2015-04-01 / Political Page

Schumer Set For Major Move To Lead Senate Dems

BY JOHN TOSCANO

It has been a grueling 41-year climb for US Senator Charles Schumer – he has finally got a historic goal in sight that will place him within reach of the most powerful legislative body in he U.S. – the Majority Leader’s post of the United States Senate.


Schumer has done nothing but apply himself to enacting laws since he became a New York State assemblyman at 23 years of age in 1975, fresh out of Harvard. But when Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid last week announced his retirement in 2017, 22 months from now, he also set the stage for Schumer, 64, to succeed him. Nothing is ever for sure, but it appears the way has been cleared for the Brooklyn lawmaker to make the move of his lifetime and become the first Senate leader from New York State and also the highest-ranked congressional post ever held by a Jewish pol.


Coincidentally, if Hillary Clinton wins election as President of the United States next year, she and Schumer would be sworn into their high level positions in 2017, placing two New Yorkers in powerful government jobs.


After Reid, 75, had made his announcement anointing Schumer as his successor, Schumer Schumer has done nothing but apply himself to enacting laws since he became a New York State assemblyman at 23 years of age in 1975, fresh out of Harvard. But when Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid last week announced his retirement in 2017, 22 months from now, he also set the stage for Schumer, 64, to succeed him. Nothing is ever for sure, but it appears the way has been cleared for the Brooklyn lawmaker to make the move of his lifetime... Schumer has done nothing but apply himself to enacting laws since he became a New York State assemblyman at 23 years of age in 1975, fresh out of Harvard. But when Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid last week announced his retirement in 2017, 22 months from now, he also set the stage for Schumer, 64, to succeed him. Nothing is ever for sure, but it appears the way has been cleared for the Brooklyn lawmaker to make the move of his lifetime... issued a statement acknowledging: “I am honored and humbled to have the support of so many of my colleagues and look forward to our Senate Democratic Caucus continuing to fight for the middle class.”


Among those offering Schumer their congratulations were U.S. Senator Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Illinois), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York’s junior senator, Congressmember Joseph Crowley, and former Senator Alfonse D’Amato of Long Island, whom Schumer defeated in 1998 to take his Senate seat for the first time.


Durbin, a former roommate of Schumer, was known to be interested in succeeding Reid, but graciously endorsed Schumer for the job and would not challenge him. Gillibrand also endorsed Schumer.


D’Amato, a Republican who lost a bitter battle to Schumer which ended his political career, was also very gracious in his comments, saying, “New York is very fortunate that we will have someone with his abilities and talents to help our state.”


Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) said Schumer had always been supportive of his fellow New York colleagues and of him personally. Crowley, the high-ranked Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House, recounted that Schumer came to almost every meeting of the party’s state delegation. and when Crowley was seeking a party leadership position in 2012, he sought Schumer’s advice and Schumer addressed the delegation on his behalf.


Speaking of Schumer’s likely upward move in the Senate, Crowley said, “I don’t know when the last time was when we had someone in such a position. He’s going to be at the head of the table, and I think that’s something that we haven’t necessarily had.” Those comments were made to a New York Times reporter.


Schumer has gained the respect and support of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate because of his command of the issues and his willingness to assist other members to help the Democratic cause. Schumer was especially helpful in 2006 when Reid called on him to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to help candidates to get elected and help the effort to win control of the Senate. The chair heads the fund-raising effort and monies raised are given out to help candidates win their races.


Schumer did the job so well that the Democrats won control of the Senate that year, making Reid, 75, the Majority Leader. Schumer was asked to take on the same task in 2008, which resulted in the Democrats increasing their majority.


Schumer has always been a team player and was recognized for his eagerness to take that extra step to succeed in his career. He served three terms in the New York State Assembly to start off his career. In 1980, he ran for and won a seat in the House of Representatives and served a total of 18 years there.


As we noted before, in 1998 he decided to challenge Alfonse D’Amato, who had built up quite an impressive career record in the Senate, and Schumer succeeded following a bitter campaign. Schumer twice was reelected to the Senate after that, and is up for reelection again next year. Given his willingness to work at his job and to keep in touch with his constituents and stay in the public’s eye, it appears he should win another term, setting him up to win his party’s leadership in 2017.


To recap his legislative career, he served three terms, six years, in the New York State Assembly from 1975-1980; nine consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, 18 years, from 1981-1998 (1999); and in his third six-year term in the Senate, 17 years. It adds up to 41 consecutive years of government service, a truly impressive and startling record.

BP KATZ SUBMITS 2016 BUDGET PRIORITIES TO MAYOR, COUNCIL: Borough President Melinda Katz has submitted a list of 18 budget priorities to the mayor and City Council for inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2016 spending plan that must be adopted by July 1.
The list includes matters ranging from schools, seniors, and traffic safety, to transportation, and new police precincts.
Katz stated, “The recommendations included in this budget priorities document seek to provide a meaningful approach to addressing some of the longstanding issues faced by the Borough of Queens. Our recommendations are intended to help craft a fiscally responsible city budget that will address the concerns of our diverse population of 2.3 million people and make Queens an even better place to live, work and visit.”
Katz said her budget office prepared the priorities after reviewing information supplied by the borough’s 14 Community Boards and by local organizations seeking city funding. This information included oral and written testimony submitted during the Queens Borough Board’s budget hearings, which Katz chaired on February 23. The Borough Board consists of Katz, City Council members from Queens and Community Board chairpersons.
The budget priorities include:
•Identifying additional funding to restore the New York State Pavilion.
•Expanding Universal Pre-Kindergarten funding to meet the needs of Queens children.
•Restoring the Borough President’s discretionary funding for senior services.
•Increasing funding for cultural organizations in Queens
•Ensuring the timely planning and rollout of the anticipated Five Borough Ferry System, including the Rockaway Ferry.
•Increasing funding for transportation services for senior citizens.
•Creating a Flushing Meadows Corona Park police substation.
•Creating and preserving more affordable housing in Queens.
•Increasing capital funds for the construction and expansion of schools.
•Increasing support for arts and cultural programs in schools.
•Creating a 116th Precinct by dividing the area covered by the NYPD’s current 105th Precinct into two sections.
•Increasing the number of child care and Head Start sites in Queens.
•Ensuring that the capital surplus from the construction of the Rockaway Boardwalk remains in Queens.
•Increasing funding to support weekend service at Queens Library locations.
•Increasing the number of NYCHA units available for homeless families from 750 to 2,500.
•Increasing funds for tree stump removal and tree pruning.
•Expanding Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard.
•Installing additional pedestrian countdown crosswalk signals, increasing the number of slow zones and assigning more police officers along high-traffic corridors.
The full recommendations are available on Borough President Katz’s website at www.queenbp.org/budget as FY 16 Preliminary Budget Response.


CHARGE NO NEW SENIORS FUNDING IN 2016 BUDGET, SPARKS CLASH WITH MAYOR: Two City Councilmembers—Paul Vallone and Margaret Chin—are charging that Mayor Bill de Blasio has “not included any new funding” for senior services in his preliminary budget for FY 2016, and they are now vowing to fight for new funds.
In fact, they say, the mayor has cut the Dept. for the Aging (DFTA) preliminary budget by 8.4 percent, or $23.4 million compared to the present 2015 budget, which totals approximately $257.3 million.


Vallone (D–Bayside), Chair of the Subcommittee on Senior Centers, and Chin, Chair of the Committee on Aging, said in a joint statement they issued:


“Seniors are one of New York City’s fastest growing populations. There are 1.4 million adults aged 60 and over in our city, totaling more than 17 percent of our residents. By 2030, the senior population is projected to grow by nearly 50 percent and comprise 20 percent of the city’s total population.”


They added: “It is often said that a city’s priorities are reflected in its budget – and when Mayor de Blasio presented his Fiscal Year 2016 preliminary budget, he repeatedly stated that he believes it is fiscally responsible, progressive and honest. It is hard for us to agree that this budget is responsible, since no new funding was added for the Department of the Aging.”
Vallone and Chin suggest that in order to create a more responsible budget, “Mayor de Blasio should first baseline the core programs that have previously been funded by the City Council, including Expanded In-home Services for the Elderly (EISEP), social adult day care and space and transportation operating costs for senior centers. The mayor should also provide additional funding in order to restore basic services for senior centers, reduce caseloads for case management and clear the home care waitlist. In addition, the mayor should provide more funding to expand Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), including those within NYCHA, where so many seniors live and where senior center funding has often been in doubt.”


They said they plan to continue this discussion with the mayor’s office.


CROWLEY INTROS ‘PROMOTE PEACE’ BILL: In an effort to “promote peace and reconciliation” in the Middle East, Congressmember Joseph Crowley is reintroducing the bipartisan International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Authorization Act of 2015.
Co-introduced with Congressmember Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican, Crowley said the peace-promoting legislation had been introduced originally in the 113th Congress with the aim of establishing “a multi-national fund to support grassroot programs that promote peace and reconciliation in the region.” It still has the same objective, Crowley said.
“History has taught that no peaceful resolution may arrive, and certainly none will last, without seriously engaging the public on both sides of the conflict, Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) explained. He continued:
“The U.S. has played a significant leadership role in fostering and supporting people-to-people relations around the world, and creating this fund would continue that effort. And, this kind of work can be an antidote to terrorism because it gives people who want to work together toward reconciliation a path to do so. I urge our colleagues to join us in supporting the establishment of this much-needed Fund.”


Fortenberry stated: “Despite the difficulties and challenges involved in bringing about secure and sustainable peace in the Middle East, the the United States has made strong bipartisan efforts over decades to help achieve this important objective. We must continue to foster relevant and constructive dialogue among Israeli and Palestinian communities. It is my hope that grassroots reconciliation efforts, however small, may spark renewed hope for the future.”


Crowley, the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, explained The International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace would promote people-to-people efforts to build peace through grants to scale efforts at the grassroots level. The Fund’s resources could assist with a wide array of programs, including education, sports, culture, cross-communal economic development, shared environmental programs, and bring youth from different communities to work together to develop a better understanding of Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions.


MALONEY: AFTER 5 YEARS OBAMACARE HELPING MILLIONS IN NEW YORK:
A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that Obamacare has helped more than a million New Yorkers since its inception, by helping them to gain access to affordable coverage, according to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
And it has saved those who already had insurance millions of dollars in reduced costs, the lawmaker added.


“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, (ACA), more than a million additional New Yorkers now have health coverage, and millions more are protected from the worst abuses of health insurance companies,” the lawmaker declared.


“There’s no question that the Affordable Care Act is moving us in the right direction: The number of uninsured is down, quality is up, costs are rising more slowly and things are only going to get better.


And she added: “Repealing Obamacare now would cause millions of Americans to lose their insurance, increase prescription costs for seniors, create chaos in the health insurance marketplace, and hurt our economy.


“It’s time to set aside this senseless rhetoric and focus instead on how we can make the ACA work even better for more families.”


However, there is a major threat to the ACA going on right now from the United States Supreme Court, which is hearing cases calling for an end to the five-year-old program.
“Five years after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, it is clear that the act is working,” Maloney said, pointing to:
“Improving Coverage – Since it was enacted, 16.4 million previously uninsured Americans have secured affordable, quality health coverage.


Improving Affordability – Since ACA started,  health care prices have risen at the slowest rate in nearly 50 years and thanks to “exceptionally slow growth” in per-person costs throughout ACA, national health expenditures grew at the slowest rate on record from 2010 through 2013.


Improving Quality – ACA has helped improve the quality of health care, contributing to 50,000 fewer patient deaths in hospitals due to avoidable harms, like an infection or medication error.


Maloney said a new report was issued last week by Health and Human Services that shows all the different ways in which the people in New York are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, such as:
•Drop in uninsured rate in New York under the ACA, under which the uninsured rate has fallen from 12.6 percent in 2013 to 10.1 percent in 2014.
•Marketplace coverage of individuals in New York. For 2015, 408,841 consumers are enrolled in quality, affordable health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace in New York; 74 percent of those enrolled qualified for a tax credit that will help them afford their coverage.
•Medicaid/CHIP coverage for additional individuals in New York. As of January 2015, 569,023 individuals in New York have gained Medicaid or CHIP coverage since the beginning of ACA enrollment in October 2013.
•Savings in premiums for individuals in New York: The ACA prevents insurers from spending more than 20 percent of their premiums on profit and administrative overhead. Because of this, 617,465 individuals in New York with private insurance coverage benefited by $12 million in refunds from insurers.
•Elimination of lifetime limits on coverage for individuals in New York: Since September 2010, ACA stops insurers from placing lifetime limits on coverage. So, in New York, 6,432,000 people, including 6.4 million people, including 2.5 million women and 1.6 million children don’t have to worry about lifetime limits on coverage.
•Protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions in New York: Since January 2014, ACA prohibits insurers from denying coverage to individuals for having a pre-existing health condition. Because of this provision, up to 8.6 million individuals in New York with pre-existing conditions are being protected from denial of coverage.
•Expanded access to free preventive services for individuals in private plans in New York: Since September 2010, ACA provides, for those enrolled in most private plans, expanded access to free preventive services. As a result, 4.69 million people in private plans in New York have health insurance that covers preventive services without any co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles.
•Lower drug costs for seniors in New York: ACA provides major savings in drug costs for seniors in the Medicare Part D “donut hole” because the law closes the donut hole over 10 years. Because of this provision, since the start of the ACA, seniors in New York have saved $1,150,173,343 on their prescription drugs.
•Free preventive services for seniors in New York: Under ACA, beginning in 2011, Medicare now provides free coverage of key preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies. In 2014 alone, because of this provision, 2.3 million seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in Medicare in New York used one or more free preventive services.


REMOVING ‘DREAM’  FROM BUDGET ‘UNACCEPTABLE’  PERALTA: Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to consider removing the elusive DREAM Act from the $141 billion 2015 state budget now nearing completion is “unacceptable” as far as state Senator Jose Peralta is concerned.


Peralta (D–East Elmhurst) said he was “extremely disappointed about this possibility, especially after the Governor argued in favor of making the DREAM Act a reality during the Somos El Futuro conference that took place in Albany this past weekend.”


The Queens senator seemed just as disappointed with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, whom, he said accusingly, “turned his back on addressing the current injustice in our state’s student aid financial assistance program.”


Peralta, sizing up the situation, said, “It’s deja vu all over again. Another year and the same outcome, thanks to the intolerant views perpetuated by the Senate majority. They would rather promote fear-mongering propaganda that the sky will fall if we, as a state, help the children of undocumented immigrants to obtain a higher education.”


Peralta said, “It seems to me that New York is no longer the land of opportunity for these hardworking college students because instead of enabling them to succeed, we just added more hurdles to their paths.”


Explaining how the DREAM Act would work, Peralta explained, “It is estimated that the bill to provide state college aid to children of immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, would cost taxpayers between $20 million and $27 million. In a few years, the DREAM Act would pay for itself, since the average college graduate pays approximately $4,000 in state taxes every year. For the average taxpayer, the DREAM Act would have meant 87 cents. yes, just 87 cents.”


Peralta noted: “The DREAM Act would have leveled the playing field for all of our college students regardless of their immigration status. Extending TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) to our DREAMers would not only provide an opportunity to thousands of hard-working young New Yorkers, but also create jobs, boost future tax revenue, and give our state the kind of diverse, educated, multi-talented workforce we will need to compete in tomorrow’s economy.”


Referring back to his original complaint, Peralta stated: “With this potential action, I understand New York does not want to follow in the footsteps of California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Washington state. Those states already provide state college aid to undocumented immigrants, but New York does not want to right a wrong by offering all of our immigrant college students basic financial aid. I will not give up the fight until we ensure that our DREAM becomes the reality it should be. This is unacceptable.”


Peralta added: “I call on the governor to reconsider the possibility of dropping the DREAM Act from the budget and help our DREAMers.”


BAYSIDE, AN ‘AGE-FRIENDLY’ PLACE: Councilman Paul Vallone, who represents Bayside and adjoining areas in the City Council, and also chairs the Subcommittee on Aging, announced last week that “Bayside will be joining neighborhoods from across the five boroughs in an innovative effort to make New York City a more accommodating place to grow old.”


Vallone explained it’s all part of the Age-Friendly Neighborhoods Initiative, which was made possible by $400,000 in funding by the City Council in partnership with neighborhoods chosen by the New York Academy of Medicine.


The lawmaker further explained that the Academy “aims to bring forward the concerns and suggestions of older New Yorkers within particular communities in order to implement community-level changes in an effort to help ensure that these communities become more inclusive of the needs of older adults.”


For example, Vallone continued, “…some of the programs that have risen from this initiative include the CityBench Program, which has installed over 1,000 sidewalk benches across the city; Senior Swim, which offers seniors-only swim times at 16 public pools citywide, and the Age-Friendly Local Business Initiative, which has engaged over 1,000 small businesses in learning how to better attract and serve older customers.”


Vallone said there are over 1.4 million seniors living in New York City and this number is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. Soon, he estimates one in every five New Yorkers will be an older adult.


“New York City is a city of neighborhoods and each community is as diverse as its residents, with different resources, strengths and needs, particularly as they relate to older adults,” Vallone points out.


“By cataloguing the suggestions of older adults in Bayside and leveraging these suggestions with the expertise of local non-profit business, religious and community leaders, the city will be able to strategically improve the quality of life for seniors by increasing their access to services and local resources.”


Summing up, the lawmaker states: “This initiative is an incredible opportunity for Bayside to build upon the rich experiences and knowledge of its seniors. By taking advantage of the very characteristic that makes this community unique, we will be able to maximize the social and economic participation of older residents. As the senior population continues to grow rapidly, I applaud the Council for taking steps to ensure that we are able to make New York City a great place for seniors to live.


MALONEY BILL HELPS CLOSE GENDER PAY GAP: Women activists have been trying for years to get paid the same as men when doing the same job. Now making a small advance to that goal, Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Rosa De Lauro have reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help close the wage gap between women and men working the same job. On average, women make 78 cents for every dollar made by a man.


The Maloney-De Lauro bill builds upon the landmark 1963 Equal Pay Act by closing loopholes that have kept it from achieving its goal of equal pay. The new bill would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job performance, not gender, Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) said.


The Paycheck Fairness Act also empowers women through a grant program to strengthen salary negotiations and other workplace skills, and requires the Labor Department to enhance outreach and training efforts to eliminate pay disparity.


It also prohibits employer retaliation for sharing salary information with coworkers. Presently employers can sue and punish employees for sharing such information.
Maloney and De Lauro (D–CT) jointly stated: “Equal pay for equal work ought to be guaranteed, but sadly women still earn just 78 cents for every dollar made by a man. This disparity is devastating when calculated over the course of a woman’s career and factored into retirement savings. They said their bill would, “…create accountability and additional transparency” to eliminate economic discrimination.


MIXED MARTIAL ARTS BILL PASSED BY SENATE:
The State Senate has passed a bill legalizing Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in the state, an initiative that was supported by Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. and praised by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder.


Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) stated: “If the State Assembly joins with the state Senate in the coming months to legalize mixed martial arts, already viewed online and on television by state residents, we will have an opportunity to join the other 49 states in the nation now enjoying the economic benefits of hosting professional MMA events. By some estimates, authorizing this wildly popular type of sporting event – which can combine wrestling boxing, and martial arts, including judo, karate, and kickboxing – will bring in $135 million in new annual economic activity while creating new jobs.


Addabbo added: “The legislation we passed in the Senate authorizes the State Athletic Commission – which already oversees professional boxing – to develop regulations governing the sport, establish licensing procedures and criteria for events, and MMA participants, set penalties for rule violations and create standards to help ensure the health and safety of fighters. These include prohibitions on fighting when participants exhibit signs of head trauma; imposing requirements for protective gear; having physicians at every bout; and requiring fighters to undergo extensive physical and neurological examinations.
With professional MMA already legal in every other state, Addabbo pointed out, New York should be able to go forward in regulating these events, reaping the economic benefits of the sport and placing reasonable and practical safeguards on MMA to protect those who choose to participate.


Assemblymember Goldfeder (D–Rockaway) stated: “I am pleased that the State Senate has again recognized the economic potential of legalizing and regulating Mixed Martial Arts competition in New York State. We are currently the only state in the nation that prohibits MMA matches, depriving millions of fans of the chance to see the sport live right here in our own backyard. Legalizing MMA could bring millions of dollars in tax revenues and help boost our local businesses.


“It’s time we end Albany’s chokehold on MMA. I pledge to work with my colleagues in the Assembly to ensure that we pass the MMA bill and regulate the sport in the state so that it can be safely enjoyed by all New Yorkers.


MALONEY BACKS BIPARTISAN MEDICARE BILL: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney announced last week that she voted to support a bipartisan deal to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and to permanently fix the Medicare physician payment system so that doctors can continue providing care to senior citizens. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act was passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives by  392-37 vote and now heads to the United States Senate. Maloney said President Obama had already announced his support for the measure.


Also included in the bill package were other health care program extensions, including: funding for Community Health Centers through 2017; extension of the Qualifying Individual (QI) program, which helps low-income seniors pay their Medicare Part B premiums; and the Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) program, which helps families on Medicaid to maintain their coverage for one year as they transition from welfare to work.


Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) explained: “Since 2002, Congress has voted 17 times to temporarily patch the broken Medicare physician payment system to prevent huge cuts to Medicare providers.” But the legislation just passed, she said, “…permanently fixes this perennial problem by creating a new Medicare payment system that will provide certainty to our seniors and their doctors by getting rid of these annual patches.”


As for CHIP, it’s extended for two years, gets an additional $7.2 billion for community health centers, and delays cuts to programs hospitals rely on, such as Medicaid’s Disproportionate Share Hospital payments, including a six-month delay of new Medicare payment policies on short inpatient hospital stays so that a better policy can be developed.


Maloney states: “This bill continues our commitment to promote good public health for seniors, children and others in need of affordable and reliable health care. It represents the kind of a bipartisan compromise that has been missing for far too long in Congress.”


CROWLEY ANNOUNCES ANNUAL ART COMPETITION:
Congressman Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, announced the start of the 2015 Congressional Art Competition for high school students in his 14th Congressional District. The winning entry will be displayed in the nation’s capital in Washington, DC for a full year beginning in June.


“Each year,” Crowley said, “I encourage our youth to participate in our Congressional Art Competition because it’s a terrific opportunity for them to showcase their creativity and share it with thousands of people who visit the US Capitol every day. Our district has an impressive pool of young talent and I look forward to seeing all the dazzling submissions from our emerging artists.”


Crowley says the annual event is a nationwide high school competition that provides an opportunity for members of Congress to encourage and recognize artistic talents of their young constituents. Over 650,000 high school students nationwide have participated in the competition since 1982.


Entries for the competition are now being accepted and must be received Rep. Crowley’s Queens district office by Monday, April 27, 2015 in order to be considered. Crowley’s Queens district office is located at: 82-11 37th Avenue, Suite 402, Jackson Heights. Visit Rep. Crowley at: www.crowley.house.gov/serving-you/art-competition, the official Congressional Art COMPETITION. Or contact Crowley’s office at 718-931-1400.


WEPRIN’S ESSAY CONTEST OPENS:
Weprin is officially accepting entries for his annual “Council Member for a Day” essay contest. The winner gets the opportunity to travel to City Hall to meet with colleagues, be interviewed by a reporter, and even review constituent concerns.


Eligibility is open to any student in grades five through eight who must write a composition of not more than 500 words on the following topic:
Imagine that you are planning a day with a friend who is coming to visit and who has never been in Queens before. You are going to give your friend a tour of Queens. Your essay should include details about  how you will spend the day, describing the places you will go and what you will do.


Each entry should include: student’s full name, address, telephone number, school, grade, and class. Student or school should submit entry (essay) by Friday, April 24, 2015 to Councilman Mark Weprin, 73-03 Bell Boulevard, Oakland Gardens, New York 11364, or by email to MWeprin@council.NYC.gov or by fax to 718-468-0178.


Weprin said, “I encourage all eligible students to enter the contest. It is a rare opportunity to learn about what goes on in City Hall. I look forward to reading students’ wonderful, creative essays.


ADDABBO: CHANGE PROPOSED HOMELESS SHELTER IN GLENDALE TO VETERANS HOUSING: The city has proposed that an abandoned warehouse at 78-18 Cooper Avenue in Glendale should be converted to a homeless shelter, state Senator Joseph Addabbo said, but the lawmaker thinks it makes more sense to convert the warehouse into veterans housing because of the “estimated thousands of homeless veterans in our backyard in New York City.”


Speaking frankly, Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said, “I will never agree that housing any individual at the Cooper Avenue site is a good idea. I would much prefer this privately owned site to revert back to its manufacturing state and once again be a job creator. But if the city is insistent on housing people, why not focus our attention on an overlooked issue.


“We can help the veterans who helped us maintain the quality of life we have come to know instead of warehousing possibly over 100 families into the building.”


Addabbo, the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, adds: “The bottom line is that nobody deserves to be without a home, especially those who initially left their homes to defend our rights.”


He notes bringing in families with the homeless will exacerbate the already overcrowded area, which contains “the most over-crowded school district in the borough.” But that doesn’t have to happen, he says, because if you open up as veteran housing it would have “minimal effect on the surrounding community.”


CLOCK TOWER BUILDING STARTS CLOCK TOWARD LANDMARKING:
City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) issued the following statement on Landmarking the venerable “Clock Tower building” in Long Island City:
“The Landmark Preservation Commission’s (LPC), initial hearing on the Clock Tower Building is the first step toward landmarking one of Long Island City’s most historic structures. This is a tremendous victory for New York City preservationists and local residents who contacted my office to convey their overwhelming support to retain the character of our great neighborhood. I have long supported the designation of the Clock Tower as a landmark. I am pleased the LPC agrees with me and the community to preserve this historic structure. I was proud to help give this community-coordinated grassroots campaign additional support to ensure the Clock Tower Building stands for another 90 years.”


ADDABBO SAYS DOT SELECT BUS PLAN IS WRONG:
State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. issued the following statement opposing a new bus plan in his district. Addabbo states: “Woodhaven/Cross Bay Boulevard is one of the busiest, most congested thoroughfares in our borough. The idea that NYC DOT, through their Select Bus Service (SBS) proposal, is seeking to remove an entire traffic lane, and in my opinion, put pedestrians in harm’s way is irresponsible and unacceptable.


“Rush hour traffic would suffer significantly, and as someone who sits almost daily on that roadway during those times, I shudder to think it could get any worse. While SBS has the potential to address many of the needs for public transportation and traffic conditions, this execution will not be effective for motorists, bus riders or pedestrians.


“Pedestrians, including schoolchildren, seniors and parents with strollers, are put at risk with essentially four active roadways to cross, one at each median. I hope to work with the NYC DOT on this matter and implement a smart, practical solution to benefit everyone riding and walking on the street.”


PERALTA CALLS FOR STREET VENDOR POLICY:
Noting that coexistence between street vendors and brick-and-mortar retailers is critical to the social and economic development of our neighborhoods and communities, state Senator Jose Peralta (D–East Elmhurst) is filing legislation to create a street vendor policy commission to modernize the regulations that govern street vending.


“Street vendors and mom-and-pop stores sustain families and are an established fixture and essential part of our communities,” Peralta stated. “I strongly believe street vendors and brick-and-mortar businesses can peacefully coexist. My bill calls for a revamped Street Vendor Review Panel that includes all stakeholders to study the problems and provide recommendations.”


Peralta added: “Nobody is happy with the current system. Local residents complain, street vendors complain, small retailers complain. The system is in disarray. A decade of inaction on issues surrounding street vendors has highlighted the urgent need for reform.”


The body he proposes to regulate street vendors would consist of nine members:  five city departments (City Planning, Consumer Affairs, Transportation, Small Business Services, and Health and Mental Hygiene), two representing street vendor interests, and two representing small business interests.


Peralta suggests the commission would evaluate and make recommendations, on the following among other subjects: lifting the caps on street vendor permits; establishing a mechanism to rescind licenses of those who illegally rent out credentials; creating zoning regulations and structures to reduce sidewalk and street congestion; create a letter grading system for street vendors similar to restaurant gradings; reducing fines for minor violations and focusing on serious health, safety, traffic, and sanitation violations; and establishing a mediation process in which street vendors and business owners can resolve conflicts.


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