2015-05-06 / Political Page

Crowley Bill Addresses Doctor Shor tage

Legislation that addresses the looming doctor shortage by expanding the current cap on the number of Medicare-supported training slots for doctors has been re-introduced by Congressman Joseph Crowley.

The legislation will help teaching hospitals meet the growing needs for more physicians, including demands facing the nation’s Veterans Affairs hospitals and medical centers, said Crowley, the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus. He was joined by Congressmember Charles W. Boustany Jr., a Republican from Louisiana, thus giving the measure a bipartisan boost.

Crowley declared, “Completing a residency in a chosen specialty is required to become a licensed doctor, yet each year, more and more qualified medical school graduates find that there are no residency positions available for them. This bottleneck means that no matter how many qualified, talented would-be doctors graduate medical schools, many will legally be unable to complete their training and go on to care for patients. In order to genuinely address the coming physician shortage, we need an increased investment in physician training programs, and we need it now!”

The legislation will help teaching hospitals meet the growing needs for more physicians, including demands facing the nation’s Veterans Affairs hospitals and medical centers, said Crowley, the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus. He was joined by Congressmember Charles W. Boustany Jr., a Republican from Louisiana, thus giving the measure a bipartisan boost. The legislation will help teaching hospitals meet the growing needs for more physicians, including demands facing the nation’s Veterans Affairs hospitals and medical centers, said Crowley, the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus. He was joined by Congressmember Charles W. Boustany Jr., a Republican from Louisiana, thus giving the measure a bipartisan boost. Companion legislation (S. 1148) was also introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Harry Reid (NV), the Democratic Minority Leader, Senator Charles Schumer (NY), and Senator Bill Nelson (FL).

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the US is expected to face a “stunning shortage” of 90,000 doctors by 2025, Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) said, including shortages in both primary and specialty care. Medical school enrollment is growing, Crowley noted, yet the number of residency positions is still subject to an outdated cap, meaning that these medical school graduates will have no place to finish their required training. Additionally, last year, an investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs concluded that many VA hospitals do not have enough primary care doctors, contributing to long wait times for care.

Crowley first introduced the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act in 2009 and again in subsequent Congresses. The Crowley- Boustany legislation would increase the number of Medicare-supported hospital residency positions by 15,000 (3,000 slots per year over five years), bringing the total number of slots available to approximately 102,000. The legislation also places an emphasis on expanding residency slots in primary care and other specialities necessary to meet the needs of a growing civilian and veteran population.

Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth E. Raske stated, “I applaud Congressman Crowley for his leadership and his staunch support of the hospital community. This extremely important bill provides a simple remedy to help alleviate America’s looming physician shortage: allow the nation’s teaching hospitals to train 15,000 more medical residents in the coming years.

Denis Whalen, President of the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) commended Congressman Crowley for his leadership in pressing Congress to protect and strengthen Graduate Medical Education.

“This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is critical to supporting our world-class teaching hospitals and academic medical centers whose core mission is excellence in patient care while training tomorrow’s physicians, Whalen said. “More residency slots are needed nationwide to support the increased need for physician services.”

The legislation is also supported by the Association of American Medical Colleges, American Hospital Association, American Osteopathic Association, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, Greater New York Hospital Association, and Healthcare Association of New York State, among other leading national organizations.

MALONEY ‘OUTRAGED’ BY GOP PLAN: Carolyn Maloney, one of the most fiery women’s rights advocates anywhere, exploded last week when House Republicans proposed a Resolution of Disapproval that would overturn a law which bans discrimination by employers based on an employee’s reproductive health deci- sions.

The Queens-Manhattan lawmaker immediately rose on the floor of the Congress to blast her Republican rivals.

Maloney began: “This resolution is extreme and it is an outrage to women everywhere. The Republican majority is saying with this resolution that they think a woman’s employer has a say in a woman’s reproductive health care choices, even though the Supreme Court, the Constitution and women all across this country know they don’t.

Maloney continued, “It’s bad enough that the majority believes your boss should dictate whether your healthcare plan covers birth control. Now they want to make sure your boss has the right to fire you just for using birth control. If that was all they were saying that would be bad enough, but this resolution would actually give employers the right to fire an employee for the reproductive healthcare choices of their spouses, or even their children.

“Think about it. The other side is saying it’s all right to fire someone because their boss doesn’t like their wife’s and even their child’s healthcare choices. Talk about restricting someone’s rights!

“It would take away a whole range of women’s private decisions and make them ‘fireable’ offenses: In vitro fertilization? You’re fired. Exercising your right to choose? You’re fired. Have a daughter who is on birth control? You’re fired.

Maloney declared: “This is outrageous, ridiculous and totally unacceptable. It is an insult to women everywhere. Even more amazing is that the resolution is being proposed by the so-called party of states’-rights. They’re not proposing a federal law. They’re taking away the rights of a locality, the District of Columbia, which is larger than some states.

“This is a new low in this Congress.

“I urge a strong ‘No’ vote.”

MALONEY SEEKS TO FORCE VOTE ON EXPORT-IMPORT BANK: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney joined last week a list of Democrats who are demanding a vote to extend the charter of the Export-Import Bank. Without Congressional action, she pointed out, the bank, which operates at no cost to taxpayers, will be eliminated on June 30. The discharge petition Maloney signed would require a vote on legislation to maintain the bank once it achieves 218 signers.

“We’re just a month away from shutting down the Export-Import Bank, and that’s bad news for 164,00 workers across America,” said Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan). “If the Majority Leader were to schedule a vote today, the legislation would pass with overwhelming support, as it always has. But those on the fringes of the Republican Party oppose the bank for ideological reasons. There are companies across the district I represent and throughout the country who will be hurt if Congress doesn’t act. It’s time for the majority to set aside their ideology, and do what’s right for our economy.”

Maloney explained the Export-Income Bank helps level the playing field for American manufacturers hoping to compete and sell their goods in foreign markets. At absolutely no cost to taxpayers, the bank directly supported 164,000 American export-related jobs in the last year alone, and has created or sustained 1.3 million private sector jobs since 2009.

The discharge petition calls for a vote on H.R. 1031, the Promoting US Jobs Through Exports Act-a bill to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank’s charter for seven years and restore certainty to the bank’s future. The House Republican leadership has refused to bring the bank’s reauthorization to the floor even though H.R. 1031 has the support of 190 Democratic members, and a separate measure to reauthorize the bank has the support of over 60 Republican members. The discharge petition will require the House to consider the reauthorization legislation once a majority of Congressmembers have signed the petition.

On April 21, Maloney testified before the New York City Council Committee on Economic Development during a hearing on the importance of the bank to New York’s businesses. Local business leaders called on Congress to extend the bank’s charter because of the significant and positive impact the institution provides to New York’s economy.

MENG BILL PROTECTS NEPALESE PERSONS IN QUEENS, US: Legislation that would grant Temporary Protected Status to Nepalese citizens currently in Queens and throughout the United States who have been impacted by the devastating earthquake that struck their country, has been introduced by Congresswoman Grace Meng.

The Temporary Protected Status Act of 2015 would protect citizens of Nepal from deportation or detainment so that they are not forced to return to unsafe conditions in their homeland, Meng (D–Flushing) explained.

A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Meng stated:

“Our hearts go out to all who have been affected by the horrible tragedy in Nepal. The loss of life, injuries and destruction of property is overwhelming. The US and international community must continue to assist with much-needed relief and recovery efforts, and this legislation would help as well, by ensuring that citizens of Nepal are not forced to return to the dangerous and disastrous conditions that the earthquake has caused in their country.”

Meng explained further that “In order to qualify for Temporary Protected status, applicants must have been continuously and lawfully present in the United States since April 25, the date when the earthquake occurred.

The lawmaker said, “Temporary Protected Status is a temporary immigrant status that is provided by the United States when conditions in a country prevent its citizens from returning safely, such as natural disaster, civil war or other extraordinary and temporary conditions”.

MOYA EXTENDS SYMPATHIES TO THOSE AFFECTED BY EARTHQUAKE: The community in Jackson Heights is home to many Nepalese immigrants, and in reaching out to them after the Nepal earthquake caused such extensive death, injuries and destruction, the area’s representative, Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D–Jackson Heights/Corona) issued the following statement:

“My thoughts and prayers are with those in Nepal and the surrounding region who are struggling to put their lives back together after this weekend’s earthquake, and with the members of New York’s Nepalese community, many of whom have been personally touched by this tragedy. I extend my deepest sympathies to all who have lost loved ones in the earthquake.

“To New York’s Nepalese community, I send this message – the family of New York is behind you and we will support you in your time of need. If any members of Queens’ Nepalese and South Asian communities are in need of assistance, my office stands ready to help. All of New York mourns with you in this moment of sadness.”

KATZ: ‘NO YOUTH’ PRISONS ‘IN RESIDENTIAL DISTRICTS’: “Enough is enough,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz told the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Fair Share Analysis, which proposed a plan to site a “limited secure placement facility” in the heavily residential neighborhood of South Ozone Park, in southeast Queens, which already has similar existing facilities.

“Residential neighborhoods like South Ozone Park need schools, not prisons,” Katz declared. “The placement of this type of facility is just too close to home, where families are already burdened with similar facilities in the area.”

The borough’s top official continued, “While I support the mission of the Close to Home initiative, I also believe the goals can be achieved by placing the facilities in areas nearby that are more appropriately zoned. To this end, I offer the resources of my office to the administration to find alternative, more fitting locations for all facilities that need to be sited, including schools.”

Katz then identified facilities that are part of the Close to Home initiative by ACS, which has awarded a contract with Sheltering Arms NY (formerly Episcopal Social Services) to establish a limited secure placement facility at 133-23 127th Street in South Ozone Park.

“There is already a Close to Home ‘nonsecure’ facility around the corner on 128th Street, in addition to the Skyway Men’s Shelter a few blocks away on South Conduit Avenue,” Katz pointed out.

The BP added quickly, “ACS has also awarded a contract with Children’s Village for a limited secure placement facility at 207-011 Jamaica Avenue in Queens Village.”

The South Ozone Park area is a part of the borough in which Katz has been actively working with the community board to have continued stability in the area to promote a safe and healthy environment for all residents, a spokesman pointed out.

The spokesman also said Katz has had ongoing discussions for months with ACS and the city’s Buildings Department on the issue in response to significant concerns raised by the community. Katz has noted that these facilities are not as characterized in documents filed with the Buildings Department; specifically, the facility is not providing services that are open to the community or general public. Katz has also noted that these types of facilities are typically found in manufacturing or commercial areas and prohibited in areas zoned for residential use.

CHANGES IN SPECIALIZED H.S. ADMISSION TEST REJECTED BY STATE SENATE PANEL: State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky reports that the Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee had defeated a bill to remove the specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) as the sole evaluation factor for admittance into New York City’s selective specialized high schools.

There are nine specialized high schools in New York City: The Bronx High School of Science, The Brooklyn Latin School, Brooklyn Technical High School, High School for Mathematics, Science & Engineering at the City College, High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, Staten Island Technical High School, Stuyvesant High School, and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art which admits students based on an audition.

Stavisky (D–Flushing) said the defeated bill (S 1787A) would have removed the existing SHSAT as the only factor for admission. The defeated bill called for applicants to also be evaluated on their grade point average, personal statements and letters of recommendation, Stavisky said.

Stavisky stated, “The lack of diversity in our Specialized High Schools is a serious issue that we face in education today.” Stavisky, who is a graduate, parent of a graduate and a former teacher in specialized high schools, said. “When I was a student at Bronx Science, I was one of only a handful of female students. I am proud that today, more than half of the students in specialized high schools are female. We must dedicate that same determination and energy to ensure low-income and minority students get the exact same opportunity that my son and I did.”

Stavisky testified that studies performed by the New York City Independent Budget Office, the New York City Comptroller and New York University all concluded that when multiple admissions criteria are used for admission into selective schools, diversity decreases. Instead, student bodies become more white and wealthy.

“Unfortunately,” she stated, “the results of the SHSAT reflect an education system that does not serve low income and minority students as well as it serves the wealthy. That is why I have advocated for more funding for universal pre-k, more gifted and talented programs in underserved neighborhoods and free SHSAT courses in African American and Latino communities.

“Every single child has the ability to excel on the SHSAT. It is our responsibility to give them the support and resources to do so,” concluded Stavisky.

LIGHTS OUT FOR NON-ESSENTIAL OUTDOOR LIGHTING TO HELP BIRDS: Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that state buildings will participate in the New York State Lights Out Initiative, joining the Audubon Society in the charge to reduce sources of light pollution that disrupt and disorient birds during migration.

State-owned and managed buildings will turn off non-essential outdoor lighting from 11:00 p.m. to dawn during the times of peak bird migration: from April 15 through May 31 and August 15 through November 15.

“This is a simple step to help protect these migrating birds that make their home in New York’s forests, lakes and rivers,” Governor Cuomo said. “I encourage anyone interested in learning more about New York's birds and their migrations to visit the new I Love NY Birding website.”

The new website will provide visitors with information on bird watching and how to participate in the Lights Out Initiative, among other tools. The governor also said the website would be an online source to learn more about bird watching and to discover premier birding destinations throughout New York State.

Regarding the Lights Out initiative, the governor explained that “Many species of shore birds and songbirds rely on constellations to help them navigate to and from their summer breeding grounds throughout the state. Excessive outdoor lighting, especially in adverse weather conditions, can cause these migrating birds to become disoriented, a phenomenon known as fatal light attraction. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture this phenomenon has led to the death of an estimated 500 million to a billion birds annually in the United States through collisions with windows, walls, floodlights or the ground.”

ADDABBO TO CUOMO:”MAKE MAY 1 CROSSING GUARD APPRECIATION DAY”: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. is urging Governor Cuomo to designate May 1 as Crossing Guard Appreciation Day annually, “to pay tribute to school crossing guards who protect New York’s children and the public from harm at busy intersections throughout the State.”

Addabbo said the State Senate has already “unanimously adopted” his resolution that honors the school crossing guards. He also noted that his Queens colleague, Assemblyman Mike Miller, is also working to get the resolution passed in his house.

Addabbo notes that crossing guards are the “first line of defense against accidents and injuries for many young people every day of the school year. Establishing the special day would only reinforce that message and show tangible value of their everyday work.

“About 20,000 children under age 14 fall prey to motor vehicle-pedestrian accidents every year, with half of those injuries requiring a stay in the hospital,” he said. “If it weren’t for the dedication and professionalism of our crossing guards, those unfortunate numbers of painful incidents would be even higher.”

Continuing to press for passage of his resolution, Addabbo said, “In both houses of the legislature, on both sides of the aisle, we all recognize the value of crossing guards to our society,” he said. “They get to know our children by name, and they teach them vital safety lessons. In all kinds of weather, they provide peace of mind for parents and schools by ensuring our young people get safely to their classrooms and are able to pursue their educations. Crossing guards are all too often the unsung heroes and heroines of our academic system.”

KOO INTROS LANDMARKS REFORMS: Councilman Peter Koo ( DFlushing), who chairs the Landmarks Committee, and Councilman David Greenfield (D-Manhattan) have introduced a landmarks reform bill that will reduce the time it takes for the Landmarks Preservation Committee (LPC) to consider potential landmarks, by imposing a timeline on the designation of landmarks, interior landmarks, scenic landmarks and historic districts.

Koo states: Landmarking in New York City is an arduous process that has kept many properties in a state of perpetual limbo, unable to reap the benefits of an actual landmark designation. Since the creation of the landmarks law 50 years ago, many potential landmarks have languished on the LPC calendar for as long as 49 years with no end in sight.

“In a city that takes enormous pride in its history, architecture and neighborhood character, this kind of inaction is unacceptable. Clearly, the landmarks law needs a predictable timetable that provides reasonable expectations for both the community and property owners. Introducing this legislation is the first part of a larger conversation about landmark reform, and I look forward to continuing this discussion in the future.”

Greenfield stated, “Right now, it can take decades for a building or district to gain landmark status. That’s frustrating for developers and preservationists alike. As importantly, this bill will resolve the question of what to do with dozens of calendared items – some dating back to the 1960s. This legislation would give the LPC 18 months to clear that backlog. I applaud the LPC for their great strides in improving the transparency and efficiency of their work. I know that this legislation will help the LPC be even more efficient and transparent.”

Koo explained that, before a building or neighborhood can receive the coveted landmark designation, LPC requires items under consideration to be “calendared,” but “unfortunately, there are currently no limitations on how long the LPC has to consider items that have been calendared, leaving some potential landmarks “in indefinite limbo.”

Koo explained Intro. 775 establishes the following guidelines:

•“Individual, interior and scenic landmarks – LPC must hold a public hearing within 180 days of calendaring the landmark for consideration, and take final action within 180 days of the public hearing.

•“Historic districts – LPC must hold a public hearing within one year of calendaring the landmark for consideration, and take final action within one year of the public hearing.

• “Current calendar – LPC must make a determination on whether or not to designate items currently on the calendar with 18 months after this bill becomes law. In all cases if LPC disapproves or fails to designate any item, the property in question would be barred from reconsideration of landmark status for a period of five years.

QUEENS WAY HONORED BY ASSOCIATION FOR A BETTER NEW YORK: The Friends of the QueensWay, the grassroots community organization advocating to build the QueensWay by converting an abandoned railway into a 3.5 miles linear park has been honored by the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) as part of its annual Spirit of ABNY awards.

Travis Terry, from the Friends of QueensWay, accepted the honor, saying, “We are incredibly grateful to ABNY for selecting us as an honoree this year and for all of their friendship, guidance and support since the inception of the project. ABNY's historic contributions to making our great city what it is today is an inspiration and its acknowledgment of the QueensWay gives us confidence that we are on the path to success.”

QueensWay’s path, however, is staunchly opposed by some residents from Forest Hills to Ozone Park, whose homes line the route of the proposed elevated linear park which was the route of the railroad abandoned some years ago.

Also, there is opposition to QueensWay from some people in Queens who would rather see the tracks restored to their original purpose to provide what they say is a need for more transit service in the borough.

But the QueensWay advocates are supported by a strong group, including they say, a large number of community groups, civic organizations and Queens elected officials, including: Councilman Joseph Crowley (D-Queens/Bronx), who is also the Queens Democratic Party Chairman; Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Rego Park/Forest Hills).

The Trust for Public Land is spearheading the QueensWay project, aiming to provide safe, easy access to Forest Park; recreation opportunities for 322,000 people living within a mile “of the proposed recreational resource, a boost to local business, and a high profile showcase for the most culturally diverse borough of New York City.”

Marc Matsil, of the Trust for Public Land congratulated Friends of the QueensWay upon their being honored by ABNY, and added: “We look forward to continuing our work towards building New York’s next great park, and to realizing the many benefits that linear parks have proven to bring to communities across the globe, right here in Central Queens.”

QUEENS MOMS, ELECTEDS FIGHT TO KEEP CHILD, AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS OPEN: Four after-school programs in Queens threatened with closure in June sparked a rally to keep them open last Thursday by parents, youths, teachers and elected officials in cooperation with the Campaign for Children.

“After-school programs are vital to families across Queens," Councilman Mark Weprin declared at the Queens Borough Hall rally.

Weprin (D-Oakdale), leader of the Queens Council Delegation, said the threatened after-school, early childhood education and other programs may close in June if not restored to the city budget, affecting 435 children in Queens.

The programs “keep children safe and engaged after school while allowing parents to work,” Weprin said.

All totaled, the cuts involve 17 programs for 1,882 children throughout the city. Of those, 435 kids in Queens in four programs would be affected. Money needed to avert these cuts is $5.9 million. In addition, 2,300 elementary after-school slots are threatened to be closed unless $7.7 million is added to the budget.

Recently released maps from Citizen’s Committee for Children, part of the Campaign for Children, show that the 17 sites are  in communities with the highest need.

Parents, teachers and children from the Sheltering Arms Malcolm X Day Care Center in Corona were at the rally, and parents said the program is at risk because the city hasn’t committed to extend their lease.

Emily Hafford, a pre-K teacher and the parent of a third grader at the Queens Community House program at PS 117, said, her son is “able to finally receive many extra-curricular activities that help him to grow as an individual... able to take dance lessons, science, technology” and other subjects in his after-school program.

Councilman Mathieu Eugene, Chair of the Youth Services Committee; stated that last year his committee successfully expanded both pre-K and after-school programs, which have proven “to enhance the academic performance of our children.”

So he’s opposed to the threatened cuts and he urges “the administration to provide the funds necessary….”

The Campaign for Children is a coalition of 150 early childhood education and after-school advocacy groups. Included are: Citizens Committee for Children, the Children’s Aid Society, United Neighborhood Houses NY, Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, Children’s Defense Fund NY, Day Care Council of New York, UJA Federation of New York, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Good Shepherd Services, and YMCA of Greater New York.

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