2015-12-16 / Political Page

City Council Urges GOP: ‘Support Zadroga’

The 51-member New York City Council has appealed to US Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, urging passage of the reauthorized Zadroga Act, which would continue health and compensation benefits for those made sick working to clean up the post 9/11 ruins of the World Trade Center.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark- Viverito summed up the plea to McConnell, who recently blocked passage of the new Zadroga Act:

“It is our moral obligation to honor and care for these courageous men and women – who include firefighters, police officers, and medical personnel – and to provide them support and compensation they need and deserve. They were there for us when we needed them most, and now we must be there for them.”

Queens Council Members who signed onto the appeal are: Jimmy Van Bramer (DSunnyside) Majority Leader; I. Daneek Miller, Paul Vallone, Peter Koo, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Costa Constantinides, Barry Grodenchik, Rory Lancman, Daniel Dromm, Ruben Wills, Karen Koslowitz, Elizabeth Crowley, Donovan Richards and Eric Ulrich.

The proposed legislation, entitled the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, must be passed by the House and Senate to fund the World Trade Center health program for persons suffering from injuries or illness attributed to the 9/11 attacks and will allow the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) to remain open for individuals eligible for compensation from injuries or illnesses caused by the 9/11 attacks.

The City Council’s letter states: “The extension of the Zadroga is a reaffirmation of our solemn duty as a nation to protect those that sacrifice in the service of our country. H.R. 1786/S.928 will continue to provide our city’s police, fire, sanitation and other first responders that suffered 9/11 – related injuries or illnesses with healthcare and eco- nomic security. For these reasons, the New York City Council urges you and your colleagues to help us protect our constituents and first responders by supporting this legislation.

The letter continued: “When Congress passed the Zadroga Act in 2010, it reopened the VCF, which has helped to provide economic damages and losses to many of the victims of 9/11 or their families. Currently, the VCF has made more than 3,100 compensation determinations and has deemed more than 7,000 injured persons eligible for compensation.

“Given that many of our first responders are suffering from long-term injuries and illnesses, we as a country owe it to them to permanently extend the VCF to provide compensation for them and their families for 9/11-related injuries or illnesses.

“For New Yorkers, the heroism and selflessness that our first responders displayed at the WTC by working to save lives, searching for our fallen city residents and helping to clear the debris so that we could rebuild, is permanently etched into our collective memories.

Unfortunately, many of these first responders have developed serious health conditions from their time at the WTC. In fact, it was reported that the day before this past Thanksgiving, Manhattan Battalion Chief James Costello of the New York Fire Department succumbed to WTC-related cancer at the age of 52.”

Currently, more than 70,000 responders or survivors of the September 11 attacks are receiving medical treatment or monitoring across the country, including more than 3,600 people who have been certified as having cancer related to the September 11 attacks. The reauthorization of the Zadroga Act will ensure that those suffering from injuries and illneses attributed to the September 11 attacks will continue to receive treatment. The failure to reauthorize the Zadroga Act threatens to jeopardize their level of care.”

DROMM OPPOSES CITY SUBSIDY TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS: In a very frank statement, Councilman Daniel Dromm, joined by Councilwoman Rosie Mendez announced their opposition to a bill, Intro 65, introduced by Councilman David Greenfield (D–Brooklyn). Dromm (D–Jackson Heights), the Chairman of the Education committee, stated in a release:

“We are profoundly disappointed that Intro 65 seems destined to pass. This bill is a multi-trillion dollar subsidy of yeshivas, private and parochial schools and will come at a great cost to our New York City public school students.

“Claims that this legislation will protect students are specious at best: the fine print reveals that security guards would still be required to contact the NYPD should there be a threat to students’ well-being. It is clear that Intro 65 is simply a ruse orchestrated by well paid lobbyists.

“Our public school students deserve better. We continue to call on our colleagues in the Council and Mayor de Blasio to reject this fiscally irresponsible and possibly unconstitutional bill. The city should work toward improving and not dismantling public education.”

CROWLEY CALLS FOR REMOVAL OF ABANDONED BARGES IN FLUSHING BAY: Congressman Joseph Crowley and advocates on December 7 called for the immediate removal of two abandoned barges that are not only contaminating the waterway but are posing a safety hazard for vessels navigating the federal navigational channel in Flushing Bay.

Crowley, the vice chair of the Democratic House Caucus, also requested an investigation to determine who was the ‘bad actor’ responsible for the abandoned barges.

Crowley was joined by Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay, Friends of Flushing Creek advocate Alex Rosa, Guardians of Flushing Bay member Randy Ng, and Riverkeeper Staff Attorney Sean Dixon.

Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) stated: “Flushing Bay has historically been and continues to be a critically important waterway for New York. The US Army Corps of Engineers needs to recognize the urgency of this matter and act to immediately remove these derelict barges from our bay. They are not just an eyesore for our community. More importantly, they are polluting our waters and creating an immediate safety hazard for the commercial, recreational and law enforcement ships that operate through the bay.”

At the event held at the World’s Fair Marina, Crowley also called for a federal investigation to determine the bad actor responsible for abandoning the barges in the first place. For months, he said, the barges have drifted around the bay, and as they continue to decay, they release blocks of styrofoam and other materials into the water, polluting not just the bay itself, but the nearby shores.

In a letter to Col. David Caldwell, Commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, Crowley underscored the importance of acting swiftly.

“While I will continue to call on the proper federal authorities to conduct an investigation to determine who perpetrated this act and hold that party accountable, I ask that the Army Corps of Engineers act quickly to remove these barges from the water. Any further delays only make it more likely that this problem worsens and its solution gets costlier,” Crowley wrote.

“Flushing Bay is our home,” said Randy Ng, “it’s home to a community of paddlers in the sport of Dragon Boat. Ng, DCH Dragon Boating Team coach and member of Guardians of Flushing Bay, reiterated that “The derelict barges pose an environmental and health threat to the community.”

Alex Rosa, Friends of Flushing Creek advocate, said, “We welcome and appreciate Congressman Crowley’s leadership in working with environmental champions, including Riverkeeper and our local stakeholder groups, to remove the abandoned barge and its contaminants from Flushing Bay.”

MENG TRANSIT MEASURES PASSED: Three pieces of legislation aimed at improving safety of school buses, child care seats, and protect privacy in driverless vehicles, all proposed by Congresswoman Grace Meng, were enacted into law December 4 as they were signed by President Obama.

All had been included in the massive Transportation bill which had been signed off on by the President. Included was the first federal driverless car provision enacted into law.

“Enacting my three pieces of legislation is a huge boost towards saving children’s lives, increasing their safety, and ensuring that privacy protections are addressed, for future driving technologies,” said Meng (D–Flushing). “I look forward to each measure benefiting New York and the nation for many years to come.”

The federal transportation bill, entitled Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) is a five-year $305 billion spending bill that will fund the nation’s roads, bridges, highways and transit systems, Meng noted.

Under Meng’s provision to improve school bus safety, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will be required to review existing federal and state rules that regulate such items as bus maintenance, driver training, inspection standards, public access to inspection results and accident data. After the review, experts will be required to issue recommendations on best practices that seek to improve the safety and reliability of school bus transportation.

Regarding Meng’s measure to enhance the performance of car seats, she explained it will require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to improve data collection on the types of child restraint systems in use when a child is involved in an automobile collision.

After three years of collecting data, Meng said, the Secretary of Transportation will be required to provide a report to Congress on the performance of different types of child restraint systems. Data improvements will include information on the type of child restraint system in use – a five-point harness or booster seat – and whether the restraint was forward-or rear-facing when the crash occurred.

Lastly, Meng explained, the driverless car legislation will add consumer privacy protections to the list of items GAO must assess when evaluating the readiness of the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to handle autonomous vehicle technologies such as driverless cars.

Once assessed, Meng said, a report will be issued to Congress to ensure that privacy safeguards have been addressed when this technology is rolled out in the future. Meng’s measure, the Autonomous Vehicle Privacy Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 3876), is the first-ever federal piece of legislation to be introduced that deals only with driverless cars.

Meng is a founder and Co-Chair of the Kids Safety Caucus, the first bipartisan coalition in the House that promotes child safety issues.

The bipartisan Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act was overwhelmingly passed by the House and Senate, Meng stated. It is the largest transportation bill in a decade, she said.

EFFORT TO ADDRESS DATE VIOLENCE ADVANCES: At the urging of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and two other woman lawmakers, a new provision has been added to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), legislation which will help prevent dating and relationship violence, they say.

The provision, part of a grant program to promote safe and healthy students, permits schools to use federal funds to teach relationship building skills that can improve safety by preventing coercion, violence or abuse, including teen and dating violence, stalking, domestic abuse and sexual violence and harassment.

Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) stated: “Young women and men need to understand what relationship violence is, and where to turn when they have experienced abuse. This grant program will allow teaching safe relationships to be a part of sexual education curricula. We need to teach students that help is available, and that violence in any form from the people you love is never acceptable.”

Congresswoman Alma S. Adams (NC), one of the colleagues working with Maloney and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR) on the legislation, stated: “I’m pleased one of our nation’s most critical pieces of education legislation passed with provisions that will help teach students how damaging sexual abuse and dating violence is.”

Adams, a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, added: “With the education they need and deserve, we can help our youth make more informed decisions that allows them to maintain healthier relationships, free from abuse and violence.”

Bonamici said, “Creating safe environments for young people includes educating them about healthy relationships.” Bonamici, a member of the Conference Committee for ESSA, added: “It is critical that we teach students how best to recognize and prevent dating violence, stalking and harassment.”

Maloney explained that last July, the three representatives introduced the Teach Safe Relationships Act of 2015 (H.R. 3141). The bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to require “safe relationship behavior” as part of sex education. It would also authorize grants to support new professional development opportunities for educators and the development of curricula that promotes safe relationship behavior.

In February, Maloney and Adams introduced an amendment to the House K-12 education bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), to add this provision, but the measure did not receive a vote.

In October, Maloney continued, she, Bonamici and Adams sent a letter to the Education and the Workforce Committee leaders urging them to include provisions from the Teach Safe Relationships Act in the final ESEA bill.

Maloney noted that according to the US Departmnt of Justice, more than 290,000 Americans are victims of rape and sexual assaults each year, and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 consistently experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence.

HEAVY CAMPAIGNING IN IOWA BOOSTS CRUZ: In heavily conservative Iowa, where the first presidential primary of 2016 will be held on February 1, US Senator Ted Cruz has finally caught up to Donald Trump and even passed the frontrunner in a recent poll.

Cruz (R–Texas), who has targeted the Iowa primary and has been campaigning there steadily in recent months, was reported in Sunday’s New York Post to have led the field with 31 percent in a Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll of Iowa’s Republican voters.

Trump, who had been leading in most polls in the state, trailed in second place in that poll with 21 percent. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson was third at 13 percent.

Since the first presidential primary voting is done in Iowa, historically it has given the winner in early voting states that follow Iowa a boost in his (or her) prospects in the broader picture of the presidential race.

In 2008, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton squared off in their first encounter in Iowa, their first encounter attracted much scrutiny, and when Obama defeated Clinton, it gave his prospects such a boost that it propelled him into the lead which carried him to victory and eventual nomination. Obviously, the present primary is getting the same intense attention, to see whether Trump’s popularity will be sustained as he goes before actual voters in early party primaries.

The same situation will apply to Clinton and US Senator Bernie Sanders as they face their party’s voters for the first time in the Democratic primary on February 1 in Iowa.

Getting back to the Republican contest, polls show Trump is still maintaining a steady lead over his opponents in national polls around the country, despite the furor he’s aroused with his demands to keep Muslim immigrants out of the US.

In fact, his threats to bolt the party and run as an independent, practically guaranteeing a Democratic victory in next year’s election, are enough to silence any criticism from the GOP when Trump’s pronouncements stir the pot.

Meanwhile, Cruz has established himself firmly as the Republicans’ second choice to Trump in the race for the party’s presidential nomination when it appeared US Senator Marco Rubio would have that distinction.

CROWLEY GETS SCA STUDY FOR ADDITION TO PS 128: The School Construction Authority (SCA) announced it will conduct a feasibility study of a possible addition to PS/IS 128 after being pressured by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who argued it was one of the most overcrowded Middle Village schools in School District 24, which is the city’s most overcrowded school district.

Crowley (D–Glendale) had maintained that PS/IS 128 at 123 percent capacity, housed first and second graders at an annex building, isolating the students in a building without a gym or a computer lab.

“This also makes it dangerous for families to cross a busy and often unsafe intersection,” Crowley pointed out.

Crowley said that last September, the SCA had announced ground-testing for the construction of a self-standing Universal Pre- Kindergarten (UPK) center on the school’s playground. Crowley immediately wrote a letter in opposition to SCA President and CEO Lorraine Grillo, stating that the elementary school is already significantly overcrowded, and first needs the resources to alleviate that burden before bringing in new UPK students.

Crowley said, “Since opening in 2009, PS/IS 128 could not contain its student population, forcing kids to use the annex across the street. I have continually called attention to the need for new schools and more education space in my district, and PS/IS 128 was not provided the proper amount of seats from its inception. It is important for the SCA to accommodate these existing students who are burdened by such severe overcrowding.”

Crowley continued that “after months of pushback and meetings with the SCA, Grillo thanked Crowley for her advocacy for the students in her district and agreed the SCA would conduct a feasibility study on expanding PS 128 for its existing students.”

Crowley explained the study will determine what size building can fit on the site, what the zoning regulations call for, and any potential environmental concerns. There is not yet a date for the study’s beginning, but the results will be shared with the Department of Education and the community upon completion, Crowley said.

DROMM COMMENTS ON HITAND RUN FATALITY: Councilman Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights/Elmhurst), commenting on the death of Ovidio Jaramillo, caused by a hit-and-run driver on Northern Boulevard at Junction Boulevard in East Elmhurst on December 9:

“I am deeply saddened by the death of 17- year-old Ovidio Jaramillo, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Northern Boulevard by Junction Boulevard last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. I will continue to do all that I can to improve traffic conditions and pedestrian safely in our community. I urge anyone with information about this horrible incident to come forward and report it to the police immediately.”

MARKEY’S ANTI CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN: In a one-page news release, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D–Maspeth) spreads the word of how she has “passed new measures to fight corruption” in the state Assembly namely:

•STRIP TAXPAYER-FUNDED PENSIONS from public officials convicted of corruption (A. 7704)

•INCREASE DISCLOSURE of legislators’ outside income to prevent conflicts of interest (Ch 56 of 2015).

CLOSE THE LLC LOOPHOLE to reduce the influence of big money in politics (A 6975-B).

Markey signs off with a “Restoring Integrity In Government” logo.

OPEN HOUSE: Councilman Daniel Dromm has put the welcome mat out with an invite to all for a Holiday Open House tomorrow, December 17, at 37-32 75th Street, (first floor) Jackson Heights, from 5 pm to 7 pm.

“Join us for a holiday celebration showcasing foods from throughout the district,” says Dromm.

STATEMENT BY ADDABBO ON SKELOS CONVICTION: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. released a statement regarding the conviction of the former majority leader of the New York Senate, Dean G. Skelos: “The most recent conviction of yet another elected leader in Albany only further highlights the need for major ethics reform in our Capitol. As an elected official, there is no greater betrayal than putting your own selfish desires above the needs of the people you represent. By focusing our legislative efforts on bringing serious ethical and professional changes to our state’s Capitol, we can begin to restore New Yorkers’ faith in government and show them that corruption and abuse of power will not be tolerated. As we look forward to the start of another legislative session in January, I am hopeful and confident that we can make progress toward achieving this goal and return to setting a positive example for New Yorkers and Americans everywhere.”

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