Park co-naming expected for 2024

Lawsuit says Open Streets program for green space projects violates the ADA

By Naeisha Rose/Queens Chronicle

The grassroots effort to formalize the reclamation of public space for an Open Streets program on a stretch of 26 blocks in Jackson Heights is taking shape.

Last Wednesday, 46 members of the City Council approved the renaming of the corridor along 34th Avenue from 69th Street to Junction Boulevard to Paseo Park, a nod to the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, as paseo means stroll or promenade in Spanish.

Five councilmembers were absent, on medical leave or abstained from voting.

Leading the charge for the co-naming, which is expected to take place spring 2024 if Mayor Adams signs the bill, is Councilman Shekar Krishnan (D-Jackson Heights), the prime sponsor of Intro. 1278.

“… Paseo Park is the incredible story of a community coming together during a crisis to create new open space, filling it with families, music, and joy,” Krishnan, chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, said in a statement. “Our entire community is grateful for the tireless work of the 34th Avenue Open Streets Coalition and Alliance for Paseo Park …”

The Alliance for Paseo Park and 34th Avenue Open Streets Coalition are two groups that were formed in spring 2020, the height of the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Both organizations wanted to address the lack of green space in Jackson Heights as the neighborhood ranks last in the city for per capita park space, while also being in the eighth-most densely populated ZIP Code, 11372, in the United States.

Paseo Park would create up to 7.5 acres of green space, quadrupling the park space available in Jackson Heights. Since the city’s pandemic Open Streets program there three year ago, crashes in the area decreased 42 percent, the space was improved with new surfacing and planters and approximately 7,000 children from seven public schools, a private school and three universal pre-K institutions are able to travel through the park, according to Krishnan’s office.

While Paseo Park is being touted as the “gold standard” for the city’s Open Streets program, some detractors of it, as well as of similar projects throughout the city, do not consider it a jewel in their eyes.

A complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York by 11 people — a 12th person dropped out of the lawsuit — claims that the Open Streets initiative, which takes away roadway for public parks and pedestrian plazas, is in violation of the American with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, along with city and state Human Rights laws.

Matthew Berman, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said his clients are not challenging the entire citywide program, but specific Open Streets projects.

“… although changes to these particular streets may result in broader changes,” Berman said.

Berman added that the ADA and the Rehabilitation acts require equal access to streets and sidewalks for the disabled, especially for programs using federal funds.

“The upshot is that the city is required to provide reasonable accommodations to the disabled so that they have equal access and the city has failed to do that,” he said.

Open Streets programs are expensive and resource–intensive, and despite grants from the city, they also rely on the availability of federal and state funding, according to

The Chronicle reached out to Krishnan’s office about the lawsuit, but he was not available for comment.

UPDATE: This story was updated to say that the attorney’s name is Matthew Berman.

Read the article from Queens Chronicle here.

Supervisor sues Omni hotels, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation when she reported it

A former supervisor with Omni Hotels & Resorts has filed suit against the Dallas-based company, alleging sexual harassment and saying the company broke federal laws governing equal pay.Continue reading

Valeant Unit Settles Sex Discrimination Claims For $7.2M

Law360, Los Angeles (July 12, 2016, 4:56 PM EDT) — Valeant-owned Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. will pay $7.2 million to settle a class action alleging gender discrimination and other claims brought by female sales representatives of the medical cosmetics company, according to a final settlement order signed by a D.C. federal judge Monday. Continue reading

Gender Harassment on Late Night TV

From the average American’s point of view, workplace harassment suits may be relegated to office environments–cubicle mazes filled with discrimination by cold-blooded corporate predators. However, harassment runs across all dimensions of American employment, from corporate settings, to manufacturing, to construction, and so on.  Lately, a hurricane of highly publicized lawsuits serve to expose an often ignored segment of American employment: television.  At the center of it all you will find the often regarded “nicest man on television.”
Paul Tarascio is a New York-based stage manager for live television. In January, the television professional filed a lawsuit against Jimmy Fallon, as well as many employees that work on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and NBC, claiming gender discrimination. Tarascio claims that he was replaced because Fallon prefers female stage managers. When he went to his superiors–and then to union officials–he said he was fired.
Because of the notoriety of the celebrities at the center of these types of shows, this area of law has garnered national attention.  The union-driven industry is high-powered, often ego and market driven, and moves at the speed of light. Hirings and firings are as routine on television as they are among NFL coaches. Because television is a gigantic—and extremely rich—industry, many employees may refrain from bringing an action against these networks and public figures because they fear the loss of opportunities in the industry and question whether they have the wherewithal to take on these financial giants.
A similar case involving a joke made by Jay Leno on his late night show has resulted in a lawsuit. While many of the specifics of both Leno’s and Fallon’s lawsuits are not known, the lawsuits brings to light the common misconception that celebrities are somehow exempt from State and Federal discrimination laws.  Discrimination on the basis of gender is just as illegal on a multi-million dollar television set as it is at your local Pizza Hut or any other employer in the country. The law makes no exception for the elite, nor should it.  Discrimination in any form is wrong and it is punishable by law.
If you feel you have been victimized at your place of work due to your gender or any other protected basis, then you have the right to seek counsel and assert your legal rights.  An experienced discrimination attorney can help you understand the complexities of Federal and New York workplace law as it relates to you. Call the law offices of Valli Kane & Vagnini, LLP now at (866) 441-2873 and get one of NY’s finest employment attorneys on your side.

"Civil rights law is their passion" – Newsday

James Vagnini, Sara Kane and Rob Valli
James Vagnini, Sara Kane and Rob Valli

As most lawyers know, civil rights cases are not where the real money is in the legal profession. But one Long Island law firm has barreled into discrimination cases in the South in the past few years, citing a passion for such work.
“We do the old-fashioned civil rights work,” saidJames Vagnini, one of the three partners at Garden City-based Valli Kane & Vagnini. “If I didn’t make a nickel, I’d be just as happy. I’ve learned a lot. I wanted to do law in a way that I could sleep at night.”
The firm is making money, the partners say. But the cases have taken them into some parts of the Lone Star State where media reports indicate race relations have reached a low point in recent years.
The firm was recently in ParisTexas, where the town’s largest employer is pipe-manufacturer Turner Industries. Black employees have said that hangman’s nooses, Confederate flags and racist graffiti have appeared at the workplace.
Last week, Valli Kane obtained from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a “reasonable cause” letter, saying the federal agency believes discrimination has occurred at Turner and asking the company and its black employees to sit down and discuss the matter.
In response, Turner said it has formed an employee task force “to assist in promoting and maintaining a workplace that is free of harassment or discrimination.” Turner said it has “zero tolerance” for any discrimination in the workplace.
In 2008, Valli Kane took another case to the EEOC, this one in Dallas involving Allied Aviation Services Inc., which agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle a harassment lawsuit filed on behalf of black and Hispanic workers.
The law firm was formed about two years ago. The three met when they worked together at Leeds, Morelli & Brown, a law firm in Carle Place.
Previously, Vagnini had worked for the New York City Human Rights Commission while a law student at Hofstra University in Hempstead. Robert Valli Jr. had been a Queens assistant district attorney, and Sara Kane was an assistant attorney at the New York City Corporation Counsel.
The firm also handles criminal and real estate cases, but Vagnini said more than 75 percent of its work is civil rights or discrimination cases.
“We have a passion for this,” Kane said.

Dallas Utility Workers Claim Racial Discrimination

The Dallas Water Department tolerates racial discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation, according to a new federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by 11 African-Americans, one Hispanic and one Asian-American employee.

“It’s business as usual. It’s a good old boy syndrome,” said employee Leroy White.

Among other things, the lawsuit cites a noose displayed in an employee’s car at the Southside Water Treatment Plant two years ago.

Dallas Utility Workers Claim Racial Discrimination
Dallas Utility Workers Claim Racial Discrimination

”Five days later he came with a bigger noose,” said employee Clement Bernard. “He stated it was because he thought I was wrong for making him take the noose out of his truck on city property.”

The city disciplined the employee with the noose and that employee later resigned.

In a prepared statement, city spokesman Frank Librio said the city does not tolerate discrimination.

“The City took corrective measures regarding these situations at the time the allegations were first reported. The City denies that it has engaged in any unlawful conduct,” he said.

The statement said a specific program was developed for the water department to avoid discrimination and a hostile work environment.

But the lawsuit claims discrimination still exists.

“These individuals have raised these complaints with the city of Dallas and with their employers for years,” attorney Jay Ellwanger said. “We’re asking that it stop. We’re asking that our clients be given damages.”

Get More:

Click here to view the lawsuit and click here to read the city’s response.

Employees Sue Dallas for Racism

Employees Sue Dallas for Racism:

DALLAS – From racial slurs to a hangman’s noose, 13 Dallas employees say they’ve had enough. The group has filed a federal lawsuit, which they say outlines a culture of outright racism.
The plaintiffs filed their suit Wednesday. They include black, Hispanic and Asian workers of Dallas Water Utilities.
The employees claim they were threatened, verbally harassed and intimidated by racist graffiti written on bathroom walls. There was also an incident involving a hangman’s noose dangling from a city vehicle, according to the lawsuit.
A statement from the city of Dallas said officials deny the unlawful conduct.
The city said some of the allegations date back seven years and corrective measures were taken then. The statement also said the Department of Justice declined to file a lawsuit in the case.
Watch FOX 4 Matt Grubs’ video story to hear from both the employees and a city spokesman.

13 workers file discrimination lawsuit against Dallas water department

By RUDOLPH BUSH / The Dallas Morning News [email protected]
Published 17 December 2009 11:56 AM
Thirteen Dallas Water Utilities employees filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against City Hall on Wednesday, alleging a pattern of racial discrimination and retaliation dating back years.
The suit paints a picture of the city’s water department as a racially divided institution where discrimination is a normal practice.
Lead plaintiff Leroy White, a black electrician, said he has been subjected to racial slurs and drawings denigrating blacks as he was passed over for promotions for less qualified white employees.
White and the other plaintiffs said they have long been subjected to more work and higher scrutiny than white employees.
“It’s common practice. It’s just the way things are done in the water department,” White said.
In a statement, a city spokesman responded that City Hall has not acted unlawfully or tolerated discrimination.
“The city has not had an opportunity to review all of the allegations. However, many of the allegations concern specific incidents that are several years old, about which the city took corrective measures regarding these situations at the time the allegations were first reported,” the statement said.
The allegations portray a department where workers are segregated by race and where some white employees resort to threats, bribery and deceit to discredit complaints and keep the plaintiffs from being promoted.
Jay Ellwanger, attorney for the plaintiffs, said he and his clients met with Mayor Tom Leppert and City Manager Mary Suhm earlier this year.
Despite that meeting, nothing was done about his clients’ complaints, he said.
The plaintiffs include 11 blacks, one Hispanic and one Asian.
They are seeking unspecified monetary damages and a correction to the alleged discrimination in Water Utilities, Ellwanger said.
In addition to White, the plaintiffs include Terrence Marshall, Arturo Garza, Clement Bernard, Faye Jackson, James Yellowfish, Jewell Taylor, Kevin Gillum, Kevin McArthur, Marcus Greer, Micheal Roberts, Roderick Tolor and Thai Nguyen.