2002-07-17 / Political Page

Citing Maspeth’s FDNY HazMat Unit, Crowley Seeks Medical Program $ For Ground Zero Vols

By John Toscano

New York City Fire Department HazMat/ Engine 280, located at 59-29 68th St., Maspeth, lost 19 men on September 11 as the unit responded to the World Trade Center attacks. After September 11, surviving firefighters from the hard-hit unit worked tirelessly with thousands of other volunteers at Ground Zero, and picked meticulously through the rubble in search of victims’ remains.

The firefighters’ selfless activity at Ground Zero had severe consequences as respiratory illnesses and psychological stress have occurred among many of the volunteers in the search effort.

A program has been set up at Mt. Sinai Medical Center to medically screen and monitor these victims. Congressmember Joseph Crowley is now working to make sure the Mt. Sinai program gets $90 million to fund the effort. He wants the funds included in a House appropriations bill, and the Elmhurst Democrat is keeping a close watch to make certain the bill passes with the funding included. On the Senate side, New York representatives Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton have taken similar action.

In another action related to the post September 11 recovery, Crowley and Clinton were among several lawmakers and representatives of the AFL-CIO who called last week for an extension of Unemployment Insurance and Disaster Unemployment Insurance to help many New Yorkers still suffering the economic impact of the World Trade Center attacks.

Crowley and Clinton said they would seek an additional 13 weeks of benefits under the two programs. Beneficiaries would include 135,000 who lost jobs and about 28,000 still unemployed; another 45,000 are still suffering an income loss of about 25 percent, the lawmakers said.

Said Crowley: "We still have work to do to rebuild New York City--starting with our people and helping those who need help. We can only succeed as a city if we all work to enrich and empower each other."

WANTS TREES OFF LIMITS TO ADVERTISERS: Everywhere he looks, City Councilmember David Weprin (D-Hollis) sees advertisements for real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, work-at-home jobs and weight loss programs posted on trees, marring their beauty and threatening their existence.

Weprin, the council finance committee chair, is so annoyed at this blatant disregard for trees that he has introduced legislation to double the fines from $50 to $100 for nailing or stapling items on trees. In announcing the bill, supporters from tree and environmental groups joined Weprin, as did former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern.

AVELLA, BARON DISCOURSE CONTINUES: The sometimes serious, sometimes tongue-in-cheek verbal exchanges between Councilmembers Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Charles Baron (D-Brooklyn) continued last week.

The pair originally clashed over the proposal by Baron, a former Black Panther, calling for clemency for two convicted murderers of two New York City police officers about 10 years ago. Avella opposed the idea very strongly.

At another point, Avella told a New York Times interviewer doing a feature on Baron that he thought the council was "spending too much time on Baron’s agenda rather than on substantive issues."

Responding on the council floor, Baron announced tongue-in-cheek that he was going to make Avella head of his mayoral campaign committee in charge of getting the white vote for Baron.

Avella, off the council floor at the time, said when he returned, "Given the huge--and I do mean huge--philosophical differences I respectfully decline the position. However, I do know that Charles was kidding--I’m not."

CORRECTS AGE-OLD SCAM: Voting under the name of someone dead and buried, a practice which has probably gone on since voting began, may become a thing of the past under a bill which passed last week, sponsored by state Senator Serphin Maltese.

The legislation requires the city and state Health Departments to inform their Boards of Elections on a monthly basis of reported deaths. Presently, this reporting is done semi-annually.

Maltese, the Elections Committee chairman, said, "The last thing a grieving family thinks of is notifying the Board of Elections when a loved one passes away. By requiring the Health Department to provide that information on a monthly basis, we can relieve the families of that burden and ensure updated election rolls."

SEARS FUNDS YOUTH PROGRAMS: Asserting that it’s the city council’s responsibility "to insure that these children have healthy activities available to help enrich their lives" throughout the year, Councilmember Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) announced several youth program fundings in Lefrak City.

Among them are the Kenny Anderson Lefrak City Summer Classic, now a tradition in the community, and the Lefrak City Youth and Adult Activities Association, which provides an after-school program and a youth summer camp.

In addition, Sears joined with other Queens councilmembers to fund the popular New York Tennis League Summer After-School Program in Lefrak City, providing tennis instruction, practice and team competition to hundreds of kids at various age levels.

BEG PARDON: Regarding our recent report on Sears’s town hall meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in East Elmhurst, we incorrectly identified Captain Terrence Riley as the commanding officer of the 115th Police Precinct. The commanding officer is Ruben Beltran.

MAYOR SIGNS LIU BIKE BILL: The city will no longer be "mister nice guy" in treating bicyclists caught riding for the first time on a sidewalk. Councilmember John Liu (D-Flushing) saw to that.

Under a bill sponsored by Liu and Council Speaker Gifford Miller, and signed into law by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, first-time violators will get a $100 fine. Fines will escalate to $1,000 for more serious violations.

Under the new law, bicyclists endangering pedestrians or property can be fined from $100 to $300. If a cyclist collides with someone; cops can add penalties of $100 or $200. Repeat offenders will be hit even harder in the pocketbook.

MEHIEL POPULAR IN QUEENS: Dennis Mehiel, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor, has picked up endorsements from several Queens councilmembers--Eric Gioia (Woodside), Melinda Katz (Forest Hills), Helen Sears (Jackson Heights), Peter Vallone Jr. (Astoria) and David Weprin (Hollis).

In addition, the JFK Democratic Club in Jackson Heights endorsed H. Carl McCall for governor and Mehiel as his running mate. The club’s president, Ellen Raffaele, said the pair would bring economic development and school reform to Queens.

Mehiel, born in Washington Heights where he attended public schools, heads a firm which is America’s largest producer of corrugated packaging. One of his most notable public service activities is the "All the Way" program, a 17-year kindergarten-through-college educational support program in his native Washington Heights.

WEINER WANTS MIA PRISONERS RELEASED: Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D-Queens/Brooklyn) met recently with Israeli Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Dani Navch and family member of Israeli soldiers missing in action as part of his campaign to get MIAs released.

At the meeting, Weiner stated: "Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East and our closest ally in the region, went to extraordinary lengths to help secure the release of Americans held hostage in Lebanon in 1991. It’s time now for the United States to show an equal commitment to those Israeli soldiers being held in captivity in Syria and Lebanon. It’s time for these men to come home."

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