2015-03-25 / Political Page

Council Leaders Present Budget, Legislative Agenda

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark- Viverito, joined by colleagues State and Federal Legislation Committee Chair Karen Koslowitz, Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras, and Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, last week released the council’s State Budget and Legislative Agenda for the coming year.

The priorities range from extending mayoral control over the city’s school system, giving New York City the authority to set and enforce labor laws and legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana, and receiving state funding for the Housing Authority (NYCHA).

Other priorities include passage of the DREAM Act, Early and Instant Runoff Voting, Paid Family Leave, Enhancing Affordable Housing Laws and Combatting Human Trafficking.

Speaker Mark-Viverito stated, “The New York City Council is dedicated to advocating for policies that will uplift and strengthen all New Yorkers. Our State Budget and Legislative Agenda reflects the diverse needs of New Yorkers and the Council’s commitment to standing up and fighting for New York City. From calling for state support of NYCHA capital funds to supporting paid family leave and advocating for our city’s right to set and enforce labor laws, the priorities outlined in our state agenda will make New York City a more just place for all who live here.”

City Countil Speaker Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Koslowitz City Countil Speaker Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Koslowitz Councilwoman Koslowitz (D–Forest Hills), stated: “I look forward to traveling to Albany with Speaker Mark-Viverito and my fellow legislators to promote an intelligent, comprehensive plan for the betterment of all residents of New York City. I especially want to convey to the upstate state legislators what a catastrophe it would be for New York City if rent regulations were allowed to expire.”

Councilman Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) said, “New York City deserves its fair share. Working with the State legislature we can address the inequalities that exist and effectively improve the lives of all residents living in our City. Under the State Budget and Legislative Agenda we are looking to implement, we will make New York City more affordable, increase wages for workers, and empower more New Yorkers to lift themselves up into the middle class.

Councilwoman Ferreras (D–Corona) stated: “My colleagues and I are committed to fighting for the needs of New York City’s most underserved residents. Our State Budget and Legislative Agenda is focused on giving everyone a fair chance and equal treatment in an increasingly disparate city. Prioritizing affordable housing, passage of the DREAM Act and paid family leave will ensure individuals of all means are able to lead better work, school, and home lives and pursue greater opportunities.”

PERALTA BACKS CONGESTION PRICING PLAN: State Senator Jose Peralta announced last week his support for the congestion pricing plan proposed by MOVE NY, which would impose tolls on the East River bridge crossings but reduce them on the outer-bridge crossings.

Peralta (D–East Elmhurst) added that the plan would also generate $1.5 billion in net revenue annually that would be invested in improving the city’s transit system and its deteriorating network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Actually, he said, three-quarters of the funds expected to be raised would go toward upgrading and renovating mass transit, with the remainder to be invested in roads and bridges.

Also, the lawmaker said, by “harmonizing all tolls into Manhattan’s Central Business District (CBD), by reducing daily traffic gridlock, it would decrease air pollution and eliminate ‘bridge shopping,’ reduce asthma rates and vehicle accidents in the communities around the free crossings.”

Peralta said he would encourage Queens residents and all New Yorkers to closely review the Move NY Fair Plan. He noted that alternatives for raising much-needed money to upgrade our transportation system are much less feasible, such as increasing taxes by 52 cents a gallon or restoring the commuter tax.

He said the plan calls for a $2.50 toll reduction each way on the RFK, Throgs Neck, Verrazano and Whitestone bridges, and a $1 toll reduction at the Cross Bay, Marine Parkway and the Henry Hudson bridges. Thus, Queens bridge tolls will go down in price,” he said, but didn’t list what the East River bridge tolls would be.

“I believe this plan makes sense and is reasonable and fair,” he stated. “I urge Queens residents and all New Yorkers to review the details of the Move NY plan and the many benefits it would provide our city. In evaluating the plan, other options for additional revenue are unacceptable.”

Move NY’s campaign director, Alex Matthiessen, stated: “Senator Peralta has been an early and stalwart champion of the plan and the grassroots effort to develop solutions for the city’s many transportation problems that have been ignored for too long. While he understands that there is no such thing as a perfect plan, Senator Peralta also understands that the Move NY Fair Plan tackles a number of problems in one fell swoop: reducing traffic, bringing toll fairness to the region’s drivers, and generating the funds needed to bring our transportation infrastructure into the 21st Century.

And like all officials supporting the plan, he is determined to make sure those investments benefit his constituents – in this case, the residents of Queens, particularly those who live in underserved communities.”

Peralta added: “Tolls and fares have increased four times in the last six years, and the latest tolls and fares hike will take effect March 22, 2015. “For far too long, tolls on some bridges have grown year after year, while others have seen dwindling maintenance at the cost of a free ride.”

“This proposal would fix inequities as some New Yorkers are now paying more than their fair share. This is a chance to bring greater equity in the costs borne by commuters as we can improve our transportation infrastructure and reduce traffic for years to come.” This proposal would benefit drivers, riders and pedestrians as fewer vehicles will be traveling to, from, and in Manhattan’s central business district.”

GIANARIS URGES MTA BOARD TO O.K. PERMANENT Q 103 ROUTE EXPANSION: State Senator Michael Gianaris last week urged the Transit Committee of the MTA board to permanently approve changes to the Q 103 bus route that have been in effect on a trial basis since last June. Gianaris had requested the increased service at that time.

The MTA Bus Committee was scheduled to present the Q 103’s expanded span of services to the MTA Board this past Monday, and will also recommend that the service expansion be made permanent. Gianaris has long advocated for expanded hours and weekend service on the Q 103, which links the waterfronts of Astoria and Long Island City.

The Gazette will report on the results of Monday’s meeting in next weeks’ issue.

In making his request to the MTA Board, Gianaris (D–Western Queens) issued the following statement:

“All of us in Western Queens have known that the growing communities of Astoria and Long Island City deserve better bus service, so it was gratifying when the MTA began the trial expansion of the Q 103. Now the MTA has the opportunity to make this expansion permanent and I urge the board to do so immediately. Long Island City and Astoria, with our wonderful restaurants, parks and cultural institutions, are destination neighborhoods for New Yorkers from all five boroughs and the Q 103 is a lifeline in terms of connecting these areas. We deserve weekend service and expanded weekday service, and we deserve them on a permanent basis.

The trial expansion extended weekly Q 103 service and it finally added service on the weekends. Though Gianaris said he believes even more bus service can be provided throughout Western Queens, he said he is glad this service expansion is on the verge of being made permanent after many years of advocacy.

FERRARO STARS IN WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH SHOWCASE: The late Geraldine Ferraro will be brought to the forefront this Friday as Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley stages a Women’s History Month celebration featuring a documentary showing of Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way, about the life of the first female Vice Presidential nominee of a major political party.

As part of Crowley’s program, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) will be the program’s special guest, and Donna Zaccaro, Ferraro’s daughter, who produced the film, will be quizzed about it. The program will run from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Ferraro’s place in America’s political history was secured in 1984, just six years after she won a surprise victory to get elected to Congress. But in that six years, she made a great impression and in Washington was selected to run for vice president of the US on Walter Mondale’s ticket. However, their balloon burst when Ronald Reagan won the election.

Appropriately, Crowley (D–Glendale) arranged for the program to be held at PS 290 The A.C.E. Academy at the Geraldine Ferraro Campus, 55-20 Metropolitan Ave., Ridgewood.

NOLAN: ‘CROSS HARBOR PLAN WRONG FOR WESTERN QUEENS’: The Cross Harbor Plan, which would create freight transportation options utilizing water-based alternatives to replace the present time-consuming truck routes over city streets and bridges, is still being batted around by transportation planners, environmentalists and public officials.

One of the latter, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood), has already made up her mind, saying: “The Cross Harbor plan is simply unacceptable to our local communities in Western Queens.”

Nolan said in a statement that the Cross Harbor Freight Program’s Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which she received recently, attempts to reduce traffic by listing 10 alternatives that are placed in two categories, five for freight alternatives and five for water-based options.

Both civic and community groups, including Queens Community Board 5, have “expressed concerns” about many of these transportation alternatives, she said.

Nolan explained, “One of these plans would include the construction of a rail tunnel between Greenville Yards in New Jersey and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. This proposal would severely impact our community by moving traffic northward to the Fresh Pond Rail Yard [around Middle Village], which is already running at capacity and is currently the only yard that connects Long Island with the rest of the country. Simply put, this plan would reduce truck traffic for the rest of New York City, but would shift that burden onto our local communities. This is totally unfair.”

Nolan continues: “The construction of the rail tunnel would also bring additional trains and possibly an intermodal facility in Maspeth, where goods would be offloaded between trucks and trains, with no plans to protect the surrounding community from the severe impacts.”

The lawmaker emphasized: “I am very concerned about how the increased train and truck traffic would impact Ridgewood, Maspeth, Glendale and Long Island City.

Nolan said the Port Authority should be properly motivated by the need to reduce highway congestion and eliminate traffic delays in the region. “I believe it is critical that the alternatives/solutions not further erode the quality of life for the residents in our local communities.”

Nolan concluded, “I urge the Port Authority to re-think these alternatives and come up with a real plan that reduces congestion, the production of greenhouse gases, upgrades our infrastructure, and ensures that the quality of life for our community is not seriously diminished. Our Western Queens communities deserve better.”

ROZIC GETS TRANSIT BUDGET CONFERENCE POST: Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D–Fresh Meadows) has been appointed by state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to the Transportation Budget Conference Committee that will negotiate transportation issues with other committee members for this year’s budget. Rozic responded to the appointment by saying:

“I am grateful that Speaker Heastie has created a more inclusive budget process that takes into account priorities of districts statewide. Improving transportation both in Eastern Queens and throughout New York State is one of my top priorities. I look forward to advocating for growing and stable funding for the MTA, supporting statewide bus rapid transit infrastructure and increasing funding for New York City streets and highway improvement.”

For Rozic, who was elected in 2012, this will be her first budget conference committee service.

ADDABBO REPORTS ON EDUCATION BUDGET DISCUSSIONS: Mindful that his constituents keep close tabs on schools and education matters, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) posted this brief note on how budget committee discussions are progressing:

“I believe the state legislature is naturally passionate about our students getting the best education they can and providing teachers the resources to give that. During upcoming budget negotiations, it’s possible the issues under the education umbrella will ignite that passion and create heated debate. This topic will lay the battleground, but I am optimistic we will emerge with effective solutions to create a viable teacher evaluation system, as well as a reasonable means to educate our students.”

ADDABBO UPDATE ON FEMA REVIEW OF SANDY CLAIMS: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) issued the following brief statement after FEMA officials announced a further review of insurance claims:

“FEMA’s announcement it will be conducting a review for Sandy victims’ insurance claims is a major development, but is just the first step in ensuring my constituents and everyone affected get the recovery funding they are entitled to. I hope to work with federal officials to see this process is executed in a timely, efficient and – above all – fair manner. It is atrocious to even think people who lost everything in Sandy have been shortchanged or taken advantage of. First, FEMA asked for reimbursements for over payments they mistakenly gave, and now likely fraudulent assessments – their actions are unacceptable. I hope FEMA learns from their inaccuracies and makes the internal changes needed to properly address the next emergency.

“I thank our US Senators, Schumer and Gillibrand, for responding to the fraud allegations and urge my constituents to take this opportunity for a review. So many doled out their life savings because of a storm that was out of their control and it is time that money is there to further help toward recovery.”

CROWLEY BILL GIVES MUSIC PRODUCERS FAIR PAY: Congressman Joseph Crowley has introduced a bipartisan bill, the Allocation for Music Producers Act (AMP), legislation that would reform the way music producers receive royalties and helps to ensure those working in the industry are treated equitably.

The AMP act, co-sponsored with Congressman Tom Rooney (R–FL), would amend federal law to improve royalty payments to producers and engineers, Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) said. Crowley and Rooney are both members of the Recording Arts and Sciences Congressional Caucus.

Crowley, the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, explained, “much like a director’s role in a film, a music producer provides the overall creative direction of a song. As someone who has recorded a song or two in his lifetime, I’m familiar with just how integral producers and engineers are to the music industry. Making music is a team effort, and our AMP Act will ensure that every music professional receives what he or she has earned.”

Rooney added, “Without producers and engineers, the music we enjoy every day couldn’t make it from the recording studio to our radios and phones. Our bipartisan bill makes sure that hardworking studio professionals receive the royalties they earned in a fair and streamlined manner.”

Crowley pointed out that, “In 1995, Congress passed the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act (DPRA), allowing featured performers to collect a 45 percent royalty whenever a song on which they performed was broadcast in a digital format.

“However, while performers receive a direct payment of the royalty, producers, engineers and other studio professionals were not granted a statutory share of the individual song’s royalty. Producers can only collect their portion of the royalties through a contract established between the producer and featured artist called a “letter of direction.’”

Crowley emphasized, “The AMP Act would, for the first time, give producers the statutory right to receive compensation for the recordings they produce through the letter of direction process. The legislation would put in place a permanent and consistent process to allow producers to collect the royalties they are due. In addition, the bill would establish a procedure for producers and engineers to seek permission from featured artists or their heirs to receive appropriate royalty payments for sound recordings older than 1995.”

Crowley said the AMP Act is supported by The Recording Academy, which represents more than 24,000 producers, engineers, artists, songwriters and other individual music creators, and by Sound Exchange, the independent, non-profit performance rights organization responsible for collecting and distributing digital performance royalties to music creators and copyright holders.

Officials of the two industry groups involved, the Recording Academy and Sound Exchange, indicated their approval of the new legislation.

ADDABBO: WOODHAVEN FIRE OFFERS PROOF ‘COCKLOFTS MUST GO’: Cocklofts are small spaces above the top floor of many homes that do not provide a useful purpose for homeowners, but invariably help a fire to spread rapidly once it reaches the cockloft.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) said the recent major fire in Woodhaven was enabled by flames below the cocklofts in those homes and spread rapidly through the cocklofts and became a major conflagration. So he is once again going to introduce legislation to demand that all existing cocklofts be removed wherever they exist.

After describing last week’s fire and praising the Fire Department’s skill and bravery in extinguishing the raging inferno which luckily took no lives, Addabbo said:

“This furthers the purpose of passing state legislation calling for an end to cocklofts in aging row houses. There has been growing evidence that shows cocklofts lead to fast-moving and hard-tocontrol flames that put both residents and firefighters at risk, including the 2013 Middle Village and the 2014 Ozone Park fires which also spread through row houses and cocklofts.

Addabbo explained, “Last year, such a bill [to eliminate cocklofts] that I sponsored passed the Senate, and it is my hope we can do the same this year as well as approve it in the Assembly.

He said that “connected row houses are no longer built with cocklofts, partly due to their ability to allow flames to move quickly from building to building. Now, it's time to protect our older buildings, historic marks of our neighborhood, by closing off these structures so this does not happen again.

Meanwhile, Addabbo said that to assist residents from last week’s Woodhaven fires, he will be providing drop-off sites at his Middle Village Office at 66-85 73rd Place, and Howard Beach office, 159-53 102nd Street, for donations of clothing and other essential items. “I urge everyone to do what they can to help,” he concluded.

PERALTA: ‘LET’S PROTECT SCHOOL CROSSING GUARDS’: In response to the traffic accident that sent a 76-year-old Jackson Heights school crossing guard to the hospital after being hit by a car at 82nd Street and 34th Avenue, state Senator Jose Peralta said, “My thoughts are with the wounded school crossing guard and her family, and I pray for a speedy recovery.”

The guard remains in “extremely critical condition,” Peralta (D–Jackson Heights) said.

The lawmaker noted: “We have to work together to protect our schools’ crossing guards. We have a duty to protect them and this kind of incident highlights the need for urgent reform. I have repeatedly called upon the NYPD to fill crossing guard vacancies at schools to protect pedestrians. I believe we should evaluate current procedure and create new ways to safeguard their well-being. The streets are dangerous, and although there is still a lack of school crossing guards, we must consider several options to increase their safety and prevent this from ever happening again.”

ADDABBO SUBSTITUTES WIND TUNNEL FOR LIQUID GAS: Several weeks ago, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. took the wind out of the sails of the proposed liquefied gas station near the Rockaway Beach shoreline. Now he’s pushing the Long Island-New York Offshore Wind Collaborative Project, which would provide those areas with a source of clean, safe renewable energy via offshore wind turbines.

Speaking of the safer/choice, being proposed by LIPA (Long Island Power Authority), Con Ed (Consolidated Edison), and NYPA (the New York Power Authority) Con Ed (Consolidated Edison), and NYPA (the New York Power Authority), Addabbo stated: “This project brings a number of benefits to our city and my constituents. It furthers New York State’s clean energy goals, would reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions, and reduce the use of fossil fuels for electricity production.”

The lawmaker, a member of the Senate Environmental Committee, added: “To me, it’s a no-brainer that this project should move forward.”

The wind turbines, would virtually be located out of sight in the Atlantic Ocean aligned southwest of the Rockaway Peninsula and about 14 miles south of Nassau County, he explained. They “would generate enough wind power for about 112,000 homes per year, he adds. Currently, it is proposed as a 350-megawatt project,” but can be doubled to 700 megawatts.

Pending a positive outcome of feasibility assessments and pre-development activities, Addabbo explained, the LIPA-Con Ed-NYPA trio will seek proposals from private developers to build turbines about 278 feet tall with a blade span diameter of 360 feet. The estimated cost is $800 million to $1 billion.

Addabbo said, “The offshore wind power is a renewable resource that would provide a significant amount of clean energy, jobs and a facility that will prove beneficial for years. We want to invest in our future. We need to work today to reduce the amount of harmful fossil fuels for electricity and look towards smart, effective solutions.

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