2016-03-16 / Political Page

Polls: Trump Chances Great In 5-State Romp; Hillary OK, Too

By John Toscano

If the polls had it right in yesterday’s five-state marathon, Donald Trump fattened his lead over Republican foes, and Hillary Clinton kept Bernie Sanders at bay in the Democratic primaries also.

But we’re not so sure whether the voting went so smoothly, given all the shouting and screaming the previous week, with Trump in the middle of it. The Gazette went to press yesterday, so we’ll be digesting yesterday’s actions in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, N. Carolina and Missouri.

For Trump every contest won would be a helpful move toward winning the delegate race and the GOP nomination for president of the United States in November’s elections. But the sweetest victory for Trump would be to win the Florida contest and embarrass that state’s US Senator, Marco Rubio, at the same time on his home ground and walk away with 99 delegates.

As sweet as that victory would be, however, Trump would still not have enough to win his ultimate goal yesterday. To win the nomination over Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, the winning Republican would need 1,237 delegates. Trump started yesterday’s elections with 458 delegates, needing 779 to reach his goal.

But there were only about 400 delegates available to be won in all five races involved. So Trump will have to wait for another day.
Incidentally, Kasich, the Governor of Ohio, was also under fire to win his state, too, but he was ahead of Trump when the voting started yesterday and there was a good chance of defeating Trump.

Turning to Hillary Clinton, as we’ve said, she seemed to be positioned to win several states in yesterday’s battles against Sanders, but after he stole Michigan away from her a couple of weeks ago, we’re going to be careful with our predictions between these two and await the results of the five Democratic contents that were on tap yesterday.

VAN BRAMER UNVEILS 19 PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING PROJECTS: New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer unveiled 19 community projects in the 26th Council District’s second year of Participatory Budgeting. Over $1 million will be allocated to the most popular projects, and Van Bramer’s office will host a Project Expo on Monday, March 14 from 7-9 pm at Sunnyside Community Services, 43-31 39th Street. “The expo will give community residents the opportunity to speak with project delegates, see project presentations and learn more about each proposal,” Van Bramer said.

“Each and every one of the 19 projects would be fantastic additions to our community,” said Van Bramer adding, “Community members narrowed down the list of hundreds of ideas to 19 real, implementable projects. These projects run the gamut from school improvements to pedestrian safety to improvements in NYCHA houses. This has truly been a community-driven process in every neighborhood of the 26th Council District. Now, it’s time for the residents of Sunnyside, Woodside, Astoria, and Long Island City to go vote.”

Residents and stake holders of the 26th District will have the opportunity to participate in the vote the week of March 26 – April 3 at a variety of locations throughout the 26th District. For a full list of voting locations go to jimmyvanbramer.com/virtualpressroom/PB_GOTV_School_Sites.pdf for school sites and jimmyvanbramer.com/virtualpressroom/PB_GOTV_Community_Sites_2016.pdf for community sites.
A finalized ballot can be accessed by visiting jimmyvanbramer.com/virtualpressroom/PB_Vote_Guide_2016.pdf.

Several hundred residents, business owners, youth, and community leaders took part in this year’s Participatory Budgeting process. Neighborhood Assemblies and public meetings were held in Astoria, Dutch Kills, Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, the Woodside Houses, the Queensbridge Houses, and the Big Six Towers. Fifty residents acted as budget delegates and worked with city agencies and the Majority Leader’s office to turn ideas into projected proposals. Budget delegates will present the top proposals at a Project Expo on Monday, March 14 from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at Sunnyside Community Services.

VALLONE SECURES LANDMARK VICTORIES: Councilman Paul Vallone (D–Bayside) announced that the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has finally moved on 95 items on their docket, some of which have languished in limbo for decades. In Northeast Queens, the LPC made decisions on three proposed landmarking items.
First, the LPC has decided to move forward with the landmarking of the Lydia Ann Bell and William Ahles House in Bayside. Further east, the LPC has had an expansion of the Douglaston Historic District calendared since 2008. However, a large majority of homeowners who reside in the area that would be included in the expansion, as well as Community Board 11, have strongly voiced their opposition to being landmarked and have presented a petition signed by a majority of the affected homeowners.

Lastly, Vallone said, in College Point, the First Reformed Church and Sunday School of College Point was also being considered for a landmark designation. However, it was strongly opposed by the owners and parish and was also voted down by Community Board 7. Both these items have finally been decalendared by the LPC and are no longer under consideration. Before the Ahles house gains full landmark protections, the LPC will again consider the proposal in another round of hearings and votes and is certain to pass with the Council Member’s support.

Vallone stated: “As always, I am proud to have stood with our Community Boards on every landmark issue brought to my office and to have succeeded in landmarking sites that have failed to receive this designation under past Council Members. I strongly supported the landmarking of the Ahles House in Bayside and thank the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for deciding to move forward on it.

Just like the Hawthorne Court Apartments, which I was able to have the LPC grant landmark status to, I believe this location is a prime example of a historic home that has withstood the test of time. It is an iconic reminder of Bayside’s character and history. However, there are times when landmarking is improper as it imposes undue restrictions on the rights of homeowners to renovate, modify or even sell their properties as they wish. When a property owner or a majority of homeowners are against the designation, landmarking does not provide a benefit to the city that can override the wishes of these residents. After years of indecision on these landmarking issues, I am glad that our correspondence with the LPC resulted in these favorable outcomes.”

On another issue, “A small group of a dozen homeowners, just outside Douglas Manor in Douglaston Queens, has just been victorious in a seven-year crusade waged to avert being landmarked and retain control and autonomy over their homes and properties,” said Franklin White, one of the vocal homeowners opposing the Douglaston Historic District extension. “The key elements in this victory were the unequivocal support of our Community Board 11 and the forceful backing of our Councilman, Paul Vallone. Without their support, our homeowner crusade would have been in vain, and we really didn’t want to lose this one”.
“Over the past 20 years, the Bayside Historical Society has been a steady and true advocate for landmark certification of the Ahles House in Bayside,” said Paul DiBenedetto, President of the Bayside Historical Society. “We were thrilled to hear that this 1870s Bell family estate, a critical reminder of Bayside’s rich and rapidly disappearing past, is soon to become an official NYC landmark.”

ADDABBO SUPPORTS PROPERTY TAX BREAKS FOR NEW YORK SENIORS: Under the bill, income eligibility limits for the real property tax break program, known as the Senior Citizen Homeowners’ Exemption (SCHE) in New York City, could be increased over a period of five years to provide participants with tax breaks ranging from five percent of the property’s assessed value to 45 percent. The exemptions are provided on a sliding scale based on the senior property owner’s annual household income. Right now, the maximum income level in New York City for a five percent exemption is $37,399. Those earning between $29,001 and $29,999 are eligible for the 45 percent tax break, and the exemptions apply for owners of one, two, or three-family homes, condominiums, or cooperative apartments, Addabbo explained.

“I hope my Assembly colleagues will also act upon this important legislation this year and set the stage for municipalities, including New York City, to determine whether they are able to expand their local real property tax exemption programs for seniors,” said Addabbo. “Our seniors have given a great deal to all of us over the course of their lives, and we need to make sure they can live out their older years in safety, comfort and dignity. Reducing their tax obligations is one way we can help.”

On a related note, Addabbo pointed out that March 15 is the deadline for seniors newly applying for a Senior Citizen Homeowners’ Exemption in New York City to file paperwork to receive the exemption this coming July. The Homeowner Tax Benefits Application must be postmarked by March 15 to be considered for this year. Property owners applying for the exemption must be or turn 65 years of age or older in the year that they apply.

BRAUNSTEIN OPPOSES CUOMO, FAVORS SENIORS’ BUDGET AID: The Assembly is rejecting Governor Cuomo’s proposal to reduce funding for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs). NORCs are communities with a large percentage of senior citizens who have aged in place, Braunstein explained on March 10.
Braunstein (D–Bayside) stated: “Underfunding these important programs would put some of our most vulnerable residents at risk. NORC assistance programs, such as the Samuel Field Y’s Clearview Assistance Program in Whitestone, Deepdale CARES in Little Neck, and NORC WOW in Glen Oaks, help seniors stay in their homes by providing vital support services, including health monitoring, case management and social activities.
Braunstein added: “The Assembly Majority proposal would not only restore the $951,000 that the governor wants to cut, but would add $2 million in new funding for NORC programs to expand their services. Our plan also changes the required minimum and maximum senior populations for NORCs and changes the types of buildings that can participate as a NORC. This would have a far-reaching impact as New York’s senior citizen population grows. It is our responsibility to do all we can to help those who have given so much to help make our community better.”

VAN BRAMER’S COMMERCIAL CYCLISTS SAFETY BILL CLOSES LOOPHOLE: City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of Committee on Transportation, introduced a bill to ensure that all businesses that employ commercial cyclists follow the same regulations to ensure that all bike workers are safe and protected.

The bill expands upon Van Bramer’s Local Law 52 of 2012, which was part of a package of bills which require that businesses that employ commercial cyclists must provide their cyclist with a bell, reflective vests, reflectors for bike wheels, and a bike helmet. Companies must also give cyclists a sign identifying the business they work for and a cyclist ID card. The businesses must also maintain a roster of commercial cyclists and provide information in the workplace about safe cycling.

Under current laws governing commercial cyclists, only businesses that work with commercial cyclists as employees are required to follow these rules. The new bill closes the loophole so that companies such as Amazon.com, UberEATs, and Seamless, who employ commercial cyclists as independent contractors, must also conform to the law. The bill also requires that all businesses who employ commercial cyclists conduct a safety training, which companies that employ independent contractors, such as Amazon and UberEATS, are not currently required to do.

“It shouldn’t matter if a commercial cyclist is working for a mom-and-pop pizza parlor or UberEATS—both types of businesses must follow the same laws to keep cyclists and pedestrians safe,” said Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside). “Working as an independent contractor shouldn’t mean working in unsafe conditions. My bill guarantees all commercial cyclists the same safety protections, such as helmets and reflective vests, and requires that all businesses follow the rules.”

“This bill brings common sense safety parity for anyone riding a bike to make deliveries," said Rodriguez. “If a business is employing cyclists in New York City, they should adequately provide for the safety of these often vulnerable workers. I am proud to co-sponsor this bill with my colleague Majority Leader Van Bramer as the safety of our city’s workforce will be made stronger with its passage, as well as the safety of all who use our streets.”
Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos have also signed on as co-sponsors. Van Bramer and Rodriguez also at the same time introduced a bill codifying the Vision Zero View map, which is produced by the DOT to release data on injuries, serious injuries, and fatalities as the result of traffic crashes. The bill also requires DOT to display online the posted speed limit on each street in the city, information that is not currently publicly available.

MILITARY CALL-UP ENTITLES SPOUSES TO UNEMPLOY BENEFITS: Legislation approved in the State Senate last week establishes that a husband or wife who surrenders a civilian job when their spouse is called up for military duty automatically entitles the spouse to state unemployment benefits, State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. reported last week.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach), who voted for the bill, stated: “When duty calls, and members of our armed forces are required to obey a military transfer to another location, their spouses often find themselves in the position of having to leave their jobs.” Said Addabbo, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, “These husbands and wives don’t have any choice in the matter and want to keep their families together, but may find the sudden loss of income from their jobs a hardship. By making it clear that these are involuntary actions on the part of the employee, we are taking action to lend a helping hand to military spouses who find themselves moving to distant areas where commuting to their jobs simply isn’t an option.”

Addabbo explained that existing law provides protections and the ability to apply for unemployment benefits to spouses whose husbands and wives are taking new jobs and are then forced to quit their own positions because they will be living too far away to fulfill their employment responsibilities. This legislation will simply underscore that spouses who involuntarily leave their jobs owing to military transfers are able to seek these benefits and are subject to the “compelling family reasons” sections of the state labor law governing unemployment.

“Our military families make any number of sacrifices so that they can serve and protect our country and every single one of us,” said Addabbo. “Ensuring that they are provided with basic labor protections and the ability to balance their family budgets when military transfers are ordered is simply the right thing to do.”
The bill is now under consideration by the Assembly Committee on Labor.

SUNY HEAD ZIMPHER TALK ON ‘CRADLE TO CAREER’ EDUCATION PROGRAM: At a recent meeting of the Senate Education Committee, New York State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. and his committee colleagues had the opportunity to hear from State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor Nancy Zimpher about her strategies for promoting “cradle to career” academic opportunities to improve education for children from pre-kindergarten through college, as well as related efforts SUNY is pursuing to support both current educators and New Yorkers who are interested in a teaching career.

“We on the Education Committee recently had the opportunity to meet with NYS Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, and now we have completed ‘the trifecta’ with our discussion of academic, with SUNY Chancellor Zimpher,” said Addabbo, a long-time member of the committee. “All three of these enormously talented and respected women came to their current positions after many years in the classroom themselves, and I have been impressed by their knowledge and commitment to our students, teachers and entire educational system in New York City and statewide.”

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) said that in her address to the Senate Education Committee members, Chancellor Zimpher touched upon a variety of important initiatives that she considers as part of a “cradle to career” approach to helping children succeed in elementary and secondary school, college, and ultimately in the work force. She spoke of community-based groups formed throughout the state that bring together local educators, community organizations, college representatives, neighborhood associations and others to work on strategies to help students successfully graduate from high school and college. She also touched on Early College High Schools that help prepare students for higher education and the labor force, SUNY’s Master Teacher Program, remedial math intervention programs in 19 of New York’s 30 SUNY community colleges, and efforts to redesign New York’s teaching education programs to better attract applicants.

“Chancellor Zimpher pointed out that only one in five students who started ninth grade in New York State will successfully complete a four year college degree, even though our high school graduation rates are rising and are higher than ever before,” said Addabbo. “Only half of students who graduate high school go directly to college, and of those students, only half will make it to their sophomore year. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do.”
Addabbo appreciated Chancellor Zimpher’s statement that SUNY “owns the challenge” of making sure the teachers it produces through its education degree programs are capable of successfully educating children who will one day themselves possibly be entering college classrooms.

“The Chancellor noted that SUNY spends $70 million a year to provide remedial instruction to its college students, and that students pay almost $94 million for remedial courses that don’t contribute towards their degrees,” he said. “This needs to be addressed, and I was pleased to learn that 19 of SUNY’s 30 community colleges are attacking the issue head on with special intervention programs in math, which seems to be the subject creating the biggest obstacle to student success.”

Chancellor Zimpher also spoke at length about the impending teacher shortage and the need to attract more New Yorkers to the field. SUNY graduates about 5,000 teachers each year, but applications are down and enrollments in teacher education programs nationwide have dropped 30 percent. Shortages are becoming particularly serious in the areas of special education, early childhood education, and aid for second language learners. At the meeting, Senate members also discussed the possibility of having people with business, science or other professional backgrounds apart from education itself being recruited for teaching positions.

Addabbo concluded: “Chancellor Zimpher mentioned that a special commission comprised of SUNY representatives, union members, master teachers, and a variety of other education stakeholders will soon be releasing recommendations on how we can improve our teaching education programs, better integrate student teachers into schools that are deeply concerned about meeting Common Core standards, and otherwise support the noble profession of teaching.”

Addabbo added: “I look forward to reviewing these proposals, and working with all of my government colleagues and my own community residents to achieve the ‘cradle to career’ goal of providing success for all of our students.”

ADDABBO: ‘INVOLVE COMMUNITY IN FERRY SELECTION’: As plans are made for Rockaway to finally see the return of its ferry next year, State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. is urging the city to consider all factors and ensure the community is included in the decision before signing a contract.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) said that after attending a meeting in Rockaway last week hosted by the New York City Economic Development Corporation he cited several items that should be taken into account before awarding a contract simply to the lowest bidder. With several ferry operators already in place who currently do business with the city, running vessels through various unique waterways surrounding New York, the Senator is urging Mayor de Blasio to consider contracting with a company that can boast experience and offer better economic advantages than an out-of-state business.

“Rockaway residents and I certainly know the severe need for improved transportation on the peninsula,” said Addabbo. “That is why the success of this ferry initiative, and ultimately the success of the Rockaway peninsula, is dependent on making sure the city chooses the right operator. The meeting I recently attended with EDC and the community highlighted the fact that the lowest bidder is not always necessarily the most responsible choice, and there are many other factors besides the price tag that we must keep in mind. It is important that whichever operator is ultimately chosen can promise jobs to Rockaway residents and can also ensure that the already agreed upon fare to ride the ferry stays the same, regardless of operating costs.”

While Mayor de Blasio previously announced that the cost of a ferry ride will be the equivalent of a subway or bus ride, Addabbo is also committed to advocating for a senior citizen discount, just as the MTA offers on its other forms of transportation, in the future. He is also requesting that ferry riders receive a free transfer to any MTA train or bus following a paid boat ride to ensure Rockaway residents are given the same transit opportunities as commuters in other parts of the city.

Addabbo also noted a promise made by Mayor de Blasio when announcing the resurrected ferry service in which the Mayor committed to choosing an operator that would provide newly constructed boats for this project, a promise which the Senator said must be kept. He also believes the community, or minimally the city, should be able to inspect the boats from a potential ferry operator prior to any final deal being signed.
In addition, Addabbo has made it a priority to seriously explore the community’s funding request, made through NY Rising, for roughly $8 million to build a proper dock for these boats and their riders to use.

“Reviving the Rockaway Ferry was one of Mayor de Blasio’s major guarantees to a community that is counting on his administration to finally devise a solution to decades of deplorable transportation services,” said Addabbo. “The process to bring back this service, and how successful it becomes, is what the current mayor’s administration will be remembered for and judged on in Rockaway for years to come. Community involvement in this process is critical, and I know Rockaway will not stand by silently.”

ADDABBO BACKS TOUGHER GRAFFITI BILL: In an effort to underscore that graffiti intentionally written to encourage gang activity, express hateful bias or deface places of religious worship “is much more serious and dangerous than simple, mindless vandalism,” said Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. who recently voted to approve a bill (S.849) that would increase penalties for this kind of graffiti and permit judges to require perpetrators to complete a diversity training program.

“Graffiti is a continuing neighborhood plague that causes all of us a great deal of frustration when shops, walls, sidewalks and other public places are covered with what is often mindless, unattractive scribbling,” said Addabbo. “However, when that graffiti turns into swastikas or hateful language, incites gang activity or is intended to mar institutions of religious faith, that’s when your garden-variety, irritating vandalism takes a step over the line and requires greater punishment.”

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) stated: “Under the legislation recently approved by the full State Senate, penalties would be increased for graffiti intentionally motivated by bias against a person’s race, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, and other factors. Greater punishment for graffiti that seeks to promote gang-related activities and that defaces places of religious worship or items of faith – including scrolls, vestments and religious vessels – would also be meted out under the bill, which creates two new “E” felonies punishable by up to four years in prison.

“This legislation also permits judges to require those convicted of bias-related graffiti to complete diversity training programs and to personally clean up and remove the ugly fruits of their vandalism,” said Addabbo. “Spending all that time and effort trying to remove their graffiti – while getting necessary instruction in humanity and respect for others – may make perpetrators think twice before they spew their hatred on our churches, synagogues, mosques, neighborhood streets, local businesses and other public places in our communities.
“No matter where it occurs,” Addabbo emphasized, “we need to strongly denounce graffiti that issues a call to arms for violence or that seeks to denigrate people based on their race, religion, nationality or any other human characteristic. While vandalism of any kind is certainly unwelcome in our communities, we need to take a strong stance against graffiti that belittles others and that makes all of us just a little smaller by its very existence.”
Now that it has been approved by the Senate, the bill is under review by the Assembly Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection, Addabbo said.

TWIN FELONIES – DAMAGE ENVIRONMENT, THEN DO 2D CRIME: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. last week joined his senate colleagues in approving legislation (S.834) that would impose separate penalties on criminals who “significantly” damage the environment while they are in the process of committing another crime.
Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) explained: “Several years ago, there was an incident in upstate New York State where criminals who were in the process of attempting to steal copper recklessly broke open an electrical transformer which spewed 4,800 gallons of oil into the environment,” said Addabbo, a member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. “As a result, the surrounding land and water was seriously contaminated to the tune of more than $1 million in remediation costs.”

Currently, Addabbo said, this type of activity falls under the crime of criminal mischief in New York.

"As a result, this serious environmental degradation could not be adequately punished since current law doesn’t recognize the environment as a crime victim,” said Addabbo. “The legislation approved by the Senate would help to underscore the severity of this kind of offense,” he said.

Under the legislation, the new crime of environmental damage of property would be classified as a Class C felony and carry a prison term of one to three years. The charge could be made against an offender who was in the process of committing another felony and caused damage to air, water, land or other natural resources in an intentional or reckless manner and would be applied on top of the underlying felony offense. For the charge to be applied, the cost of remediating the property damage to the air, soil or water would be in excess of $1,000.

“I often think about ways of protecting our waterways such as Jamaica Bay, Shellbank or Hawtree Basins and even the ocean off the shores of Rockaway,” Addabbo said. “It seems like we’re hearing every day about contaminated water sources that are threatening the public health and making it extremely difficult for people to go about the business of their family lives. While most of these water troubles seem to be stemming from industrial pollution and infrastructure neglect, the fact of the matter is that we need potable water, soil free of poison, and clean air to survive and prosper. The legislation passed by the Senate will make it clear that people who intentionally or recklessly cause harm to our environment while engaging in other despicable behavior are committing a doubly serious offense.”

In the Assembly, the legislation is under review by the Committee on Codes.

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