and there is bound to be anger and even get into a heated discussion or two with a constituents.  Volunteers wait outside of busy venues and ‘happily’ approach on potential voters.  Folks, at times, get angry about the intrusion.  They can get combative because they do not know or have evidence of the work of the potential candidate.  Most often people are compliant and want to help candidates at least get on the ballot. 

With petitioning, incumbents have the advantage as people are most likely to have name recognition and a record of achievements available.  The biggest complaint to be heard when petitioning for an incumbent is how he only comes around during election times. 

In spite of the edge the incumbent has, it must have been challenging getting registered voters to sign petitions for Ruben Wills.  His trial created negative chatter and the District had been without discretionary dollars for years.  But, if found innocent, it would have been a boon for the candidates’ election and a validation for voters who signed his petitions.

He was not exonerated.  He was found guilty on July 20, 2017 and sentenced to five years in prison on August 10.

On Wednesday, July 26, Communities of Color News contacted Congressman Gregory Meeks communications representative about his support for Wills in the upcoming election.  Meeks was named as part of the Democratic Party that would be supporting City Council incumbents in the District for re-election.  On Thursday, July 27 the pressroom received notice of Adams intent to run and her support from Meeks and the party.

The newsroom was interested in this turn of events so it reached out to the Queens County Board of Elections to understand the process behind Adams selection.  The goal was to understand the election process that was responsible for this turn of events.  We immediately hit a roadblock.  For two weeks we sought information about the petitioning for Ruben Wills.  We left several messages, spoke with representatives received promises of return calls but ultimately failed in our attempts, until we got others involved. 

Karen Shanton and representatives from Ballotpedia, an Encyclopedia of American Politics,  were willing to help us understand the process.  After talking over the particulars, they provided the election law invoked for selecting candidates to fill the vacancies.  Shanton sited Section 6-148 of the New York State Election Law and pointed to Chapter 3 of Goldfeder’s Modern Election Law. 

It was useful to receive this clarification and validation.  The only thing left was to discover was the members of the committee that made the nomination and what happened to the petitions filed on Wills’ behalf.  That meant going back to the Board of Elections who still had not responded to Communities of Color’s News’ request, nor had it responded to the complaint that was made about the reception we received in our quest for information that was made to Executive Director Michael Ryan. 

On a tip from the Campaign Finance Board, the newsroom reached out to Commissioner Jose Miguel Araujo’s office.  The promised was that the information about the committee that made the Adams decision, which by law is filed with the petitions at the Queens County Board of Elections, would be released in one hour.  Three hours later the newsroom received the names of members of the committee that placed Adams on the ballot.  The committee, led by Joseph Crowley is comprised of four individuals.  Assembly Member Viviann Cook, District Manager Yvonne Reddick, Community Board #12 member John McRae and Assembly Woman Michelle Titus.

While there is no wrong doing or election law being broken by this selection, this process didn’t inspire confidence on the part of the voters who attended that Richmond Hill candidates’ debate.  Heckles of ‘boo’ and ‘clubhouse candidate’ were screamed in the room before order was restored. 

Community leaders and individuals have had long standing issues with some of the members on this committee, either for their lack of representation or blind support to the Party.  That Adams is the chairperson of Community Board #12, the choice has hints of cronyism.  Additionally, it can act as a vote of no confidence for those leaders frequently cited as not working in the best interest of the community. 

In the end, Election Day will serve as a determination as to what will win.  The primary election is Tuesday, September 12. 

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Lt Gov Announces Upcoming Upgrades to Downtown Jamaica

Lt Gov K. Hochul on the steps of the Jamaica Performing Arts Center

On a beautiful, hot and sunny day in front of the historic façade of the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul announced the winning projects selected for the Jamaica Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). 

In August 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Downtown Jamaica was the winner of the $10 million DRI, a plan that looks to transform local neighborhoods into the next generation of communities.   The winner was selected as part of a competitive process by the state’s Economic Development Council. 

The projects that will be funded under the grant include a space for businesses, pedestrian plazas, infrastructure upgrades, support for dining options, increased broadband width and employment supports. 

Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) will create a 10,000 square foot shared workspace for approximately 90 local entrepreneurs and independent professionals at the Moda Building.  The LIRR 159th Street underpass will be converted into a pedestrian gateway between York College and Downtown Jamaica.  The underpass will include vendor and event space, public art work and seating.  Pedestrian, lighting and the streetscape will be improved along Parsons Boulevard between Jamaica and Archer Avenues.  Jamaica’s broadband infrastructure, to support high speed delivery, will be strengthened.  There will be funds to invigorate nightlife and dining options as well as an incubator space for new food businesses.  Entrepreneurship training for low income residents to launch and grow their businesses and career preparation at Edison Career and Technical Education High School will help develop a qualified workforce. 

“We still have a lot to do,” said Senator Leroy Comrie who delivered remarks at the announcement.  On his to-do list was the initiative to ensure that “promotional dollars” were in place guaranteeing that any development was adequately populated.

In addition to this grant, Downtown Jamaica’s is seeing the infusion of revitalization dollars from the Jamaica Now Action Plan.  Jamaica Now is a $153 million dollar investment from the City which will add upgrades to local parks, provide additional transit routes, redesigned store fronts and add new mixed income housing, retail stores and business incubator spaces. 

Downtown Jamaica’s transit hub will be getting a boost as well with $8 million dollars in state allocated funds for upgrades to its transit hub.  The Jamaica transit hub is one of the city’s busiest transit centers hosting the E,J and Z trains, numerous bus lines, the LIRR and AirTrain to JFK.

JFK International Airport, which is located just minutes from Downtown Jamaica, will also be revived with an influx of funds.  Governor Cuomo announced $10 billion in funds last year to transform JFK and its connecting commuter links into a 21st Century airport redesign. 

In addition, both the city and state have set goals that 30% of its awarded contracts should be allocated to Minority and Women Owned Businesses.

All this opportunity and redevelopment would seem a boom for local businesses and the area’s high unemployment rate, but challenges remain.  “Unemployment is high,” acknowledged Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in her opening remarks at the podium.  Along with the grant, Katz sited the Jamaica Now Plan and private funding as initiatives that can close the gaps. 

But local businesses are challenged when it comes to working with the larger companies that are central in the revitalization of Downtown Jamaica.  Thomas Crater, owner of newspaper ‘The New York Page’, frequently expresses frustration at his attempts to connect with GJDC and York College for possible funding avenues.  It is a frustration shared by this news organization.  “It’s hard,” Crater reported that Hope Knight President GJDC of said of the challenge of working with area black media businesses due to having no money.  Knights’ resume includes as stint with the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone whose chief area, Harlem, has recently experienced revitalization.  Dr. Marcia Keizs, York College President, and Earl Simons, York College Director of Government and Community Relations were eager to set up a meeting, and receive proposals about types of partnerships. 

Residents and community stakeholders who participated in the planning and provided recommendations for the Jamaica Now plan provided input stressing that it was vital any Downtown Jamaica revitalization touched the neighboring communities and include the main thoroughfares which connect the neighborhoods to Downtown Jamaica.  A few members of the Leadership Council of the Jamaica Now Initiative did not want to speak on the record of their concerns of the early efforts of the program. 

York College President, Dr. Marcia Keizs, serves on Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council and has been credited with helping to secure the grant.  The council was designed as a shift in the state’s effort towards economic development which includes a community-based approach that harnesses local expertise. 

For more information on the seven winning projects, click here.

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Convicted Council Member Asserts His Innocence

former Council Member Ruben Wills

 

“I have not lied to my community and I maintain my innocence,” posted former Council Member Ruben Wills on Facebook after he was tried and convicted for stealing more than $30,000 in taxpayer’s money.  The jury found Wills guilty of one count of a scheme to defraud, two counts of grand larceny and two counts of filing a false instrument. Wills was acquitted on the single charge of filing false business records.

Wills is the forth Southeast Queens elected officials to be convicted of corruption charges in the last four years (Shirley Huntley, Malcolm Smith, William Scarborough).  He is due to be sentenced and faces jail time. 

In his post-conviction postings, Wills cited his case as payback for not cooperating with the Attorney General’s office in its pursuit of corruption.

“This witch hunt is my payback for not wearing a wire as the Attorney General’s office had repeatedly requested that I do going back several years.  I refused to wear a wire to ensnare innocent people,” he posted.

On May 28, 2014, the then Council Member Wills held a press conference to dispute charges that he wore a wire for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.  At the time, Wills claimed he was asked to wear a wire in order to make a pending indictment “go away”. 

“I want to be crystal clear I have NEVER worn a wire,” said Wills. 

Wills was indicted by Attorney General Schneiderman and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapaoli in a corruption scheme that involved a non-profit and campaign funds.  At that 2014 press conference, Wills brought what he called “evidence” of works by a non-profit aimed at single parents.  That evidence contained easels filled with photos, menus, trips and news coverage (Communities of Color News did not cover any event by this non-profit) from 2006-9.  “Years and years of what they call a sham non-for-profit…where we reached residents of Southeast Queens…If we have proof of events, how did I steal money,” Wills said at the time. 

His counsel at the time, Steve Zissou, said that a full accounting of the funds “almost to the penny” had been provided.  “We offered to repay it completely if there was any misunderstanding.” 

The press conference also claimed Wills was being targeted because the Attorney General was looking to cultivate the African American vote from Southeast Queens.  AG Schneirman (Democrat) won his re-election with 56% of the vote. 

“Ruben Wills’ crimes were a shameful violation of the public trust,” said Attorney General Schneiderman, whose office prosecuted the case. “Ruben Wills stole taxpayers’ dollars to buy fancy purses and clothes for himself and his friends. New Yorkers deserved better.”

Upon his conviction, Wills was immediately expelled from the city council. 

“Ruben Wills betrayed the trust of all New Yorkers when he abused his position to steal thousands of dollars from the hardworking taxpayers of New York for his own selfish gain,” was the statement by Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito regarding the guilty verdict.