2001-09-12 / Political Page

Gianaris Gets Power Law Passed

Rarely has there been such bipartisanship on a bill that was so sorely needed and so strenuously sought in the Astoria/Long Island City area as that of Assemblymember Michael Gianaris, whose clean Energy Bill was signed into law by Governor George Pataki recently.

It stands in stark contrast to the bickering without resolution that’s been going on in Albany for almost nine months over the budget.

While the governor deserves a pat on the back for putting his signature on this major piece of legislation, clearly the bulk of the praise belongs to Gianaris, an Astoria Democrat, who is in only his first year as a lawmaker.

It’s a remarkable feat for a freshman in any legislative body no matter his party affiliation to get truly landmark legislation through both houses, approved by both Democrats and Republicans, and then signed by the Republican governor.

Usually a bill of this importance is snapped up by the Speaker or some senior committee chairman who makes a few minor changes and reintroduces it under his own name.

Gianaris’ bill will speed up the process for reviewing plans to modernize old power plants to increase production of power while reducing air pollution. Its importance will be felt not only in the local Astoria-Long Island City area but throughout the state, which has not seen a new power plant in 30 years, Gianaris said.

This means power companies throughout the state instead of having to wait a year to get approval for a new plant, can now get an o.k. in six months to start rebuilding an old plant. Since both business and environmental groups backed Gianaris’ bill, power producers can start taking advantage of the new law and will likely not run into any roadblocks since environmentalists and other lawmakers were strongly behind the bill.

"I think we’re definitely going to see pollution in western Queens dramatically reduced," Gianaris said.

Gianaris, who had promised in last year’s campaign to do something about the pollution problem, was able to fulfill that promise because he pushed hard on his colleagues.

"But I think basically they supported me because of the power of a good idea," the 31-year-old legislator said.

STALLED BUDGET: Meanwhile, there could be a move today to settle the negotiations going on over the budget. Last week, Republican Majority Leader Joseph Bruno signaled a breakaway from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Together they had passed a temporary budget over Pataki’s objections about a month ago.

One of the main issues in the budget talks since then has been how much to add in school aid to the bare bones budget that had been approved.

After the last negotiating session held last Tuesday, Sept. 4, Bruno stated he saw no reason to give more school aid since many districts had increased taxes to get the additional school funding they needed. Instead, Bruno said, he favored providing tax relief to the homeowners whose school taxes had been increased.

Although Silver was still holding out for increased school aid and in a larger amount than the governor’s proposal, the Democratic leader didn’t close the door to Bruno’s tax rebate plan, so there may be hope for some kind of agreement between the two legislative leaders. In that case, they can pass budget changes even if the governor doesn’t agree.

7 LINE RIDERS’ COMPLAINTS: Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) has asked the MTA to show more concern about inconveniencing Number 7 line riders and Sunnyside residents during the final phase of renovating the subway line superstructure. Nolan said she had received complaints from riders during previous stages of the $60 million program, which is slated to end in 2003, including loss of parking space under the el along Queens Boulevard.

The final phase of the project includes the rehabilitation of 28 columns supporting the viaduct over Queens Boulevard between 32d and 48th Streets, the abutments at both ends, and the stairwells at the 33d Street Rawson, 40th Street/Lowery, and 46th Street/Bliss stations, Nolan said.

"As the impacts on station access will be long term, a schedule of the work planned including stairwell closings, would be most helpful," Nolan wrote MTA President Lawrence Reuter. "Also, I am concerned about the impact on the parking area under the structure."

She concluded her letter, "I hope that we can insure that this project will progress smoothly and that impacts on riders and our community can be minimized."

MALTESE RAKES ANTHEM DECISION: The U.S. Tennis Association’s decision to replace the National Anthem with "America the Beautiful" at the start of the U.S. Open matches this year left state Senator Serphin Maltese "outraged and disappointed."

The Middle Village Republican, who sponsored legislation in 1993 to expand the tennis facility at Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, didn’t buy the explanation that the National Anthem sounded "too pro-American" and might offend some foreign players.

"I always thought that it rather was the point of an anthem to proclaim one’s pride in one’s country," Maltese said. "Anthems are played before sporting events throughout the world and I cannot recall any American players expressing their displeasure in having to hear the anthems of other countries."

CROWLEY FOCUSES ON ASTHMA: Dramatizing the serious health risks posed by asthma and the importance of early detection, Congressmember Joseph Crowley and Elmhurst Hospital Center brought an asthma screening van to the Jacob Riis Center in the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City.

"Not only can asthma be a serious health risk if not treated properly, it is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness, accounting for more than 10 million missed school days a year," the Queens Bronx Democrat said. "In fact, in urban areas such as Queens, asthma is the leading public health risk to our children."

Preventing asthma is one of Crowley’s top priorities. He supports passage of the Clean Smokestacks Act, which would update national power plant emissions standards and impose them on all existing and future plants. Presently, many of this country’s older power plants are exempt from the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, allowing these plants to continue to spew deadly chemicals into the air.

NEW MASPETH GOP DATE: The first meeting of the new political season scheduled by the Maspeth Republican Club for tonight has been cancelled and rescheduled for Oct. 12. The club meets at 61-57 Maspeth Ave., Maspeth.

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