Dealing With Hurricane Sandy Aftermath
We finally got the lights back on, telephones and cells working again and started the cleanup and rebuilding. There’s been little real talk about how much money President Barack Obama and Congress will give us to repair major damages, and we would be satisfied if Governor Andrew Cuomo’s estimate of $30 billion, or something in that neighborhood, is approved.
But for now, we’re going to set those matters aside and focus instead upon what local pols are saying about the recovery subject. Such as…
Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) hailed President Obama’s selection last week of Shaun Donovan, his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to be his “point person” for Washington’s involvement in New York’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
As Maloney sees it, “Donovan’s unique knowledge of both New York City’s housing stock and federal housing policy makes him the absolutely perfect choice to speed recovery efforts from Washington to New York. His understanding of both places is phenomenal.”
Maloney added, “President Obama, as he toured the outer boroughs of our city, learned that there is still much to do—that people still need emergency help. So the choice of Shaun Donovan should encourage New York and New Jersey that the federal government takes our recovery seriously.”
VALLONE: ‘JAIL’, NOT A FINE, FOR GOUGERS: Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) congratulated State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on his efforts against price-gouging and has put in a resolution to give law enforcement the tools needed to effectively prevent this from occurring in the future.
Following the AG’s lead, Vallone, who heads the Council Public Safety Committee, wants Albany to make price-gouging a crime punishable by up to one year in prison. Price-gouging is currently punishable with just a fine, Vallone notes. He is also looking into whether the same proposed law could be implemented in New York City.
He states, “Clearly, the penalties that exist are insufficient to protect the public in times of crisis. These gas stations in particular apparently see fines as the cost of doing business. Anyone who would try to profit from another person’s pain during an emergency deserves to face jail time.”
GIANARIS BACKS PUBLIC UTILITIES PROBE: The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) performed so badly and slowly in restoring power to people’s homes and businesses on Long Island following Hurricane Sandy that Governor Cuomo created a Moreland Commission to investigate public utilities.
State Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Western Queens), who directed an Assembly Task Force in 2006 that made recommendations to improve the industry, applauded the governor’s action “and am hopeful this commission will bring about the necessary reforms many of us have advocated for years”.
Referring to the post-hurricane period, Gianaris stated, “The utilities’ ongoing inability to restore power to so many homes and businesses is dangerous to people’s health and devastating to our economy. I thank Governor Cuomo for his continued leadership and look forward to seeing the positive changes that will result from this effort.”
The utilities industry study which Gianaris led in 2006 followed the 10-day Western Queens blackout and made several recommendations. Gianaris said he would forward a copy of that report to the new study commission appointed by Cuomo.
MARSHALL SEEKS HEALTH RESOURCES FOR STRICKEN AREAS: Last week, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall reached out to the North Shore-LIJ Health System to possibly provide primary and pediatric healthcare services at the St. Francis de Sales disaster relief center in Belle Harbor.
Marshall explained, “The church’s school has been turned into a virtual supply warehouse for victims of Hurricane Sandy, which left many residents homeless, including those on the Beach 129th Street block, where the center is located. The resources of North Shore LIJ would be an additional valuable resource in the combined great effort at St. Francis to relieve the suffering and displacement caused by this natural disaster.”
Marshall is also working with the Bumble Bee Tuna Company to deliver thousands of sandwiches to residents of the Redfern and Hammel Houses and senior citizens at Reuther Houses on the Rockaway Peninsula. She also planned to meet at Borough Hall with Greater New York Red Cross CEO Josh Lockwood about the organization’s efforts in Howard Beach, Broad Channel and the Rockaways before a planned trip to Rockaway to meet with city officials on ways to assist small businesses.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg has opened a new restoration center in Rockaway to provide comprehensive services; the mayor also announced a $500 million emergency plan to make critical repairs in public schools and hospitals.
LIU REPORTS ON STORM RELIEF: City Comptroller John Liu announced that new loans and tax relief for businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy that were approved by the NYC Industrial Development Agency (IDA) and the Build NYC Resource Corporation, both of which Liu is a voting member.
Liu stated, “Small businesses have suffered the brunt of the structural and economic damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy. Indeed, many are at risk of going under.” He said the relief voted in that day could help many businesses “to begin to get back on their feet today”.
ADDABBO: HEAP APPLICATIONS START: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) announced that on Monday, November 19, the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) had begun accepting applications for regular benefits. These benefits provide assistance to help low income and elderly New Yorkers keep their homes warm during the winter.
Addabbo said applications would be available at his district office in Middle Village during the last half of November. The office is located at 66-85 73rd Pl., 718- 497-1630.
HEVESI COMING HOME: After 19 months in an upstate jail, a parole board hearing last week determined that ex-state Comptroller Alan Hevesi had served enough jail time and ordered his release on December 19. Hevesi, now 72, will move in with his son, Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, it was announced. The younger Hevesi, married and the father of a threeyear old daughter, now resides in the family’s Forest Hills home. Alan Hevesi’s wife, Carol, now lives in a nursing home.
Although Hevesi convinced the board on his second try that he was ready to return to society, his former friend and longtime adviser, Hank Morris, 59, was rejected for release by the Parole Board. He has been serving a one-and-a-third to-four year sentence after being convicted for operating a pay-to-play scheme in which he pocketed $19 million in fees for providing trading access to the state’s pension fund. The money has since been paid back to the state.
Hevesi had been serving his sentence since April, 2011, after he admitted he had illegally accepted trips for his wife and family to Israel and Italy, as well as $500,000 in campaign contributions set up by an investor who earned $250 million in state pensionrelated investments.
JIMMY MENG PLEADS GUILTY: Former Assemblymember Jimmy Meng, who had been facing fraud charges for soliciting $80,000 in cash from a defendant involved in a tax case, pleaded guilty to wire fraud last week. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for March 12, 2013. Meng, 68, of Bayside, operates a lumber yard in Queens.
ELECTED AS SENATE DEMOCRAT, SAYS HE’LL JOIN GOP: On Election Day, Simcha Felder, running for the state senate in Brooklyn as a Democrat, easily won the seat. But last week, Felder announced he will join the Republican caucus when he is sworn in to office in January.
In the elections, Democrats won 31 seats, Republicans took 30, and two races remain too close to call. With Felder’s announcement, the Republicans now have 31 and the Democrats shift back to 30.
Which party will have a majority in the 63-seat chamber in January will depend not only on who will win the two seats still awaiting their final vote tally, but also whether some fence-sitting Democrats will swing over to the GOP, as they have hinted they might. Until then we will not know which party will be in the majority and will control the balance of power during the 2013-14 session.
HALLORAN OPPOSES FRESH DIRECT SUBSIDY: Councilmember Dan Halloran (R–C–Whitestone) spoke out clearly against the proposed subsidy to online grocer Fresh Direct last week, declaring the $127 million financial aid the City Council wants to make, would place other small businesses in the city at a disadvantage.
Halloran declared at the City Hall rally against the subsidy:
“I stand with the small business owners in our city in speaking out against spending massive tax money to give an online grocer an unfair advantage over neighborhood brick and mortar grocery stores. These stores are a critical part of our neighborhoods and our economy. This is nothing more than crony capitalism from [Mayor Bloomberg], who favors congestion charging, by the way. And this bailout would also increase the number of delivery trucks in our city. There is nothing fresh about it.”
Halloran added: “This bailout would be a terrible misuse of tax revenue, as it would hurt small businesses and destroy local marketplaces while thousands of taxpayers still have no electricity or heat.”
KOO SPEAKS OUT AGAINST FARE HIKE: Addressing the proposed MTA subway fare increase, Councilmember Peter Koo (R–C–Flushing) issued the following statement:
“The MTA must not close a multi-billion dollar budget gap on the backs of working people, children, senior citizens and the disabled by proposing yet another fare hike. This city prides itself on its economically and physically accessible public transit system. By implementing this fare hike, New York would be taking a step in the opposite direction. Albany needs to fight for the tax-paying people of New York City and take all necessary steps to ensure the MTA does not punish the millions of city residents who rely upon mass transit. I say loud and clear to the MTA and Albany, stop hurting the residents of New York City.”
STAVISKY CONGRATULATES METS’ PITCHER: State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, whose district includes Citi Field, the New York Mets’ home terrain in Flushing, paid tribute to the team’s sensational pitcher, R.A. Dickey, who recently captured the Cy Young Award, which recognizes the hurler who was adjudged the top performer in his league during the 2012 baseball season. Stavisky extended her remarks to include Dickey’s off-field activities as well in her remarks.
“R.A. Dickey has proven that he’s not just a great knuckleballer, but he has proven to be one of the great ambassadors of New York sports,” stated Stavisky (D–Whitestone).
“Winning the Cy Young is the culmination of years of hard work and determination, never allowing himself to give up,” Stavisky continued.
“On and off the field–from fighting against human trafficking in India, to raising awareness for the Bone Marrow Foundation here in New York, to helping raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief—R.A. Dickey’s life off the field deserves the same recognition as the Cy Young Award-winning season.”
VAN BRAMER APPLAUDS P.S. 11 ANNEX IN WOODSIDE: Since his election in 2009, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) has fought staunchly for an annex to be built in Woodside, and last week he was successful after the School Construction Authority announced the new addition would be built.
Van Bramer noted the new annex will provide about 300 new seats and “ease overcrowding at the school”, which he deemed “a major victory for our community”. He also added, “I applaud the School Construction Authority for reassessing the feasibility of an annex upon our urging and finding a solution that works for this community that so desperately needs to address overcrowding in schools.”