President To Visit NYC To View Storm Damage
President Barack Obama is expected to make a tour of storm-ravaged New York City November 15, and when he arrives at the devastated Far Rockaway site, he’s sure to get an earful of complaints about how poorly the utility companies performed in restoring power to the area.
Lawmakers from that outpost in Queens were tripping over themselves lodging complaints against LIPA and Con Edison which admittedly were swamped with a ton of work. But government officials were demanding action, not excuses.
Among them, Congressmember Bob Turner (R–C–Queens/Brooklyn), reported:
“We have received hundreds of calls from people just trying to get an answer from the likes of LIPA with no success. There is no more time to waste, temperatures are dropping at a faster rate than the number of families without power. That equation needs to change, and it needs to change now.”
Another Congressmember from Southeast Queens, Gregory Meeks (D–Jamaica), complained, “There is an abysmal lack of clear and coordinated information to the public. This should not be the case 10 days out from the storm.”
As Meeks’ complaint was made, The New York Times reported on November 3, “The Rockaway Peninsula remained the area worst hit by power failures as residents in homes with no light or heat grew increasingly frustrated with the Long Island Power Authority, which provides electricity there. More than 31,000 customers, nearly the entire peninsula, were without power as of Friday afternoon.”
Meeks said the problem was caused “by the lack of coordination between city government and the utility companies”. His colleague, Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder (D–Rockaway), stated more pointedly, the problem was “a result of inaction and neglect by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, LIPA and Con Ed…”.
Other local officials present were state Senators Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) and Malcolm Smith (D–Jamaica), and Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R–C–Ozone Park). Others present at a rally at St. Francis de Sales Church in Belle Harbor included local community leaders.
Meanwhile, the area’s newest representative, Councilmember and state Senator-elect James Sanders Jr., elected to the senate on Election Day, exclaimed, “The prayers of so many people in Rockaway have finally been answered,” after it was announced that ferry service to Manhattan had started, beginning Monday.
AVELLA, M. WEPRIN SEEK PROBES: Last week, state Senator Tony Avella (D–Bayside) and Councilmember Mark Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens) called for investigations of the utilities’ poor response to power outages brought on by Hurricane Sandy.
Avella, in a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, called for a “full investigation” of LIPA and Con Edison by the Public Service Commission (PSC). He cited the “horrible organizational structure” at LIPA “that has resulted in crews being unable to assist as many customers as possible… and the slow-moving response by Con Ed in organizing mutual aid from outside power crews in responding to this disaster”.
Avella told Cuomo that if the companies are found to have been “deficient” in providing service “…their franchises should be revoked”.
As for Weprin, he called on the City Council to hold hearings “to assess the response of the city and utility companies following Hurricane Sandy”.
Weprin added, “Our community was very patient, but we were kept in the dark too long and we want answers. In order to deal with situations like Sandy, there is a need to assess what went right, what went wrong, and who should be held accountable.”
MAYOR UNVEILS EMERGENCY REPAIR PLAN: On November 9, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced NYC Rapid Repairs, a plan to go into neighborhoods hit hard by the hurricane, to help speed up home repairs, without any immediate cost to homeowners. The plan will be carried out in partnership with FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and will utilize teams of contractors to survey damage to homes and to repair them more quickly.
The mayor explained, “Once you’re signed up, a contractor will come to your home, assess the damage, get a work order and, within short order, the work will get done.”
President Obama will probably have some news about the planned “storm czar” which the White House is creating to lead recovery efforts in New York and New Jersey.
According to reports, the czar would be ready to replace FEMA officials who will be leaving soon and will closely track repair work that must get done.
As for the president’s visit, the mayor said a proposed earlier trip was not the right time, he and Obama agreed. Now, “we’re very happy to have him”.
Bloomberg had endorsed the president for re-election just before the election took place.
DEMOCRATS— AGAIN— SWEEP BALLOT: Following President Barack Obama’s lead on Election Day eight days ago, local Democrats were victorious over their Republican rivals in every race on the ballot. All told, the winners are the president and Vice President Joe Biden, who swept the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan tandem; U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; five Congressmembers, including newcomer Grace Meng, the first East Asian person elected to Congress; seven state senators; 18 assemblymembers; three state Supreme Court justices; and four Civil Court judges.
Among these, other newcomers besides Meng, were state Senator James Sanders Jr., moving up from the City Council; and first-time winners, Assemblymembers Nily Rozic (25th AD-Fresh Meadows) and Ron Kim (40th ADFlushing).
The complete list of winners on Election Day, according to still unofficial results, were:
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressmember Gregory Meeks (5th CD/Southeast Queens), Congressmember Grace Meng (6th CD-Flushing), Congressmember Nydia Velazquez (7th CDQueens/ Manh./Bklyn), Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (12th CDQueens/ Manh./Bklyn)
Congressmember Joseph Crowley (14th CD-Queens/The Bronx), state Senator James Sanders Jr. (10th SD-Southeast Queens), state Senator Tony Avella (11th SD), state Senator Michael Gianaris (12th SD-Western Queens), state Senator Jose Peralta (13th SD-Jackson Heights/Corona), state Senator Malcolm Smith (14th SD-Jamaica), state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (15th SD-South/Central Queens), state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (16th SDFlushing), Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder (23rd AD-Rockaways), Assemblymember David Weprin (24th AD-Holliswood), Assemblymember Nily Rozic (25th AD-Fresh Meadows), Assemblymember Edward Braunstein (26th AD-Bayside), Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz (27th AD-Flushing), Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi (28th AD-Forest Hills), Assemblymember William Scarborough (29th AD-Jamaica), Assemblymember Margaret Markey (30th AD-Maspeth), Assemblymember Michele Titus (31st AD-So. Ozone Park), Assemblymember Vivian Cook (32nd ADJamaica), Assemblymember Barbara Clark (33rd AD-Cambria Hgts), Assemblymember Michael DenDekker (34th AD-Jackson Hgts), Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry (35th ADEast Elmhurst), Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (36th AD-Astoria), Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (37th AD-Ridgewood), Assemblymember Michael Miller (38th ADWoodhaven), Assemblymember Francisco Moya (39th AD-Corona) Assemblymember Ron Kim (40th AD-Flushing).
Among these, other newcomers besides Meng, were state Senator James Sanders Jr., moving up from the City Council, and first-time winners Assemblymembers Nily Rozic (25 ADFresh Meadows) and Ron Kim (40 ADFlushing).
Elected to state Supreme Court judgeships were: Lawrence V. Cullen, of Flushing; Leslie J. Purificacion, of Maspeth; and Charles S. Lopresto, of Long Island City.
The new Civil Court judges are: Donna- Marie E. Golia, of Douglaston; Robert Caloras, of Little Neck; Ulysses Leverett, of Jamaica; and Larry Love, of Forest Hills.
The most serious challenge of the local contests was the one between state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) and Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R–C–Ozone Park). According to unofficial, but complete returns, Addabbo received 38,000 votes (57.27 percent) to 28,358 votes (42.73 percent) for Ulrich.
The race was expected to be close because each represents districts which basically cover the same geographical area and both had loyal followings. In addition, Republican senators in Albany, who drew up the new district lines for this election, included some areas that were considered favorable to Ulrich.
Hurricane Sandy may have played a role in Addabbo’s victory. The crazy weather caused polling site changes that made it difficult for some voters to get to the replacement sites. Ulrich criticized the Board of Elections’ changes saying they disenfranchized some voters.
Ulrich’s strongholds in Far Rockaway, Breezy Point, and Belle Harbor were especially hit hard by the storm, as was Howard Beach, Addabbo’s home district.
CONTROL OF 2013 SENATE QUESTIONABLE: In the election of state senators held last week, it appears Democrats won a 33-30 majority in the 63-member house, which should clear the way for the Dems to assume political control there. However, given the history of that political body, that can’t be taken for granted.
For starters, a four-member independent Democratic Conference that is not aligned with the Democratic contingent there is a threat to join with the Republicans and deny the Democrats control.
Both before and after last Tuesday’s election, the present Republican Majority Leader state Senator Dean Skelos, has boasted that no matter the outcome of last week’s elections, he would still be majority leader. And last week there were reports out of Albany that the leader of the four-Democrat independent block had met with Skelos.
Those talks strengthened the possibility that Skelos will have the votes he needs to win control, as he has been boasting.
Besides the four independent Dems’ leanings toward the GOP, there is another Democrat that was elected last week— Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn city councilmember— who has stirred speculation that he, too, will move over to the Republicans’ side.
Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who gets along well with the Republicans, is steering clear of the impending battle, which doesn’t sit well with his fellow Democrats, who are forced to keep their displeasure to themselves.
GILLIBRAND CHEERS MORE WOMEN IN CONGRESS: The recent election results will swell the number of women in Congress to a record number—20 women in the Senate and at least 81 in the House—and that’s very encouraging to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
The New York lawmaker sees the growing female ranks as the impetus to increase the bipartisan flavor of the lawmakers’ ranks with greater prospects for getting certain legislation enacted into law, such as repairing roadways, bridges, sewer systems and electrical grids. Gillibrand is also encouraged that it will spur action to return lots of jobs to the states from overseas.
Generally, some see the move as improving the atmosphere in both Houses and easing the gridlock that has emerged in recent sessions between Democrats and Republicans and replacing it with more frequent compromises. The presence of more women could also help to build on the spirit of cooperation that many see developing in President Obama’s second term. Since the election, suddenly the opposing parties are talking up compromise versions on immigration bills, and women lawmakers could play a major role in it.
House Speaker John Boehner (R–Ohio) indicated immediately after the election that it was “time to get this done”, alluding to immigration legislation. And earlier this week, Senators Charles Schumer (D–NY) and Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) announced they are proposing legislation that would include a pathway to citizenship.
Schumer said that he and Graham have resumed conversations on the bill that had stopped two years ago. The present talks are centered on the theory that most Americans favor legal immigration but are opposed to illegal immigration.
At the same time, Senator John McCain (R–Arizona) tweeted, “I agree with the calls for comprehensive immigration reform.” Once a vocal supporter of such a position, McCain changed when Republicans blocked it.
PAROLE HELP FOR HEVESI: Former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, serving time in jail following his leading role in a pay-to-play pension scandal, will appear before a state parole board this week to make a bid for release.
According to a New York Post story, nine letters of support have been submitted to the board on Hevesi’s behalf, according to board officials, and one letter was submitted in opposition. No names or details abut the letters were released.
The Forest Hills pol landed in jail after admitting he accepted $1 million in campaign contributions in return for giving investment firms deals to invest pension funds for which they earned large sums of money.
KOCH HAILED AT VETS’ DAY PARADE: Former Mayor Ed Koch, still chipper at age 87, was one of four grand marshals at last Sunday’s 93rd annual New York Veterans’ Day Parade up Fifth Avenue. Some 20,000 spectators turned out for the festivities, which honored the U.S. Coast Guard. It also marked the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War’s beginning.
For Koch, an Army sergeant and decorated World War II combat veteran, his special role in saluting the Vietnam veterans is especially relevent. In 1985, he helped arrange a ticker-tape parade to honor Vietnam veterans who at the time were not often honored.