2013-07-31 / Political Page

Vallone Law Grants Some Sandy Victims Tax Rebates For Damaged Homes

Hundreds of the city’s families whose homes suffered the most severe damage during Hurricane Sandy would receive tax rebates from the city under a bill sponsored by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. which passed the City Council last week.

Under the proposed bill, which must still be considered by Mayor Bloomberg, owner of nearly all red-tagged homes, structures that were seriously damaged and considered unsafe after the storm, will get the rebates, Vallone (D–Astoria) said.

The amount of the rebates was not disclosed, but following Sandy, residents whose homes were seriously damaged and deemed unsafe were still on the tax rolls, thus leaving those homeowners subject to the city’s property taxes.

Adding insult to injury, these homeowners were required to go through the arduous process of applying for rebates in order to receive assistance, Vallone explained. But under his proposed rebate law, that burden will be removed and the city will figure out the rebate amount and pay out the rebates automatically, he said.

Commenting on the homeowners’ plight, Vallone said, “It is sad that we even had to go through the process of passing this law just to help these residents that have suffered so much. I am proud to partner with Councilmember James Oddo (R–Staten Island), and pass this commonsense legislation, which will help so many Queens residents deal with an example of bureaucracy at its worst and get them their own money back so they can rebuild.”

On another matter, Vallone introduced legislation requiring that an animal shelter must be built in every borough, which actually involves only Queens and The Bronx, which do not presently have shelters. Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island do have shelters, but Queens and The Bronx only have drop-off centers.

Vallone, who is a candidate for Queens borough president this year, stated:

“Without a new bill, it will rain cats and dogs before the city provides equal care to all the animals of the five boroughs. Our existing animal shelters are overcrowded and thousands of animals are being euthanized yearly. This bill not only levels the playing field for Queens and The Bronx, but will help save countless animals each year.”

Vallone’s bill has him following in the footsteps of his father, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., who in 2000 introduced and passed a law requiring shelters in every borough. The present lawmaker said about his father’s bill, “After a year of inaction, and with the city fearing an impending court ruling, the original law was altered to require a shelter in only three of the five boroughs—allowing the city to avoid legal action by keeping the status quo.”

Vallone, is opposed by former Councilmember Melinda Katz and state Senator Tony Avella in the race to be crowned the Democratic candidate for Queens borough president—which virtually gives any one of the three the office since there’s no other party opposition in November’s general election with the exception of Tony Arcabascio, who has recently thrown his hat into the ring.

In addition to announcing the tax rebate for some Hurricane Sandy victims and proposing animal shelters in every borough, Vallone also reported he had introduced a bill requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide community boards with notification at least 45 days before the installation or removal of a traffic calming device in their district. This would allow CBs “to provide input and alert a community about a change. Under the bill, the DOT would also have to notify the CB 45 days prior to conducting a traffic study, Vallone said.

Vallone explained he introduced the legislation “to prevent the further proliferation of traffic lights and signs by the DOT without any input or request from a community.” He said the DOT has disregarded community requests from across Queens for traffic improvements, including one for a light on Hobart Street.

However, he said the department recently installed a traffic light in Vallone’s district at the request of one of their own employees—without input from Community Board 1 or residents.

“The DOT ignores dozens of requests from communities across Queens, but when one of their employees wants something, it pops up overnight. The department needs to stop putting lights and signs up in secret and start consulting the people who know these streets best—the local residents and community board,” Vallone declared.

WEINER BATTERED, BUT STILL IN IT: After a week of incessant press coverage of his continued sexting exploits, a slight fall in the polls and demands to quit the mayor’s race, Anthony Weiner is doggedly hanging tough with only 41 days left in the campaign until Primary Day on September 10, when Democrats will choose their candidate for mayor—and Republicans do likewise.

Weiner, reportedly down to his last $5.7 million in campaign cash, is busy attending campaign stops and preparing campaign ads, while people close to President Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton have advised him to withdraw from the contest. This was after the latest chapters in the sexting scandal spurred the other mayoral opponents— Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio and John Liu—to tell him to fold. But it all fell on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, Quinn got a big boost from the family of the late Congressmember Geraldine Ferraro. On the 29th anniversary of her inspirational speech accepting the vice presidential nom- ination, husband John Zaccaro, daughters Donna Zaccaro Ullman and Laura Zaccaro Lee, and son John Zaccaro Jr. announced their “commitment towards breaking new barriers” by supporting City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in her race to be the first woman mayor of New York City.

Ferraro’s husband John Zaccaro, a Manhattan real estate firm owner, stated:

“Gerry was a strong supporter of Christine Quinn. She admired her work on behalf of New York and was enthusiastic about her candidacy. We are proud as her family, to announce our support for Christine Quinn for mayor. Just as my wife promised to ‘pass on a stronger, more just America’, we know that Christine Quinn as mayor will pass on a stronger, more just New York City.”

Quinn accepted the endorsement, saying, ‘Gerry Ferraro was a trailblazer who paved the way for generations of women and girls. As a young woman, I watched all that Gerry fearlessly conquered and achieved with great admiration and respect… I will work each and every day to live up to Geraldine’s incredible legacy, and continue to deliver results for the city we have both loved.”

CATSIMATIDIS ON CRIME STATS: Republican mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis last week lauded the anti-crime policies of Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and defended the city’s stop-and-frisk policy.

“This weekend’s shootings are common-sense reasons for stop and frisk. Kelly and the NYPD have done a great job in keeping our city safe. As Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday, crime is down by 29 percent since 2012. Clearly, the NYPD is doing a great job… but we are at a critical crossroads for public safety in New York. If we let the career politicians take over our police department, gun violence…will become the norm, rather than the exception. I have repeatedly stated that I would like to keep Commissioner Kelly on the job when I am elected mayor and I will work tirelessly to continue the police policies that have led to a significant reduction in crime.”

LHOTA BASHES ELECTION BOARD: Joe Lhota, who is opposing Catsimatidis for the Republican nomination for mayor, urged the city’s Board of Elections to “stop stonewalling the Department of Investigation (DOI) and fully cooperate with its probe of the [Election] Board’s constant mishandling of elections and wasteful patronage positions”.

Lhota said the DOI “serves as a watchdog of taxpayer dollars and should be afforded full access to conduct its probe into the long-term dysfunction that is occurring at the Board of Elections”.

Lhota, a former Deputy Mayor under Mayor Giuliani and MTA chairman, declared, “The most fundamental tenet of our democracy is the integrity of our elections and this investigation will help ensure it is protected, along with the public’s money.”

BLOOMBERG, THOMPSON ON ‘FRISK’ ISSUE: Last week Mayor Bloomberg, as expected, vetoed the City Council approved bills to enable New Yorkers to sue over police “frisks” and to create an inspector general over the NYPD.

Also last week, Democratic mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson, the only black candidate, made his strongest comment against police profiling of New Yorkers.

Judging from the large majority of votes the City Council cast on the two NYPD bills, the mayor faces a serious test in sustaining his vetoes.

He also faces the prospect, if the vetoes are overridden, of seeing vast changes in the way the NYPD does its job. For the residents of the city, those who favored the way the department functions and kept the city’s crime rates down may be dissatisfied to see an end to those days.

Thompson, who usually does not discuss racial issues publicly, did an about face and clearly denounced the NYPD’s methods of operation, especially in profiling blacks. He denounced these policies as being driven by police officers’ racially based suspicions when they are dealing with blacks and Hispanics, and said these suspicions were the same as those that drove George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, that resulted in Martin’s death.

Politically, Thompson’s speech, which was well received in the black community, judging from the reaction of the church audience, could be a strong factor in improving his chances of grabbing the black vote in the 41 days left in the campaign.

Also if the mayor’s veto is overridden, it could strengthen Thompson’s chances in the election.

ACKERMAN ENDORSES SHAFRAN: Former Congressmember Gary Ackerman, always a favorable factor when making endorsements in local elections, came out in support of Austin Shafran in the Democratic primary in the 19th Council district in Northeast Queens.

Shafran, a one-time member of Ackerman’s staff, is in a field which includes ex- Assemblymember John Duane, Paul Graziano, an urban planner; Paul Vallone; and Chrissy Voskerichian, chief of staff to the incumbent Councilmember Dan Halloran.

MARSHALL TOUTS HURRICANE GUIDE: The Ready New York Hurricane Guide, the city’s official handbook for hurricane preparedness, is in print and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall is urging the borough’s residents to pick up a copy because hurricane season is already here so soon after being buffeted by Superstorm Sandy.

Marshall reminded everyone: “Our area has been hit by Hurricanes Irene and Sandy within the last two years, with Hurricane Sandy being especially deadly and damaging. Although it may seem unlikely that we would get hit with a hurricane for a third year in a row, in reality there is nothing stopping another hurricane from striking us again this year, or within the very near future.

“That’s why it is very important for everyone in our city to read and understand the material included in the Ready New York Hurricane Guide, which outlines practical steps that New Yorkers should take before, during and after a major coastal storm.”

Marshall said the Hurricane Guide is published by the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which has a mandate to help New Yorkers plan for their safety in the event of another hurricane or other natural disaster.

The printed guide is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Haitian, Creole, Italian, Korean, Polish, Arabic, Urdu and Yiddish. It can also be obtained in an English language audio format.

Copies of the free guide can be ordered by calling 311, or by downloading from the OEM Web site, www.nyc.gov/oem.

The guide features an updated city map that depicts six Hurricane Evacuation Zones. These six zones (up from the three zones the city was divided into last year) encompasses about three million residences, or 600,000 more residents than were included in the three evacuation zones last year. The new map shows that 37 percent of all city homes are located within one of the six new Hurricane Evacuation Zones.

Also included, Marshall said, is information on hurricane hazards and a list of basic storm terminology, along with instructions on what to do when ordered to evacuate. In addition, it contains lists of items that should be included in an emergency supply kit and in a “Go Bag” (a collection of items a person should bring along during a sudden evacuation.)

As a closer, Marshall noted, “Hurricane season runs through November 30, so it is still not too late to pick up a Hurricane Guide and learn about what you and your family members need to do to get through a major storm unscathed.”

ADDABBO BACKS GAMBLING ED FOR YOUTHS: Citing “even greater evidence” of gambling among the state’s adolescents, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. announced that a bill to provide compulsive gambling education for young people in grades four through 12 has been passed by both houses in Albany and now is being considered by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) said the evidence of problem gambling among youths was reported by the NYS Council on Problem Gambling.

The lawmaker stated, “Even though gambling by those under 18 years of age is illegal in New York state, 86 percent of the adolescents participating in a recent survey by the Council on Problem Gambling said they had engaged in gambling at some point. Of those, 75 percent said they had gambled in the past year, and 15 percent participated in some form of gambling on a weekly basis.

“Whether it’s buying lottery tickets, betting on horse or dog races, or illegally playing the slots in a casino, all of this behavior can represent a slippery slope for young people who might not understand the dangers of developing an addiction to gambling. Awareness and education are key to stemming this problem.”

Under the legislation, Addabbo explained, the state Education Department (SED) and Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) would work together to create a curriculum focusing on compulsive gambling which schools could opt to provide to students in grades four through 12, possibly in connection with Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programs. The curricula would be made available for use by schools on both of the state agency Web sites.

Addabbo, who is the ranking Democratic member of the senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, said that providing more education and assistance to curb compulsive gambling is “especially important pending the referendum to be placed before voters this November that would permit full casino gambling in New York state”.

Addabbo emphasized, “If this ballot proposition is approved by New Yorkers, table games would be allowed throughout the state and more opportunities will exist for individuals and families to be touched by gambling addictions.”

That being the case, he noted, “… we also have to keep an eye on the potential downsides of increasing gaming activity”.

This would apply to the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Raceway in his district, he said. It had brought many benefits to the community, he acknowledged, as well as the entire state, “but we still need to ensure that gaming, both in Queens and throughout New York is carried out both responsibly and legally—preventing minors from gaining access and helping to ensure that the ranks of compulsive gamblers do not increase”.

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