Avella presents longtime volunteers with Liberty Medal
by Patrick Kearns
Jul 03, 2015 | 9 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Frank Skala, Mandingo Tshaka and Arlene Fleishman, join Senator Tony Avella at a ceremony on Monday where they received Liberty Medals.
Frank Skala, Mandingo Tshaka and Arlene Fleishman, join Senator Tony Avella at a ceremony on Monday where they received Liberty Medals.
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At a special ceremony in State Senator Tony Avella’s Bayside office on Monday, four longtime community activists were honored with the Liberty Award, one of the highest civilian honors that can be bestowed by the State Senate. “There’s no recognition for those who have spent decades, literally decades, working on behalf of their community,” Avella said to the three that were able to attend the ceremony, plus family, friends and other community activists. The four honorees were Frank Skala, Arlene Fleishman, Mandingo Tshaka and Rich Hellenbrecht. The New York State Senate Liberty Medal is similar to the national Congressional Gold Medal, and is given to individuals who have merited special commendation for exceptional, heroic, or humanitarian acts and achievements on behalf of their fellow New Yorkers. To receive the medal, the selection has to be approved by a State Senate vote. Avella plans to start honoring members of the community on a yearly basis. “It’s only supposed to be for very special individuals who exemplify what this community is all about,” Avella said. Those that received the medal recalled their decades of service at the small ceremony. “Before you know it, you’re so deeply involved that you don’t want to pull out of it,” Fleishman said. “It’s a wonderful experience to have lived through it. I’m embarrassed to say president is my middle name” Throughout her lifetime, Fleishman has served on the community board and the school board of District 24. She has also been active in her co-op, as well as various other services to the community over the years. Skala was was a longtime teacher in Queens, and founded the East Bayside Homeowners Association and the New Bayside High Alumni Association. He also served on Community Board 11 for over a decade. “It was a surprise and it's an honor to be picked today,” Skala said at the ceremony. Tshaka was the other honoree that was able to attend the meeting. He recalled trying to get the drug dealers off the streets of Bayside – he was even hit over the head with a bat during a march against the dealers one time. “I find that with my life, it’s a calling,” he said of his years of serving the community. Tshaka was an active member of Community Board 11 for many years and also an advocate for parks in the Bayside community. Hellenbrecht was not able to attend the meeting as he was out of town. He has served as president of the Queens Civic Congress and Bellerose Hillside Civic Association.
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Judge puts brakes on Willets West
by Shane Miller
Jul 03, 2015 | 92 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Plans for a mega-mall on part of the Citi Field parking lot took a hit yesterday, as a judge ruled that the developers of Willets West would have to seek approval for the project from the state. The private project, which included a “mega-mall” and was touted as necessary to finance the larger Willets Point redevelopment, would have technically been constructed on parkland. Approval from the state legislature is necessary to give public land to a private entity. “Today’s decision sends a message loud and clear – our parks are not for sale,” said State Senator Tony Avella, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city. “The fact of the matter is, this land was intended to be parkland, not the development of a shopping mall.” The city gave the land to Related Companies for the 31-acre project under the Bloomberg administration in 2012, arguing that the 1961 law that authorized Shea Stadium also allowed for development of the parking lot. The judge in the case rejected that argument. “We are disappointed in the court’s decision and are reviewing our options,” said Law Department spokeswoman Kate O'Brien Ahlers in a statement.
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Ridgewood resident John Carroll with the remnants of the flag protestors burned on Wednesday night.
Ridgewood resident John Carroll with the remnants of the flag protestors burned on Wednesday night.
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Scores turn out to protest group's flag burning
Jul 02, 2015 | 179 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ridgewood resident John Carroll with the remnants of the flag protestors burned on Wednesday night.
Ridgewood resident John Carroll with the remnants of the flag protestors burned on Wednesday night.
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Protestors made good on their vow to burn an American flag on Wednesday in protest of racial violence, albeit not precisely as planned. After a Facebook event for the burning garnered widespread media attention and scores of protestors at the designated site, demonstrators moved the burning to the top of the park, torching one flag away from the crowds before scattering. Ridgewood, Queens resident John Carroll said he happened upon 4 or 5 masked twenty-something’s burning the flag near the Ship Martyr’s Monument, up a small hill from where the burning was scheduled to take place. “I saw smoke from down there, and I thought it would be too late,” he said. “When I got here I was shocked to see so much of the red, white and blue. So I reached in, took it out, and that’s when they ran.” The burning was organized by group DISARM NYPD, which describes itself on its website as a campaign to “make sure the police force in NYC no longer have arms”. The event swiftly gained attention after it was posted as an event on Facebook, generating news reports and condemning statements from elected officials such as Borough President Eric Adams. The goal of the event, according to the Facebook page, was to “demonstrate for the Charleston nine and all of those killed by racist violence in America”, referencing the fatal shootings last month of nine Africa-Americans at a church in Charleston by a young white man with apparent ties to white supremacist groups. DISARM NYPD would demonstrate against the “racist violence”, the event site said, by setting “fire to this symbol of oppression.” The event comes after a renewed debate over the Confederate flag and its place at the South Carolina capitol in light of the recent shootings. The shooter, Dylann Roof, posted pictures on social media with the Confederate flag. Ahead of the scheduled burning on Wednesday, a varied crowd of protestors descended on the scheduled burning site at the intersection of Myrtle and Washington Park, including numerous members of local motorcycle clubs. Many of the protestors questioned the link between the American flag and racial injustice. “Flags are put on military caskets,” said one club motorcycle club member, Joe, who would not give his last name. “Take this out on politicians, not the flag. The flag has nothing to do with it.” Sheepshead Bay resident Diane Atkins, whose nephew will be joining the Marine Corps in two weeks, came with handfuls of American flags from her home to disperse in protest of the burning. “I think it’s a disgrace that anyone would think it’s acceptable to burn this symbol of what the country stands for,” she said. “If you think there’s issues with the system there’s ways to address them, not by burning the symbol that people have died for centuries over, to give people the right to even think of doing something like this.” “If anyone tries to burn these flags, I’ll knock you out,” she added as she passed out her flags. Fort Greene resident Mike Maloney, dressed in flag shirt and shorts, and whose pit bull, Dakota, sported a flag leash, also questioned the rationale behind the flag burning. “This flag stands for so much more than what these people are angry about,” he said. “I agree with a lot of gripes people have about the country, but there’s a way to go about it, a way to peacefully protest and legislate, and burning a flag isn’t it.” Queens resident Joe Concannon, currently running for City council, said Mayor de Blasio should have played a more active role in deterring protestors. “Where’s the mayor?” he said. “Why isn’t he telling people, ‘What are you doing this for?’” At around 7:45 p.m., as it increasingly seemed the protestors would not show, a plume of smoke emerged from the top of the park, near the Prison Ship Marty’s Monument. Reporters, flag-burning protestors and bemused on-lookers alike sprinted up to the smoke, however when crowds had made it up the hill, all that remained were a few embers, and Carroll clutching the charred remnants of a flag.
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