2015-06-17 / Political Page

Going To Bat For Yogi Berra

Before last week’s Annual Congressional Baseball Game in the nation’s capital, Congressmembers Joseph Crowley, Bill Pascrell Jr. (D–NJ), and Tom Marino (R–PA) led a bipartisan coalition of 36 lawmakers in urging President Obama to award New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his many accomplishments in a 19-year career.

In a letter to President Obama, the lawmakers cited the former Yankee catcher’s many accomplishments “on and off the field” as reasons to award Berra the highest civilian award of the United States.

(See separate listing of NYC lawmakers urging award of honor to Berra).

In their letter to the president, the lawmakers wrote: “As a strong advocate for civil rights during a time when Major League Baseball was embracing the first black and Latino players, Berra had a profound impact in the baseball community and across America.”

Berra waves to the crowd during the last game at Shea Stadium on September 28, 2008. Berra waves to the crowd during the last game at Shea Stadium on September 28, 2008. Earlier last week, supporters were successful in obtaining more than 100,000 signatures on a whitehouse.gov petition urging support in bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom upon Berra, surpassing the threshold needed to require an official response from the White House.

The group leaders said that Rep. Pascrell first urged President Obama to award Berra the Presidential Medal of Freedom last month in recognition of the Yankees legend’s 90th birthday.

The letter to President Obama urging him to award the coveted honor, stated, “We write to urge you to award Yogi Berra the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his commitment to educational excellence, social justice and respected military service. As the son of Italian immigrants, Pietro and Paolina Berra, Berra is one of the most respected baseball players of all time and is the embodiment of the American dream.”

Reviewing Berra’s impressive 19-year baseball career highlights, his sponsors noted Berra: was selected as the American league (AL) All Star catcher 15 times; was named the AL Most Valuable Player three times; he appeared in an “astounding” 21 World Series games and won 13 World Series championships, and was the catcher of the only perfect game thrown in a World Series.

However, they were quick to point out that Berra’s “civic resume reads like his baseball highlights ‘exceptional,’ and deserves to be recognized,” they insisted.

This intensive advocacy has carried on to this day, they pointed out. “Now,” they said, “he serves as ambassador for Athlete Ally, where he champions LGBT rights in sports.”

Turning to his wartime military service, they stated, “He served his country by enlisting in the US Navy during World War II, where he served as a gunner’s mate on the USS Bayfield during the D-Day invasion of France.”

In their letter to the President, they stated: “Berra has demonstrated an admirable commitment to improving his community and our country as a whole. For instance, in 1959, when the Yankees hosted Yogi Berra Day, he asked that the proceeds help establish a scholarship at Columbia University so future students who didn’t have the financial means to attend would be able to receive an outstanding education.”

Continuing, they said, “he continues to support educational opportunities through the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center located in Montclair, NJ, which supports character education programs that teach the values of respect, sportsmanship and inclusion – qualities that Berra has demonstrated throughout his life and baseball career.

They concluded the letter: “Over the years, we have watched proudly as Berra brought the Yankees numerous victories, continued his leadership as a manager of both the Yankees and Mets, and fought for priorities that bring out the best in our country. As a champion and hero in more ways than can be counted, Berra is an American icon who is deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

The letter was signed by all 36 Congressmembers.

They explained that the annual Congressional Baseball Game, scheduled for last Thursday at 7:05 pm at Nationals Park, brings together lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in a showdown to raise funds for The Washington Literacy Council, The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation.

Among the 36 Congressmembers joining in the appeal to President Obama were eight from the New York City delegation, all Democrats. They were led by Joseph Crowley (Queens/Bronx), who serves as Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives, Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney (Queens/Manhattan), Gregory Meeks (Southeast Queens), and Steve Israel, (NE Queens/Long Island).

Rounding out the NYC group are: Charles Rangel and Jerrold Nadler (both Manhattan) and Jose Serrano and Eliot Engel (both the Bronx).

CROWLEY’S COMMENTS ON AIDS AWARENESS: Congressman Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx), issued the following statement marking National Caribbean American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which is recognized annually on June 8:

“National Caribbean American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is time for us to pause and remember those we have lost to this devastating disease in every community. While progress has been made, we cannot lose sight of the work that lies ahead to educate, raise awareness, and eliminate this disease once and for all. Today, let us recommit ourselves to this noble cause, for those we have lost and for those who continue to fight.”

For more information on HIV/AIDS, or to find our nearest testing center, please call the New York City Department of Health at 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/health.

‘GIVE SENIORS 10 PERCENT DISCOUNT ON WATER BILLS,’ ADDABBO SAYS: After so many years of “significant increases” in city water costs, it would be a welcome relief to give cash-strapped New York City senior citizens a 10 percent reduction on their water bills, said state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) last week.

Addabbo made the comment recently after voting for a bill proposed by his Senate colleagues and passed in Albany. The bill is now being considered by the Assembly’s Committee on Cities.

Addabbo stated, “Over the 12 years of the previous New York City administration, water bills rose by a whopping 166 percent and presented a heavy burden for many senior citizens on fixed incomes and other individuals and families struggling to balance their household budgets.

Another water bill increase, albeit less than three percent, is set to go into effect in July, and I am concerned about the cumulative impact of these rate hikes on those senior citizens who can least afford them and who have contributed so much to our city and state throughout the years.”

Last April, Addabbo recalled, he submitted written testimony to the New York City Water Board in opposition to the 3.24 percent water bill increase that was then being sought. “While the final hike, at 2.97 percent, was less than the original proposal,” said Addabbo, “it still represents a blow to people who are having trouble affording housing, health care, food, utilities and other basic life necessities.”

Addabbo continued, “While I understand the need to improve the city’s water and sewer infrastructure, I still believe that other sources of revenue, rather than consistent water rate hikes, should be considered for this purpose.”

Also in his testimony to the Water Board, Addabbo suggested that – if the rate hike was going through – that the city pay special attention to making repairs and improvements in flood-prone areas of his district like Lindenwood, which was doubly devastated by area flooding after being hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Addabbo reiterated, “I am hopeful that the State Assembly will seriously consider this legislation and provide some economic relief to area senior citizens. Under any circumstances, I will continue to express my concerns about misguided and all-too-frequent water bill increases to the city administration.”

STAVISKY BILL TOUGHENS PENALTIES FOR GRAFFITI OFFENSE: Penalties for persons convicted of defacing public property with graffiti will face tougher penalties under a new law sponsored by state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky which was passed by the senate.

The bill would increase the penalty for first time offenders to a Class A misdemeanor; and penalties for repeat offenders or for persons who caused more than $1,000 worth of damage would be upgraded to a Class E felony.

Stavisky (D–Flushing) stated: “Graffiti van- dalism is not a victimless crime. It can result in substantial costs to homeowners, property owners and taxpayers. This legislation is an important deterrent to destructive acts against public and private property.”

The bill in the Assembly, sponsored by Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D–Flushing), now goes to the Assembly Rules Committee.

ASSEMBLY PASSES BRAUNSTEIN’S BILL BANNING ‘N-BOMB’ DRUG: The synthetic drug known as “N-Bomb” has been banned by the Assembly, under a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D–Bayside).

Braunstein explained, “N-bomb, also known as ‘smiles,’ first surfaced in 2013, accompanied by reports of overdoses throughout the country. This legislation would ban key ingredients contained in the drug that mimic the hallucinogenic effects of LSD. Because this drug is chemically manufactured, its potency varies wildly. As such, it is difficult to predict how someone may react to the substance. Some harrowing side effects of N-Bomb include seizures, psychotic episodes, loss of consciousness and bleeding from the brain.”

Braunstein added, “Just as my 2011 legislation banning bath salts helped to prevent an epidemic in New York, this bill would permanently ban these dangerous chemicals before the problem becomes widespread in our state.

“These dangerous substances are being marketed throughout the country, and the result is the same as bath salts – damaging effects to the user and potentially dangerous consequences for our communities.”

Braunstein said the Drug Enforcement Administration added the chemicals used to manufacture N-Bomb to its permanent list of controlled substances as a Schedule I drug on November 15, 2013. This bill would add these chemicals to the state’s banned substances list.

ADDABBO ON RATE OF ‘SANDY’ FUNDS SPENT BY NYC: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) issued the following statement regarding the rate of Hurricane Sandy funding expenditures by NYC:

“As I read the New York Post article that only 16 percent of the Sandy funds have been spent by the city so far, I thought of the rising blood pressure and frustration of my constituents who read the same article and sustained damages from Sandy. I also remind myself that the large sums of monies allocated for flood mitigation and resiliency must be spent on credible projects that have been deemed realistic, so as not to waste these funds. The larger the project, the more planning and research involved, which takes time. I will continue to advocate for post-Sandy projects to be done expeditiously and efficiently in order to protect my residents against future storms and flood damage.”

On June 12, City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and residents from Long Island City called on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to restore approximately 190 public parking permits that were withdrawn from the neighborhood by the agency. After a policy change, DOT significantly decreased the number of monthly parking permits offered to local residents and began using public spaces to house agency vehicles and materials.

“Parking is precious in Long Island City and to take away these much-needed spaces is dead wrong,” said Van Bramer. “What has been done can be undone. We are calling on the agency to give these parking spaces back to the hardworking residents of Long Island City who deserve it.”

Van Bramer explained that the large reduction in public parking has disrupted the lives of many local residents and businesses who have relied on the Court Square Municipal Parking Garage for over a decade. Street parking in the Court Square area is extremely limited. In an effort to provide residents with convenient public parking spaces, Van Bramer is requesting DOT to reestablish its previous policy and establish a systematic approach to ensuring local residents are given preference at the public parking lot.

Long Island City residents, business owners and families joined the Councilman to demand the parking spaces be returned to the community and request the agency restore its original parking policy for local resident permit holders.

“Instead of creating more parking, DOT’s new plan has actually eliminated nearly 50 parking spaces for daily commuters and more than 100 spaces for monthly pass holders,” said P.C. Cheng, Long Island City resident. “DOT has now made this public parking garage which is supposed to serve the community into a DOT private parking garage to house their own vehicles which only need to park at night thereby leaving more than 50 spaces completely empty during the day, which is an absolute waste.”

“In addition to now having to wait over 2.5 hours each month to get a monthly parking spot, the DOT surveillance vans are pulling out with over 100 people lined up blocking their exit,” said Amy Bassin, Long Island City resident. “Cars are coming and going in a parking lot with 100 people standing in line is certainly an accident waiting to happen.”

“I have been parking here at the DOT Court Square Parking Garage for 10 years, ever since I moved my business to LIC from Manhattan,” said Martie Holmer. “Now, suddenly, the number of permits have been reduced by one third. If the city vehicles and machines were not stored here, we would not have the problem we have today. Having individuals take precious time away from work to stand in line for a permit each month is ridiculous and insulting. If this structure indeed carries the name Municipal Parking, then let it be for the cars of the people, not for storage of city vehicles.”

The Court Square area is home to hundreds of Long Island City residents. As the community continues to grow Van Bramer has advocated for the preservation of parking to accommodate residents who not only live in the area, but also those who are projected to move into the neighborhood.

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