10/21/13 9:00am
10/21/2013 9:00 AM
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS PHOTO | New York State Education Department commissioner John King.

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS PHOTO | New York State Education Department commissioner John King.

One week after being criticized for canceling his only forum to discuss Common Core curriculum and state testing on Long Island, the state’s chief of schools has announced a new series of forums on the topic.

New York State education commissioner John King announced Friday that he will partner with the state’s Board of Regents to host a dozen forums across New York State, including four on Long Island. While the exact date and location of the events have not yet been announced, the Department of Education has said two of the events will be held in Suffolk County and two more in Nassau.

“I want to have a respectful, direct, and constructive dialogue with parents,” Mr. King said in a press release. “More and smaller discussions will make sure there’s a real opportunity for parents to be heard. This is just the first round; we’ll continue to schedule forums for parents. We want these to be regular events. We want the conversation to rise above all the noise and make sure parents understand the Common Core, and, just as important, we want to understand parents’ concerns. We all share the same goal: to make sure our students have the skills and knowledge to be successful in a changing world.”

The events will be moderated by state legislators and held in school auditoriums. Regents are expected to attend, the press release states.

Mr. King said the forums will be scheduled over the next six weeks; details for all the events will be finalized early next week. So far details have only been announced for the first forum, which will be held Thursday evening in the Albany City School District.

Additionally, four forums will be recorded in front of a studio audience and broadcast on Public Broadcasting Stations across the state, according to the release.

Mr. King had been under scrutiny this week following the suspension of four Common Core forums sponsored by the New York State PTA. The PTA announced the suspension of the forums in a message on its website and Facebook page.

“While our goal was to provide an opportunity to learn and share, based on review of the initial October 10 meeting, the Commissioner concluded the outcome was not constructive for those taking the time to attend,” the PTA’s Facebook announcement read.

The commissioner said in a statement that the first two forums on the topic — held in Poughkeepsie and upstate Whitesboro — had been “co-opted by special interests whose stated goal was to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum.”

“The disruptions caused by the ‘special interests’ have deprived parents of the opportunity to listen, ask questions and offer comments,” his statement continued.

The commissioner’s statement and the cancellations were met with sharp criticism from parents, educators and media outlets across the state.

gparpan@timesreview.com

10/17/13 9:00am
10/17/2013 9:00 AM

Testing1

Thousands of frustrated parents and educators from across Long Island were expected to attend a forum at Garden City High School Tuesday night for an opportunity to speak with New York State Education Commissioner John King about Common Core curriculum and state testing.

Then the meeting was postponed.

The New York State PTA, which was to sponsor the event — one of a series of forums across the state — announced on its website Saturday that the event and three similar forums had been postponed indefinitely at the request of the commissioner’s office.

It was bad enough that only one forum was scheduled for Long Island on this very important topic — more than an hour from the North Fork, no less. Now it appears the discussion won’t happen at all.

Considering the concerns of parents and teachers across the state, we’d expect Mr. King to schedule more forums on the topic of Common Core, not suspend the few he had already scheduled.

The commissioner said in a statement this week that the first two forums on the topic — held in Poughkeepsie and upstate Whitesboro — had been “co-opted by special interests whose stated goal was to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum.”

“The disruptions caused by the ‘special interests’ have deprived parents of the opportunity to listen, ask questions and offer comments,” his statement continued.

But news coverage of those two forums indicated that most speakers — who were granted just two minutes apiece after the commissioner had spoken for more than an hour — were teachers and parents. Aren’t those the very people Mr. King should be hearing from?

Since it appears the forums have only been postponed and not yet canceled for good, there’s still time for Mr. King to change his mind and carry on with the program. We hope he does, because the commissioner should be hearing more of what the public has to say, not less.

08/02/12 5:00pm
08/02/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Workers hang the sign outside the new Grapes & Greens facility in Calverton.

The recent Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals decision allowing an agricultural processing and storage facility in the former Blackman Plumbing warehouse on Sound Avenue in Calverton is being challenged in court … again.

Austin Warner Jr., who owns property near the site, filed a lawsuit against the Riverhead ZBA, John King, J. Kings Food Service Professionals and Sound Realty Co. seeking to overturn the June 14 ZBA decision upholding a building permit issued to Mr. King, who is planning an agricultural processing and wine storage facility on the site.

It was Mr. Warner who filed a lawsuit earlier this year challenging the town building department’s decision to give a building permit to Mr. King, which resulted in the matter going to the ZBA for an interpretation.

The judge in that case, which is still listed as being active, put off making a decision until the ZBA made its ruling.

The new lawsuit claims the ZBA failed to supply any supporting documentation to support its verdict, failed to require health department approval for the project, and allowed false information stating that the property was owned by “John King J. King Realty.”

In addition, the lawsuit alleged the ZBA violated the state open meetings law when it went into executive session  prior to its vote on the application.

The lawsuit also claims the use is not permitted in the Agricultural Protection Zone, where the site is located. And it claimed that the “agricultural processing and warehouse” use violates the conditions of a prior use variance for the property, which limited the property use to “warehousing and storage of industrial supplies.”

Finally, Mr. Warner’s lawsuit claims the decision was made in violation of the state environmental quality review act (SEQRA), which says that a non-residential application in a municipality with less than 150,000 people, for a facility with more than 100,000 square-foot gross floor area, is what is known as a “type-one action” and requires an environmental impact study.

Riverhead Town’s population is listed as 33,506 in the 2010 Census, and the Blackman building is 108,000 square foot, the lawsuit says.

Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said he had not fully read the lawsuit yet and couldn’t comment.

Town building inspector Sharon Klos said at the ZBA hearing that she granted the permit because she felt the uses Mr. King proposed for the site are within the scope of a warehouse, and she said the history of the building clearly shows that the warehouse use has not been discontinued.

William Duffy, the deputy town attorney who represented the ZBA on this case  because the ZBA’s regular attorney, Scott DeSimone, recused himself due to a conflict,  told ZBA members that in his opinion, the proposed use didn’t meet the town’s definition of agricultural production. He said he feels it does meet the definition of warehouse, the use currently permitted by prior ZBA rulings, and that the other uses sought by Mr. King qualified as permitted accessories to a warehouse.

Mr. King hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility last week in which New York State Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy was present.

He said the facility, which is being called “Grapes & Greens,” will be used to store North Fork wine, locally caught fish and farm produce, as well as to cool, package and ship products it buys outright from local farmers to extend their life and increase their value on the market.

tgannon@timesreview.com