Crowley, Maloney Push Mortgage Taxpayer Aid Measures
Congressmember Joseph Crowley (Queens/The Bronx) extolled the program unveiled by President Barack Obama to aid troubled homeowners by enabling them to refinance their mortgages at today’s more attractive rates.
Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (Queens/Manhattan) urged passage of the president’s full year payroll tax extension, which would save each Queens worker an average of $531. Maloney also pressed for immediate passage of the reform congressional insider trading ban.
Crowley pushed hard for the president’s proposal which would give an estimated 3.5 million troubled homeowners the opportunity to get a fresh start by refinancing their mortgages at current lower interest rates, which would be backed by the Federal Housing Administration.
Crowley declared: “Owning a home is part of the American dream. Unfortunately times are tough and many homeowners are struggling to keep up with mortgage payments. The president’s call to expand the ability of middle class homeowners to refinance their mortgages and, in turn, lower their monthly payments comes at the right time.
“We need to find ways to both help people stay in their homes and save more of their income for other expenses.”
Regarding the proposed Homeowners Bill of Rights, Crowley stated, “These safeguards will protect families from hidden fees or dangerous ‘fine print’ when shopping for a mortgage. It will also establish firm, new safeguards to protect homeowners from inappropriate foreclosure practices.”
Affordable Refinancing Program of HARP. It allows people whose home mortgages are guaranteed by the government, which is about 50 percent of all American homes, to obtain more affordable mortgages even if the value of their home is less than their current mortgage. The expansion of this program, called for by the president, will include homeowners with privately-held mortgages.
Expanding still further on the president’s proposal, Crowley said the HARP program “gives millions of homeowners the opportunity to take advantage of today’s historically low mortgage rates”, which for many means being able to keep up with mortgage payments. He also urged all homeowners to look into whether they qualify for the HARP benefits.
In outlining his plan last week, the president said it would cost $5 to $10 billion and would be paid for with a fee paid by the nation’s largest banks. The plan would help about 3.5 million homeowners.
Maloney explained that the payroll tax cut would call for reducing an employee’s share of payroll taxes for a full year from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. The savings for an individual worker would amount to $531 over a year’s time and $1,062 for a typical two-wage earner family according to a report by the House Senate Joint Economic Committee, of which Maloney is a member and former chair.
“There are a great many Queens families who could really use an extra $1,062 a year in their pockets this year,” said Maloney, “and they shouldn’t have to wait any longer for a full year extension of the president’s payroll tax cut.”
The lawmaker added there should also be an extension of employee unemployment benefits and also give doctors in the Medicare program the reassurance that their income won’t be reduced by a huge tax cut.
“It’s time for Congress to get moving and finally address these issues, which are among the most important to the American people,” said Maloney.
On the congressional insider trading ban, Maloney was one of 270 congressmembers who signed a discharge petition last week which would force a vote on the measure.
Maloney stated, “Insider trading is illegal on Wall Street and it should be illegal on Capitol Hill.”
The measure is “bipartisan, common sense legislation to prohibit federal elected officials from profiting on non-public information they receive through their legislative duties. Regrettably, this bill is being subjected to Republican stall tactics and games, a fate that has befallen too many measures in this Congress”.
The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act would prohibit members of Congress and other federal employees from profiting on non-public information that they obtain through their official positions, Maloney explained.
GIANARIS OPPOSES PLAN FOR “UNDERPERFORMING SCHOOLS: State Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria) really has his plate full right now. The Astoria lawmaker is leading the Democrats’ fight against the redistricting plan created by and proposed for adoption by senate Republicans in Albany. He’s also opposing the city Department of Education’s “drastic” proposal to overhaul underperforming public schools, which include both Long Island City H.S. and Bryant H.S., which have both been designated as “persistently low achieving” schools. The two local schools are among 33 city public schools included in the DOE net.
As part of the DOE proposal, Long Island City H.S. is designated as a “Turnaround” model which, if the proposal passes, would completely redesign or replace the school, including replacing at least half of the staff.
Bryant H.S. is designated by the DOE proposal as a “Transformational” model, which would change the school by overhauling instructional and student support services by creating new incentive and teacher evaluation systems.
Gianaris, who attended LICHS, says he thinks the DOE plan is “detrimental to students’ ability to receive the education they need”.
Gianaris stated, “I grew up in the public school system and attended Long Island City H.S. The public education I received gave me the tool I needed to succeed-a testament to the fact that these schools work.
“As negotiations continue, we must ensure that the students remain our priority, and do not needlessly suffer because of political posturing. I urge all parties to resume their negotiations and keep the interests of our children at the forefront of their minds.”
Incidentally, Gianaris, besides graduating from LICHS, went on to graduate from Fordham University before receiving his Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School.
EX-SPEAKER VALLONE TO RECEIVE 2012 HUMANITARIAN AWARD: Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. has been chosen to receive the 2012 Humanitarian Award of the Community Mayors Inc., a 136-year-old organization whose works reach into every corner of the city.
According to Ed Horn, the organization representative as Community Mayor of St. Michael’s Cemetery in Jackson Heights,
“The Community Mayors has for 136 years provided opportunities that improve the lives of Children With Special Needs. The motto of the Mayor’s is: “No one is so tall as when he/she stoops to help a handicapped child.”
Horn stated: “The Award acknowledges the leadership that has defined Peter’s life working to improve the health and welfare of all New Yorkers.”
The Award will be presented at a celebration on November 8 at El Caribe Country Club in Brooklyn, according to Shelley Della Rocca, Chief Mayor/President.
REACTION TO MAYOR’S BUDGET: Commenting on the release of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s FY 2013 preliminary city budget, Liu stated: “We commend the mayor on a balanced budget that avoids layoffs in this difficult environment. However, the use of short-term financial maneuvers doesn’t reduce real cost but simply defers costs to future administrations. My office will issue our full analysis in the coming weeks.”
Another comment from Queens Borough President Helen Marshall stated:
“Mayor Bloomberg’s preliminary budget is a responsible spending plan that promises no layoffs for teachers or the uniformed forces in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012 and no new tax increase. And the incremental cuts announced today may be minimal, but the impact of cuts already budgeted starting in July is not. These include: $1.6 million in the program cuts for senior citizen programs with the elimination of the Borough President’s discretionary funding for aging and the threatened closure of Beacon schools in Queens that serve thousands of children.
This past Monday, Marshall said, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Borough Hall we will be taking a closer look at the possible effects of this budget of almost $69 billion at our Borough Board’s public hearing on the plan.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN CONVENTION CENTER PLANNING: Congressmember Bob Turner (R–CQueens/ Brooklyn) has Governor Andrew Cuomo’s assurance that Queens Community Board 10 in Ozone Park will be involved in the planning of the governor’s proposed convention center to be built on the Aqueduct Racetrack site.
Responding to Turner’s letter in which he made the request, the governor said, “I fully understand and appreciate your concerns for an open and transparent planning process with a key role reserved for the local community board.”
Turner said he appreciated the governor’s “understanding and willingness to consider” CB 10 and stakeholders during the planning process.
“I strongly believe that it would be in the best interest of the project to have those who know the area present feedback as to what approach would be most beneficial to this mass undertaking.”
The governor announced several weeks ago a proposal to build the largest convention center in the world, and that he had been offered by the Genting Corporation to build the huge facility at the racetrack, near the racino which it operates there for the state. Genting will also fund the $4 billion project.
MILLER SAYS ‘NO’ TO VALENTINE’S DAY MTA MEETING: Assemblymember Mike Miller (D–Woodhaven), seeking more time to give the community the opportunity to attend a Community Board 9 public hearing involving some street directional changes, was finally told by the city Department of Transportation the new meeting date would be Valentine’s Day, February 14.
Not good, said Miller. He wrote CB 9 requesting another date for the meeting at 80-02 Kew Gardens Rd. in Kew Gardens, sometime in March, he suggested. He hasn’t had an answer yet.
The hearing will eventually deal with a DOT plan to convert 84th St. in Woodhaven from a One- Way northbound road to a One-Way southbound road between Atlantic and Liberty Avenues, and to convert 80th Avenue from a Two-Way street to a One-Way westbound between Woodhaven Boulevard and 97th Street.
Miller feels, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” He’ll have more to say at the meeting when a day is set for it.
HALLORAN WINS MORE TIME: Last week, Councilmember Dan Halloran (R–C–Whitestone) asked for more time for his constituent co-op owners to contest the tax assessments set by the city Department of Finance—and he got it.
The Tax Commission has announced it will give Tax Class 2 homeowners until March 6 to contest their assessments. Originally the deadline was March 1.
“Finally,” said Halloran “middle class homeowners in New York City are getting a break.”
LONG BLASTS OBAMA ON RELIGION: State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long last week called on President Barack Obama “to rethink your directive to force religious institutions to provide insurance coverage to employees for items that are diametrically opposed to everything a religious organization stands for.”
Long questioned the president’s commitment to uphold the oath of office he took when he became president when he directed HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius to retain a rule which mandates insurance coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including some that cause abortions.
Long also charged, “You completely disregard the religious freedom granted by the First Amendment.”
Long reminded the president that when he took the oath of office, it did not “carve out certain amendments, which is what you are attempting to do with the final rule put forward by your administration to force religious employees to violate their core beliefs.”
The Conservative leader further noted that some in the media and others “believe this is simply a Catholic issue and therefore not significant, but, when an administration prohibits the free exercise of a religion, if not immediately ended, all religious freedoms will become limited not only to Catholic core beliefs.”
Long concluded, “President Obama, by prohibiting the free exercise of religious core beliefs, you are abandoning the solid oath you made.”
SILVER: ‘RAISE MINIMUM WAGE’; MIKE’S FOR IT: In another election year bombshell, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver put in legislation to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos reacted to the proposal by refusing to take a stand on it. For Skelos and the GOP senators, it would put them on the spot to oppose it (and block it) during this election year when their chief aim is to continue as the senate majority.
Supporters of Silver’s bill include Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Democrat-controlled Assembly, and the Working Families Party. Business groups opposed it.
Silver cited the rising cost-of-living since the last increase in 2009, the incentives it gives to hold a job and the inability of most workers to afford the basics of living.
Republicans’ voter bases are in the same boat as workers elsewhere in the state, so they would expect their senators to vote for it, but Skelos is very sensitive to small business and farmers who would take a hit from the increase and that’s the GOP problem.
SENATE DISTRICT LINES/CHALLENGED BY DEMS IN COURT: After the furor raised recently when Senate Republicans introduced their new district lines for this year’s election (and for the next 10 years), senate Democrats went into court to block the GOP plan, focusing their objections on the creation of a 63rd district seat, one more than the existing 62-seat legislature.
The Democrats’ case alleges the senate GOP mapmakers violated the state constitution in creating a 63rd district seat. Adding insult to injury, they say those district lines in the Albany area would favor the election of a Republican, which follows the GOP strategy to continue in control of the senate.
Democrats in the Assembly are drawing their own lines, which are designed to keep them in control of that house.
Commenting on the Democrats’ suit to have the Republicans’ creation of a 63rd senate seat set aside, state Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria), chair of the Democratic Senate Committee, explained:
“They realized they wanted 63 and then they went back and manipulated the formula to get them to that number.”
Gianaris also explained that Democrats documented how the changes were made, which was in line with long-standing decisions in similar court cases.
Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos (Rockville Center) said he believed the court would uphold the new GOP maps and the 63rd senate district lines.
KOO BACKTRACKS: No sooner had Councilmember Peter Koo recanted on charges of “political entrapment” by the FBI during their investigation of City Comptroller John Liu’s election campaign funding methods than Liu was in another mess, facing allegations that he met with prospective fundraisers, like Councilmember Peter Koo (R–C–Flushing), for campaign business.
Recently when Koo was being interviewed on a LaGuardia Community College radio station, he said the FBI “used some sting operation… like political entrapment” that led to the arrest of a Liu political fundraiser.
But in an interview with the New York Post in last Thursday’s edition Koo backtracked, saying, “I didn’t mean to criticize the FBI. It’s one of the most respected law enforcement agencies in the country and the world. We support the FBI 100 percent.”
In Sunday’s Daily News, Koo was cited as one fundraiser with whom Liu met during working hours when he should have been working in his comptroller’s office in Lower Manhattan. Koo reportedly raised $7,200 from nine different donors for Liu. The meeting with Liu was between last July 7 and 11.
Also at the July meeting with Koo was Assemblymember Grace Meng, a Democrat from Flushing.
The News got the information from a check of Liu’s public schedules for 2011, obtained by a Freedom of Information Law request.