An Unguarded Fort, and Neighbors Who See a Risk

Protesters also chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

Protesters also chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

New York Times

March 22, 2009
Fort Totten

An Unguarded Fort, and Neighbors Who See a Risk
By JAMES ANGELOS

FORT TOTTEN in Bayside, Queens, sits atop a hilly peninsula near the Throgs Neck Bridge, where the waters of the East River meet Long Island Sound. The fort was built during the Civil War to guard the city against attack from the East River, but it closed in 1995, and since then, much of the land, along with many of its dilapidated Victorian buildings, has been handed over to the city.

A park now covers 50 acres of Fort Totten, and the Fire and Police Departments, as well as the Army Reserve 77th Regional Readiness Command and other groups, use some of the buildings on the remaining 100 or so acres.


Since the fort closed, the Fire Department has been in charge of security there, hiring private guards to patrol the fort and to staff a security booth at its entrance. But in February, the fort’s neighbors learned that the department would eliminate that security detail starting March 1, citing budget cuts.

The move has unleashed local fears that the park and its historic buildings, some of them abandoned, will be vulnerable to vandalism, arson and other crimes. Earlier this month, a few dozen residents held a rally at the fort’s entrance, chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, we say safety, they say no!”

At one point, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. spoke on a megaphone.

“During the toughest economic times,” Mr. Vallone said, “that’s when you have to keep the community and the people the safest.”

A group of security guards who had worked at the fort watched the protest.

“There will be a lot of chaos,” predicted one guard, Alexander Bolotinskiy, as he watched a car pass the empty security booth, where the sign still read, “Please Stop and Show ID.”

Steve Ritea, a Fire Department spokesman, said the change was part of a wider cut in security expenditures that would save nearly $1.2 million annually.

The Police Department, Mr. Ritea added, will continue to include the fort in its patrols. Fire marshals stationed at the fort will also provide an element of safety, he said.

But some residents are not placated. Among them is Carol Marian, president of the Bayside Historical Society, which is housed in the fort.

“This park is not a normal park,” Ms. Marian said, pointing out the many old buildings. “We have hidden corners where people can lurk.”

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Fort Totten Gate Security: An Ever Changing Story

A protest rally still remains a very real possibility.

A protest rally still remains a very real possibility.

At a meeting held on Tuesday, February 17, 2009, Fire Department Chiefs and Unit Heads decided to completely eliminate gate security at Fort Totten. This is contrary to earlier reports from official FDNY sources that the security would be provided by light duty fire fighters.

At this time attempts are being made to obtain copies of the conveyance agreement, which some interested parties believe call for FDNY to maintain gate security. As expected, FDNY is reluctant to make the documents available for review. Efforts are underway to obtain the documentation elsewhere.

A protest rally still remains a very real possibility.

BLOOMBERG TO FORT TOTTEN & BAY TERRACE: DROP DEAD

State Senators Introduce Fair Share Tax Reform

Fair Share Tax Reform

Fair Share Tax Reform

From NewsLI.com

State Senators Introduce Fair Share Tax Reform

February 10, 2009

– Initiative Would Raise More than $6 Billion in Revenue to Nearly Halve Budget Shortfall While Reforming New York’s Tax Code to Make it Fairer

(Albany, N.Y.) A group of Democratic Senators today introduced the Fair Share Tax Reform Act of 2009, an initiative that would raise more than $6 billion in new revenue by slightly increasing taxes on the wealthiest 5% of New Yorkers, those making more than $250,000 a year. The reform package would nearly halve New York’s budget deficit while making the tax system fairer, more progressive and in line with neighboring states. Today, New Yorkers who make more than $40,000 a year are subject to the very same marginal tax rate as those who make $400,000 or $40 million.

Over the last 30 years, New York has reduced income tax rates on the wealthiest New Yorkers by more than 50% and eliminated high income tax brackets so that working class families and the very rich pay the same tax rate. Currently, every New Yorker who earns more than $40,000 pays the same marginal tax rate of 6.85%, whether their income is $41,000 a year or $4.1 million. Fair Share Tax Reform would create new income brackets for individuals or families making more than $250,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000 at 8.25%, 8.97%, and 10.30% respectively. These new tax brackets would raise more than $6 billion in new added revenue.

The Fair Share Tax Reform proposal would mean New York State wouldn’t have to make billions in cuts to schools, healthcare, and communities. It could help prevent increases in class sizes, teacher layoffs, hospital and nursing home closings, longer wait times in emergency rooms and deep cuts to hundreds of important programs like housing assistance and homeless shelters.

“The Governor is absolutely right that in these challenging financial times, we all need to share the sacrifice,” said Senator Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan/Bronx). “That’s why it is so important that we ask our State’s wealthiest to contribute their fair share as well. Currently, the richest 1% of New Yorkers pay 6.5% of their total income in state and local taxes while the poorest 20% of New Yorkers pay 12.6% of their income. Fair Share Tax Reform would return fairness to our tax system while cutting our State’s budget deficit in half, eliminating the need to make the most devastating cuts to our communities.”

“It is very irresponsible public policy for an individual who makes $40,000 a year to be subject to the same tax rate as an individual who makes $4,000,000 a year,” added Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany).

“The Fair Share Tax Reform Act implements a progressive tax structure, making it more equitable for low-income and working families,” said Senator Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo). “Those hardest hit are typically the ones that can least afford it.”

“The tax cuts provided to the wealthiest New Yorkers over the past 30 years are no longer viable during these difficult economic times,” said Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn). “If we don’t take this path and ask high-income New Yorkers to pay their fair share, then we will inevitably be faced with devastating cuts to health care, education and other essential community services. If there was ever a time to consider fairness in our tax code, it is now.”

“This legislation would create a much fairer system of taxation for all New Yorkers,” continued Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Queens). “There is no reason why someone earning $40,000 a year pays the same marginal tax rate as someone earning $4 million. This bill would correct this inequity.”

Read the complete article………….

Avella: Legalize Sports Betting as a Cash Cow for the City

Cash Cow aka Legalized Sports Betting

Cash Cow aka Legalized Sports Betting

Queens Chronicle

02/05/2009
Avella attacks mayor over budget proposal
by Peter C. Mastrosimone , Editor-in-Chief

A key Queens lawmaker who intends to run for the city’s highest office blasted Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s budget plan this week as unnecessarily draconian.
City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) contends that the spending cuts and layoffs Bloomberg proposed for fiscal 2010, which begins July 1, could all be avoided if his own ideas were implemented instead.
The city is facing a $4 billion deficit in 2010, according to the administration’s latest estimate. Just two months ago, the shortfall was pegged at only $1.3 billion. And the city has already made $2.4 billion in cuts; otherwise the mayor says the gap would be projected at $6.4 billion.
The reason of course is the continuing economic slide and resultant decrease in city tax revenues.
In a budgetary statement issued last week, Bloomberg said the city needs help from the state and federal governments, as well as municipal unions here, to avoid deeper cuts. And he cited the mid-year reductions already approved by the City Council as crucial.
“The tough decisions we made over the last year prevented the current deficit from being unmanageable, and we now have a plan to close that deficit,” Bloomberg said. “We will do our part by cutting nearly another $1 billion in agency spending, and the wise choices we made when the economy was booming have helped, allowing us to pay down billions of dollars in expenses for future years.”
Avella, however, has a different take.
“I think there’s no way we should be doing layoffs in this economy,” he said Tuesday. “That’s a catch-22 situation. They have less money, they may go on unemployment; it’s like raising taxes. It doesn’t solve anything.”
Avella cited Bloomberg’s plans to delay the hiring of more police officers and to close some fire companies at night as among the worst of his proposals. “That’s stupid and puts people’s lives in jeopardy,” he said.
The councilman claimed the budget gap could be closed just by eliminating waste in city agencies and by enacting one of his longtime proposals: legalizing sports betting and turning it into a cash cow for the city.
If the city would just go after people who damage public property, it could raise as much as $100 million a year, Avella asserted, saying the Police Department alone spends $3 million annually to fix patrol cars hit by other drivers.
Meanwhile sports betting generates anywhere from $15 to $30 billion a year for organized crime syndicates, he said — money that would close the budget gap and then some.
Mayoral officials could not immediately be reached for a response, but have said in the past that Avella is just politicking when he criticizes Bloomberg. He is one of several officials who plan to challenge the mayor in this year’s election. The councilman said the fact that he has been proposing the same measures for years shows that he is sincere.