WNYC – New York Funds New Anti-Bullying Measures After Fatal School Stabbing

New York City is expanding anti-bullying programs, following a fatal stabbing and reports of bullying at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx.

By Mara Silvers and Yasmeen Khan

Originally published by WNYC on October 30, 2017

New York City education officials said on Monday they would commit $8 million system-wide to expand anti-bullying measures and create new programs, including devising an online complaint portal for families and providing targeted support for 300 schools with high rates of bullying.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced the initiatives at a City Council oversight hearing on bullying, harassment and discrimination in the public schools. The issue of safety and bullying, specifically, came under scrutiny since a student was fatally stabbed in a classroom at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation last month.

“Today’s hearing was prompted in part by the tragic incident,” said City Council Member Daniel Dromm, “in which one student lost his life, another was seriously injured, and a third had his life forever altered.”

Dromm chairs the Committee on Education, and called specifically for better anti-bullying programs that protects LGBTQ students.

“Anti-bullying education is worth nothing unless the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer words are used at every grade level,” Dromm said in his opening remarks. “Not to do so actually contributes to the problem by sending the message that being LGBTQ is so bad that it can only be discussed at certain times.”

The City Council voted to advance legislation that would require the Department of Education to provide additional support for LGBTQ students, as well as release data about bullying and which schools maintain Gender and Sexuality Alliances.

Other new programs announced by the department Monday included more anti-bias and anti-bullying training for all school-based staff; workshops in mental health support for students, school staff and parents alike; and a new protocol that requires schools to create an action plan for a student who is accused repeatedly of bullying (and when those claims are substantiated).

“We also recognize that all members of a school community have vital roles to play in preventing bullying,” said Fariña. “We are seeking greater input from parents, and building robust accountability systems.”

Starting in 2019, families will be able to file complaints about student bullying or discrimination through an online portal, officials said. The tool will also help the city track which schools need additional help.

The chancellor came under an intense line of questioning in regard to the specific high school where the stabbing occurred last month. Council Members Rafael Salamanca and Ritchie Torres said they spoke to the former principal of the Urban Assembly School For Wildlife Conservation after the attack, who alleged that the department did not provide the school with help in the months proceeding the stabbing.

“She said that she made various requests to increase the amount of school safety agents and she also made a request for scanning, and that request was denied,” said Salamanca.

“That principal did get an additional school safety agent,” countered Fariña. “She got them last spring.”

Superintendent Fred Walsh announced Friday that Astrid Jacobo would no longer be principal of the Urban Assembly School For Wildlife Conservation, citing the need for a “new leader to stabilize the school.”

Council Member Torres pressed Fariña to say that the Urban Assembly School For Wildlife Conservation was facing a “systemic problem” of bullying.

“There is obviously a problem, we’re going to get to the bottom of it. But systemic is a very big word and I think right now until the investigation is complete, I really want to reserve judgment on it,” said Fariña.

Torres countered that a 2016-17 schools survey, 92 percent of the teachers at the Urban Assembly School For Wildlife Conservation said that students were bullied, intimidated and harassed either “most of the time or some of the time.”

“And so even though the D.O.E. cannot acknowledge that there might be a systemic problem, your own teachers claim otherwise,” Torres said.

The family of 15-year-old Matthew McCree, who was fatally stabbed by 18-year-old Abel Cedeno, has said they will sue the city for his death. Cedeno’s lawyers and family have said he was bullied. McCree’s mother has said her son never bullied anyone.

The Department of Education said it is conducting a thorough investigation of the incident.

In addition to the anti-bullying measures, department officials released suspension data from the 2016-17 school year. The report shows total number of suspensions declined 6.4 percent, compared to previous school year. There were also fewer school arrests and summonses issued by school safety agents.

Read more here.

$3.1 million revamp of C.C. Moore Park to start in spring


By Tara Law

Originally published by the Jackson Heights Post on October 27, 2017

A $3.1 million renovation to a park in Elmhurst is likely to begin this spring, a spokeswoman from the Parks Dept. said Friday.

C.C. Moore Park, located between 45th Avenue, 82nd Street and Broadway, will be closed for a year once the work begins. The revamp will change the park’s layout, triple the size of the playground section and make the park entrances more welcoming.

Project bids for the park are due on Nov. 3. Construction will begin in 2018 if the bids are successful, said Parks Dept. spokeswoman Meghan Lalor.

The upgraded playground will have all new equipment, including equipment that is handicap accessible. A spray shower and pavement games such as hopscotch and four square will be added. The play areas for children ages 0 to 5 and 5 to 12 will be separated.

The sports courts on the lower level of the park will remain, but another volleyball court and two pingpong tables will be added to the area.

The new design will reduce the number of stairs and open up more space for pedestrians and seating, according to the Parks Dept. The additional open space is intended to give park users more space to practice tai chi or dancing, and to encourage farmer’s markets and concerts.

Although the plans will restructure the park, Lalor said that the designs are intended to preserve as many of the park’s mature trees as possible.

Funding for the renovations was allocated by Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilman Daniel Dromm.

The park has not been renovated since 1995, when the playground, perimeter fencing, and other amenities were installed.

Read more here.

NY Times – M.T.A. Will Ban Alcohol Advertising on Buses and Subways

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board on Wednesday voted to ban alcohol advertising from its properties, beginning Jan. 1. Credit Jason Decrow/Invision for Zevia, via Associated Press

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board on Wednesday voted to ban alcohol advertising from its properties, beginning Jan. 1. Credit Jason Decrow/Invision for Zevia, via Associated Press


Originally published by The New York Times on October 25, 2017

The board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday banned advertising of alcoholic beverages on New York City buses, subway cars and stations, contending that the social benefits of deterring underage drinking outweighed the loss of revenue.

After years of pressure from grass-roots organizations, the board voted unanimously in favor of the ban, which will go into effect in January.

Advocates have long said that alcohol advertising is a public health issue and that the proliferation of such advertising increases the likelihood of underage drinking.

“Alcohol advertisements on the M.T.A. are disproportionally targeting communities of color, lower-income communities and also young people,” said Jazmin Rivera, a spokeswoman for Building Alcohol Ad-Free Transit.

The authority’s ad space has long been a battleground for debates over free speech and decency. After Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office complained about a breast enhancement ad in 2014, officials worked with advertisers to make sure ads were not too racy.

“When advertisers understand that we have approximately 1.6 million people every single day through the system — it’s a fabulous place to advertise,” Mr. Lhota said.

Effective immediately, the agency will no longer accept new alcohol-related ads; existing contracts for such ads will be honored until the contracts expire at the end of the year.

The decision disappointed alcohol trade associations, which have confronted a growing number of alcohol advertising bans in cities across the country.

“Science and research show that there is no benefit to banning this type of advertising,” said Jay Hibbard, vice president of government relations for the Distilled Spirits Council.

Mr. Hibbard said the majority of the American population, about 71.6 percent, was above the legal drinking age. Parents, not advertisements, are the greatest influence on preventing underage drinking, he said.

“This is not advertising on school buses,” Mr. Hibbard said. “This is advertising on a public transportation system.”

The board is still discussing how the measure will affect the partnerships it has with Connecticut on Metro-North Railroad trains, and with New Jersey on New Jersey Transit.

Underage drinking leads to over 7,000 emergency-room visits in New York City hospitals a year, said Councilman Daniel Dromm, a Democrat representing Jackson Heights, Queens.

“I’m 26 years clean and sober, and it’s a personal issue for me,” said Mr. Dromm, who introduced a resolution in the Council urging the authority to ban alcohol ads. “I know the detrimental effect this type of advertising has on young people.”

Read more here.

Denuncian aumento de robo de salarios por subcontratistas

A pesar de las leyes aprobadas en el estado se siguen cometiendo estafas contra trabajadores informales


Trabajadores Luis Gil, Mauricio Jimenez, Jose Francisco Lopez con Modesta Toribio. Robo de Salario. (Photo: El Diario)

Por Edwin Martinez

Publicado en El Diario el 17 de octubre 2017

“La otra semana le pago”. “Deje de molestar tanto”. “Qué quiere que haga si a mí no me han pagado”. “A mí no me importa que usted no tenga pa’ comer”. “Si me sigue llamando le echo a ‘La Migra’”. Esas son algunas de las frases que diariamente cientos de trabajadores informales escuchan por parte de subcontratistas que se “aparecen como ángeles” en momentos de vacas flacas, y luego de ponerlos a trabajar con salarios de solo $80 por el día entero, principalmente en labores de demolición, pintura, construcción y limpieza, se niegan a pagar y terminan borrándose del mapa.

Eso le pasó al ecuatoriano Mauricio Jiménez, quien en el 2014, tras la angustia de llevar tres semanas sin trabajo, fue contratado por un paisano suyo en obras de construcción, y no solo le “robaron” su pago sino que terminó siendo el malo de la película.

“El tipo empezó pagando bien, pero luego ya me daba poco, no me daba la semana completa, solo partes, y al final ya no me volvió a pagar y me quitó dos semanas. Lo llamaba y lo llamaba y lo buscaba en su casa, pero se molestó conmigo, se puso tenso y nunca me pagó”, comentó el inmigrante, quien decidió demandarlo, y aunque ganó el caso en la corte tras dos años de batalla, finalmente el dinero se perdió.

Se desapareció y nadie sabe nada de él. Seguramente sigue haciendo esto como un negocio, sigue contratando más trabajadores, los roba y desaparece, pues ese es el modus operandi de muchos subcontratistas que lucran a cuenta de los trabajadores y cambian de celular, de nombres de compañías o de lugares de trabajo”, agrega el inmigrante, quien en enero del año pasado volvió a caer en las garras de otro empleador deshonesto.

Me volvió a pasar con otro paisano ecuatoriano. Me quedó debiendo un mes, pero ahí, gracias a la ayuda de esta organización se llegó a un acuerdo y me pagó los $2,500 que me debía, porque los abogados lo llamaron y seguramente a él le dio miedo que se corriera la voz o que se metiera en problemas”, agregó Jiménez, al tiempo que contó sobre otras tácticas sucias que suelen aplicar.

“Muchos pagan cada quince días y se inventan una semana de ‘security’ que no se sabe por qué es, y siempre va a quedar ese dinero faltante porque esa semana se queda en el aire y al final, si son honestos, pagan el resto pero esa no la pagan”, dijo el trabajador, advirtiendo a quienes tienen historias similares que denuncien y luchen por sus pagos.

“Eso que hacen ellos es un asalto en el que uno sabe quién es la persona y cuanto le robo, y sabiendo esos datos uno puede denunciar y la justicia tarde o temprano llega y se les frena el negocio sucio que están montando”, dijo el ecuatoriano.


Mauricio Jimenez. Robo de Salario. (Photo: El Diario)

El salvadoreño José Francisco López, padre de cinco hijos, también cayó en las redes de los empleadores avivatos, y le fue peor, porque hasta su vida estuvo en juego.

“Yo quería cobrar mi sueldo y me decían que ya me habían pagado, me enredaban y pasaron semanas que no me pagaron, pero eso no fue lo peor sino que una vez el patrón hasta me tiró una máquina encima para matarme porque recibí una llamada”, comentó el inmigrante, quien quedó deshabilitado y ahora depende de su hijo de 17 años, quien sostiene a la familia, trabajando en un lavadero de carros y en una pizzería. “Mi jefe me terminó robando como unas cinco semanas, no me dio compensación por un accidente que tuve y aunque llevo año y medio con el caso en la corte, aún no me han podido recuperar nada, pero sigo en la lucha porque eso va a salir bien”, agregó el trabajador, quien siente rabia de que los empleadores “jueguen con el hambre” de familias enteras.

Estafas en aumento

Los casos de Jiménez y López son solo una pequeña muestra de una realidad que cada vez es más común. Modesta Toribio, defensora de los derechos de los trabajadores de la organización Make the Road Nueva York, aseguró que las estafas de subcontratistas han ido en aumento, pero advirtió que con datos básicos se pueden recuperar los salarios. Esta organización recibe en sus oficinas un promedio de 300 denuncias al año.

“Esta práctica se ha vuelto muy común, especialmente en el área de la Roosevelt, en Queens, donde yo recibo semanalmente entre 5 y 7 casos de robo de salarios de inmigrantes a los llevan a trabajar duro y luego no les contestan el teléfono y no les pagan, pero es importante que ellos sepan que tienen derechos y que podemos ayudarlos a que les den su dinero”, aseguró la activista, al tiempo que agregó que el 80% de los casos que manejan tienen un final feliz para el trabajador.

Muchos trabajadores no tienen idea que pueden recuperar el dinero y dejan a los contratistas que se roben su plata, pero si no se hace nada contra ellos, no solo van a perder su derecho de obtener su salario sino que van a seguir haciéndole eso a otras personas”, comentó la dominicana, quien pidió que los trabajadores siempre tengan información precisa del contratista como la dirección donde vive, nombre completo, teléfono, placa del carro que usa y hasta fotos del empleado en el sitio de trabajo.

La activista afirmó además que en esta lucha para que se respete la dignidad de los trabajadores sería muy útil si hubiera leyes más fuertes que persigan más a los subcontratistas aprovechados, por lo que  mencionó que al Departamento de Labor del Estadole hace falta un seguimiento más feroz de los “mala paga” y más prontitud en el manejo de los casos.

El Estado debe hacer más

Daniel Dromm, concejal del distrito de Jackson Heights y miembro del Comité de Labor del Concejo Municipal, destacó que los asuntos laborales en Nueva York están delineados por el Estado y advirtió que aunque en 2011 se aprobó el Acta de Protección Salarial que protege a los trabajadores, necesita fortalecerse más a través de la organización y la educación.

“La ley está ahí, pero seguimos escuchando gente que trabaja y no le pagan, por lo que es importante seguir el trabajo que estamos haciendo desde el Concejo con fondos para advertirle a todos los neoyorquinos, tengan papeles o no, que las leyes los cubren y que todos los trabajadores tienen sus derechos y pueden reclamar si son víctimas de jefes que no les pagan”, advirtió el líder político de Queens, quien pidió que se incrementen los castigos a los subcontratistas “ladrones”.

Ellos son criminales y están haciendo algo terrible, por lo que es necesario verlos como delincuentes y darles mayores castigos incluso enviarlos a la cárcel, porque no podemos permitir que victimicen a personas vulnerables que están cayendo en sus manos”, agregó Dromm.


Se Hace Camino coordinadora Modesta Toribio. Robo de Salario. (Photo: El Diario)

Rafael Espinal, presidente del Comité de Asuntos del Consumidor, lamentó especialmente que muchos subcontratistas pretendan legitimar el robo de salarios amenazando a los trabajadores con ‘La Migra’, y advirtió que ordenará una investigación más exhaustiva sobre esta problemática para ponerle freno a los empleadores abusivos.

“Los trabajadores deben recibir un pago por el trabajo que realizan y nunca ser intimidados por los empleadores que desean explotar su estado migratorio”, dijo el concejal de Brooklyn, donde se reportar muchos de estos robos de salarios. “Como presidente de la Comisión de Asuntos del Consumidor del Concejo, haré que el personal investigue y estudie estos abusos para asegurarnos de que estamos haciendo todo lo posible para lograr que los neoyorquinos reciban salarios que se han ganado con trabajo duro y que han sido robados por propietarios de negocios turbios”.

Cristóbal Gutiérrez, defensor laboral de Make the Road NY advirtió que los trabajadores que han sido víctima de lo que describió como un negocio endémico no deben permitir que violen sus derechos.

“La ley dice que cualquier día trabajado en este país, independientemente del estatus migratorio, debe ser pagado conforme a la ley del estado en el que se está trabajando, al menos el ingreso mínimo correspondiente”, dijo el chileno mencionando que organismos como el Departamento de Labor, las fiscalías y hasta las cortes de pequeños reclamos están prestas a ayudar. “Aunque cada caso es diferente hay que pedir ayuda, pero lo ideal es que si hay varias personas a las que les está pasando lo mismo se unan y van a ser más exitoso”.

Es un delito

El Departamento de Trabajo de Nueva York, que tiene una unidad de ayuda de salarios no pagados, advierte que los empleadores que no cumplen con sus obligaciones salariales están cometiendo un delito, considerado menor y hace un llamado a que las víctimas presenten sus reclamos.

“El Departamento de Trabajo ayuda a cobrar los salarios adeudados a los trabajadores que no han recibido el salario mínimo, una vez que nos presentan un reclamo. Las normas laborales investigan y se esfuerzan por recopilar estos reclamos para salarios pendientes de pago, salarios retenidos, deducciones ilegales y también hacemos cumplir las reglas que prohíben a los empleadores tomar sobornos ilegales de los salarios”, advierte ese organismo.

La Fiscalía General del Estado también ha lanzado una dura batalla para recuperar los salarios robados de los trabajadores y aseguran que en el último año lograron pagos pendientes de más de $2.7 millones que beneficiaron a más de 1,500 empleados en casos civiles y penales. Desde el 2011 el monto supera los $30 millones.

“Como Fiscal General, estoy comprometido a luchar en nombre de los trabajadores de Nueva York para asegurar que obtienen un pago justo por cada jornada de trabajo”, aseguró Eric Schneiderman. “Seguiremos luchando todos los días en favor de las familias trabajadoras de Nueva York”.

Dónde pedir ayuda

  • Si usted tiene una queja acerca de su empleador, no dude en llamar al 311 y solicitar la Oficina de Normas Laborales del Departamento de Asuntos del Consumidor
  • El Departamento de Labor del Estado ofrece ayuda en la línea 888-469-7365 o a través de la página https://www.labor.ny.gov/home/
  • Asimismo puede llamar a la línea del distrito de Nueva York al 212-775-3880
  • La organización Make the Road NY tienen una oficina especializada en ayuda a recuperar salarios. Para ayuda llame al 1877 466 97 57 o visite sus sedes en el 301 Grove St, en Brooklyn, 161 Port Richmond Ave, en Staten Island o 92-10 Roosevelt Ave, en Corona, Queens
  • En Make the Road de Queens puede llamar al 718 565 85 00 ext 4472 a Modesta Toribio
  • En la oficina de Make the Road en Brooklyn puede llamar al 718 418 76 90 a Nieves Padilla.

Leer más aquí.


By Lindsey Christ

Originally published by NY1 on October 11, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 8.36.35 AM

With more homeless children attending city public schools than ever before, a city council committee heard testimony Wednesday that the education department is not doing enough to address the crisis. NY1 Education Reporter Lindsey Christ has the story.

One in ten city students was homeless at some point last school year, according to new state numbers.

That’s a record 111,500 students, a six percent jump from the year before.

Members of the city council say it’s a staggering problem.

“It is a crisis, and the numbers are mind blowing, actually,” Queens City Councilman Daniel Dromm said. “It seems like they are trying to get a handle on it, but they are not quite there yet.”

Education department and Homeless Services officials testified for several hours on student homelessness before the council on Wednesday.

“We know that for many of them, school is a vital source of stability,” Deputy Schools Chancellor Elizabeth Rose testified. “To this end, we provide additional academic, health, and mental health supports and services.”

The mayor has included a temporary appropriation of $10 million in each of the last two city budgets to support homeless students.

But advocates point out that the spending was almost cut this year. They also say it’s not nearly enough. At more than 150 schools, at least ten percent of students live in shelters, but the funding provides only 43 social workers dedicated to homeless families.

“The level of trauma that a child goes through living in shelter, I don’t think we are adequately prepared to help them with,” Brooklyn City Councilman Stephen Levin said.

Another troubling statistic is how many families are placed in shelters in the same borough as the youngest child’s school. Only half of families were sheltered in the same borough, down from 70 percent four years ago — and well short of the goal of 85 percent.

“I read that and I see an ever-deteriorating situation,” Levin said during the council meeting.

Being sheltered far from school means children endure long commutes and frequently miss classes. More than half of students in shelters miss at least a month of school.

Last year, the city began offering bus service for kindergarten through sixth graders in shelters. 5,000 students are now picked up from 500 bus stops and brought to 1,000 different schools.

But education outcomes for students in shelters remain dismal. Only 15 percent are on track in reading and 12 percent of students are on track in math.

See more here.

LPC landmarks Old St. James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst


Old Saint James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst/NYC Landmarks Commission (Jackson Heights Post)

By Tara Law

Originally published by the Jackson Heights Post on September 20, 2017

The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted to designate the Old St. James Episcopal Church, located at 86-02 Broadway, a landmark on Tuesday.

The church was constructed in 1735-36 and is the second oldest religious building and oldest Church of England mission church in the city.

The building is recognized as an example of the colonial meetinghouse architectural style and features 19th Century Gothic Revival and Stick Style workmanship.

“As the second-oldest church building in the City, pre-dating St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan, it is a site well-deserving of the protection landmark status provides,” said Meenakshi Srinivasan, the landmarks preservation commission chair.

The church was constructed as part of what was known as Newtown Village, one of the original five towns in Queens County. The building was used by British troops during the American Revolution. The church became an early member of the Episcopal Diocese of New York after the revolution.

In 1848, the parish built a larger church a block away to accommodate the area’s growing population, and the church became the parish hall.

Following storm damage in 1883, the building was modified with Victorian design elements.

In the 20th century, the hall served the community as a centrally-located meeting place.

In 2004, grants from the Landmark Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program helped to restore the church to its 1883 appearance.

The church is currently not in use, although part of property used as parking lot.

“The Old St. James Church is an American treasure,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, who wrote a letter in support of landmark status to the Commission. “It is a beautiful work of art and an important part of our history. The Old St. James Church tells the story of how our nation came to be.”

Read more here.


By Grace Segers and Jeff Coltin
Originally published by City and State New York on August 16, 2017

(Photo by Alexis Arsenault)

(Photo by Alexis Arsenault)

With President Donald Trump again drawing a moral equivalency between the white nationalist marchers and their counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend, racism and diversity have become a central topic of discussion at many events – including at City & State’s forum on New York education policy.

“I think that what’s happening in Washington is something we need to talk about in our classrooms,” New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm said during a panel discussion at the annual On Education event, held Wednesday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan. Dromm said that controversies surrounding the Trump administration are raising issues about culture and history that students need to understand.

Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman agreed, adding that the Trump administration has “instilled an institution of fear in our public schools.”

“I think that kind of climate sets a bad tone, not just in New York state, but across the country,” added Hyndman, who previously worked for the state Department of Education and served on New York City’s Community District Education Council 29.

The president’s remarks and his administration’s education policies was a recurring theme during the conference. During a discussion of a federal push to promote private schools, Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of New York, said that many professionals in private schools were skeptical of the president’s campaign promises to dedicate $20 billion of federal funding to school choice.

The events in Charlottesville, in which brawls broke out and a counterprotester was struck by a car and killed, and the president’s response remained at the forefront of many discussions, even ones related specifically to New York. State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal from June, which outlined ways to increase diversity in New York City schools but failed to mention the word “segregation” or directly address integration.

“Call it out. You’ve got to name it,” said Rosa. She added that the events of the past six days had underscored the importance of school integration, alluding to Charlottesville.

The New York education sector has had its own controversy over race in the past week: Daniel Loeb, a political donor and chairman of the board of directors of Success Academy, the state’s largest charter school network, said in a since-deleted Facebook post that state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who is black, was worse for racial minorities than “anyone who has ever donned a hood,” because of her support of teachers’ unions. A separate 2016 Facebook post from Loeb was also uncovered this week saying the teachers’ union “has done more to perpetuate poverty and discrimination than the KKK.”

Loeb’s comments have been roundly criticized, including during a Monday rally in Harlem where politicians showed support for Stewart-Cousins. Loeb has apologized for the comments, but many, including de Blasio, called for him to step down from the Success Academy board.

Rosa joined the chorus today, saying she was “outraged on every single level” that Loeb would compare an African American woman to the KKK, adding that Success Academy students would be better served by having somebody else as chairman of the board.

There were other signs of tension involving charter schools. Last month, the State University of New York introduced a proposal that would let some charter schools hire uncertified teachers and instead develop their own in-house certification that was less arduous. One proposal would require only 30 hours of classroom instruction.

“I could go into a fast food restaurant and get more training than that,” said state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. Rosa called the proposal “insulting.”

Janella Hinds, vice president for academic high schools at the United Federation of Teachers, connected the proposal to the Trump administration, saying it was “an indicator of  what’s happening nationally around the deprofessionalization of education and this privatization moment that doesn’t really serve students or their families.”

Read more here.

Queens Exhibit Celebrates 25 Years of Borough’s Pride Roots

By Roger Clark
Originally published by New York 1 on Friday, June 9, 2017

Queens’ role in LGBT history is the focus of a new exhibit at the Queens Museum.

“The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens” looks at LGBT activism in the borough dating back to the early 90s.

Many pieces in the exhibit come from the personal archives of City Councilman Danny Dromm, who founded the Queens Pride Parade.

“It’s going to be across the board, the history of the last 25 years of the history of the LGBT movement in Queens. Which a lot of people don’t know about. There’s been activism here, and our own unique history here in the borough of Queens,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm.

The exhibit coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Queens Pride Parade, which was celebrated in Jackson Heights last Sunday.

To see more, click here.

Residents File Class Action Suit Against MTA Over Lead Paint on 7 Train

By Matt McClure
Reported by NY1 on Monday, May 22, 2017 at 08:05 PM

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 11.06.10 PMA group of Jackson Heights residents has filed a class action lawsuit against the MTA. They say lead paint chips falling from the elevated 7 train line pose a public health hazard. NY1’s Matt McClure filed the following report.

Standing under the elevated 7 train along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights you can’t help but notice it: Paint chipping and falling away.

“I have two small kids,” said Dudley Stewart, a Jackson Heights resident and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “

Every day we walk through Roosevelt Avenue and I get worried because you see the dust falling from the train. We know it’s filled with lead aint.”

A recent study by a painter’s union found lead levels in paint chips here were more than 40 times the legal threshold.

Now, four Jackson Heights residents have joined together in a federal class action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), calling on the agency to fix the problem.

“This is something the MTA has known about for years,” Steward said. “We want them to fix it. They refuse to fix it. Now is the time to force them to do it.”

“When all other avenues have failed, we believe that this lawsuit will then force the MTA to cure this hazard, which has existed for too long,” said attorney Dan Woodard, who represents the plaintiffs.

Among other things, the lawsuit accuses the agency of intentionally causing dangerous conditions by painting the structure with lead paint, then not maintaining it. City Council Member Daniel Dromm says it’s a public health hazard. He also believes it’s been 35 years since the structure between Woodside and Corona has received a fresh coat of paint.

“They keep telling us it’s in the budget,” Dromm said. “We’ve not seen it painted.”

Tammy Rose, an area resident involved in the lawsuit says the structural conditions of the elevated 7 line are so bad, one day as she was driving down Roosevelt Avenue, a bolt fell and hit her car.

“If a bolt falls off, imagine the amount of paint chips that are falling that we don’t see,” Rose said.

“You can see the structure is in very bad shape,” Dromm added. “I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen down!”

The MTA does not comment on pending litigation, but a spokesperson says their previous tests showed lead levels within EPA standards. The spokesperson also denies that it has been 35 years since the bridge has been painted, although they didn’t say when it happened. There is money in the agency’s current Capital Plan for the painting, but there’s no word on when it might happen.

For the residents who filed this lawsuit, it can’t come soon enough.

See more here.

Dromm, Queens Center, Village People Cowboy Randy Jones Celebrate 25th Anniversary of Queens Pride

Dromm Qns Center 051517 1

PHOTO CAPTION: NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (back row, third from left), NQAPIA Executive Director Glenn Magpantay, API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC Founder Clara Yoon, Caribbean Equality Project Executive Director Mohamed Q. Amin (left to right, holding awards) and other LGBT activists celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade and Festival at Queens Center Mall.


Randy Jones Queens Center 051517

PHOTO CAPTION: The Original Village Cowboy Randy Jones (foreground, right) performs the hit-song “YMCA” with NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (back row, third from right) and other attendees at Dromm’s Queens LGBT Pride Parade and Festival 25th Anniversary celebration at Queens Center Mall.

This week Council Member Dromm hosted a special celebration in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade and Festival at Queens Center Mall.  Sponsored by Queens Center, the event featured a reception and performances by Randy Jones, the original Village People cowboy, and International Dancer Zaman, a trained Kathak, Orissi, Bollywood, Bhangra and Chutney dancer.

At the event, Dromm recognized API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC, Carribean Equality Project and NQAPIA (National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance), three organizations that have contributed greatly to the LGBT rights movement over the past several years.

“It was a pleasure celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade alongside a host of activists, performers and community supporters,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst), founder of the parade.  “For 25 years, this parade has opened the hearts and minds of Queens residents and has helped make the historic gains the LGBT community has seen possible.  I thank Queens Center, Randy Jones, International Dancer Zaman, our honorees and all those in attendance for their contributions to this event and our movement at large.”

“Queens Center was proud to be the venue for Council Member Dromm’s event to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the first Queens Pride Parade and Festival,” said John Scaturro, Senior Manager for Queens Center.  “Hosting the celebration in one of the most public spaces in the borough was testament to the progress we have all made in our community and what makes us at Queens Center Mall so pleased to be part of the Queens fabric. Partnering with civic leaders like Council Member Dromm is part our corporate mission to actively participate in our local community.”


Dromm, who in 1992 courageously came out as an openly gay public school teacher is the paradeʼs founder and a former Co-chair of Queens Pride.  Originally conceived 25 years ago as a response to the homophobic attacks on the Queens lesbian and gay communities by then-School Board 24 President Mary Cummins, the parade has become a wonderful mixture of party and politics welcomed by the local community. The Queens celebration is the first in a series of very special events that kick off a month of Pride activities citywide.