National security and quality of life was on the minds of the new officers and board members of the Dyker Heights Civic Association as Rep. Vito Fossella swore them into office at the St. Philips Parish Hall, 80th St. and 11th Ave. Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association, said that the United States Postal Service had been lax in removing graffiti from mailboxes. However, Fossella had responded to pleas from the Dyker Heights Association, and approached the postmaster general requesting that the USPS remove graffiti. Since then the mailboxes have been repainted and maintained. The city has also been taking initiatives at keeping the streets graffiti-free. In December, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed three bills, providing a multi-pronged approach to mitigate the problem. One bill obliges commercial property owners and owners of residential properties of six units or more to remove graffiti. If they allow graffiti to stay on their property, they face fines up to $300. The owners can avoid the fines if they call 311 and sign a waiver allowing the city to clean off their walls. A second bill increases the age at which it is legal to possess etching acid, aerosol spray paint cans and broad-tipped indelible markers, from 18 to 21 years of age. The bill prohibits the possession of graffiti materials in any public place or automobile when a person intends to misuse them. The bill also makes it illegal to sell graffiti instruments to anyone under 21. The third bill replicates state law, allowing judges to sentence individuals convicted of a graffiti-related crime to perform graffiti removal as their punishment. Fossella took the opportunity to list a number of accomplishments recently, including Congress voting not to close Fort Hamilton after a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission review. Fort Hamilton was thought to be on the chopping block, said Fossella. But as the last remaining military base in the City of New York, Fort Hamilton will remain open. Fossella said he was also optimistic that the Veterans Administration Hospital, at 800 Poly Place, which is going through a similar review, would also remain open. The VA is a tremendous jewel and a tremendous asset, said Fossella. We in Congress are doing everything to make sure that it remains open. Both the Manhattan and Brooklyn VA hospitals are being considered for closure in a nationwide review. It is in the best interests of New York City and the people of Brooklyn that neither facility should close, Fossella said. He pointed out that the hospital operates joint programs with New York University Medical Center, at 550 First Ave. and the SUNY/Downtown Medical Center at 445 Lenox Rd. He said that veterans from the outer boroughs would find visiting Manhattan Hospital onerous, especially World War II octogenarians coming from Staten Island. For them to get to Manhattan would be really arduous, Fossella said. Fossella also said that Congress had recently allocated $1 billion to improve out-of-date communications equipment for first responders across the country. After 9/11 it is critical that we give first responders every tool necessary to save lives, he said. The Department of Homeland Security announced recently that it will distribute a $800 million aid program, based less on pork barrel politics and more on cities and states vulnerability to terrorist attacks. New York clearly benefits from such a move, and so would other states, whose residents visit the Big Apple as tourists, Fossella argued. Several members raised concerns about immigration and wanted to know what the federal government is doing to control the borders and prevent immigrants from claiming public benefits. Fossella replied that Congress had voted on September 30 to strengthen the enforcement of the borders, and commit extra resources to controlling illegal immigration. He said that while he could understand that many people want to come to the United States, they should do so legally and not be rewarded for breaking the law. I would not deny anyone who has a dream to come to this country, Fossella said. But we also are a country of the rule of law. This years Dyker Heights officers include Fran Vella-Marrone, president, Mafalda DiMango, first vice president, Gussie Sichenze, second vice president, JoAnn Di Meglio, corresponding secretary and Ann Azzinaro, treasurer. The board of governers are Mark Cantoni, Ann J. Festa, Cornelia Sichenze Gallagher, James M. Gay, Dr. George Hoffman, Gerard Kassar and Eleanor Petty. Leo Celano and Andrew Torregrossa are honorary members. Vella-Marrone announced that the Dyker Height Civic and employees at the Post Office are collecting funds to help military families meet the cost of mailing packages to their loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fossella said that mailing packages could cost families thousands of dollars a year, and that legislation was going to Congress to provide vouchers to help families mail packages to the Middle East and Asia. To help, checks can be mailed payable to the Dyker Heights Civic Association, Inc. at 1072 80th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11228.
©2006 Community News Group
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