Leonardo Labriola, Bushwick Resident
by Benjamin Fang
May 22, 2018 | 0 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Law student Leonardo Labriola moved to Bushwick five years ago from Colorado with a duffle bag and a backpack. “I slept on the floor in my loft building because the rent was cheap and it was what I could afford,” he said. Labriola lives among artists, students, small business owners and other newcomers who moved to Bushwick because of the affordable rent. He considers this group of people part of the “Wave I Gentrification” of a neighborhood. Wave I Gentrification, Labriola said, ushers in amenities like heightened nightlife and upscale bars. Because the artist community is more single-minded and not as family-oriented, they begin to change the culture of a community. “That same cultural shift makes it a hub for new people to come to the neighborhood, and those people are not as desperate as the original gentrification,” he said. Labriola is referring to “Wave II Gentrification,” when developers take advantage of the influx of new people coming into the neighborhood and build market-rate housing for a new population “who can afford far higher rents.” That’s exactly what’s happening to Labriola’s neighborhood. A developer has proposed building a 122-unit building on an adjacent lot near his loft building, threatening to displace him and his neighbors. Labriola is among the many Bushwick community members, newcomers and lifelong residents who are fighting against the proposal. “I recognize that I’m new to this community and that people have been here for a very long time,” he said. “It’s my job to get to know people, be humble and see where my place is.” Though they’re both facing the dreaded prospects of Wave II Gentrification hitting Bushwick, Labriola said he has really learned how welcoming Bushwick is as a community. “What has been really nice is that this community is here to embrace anyone who’s willing to embrace them,” he said.
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Melissa Sklarz wants to listen and learn
by Benjamin Fang
May 22, 2018 | 3 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the Democratic primary four months away, Assembly candidate Melissa Sklarz is taking the time to know her would-be constituents. The Woodside resident and longtime Democratic Party insider is challenging freshman Assemblyman Brian Barnwell in the 30th District, which includes Woodside, Maspeth and Middle Village. The primary is set for Thursday, September 13. In an interview last week, Sklarz said she’s been out in the neighborhood everyday for the past two months, talking to voters about the issues they care about. Among them are housing, education, immigrant rights and women’s reproductive rights. “My door will be open and my cell phone will be available,” she said. “I want to be there and help people.” Sklarz noted that she supports two bills that Barnwell voted against in the Assembly. One is the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which would provide insurance coverage for FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and products. The other is the New York State Liberty Act, which would make New York a “sanctuary state,” prohibiting law enforcement and other state agencies from inquiring about a person’s immigration status. Both pieces of legislation have passed in the Assembly, but have not been put up for a vote in the Republican-controlled State Senate. On the issue of transportation, Sklarz said she wants to see more funding to improve public transit. The Boulevard Gardens homeowner hasn’t owned a car in three decades, she said, and mostly gets around on buses and trains. But while Sklarz is a proponent of better public transportation, she has also learned how important cars and parking spots are to residents in areas like Maspeth and Middle Village, which lack transit options. Although she likes the idea of bike lanes, Sklarz said she has also heard from numerous people at local town halls and civic meetings just how much they dislike the lanes. “The beauty of this is my ability to listen and learn,” she said. While discussing education, Sklarz criticized New York City schools broadly as “not working.” She specifically pointed at school segregation and underperforming schools as a “tragedy.” The candidate said she wants to see smaller classrooms and higher wages for teachers. “I want to get the money we deserve for our schools,” she said. As she continues on the campaign trail, Sklarz said her biggest challenge will be to continue learning what it is the 125,000 people who live in the district care most about. Her campaign will soon begin the petitioning process, collecting signatures all across the district. She will have even more opportunities to talk to voters from Woodside, Maspeth and Middle Village until the primary. “I’m 100 percent committed to serving the district,” she said. “I think I can make a difference.”
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Another pedestrian killed on Northern Blvd
by Benjamin Fang
May 22, 2018 | 3 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A third pedestrian has been killed by a car this year on Northern Boulevard, which advocates are now calling the new “Boulevard of Death.” Just after midnight on Monday morning, 47-year-old Carlos Gavilanes from Corona was struck by a car on Northern Boulevard between 100 and 101 streets, according to police. Officers found Gavilanes lying on the roadway. Emergency responders took him to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An unidentified 24-year-old driver remained at the scene. There have been no arrests and the investigation is ongoing. Gavilanes is the third person killed walking across Northern Boulevard in 2018 alone. In April, nine-year-old Giovanni Ampuero was killed crossing at 70th Street and Northern Boulevard. On January 5, Myriam Nino, 82, was killed at 90th Street. Paul Steely White, executive director of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, said he is appalled by the rate at which reckless drivers have killed pedestrians on the corridor. “We know that these deaths are preventable,” White said in a statement. “So much more can be done to prevent crashes and curb speeding, which increases both the likelihood and severity of crashes.” White implored legislative leaders in Albany to pass legislation expanding the use of speed safety cameras across New York City. After Ampuero's death, local lawmakers toured Northern Boulevard with city transportation officials to see where improvements could be made. The Department of Transportation (DOT) agreed to install Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs), which give pedestrians a seven-second head start before cars are allowed to turn, at several intersections from Queens Plaza to 114th Street. According to lawmakers, DOT also promised to install left-turn traffic calming measures, meant to reduce left-turn speeds, at intersections from 58th Street to Junction Boulevard. In a statement, State Senator Jose Peralta, who worked with Assemblyman Michael DenDenkker to push for street safety changes, said deadly accidents are becoming “too common” along the corridor. “My heart goes out to the family and friends of Carlos Gavilanes,” Peralta said. “We need to ensure deaths on the boulevard do not continue to happen. This is unacceptable.”
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