Crowley Steps Down from Friends of the QNS Board

Former New York City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has stepped down from her position as chairperson of the board of Friends of the QNS, a nonprofit organization that she founded to advocate for expanded commuter rail-based transit across the borough.

Crowley said her decision to step down was made in order to focus fully on her candidacy for New York State Senate District 17.

“It has been an honor to serve as the chair of Friends of the QNS,” Crowley said.

The “QNS” proposal was introduced by Crowley to improve transit within her former Council district. Specifically, the plan sought to revive the former Lower Montauk rail line, which stretches nine miles from Hunters Point in Long Island City, through central Queens neighborhoods including Middle Village, Glendale, and Ridgewood, to the Jamaica hub.

This portion of central Queens is commonly referred to as one of the City’s “transit deserts,” since no passenger rail currently serves many of these neighborhoods.

In a 2018 report from the Department of Transportation, it was confirmed that the defunct rail line could be converted to include passenger service at a fraction of the cost of other major expansion projects like Manhattan’s 2nd Avenue Subway.

The New York State Senate district seat that Crowley is currently running for would include a vast majority of the former Lower Montauk Line within its boundaries. It was recently created by state lawmakers following the 2020 Census and will include Glendale, Maspeth, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Ozone Park, and Greenpoint in Brooklyn within its boundaries.

But while Crowley is stepping down from her position as the board’s chair, she said she vows to continue to advocate not only for the QNS rail but for a greenway along the QNS line, if elected.

“Queens has been growing at a tremendous pace, especially Long Island City,” Crowley said. “For this borough to keep up with its growth, we need to provide better transit to our residents. It’s not ambitious, it’s common sense.”

This proposal to restore the former commuter rail is similar to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 14-mile IBX plan, which seeks to add a train line from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn to Woodside, Queens.

Both use existing, underused train rights-of-way, converting them to passenger service from strictly freight service.

Crowley also indicated that she would work to include a dedicated bike lane running parallel to QNS, because “an intolerable” number of bicycle accidents and fatalities have been occurring in recent years.

“If we want people to use alternative transportation, we want them to feel safe as they do so. A slightly revised QNS ‘rail and trail’ plan would help that goal,” Crowley said.

Denise Keehan-Smith, former chairperson of Community Board 2, will replace Crowley as the new chairperson of the Friends of QNS. Keehan-Smith promises to continue the hard work that Crowley started and will also advocate adding a bike lane to the proposal. The organization also hired a senior strategist to help assist with the group’s expanding workload.

“I shall be forever grateful to [Crowley] for serving as the founder and chair of our organization,” Thomas Mituzas, a Blissville resident and QNS board member, said. “She brought to the forefront the need for a new commuter line for the many living in the transportation desert of Queens.”

Richards leaves little doubt about his feelings

Donovan Richards bested Elizabeth Crowley in the primary for Queens borough president…again. He defeated her last year in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Melinda Katz and held down by Sharon Lee during the pandemic.
This time the contest was very close, with the two separated by approximately 1,000 votes.
The hotly contested race appears to have left Richards with strong feelings about Crowley. Rather than just thank his supporters for re-electing him to the post, he put Crowley directly in the crosshairs on Twitter, accusing her of being racist and asking him for a job as deputy borough president, both of which Crowley denies.
As you can see from the tweet, Richards used some pretty strong language, which leads us to believe he doesn’t subscribe to the “wait 24 hours before you hit send” rule. Or maybe he does.
Either way, it looks like some strong feelings about this contest will continue to linger far into the future.

Adams pierced
Of course, there are other ways to celebrate winning a primary. If you’re Eric Adams, who edged out Kathryn Garcia and Maya Wiley to win the Democratic Primary for mayor, you get yourself a new accessory!
Fresh off his victory, Adams headed straight to Claire’s to get his ear pierced. While there is no evidence of it on Twitter, we can only assume that Adams followed that up with a mani-pedi, then a shopping spree, followed by a boozy brunch with the girls. Oh to be young and have the city at your feet!
Actually, the new earring in his left lobe was to fulfill a campaign promise to a group of young people he met while on the campaign trail with his son.
In order to prove that he isn’t just another smooth-talking politician who doesn’t keep his word, they challenged him to get his ear pierced if he won the primary, a challenge Adams accepted.
Following the piercing, Adams said “Already lived up to my first promise to that young man. So, if you see it on social media, young man, I told you I was going to do it and I just did what I promised.”
Now it’s on to tackling gun violence, the homeless crisis and the economic recovery of New York City post-pandemic. We suspect those solutions are going to be slightly more difficult than taking a trip to the mall.

Borough president race is tight and turbulent

While many races in Queens found winners on Primary Day last month, a number of competitions were too close to call after tallying first round votes.
Three weeks after the fact, ranked-choice and mail-in ballots have been counted, offering a clearer view of who won some of the more contested races in the borough.
The race for Queens Borough President was the highest profile race to go down to the wire. Current Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and ex-councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley had previously ran against each other in a special election for the position last year, and their rivalry escalated to new heights as ballots were counted this past week.
On primary day, Richards barely led with 41.7 percent of first choice votes while Crowley closely trailed with 40.4 percent. After all the ballots had been counted, Richards still led by a slim 50.3 to 49.7 percent margin.
The borough president declared victory at this point, but ruffled many feathers when he tweeted “We beat your racist a**,” implying that Crowley had previously said he only won because of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests.
Crowley responded with her own statement: “I’m extremely disappointed by the slanderous and untruthful remarks made by one of my opponents. Politics and campaigning can be tough, and I understand that some may take legitimate policy disagreements personally on the trail. “However, I’ve always believed that leadership is about taking the high road and representing the people, not Trump-like bullying on Twitter and making unfounded accusations with no evidence whatsoever.”
Crowley is yet to concede from the race and is instead waiting for the Board of Elections to “cure” (a process by which voters can fix improperly completed ballots) votes.

G&T Programs Close Achievement Gap, Not Cause It

The administration of new Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter provides us with a moment to reconsider policies that have worked and ones that haven’t over the course of the de Blasio administration.
The failing efforts to better integrate our schools could benefit from some fresh thinking.
Chancellor Porter has emphasized the urgency of integrating the public schools. It’s an important goal in a system that is more segregated now than it was 50 years ago, but it is also the unrealized goal of her predecessor.
If Porter follows the playbook from the de Blasio tenure, which includes fighting to change the admissions standards at our specialized high schools, eliminating gifted and talented programs, and setting demographic quotas for certain schools, her efforts are likely to face the same fate as those of her predecessor, whose tenure ended in frustration.
The recently announced admissions results at the specialized high schools should act as a call to action that the city needs new policies.
The sensible alternative to integrate our schools, based on years of real-life experience and what research has shown to be more effective is to increase the number of seats at successful schools, create engaging, magnet programs that draw in a range of families, expand the number of gifted and talented programs in underrepresented areas, and replicate effective schools throughout the system.
As a parent of two public school graduates, I know that all parents want their kids to get the best education in a school that helps them achieve their maximum potential, ideally in their neighborhood.
It’s a goal that every parent is willing to fight to achieve. And it should be the goal of the new chancellor.
For all of the political fighting over them, gifted and talented programs have been shown to challenge our brightest students and to put them on a path to success. Unfortunately, there are not enough seats for the number of students qualifying to attend, and in certain neighborhoods there are no programs at all.
Since these programs are not offered at every school, nor equally spread throughout the DOE’s districts, many families will have their children take hour-long bus rides to school, as they want them to attend these successful programs no matter where they are located.
In my former City Council district in Middle Village, the DOE recently created PS 254: The Rosa Parks School. It is a magnet school with a diverse learning community that has achieved incredible results due to a highly innovative program that draws in families.
And it’s located in an area that is not known for great schools.
PS 290, another relatively new school, has a new gifted and talented program that is largely populated with students of color from low-income backgrounds. It shows how the DOE can find gifted students in any neighborhood when it creates a program that interests parents in their community.
In another example, the arts-focused LaGuardia High School did not have enough seats for talented students, so the DOE created the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. Both schools are now highly successful at developing our city’s budding artists, and more students are able to attend.
And the schools are in different boroughs to boot.
Brooklyn Latin and the Queens High School for Sciences are also recent examples of the DOE creating more high-quality schools based on successful models and located in new neighborhoods that can serve more children. And all of these schools could easily serve more children by expanding them.
But a de Blasio-appointed school advisory committee recently announced that they want to eliminate gifted and talented programs. It’s the exact opposite of what they should be doing.
The DOE should expand and replicate these programs in every neighborhood in the city, so there are enough seats for every child who qualifies.
The time that our city and school leaders spend dividing up the small number of seats at successful schools, and trying to do so by race, is unproductive, divisive and potentially illegal.
The Rosa Parks School, PS 290 and the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts are all examples of different methods that the DOE can employ to integrate our schools.
The DOE must create more high-quality magnet programs in neighborhoods with low-performing schools, create new gifted programs in underrepresented areas, and replicate high performing schools in communities throughout the city.
It’s a simple solution to a complex problem that has been shown to work for our city’s kids.

Elizabeth Crowley is a former member of the City Council and candidate for Queens borough president.

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