2013-05-22 / Political Page

FAA Agrees To Re-Evaluate Flight Paths Over NE Queens

Under pressure from four Queens lawmakers, who cited a “substantial rise in airplane noise… impacting the quality of life in Northeast Queens”, the FAA has agreed “to do a good-faith, step-by-step review of the decision-making process used in approving the new flight patterns over Queens” in February 2012.

Those flight patterns from LaGuardia Airport were initially approved on a sixmonth trial basis, but last December, the agency announced that the new routes would be permanent, according to the four lawmakers.

The quartet—Congressmembers Grace Meng and Steve Israel, state Senator Tony Avella and Assemblymember Edward Braunstein all Democrats—charged:

“The substantial rise in airplane noise has negatively impacted the quality of life in Northeast Queens, and has sparked protests from area residents who have noticed a marked increase in the frequency of flights.”


The quartet—Congressmembers Grace Meng and Steve Israel, state Senator Tony Avella and Assemblymember Edward Braunstein all Democrats—charged: “The substantial rise in airplane noise has negatively impacted the quality of life in Northeast Queens, and has sparked protests from area residents who have noticed a marked increase in the frequency of flights.” The quartet—Congressmembers Grace Meng and Steve Israel, state Senator Tony Avella and Assemblymember Edward Braunstein all Democrats—charged: “The substantial rise in airplane noise has negatively impacted the quality of life in Northeast Queens, and has sparked protests from area residents who have noticed a marked increase in the frequency of flights.” Israel, whose Long Island district took on a portion of Queens in last year’s reapportionment, stated, “Residents of Queens deserve to live without the constant barrage of airplane noise that they’ve experienced since the FAA approved new flight patterns without taking into account community feedback. I am pleased that the FAA has agreed to form a committee to review this issue as a result of our meeting… I hope it results in a more balanced plan that will alleviate the noise pollution for our constituents.”

Meng (Flushing) also thanked the FAA, saying, “Agreeing to work with the community to review the new flight patterns, and taking another look at the environmental assessment process in the step by step process we urged, is a move in the right direction. Although more needs to be done, this is a positive move that can hopefully have an effect on the increased airplane noise that Queens residents have been forced to endure.”

Avella (Northeast Queens) stated : “This is another step in the process of reviewing this issue and bringing relief to the communities that have been inundated with excessive airplane noise. I appreciate Representatives Israel’s and Meng’s assistance in reaching this point in the process.”

Braunstein (Bayside) also thanked Israel and Meng “for using their influence to push the FAA to fully explain the rationale used to determine that the new flight pattern was legal. I am confident that an exhaustive review of the FAA’s process will reveal that the agency cut corners in its effort to justify implementing the new departure procedures.”

JFK DEMS FORUM FOR BP HOPEFULS: One of the strongest Democratic clubs in Queens, the JFK Democratic Club in Kew Gardens Hills, will host a candidates forum tomorrow night, featuring the six Democrats who are seeking the party’s nomination for the Queens borough president’s office.

The winner of the nomination will be decided in the September primary, and because there doesn’t appear to be any Republican opposition, the Democratic primary will in effect be electing the next borough president, succeeding incumbent Helen Marshall.

The candidates are, in alphabetical order: state Senator Tony Avella (D–Northeast Queens); Councilmember Leroy Comrie (D–Jamaica); Barry Grodenchik, a former deputy borough president; Melinda Katz, a former city councilmember and assemblymember, state Senator Jose Peralta (D–Jackson Heights); and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria).

The JFK club, headed by former Councilmember Morton Povman and his coleader, Charlotte Scheman, can be expected to give the candidates a thorough workout because it’s a well-informed group and well versed on the issues.

The meeting will be held at the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills, 71-25 Main St., Kew Gardens Hills, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Last week, the latest rundown on each candidate’s campaign finance efforts was released by the city Campaign Finance Board, and Vallone is leading the race comfortably, with Katz a respectable second, and only Peralta in contention, with the others far behind.

According to one published report, Vallone stated he has $814,345 on hand; Katz $334,056; Peralta $138,184; Comrie $37,978; Grodenchik $72,038, and Avella $53,423.

Katz issued a statement saying she had raised more than $80,000 during this filing period (ending May 15), “with a grand total of almost $490,000 to date, including matching funds…” The statement did not list any expenditures.

Katz stated, “This campaign has always been powered by a diverse coalition of grassroots donors across our city. Supporters are stepping up from every corner of Queens to help because they believe in our campaign to create jobs, help seniors and improve public education across New York.”

Peralta also issued a statement, saying he had turned in “another strong finance report”, and that he had raised “more than $300,000 overall”.

“We’re not just raising the resources needed to compete and win, we’re raising the issues that matter most to the people of Queens,” Peralta stated. “We’re laying out a plan for the future that is resonating with donors and voters throughout the borough.”

None of the other four Democratic Queens borough president hopefuls issued any statement regarding their campaign money collections or the most recent period report.

NO WORD ABOUT A WEINER ANNOUNCEMENT: After that spike of activity a few weeks ago about former Congressmember Anthony Weiner entering the race for mayor, none has been announced and no indication from Weiner that an announcement is planned.

But there was an interesting squib in one newspaper that, rather than the usual live press conference, Weiner was “expected to announce his jump into the mayor’s race in a video rather than in person”, according to sources.

“The campaign kick off, via video, is expected next week,” per the squib which appeared in last Friday’s New York Daily News.

The reason for using the video, rather than the in-person announcement, the story said, was because “a video is an easy, focused and safe option, opposed to an event rollout where not every single thing can be controlled”.

This would make sense, from Weiner’s standpoint, since he might get questions about his past sexting.

The video announcement seemed to be backed up in the News story as it also reported Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, had been seen being videotaped sitting on the stoop of a house in Park Slope, where Weiner once lived. Why not film a major announcement about running for mayor from a stoop to recall your humble beginnings.

LOPEZ A QUEENS COUNCILMEMBER? Disgraced Assemblymember Vito Lopez, who resigned under fire on Monday from the Brooklyn seat he had held for almost 30 years, may possibly seek a Queens/Brooklyn City Council seat as he tries to pick up the pieces of the career he left behind in Albany.

Reports from the state capital say he may go after the seat presently held by Councilmember Diana Reyna, which is made up of a portion of Ridgewood with the major part being the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

Lopez would have a major advantage over Reyna or anyone else, because the former Brooklyn Democratic boss still has a small army of cronies who will fuel any election plans he may have.

CROWLEY SEEKS TO RENEW SANCTIONS ON BURMA: Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) has moved to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, legislation that would continue the ban on imports from Burma, particularly gems.

Crowley explained, “I remain very concerned about human rights violations in Burma, including violence against ethnic nationalities, the use of rape as a weapon of war and brutal attacks on Muslim minorities— including women and children.

“I supported the administration’s initial policy of ‘action for action’, and I have urged them to not waiver from that policy. My focus is on keeping the ban on the import of gems in place.”

Each year, Crowley noted, Congress must vote to renew certain sanctions on Burma, as part of the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act, enacted in 2003, to strengthen existing U.S. sanctions by banning imports from Burma, including gems.

In January, 2012, Crowley became the first member of the U.S. House of Representatives to officially travel to Burma in over 12 years.

SHAFRAN ENDORSEMENTS: In the 19th City Council District in the Bayside/Whitestone area, Austin Shafran, one of five Democrats running for the seat, announced endorsements from several labor unions. Included were those from the electrical workers, communications workers and plumbers’ unions.

Previously he was endorsed by the New York City Central Labor Council, the Teamsters Joint Council 16, and Local 32 BJ SEIU, among others, and also the Working Families Party.

Other Democrats seeking the seat are Paul Graziano, former Assemblymember John Duane and Paul Vallone.

A Republican, Dennis Saffran of Douglaston, has also announced his candidacy in the 19th council district. Republican Dan Halloran is the incumbent, but he decided not to seek re-election.

Still in the 19th, candidate John Duane reports he has raised $170,980 from 291 contributors.

SUMMER JOBS FOR 18,000 TEENS, CUOMO ANNOUNCES: More than 18,000 teenagers throughout New York state will have jobs this summer through the state’s Summer Youth Employment Program, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week.

The jobs were made possible as $25 million was distributed by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) to all 57 counties and New York City to help bring youth into the workforce, acquire skills that can help them improve in school, and propel them to greater educational and career achievements.

Cuomo hailed the program as “offering a great opportunity for employment to teenagers and young adults in underserved communities across New York state. Introducing youth to their first job means they will gain valuable skills and experience that can help them achieve success in the future.”

The program is available to youths ages 14 to 20, whose families are recipients of public assistance, or have family income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $38,180 for a family of three. Youths interested in participating should contact their local department of social services today, as the deadline was extended to May 22.

OTDA Acting Commissioner Kristen M. Proud stated, “Jobs are crucial to help teach teens responsibility, good work habits, budgeting and how to cooperatively accomplish goals in a business setting. Governor Cuomo enthusiastically supports the Summer Youth Employment Program because every year it gives employment opportunities and skills to teens who seek a brighter future.”

CRIME-MAPPING WEB SITE CREATED: Mayor Bloomberg last week signed into law a bill to create an interactive crimemapping Web site. At the bill signing, the mayor stated:

“For each block-face in the city, the map shall display for each class of crime the aggregate monthly, yearly and year-to-date totals for the current year and most recent prior years. The map shall be searchable by address, zip code and patrol precinct and be made available no later than one month after the crime complaint was filed.”

The Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications will create and maintain the site, the mayor said.

Queens councilmembers who co-sponsored the bill are: Leroy Comrie (St. Albans, Julissa Ferreras (Corona), Peter Vallone Jr. (Astoria), Jimmy Van Bramer (Sunnyside), James Gennaro (Fresh Meadows), all Democrats, and Eric Ulrich (Ozone Park), a Republican.

BRAUNSTEIN GETS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN’S POST: Assemblymember Edward Braunstein (D–Bayside) has been appointed to serve as chairman of the Assembly’s Subcommittee on Trust and Estates. In his new position, the lawmaker said, his subcommittee and the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee work to protect the interests and assets of senior citizens throughout

New York state.

Braunstein is also a member of the committees on Aging, Cities, Insurance, Small Business, Judiciary and Transportation.

GILLIBRAND EYES STUDENT DEBT: Alarmed over the crushing debt burden carried by millions of students, especially those in New York, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is submitting a new bill this week which she hopes will relieve the debt burden.

“More city graduates and middle class families are burdened by student loans than ever before and are struggling to repay a higher amount of debt than ever before,” Gillibrand said. Her solution would be a new law lowering interest rates from above four percent to refinance their federal loans at a fixed rate of four percent. Actually, she said, many students hold loans set at a rate higher than six percent.

MENG SEEKS BACKLOG OF VETS’ DISABILITY CLAIMS: Veterans in Queens are forced to wait a staggering average of nearly 500 days for their benefits, said Congressmember Grace Meng (D–Flushing) That’s one of the longest wait times in the entire country, she protested.

Hoping to alleviate that situation, Meng has introduced legislation to eliminate the massive backlog of disability claims that veterans are faced with.

“Forcing disabled veterans to wait such long periods of time to receive the vital benefits they require is disgraceful and unconscionable,” the lawmaker declared. “Our veterans and returning troops who valiantly served our country must not continue to be subjected to these shameful and inexcusable delays—they deserve better.”

Meng said the backlog in claims is attributable to several factors, including an increase in veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; extending additional benefits to Vietnam-era vets; a lack of adequate staffing; and an antiquated claim system that is not computerized.

Presently, she said, more than 878,000 veterans have disability claims waiting to be processed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), nearly 593,000 of which exceed the agency’s processing goal of 125 days. Nationwide, the average time for the VA to process claims is an astounding 310 days. However, in Queens, she said, and the rest of New York, the average wait time is a stunning 499 days, one of the slowest in the nation for benefit claims.

PUSH TO PASS ‘ALICE’S LAW’: Assemblymember David Weprin has been trying to pass Alice’s Law, a bill named after a Queens grandmother, Alice Ross, who was killed 10 years ago in a staged auto accident. There’s hope this may be the year, said Weprin (D–Little Neck). The bill, which would make staged accidents stand-alone crimes, passed the state senate last week, and Weprin is working to make sure the same version passes both houses this year and goes to Governor Cuomo for his signature.

Weprin joined last week with a driversafety group, New Yorkers Stand Against Insurance Fraud (NYSAIF), to give the bill an extra push toward passage. Staged auto accidents, like the one which killed Alice Ross, exploit the state’s no-fault laws and cost New York drivers an estimated $1 billion a year in extra auto insurance costs.

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