Changes For Meals-on-Wheels; Plans For New Power
Amid criticism that the city Meals-on- Wheels program has degenerated into a one-dish-fits-all menu, Councilmember Paul Vallone feels there should be more choice for the city’s seniors who are served by the program.
Vallone (D–Bayside), who was sworn in to serve his first term last month, said recently there could be room for improvement in the program, so he plans to hold a hearing to explore possible changes.
Vallone, the chairman of the City Council Subcommittee on Senior Centers, feels the object should be to satisfy the diverse ethnic tastes represented by the seniors in Queens that are in the program. He said recently:
“For someone in an ethnic community that asks for a particular kind of meal, the senior center that can provide that meal is not allowed to give it to them.”
CLEAN ENERGY POWER LINE: Plans for a new power transmission line terminating in Astoria could be nearing approval by the federal government and a start of construction, according to a recent report.
The Quebec-to-Astoria power line, carrying “very clean energy”, according to an official of the construction company, would terminate at a Con Edison site at 20th Avenue. Local clean energy advocates, harsh critics of power plants that create high pollution levels, should welcome the power source.
State Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria) is on record as supporting the project because of the clean energy aspect, saying the cleaner energy generated from outside Astoria will lead to a cleaner atmosphere.
The project has been approved by the state Public Service Commission, the report said, and still needs to obtain permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Energy. Much of the underground cable will run underwater, through Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.
TRUMP SAYS HE’S GOV CANDIDATE IF THERE’S NO GOP PRIMARY: In typical Donald Trump style, he’s told state Republicans that he would run for governor against incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo in November if there were no other hopefuls that would challenge him in a primary election.
But that doesn’t seem likely.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino seems hellbent on running, as he has formed an exploratory committee, is inching toward making a formal announcement and has implied support from state Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos.
Presently, Cuomo is reportedly sitting on a $33 million campaign bankroll and is seen as the definite front-runner toward reelection. That was confirmed last week by a Quinnipiac University poll which found the governor leading Astorino and Trump by more than 30 percentage points each.
There had been some expectations that Trump might announce his candidacy at a Lincoln Day Dinner in Manhattan last week, but despite some candidate-sounding remarks and some show of support, none came.
But he sounded like a candidate in the keynote speech at the dinner. According to press reports, he outlined briefly his platform: he would make New York state “one of the great energy capitals in the world” and would allow hydraulic fracturing in the state, which would cut taxes for everyone.
But although there were encouraging words for Trump to run, he never uttered them. There were reports he met privately with state GOP leaders last week and they ultimately would not give in to his demands for “no primary” or he would not run.
Trump had some harsh words after the dinner, which suggest state Republican Chairman Edward Cox led the opposition to Trump’s conditions before he would agree to run.
Responding to questions after the dinner, Trump said he had received “almost unanimous” support to run. He stated, according to the New York Times: “They want me to do it. Other than Ed Cox, who doesn’t know how to win. He’s never won anything, so he doesn’t know how to win.”
GILLIBRAND SEEKS DELAY IN $ 8 B FOOD STAMP CUT: U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) has rounded up 71 other Democratic lawmakers to sign off on a letter asking the U.S. Agriculture secretary to delay an $8 billion food stamp cut recently enacted in a new law.
If they’re not successful in their plea to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, his department will start phasing in the drastic cuts in a few weeks.
But the letter the lawmakers sent him yesterday, pleads, “Our states need time to adjust their policies to accommodate this drastic cut and roll out the changes seamlessly.”
Gillibrand’s letter asks Vilsack to delay implementing the huge cut, which affects thousands of people in New York City, until next fall, a provision in the new law that cuts the $8 billion in food stamp benefits. The senator had been a vocal opponent of the cutback which will cost 160,000 New Yorkers an average of $90 a month in food stamps.
MENG WARNS OF NEW TELEPHONE SCAM: Congressmember Grace Meng warned New Yorkers in a release yesterday about a new telephone scam that targets immigrants, threatening them with deportation. Under the scheme, called “spoofing”, fake names and telephone numbers are displayed on recipients’ caller IDs in order to trick them into answering the phone, Meng said.
When unsuspecting individuals pick up the call, she said, the scammer poses as an official from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and asks for personal information, such as a Social Security number, passport number, or alien registration number. The con artist then says a payment is necessary to fix problems with their immigration record, or may threaten the victim with deportation, Meng said.
“If people receive a call from somebody claiming to be a USCIS official,” Meng said, “they should absolutely not provide any personal information. If the caller asks for money, they should hang up immediately. These are not government officials trying to correct a problem. They are con artists trying to rip people off.”
Anyone who has been a victim of the scam should report it to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant. gov/, or contact local law enforcement.
Constituents concerned about their immigration record can contact Meng’s office at 718-445-7860 or USCIS at www.uscis/gov.
PRE-K DEBATE PITS COUNCIL VS GOP SENATE: Reacting to state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ vow to bar a vote on broadening pre-K programs in New York City and statewide, as proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, Councilmembers Karen Koslowitz, Daniel Dromm and Costa Constantinides blasted Skelos back.
Dromm (D–Jackson Heights), a former school teacher, issued a statement declaring:
“New York City needs a dedicated source of funding for universal prekindergarten. For Dean Skelos to say he will prevent a vote on this issue is very short-sighted. Study after study has shown that children who receive early childhood education perform demonstrably better later in life than those who don’t receive it. It’s right to ask those who can afford it to pay their fair share of tax dollars. The mayor’s plan will help create a better, stronger New York City for generations to come.”
Koslowitz (D–Forest Hills/Rego Park) issued the following statement:
“What Senator Skelos fails to mention is the fact that Governor Cuomo’s offer does not provide a long-term solution to keeping universal pre-K in our schools. Mayor de Blasio’s plan ensures a sustainable future for these services in the city. As Chair of the Committee on State and Federal Legislation, I will continue to push Albany to move the mayor’s plan forward regardless of Senator Skelos’ threat to block a vote. The future of our children is worth it.”
Councilmember Costa Constantinides (D–Astoria) also issued a statement in support of universal pre-K, stating:
“I am proud to stand with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my council colleagues in support of universal pre-K. As the parent of a son who is currently enrolled in our public pre-K system, I understand the significant intellectual and emotional benefits that it provides to all children. Our city deserves a vote from the state senate to grant a dedicated funding stream for pre-K in New York City.”
KATZ PAYS RESPECTS TO CHRISTIAN DORAN: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz paid her respects to Christian Doran upon his recent death in the following statement:
“I was shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected death of Christian Doran, one of the co-founders of People for the Pavilion, which has been advocating for the preservation of the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows- Corona Park.
“I spoke with Mr. Doran just last Thursday during a walking tour I had organized of the Pavilion, and was very impressed with his dedication to making sure that this iconic structure is preserved for future generations to enjoy. I know these efforts will continue and I will work diligently to fulfill Mr. Doran’s wish that the Pavilion never be torn down. My deepest condolences go out to Mr. Doran’s family, friends and colleagues.”
MENG INTRODUCES PROTECT CEMETERIES ACT: Congressmember Grace Meng (D–Flushing) has introduced the Protect Cemeteries Act, which would make the desecration of cemeteries a violation of religious freedom. Meng said her action was prompted by many of her constituents. The bill would amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to include the vandalism of cemeteries as one of many “infringements of the right to freedom of religion”.
Meng explained, “The 1998 law, which seeks to combat religious persecution around the world, sets forth acts against religious freedom that the United States officially condemns, including the impeding of religious assembly, sponsoring slander campaigns, and prohibiting the pursuit of education on public office, among others.”
The lawmaker said her proposed law would “have a significant impact on many residents in Queens”, although it applies to cemeteries around the globe.
She pointed out, “The borough is home to many immigrants who have family members and ancestors buried in distant lands. In many cases, there are few relatives left in their homeland to look out for and preserve the graves, so it’s important that there be international standards and respect for them.”
Meng also noted, “Cemeteries are places of great significance to religion and families across the world, and oftentimes reflect the history and religious identity of their communities. Disturbingly, however, those who promulgate hate and intolerance increasingly do so through the desecration of cemeteries, which is why this legislation is necessary. Hate crimes must not be tolerated anywhere in our society, and that includes the desecration of cemeteries.”
Under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the U.S. can impose penalties on countries that obstruct religious freedom.These include slashing foreign aid, public condemnation, canceling official visits and cultural or scientific exchanges, and prohibiting import and export agreements, among others.
PERALTA LIKES IMMIGRANT ID CARD IDEA: State Senator Jose Peralta, denouncing Congress’ failure to pass an immigration law, readily embraced Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to issue identification cards to undocumented immigrants in New York City.
In a joint statement with state Senator Adriano Espaillat, Peralta (D–Jackson Heights) stated: “For immigrant families in New York City whose undocumented status leaves them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by unethical employers, landlords and scam artists, Mayor de Blasio’s municipal ID card will change lives for the better.
“Under our current system, immigrants’ inability to obtain a government ID excludes them from services most people take for granted, and makes it harder for them to provide for their children.”
However, the lawmakers expressed impatience with their Albany colleagues for failing to give immigrants the right to secure driver’s licenses. “Providing undocumented immigrants the opportunity to obtain driver’s licenses will ensure that all New York drivers are properly credentialed, educated and operating registered, inspected and insured vehicles, making our roads safer and benefiting all New Yorkers.”
ADDABBO AGREES WITH REGENTS ON COMMON CORE: In a statement issued by state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., the Howard Beach lawmaker agrees with the state Board of Regents decision to allow more discussion and consideration before common core principles are adopted.
Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) stated: “I truly believe the proposed changes to the implementation of the Common Core standards delivered by the Board of Regents are a direct result of the outcry heard from parents, teachers and administrators.
“We should consider these proposals in light of the major, valid concerns raised and the goal of providing the best educational environment and opportunity for our children.
“The issues related to the rollout of the Common Core standards and its effect on the curriculum and testing of our students is far from over.”
DROMM OPPOSES MALCOLM X BAN: Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights/Elmhurst) declared in a statement last week that he opposed Flushing H.S.’ ban on students writing reports on Malcolm X.
“I am very upset,” Dromm stated, “that any student should be stopped from writing a report about Malcolm X or any other figure so essential to the history of civil rights. This sort of needless academic censorship is reminiscent of what happened in 2012, when Kameron Slade tried to deliver a speech on marriage equality at P.S. 195 in Queens. Rather than quashing students’ intellectual curiosity, we need to encourage them to explore and learn from our country’s complex and fascinating history.”