On the brief side...
WEPRIN & CITY COUNCIL COLLEAGUES FUND THE NYC COUNCIL’S AUTISM INITIATIVE: Councilmember Mark S. Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens) was the lead proponent of a $1.31 Million allocation that the City Council restored in the city budget for Fiscal Year 2013, to re-establish the New York City Council’s Autism Initiative.
The Autism Initiative provides social and recreational services for children on the autism spectrum, as well as educational and training services to their families. The result is that children can live fuller and more productive lives. The initiative funds not only direct programming, but also childcare services that allow parents to hold jobs, knowing that their children are safe and receiving appropriate, compassionate care. “Autism impacts too many children and families today,” said Weprin. “It knows no boundaries.”
Councilmember Julissa Ferreras (D–East Elmhurst) said, “I was proud to stand with my colleague Councilmember Weprin in the call to fund the New York City Council’s Autism Awareness Initiative. With minority children already at [a] disadvantage due to misdiagnosis or late diagnosis of Autism, we must ensure that our children receive the programmatic and educational resources they need.” VALLONE GETS DOT TO FIX FRACTURED 31ST STREET: At the request of Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr., the Department of Transportation (DOT) will strip pave 31st Street between Ditmars Boulevard and 34th Avenue in Astoria. The road work is expected to be completed by early fall.
The harsh winter of 2011 caused severe damage to 31st Street, including over 30 potholes and abnormalities.
Vallone then asked DOT Queens Commissioner Maura McCarthy to repair the damage. After strip paving between Ditmars and Astoria Boulevards last year, the DOT will now complete the councilmember’s request by repairing the remainder of 31st Street.
“Thirty-First Street is a major thoroughfare, not only for Astoria residents, but for all of Queens,” said Vallone. “I’m glad drivers will no longer have to negotiate a dangerous obstacle course on their daily commute.” CROWLEY CONDEMNS TERRORIST ATTACK AGAINST INNOCENT CIVILIANS IN BULGARIA: Congressmember Joe Crowley (D–Queens, The Bronx) released the following statement on the terrorist attack against an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria:
“I am deeply saddened and troubled by the heinous attack against innocent civilians, including children, in Bulgaria today. There is absolutely no place in any society for this type of cowardly act. Today’s tragedy serves as a painful reminder of the fact that Israel and her people remain under a constant threat of violence. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and those injured as a result of this senseless attack,” said Crowley. ADDABBO VOTES FOR BILL ALLOWING VIETNAM-ERA VETS TO CONTINUE FILING LAWSUITS FOR AGENT ORANGE INJURIES: State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. recently voted to approve important legislation to enable Vietnam-era veterans who were harmed by exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides to continue pursuing legal actions for their injuries through 2014.
“Many servicemen and women returned home from Vietnam only to find, often many years later, that their contact with Agent Orange and other phenoxy herbicides during their tours of duty had severely compromised their health,” said Addabbo. “Back in the early 1980s, the New York state legislature took action to enable these veterans and their families to bring lawsuits related to their illnesses, and even deaths, resulting from contact with these wartime chemicals. This legislation allows Vietnam-era veterans to continue to pursue compensation for their injuries.”
Prior to the original law being enacted, servicemen and women were often barred from bringing legal actions for their injuries because the time frame for bringing lawsuits began running at the time a veteran was initially exposed to the chemical, rather than from the time the actual injury was discovered. Since cancers, birth defects and other diseases linked to Agent Orange and similar herbicides often don’t appear until many years after contact, the statute of limitations for bringing lawsuits had already run out for the veterans in question. Veterans affected by the legislation are those who served in the armed forces in Indochina from 1961 through 1975.
“Allowing Vietnam-era veterans and their families to bring personal injury lawsuits related to Agent Orange exposure was the right thing to do in 1981, and it’s the right thing to do now,” said Addabbo, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military affairs. “More than 600,000 New York state residents served in Southeast Asia during this conflict, and those who have become ill, or who have died as a result of unwitting contact with dangerous chemicals, deserve justice. Continuing to allow them, and their families, their day in court is one way of respecting their valiant service and supporting them at a time of great need.”
Having passed overwhelmingly in the senate with Addabbo’s support, the legislation is now under consideration by the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee. VALLONE CALLS ON ALBANY TO PASS ‘THREE STRIKES YOU’RE IN’ LAW: Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. is calling on Albany to pass what he has called the “Three Strikes You’re In” law, which requires a mandatory jail term for individuals convicted of a third misdemeanor within 10 years.
There is currently no mandatory jail term for a person convicted of multiple misdemeanor offenses, which include many violent crimes, such as assault resulting in injury, domestic abuse and resisting arrest, as well as criminal trespassing, stalking, groping and drug possession.
A substantial majority of individuals convicted of misdemeanors have at least one prior conviction, and a large minority has more than 10 prior convictions.
As New York state law exists now, a person can commit any number of misdemeanors and never face one mandatory day in jail.
Gian Verdelli, a 61-year-old registered sex offender, was arrested on July 16 on charges he groped a woman aboard a Port Authority train on two separate occasions. Verdelli reportedly has 168 prior arrests on similar charges.
Vallone introduced a resolution in 2010 calling on the passage of the law–an action he deems is long overdue.
“These criminals are continually spitting in the face of the justice system due to lenient laws allowing them to avoid prison terms,” said Vallone. “The only way to prevent the problem of chronic misdemeanors is to eliminate ‘turnstile justice’ and teach these repeat offenders a valuable lesson–‘three strikes you’re in’.” WEPRIN ANNOUNCES RESTORATION OF LITTLE NECK PARKWAY BUS SERVICE: Councilmember Mark S. Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens) announced an agreement from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to restore bus service on Little Neck Parkway, along the former Q79 route in Eastern Queens. Weprin had fought hard to save the Q79 and continued to advocate for its restoration after the service was cut. When he heard about the elimination of the Q79 in June of 2010, Bellerose resident Henry Flax contacted Weprin with the idea for the MTA to provide bus service on Little Neck Parkway by extending the Q36 from Jamaica Avenue to Little Neck. Weprin shared Mr. Flax’s proposal with the MTA, but the agency lacked the funding necessary to implement it. Then, when the MTA announced last month that funding was available to restore service, Weprin immediately contacted the MTA to ask that the restorations include service for Little Neck Parkway. MTA Chair Joseph J. Lhota informed Weprin that the agency will indeed bring back weekday bus service to the former Q79 route.
“For people who live or work in Little Neck, Bellerose, Glen Oaks, Floral Park, or New Hyde Park, the Q79 was the only northsouth public transportation available. Restoration of service along the route will make a huge difference in their lives,” said Weprin.
“I thank the MTA for recognizing the need to restore the vital service that the Q79 provided for my constituents in Little Neck, many of whom rely on bus service to travel to work or school,” said Assemblymember Edward C. Braunstein (D–Bayside).
“Bus service on Little Neck Parkway has been sorely missed since the Q79 was cut. The residents of Eastern Queens can finally breathe a sigh of relief,” said Assemblymember David I. Weprin (D–Little Neck).
“The MTA’s cuts over the past several years have placed an unfair burden on the backs of riders, especially here in the parts of
Queens that are underserved by public transportation. Northeast Queens has been united in its stance that the Q79 was a vital service and losing it literally left riders stranded, unable to reach the Little Neck LIRR Station. These service restorations will extend the Q36 to cover parts of the old Q79 route, allowing riders to travel to and from work, school and home. Additionally, Q76 will have weekend service for the first time in years, connecting College Point to Jamaica and beyond. I am glad that the MTA has recognized the importance of serving this section of the city,” said Councilmember Daniel J. Halloran (R–Whitestone).
In addition, the newly available funding will allow Eastern Queens to benefit from overnight service on the Q27, weekend service on the Q76, and service to Queensborough Community College on the Q30. The bus service improvements in Eastern Queens are part of a group of MTA proposals that will be on the agenda when the MTA Board’s NYC Transit Committee meets on Monday, July 23.
Community leaders in Eastern Queens had worked with Weprin to urge the MTA to restore the Little Neck Parkway bus service. In August 2011, at Weprin’s request, City Council Transportation Chair James Vacca hosted a meeting at which the Q36 extension plan was once again brought to the MTA, a year after Flax initially proposed it. Local civic leaders attended the meeting and emphasized the importance of the bus service to their communities. BRAUNSTEIN ANNOUNCES RESTORATION OF WEEKEND Q76 BUS SERVICE: Assemblymember Edward C. Braunstein (D–Bayside) announced that an agreement has been reached with the MTA to restore Saturday and add Sunday service to the Q76, which runs from Jamaica to College Point, and travels through Auburndale and Whitestone via Francis Lewis Boulevard. Q76 bus service was previously reduced as part of the MTA’s 2009-2010 budget cuts. According to the MTA, the service change “will be phased in over the course of a year beginning in October 2012.
“I thank the MTA for recognizing the need to not only restore Saturday service for the Q76, but to add Sunday service as well. The Q76 travels through a large section of Queens, connecting to numerous other bus lines, and is vital to my constituents who do not have easy access to the subway, especially those in Whitestone and Auburndale who rely on public transportation to travel to work or to their place of worship during the weekend,” said Braunstein. GIANARIS ON PROPOSED RESTORATION OF SUNNYSIDE’S B24 WEEKEND SERVICE: “I am pleased our hard work resulted in the proposed restoration of Sunnyside’s B24 weekend bus service. While this is a good start, we need other eliminated Western Queens services, like the W subway and QM22 express bus, reinstated as well. I urge the MTA to restore all Western Queens mass transit cuts, whose loss has greatly impacted the lives of commuters here,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said.