8 THE QUEENS COURIER • SEPTEMBER 26, 2019 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Long Island City reps celebrate Hunters Point Library opening
BY MAX PARROTT
Aft er almost two decades aft er its
initial conception, the Hunters Point
Library has amassed a long list of people
who deserved thanks for its existence.
So the emcee of the library’s opening
ceremony Dennis Walcott had a tall order.
Walcott’s tenure as president and CEO of
the Queens Public Library only stretches
back a quarter of the project’s timeline.
“You’ll hear a lot of arc of history conversations
— people who have been here
many years ago, people who are no longer
with us now but who fought hard
for this library and people who are currently
with us who fought hard,” said
Walcott in his opening speech.
A crowd of several hundred gathered
around the glittering silver exterior
to tour the library for the fi rst time on
Tuesday aft ernoon.
Th e library’s price tag of $41.5 million
explains both its architectural allure and
the budgetary setbacks which delayed
its construction. Now the 82-foot-high
concrete prism, dotted with lopsided
glass cutouts will provide the Long
Island City waterfront with another
immediately recognizable landmark.
At the grand opening, Mayor de
Blasio, local electeds, and other library
and city offi cials involved with the project
commemorated the many people
who jumped in the ring to push the
forward project over construction and
Th e politicians lining the podium
each presented a diff erent snapshot
of the challenges facing the project.
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who has
been in offi ce since 1984, recalled having
conversations with fellow parents as
the idea for the library was starting to
It was going to be great to have a new
library for their kindergarten-age children
to have, she remembered one saying
with a laugh.
“Even though we didn’t get the benefi
t of it, that’s part of the privilege of living
in New York City. You don’t just do
it for you and your own family, you do it
to pass it on to the people who are coming
aft er you,” said Nolan.
LIC Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer,
who has been working on this project
since he was a staff er at the Queens
Public Library, said that library “is the
single most important project of my
During his time as a librarian, Van
Bramer said that he fi rst heard from
Fausta Hippolito, a Long Island City
mother of two who worked to gather
signatures and support for the project
when the nearest library was the one
inside the CitiBank building.
Ippolito was one of a few key players
in the library who received tribute
from the majority of the speakers over
the course of the ceremony. Another
popular acknowledgment was Lorraine
Grillo, the Department of Design and
“If you want to get things done, call
Lorraine Grillo,” said Nolan.
In this case, Grillo helped construct
a library that will not only function as
storage for its 52,000 books, but a community
center and a tourist destination.
“Today is of vital importance to the
community in that it confi rms the commitment
to the continuity of humanity,”
said Gary Strong, former president of
the Queens Library.
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Jamaica landlord fi ned for threatening to call ICE on tenant
BY MAX PARROTT
A New York City judge recommended
on Sept. 12 that a Jamaica-based landlord
pay $17,000 to a tenant aft er threatening
to call Immigration and Customs
and Enforcement on her.
Th e New York City Commission
on Human Rights (the Commission)
brought this discrimination lawsuit on
behalf of the tenant Holly Ondaan against
her former landlord Dianna Lysius.
An administrative judge recommended
damages of $12,000 for emotional
distress and a civil penalty of $5,000,
according to the Offi ce of Administrative
Trials and Hearings.
Th e commission’s lawyers alleged that
Lysius discriminated against Ondaan by
sending her a series of text messages
calling her an illegal immigrant and
threatening to contact ICE aft er Ondaan
missed rental payments.
Th ey argued this constitutes a violation
of City Human Rights Law, which makes
it illegal for landlords to discriminate the
conditions of housing accommodations
based on “alienage or citizenship status.”
According to the Wall Street Journal,
Lysius claims that she didn’t send the
texts and emails to Ondaan. She called
the commission’s report “false” and said
she plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Philippe Abner Knab, a lawyer who
represented the commission, said that
the judgment is the fi rst case of its kind
where a landlord was fi ned for threatening
to call immigration. According to
the commission, they have received 160
inquiries in 2018 related to housing discrimination
based on immigration status,
national origin and citizenship status
— a 7 percent increase from 2017.
“Th ere’s cases like this in employer
context — an employer using ICE as a
threat. But in housing, there’s nothing
like this,” Knab told QNS, adding that
he didn’t see the recommendation as the
beginning of an increase in landlord discrimination
suits because of the fear that
people without status oft en have about
accessing the legal system.
After Ondaan moved into the apartment
on 148th Street in 2011, for years
she paid for part of her housing using
rental assistance through the City
Human Resources Administration. A
conflict began between her and Lysius
in October 2017 when she ceased paying
rent based on “financial difficulties.”
Th e Commission’s lawyers said that
Ondaan started complaining to the police
about receiving harassing texts and visits
from Lysius that fall, but it wasn’t until
January 2018 that the landlord began
threatening to call ICE. Ondaan printed
the text messages from this period and
presented them to the court.
“I REPORTED YOU TO
IMMIGRATION BOO THEY KNOW
IM THE LANDLORD TO PROVIDE
THEM KEYS COME DIRECTLY TO
YOU,” read a text that Ondaan printed
Th e cap on damages for the penalty
for the violation of human rights law
is $125,000. While Administrative Law
Judge John B. Spooner wrote that he
found the Ondaan’s testimony credible
and her emotional distress tangible, ultimately
he did not fi nd it as severe as several
cases that set precedent for this type
The recommendation will now
go before the Chairperson of the
Commission who will ultimately decide
whether to accept or modify it.
Original image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
A replication of a text that Jamaica landlord
Dianna Lysius allegedly sent her tenant in
Dennis Walcott emcees the opening of the new Hunters Point Library.