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Van Bramer Protects Neighborhood Services; And to Redesign Park

Photo: Office of Jimmy Van Bramer

July 2, 2011 By Christian Murray

The firehouses are remaining open, teachers still have their jobs and most Sunnyside & Woodside residents will receive the same level of city services that they did before the New York City budget was passed on Wednesday.

Furthermore, there are some additional benefits for the neighborhood. The city is pumping $600,000 into the renovation of Thomas P. Noonan Playground; $125,000 has been allocated toward a teen reading room at the Woodside Library; and Friends of Sunnyside Gardens Park are going to split $50,000 with the friends of Queensbridge Park.

The fear that there would be teacher layoffs at PS 150 and IS 125 were alleviated by the budget, when the city council reached an agreement with Mayor Michael Bloomberg on June 24. Additionally, with passing of the budget this week, the cherished PS 150 after-school program, which was in risk of closing, will be in operation for the 2011/12 school year.

Meanwhile, the 20 fire companies that were on the chopping block will remain open, including Blissville’s Ladder 128, which services Sunnyside. Furthermore, the Queens Library system, which was likely to see a $25 million cut in funding, had $23 million restored. About 400 Queens Library jobs that were in jeopardy were saved—and the hours at the Sunnyside branch will not change, according to a spokeswoman from Queens Library.

“Our district did very well,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “I’m very proud to deliver results and resources such as saving Ladder 128, ensuring the PS 150 afterschool program continues, and saving thousands of jobs.”

Van Bramer expressed excitement about the renovation of Thomas P. Noonan Playground. He said that he initially planned to repair the rainbow sprinkler system and choppy ground around it—but it has morphed into a larger project where he is now in discussions about a redesign.

The councilman also said the graffiti program, where residents can call his hot-line at 718-383-9655 ext. 3 and get graffiti promptly cleaned, will continue; additionally, there is funding for the Skillman Ave. holiday lights at the end of 2011.


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nice, but how about a couple bucks to fix the idiotic lighting of the sunnyside arch. the multi-colored neon crap was obviously chosen by someone with absolutely no understanding of aesthetics. Not proper for a landmarkm- even if it’s from the 1960s. This after the dem pols took 500K for the renovatoion and sat on it for several years or lost it – guess they hired some people for 2G to light it up. You get what you pay for.


What I’ve read mostly about the opposition to LIFO is the sentiment that tenured teachers cannot be fired unless they commit a horrendous act (as frequently written about in the Post).

However, according to the UFT-DoE contract there is already a system in place that should eliminate the “bad” teachers who are simply not competent at their jobs. There is a system in place that rates teacher’s performance, and by their performance rating they can be fired.

Now, the rules and procedures are clearly stated. However, I think the main problem with getting rid of these teachers is that the administration is not doing exactly what they need to do to ward off the UFT challenges that arise. For example: administrators need to document evidence that they tried to help the failing teacher to improve during the year that they received a bad rating. A teacher who ignores this support can thus be dismissed. However, if the administrators do not offer it, they can’t fire the teacher. Only after offering this help (which can consist of sending the teacher to professional development during the summer and throughout the year) the teacher shows no improvement can the teacher then be fired.

I believe the period that a teacher is given to “improve” is two years – i.e. if they receive a unsatisfactory rating for two consecutive years they can be fired before the third year.

On the other hand – nontenured teachers can be fired after one year for an unsatisfactory rating and the administration is not required to assist or document any reasons for their dismissal (they do not have the so called UFT-“protection” of tenure).

Charter Schools:
I’m not opposed to them unless they cause the closure of an existing school. As for their success and reduced cost I think both statements need to be investigated further.

I do know that charter schools have a dire and direct consequence for students who fail – those students are sent back to public schools. Meanwhile, public schools have no consequences for failing students. In fact, PS have students assigned to their roster who never attend and yet count in the school’s graduation rating. PS cannot get these students off their roster until they reach the age of 21 – even if the students never attend. That skews their ratings – significantly.

Thus, Charter schools by nature retain the successful students while dismissing those who fail. Leaving the failing students to go back into the PS system. Hence, by default the numbers favor Charter schools without even comparing actual academic performance. Their “success” may just be due to this systemic manipulation.

As for the cost of Charter schools – this is definitely worth investigating as to me it is the concept’s strongest selling point.


1st a correction: UFT saved 60 to 61 million from those concessions, I also read that they abolished the “teacher’s choice” of $110/teacher. From Wikipedia (ok maybe not 100% reliable) there are 80,000 teachers thus this saves another 8,800,000 bringing our total to below $70 million. Right as you say it’s not a lot. However, the cost of the teachers they would lay off (4000 or so) mainly newly hired untenured teachers with an average salary of being generous and saying $55k (most do not have masters and earn in the $40k region- whereas some have been in the system much longer and may earn with a masters in the 60-65k region – according to a salary scale available from the DoE) – whew – the cost would be $220 million.

Thus $70 million is 32% of that amount – which is significant.

The DOE website states the NYC DoE budget is $23.9 billion!
This requires more in-depth reading. I recall $1billion+ being spent on outside consultants which is a ludicrous amount IMO. But more to the point, that $220 million which would have caused layoffs of teachers (and also firefighters since by contract they cannot layoff members of teachers without there being “city-wide” layoffs) is only 0.9% of the DoE budget.

Honestly and from my own observations there’s a tremendous amount of wasted tax dollars in DoE.


Jeanne – If I ran a business and received a very bad rating from the DoH and warned if these items didn’t improve that I faced being shut down a month later – then maybe I’d improve those conditions. Makes sense to me.

So I’ve lived here 3 years, and worked here 5 – that explains what exactly?!?

Just because you like eating in a place for years, and you like the owner, doesn’t necessarily mean that its a clean place to eat in.

If Donovan’s was closed down for false reasons, it could sue the DoH for loss of business. Furthermore, if there was this widespread conspiracy against certain restaurants as you allege, then those restaurants who be collaborating their stories and filling a joint lawsuit.

As Donovan’s has not filed a lawsuit (as far as we know), nor seems to protest the closing, nor cleaned up their act after the first warning over a month ago, then I’d go with the DoH decision to keep our families safe from unhealthy kitchen conditions.


43rd didn’t criticize the owner of Donovan’s. He or she quoted info from the DOH website and gave an example of a restaurant that was closed temporarily by the health department near his/her home.

I have only lived in Sunnyside for 10 years, so my opinion may be worthless to you, but I think that restaurants should be inspected and closed if they continue not to meet minimum standards. I appreciate that the DOH has a website that I can check to find out how filthy my local eateries are, and I appreciate Sunnyside Post for introducing me to that website.


is 43rd@43rs who criticized the owner of Donovan’s ? so you have only being living here for three years! That explains it!!!!

John K. Wilson

You don’t have to apologize for the long post; I like the detail–I like it a lot. I appreciate your post a great deal–particularly considering that the way that I “tapped you on the shoulder” was a little too provocative. I’m sorry about that. And, the moment I posted my question to you I regretted it…because I knew I’d have to put some effort into my answer to your response; and, I just don’t have the time to do it properly. But, here goes:
I’d heard about the concessions that the UFT indeed made to the budget: ending Sabbaticals and re-classifiying unassigned teachers into “substitute” status—though I’d not seen the detail that you provided ’til now; but, it was my understanding that these were relatively minor concessions on the UFT’s part. $17 million sounds like a lot of money (at my house, it IS); but, in a City School system with a budget of $Billions, it doesn’t go far. I don’t know the exact budget for the City Schools (and don’t have the time or energy to research the exact figures…right now); but, I seem to recall that last year, during the Race To The Top frenzy (in which Pres. Obama tried to encourage States to expand Charter School programs with Federal $$$ in a State vs. State competition) there was $700 million at stake for New York State. I remember reading last year that $700 million would cover NYC Schools for…3 days (NY eventually won just under that $700 million figure.). $700 million divided by 72 hours =$9.72 million per hour. By this (rough) calculation, $17 million would fuel our schools for just under 2 hours.
My two biggest problems with the UFT are its opposition to LIFO, which gives protected status to teachers based on seniority, not quantifiable talent; and, its opposition to Charter School proliferation. Charters are Public Schools which measurably achieve more with less $$$; and in this economic environment, that is a “no brainer” to me.
And, now I see that I’ve written a rather long post, too; and, there is so much left to discuss on this. So, here is a suggestion: contact me via my e-mail on my site. Let’s go to Molly Bloom’s for a pint and a bite…and chew on this topic. Perhaps we can pen a joint article; and if its any good, maybe Christian will post it (maybe he’ll join us for that pint!).
I really was impressed with your response to me; we may differ politically; but, there is no reason we can’t be friends.


Welcome to the neighborhood 43st and 43st. Please let us know how we can make your life a wonderufl experience here. We all want happy neighbors here.


There has been a great deal of negative press about teachers and unions building up over the last few years. It almost seems like an agenda or campaign against them. Although the UFT is certainly not perfect, in order to avert layoffs their role saved the city 61 million through the following concessions:

First they eliminated the 2012-2013 sabbaticals which claim that teachers are partially paid while they take an extended leave of absence for education purposes. (I’m not certain how much they get paid during this time – I was under the impression that the sabbatical was unpaid, but I’ll research it). According to a city aide this saves the city $17 million.

They also altered how the ATRs (Absent Teacher Reserve – which is a misleading name – they are the teachers who have lost their permanent position – mostly due to school closings). By the UFT contract they are not fired when a school closes, but rather are sent to work at another school either as a teacher or support staff until they find a permanent position. However, finding a permanent position for ATRs is complicated by the fact that the DOE pays for half if not all of their salary out of the DOE budget and not directly from the school’s budget where they are assigned. As such schools utilize ATRs as full teachers without having to pay for them. Thus there is no incentive to hire them permanently.

The UFT’s concession is that ATRs will now be used as substitute teachers and can now be sent to a different school each week rather than assigned to a single school for the entire year.

On the one hand this is horrible for ATRs to be changing where and who they teach weekly. On the other hand I believe it forces the schools to hire the ATRs that they want to keep from this year. So the end result will be less ATRs in the pool – but pity on those that remain.

In total they estimate the savings from both concessions will be $60 million. (ATRs used as substitutes means not having to pay subs – we’re already paying the ATR salary no matter what).

When it comes down to it – if you examine Bloomberg’s DOE it’s not Children First – it’s Consultants First. When we’re spending over 1 billion of tax payer’s money on education consultants yet threaten to layoff 4000+ teachers because we’re lacking $250 million to pay for them then there’s something very wrong with the system.

Sorry to all for the very long post – there’s a lot more to answer JKW’s question…. but perhaps somewhere else would be more appropriate.

John K. Wilson

I would love for you to explain how the UFT has improved your life. Is is only that they opposed our mayor? Or, have they done something inherently wonderful?


I’m glad there will be no layoffs as threatened by Bloomberg. JVB, city council, and the UFT played a major role in fighting this insane mayor. I work, live and shop in Sunnyside – however if I was laid off I’d have to move someplace cheaper.

This is the start of my third year living here and my 5th year working here. 😀

Neighborhood Observer

I wonder if his close relationship with Christine Quinn, working in the trenches with her on recent legislation, has made him–and us–a favorite for her “member items.”


I fully expect JVB to be in a Superman outfit at his next public appearance.


Why not call our councilman a “Magic Man”. He seems incredable at solving our town problems. How about parking next, and keeepng our stores open.

Hope he runs for re-election and not for borough pres.

Aileen Mahmoodi

if JVB can hook it up with two full courts with double rims that have chain nets …that would be soooo dope!

MY park (yeah, MY park… emphasis on the MY) better not look like skillman park’s new layout …pshhh! i will make more than one public scene- trust that


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