2015-06-03 / Political Page

Stavisky, Peralta, Addabbo Back Community Notification Bill

Stavisky, Peralta, Addabbo back bill saying community must be notified before homeless shelter comes in, and CPC must OK it.

Responding to citywide complaints that New York City officials are opening homeless shelters and similar facilities in various parts of the city without consulting local communities, the State Senate has passed legislation requiring the city of New York to “give ample notification to a community before establishing such supportive housing facilities as homeless shelters.”

In addition, the City Planning Commission would be required to approve such a proposal after holding a public forum on opening a supportive housing facility for more than 10 residents or a social services facility for more than 50 non-residential clients a day, according to Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who voted in favor of the new legislation.

Queens Senators Jose Peralta (D–Jackson Heights) and Joseph Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) also voted for the bipartisan bill, along with lawmakers from every borough, an indication that the problem is affecting every borough in the city.

By coincidence, the front page of the Gazette’s May 20 issue, reported on a major community meeting concerning a homeless shelter in Astoria, the Westway Motel, located at 71-11 Astoria Boulevard. “After serving as an overnight shelter residence for the homeless for at least a decade, the Department of Homeless Services moved in more than 100 families at the Westway on July 9, 2014,” the story related.

“We were not given the opportunity for input,” said Astoria Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, who filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court last November, “contesting the lack of notification.”

The legislation, S4542-A, was sponsored by Senator Jeff Klein (D–Bronx) and was co-sponsored by Peralta and Addabbo, from Queens, and also Senators Martin Golden (R–Brooklyn) and Diane Savino (D–Staten Island).

There was no indication what the final tally was when the bill was passed, nor how strongly Democrats and Republicans supported it. But Klein did note that the bill was still pending in the Assembly.

Stavisky has been fuming over the issue since last summer, when city officials opened a homeless shelter in the former Pan Am hotel in Elmhurst, which is in her district, with no prior notification to anyone in the community. Neither did they say anything about a safety plan or mention any solutions to alleviate overcrowding in area schools and on public transit, Stavisky (D–Flushing) said.

Addressing the new legislation, Stavisky said, she supported it “because it gives the community and prospective shelter residents the transparency they deserve, to ensure that the new facility is being operated safely and responsibly.”

She explained, “The bill also calls for the involvement of the local community board. Under the proposed new rules, the city would be required to notify the Planning Commission and the community board of the new center. The Commission (CPC) and the community board would then jointly hold the public forum. After 60 days, but no more than 90, the Commission would then issue a decision to approve, modify, or deny the facility.”

Stavisky added: “Community support is vital to operating a successful social service center. By allowing residents to ask questions and raise concerns in an informative and constructive public forum, I believe this new, transparent process will make the creation of social service centers smoother for both the community and the new facility.”

Senator Klein, author of the new legislation, stated, “I know constituents in my community in the Bronx are fed up with being a dumping ground for shelters due to a lack of foresight and planning for this population. Usually, communities are surprised when shelters or other social service facilities pop up in the neighborhood and this lack of transparency needs to end. Communities deserve notification and to have a say in what’s happening in the neighborhoods they care about.”

Peralta said, “This common-sense legislation would inform a community when the City intends to open homeless shelters and other facilities within its neighborhoods.”

Peralta explained: “The proposal that passed in the Senate would prevent future surprises when, from one day to the next, a community wakes up to find a social services facility in its backyard. This is in response to recent incidents, for example, housing at the Westway Motel in my own district. Social service facilities are a critical part of our society, but the community should know about them and has the right to offer its input and concerns.”

Addabbo noted, “This legislation, while not avoiding or ignoring the crisis of homelessness, substance abuse, or other serious social ills in our society, does provide a necessary means for community members to be fully involved from the get-go when homeless shelters or other social service facilities are planned for their neighborhoods.

“All too often,” Addabbo went on, “communities are finding that facilities are being virtually rammed down their throats, with no real thought given to whether the buildings are appropriate for the programs, whether the neighborhoods have adequate transit or other services, or whether the proposed operators have questionable track records that should be challenged. We need transparency, honesty and in-depth community conversations about these programs— before they happen, not after the fact.”

Lucille Hartman, District Manager, Community Board 1, in Astoria, stated, “Transparency in the siting of homeless shelters is a necessity if they are to coexist in communities. The passage of bill S- 4542A will help facilitate the process by giving the surrounding communities a voice.”

Also commenting was Dawn Scala of the Glendale-Middle Village Coalition, who said, “Critical to ensuring the success of a homeless shelter in any neighborhood is to ensure the community is not ignored in the siting process, ensuring there is full transparency and open and honest dialogue at the very beginning of, and throughout the process.”

WORLD’S FAIR ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL THIS SUNDAY: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has announced the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival will be held this Sunday at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but for the first time, the annual SummerStage outdoor concert will be held simultaneously with the anniversary observance, said the Borough President.

“We’re thrilled to bring SummerStage for the first time ever to this year’s World Fair Anniversary Festival,” said Katz. “Each SummerStage concert brings the community closer, and there could be no better stage than on the World’s Fair Anniversary right next to the New York State Pavilion, a national treasure and iconic, architectural marvel which we will save and restore for generations of families and visitors to enjoy.”

Co-chairing the exciting program with Katz will be Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D–Maspeth) and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. As part of the City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage series and presented by Delta Air Lines and Capital One Bank, the free outdoor concert will begin at 4 pm next to the Pavilion and will include performances by Queens-based indie-rock band Hollis Brown, world-renowned violinist Damien Escobar from nearby Jamaica, and soul/funk artist Charles Bradley.

Markey said she was honored to cochair the World’s Fair Anniversary committee with Katz. Markey, chair of the Assembly’s Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Committee stated:

“I look forward to an exciting day on June 7 as we begin the second year of our commemoration and I invite everyone to come and join in the fun. We are reminded of the historic impact that two World’s Fairs had on Queens as we celebrate at this 2015 Anniversary Festival. Their legacy of a magnificent Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a soon-to-be restored NYS Pavilion, and the homes of our borough’s exciting cultural institutions reflect new spirit in Queens that I am confident will continue to grow in the years ahead.”

The World’s Fair Anniversary Festival will be held from 1 pm to 5:30 pm with family activities, displays of World’s Fair memorabilia, tours of the New York State Pavilion and many other attractions.

The Festival is a celebration of the 75th and 50th anniversaries of the 1939-40 and 1964-65 World’s Fairs, which were held in Queens in what is now Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Katz had made it a priority in her administration to restore the New York State Pavilion. The Borough President is leading the efforts to have it illuminated as part of her overall efforts to restore the iconic architectural marvel, which included securing $5.8 million of city funds in FY 16 to begin the restoration process. The Pavilion has undergone several lighting tests, and will soon be refreshed with a new coat of paint thanks to a partnership between NYC Parks, Painters District Council #9 and the New York Structural Steel Painting Contractors Association.

CROWLEY: HOUSE OKS EXPANDED ACCESS TO STEM FOR HISPANICS: Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Jose Serrano announced House passage of a bill expanding access to STEM studies for Hispanic students. The bipartisan legislation calls for an amendment requiring the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a grant program to support undergraduate STEM education at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI). STEM education includes the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) and Serrano (D–Bronx) stated: “Encouraging under-represented minorities, such as Hispanic students, to enter STEM fields is crucial for our country to remain competitive in today’s global economy.”

The amendment is the latest move in the long-standing effort to establish this program, including recent legislation introduced by Serrano, Crowley and Congressmember Ben Ray Lujan (D–NM) in April.

Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, noted: “A dedicated grant program for HSIs at the National Science Foundation is a critical first step in helping Hispanic students reach their rightful place in the STEM fields. Building upon efforts I have made over the past eight years to urge the NSF to establish this program, our amendment makes clear the strong, bipartisan support for expanding access to STEM education.”

Serrano stated: “As the largest minority in our nation, we need to ensure that Hispanics have the opportunity and are prepared to take the STEM jobs of tomorrow. Right now, far too few Hispanics enter these important fields of study in college. By creating a specific stream of funding for Hispanic Serving Institutions, this amendment will help expand opportunities for Hispanic students in the STEM fields. STEM is vital for the United States’ global competitiveness, and the only way we can guarantee that our country will continue leading the way is by investing in the education of our future generations.”

Lujan and Republican Congressmembers Will Hurd (R–TX) and Carlos Curbelo (R–FL) joined Crowley and Serrano as sponsors of the expanded STEM legislation.

GOLDFEDER, ROZIC URGE CITY PROPERTY TAX REFORM: Two Queens lawmakers, deeply concerned over unequal tax burdens and confusing tax laws, have called for public hearings into the “broken city property tax system.”

Assemblymembers Nily Rozic (D–Fresh Meadows) and Phil Goldfeder (D–Rockaway Beach) have requested Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, Chair of the Committee on Real Property Taxation, requesting that a public hearing be convened “to examine the current state” of New York City’s property tax system.

Rozic pointed out, “Queens residents have made it clear that our property tax system is in desperate need of change. Taxes are rising and the confusion in the system still remains. The system needs to be re-evaluated so that homeowners are relieved of a burden that hinders economic growth.”

And Goldfeder weighed in, “Our families deserve a property tax system that’s fair and user friendly. Sadly, what we have now is a system that is simply too confusing, unfair and does not have families’ best interests in mind. By holding a public hearing, we can give our families a voice and work to create a system that benefits our community and helps our families in Queens grow and thrive.”

In their letter to Galef, the legislators called for the public hearing to look into disparities in the current property tax system and complicated tax filing laws.

According to the letter, Goldfeder and Rozic recommend soliciting feedback from the New York City Department of Finance and other stakeholders on how to reform the current tax system. Goldfeder and Rozic said they field numerous calls each year during tax time from constituents seeking help understanding property tax bills, filling out exemption forms, or appealing the assessed value of their property.

The two legislators have long been at the forefront of improving the tax system for Queens families. In addition to providing assistance to families through their offices, Goldfeder and Rozic both supported legislation simplifying the city’s complicated property tax regime by making the city’s assessment information readily accessible to homeowners. Most recently, they enacted a law introduced by Goldfeder to provide thousands of Superstorm Sandy victims with property tax abatement to prevent the tax increases they faced for home repairs and improvements.

GOV. CUOMO’S STATEMENT ON CONSTRUCTION OF NEW LAGUARDIA AIRPORT TERMINAL: Gov. Cuomo issued the following statement on the Port Authority’s action to start first phase of comprehensive LaGuardia Airport Redesign;

“The Port Authority’s initial plan was to replace what was existing at LaGuardia. That was shortsighted: no one should want to replace a 1950s-style airport. My directive was not to rebuild what was, but imagine and build what should be. This airport immediate relief measures to remediate, correct and enforce where necessary to protect residential streets. Taking into account areas identified by councilmembers and community boards, the DOT will determine locations where large numbers of truck drivers routinely operate off designated routes and will institute measures designed to increase truck route compliance. These measures may include converting two-way streets to one-way streets, posting of signage regarding the allowed usage of certain routes by trucks and education and outreach to the trucking industry. The addition of signage will allow the NYPD to more strictly enforce illegal truck traffic. Combined with the additional measures taken by the DOT, this legislation will go a long way toward reducing the amount of illegal truck traffic on residential streets. The bill now goes to Mayor de Blasio to be signed into law.

“How many times have we heard that residential streets are supposed to be residential? Unfortunately, as the DOT attempts to beautify neighborhoods by avoiding negative signage, we end up instead with trucks and tractor trailers barreling down our residential streets, polluting our communities with fumes and noise and endangering residents,” said Vallone. “I am proud to have passed this bill that is a huge win for the safety and quality of life of thousands of our city’s pedestrians. I applaud my fellow councilmembers for unanimously voting to pass my bill and I look forward to standing with Mayor de Blasio as he signs it into law.” is the welcoming point to the greatest state in the country and New York deserves the best. I applaud the Airport Master Plan Advisory Panel headed by Dan Tishman for their pro bono work, as well as Gov. Christie, Port Authority Chairman Degnan, Vice Chairman Rechler and Executive Director Pat Foye, for working together to put us on track toward building a completely reimagined, integrated 21st century new LaGuardia.”

SCHUMER URGES FEMA: ‘SCRAP FLOOD INSURERS THAT SETTLED SANDY CLAIMS’: For the first time ever, United States Senator Charles Schumer has urged Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to get rid of the insurance firms participating with the National Flood Insurance Program which handled the thousands of claims submitted by storm victims following the wicked storm, and as it turned out many of the claimants later complained they weren’t treated fairly.

Schumer noted that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), created in 1983, “allows participating insurance companies to write and service policies in their own names.” Although the 80 companies are subject to NFIP’s rules and regulations, Schumer explained that “oftentimes the companies are servicing insurance claims with the same profit-driven mentality as they would have for their other lines of business, and as a result unfairly reducing payments to homeowners.”

Specifically, Schumer cited the monthslong investigation done by CBS’ 60 Minutes which brought out “evidence that private engineering companies altered engineering reports so as to not fully reflect the true impact and damage caused by Superstorm Sandy to New York homes, leading to the unjust denial or underpayment of flood insurance claims.

Schumer added those engineering firms were contracted by insurance firms connected to NFIP, Schumer also said that the widespread fraud regarding legitimate flood insurance claims handled by those companies following Sandy highlights other major flaws.

Schumer stated, “Even with a system like NFIP flood insurance – paid for you by the taxpayer – the bottom line is that the standard M.O. is still insurance company 101: deny, deny, deny and low-ball the policy holder, rather than a victim- centered system focused on promptly paying devastated disaster victims so they can get back in their homes and resume normal lives. The only way to change this unacceptable culture is to scrap it.”

REGO PARK SS OFFICE REOPENS: Following renovation work which closed the Rego Park Social Security Office since December 12, the office at 63-44 Austin Street has been reopened and is ready to do business again, Congresswoman Grace Meng announced.

Meng (D–Flushing) said it was “great news,” and she was “pleased that the facility has been modernized, and I hope these improvements will allow its staff to better serve our borough.” The site serves on average “more than 240 Queens residents per day,” she said. During the shutdown all walk-in traffic and appointments were handled by the three closest Social Security offices in Jamaica and Flushing, and in Bushwick in Brooklyn.

Meng said the Rego Park Social Security office is open to the public Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 am to 4 pm, and on Wednesday from 9 am to noon. Also all 32 employees from the facility who were temporarily relocated during the temporary closing have returned to work there.

Meng said the Rego Park office is a fullservice facility handling most Social Security matters including retirement, disability, survivors, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

INVITES QUALIFIED JOB SEEKERS: State Senator Joseph. Addabbo, Jr. is inviting qualified job seekers who are interested in working with individuals with disabilities to come out to a mass hiring event for Birch Family Services scheduled for tomorrow in Ridgewood at the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council Building at 59- 03 Summerfield Street from 10 am to 2 pm. It’s co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) and Mike Miller (D–Woodhaven).

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) said that at prior hiring sessions sponsored by Birch, “a large percentage of the participants” got good jobs in the health care field. He said at tomorrow’s hiring event, jobs will be offered at Ridgewood and Glendale sites caring for “some of our community’s most vulnerable local residents.”

Birch offers a wide variety of health, education and social services for local residents with autism and other disabilities, including pre-school special education; aged five through 20; Head Start; day care; small supervised residences for adolescents and adults, and support for families who are raising children with disabilities.

Job applicants must have, at a minimum, a high school diploma or GED, experience caring for elderly and/or disabled individuals, and a New York State driver’s license. Also bring resume; two forms of identification, including the NYS driver’s license, and proof of their highest completed educational degree. Also bring info about any professional certifications they may hold, such as HHA, CAN, CPR, AMAP, and others.

Addabbo also invites anyone interested in other similar events to contact Frank Fazio in the Howard Beach district office at 718-738-1111.

NOLAN, RIDGEWOOD DEMS TO HOLD ANNUAL DINNER: Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan announced last week that her political organization, the Ridgewood Democratic Club will hold its Annual Dinner Dance next Thursday (June 11) at Riccardo’s by the Bridge in Astoria. As usual, the club will honor labor, community and business leaders, whom Nolan describes as “individuals who have shown great leadership throughout their careers.”

Labor Leader of the Year Awards go to: Stephen McInnis, President, NYC District Council of Carpenters; James T. Slevin, President, Utility Workers Union of America, Local 1-2; and Patricia Stryker, Recording Secretary/Political Director, Teamsters Local 237.

To be honored with Community Service Awards are: Don McCallian, President/Director United Forties Civic Association and Claudia Chan, former Aide, N.Y. State Assembly.

Winning Business Person of the Year Awards are: Sarah Feldman, Founder, Ridgewood Social and Edward C. Peters, R. Ph., Owner, Mil-Rue Chemists.

Riccardo's by the Bridge is located at 21-01 24 Avenue, Astoria. Cocktails are at 6:30 pm, dinner at 7:30 pm.

KIM’S CARNIVAL FOR ALL CHILDREN: In response to a recent situation at PS 120 in Flushing, where almost 100 lowincome children, who could not pay the $10 fee to attend a school-sponsored carnival, were forced to sit in an auditorium, the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) and Assemblyman Ron Kim (DQueens) will host a carnival in downtown Flushing this summer and invite all children in the region.

“For decades, organizations like CPC and many other community groups have worked hard to make sure all of our children in the Flushing area, regardless of their income level, have equal access to programs and fun events,” stated Kim. “The recent incident at PS 120 is simply unacceptable and we will not sit idly while all those children may be deeply traumatized. My office will work closely with CPC to provide a Carnival for All Children and include everyone, free of charge, regardless of their income level.” Details will be announced soon.

Janice Won, Interim President and CEO of CPC said, “CPC is pleased to partner with Assemblyman Ron Kim. With support from members of the community, CPC will organize a carnival open to all children and their families regardless of their socio-economic level. We have a long-standing history of providing inclusive and culturally appropriate programs and events in our diverse communities.”

Lois Lee, CPC’s Director at PS 20, added, “This is a teachable moment where we can lead by example and offer a compassionate response and a positive experience for all children and families.”

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