Vallone Campaign Gets Hispanic Advisor From Marshall
Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. announced yesterday that he has hired Pablo M. Romano, who formerly served as Advisor of Hispanic Affairs for Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, to join his campaign as Cultural Affairs Liaison.
Vallone added, “Romano will be counted on for outreach to various ethnic groups in Queens, with a particular focus on Queens’ Hispanic communities.”
In his time with Marshall, Romano was “instrumental in forging unprecedented relationships with previously unrepresented communities within Queens’ diverse Hispanic population”, Vallone said.
Romano, a member of the Queens Las Americas Lions Club, also served as a member of the New York City Hispanic Day Parade and the Queens Hispanic Parade, Vallone said.
“I am very excited to have Pablo Romano joining our team,” Vallone stated. “Pablo’s years of experience as Advisor of Hispanic Affairs to Borough President Marshall and activism in Queens’ Hispanic community are invaluable assets to our campaign. From the very start, our campaign has been about one united Queens and that legacy of inclusion will continue if I am honored enough to be the next borough president—looking out for and working closely with all communities.”
“Whether as a former Assistant District Attorney, small business owner, devoted family man or proud Catholic,” Romano stated, “Peter has demonstrated he shares the values of Queens’ Hispanic community. Peter is the dynamic leader we can count on to bring proactive and responsive leadership to Borough Hall.”
Vallone, who has been a leader in the effort to make New York City the safest place possible as chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, last week proposed jointly with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a new kind of gun control—a statewide gun registry.
Vallone and Diaz, in an Op-ed piece in this newspaper, said a registry “would keep the names of people convicted of crimes involving guns on the registry for at least 10 years, and require offenders to check in regularly with local police. Failure to perform any of the registration obligations would be considered a felony-level crime.”
The two lawmakers, noting the awesome opposition to creating laws regarding legal gun ownerships, proposed taking another route to fighting crime—the statewide gun offender registry, which would be an extension of the New York City gun registry created in 2006 by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Vallone, which was the first ever.
Also last week, Vallone has reinvented a crime-fighting tool once used effectively in his home council district of Astoria, the Neighborhood Watch. Participating in the present watch revival is Barbara Pollock, who patrolled as part of the 114th Precinct Civilian Observation group, which James and Barbara Pollack created in the 1980s.
The present observation volunteers, which look for crime, but report them to the precinct rather then taking action themselves, is using the same MO. Vallone said, “This is a program that is being copied throughout the city. “The lawmaker said Neighborhood Watch volunteers provide several sets of eyes that are used when official NYPD members are patrolling elsewhere, and the citizen volunteers who see a crime take no action expect reporting it to the local precinct. It’s safer that way, but nonetheless effective.
QUEENS LAWMAKERS APPROVE BUDGET, BUT NOT ALL: The $135 billion 2013-2014 state budget was passed by its April 1 date for the third year in a row under Governor Andrew Cuomo, and was generally approved by state lawmakers. But state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and several others angrily voted against the Health and Hygiene Budget due to a severe $90 million cut for the Developmentally Disabled, which doubles when federal matching funds are added in.
State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) also said no to the latter cut because it would be “devastating for disabled New Yorkers and their families”.
Stavisky (D–Whitestone) said many of her constituents were also opposed to the reduction, so she “could not in good conscience vote for a bill with this level of cuts to such an important institution”.
Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) was especially pleased that $21.2 billion will be provided for the state’s public schools, which is an increase of $936.6 million over last year.
Nolan, chairperson of the Education Committee, said New York schools will receive $8.28 billion of the added funds, an increase of $363.9 million over last year.
“Making sure our schools have the funding they need to provide our children with a quality education is one of my top priorities,” Nolan commented. “Thanks to [Assembly] Speaker Sheldon Silver and my colleagues in the Assembly, the 2013-14 state budget comes through for both New York City schools and its students.”
Addabbo said seniors will benefit from a significant increase in the EPIC (Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program) “to help them afford expensive prescription medication, and significant tax breaks for families with children and small businesses to help them succeed”. He was also pleased with the increase in the minimum wage to $9 per hour by 2016.
Addabbo, whose district includes the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct, was pleased that the budget left open the possibility that full casino gambling could come to Aqueduct.
First, a plan to arbitrarily site all the casinos to Upstate New York, if voters give final approval to legal casino gambling in a November referendum was not included in the budget. Therefore, it’s possible major casinos could be earmarked for New York City, and possibly at Aqueduct, he said.
Also in the budget is legislation that will provide a permanent tax credit to businesses that hire veterans, which would increase job opportunities for the vets, which Addabbo approves of. Addabbo was also pleased that the budget will begin the process of distributing long-awaited federal aid to start rebuilding the damage done by Hurricane Sandy.
MALTESE ENDORSES CATSIMATIDIS: Calling John Catsimatidis “the only candidate, Republican or Democratic who has the hands-on experience needed to run a city like New York”, former state Senator and Queens Republican Party leader Serphin Maltese endorsed John Catsimatidis, the billionaire grocery store magnate for mayor in the November election.
Maltese stated, “I am proud to endorse John Catsimatidis for mayor of New York City. John Catsimatidis is the only candidate, Republican or Democrat, who has twice the hands-on experience needed to run a city like New York. He gained that experience as a selfmade businessman who has built companies from the ground up, balancing budgets, making payrolls and creating tons of good paying jobs.”
Maltese, who served for almost three decades consecutively as senator from Western Queens, continued, “John Catsimatidis understands the frustrations that small business people face. He’ll work to cut regulations and rein in taxes, and he’ll never stop fighting for New York’s forgotten middle class. He’s a graduate of New York City public schools and he’ll work so that today’s kids get the quality education they deserve. John Catsimatidis is the type of mayor our borough and our city need.”
Accepting Maltese’s endorsement, Catsimatidis stated: “I am honored to receive the endorsement of former Senator Serphin “Serf” Maltese. Serf appreciates how much I love New York and knows I will work tirelessly to create jobs, improve education and keep our city safe.”
Maltese represented the 15th senatorial district in Queens County, which includes the communities of Forest Hills Gardens, Glendale, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach, Maspeth, Middle Village, Old Howard Beach, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, and parts of Elmhurst, Kew Gardens, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, South Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Sunnyside and Woodside, serving over 320,000 constituents.
Catsimatidis, who has the support of the Queens Party Chairman Phil Ragusa, is opposed for the GOP nomination by former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota.
NOLAN ENDORSES QUINN FOR MAYOR: Hailing City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s unrivaled record on education and fighting for New York working families, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan last week endorsed Quinn for mayor of New York.
In offering her endorsement and support, Nolan (D-Ridgewood), who chairs the Assembly’s important Committee on Education, specifically pointed to Quinn’s record in balancing the city’s budget while preventing mass teacher layoffs and the Speaker’s proposal to expand access to Pre-K programs citywide.
Continuing, Nolan stated, “I can think of no greater champion for the students, teachers and working families of Queens than a Mayor Christine Quinn. I am proud to offer her my support and I intend to make the case to Queens families that we have a great pre-education, middle class ally in her.”
Nolan, one of the longest-serving women and a power in state government, emphasized, “I can attest to her record of accomplishment. Working with her to expand kindergarten in our city is an example of her tenacity and ability to get things done for our kids. As a parent of a teenager in a NYC public school, I know I can trust Chris Quinn to put our children’s interests first.”
Quinn responded, “To receive the support of such a respected advocate for New York City’s schools, their students and their teachers, is something I don’t take lightly. Whether it’s expanding pre-kindergarten opportunities or making sure that we have enough teachers to ensure a quality education for every child in New York, I intend to continue working with Cathy to make the New York City public school system the best it can be.”
Quinn is the leading candidate among four others seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination in the Democratic primary in September. They are City Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson.
Those seeking the Republican nomination are former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota and businessman John Catsimatidis.
MALONEY PRAISES QUINN’S ACTION ON SICK LEAVE AGREEMENT: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney had “nothing but praise” for the compromise agreement announced last Thursday on the sick leave bill, and the lawmaker “especially congratulated” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who, previously had blocked action on the controversial measure.
Maloney (D-Queens, Manhattan), who last week endorsed Quinn for mayor, said on Friday, “Today is a very good day for all the working men and women of the greatest city in the world. Today an agreement was reached between Speaker Christine Quinn, elected officials and various stakeholders, including union officials from 32BJ, on the issue of paid sick leave. And New York City will now have paid medical leave.”
Maloney, in singling Quinn out for praise, added:
“I especially congratulate Speaker Christine Quinn. I heartily endorsed her candidacy for mayor—even though we disagreed on this particular issue. But one of the reasons I endorsed her is that her door is always open. She listens. And if you have the facts and equities on your side, as we did with paid sick leave, she’s flexible enough to reach an agreement. This is how politics is supposed to work.
“This is a great day. But this is just a beginning. There are more issues to address, more discussions to be had—more problems to be solved. But this is a great start.”
The new bill agreed to will apply to full time workers in companies with 20 or more employees starting in April 2014, and extend to those with 15 employees in October 2015. But if the economy goes bad, the law will not take effect.
Those covered will be compensated with five days off when they are sick, without losing a day’s pay, or worse, their job. It’s estimated one million workers will be covered.
Mayor Bloomberg said he will not sign the measure into law, but the council supporters are confident they can override any veto.
CROWLEY ANNOUNCES CONGRESS ART COMPETITION: Congressmember Joseph Crowley has announced that the 2013 Congressional Art Competition for high school students in New York’s 14th Congressional District has started. And he encourages all students to submit entries because the winning artwork will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. for an entire year.
Entries for the nationwide annual art competition are now being accepted and must be received by Crowley’s Queens district office by Monday, April 22 in order to be considered, he said. The office is located at 82-11 37th Ave., Suite 402, Jackson Heights, N.Y. 11372.
For more information, visit Crowley’s Web site, the official Congressional Art Competition Web site or contact the congressmember at his office at 718-779-1400.
Crowley stated, “The Congressional Art Competition is a fantastic way to share the great artistic talent we have here in the 14th Congressional District with the thousands of people who pass through the U.S. Capitol every day. I look forward to seeing the work submitted in our area and I encourage all aspiring artists to apply.”
The competition is a nationwide high school art competition that provides an opportunity for members of Congress to encourage and recognize the artistic talents of their young constituents. Over 650,000 high school students nationwide have participated in the competition since 1982, Crowley said.
MENG’S BILL AIMS TO PREVENT ‘ANOTHER BENGHAZI’: In the wake of the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last September, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Congressmembers Grace Meng and Scott Perry have filed legislation that reforms U.S. State Department bureaucracy to better protect the lives of American diplomats serving overseas. Both serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Securing Accountability in Foreign Embassies Act introduced by Meng, a Democrat, and Perry, a Republican, “aims to increase accountability of State Department employees by providing the Secretary of State more power to discipline personnel who put diplomats in danger”, the lawmakers said.
Meng (Flushing) stated: “The attack in Benghazi was a horrible tragedy that took the lives of brave Americans serving our country. If passed, this legislation would be a huge boost towards better protecting U.S. citizens abroad, and it will help ensure that this type of attack never occurs again. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked for this bill when she testified before Congress in January. Now it is time for us to pass it.”
Meng recalled that after the Benghazi attack, Clinton appointed an independent Accountability Review Board (ARB), to examine the facts surrounding the attack. Meng said, that in the months preceding the incident, senior employees at the State Department were not performing their jobs sufficiently and demonstrated a serious lack of management and leadership ability. Meng added the ARB also found that this poor performance contributed to inadequate security at the Benghazi Special Mission.
But despite these conclusions, Meng said, the ARB could not recommend disciplinary action against a single employee because the panel is not legally allowed to do so, since it could not find that there was a breach of duty, a standard which is extremely high and very unclear.
Meng said that when Clinton testified before Congress in January, she asserted that a legislative remedy would be required to allow future ARB’s to make disciplinary recommendations, and she requested that Congress make the fix.
Consequently, Meng and Perry, in their legislation, would allow an ARB to recommend disciplinary proceedings if it finds that a State Department employee’s unsatisfactory performance left a diplomatic facility vulnerable to a security incident.
IMMIGRATION TOWN HALL AT LAGCC: Assemblymembers Catherine Nolan and Francisco Moya, along with City Council Speaker Quinn, sponsored an Immigration Town Hall at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City recently, where they discussed the Assembly’s one-house budget proposal to fund certain immigration assistance proposals.
The Assembly’s one-house budget proposal included $975 million for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), the lawmakers said, which is an increase of $25 million in the proposed Executive Budget put forward by Governor Cuomo.
The $25 million increase would cover the proposed DREAM Act, of which Assemblymember Moya (D-Corona) is the lead sponsor.
Moya stated, “Immigrants from all walks of life have enriched this city and the borough of Queens from the dawn of this city’s founding. At this Town Hall and in kitchen table conversations across the state, the momentum for a New York state DREAM Act is continuing to grow. The time has come to show the strength of our immigrant communities and the diverse benefit they will bring to our social and economic fabric.
Nolan (D-Ridgewood) said in her remarks that the one-house legislation the lawmakers discussed had included an additional appropriation of $1 million to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Transition Fund (DACA). This program is designed to provide educational service and support for out of school youths and young adults who are eligible for the federal DACA program, which was supported by both the N.Y. State Board of Regents and the state Education Department.
“Since the DREAM Act is still not the law, this program becomes even more important for young adults who can obtain citizenship and achieve their full potential,” Moya said.
Nolan added, “I am very pleased that the Assembly fought successfully in getting this program into the enacted state budget. This program will allow the state Education Department to build on existing programs in order to help these young students and adults achieve their dream of completing their education.”
MALONEY PRAISES OBAMACARE ON THIRD ANNIVERSARY: On the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which occurred on March 23, Congressmember Maloney praised the many benefits the law provides and said she “looks forward to celebrating more milestones and anniversaries in the years ahead”.
Maloney (D-Queens/Manhattan) stated, “Three years ago the United States dramatically expanded access to health care, outlawed discrimination in health insurance coverage, and started to bring down costs across the healthcare system by praising the Affordable Care Act.”
Maloney, describing the provisions of the far reaching act said, “Now 160,000 more young adults in New York have health coverage under their parents’ policies; seniors in our state have saved $407.7 million in prescription drug costs; and nearly 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries are now receiving free preventive services.”
Equally as important, she said, insurance companies are finally being held accountable. Lifetime limits on health insurance coverage, she noted, are now outlawed and insurers will be prohibited from charging women higher premiums than men, simply on the basis of gender; and the dreaded words “denied coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition” can be put in the dustbin of history.
“I’m proud to have supported the Affordable Care Act and I look forward to celebrating more milestones and anniversaries in the years ahead.”
STAVISKY PRAISES POWER BACKUP: After adoption of a law which will ensure that downstate gas stations must have an onsite back-up generator during a major storm, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky praised Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature for approving the new law.
“I commend my colleagues in the legislature and Governor Cuomo for their continued leadership as many are still getting back on their feet from this devastating natural disaster,” Stavisky said referring to Hurricane Sandy.
The lawmaker explained, “Equipping gas stations with back-up power capability will help in easing the minds of all New Yorkers while also taking steps to better prepare for the future.”
During the superstorm, motorists faced long waits to refill their gas tanks because the storm knocked out the electrical power, which is necessary to operate the pumps at gas stations. Cuomo came up with the idea to force station operators to equip their stations with generators that will keep pumps operating and serving the public who are otherwise prevented from driving their cars, which drivers need for so many purposes.
Under the new law, which was passed as part of the 2014 budget that was approved recently, the back-up generators must be kept on hand at any retail gasoline outlet located within one-half mile from an exit road on a major highway or an evacuation route, Stavisky (D-Whitestone) explained. The retail outlets affected are located in Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester, The Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, and Richmond Counties.
NOLAN’S ‘SAFE EXCAVATING’ BILL PASSES: A bill introduced by Assemblymember Catherine Nolan following a 2009 underground jet fuel pipe line in Sunnyside that endangered the community has passed the Assembly, she announced.
The legislation, developed by Nolan, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and CB2 Chairman Joseph Conley increases the penalties for negligence regarding underground pipelines, updating and increasing them from $1,000 to $5,000 for a first offense and from $7,500 to $15,000 for each succeeding offense.
“Bringing the penalties up-to-date would ensure the safety of Western Queens,” said Nolan (D–Ridgewood). She explained her bill “ensures that both excavators and operators follow the appropriate rules when they excavate a site involving underground pipelines”.
In 2009, Nolan recalled, an underground pipeline was damaged after a subcontractor, hired by the MTA, began drilling, causing a rupture which led to 500 gallons of jet fuel spilling onto streets in Sunnyside. The Fire Department responded immediately. Buckeye Pipeline, which owned and operated the pipeline also responded and the oil line was deactivated, stopping the leak.
ROZIC ENCOURAGES YOUNG PEOPLE TO SEEK PUBLIC OFFICE: Assemblymember Nily Rozic (D/WF-Fresh Meadows), serving her first term in the Assembly, feels there should be more young people (like herself) serving in public office. She said, “Young people are unrepresented in government and that fact is not going to change unless we recruit activists from our community and involve them in the electoral process. We need people from all walks of life to invest in their communities and in public service.”
Toward that end, Rozic recently moderated a panel during the 2013 Spring Somos Conference Youth Summit entitled, “Have You Considered Running For Office?” Teamed with the Working Families Party and Make the Road New York, they participated in the three-day conference in Albany, attended by community activists, leaders and residents from throughout the state to discuss important issues facing the Latino community.
Subjects discussed, Rozic said, were immigration reform, economic development, political empowerment, civic and political participation, education, youth issues and mental health. Participants were able, the lawmaker said, to get a better understanding of the importance of civic participation and information that there are resources to allow them to pursue a career in public service. Rozic also pointed out that there are currently 19 Hispanic members in the state legislature.
ONE CANDIDATE QUITS, ONE JOINS BAYSIDE COUNCIL RACE: Democratic State Committeeman Matthew Silverstein announced last week he is withdrawing as a candidate for the 19th district City Council seat. At the same time, we were informed that Paul Graziano, neighborhood activist and preservationist, has entered the race for that seat, seeking the Democratic Party nomination.
Already in the contest is Paul Vallone an attorney and president of the Clinton Democratic Club.
The Northeast Queens district includes the Auburndale, Kissena Park, and Broadway- Flushing areas, and also Bayside and Douglaston. The incumbent councilmember is Dan Halloran, a Republican Conservative, who is running for re-election.
At his campaign opening announcement recently, several community leaders pledged their organizations’ endorsements and support, citing his neighborhood protection efforts.
Silverstein, in his withdrawal announcement, cited family problems, but said he would still be involved in the council race. “I’m still searching for the candidate in this race who most embodies my ideals,” he said, and will announce a choice when he chooses one and will then “advocate for issues that are important to me”.
Meanwhile, Halloran announced that over 25,000 Queens residents, including Halloran, have signed up for the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) water and sewer line protection plan. The DEP also said 50,000 homeowners in NYC have signed up for the plan, which they estimate will save enrolled ratepayers approximately $2.8 million in unexpected cost of repairs to residential water and sewer lines in 2013. No details of the insurance plan were given.