2015-04-08 / Political Page

Crowley, King In Bipartisan Move For Homeland Security $

Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Peter King, backed up by Mayor Bill de Blasio, announced they have launched a bipartisan effort to fully fund New York’s homeland security needs.

“There is no doubt that making investments in homeland security preparedness is crucial for the safety and security of New York residents,” they told Homeland Security committee officials.

“Funding cuts to HSGP’s (Homeland Security Grants Programs) would undermine the New York City’s continued security and intelligence gathering efforts that protect its citizens, commuters, business locations and networks… as well as iconic national landmarks that attract millions of tourists every year from nuclear, biological, and cyber-attacks,” the lawmaker wrote.

Crowley (D-Queens) and King (R-LI) added: “We firmly believe it is in the interest not just of New York, but of our entire country to do everything possible to prevent a potential attack.”

Crowley and King’s letter to the Homeland Security Committee and the Sub-Committee on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence, was signed by 15 bipartisan members of New York’s congressional delegation.

The letter called on the subcommittee to fully fund existing security grant programs and extend the performance period of the grants to give officials the flexibility to implement complex and innovative programs, as well as procure technology.

Adding his voice to the lawmaker’s plea, de Blasio wrote: “Protecting our cities and our nation from terrorism, and keeping our citizens safe is something that everyone in Congress should get behind. I applaud Rep. Crowley, Rep. King and other members of New York’s congressional delegation for coming together in a bipartisan way and urging the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to stand with New York by fully funding our homeland security needs – because as the number one terror target, we are fighting this battle every single day.”

Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus; King, an outspoken member of the Homeland Security Committee, and the other members of Congress, called on the subcommittee to support full funding through various state and local grants programs, including restoring national programs like the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), State Homeland Security Grant Program, Port Security Grant Program and Transit Security Grant Program to their FY 2011 funding levels, as well as level funding for Securing the Cities.

These programs, they explained, are important pieces of the national effort to strengthen homeland security preparedness, including the security of critical transportation and port infrastructure, and are an essential investment in New York’s ongoing counterterrorism operations and preparedness efforts.

The members also urged the committee to extend the performance period of these grant programs from its current length of two years to a period of three years. This move would give state and city officials the flexibility to implement complex, innovative programs and oversee the pronouncement of customized equipment.

Among those also signing the letter were Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan), Gregory Meeks (D–Southeast Queens), Grace Meng (D–Flushing), Nydia M. Velazquez (D–Queens/Brooklyn) and Hakeem Jeffries (D–Howard Beach/Brooklyn).

CROWLEY, MENG REPORT FLUSHING BAY DREDGING: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is set to perform maintenance dredging of critical sandbanks in the Flushing Bay Federal Channel beginning this Fall, Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Grace Meng announced.

Crowley (D-Queens/Bronx) stated, “Flushing Bay continues to be an important waterway for New York and I’m pleased the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be undertak- ing much-needed dredging of the channel to improve maneuverability for ships.

“In addition to seeing a significant amount of cargo pass through each year, the bay is issued by the New York Police Department Harbor Patrol Unit, and this critical work ensures proper navigation of these waters for the future.”

Meng (D-Flushing) said, “Flushing Bay is an important local channel for ships and boats. Ensuring that these vessels are able to freely navigate through this body of water helps promote and improve everything from trade and commerce to recreation and public safety. I thank the Army Corps of Engineers for launching this important dredging project, and I look forward to working with the Corps on additional initiatives to improve and safeguard this important resource.”

The lawmakers said the dredging of the navigational channel, which is 15 feet deep and extends the length of the bay, will start in October and be completed in January 2016. By then, they said, approximately 125,000 cubic yards of material will have been removed. The material will be processed and disposed of in an upland location.

The project is funded as part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ $12.1 million work plan included in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 (H.R. 83), the legislation that set the funding levels for all federal agencies for fiscal year 2015.

PERALTA: ‘N.Y. STATE, DREAMERS LOST OUT’: State Senator Jose Peralta, the lead sponsor of the DREAM Act, admitted he was “extremely disappointed” when budget makers wouldn’t go out of their way and agree to pass the DREAM act. But the East Elmhurst Democrat was equally as bitter because, he felt, “Who really lost today, with this unfair and unjust action were New York State and the DREAMers…because we had an opportunity to really live up to our distinction of being a state of innovators and progressive thinkers, and the DREAMers, because they had hoped to attend and graduate college and pave the way for the next generation.”

Bottom line, though, he said he “blamed the Republicans” singled out their Majority Leader, Senator Dean Skelos (R–L.I.) Instead, Skelos and his members pursued “Another year of false fear mongering propaganda… perpetuating an intolerant and xenophobic ideology that the sky will fall if we allow these undocumented kids to receive money from the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Republicans are just promoting lies” he concluded disgustedly.

Uttering a final hope, Peralta called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo “to use his political clout, just like he did with Marriage Equality, the Safe Act and even ethics reform. I call upon the Governor to keep his promise and use his political capital to ensure the DREAM Act is passed before the end of this session.”

As for himself, Peralta vowed, “I will do anything in my power to help Governor Cuomo make the DREAM Act a reality and right a wrong for our Dreamers.”

MENG RESPONDS TO COUNCILMEMBER CUMBO: Responding to comments made by Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Brooklyn) about Asians moving into public housing units and housing people by culture,” Congresswoman Grace Meng (D–Flushing) stated:

“I am deeply troubled by the Councilwoman’s statement at the NYCHA hearing yesterday. As public servants, there are more effective and respectful ways to address the shortage of affordable housing units and provide assistance to those in need.

“Access to affordable housing is a crisis that spans all cultures and ethnic communities. Despite popular stereotypes, there are Asian Americans living in poverty with a great need for affordable healthcare, fair-paying jobs and a good education for their children.”

Meng continued, “The suggestion that NYCHA begin to block housing based on ‘culture’ amounts to a thinly disguised segregation based on race, color, creed or national origin. Fortunately, we live in the State of New York, that has strong human rights laws that protect against exactly this type of discrimination.

“The diverse mosaic of our city – and all the different cultures living together – is what makes it so great and gives it its strength. That should never be tampered with, and segregating Asian Americans or any other ethnicity must never ever occur.”

CROWLEY: NEED BIRD STRIKE PREVENTION AT AIRPORTS: The lingering bird issue at airports, a serious danger and nuisance, calls for strong action by the federal government to solve the problem, such as “avian radar technology,” Congressman Joseph Crowley told the Department of Transportation last week.

Crowley’s call for action follows a recent bird strike at JFK Airport which forced a pilot to make an emergency landing after a flock of geese attacked a plane and forced it to make an emergency landing.

Crowley told DOT Secretary, Anthony Foxx, “Since 1988, bird strike-related collisions have resulted in 24 deaths and 235 injuries across the country.

Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) and Congressman Donald Beyer (D–VA), joined by other lawmakers, told Foxx, “Too often, we are reminded of the threat bird strikes continue to pose on the safety of the American flying public as well as the neighborhoods that surround our airports.

“If the technology exists to help avert disaster, implementing it needs to be a top priority. Avian radar is a valuable tool that has the potential to save lives, and every day that goes by without taking advantage of it is a day we are risking tragedy.”

Beyer stated: “National Airport generates billions of dollars in revenue for Northern Virginia and services more than 20 million travelers each year. We have a responsibility to these travelers and our community to ensure their safety. Avian radar provides us the best, most humane tool to avoid life-threatening bird strikes without harming our migratory bird populations. Keeping Americans safe and protecting our wildlife is an easy win-win for our district and the country.”

In the letter, the lawmakers expressed concern that the use of advanced bird-detection radar technology is still virtually non-existent at civilian airports despite the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) publishing an Advisory Circular on the use of avian radar systems to supplement airports’ Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Plans.

For years, Crowley has pressed the FAA to incorporate mitigation practices to reduce the occurrence of bird strikes and ensure the safety of Queens residents and millions of air travelers alike. In 2010, along with former Congressman Gary Ackerman, Crowley was successful in securing a bird strike prevention plan from the FAA for a waste transfer station in College Point. In September, after multiple planes were struck by birds at LaGuardia Airport, Crowley called on the FAA to implement the use of avian radar as a more effective means of reducing bird strikes.

CUOMO LIFTS INDIANA BAN: After meeting with LGBT groups and activists on Saturday to discuss the latest changes in Indiana laws that are aimed at discouraging discriminatory behavior, Gov. Andrew Cuomo revoked the ban he had announced four days earlier to prevent New York state officials from interacting with those in Indiana.

In revoking the ban, Cuomo declared he would always be ready to “stand up for equality until it is a reality for all Americans.” The governor’s change of mind was influenced by Indiana’s passage of a law that would negate any discriminatory behavior directed at gays, lesbians and LGBT groups.

GIANARIS BILL CODIFIES CUOMO’S INDIANA TRAVEL BAN: State Senator Michael Gianaris has introduced legislation embodying Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s original ban on state-sponsored travel to Indiana (see below), while urging the Governor and New York lawmakers to continue their opposition to discriminatory “religious freedom” laws.

However, the Governor lifted the ban last Saturday after Indiana, in effect, abandoned its previous “religious freedom” law and enacted in its place legislation that would not spark discriminatory activity against gays, lesbians and LGBT groups. As of this writing, no reaction from Gianaris about Cuomo lifting the ban on Indiana.

Gianaris (D–Western Queens) had applauded the Governor’s original executive action against Indiana. However, he noted that the Arkansas state legislature had subsequently passed a bill “mimicking” Indiana’s original legislation, but Gianaris noted his proposed law “would ensure New York would always stand opposed to similar laws in any other state.”

Gianaris, who was joined by Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell in sponsoring their anti-discrimination bill the previous day, stated: “Yesterday we took swift action and made a strong stand against discrimination, but we can and must do more. My proposal would ensure restrictions on state-funded travel would apply to any state following Indiana down a path of discrimination, which we saw in Arkansas [last Tuesday].”

He added that if the Gianaris-O’Donnell bill becomes law, “New York will live up to its role as a national leader in the fight for LGBT rights.”

Gianaris said that while other states also have religious freedom laws, none contain the specific provisions in Indiana’s original law that facilitates anti-LGBT discrimination. The Gianaris proposal would extend the proposed travel ban to any state.

He stated, “I am pleased Governor Cuomo took a strong stand against discrimination and sent a message to the nation that offensive policies will meet with swift action and not be tolerated. I am hopeful that we will also address this legislatively so that this restriction will apply in the future to any other states that would allow discrimination as Indiana did.”

The legislation filed by Gianaris (D–Western Queens) “would ban state-funded or state-sponsored travel to Indiana or other states that may emulate Indiana’s new discriminatory religious freedom law.”

GIANARIS BACKS CUOMO BAN ON INDIANA TRAVEL, ‘PLUS’: Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio had announced last week that they were banning state and city government employees from traveling to Indiana, citing the controversial law in that state that allowed discrimination against gays and lesbians. Bowing to pressure from the public, businesses, and travel bans, Indiana Governer Pence has since signed a newly revised law.

The governor had said the ban would only be relaxed for cases deemed “essential to the enforcement of state law or public health and safety.”

State Senator Michael Gianaris, after introducing a bill to “ban state-funded or state-sponsored travel to Indiana or other states that may emulate Indiana’s new discriminatory religious freedom law,” had commented on the governor’s action:

“I am pleased Governor Cuomo took a strong stand against discrimination and sent a message to the nation that offensive policies will meet with swift action and not be tolerated. I am hopeful that we will also address this legislatively so that this restriction will apply in the future to all states that follow Indiana down a path of discrimination.”

Gianaris explained: “In recent years our nation has finally moved forward on LGBT rights and it is important that we as New Yorkers take a stand to keep us from moving backwards. In order for our state to play our rightful role as a national leader on this issue, we need to send a loud and clear message all the way to Indiana that this discriminatory law must be opposed. I urge my colleagues to support this proposal, and I encourage states that have not already done so to follow our example.

Gianaris said that “Indiana’s new law prohibits state laws that impose on the ability of a person, religious institution, business or association to follow its religious beliefs. However, the law has been met with widespread concerns across the nation as it most certainly will allow for rampant discrimination against the LGBT community.”

Gianaris pointed out that while other states also have religious freedom laws, none contain the specific provisions in Indiana’s original law that facilitates anti-LGBT discrimination. The Gianaris proposal would extend the proposed travel ban to any state that follows Indiana’s example in the future.

OPPOSITION MOUNTING AGAINST SCHUMER?: When the story broke two weeks ago that United States Senator Charles Schumer would be succeeding Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the part that followed, estimating it wouldn't happen “until after the 2016 elections, or about 120 days,” made us feel uneasy.

For one thing, politics is so unpredictable, so much can happen just because of a cross look or the least misunderstanding, and then it can take forever to get things back to the way they were, or nothing can square things.

There was another thing about that 120-day wait to place the crown on Schumer’s head – there was another Senator – Richard Durbin, from Chicago, who was second in line behind Reid, whereas Schumer was third. And the only reason Schumer was picked as Reid’s successor was because Reid wanted it that way. Otherwise, if Reid didn’t hand-pick Schumer and the Democrats had to pick Reid’s successor immediately, it’s almost a certainty that Schumer and Durbin would be squaring off against each other, ready to do battle over the prize, and forget about what good friends Schumer and Durbin once were.

In fact, we’re virtually at that impasse already, judging by most of the headlines that materialized over what appeared to be a misunderstanding between the former roommates. One said, “SCHUMER-DURBIN FEUD OVER ROLES EMERGES,” while another said, “CHUCK SCRAP: PAL DURBIN IS SEEN AS RIVAL FOR DEM BOSS”.

And what brought about these headlines? It seems when Reid crowned Schumer as his successor, the first time the two old friends met, Durbin pledged to support Schumer and not challenge him, and Schumer pledged to retain Durbin as No. 2 in line behind Schumer. But, as one story put it, “According to Schumer, that never happened”

Basically, that’s what the impasse is all about. But there may not be a simple way to settle it. If Schumer didn’t promise Durbin the No. 2 spot, then there could be a brawl over that because Senator Patty Murray, from Washington has got her eye on that job, which is the “Minority Whip.”

So if Durbin and Murray do battle over it, Schumer may be forced to choose one or the other, in which case the “other” would be mad at Schumer, and she would oppose Schumer for the top job and either challenge him or support whomever might challenge Schumer. Or if Durbin is challenged for the No. 2 spot, Durbin might challenge Schumer for the No. 1 spot.

This could go on forever. If Schumer agrees to give Durbin No. 2, then he could expect a battle when the voting is held 120 days from now. So we’ll just have to wait and see what develops in the next day or two.

Personally, we still like Schumer for the No. 1 spot, he’s tailor-made for it – brains, personality – you name it.

NOLAN OPPOSES 70-STORY TOWER IN LIC: Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (DRidgewood) issued the following statement last week regarding the anticipated construction of a 70-story residential building in Long Island City.

Nolan stated: “I am strongly opposed to the MTA’s (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) recent sale of its rights to Queens Plaza Park development which would pave the way for the construction of a 70-story building near Queens Plaza. The extreme height of this building would be out of character with the neighborhood and not supported by the present infrastructure.

“I am concerned that as the Long Island City community continues to grow, the demand for basic transportation needs, health facilities and classroom seats are not keeping up with demand. This proposed development will add another 925 units and possibly, by conservative estimates, another 1,500-2,000 people.

“Our community cannot take another big development without dramatic improvements to the current infrastructure in transportation, health facilities and schools. I am calling on the MTA to rethink this deal because the quality of life for our community and Queens transit riders will be seriously diminished.”

ADDABBO - HEALTH CARE, VETS’ TAX BREAKS OFFERED: Legislation to improve health care and to lower property taxes for veterans of all ages, co-sponsored by State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., were recently approved by the Senate committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs.

The small package of bills would:

Establish a veteran’s gerontological advisory committee within the New York State Office for the Aging to help ensure the state plans appropriately for the needs of a growing older veteran population, including programming for long-term and continuing care; health promotion and rehabilitation; and other issues of concern to aging former servicemen and women.

Allow municipalities to offer real property tax exemptions for reservist veterans who served under the Federal Reserve Forces Act of 1955 and provide them with tax savings similar to those already available to other Cold War-era service members.

Authorize local governments to adopt laws that would prohibit increases in real property tax liability for veterans who are receiving tax exemptions related to their service, even if their overall taxes would otherwise go up as a result of a property re-evaluation, assessment or other update.

Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) stated that full approval of these pieces of legislation would help to advance important goals that I think we all hold for our veterans: the ability to access appropriate and effective health care services and the ability to keep roofs over their heads when other basic living expenses seem to be rising all the time.

“We will never be able to adequately thank those who risked everything for all of us in service to our country, but working to ensure our veterans are able to enjoy a decent quality of life when they return to us is a step in the right direction,” Addabbo said.

EX-QUEENS CONGRESSMEMBER TURNER TO ADDRESS GOP CLUB: Former Congressman Bob Turner, chair of the Queens Republican Party, will be the featured speaker at the April 15 meeting of the Northeast Queens Republican Club. Its president, Kevin Ryan, who says the club founded in 1894 (which would make it about 121 years old) “continues to be the largest, most active Republican club in Queens.”
The club recently partnered with UNO Chicago Grill in Bayside for a successful Bunny Pizza Party, Wounded Warrior Project Fundraiser, and Easter Egg Hunt in Bowne Park, despite the snow and mid-30s temperature on Saturday, March 28.
Ryan noted, “If anyone knows how to persevere in adverse conditions it’s Queens Republicans! This is literally the coolest egg hunt I’ve ever been to. Many thanks to the club members who helped, all the local parents who brought their adorable children, our good friends at UNO Bayside, and all the educators, small business owners and Parks Department employees who made today happen for our local kids.”
Ryan said “more than 75 children and their families came out for these events with the Easter Bunny. At the park, children gathered over 1,300 eggs stuffed with prizes, after making their own pizzas and dancing and posing for photos with the Easter Bunny at Bayside Uno. Best of all,” much-needed money was raised to help our veterans.
Blue ribbons were also included in the free Easter baskets given to each family, allowing local parents to hang their ribbon on their door or tree to show their support for the NYPD, Ryan said. “We do this because we care about our community,” he added. “We want our children to be happy and safe, so we support our cops. We know how difficult and dangerous their jobs can be. We show our gratitude by offering these ribbons, so the silent majority here in Northeast Queens can have a voice.”
Ryan noted, “Just as the spring will renew the beauty of Bowne Park, our Queens GOP will finally blossom this year with our new Chairman Bob Turner. This is truly a time of rebirth here in Queens.”

DENDEKKER ANNOUNCES COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS: The New York Conference of Italian-American State Legislators is now accepting applications for $10,000 in scholarships to be awarded in June, Assemblyman Michael DenDekker announced.
DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) said two students will be selected to receive academic scholarships and two will be selected to receive athletic scholarships worth $2,500 each.
“Last year, I was honored to present an academic scholarship from the New York  Conference of Italian-American State Legislators to a student from Monsignor McClancy High School at our annual conference in June,” DenDekker said, adding, “Our conference is proud of our role in promoting higher education and assisting students in reaching their academic goals, and I know that students in Queens have the smarts and the drive to take advantage of these opportunities.”
The scholarships are available to current or future college students from New York State. Eligibility will be based upon the student’s grade point average, interest in pursuing a higher education, investment in the local community, as well as individual financial need.
Interested students may request an application contracting Assemblyman DenDekker’s office by calling 718-457 - 0384, e-mailing caseya@assembly.state.ny.us, or stopping by in person at 75-35 31st Ave., Suite 206B, East Elmhurst.

ADDABBO COMMENT ON FINAL BUDGET: Following passage of the $150 billion 2015-16 state budget early last Wednesday morning, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) commented:
“While there are many positive items in our state budget, it can also be spoken of in terms of lost opportunities. Additional funding for our schools, veterans, libraries and seniors are in a state budget that also falls short of real ethics reform, less reliance on state tests, and shortchanges individuals with disabilities. I am hopeful that items that were intentionally omitted from the budget, such as paid family leave and campaign reform, will be addressed during the remainder of the legislative session.”

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