2015-08-19 / Political Page

Healthy School Meal Standards Needed

United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and school nutrition advocates joined students at IS 5 The Walter Crowley Intermediate School summer meals program recently to highlight the need for healthy school meal standards and to provide more children with quality food throughout the summer.

Also discussed was the fight against the latest efforts to weaken school nutrition standards, as well as the push to ensure students get fresh fruit and vegetables at school. Gillibrand also announced bipartisan legislation to provide more children with nutritious meals throughout the summer.

The meeting came as landmark healthy, hunger-free laws are set to expire in the fall amid efforts to water down nutrition programs and standards.

Congress will debate child nutrition standards and school meals this fall, as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is set to expire. This act has been a landmark achievement for improving what school cafeterias serve children.

United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and school nutrition advocates joined students at IS 5 The Walter Crowley Intermediate School summer meals program recently to highlight the need for healthy school meal standards and to provide more children with quality food throughout the summer. United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and school nutrition advocates joined students at IS 5 The Walter Crowley Intermediate School summer meals program recently to highlight the need for healthy school meal standards and to provide more children with quality food throughout the summer. Under the law, in order for school meals to be eligible for federal reimbursement, one of the main requirements was that they must contain at least a half cup serving of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The authorization for USDA’s core child nutrition programs: the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Special Supplement Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program are also set to expire in September and must be renewed this year, Gillibrand said.

Gillibrand also said she’s pushing to expand purchases from local food producers, particularly fresh fruit and vegetable growers and suppliers, to provide nutritious school meals and also raise students’ awareness of local agriculture.

Gillibrand is also proposing legislation that would give more children access to healthy summer meals by expanding the USDA Summer Food Service Program. The legislation would help improve nutrition and enhance learning in underserved areas by better integrating summer education and meals programs, making it easier for public-private partner organizations to participate in the summer meals program, and by providing the option of a third meal for children who attend evening enrichment programs.

“As we debate child nutrition standards, we need to make access and serving healthy food at our schools a priority,” Gillibrand said. The lawmaker, the first Senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, continued: “By preserving nutrition programs and standards at school, we are not only ensuring our kids are eating nutritious food, we are also expanding opportunities for our local farmers.

In addition, the Summer Meals Act would give more children access to quality meals when school is out for the summer by strengthening the USDA summer nutrition program. No child should have to go without a healthy meal.”

Meng (D–Flushing) said, “As a mother of two young boys who attend public school in Queens and as Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Kids Safety Caucus, I know first-hand how important the fight for accessible and proper nutrition is. As lawmakers, it is our duty to ensure that these programs are renewed and enhanced so that children do not suffer at the hands of bureaucratic barriers.

“No child in Queens or anywhere in America should go hungry, and the food they eat should be chock full of nutrients; ingredients they need to fuel their pursuit of the American dream. School may be out for the summer, but access to nutritional meals should not have a break too.”

Queens Borough President Katz stated, “It is important to ensure our kids have access year-round to quality, nutritious foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. Healthy eating habits are best instilled early in life. Thanks to Senator Gillibrand’s leadership, millions of families will be able to count on the continuation of strong federal nutrition programs for our kids.”

Two members of Mayor de Blasio’s administration – Deputy Mayor Richard Buery and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña – also saluted Gillibrand’s work. Buery said, “We’ve also driven a significant expansion of school nutrition programs and we need Congress to stand with us. We must expand programs that help schools provide fresh fruits and vegetables for our children and we thank Senator Gillibrand for her efforts to expand funding for child nutrition programs.”

Chancellor Fariña stated: “Our free summer meals program provides every child in the city the chance to eat healthy, nutritious food every day and that is critical for their development. By offering meals free of charge at accessible locations throughout the five boroughs, we are meeting families where they are and helping children continue good habits over the summer. I want to thank Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this important issue on behalf of our 1.1 million students.”

KIM DOUBTS NEW WAGE BONDS ARE READY FOR NAIL SALONS: Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the wage bond requirements for nail salon owners last week, but Assemblymember Ron Kim, the main Assembly sponsor of the nail salon legislation, isn’t sure all the necessary conditions are in place to move forward with the plan.

Under Cuomo’s plan, nail salon owners would have 60 days to acquire an insurance bond that would cover wage theft and overtime violations once the legislation is passed. But Kim (D–Flushing) said he’s been fighting to make sure that any new insurance requirements, such as a wage liability bond, are “readily available in the market place” but he’s not sure that’s the case.

“Furthermore,” he added, “the Department of Financial Services must certify in writing that such a requirement is ‘readily available’,” but he’s not certain that has been done. Kim stated, “The last thing we want is to set up the good operators for failure.”

The young lawmaker continued, “Based on my personal conversations with insurance carriers and underwriters, insurance companies may need up to a year to properly model a wage bond for one of our nail salon momand pop stores. I am working around the clock with my colleagues, as well as insurance carriers and underwriters, to make sure we can offer competitive pricing for the small businesses that won't bankrupt them.”

Kim continued: “With what is available in our current policy structure, I know this shortterm solution is a step that we can take to temporarily try to provide some safety for our workers, but we obviously still need better policies that will help us find that long-term solution to protect workers that will become a model for other industries in our state and in our country.”

Kim said, “With these changes we will have to continue to communicate with our industry folks to let them know and understand their options as well as continue to listen and work out any kinks in our new legislation. I am continuing to work with other members in the Assembly to find long-term solutions that can uplift and empower an industry that provides billions in revenue for the state and over 40,000 jobs. We are planning an oversight hearing and town hall with our salon owners and workers to continue to work on these long-term solutions.”

VAN BRAMER’S BILL CREATES COURT SQUARE EAST AND WEST: On August 10, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law Intro. 235, which renames Court Square in Long Island City as Court Square East and Court Square West. Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) introduced the bill “which amends the official map of New York accordingly to help end confusion for emergency personnel responding to incidents and adds clarity to street addresses in the local neighborhood for area residents.”

Under the new law, Van Bramer explained, Court Square East stretches from Thomson Avenue to the Sunnyside Rail Yards, and Court Square West will run from Jackson Avenue to the Sunnyside Rail Yards.

Van Bramer explained: “The street name change from Court Square to Court Square East and Court Square West will clarify the streets for emergency personnel, helping to enhance response times and improving safety for area residents. This name change will also make the roads clearer for everyone who accesses streets in the area of Court Square in Long Island City.”

PRIMARY TO PICK DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR VACANT COUNCIL SEAT: The Queens Board of Elections has scheduled a Democratic primary on September 10 to select the party’s candidate to run to fill the vacant seat in the 23rd City Council district created when former Councilman Mark Weprin resigned to take a position on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff several months ago.

Six candidates have filed petitions to run, and the winner will then run against Republican Joseph Concannon for the Glen Oaks-Bellerose-Queens Village seat in Eastern Queens.

The candidates on the primary ballot are: Rebecca D. Lynch, of Glen Oaks Ali-Najmi, Glen Oaks Celia Devi Dosamantes, Bellerose Barry S. Grodenchik, Queens Village Santnam Singh Parkar, New Hyde Park Bob Friedrich, Glen Oaks

Friedrich has previously run for the council seat, challenging both Mark Weprin and his brother, David, who now holds the area’s Assembly seat. Mark Weprin held the Assembly seat, beginning when he succeeded his father, Saul, who had held the position from 1971-1994.

David Weprin held the City Council seat for three terms, from 2001 through 2012, when he served as Chair of the Finance Committee. When he was term-limited out of the job, Mark Weprin won the Council seat, resigning from the Assembly, and David won the Assembly seat.

In virtually every election for either the City Council or the Assembly, Friedrich was the challenger to the Weprins, but was never a winner. Now he’s back seeking the Council seat again.

Of the others, Grodenchik has run for public office in Queens, but has never been successful. He has held a position on the Borough President’s staff several times.

The other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the vacant seat are first-time office-seekers and we will be reporting on them until the primary.

STRINGER: ‘LOWEST UNEMPLOYMENT RATE CITYWIDE SINCE 2008’ New York City’s economy continued to outpace the nation in the second quarter (April- May-June) in 2015 as each of the five boroughs marked their lowest unemployment rate in seven years and 57.6 percent of the City’s population was employed, the highest proportion since at least 1976, according to an analysis by city Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

“More New Yorkers are working than at any time in the last 40 years and that’s a real plus for our economy,” Stringer said. “But job growth is just one part of the equation; we need greater wage growth in the jobs we already have and the ones we are gaining.”

Stringer’s analysis found that New York City benefited from a robust labor market in the second quarter:

• The city’s unemployment rate, adjusted for seasonality, fell to 6.3 percent in the second quarter of 2015, the lowest rate since the recession hit in 2008.

• Queens’ unemployment rate dropped from 6.3 percent to 5.2 percent, Stringer said.

Prices of condos and co-ops increased in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn; the number of housing sales rose in Queens even as prices continued to rise, which is a sign of high demand, the Comptroller said.

SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND GET $3M FROM FED FOR JFK AIRPORT NOISE STUDY: The federal Department of Transportation has approved $3.1 million in funding for JFK Airport’s Noise Compatibility Plan Study, which helps fund the Part 150 study, which better evaluates noise impacts to the communities surrounding JFK Airport.

Schumer and Gillibrand have long supported the Part 150 study, and now the lawmakers are urging the Port Authority to expedite completion of the study.

Schumer said, “The Part 150 study will finally evaluate the best ways to address noise impacts in communities surrounding JFK Airport in both Queens and Nassau. I am pleased that the Department of Transportation has invested millions in this study and I am urging the Port Authority to expedite its completion.”

Gillibrand stated, “This funding will help facilitate the Part 150 study on airport noise control at JFK Airport. That will not only assist the Port Authority’s evaluation of the problem, but actively involve the community through public hearings and addressing community concerns.”

According to the FAA, the Part 150 study, also known as the Airport Noise Compatibility Planning, is part of a program that provides a structured approach for airport operators, airlines, pilots, neighboring communities and the FAA to work together to reduce the number of people who live in significantly noise-impacted areas. The Part 150 study requires that members of the public have an opportunity for active and direct participation in the process through public meetings and hearings.

According to the FAA, public outreach has already begun. Through the Part 150 study, airport operators may consider different ways to reduce noise, including changing operational procedures (like take-offs and landings) or routing flight paths over less noise sensitive areas or provide sound insulation for homes, schools and other buildings near the airport.

The Part 150 study has two phases. The first phase involves developing noise exposure maps to identify compatible and noncompatible land uses around the airport. The second step involves identifying mitigation efforts, which leads to a Noise Compatibility Program. Airports that conduct Part 150 studies and develop Noise Compatibility Programs are eligible for federal funds for noise mitigation.

Schumer and Gillibrand have long supported measures to help address the issue of airplane noise in local communities. Specifically, Schumer and Gillibrand successfully pushed for a hotline phone number for airplane noise complaints. And, after their urging, New York State directed the Port Authority to hold regular roundtable discussions in collaboration with FAA representatives and other affected parties regarding issues at two major New York airports. Schumer and Gillibrand have urged the Port Authority and FAA to install additional noise monitors at airports and use the data collected to make decisions about changes to flight patterns.

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