2015-07-08 / Political Page

$6.6 Million Included In Budget For Phys Ed

BUDGET FUNDS FOR PHYS ED IN CITY: Following through after a press conference and public hearing discussing Proposed Intro. 0644-A which would require the Department of Education (DOE) to more thoroughly report on physical education in city schools the City Council and de Blasio administration included $6.6 million in funding in its budget to expand physical education across the board in city schools.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, prime sponsor of Proposed Intro. 0644-A, stated “Funding to expand physical education programs is a healthy and wise investment for our DOE kids. Far too many public schools throughout our city have not been providing the basics in physical education classes, and many lack certified teachers and proper gym facilities.

Crowley (D–Glendale) continued, “Sadly, nearly 30 percent of New York City students are entering high school either obese or overweight. Healthy lifestyle habits are developed at a young age, and as a public school parent and lawmaker, I am grateful this funding has been appropriated. It should give the DOE the resources it needs to provide our children with comprehensive physical education. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras and Education Chair Daniel Dromm for their leadership.”

Crowley said the City Council and mayor’s administration will invest $6.6 million for the DOE to hire additional PE instructors, support small schools’ athletic leagues, expand physical education programs in all city schools and overall to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to identify any problems and move toward full compliance with state requirements.

“Physical education is often overlooked even though it is crucial to a well-rounded education,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm, Education Committee Chair and former schoolteacher. The Jackson Heights official said., “For too long, many NYC public school students have had to do without gym classes. With the addition of 50 physical education teachers we can begin to make a dent in this problem. I congratulate Councilmember Crowley for her advocacy on this issue and look forward to continuing to work with her to advocate for additional funding in years to come.”

Crowley pointed out that comprehensive, quality PE during the school day has been shown to prevent childhood obesity, increase focus and retention, improve sleeping patterns, enhance learning and instill good habits for healthy living into adulthood, according to the Physical Education for all Coalition.

New York State rules require up to a 120 minutes of physical education per week in schools, licensed instructors presiding over classes, a proper facility in which to conduct classes, and reports detailing these compliances. Recent studies show that city schools failed in submitting comprehensive reports and more so complying with instruction requirements.

Establishing PE gives every student an opportunity to be physically active, noted Crowley. Studies show a lack of quality PE in certain schools contributes to disparities in obesity rates and poor health outcomes, Crowley noted.

“We are in the middle of a public health crisis,” Crowley said. “It is my hope this funding goes a long way in rectifying that.”

ROCKAWAY’S CHANNEL RAIL BRIDGE HAS GOOD-GUY, BAD-GUY PROBLEM: The Beach Channel Rail Bridge is located between the Rockaway Peninsula and Subway Islands in Jamaica Bay. Owned and operated by the MTA, it is used during morning rush hours, from 6:45 am and 8:20 am to allow the A train to help get commuters to their jobs; then during evening rush hours, from 5 pm to 6:45 pm it enables the train to get commuters home from work.

When train traffic is not utilizing the bridge it frequently must lift sections of the span to give the right-of-way to passing water craft.

But many commuters have said this arrangement doesn’t satisfy their needs and train traffic right-of-way should be extended during rush hours, which will make for a smoother commute.

Joining the commuters to deal with the MTA are United States Senator Charles Schumer, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, and Councilman Donovan Richards, the latter pair representing the Rockaways and Schumer representing the entire state. The trio have called upon the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the United States Coast Guard to investigate train and maritime travel on the Rail Bridge and “consider extending right-ofway train times during the rush hours.” All other times, the MTA, New York City Transit A-trains pass over the bridge to provide travel options for commuters in southern Queens and Rockaway.

Commuters have also made the point that, “Given the distance that most commuters must travel on a daily basis and the limited transportation options that they have, the right-of-way travel times do not satisfy their needs,” and many complain “that the peak hours determined by the United States Coast Guard are not accurate portrayals of their daily commutes.”

Schumer stated: “The daily commute is enough of a struggle for residents of southern Queens and Rockaway. We make it even more difficult when we use inaccurate travel times to determine who has the right-of-way.”

Goldfeder (D–Rockaway) said, “Every day, families in southern Queens and Rockaway are forced to endure some of the longest commutes in the city. By the time commuters reach the Channel Bridge, they’ve often already spent too much of their day traveling to and from work or school.… that makes an already tortuous commute simply unbearable.”

Richards (D–Rockaway) said: “Rockaway residents have one of the longest commutes in the city and many workers are still traveling home well past 6:45. They should be given the right-of-way for a longer period of time, so they are not forced to sit and wait for boat traffic when they are simply trying to get home from work.”

CROWLEY BLASTS/ REJECTION OF KEY DEMOCRATIC

REFORMS IN BURMA: Congressman Joseph Crowley, Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and Congressman Steve Chabot released the statement below condemning the Burmese military’s successful efforts at preventing key changes that would help bring forward democratic reform and allow the people of Burma to choose their own leader.

The statement from Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) and Chabot (R–OH) follows:

“Today’s move by the Burmese military in the parliament only solidifies concerns that the country’s upcoming elections cannot be free, fair, or credible. While the results may not be surprising, they are deeply troubling.

“Without needed changes, Burma’s constitution, written under military rule and adopted through a farcical vote, continues to give major powers to the military instead of the people. Further, the government continues to maintain a narrowly crafted, arbitrary constitutional provision specifically designed to prevent opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from serving as president. Excluding an opposition candidate, not to mention the most popular politician in the country, undermines the upcoming elections in a fundamental way.

“The fact remains, stalled political reforms and backtracking in areas essential to peace and a genuine democratic transition are a threat to Burma’s future.”

NOLAN COMMENTS ON RENT CONTROLS: The recent rent freeze voted by the city’s Rent Guidelines Board was exactly what Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan was talking about all through the final week of the legislative session in Albany, helping to pass legislation to extend rent regulations for four years and strengthening protections for tenants.

“Stronger rent regulations are paramount for the Assembly Majority and it’s a long-term issue that the conference will continue to fight for because it’s so vital for New Yorkers,” Nolan stated, explaining those regulations cover one million apartments in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio picked all nine members of the board, and they voted 7-2 for the rent freeze. The board also voted for a two percent increase for 2-year leases.

Summing up, Nolan (D–Ridgewood) said, “Our top priority is to help the hardworking families who make New York great. This agreement extends rent regulations [on affordable housing] that so many families rely on to stay in their homes.”

During that final week in Albany in late June, Nolan and the Assembly used other methods to protect affordable housing.

Currently, she explained, apartments renting for $2,500 and over deregulated upon vacancy and are no longer considered as affordable housing. So the new legislation the Assembly voted on changed the formula by changing the base price from $2,500 to $2,700 and over, and would thus maintain affordable housing levels.

Nolan said the final legislation also protects tenants by:

•Increasing the penalty for landlords who harass tenants;

•Limiting the amount landlords can increase rents when a tenant with a preferential rent vacates an apartment. Such increase will depend on how long the previous tenants stayed;

•The Assembly fought for higher civil penalties for landlords who harass tenants with the intent to force a vacancy and who violate DHCR orders;

•The legislation also expands the application period for registration of new residential loft units for an additional two years. The bill would also ensure that provisions designed to protect additional tenants from potentially hazardous conditions remain intact.

The Assembly also negotiated a cap for the amount by which a landlord can increase the rent when a tenant with a preferential rent leaves the apartment. If a previous vacancy lease commenced:

•Less than two years ago, the vacancy increase would be capped at five percent;

•Less than three years ago, the vacancy increase would be capped at 10 percent;

•Less than four years ago, the vacancy increase would be capped at 15 percent; or

•Four or more years ago, the vacancy increase would be capped at 20 percent.

MILITARY VETS IN PUBLIC EMPLOYEE JOBS GET BENEFIT: State Senator Joseph Addabbo reports that legislation has been passed, by both houses in Albany which “provides all active state public employee veterans with the opportunity to purchase up to three years of pension credits prior to retirement – a benefit that is now only available to former members of the armed forces who served during certain specified conflicts.

Addabbo said the bill (A. 8174) has been sent to Governor Cuomo for consideration and hopefully he will sign it into law.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) explained, “This legislation would provide pension buyback equity for public employee veterans who served their country at times not now specified in state law.” The lawmaker, who serves as the ranking Democratic member on the State Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, continued, “All of our public employee veterans, regardless of where or when they wore the uniform, deserve our gratitude and the opportunity to purchase the pension credit they lost while serving all of us in the armed forces.”

Addabbo said the proposal, which was approved by both Houses last year, but then vetoed by Governor Cuomo, would enable public employee veterans who served in peacetime – as well as a number of conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Korean DMZ – to buy the pension credits for their military service. Eligible veterans, who must have been honorably discharged, must have at least five years of credited public service before applying for the credits.

Currently, Addabbo, noted the New York State Military Service Credit Law applies to veterans who served in World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War, as well as to servicemen and women who earned certain expeditionary medals during conflicts in Lebanon, Grenada and Panama. Other eligible veterans include those who served in the Theater of operations including Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf, Red Sea and the airspace above these locations beginning in August of 1990.

“I am hopeful the Governor will ultimately join with the Legislature and approve this measure to both show appreciation for our veterans and allow them to buy back some of their military service as they approach retirement,” Addabbo said. “It was the right thing to do last year, and it’s the right thing to do in 2015.”

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