2015-04-22 / Political Page

NY Lawmakers Lead Bipartisan Effort To Renew Zadroga Act

With the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act due to expire within the next 16 months, leaving thousands of World Trade Center cleanup workers midway in their recuperation, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from across the country pulled together last week to introduce a new, reauthorized, bipartisan Zadroga Act to permanently extend the original programs.

Leading the way to rescue the critically needed health rehabilitation programs were United States Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, both New York Democrats, and Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Mark Kirk (Illinois), both Republicans.

On the House side, the original sponsors of the Zadroga Act, Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan), Jerrold Nadler (D–Manhattan) and Peter King (R–LI), sponsored the new Zadroga Act, as they did before.

Heading an army of co-sponsors from all over the United States and both political parties, were the Queens contingent of congressmembers including Congressmembers Joseph Crowley, Grace Meng, Gregory Meeks, Nydia Velazquez, Hakeem Jeffries, and Steve Israel – all Democrats. Jeffries, from Brooklyn, has a piece of Ozone Park; and Israel hails from Long Island and his district includes Northeast Queens.

Leading the way to rescue the critically needed health rehabilitation programs were United States Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, both New York Democrats, and Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Mark Kirk (Illinois), both Republicans. Leading the way to rescue the critically needed health rehabilitation programs were United States Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, both New York Democrats, and Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Mark Kirk (Illinois), both Republicans. Schumer commented: “Alongside my New York colleagues, and a group of bipartisan senators from states as far-flung as Illinois and Alaska, I will fight to renew and strengthen the health program that serves the first responder heroes of 9/11. The people who rushed to the towers on 9/11 and in the days and weeks after are veterans of the ‘War on Terror,’ and in this country we take care of our veterans – no ifs, ands or buts.”

Gillibrand said, “Nearly 14 years ago, we relied on our first responders to lead the rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero, in Shanksville and at the Pentagon – and we cannot turn our back now when they need us most. Just four years ago, Congress came together to ensure that the heroes of 9/11 – the first responders and survivors, including area residents, workers, and children, who now live in all 50 states – receive the health care and compensation they deserve.”

Maloney declared, “We made a promise on September 11, not only to rebuild, and pursue justice against those who attacked us, but to care for the injured and their families, and the first responders and volunteers who risked everything to help others in the wake of the attacks. Our commitment to “never forget” knew no bonds or party lines when joined in unison on the steps of the Capitol back in 2001, and it doesn’t today. Those who were there at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and Shanksville continue to suffer the consequences. We must let them know they are not alone – America stands with these heroes. We must reauthorize the Zadroga Act.”

Crowley stated, “We have a moral responsibility to continue caring for those who honorably served our nation at a time of great need. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act has brought much-needed assistance to thousands of people and must be reauthorized to ensure that support will continue to be there. We simply can’t afford to quit on the men and women who wouldn’t quit on our country when we needed them most.”

Meng stated: “On September 11, our brave first responders answered the call, and now, nearly 14 years after that horrible day, we must not turn our backs on the heroes who were sickened or injured while working at Ground Zero.

“We can never thank our first responders enough for all they did on 9/11 and all that they continue to do each and every day to keep us safe. Survivors and responders in New York and across the country continue to require critical medical care from the toxins that they were exposed to, and we must never, ever abandon them. I call on Congress to immediately renew and extend these vital programs.”

King stated, “With two critical programs set to expire within the next 18 months and still too many of our 9/11 responders and survivors continuing to fight serious illnesses, it is imperative that we renew and extend the Zadroga Act. We have come too far and we must continue to ensure that our 9/11 heroes receive the care they deserve.”

Israel said, “As a nation, we made a commitment to stand together and never forget the brave men and women who acted without hesitation to save thousands of lives on 9/11. It is our moral obligation to uphold this promise and extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act to ensure that these survivors continue to receive the medical treatment and support that they need and deserve.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo, stated, “In the aftermath of 9/11, New Yorkers joined with first responders and volunteers from across the nation at Ground Zero, working selflessly to help in any way possible. Those men and women stood up in our darkest hour, without concern for their own well-being, and we must continue to honor their service by providing the support they need through reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. They deserve nothing less than our full and unwavering support.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Our first responders were there for us on 9/11 – and every day after. We have a moral obligation to continue to stand with them and ensure that they receive the health care and support they need and deserve. I’m proud to join this bipartisan coalition in support of our police officers, firefighters, medical professionals, and all of our first responders here and across the country, and thank all of the sponsors for their leadership. I urge Congress to quickly pass this vital reauthorization.”

The possible end of the dollar flow that would end as the current Zadroga Act might expire would leave many survivors and responders still battling serious health crises. Many suffer from exposure to the toxins at Ground Zero. More than 33,000 9/11 responders and survivors have an illness or injury caused by the attacks or their aftermath. Over two-thirds of those have more than one illness, and many are disabled and can no longer work. They are suffering from a long list of chronic diseases: asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer and many more.

GIANARIS, SIMOTAS INTRODUCE VACCINE SAFETY LEGISLATION: There are too many parents in this huge country of ours that would rather play Russian roulette with their children’s lives when the question of vaccination comes up, instead of following the best medical advice available and letting your doctor do what he’s been trained to do, in this case, vaccinate your child.

As state Senator Michael Gianaris points out, “The science clearly indicates that vaccinations are the safest and most effective way to prevent the spread of serious illness in our children. At a time when measles and pertussis (whooping cough) outbreaks are at their worst levels in decades and a disturbingly growing number of parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children, it is critical that we educate people about the health benefits of vaccinations.”

Gianaris’ Astoria colleague Aravella Simotas added: “Parents should have the most up-todate, medically accurate information, especially when making decisions about their children’s care.”

As the United States continues to move forward from one of the worst seasons for deadly infectious diseases in recent memory, Gianaris (D–Western Queens) and Simotas (D–Astoria) have introduced legislation in both houses in Albany to encourage vaccinations.

Their bill would require any parent or guardian seeking an exemption from compulsory vaccinations to provide a physician’s affidavit stating that the physician discussed the risks of such a decision with the parent or guardian.

Gianaris and Simotas also want to shed some further light on what’s been happening all round us, and to describe what they mean when they talk about “one of the worst seasons for deadly infectious diseases in recent memory.”

In recent months, they say, “controversy surrounding the anti-vaccination movement reached all-time highs as our country experienced the worst outbreak of measles in 20 years and the worst outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis) in 70 years.”

And they also emphasize, their bill merely “seeks to ensure parents are properly informed about the benefits of vaccination and make all New Yorkers safer from infectious disease.”

MENG NAMED ASSISTANT WHIP: The Democratic Whip among Democrats in the House of Representatives is Congressman Stemy Hoyer, of Maryland, who is the secondhighest ranking Democrat in the House. His job is to build unity among House Democrats. He keeps track of how are Democrats in the House will vote on pending legislation, and builds support among House Democrats for particular positions on those bills. So he has a very good idea which Democrats are team players.

Last week he announced the addition of a new member of his team, Congresswoman Grace Meng, of Queens, who was appointed Assistant Whip. He explained, “In her first term, Rep. Meng has served as a tireless advocate for job creation and middle class families, and has proven to be a leading voice on issues facing small businesses. I am confident that she will be a strong addition to the Whip Team, and I look forward to working with her in this new role.”

Hoyer explained that Meng (D–Flushing) will assist him by advising House Democrats on upcoming legislation and also advise Democratic leadership on the prevailing sentiments of the rank-and-file Democratic members.

Responding, Meng stated: “I am honored to be chosen by Whip Hoyer to serve as a member of the Democratic Whip Team. I look forward to working with him to pass important legislation that will improve the lives of all middle class Americans.”

Meng, who was sworn in to her first term in Congress just two years ago, began her second term this past January.

SIMOTAS SECURES ‘CRUCIAL’ SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS: Traffic safety improvements requested by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D–Astoria) at the intersection of Grand Central Parkway, 32nd Street and Astoria Boulevard North have been completed, it was announced by the lawmaker.

“This intersection was dangerous and confusing,” Simotas said. “Motorists from the area dreaded crossing multiple lanes of traffic to get home and drivers new to the area had no idea how to get where they were going.”

Previously, she explained, one traffic light handled two lanes of traffic exiting Grand Central Parkway and four lanes of traffic from Astoria Boulevard North. The new improvements extend the existing median barrier between Astoria Boulevard North and the Grand Central highway exit ramp to separate traffic through 31st Street.

“While I welcome improvements to make the intersection less hazardous for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists,” Simotas pointed out, “we must ensure that these changes work for the community. I encourage residents to contact my office with suggestions on how to make our streets safer.”

Last May, Simotas recalled, the Department of Transportation received approval from Community Board 1 to begin work at the location, which was originally scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2014. Noting a lack of progress, Simotas repeatedly prodded DOT to take action.

SKELOS BEING INVESTIGATED: Three months after former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was charged with bribes and kickbacks totalling $4 million over a 15- year period, the Republican majority leader of the State Senate – Dean Skelos – has emerged as a federal investigation target of possible alleged conflict of interest and corruption laws, The New York Times reported last week.

Along with the powerful lawmaker from Long Island, his son, Adam, 32, is also part of the investigation, according to the story. And in recent weeks, federal prosecutors have also served subpoenas to other state senators on Long Island and other people close to him.

Prosecutors are reportedly zeroing in on Adam Skelos’ business dealings, including his being hired by an Arizona company, and another title insurance company which paid him $20,000 although he never worked for the firm. AbTech, the Arizona company, beat out a firm that had “submitted a substantially lower bid.” Nassau must get legislation passed in Albany for the contract with AbTech to go forward.

As the story said, all of these matters involving Adam Skelos are being scrutinized to determine whether there’s any connection to Senator Skelos’ legislative duties.

Of particular interest is Adam Skelos’ relationship with an AbTech Industries, which sells sponge-like filters to remove pollutants from storm water. AbTech also has ties to Glenwood Management, a New York City rental firm, which was described in the Times story as “one of the state’s largest campaign donors,” whose name also surfaced in the Sheldon Silver case, although it had not been charged with anything. Glenwood invested in AbTech Holding, AbTech’s parent company, and eventually became AbTech’s east coast distributor.

Investigators are looking into AbTech’s securing a contract in 2013 from Nassau County worth $12 million to do the design, installation and operation of a storm-water treatment system. Adam Skelos introduced AbTech officials to Nassau’s counterparts, and they eventually got the contract.

CROWLEY STATEMENT ON HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY: Congressman Joseph Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives, issued the following statement commemorating Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day:

“Today, we pause to honor the memory of the millions of men, women and children whose lives were taken during one of the most unspeakable and darkest tragedies of our time. It is a day for us to recommit ourselves to ensuring atrocities such as the Holocaust never happen again. Unfortunately, the fight against anti- Semitism and other forms of bigotry is far from over.

“That is why remembrance of the past is essential as it helps shine a light on current and future threats to the Jewish people and other minority communities around the world. We are reminded of the consequences of remaining silent and standing idly by whenever hate rears its ugly head. Today, let us reinforce the message that our society will not stand for discrimination of any kind.”

PERALTA SAYS CORONA PARENTS WANT ‘PERMANENT’ ANNEX: To PS 143: As part of his efforts to alleviate acute school overcrowding in his district, state Senator Jose Peralta (D-Corona) proposes to build a permanent annex to PS 143, Louis Armstrong, 37-74 113th St., Corona.

Peralta said he and parents of students at the school, agree a permanent school building on Parks property is better than a “mini-building and run-down trailers.” The lawmaker made no mention of cost consideration and whether the plan has been presented to Board of Education officials.

‘REMEMBER HOLOCAUST ANNIVERSARY,’ SAYS ADDABBO: As we approached the anniversary of the Holocaust last week (on April 13), state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) noted that “no one anniversary is more important than the other – it’s important each year to remember the lives lost.”

Continuing, Addabbo said, “This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation of the Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp. Given recent events suggesting a divide between our population, it’s important to take this anniversary as a reminder that is more important than ever to come together, for together we are stronger. The Holocaust, an unfortunate and sad period of our past, still lives on today with many survivors and their loved ones. For them and for ourselves, we should work every day to put our differences aside for a productive, bright future.

ADDABBO, ITALIAN-AMERICAN LAWMAKERS GIVE SCHOLARSHIPS: The New York Conference of Italian-American State Legislators is accepting applications for four $2,500 scholarships to be awarded June 8th at their Annual Conference Weekend in Albany. Current or entering college students from New York State are eligible to apply, and need not be of Italian-American heritage. Applicants will be chosen based on grade point average, interest in pursuing a higher education, involvement in the local community, and financial need.

Scholarship applications must be submitted by April 27.

Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who issued this news release, stated: “This is a tremendous opportunity for all students in my district and I encourage everyone eligible to apply. Higher education comes at a price – a high price, but a worthy one. Education is invaluable and I am proud to be part of a conference that promotes that message.

Applications are available at any of Addabbo’s three district offices: 66-85 73rd Place, Middle Village; 159-53 102nd Street, Howard Beach; or 88-08 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Room 311, in Rockaway Beach. “Given the outrageous amounts of student loans some of my constituents are faced with, every dollar, every scholarship, helps. This $2,500 can assist working families put their loved ones on the path to success,” Addabbo said.

For information, call Addabbo’s district office at 718-738-1111.

MARKEY PUSHES CHILD VICTIMS ACT: On the occasion of Wednesday, April 22 being Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Month nationally, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey has invited advocates of her Child Victims Act of New York to Albany today to meet with members of both houses of the State Legislature and urge adoption of her bill.

In advance of today’s meeting, more than 60 Assembly members sponsored and adopted a resolution last month which asks Governor Andrew Cuomo to proclaim April as Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Month in the State of New York. Markey feels: “Educating the public and the legislature about the issue of child sexual abuse and its damaging impact on survivors and society is our goal,” said Assemblywoman Markey.

Markey (D-Maspeth) added for emphasis: “The bill (making the national memorial a state observance) seeks to reform New York’s archaic criminal and civil statute of limitations (SOL) for childhood sexual abuse crimes.” The Child Victims Act (AZ872) is carried in the State Senate (S63) by Senator Brad Hoylman (DManhattan).

“With research showing that one in five of all children in the U.S. are sexually abused,” Markey explained, “it is not only important to raise public awareness about this scourge. It is also vital that we reform outmoded laws to provide justice for victims and expose pedophiles and those who hide them, also helping to protect future generations of children from abuse.”

According to Markey, her proposed Child Victims Act, “calls for the total elimination of the criminal and civil SOL for child sexual abuse crimes in the future, with a complete one-year suspension of the civil SOL to benefit older victims. More than one-third of the total Assembly membership has joined Markey as co-sponsors of the bill.

“The Child Victims Act has been adopted by the Assembly four times since 2006, but has yet to come to the floor of the State Senate for a vote,” Markey said.

Hoylman added: “I'm grateful to the advocates and survivors joining us for the 2015 Albany Lobby Day for the Child Victims Act on April 22. By sharing their personal stories with legislators, they’ll help advance this critical legislation that will allow all sexual abuse survivors to have their day in court. I commend Assemblywoman Markey for her leadership and hard work on this issue and look forward to working with her to bring this legislation for a vote in both the Assembly and Senate.”

On the Assembly lobby day, Markey is also holding an informational exhibition on child sexual abuse in The Well on the Concourse Level of the Legislative Office Building at Empire State Plaza in Albany throughout the day.

Markey said New York State currently ranks “among the very worst of all states in America in how it deals with victims of child sexual abuse crimes – right at the bottom of all 50 states...,” according to a survey by Cardozo Law School.

The lawmaker notes, “Under current law, victims in New York must come forward to bring criminal or civil charges within five years of their 18th birthday or lose the opportunity to ever bring charges against their abuser.”

Markey adds, “Since so many abused children are not able to come to grips with what has happened to them until much later in life, it is the victims who suffer most as a result of our state’s archaic statute of limitations for these offenses.”

Among those individuals and organizations supporting Markey’s bill are: USA Speed Skating star Bridie Farrell, Catholic Whistleblowers, Downstate Crime Victims Coalition, Prevent Child Abuse New York, Catholics Coalition of Conscience, Horace Mann Action Coalition, and Voice of Justice, and two recently-revealed victims from Buffalo, Vanessa DeRosa and Tino Flores, and their attorneys from Hogan Willig firm.

MARKEY SEEKS POPE FRANCIS’ HELP TO ENACT SOL REFORM: Assemblywoman Margaret Markey has asked Pope Francis to schedule a meeting with New York survivors of childhood sexual abuse when he comes to the US in September.

After news that the Holy Father has planned to visit New York City in September she wrote to him saying: “Some of us who have been outspoken in the struggle to provide support and justice for survivors of child sexual abuse would like to meet with you to ask for your help in convincing New York Bishops to bring their views in alignment with yours on the subject of abuse.”

Markey stated the New York Catholic Conference of Bishops has been among the most vociferous opponents of the Child Victims Act since it was first advanced in the state legislature. The measure has been adopted in one form or another by the Assembly four times since 2006, but has never come to the floor of the State Senate.

In her letter to Pope Francis, Markey said, “Those of us in New York who are battling the scourge of childhood sexual abuse were encouraged by your strong message…to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. We took particular note of your call to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who have been abused and your reminder that there is no place in the ministry for those who abuse children…This is a view that resonates strongly in America, where there have been several notorious examples of cover-ups over recent years that have revealed how abusers of children have been hidden by clergy and often remained free to continue their despicable crimes.”

The national organization, Catholic Whistleblowers, has targeted reform of New York’s codes as a priority in 2015.

For information about current statutes of limitations (SOL) in states across the US and various local state initiatives to reform them see the website: SOL-Reform.com

ADDABBO, MILLER RECYCLING EVENT ON TOP: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) are bringing back their “wildly popular” Recycling Day, and they think it will be even more popular this time around because of the new e-waste regulations which prohibit city residents from disposing of old electronics curbside.

Addabbo stated: “Bringing this event to the district twice a year is so important to Mike and me. The standard reasons apply – this is an opportunity to do something productive with old items normally thrown away and wasted. This year, though, is especially important given new Department of Sanitation (DSNY) regulations.”

Addabbo added, “As of April 1, residents can be fined $100 for placing electronics, such as computers and old televisions, at the curb for disposal. This takes away options for everyone, including immobile seniors who can’t very easily make it past their curb without assistance.”
Miller said, “Given new regulations regarding the recycling of electronics, this event presents an opportunity for individuals to discard many items that must now be taken to drop-off centers. Given the continued success of this event, Recycle Day shows the willingness of people to properly recycle when the opportunity exists.”

Mark your calendar – the Addabbo Miller “Free Recycling Event will be held Sunday, April 26 from 10 am to 2 pm at the George Seuffert, Sr. Bandshell Parking Lot in Forest Park. The lot is located on Forest Park Drive, one block west of Woodhaven Boulevard in Woodhaven.
Accepted items include: clothing, coats, bedding, linens, paired shoes, scarves, belts, hats, and handbags, as well as computers, monitors, cell phones, servers, fax machines, televisions, PDAs, scanners, copiers, printers, batteries, laptops, cameras, power strips, wires, chargers, cable boxes, fans, air conditioners, telephones and VCR tapes. No appliances.”

The lawmakers said “a paper shredder will be available to shred paper fiber and confidential papers, and household goods will also be accepted. There will additionally be an eyeglass and book donation station.

Last year, Addabbo and Miller’s event brought in about 300 constituents with over seven tons of electronics, about five tons of paper and two tons of Salvation Army household items.

“Once again, Senator Addabbo and I are happy to provide this bi-annual event to help preserve our environment,” Miller said. “I look forward to making this event a tradition within the community.”

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