2016-04-13 / Political Page

Donate Food To Charity

In an effort to fight food waste while supporting groups throughout New York who feed the hungry, the NYS Senate has passed legislation (S.854), co-sponsored by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., that would establish voluntary state guidelines to enable school districts, colleges and other educational institutions to donate excess, unused and edible meals to pantries and other charitable organizations.

“This bill represents a win, win, win situation,” said Addabbo (D–Howard Beach), member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. “It would help combat hunger among the poor, the elderly and others who often have trouble making ends meet and receiving proper nutrition. It would help food pantries, which rely on donations, to achieve their missions more easily, and it would reduce food waste and its many negative environmental impacts.”

Addabbo said that a study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers estimated that two billion tons of food was wasted in 2013 alone. The National Resources Defense Council has estimated that approximately 25 percent of freshwater in the United States is used to produce wasted food. In addition, reports by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that food waste leads to very high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Simply said, this legislation would address two extremely important issues of saving individuals and their families from hunger and malnutrition, and saving our planet from unnecessary and negative environmental degradation,” said Addabbo. “While the proposal is obviously not the complete answer to the serious challenges we face, it will certainly have a positive impact if enacted into law.”

Under the bill, he explained, the State Education Department and State Department of Agriculture and Markets would work together to devise voluntary guidelines to encourage the donation of unused food by New York schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations.

Addabbo noted that tremendous amounts of food are prepared by educational institutions on a daily basis that may not all be eaten and would otherwise simply be thrown out.

“This food waste could be a particular issue on days when bad weather prevents students from coming to school or when other events lead to low attendance,” he said. “Under this proposal, those nutritious prepared meals could end up in food pantries helping the hungry instead of rotting in dumpsters and landfills.”

Having passed the Senate, the legislation is now under consideration by the Assembly Education Committee.

DA BROWN CONGRATULATES PROSECUTORS FOR SAVING MAN’S LIFE: Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown has congratulated three Queens prosecutors who saved the life of a distraught individual who tried to hang himself outside of Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, on Friday, April 1.

Brown said, “The assistant district attorneys in this office do a tremendous job each day of seeking justice for victims of crimes, but these three prosecutors went above and beyond the call of duty by stepping in to save a man who was obviously distraught and in desperate need. I am extremely proud of their actions.”

According to the ADAs, Assistant District Attorney Andrea M. Mauro exited Borough Hall just before 1:00 p.m. that day, when she was confronted with the sight of a man in his late 50s/early 60s tying one end of a rope to a tree and the other end around his neck. ADA Mauro, joined by Assistant District Attorneys Jason S. Trager and Gabriel Mendoza grabbed the man as the rope tightened. While ADA Trager untied the rope from the tree, ADA Mendoza untied the other end from the man’s neck.

“The man collapsed on the ground crying, gasping for air,” said ADA Trager. “We are relieved that we were able to get him down from the tree in time. It was very sad and shocking.”

Police took the man to a local hospital for observation and treatment.

MENG ALERT ON IMPORTANT NEW TAX BREAKS: With tax season in full swing, Congresswoman Grace Meng (D–Queens) reminded Queens residents about important new tax breaks that individuals and small business owners can claim during this year’s filing season. The tax measures, which were passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Obama in December, made permanent several tax breaks that Congress has traditionally only renewed on a temporary basis. Meng voted yes on all of them.

Applying to different groups, here they are.

Individuals:

•The Child Tax Credit (CTC): Helps with the cost of raising children by allowing a $1,000 tax credit per qualifying child.

• Commuter Tax Credit: Provides relief to mass transit commuters by increasing the amount of pre-tax dollars that can be used for bus and train transportation to work. The previous $130 per month limit has been raised to $255 per month, the same amount that those who drive to work can use for parking fees.

• The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC): Assists with college tuition costs by permitting a tax credit of up to $2,500 per year for tuition and expenses.

• The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): Aids low and middle income individuals who work. The amount of the credit depends on the employed individual’s income, marital status and number of children.

• Teachers’ Tax Credit: Allows teachers to deduct up to $250 for money they personally spend on classroom expenses and professional development.

Small Businesses

• Research and Development (R and D) Credit: Tax credit for research and development costs for start-ups and established businesses. Designed to spur innovation and research.

• Small Business Expensing: Increases expensing limits for small businesses under section 179 of the tax code by allowing entrepreneurs to expense up to $500,000, up from $25,000, for equipment costs.

• Landlord, Restaurant, Retailer Tax Break: Permits landlords, restaurants and retailers to recover the costs of renovations to commercial buildings over 15 years, a much quicker period of time than the law previously allowed.

“It is important for individuals and entrepreneurs to be aware of the critical tax breaks that they are entitled to receive,” said Meng. “Residents and small business owners in Queens deserve to keep as much money as possible in their pockets, and this new tax relief will help allow that to happen. I urge borough residents to claim all the tax breaks for which they qualify.”

MILLER’S COMMENTS ON PASSAGE OF STATE BUDGET: On Friday April 1, Assemblyman Mike Miller, along with his colleagues, passed a historic state budget that included a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, and restoration for the gap elimination adjustment for schools. It also successfully fought against shifting Medicaid costs to New York City taxpayers.

“The middle income tax cut was a highlight in this year’s budget,” Miller said. “It is important to give working and middle class families’ tax relief. My district embodies those families striving to get ahead.” Another highlight, he said, was delivering needed revenue for SUNY and CUNY.

“We have to continue to work to make college affordable, our ability to restore funding to CUNY and adequately plan for SUNY has led to a tuition freeze for the next fiscal year.” he stated.

Miller (D–Woodhaven) explained that with the increase of spending for state education by an additional $1.5 billion dollars New York State is looking past recession level spending cuts that aided districts while leaving others to make up the difference. Miller also was happy to see an additional $2.3 million funding increase to schools that support children with disabilities. “Knowing that children with disabilities will receive more funding towards their education is a win for all stake holders. Childhood education is a priority that should not be restricted by future budget restraints,” he commented.

This year he said, the budget will set aside over $188 million for summer food programs for children throughout the state. These programs will be available at local public schools offering hot lunches during summer months. He also noted that investments on infrastructure show a commitment to building state-of-the-art highways, bridges, tunnels and airports.” With LaGuardia set for an overhaul, we are now seeing those promises turned into financial commitments,” Miller stated. In addition, $7.3 billion in the budget went to fund the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s capital budget which covers the plan until 2019. With the increasing ridership of New York City’s subways and buses, the money is needed to maintain and modernize the system. “This means that the MTA can afford new buses and subway cars. I look forward to station and track upgrades that are sorely needed for straphangers,” he stated and added. “The Long Island Rail Road received 3 million dollars in this year’s budget for upgrades to engines to meet stricter emissions standards. This appropriation would allow these US EPA classified Tier 0 freight locomotives to begin being upgraded to certifiable, verifiable Tier 4 status before the end of 2016.” The rail line, that passes through the Assemblyman’s district, should be impacted positively by this allocation. “Trains that access this line need to be a top priority for cleaner emissions. The Long Island Railroad and their freight operator should use this money to upgrade current engines and look to procure engines with higher emission standards,” Miller said.

“Increasing the state environmental protection fund to $300 million will strengthen protections for our environment. Whether it is land acquisition, farmland preservation or fighting invasive species an increase of $123 million will go a long way to making a positive impact. $1.5 million will be set aside for testing water in public schools for lead. Money will also be set aside to clean up waterways in New York so that state residents can enjoy their local tributaries and lakes,” Miller concluded.

WALCOTT COMMENT ON CITY COUNCIL’S PRELIMINARY BUDGET: Recently appointed Queens Library President and CEO Dennis Walcott issued the following statement after the City Council issued its Preliminary Budget Response.

“Libraries all over our City are on the front lines of fighting inequality, providing access to technology, assisting new immigrants, providing education for adults and children, and so many more programs and services that are critical to how we, as a City, aspire to live and work. I appreciate the City Council’s commitment to keep investing in libraries in their preliminary budget response. I look forward to working with our leadership to make it a reality.”

RIDGEWOOD CLUB FEATURES EARTH DAY: The Ridgewood Democratic Club, meeting on Friday, April 15, will feature an Earth Day program, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan announced.

Speakers on the program will include Councilman Costa Constantinides, who chairs the Committee on Environmental Protection, Stephanie Wakefield, Instructor/Geographer, CUNY Graduate Center Queens College and co-founder of Woodbine in Ridgewood; and filmmaker Matt Peterson, also from Woodbine in Ridgewood.

Constantinides (D–Astoria) will speak on the latest environmental legislation in the City Council. The Woodbine speakers will focus on climate change in New York City and how as neighbors, we can organize together to become more resilient.

The club meets at 7 pm at 6070 Putnam Avenue in Ridgewood (one block off Fresh Pond Road).

ADDABBO BACKS MORE VIDEO LOTTERY TERMINALS AT RESORTS: Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) who serves as the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, made the following statement regarding language in the newly-enacted 2016-17 State Budget to provide new video lottery terminals (VLTs) to Resorts World Casino NYC at Aqueduct Raceway:

“The new State Budget will provide an economic boost to Resorts World and our overall community by allowing the placement of an additional 2,000 VLTs at Aqueduct Raceway, which already houses around 5,500 terminals. This will help to make an already very successful local business even more profitable, which is good news for the Queens economy and will ultimately increase the lottery funds that Resorts World raises through its gaming activities to support education in New York State.

The original plan by the Nassau County OTB to place VLTs at the Belmont Park Raceway was highly controversial at the local level and would have led to foolish and unnecessary competition between Belmont and Aqueduct, which are only about 10 miles apart. The Belmont casino would need to start from scratch, while we already have a well-established and thriving gaming facility in Resorts World. I am pleased that a reasonable compromise was reached on this issue and that our community will be a significant beneficiary of this budget agreement.”

VAN BRAMER BILL POSTS SPEED LIMITS ON ALL VISION ZERO MAPS’ NYC STREETS: Following the introduction of a bill by Majority Leader Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) requiring the Vision Zero View Map to include posted speed limits on all New York City streets, DOT updated its Vision Zero View map to include the data. In November 2014, the City Council passed a law lowering the default speed limit in New York City to 25 miles per hour from 30 miles per hour. Because speed is the leading cause of traffic fatalities, this decrease in the speed limit helped make 2015 the safest year for New York City pedestrians since the city began keeping track in 1910. However, as many streets have retained higher speed limits (up to 35 miles per hour on some major corridors), it is important to keep track, in a central location, of which neighborhoods have higher speed limits, Van Bramer said.

In response to this change in DOT policy, Van Bramer issued the following statement:

“I’m glad that DOT, after seeing my legislation, decided to prioritize speed limit data. Speed is the leading factor in traffic deaths, which is why it’s so important to have public information on city speed limits. When we lowered the speed limit in 2014, we took a major step forward in making our streets safer for all. Now, with the publication of this data, communities can see which streets might be signed incorrectly, and be informed advocates for additional traffic-calming measures such as Neighborhood Slow Zones.

“While I’m glad that DOT has included this data on the Vision Zero View Map, there is still more to do, and I will still advocate for the passage of Intro 1116. Not only does it require the city to report on additional traffic safety information, including the contributing factors to crashes resulting in injury or death, the bill makes publishing this information a DOT requirement. If priorities or administrations change, we will still have access to vital traffic safety information.”

ADDABBO, MILLER SPRING RECYCLING FAIR: Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., a member of the New York State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, announced he will host his annual Spring Recycling Event later this month, in partnership once again with Assemblyman Mike Miller (D–Woodhaven).

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) stated that from 10 am to 2 pm on Sunday, April 24, crews will be on hand at the Forest Park Bandshell to accept items – including electronics, paper, clothing and certain household items – to be safely and properly recycled. Addabbo co-sponsors this event each year as a way to not only encourage more residents to recycle as much as possible, but to create an easier and more convenient method by making it possible to responsibly discard many different items all in one central location.

“There are so many things that people may not know can be recycled, or things that don’t get recycled simply because it’s a hassle to do so,” said Addabbo. “This eliminates those hurdles and provides our constituents with a stress-free way to take care of all their recycling needs. In years past, this annual fair has proved to be one of the most popular events I’ve ever held, and I am confident that will continue into this year and for many to come. I thank our vendors for their support and participation year after year, as well as Assemblyman Miller for his partnership and the Department of Parks and Recreation for their cooperation as we hold this great community event.”

The recycling fair will host a paper shredder that will allow documents to be safely and securely recycled on site while residents watch to ensure confidentiality, Addabbo explained. Electronics recycling will accept items including computers, monitors, cell phones, fax machines, televisions, PDAs, printers, batteries, cameras, power strips, wires, chargers, cable boxes, fans, telephones and VCR tapes. Cardboard and appliances will not be accepted, he said.

Household items will also be accepted, including clothing, coats, bedding, paired shoes, dishes, silverware, lamps and curtains. All donated items must be clean and dry.

For more information or questions about what items can be recycled, please contact Senator Addabbo’s Howard Beach Office at 718-738-1111.

ADDABBO: ‘BUDGET: MORE HITS THAN MISSES’: As the State Senate wound up voting on New York’s new $147.2 billion State Budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. said the final spending plan contained “many more big hits than misses for New York families, taxpayers, seniors, school children and other stakeholders in the Empire State.”

“This budget, while not perfect, makes some important progress in helping our lowest paid workers attain a living wage, allowing families to bond with new babies and care for seriously ill loved ones without losing their jobs or bankrupting themselves, and putting a little more cash back in the pockets of low and moderate-income taxpayers,” said Addabbo, pointing initially to his main budget project, the enactment of a paid family leave program, along with a significant personal income tax cut for middle class New Yorkers and phased-in increases in the minimum wage.

“As a long-time sponsor of comprehensive paid family leave legislation, I wish the program would begin immediately, but it is still an incredible victory for families trying to balance their responsibilities on the work front with equally pressing needs on the home front,” Addabbo (Howard Beach) added.

Addabbo stated that while working on the budget for 19 hours straight, he insisted that it wasn’t about finishing the budget on time, but more importantly about getting it right for the people of the state. The lawmaker also applauded the education components of the final budget, noting that it contains an increase of $1.5 billion to a total of $24.8 billion statewide in public school aid, eliminates the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) which took $434 million from schools throughout New York and boosts Foundation Aid by $627 million to address funding disparities across the state.

“Non-public schools also received an additional $60 million in reimbursement aid, along with extra money for school safety grants,” he said. “Other highlights are a welcome $4 million increase for libraries, continued funding for educational opportunity and pre-k programs, $75 million for community schools to help struggling educational institutions succeed, a college tuition freeze and strong support for CUNY, SUNY, community colleges and other partners in New York’s higher education system.”

Addabbo, a member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, praised the $123 million increase to $300 million for New York’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and the extension of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. As a long time member of the Senate Aging Committee, he also lauded increased funding for the Community Services for the Elderly (CSE) program and continued support for elder abuse programs and naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs and neighborhood NORCs).

Other highlights of the budget, he pointed out, are important new investments in housing for the homeless, transportation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) capital plan; $2.1 billion in support for the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities; additional anti-terrorism funding in the wake of the Brussels attack; and welcome funding for services that aid veterans, including the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer to Peer Counseling Program and the New York State Defenders Association Veterans Defense Program, which were specifically sought by Addabbo. He also lauded an agreement to increase by 1,000 the number of VLTs at Resorts World at Aqueduct Raceway, which will aid the local economy and ultimately help boost lottery aid to education.

“Although I am very pleased overall with the final state budget, I remain disappointed that there was no attempt to strengthen New York’s anti-corruption ethics laws or to make needed reforms to our campaign finance laws to bolster public confidence in our elections system,” Addabbo said. “But the 2016 session isn’t over yet, and I am hopeful more attention will be paid to these vital issues in the coming months.”

VAN BRAMER BILL REQUIRES WATER OUTAGES MAP: Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer introduced a bill, Int. 1156, requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to provide online notice of current and planned water outages. This legislation, drafted in response to a constituent complaint, will keep New York City residents informed of water outages in their neighborhoods.

DEP currently provides notice of planned water outages via paper flyers, Van Bramer said, but these signs frequently become damaged or blow away. Additionally, paper signs are inefficient at informing residents of unplanned outages. This legislation requires that DEP provide a map, updated at least daily, with information on current and planned water outages for each city block. To the extent possible, the map will also include a start time and expected end time for each outage.

“If the water goes out on your block, you should have easy access to information about why—and when you can expect it to come back on,” said Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) “It’s a quality of life issue. It’s not difficult or complicated for DEP to provide this data to New York City residents, but it’s incredibly frustrating to turn on the tap, have no water come out, and not be able to find any more information.”

Councilman Costa Constantinides (D–Astoria), Chair of the Council Environmental Protection Committee, said, “An online map of water outages throughout our city will ensure that all residents are informed about interruptions to their water delivery. This bill will reduce confusion and help improve quality of life. I commend Majority Leader Van Bramer for his leadership on this important issue.”

“The City has a responsibility to keep the public informed of events that have the potential to disrupt their daily lives,” said Deputy Leader James Vacca, Chair of the Council Committee on Technology. “Being without running water is a huge inconvenience. In the case of planned outages, it’s a no-brainer to have this information online and available ahead of time. In the case of unplanned outages, it’s critical that status updates be made available as quickly as possible.”

BRAUNSTEIN SPONSORS MOTHER’S DAY ESSAY CONTEST: Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein (D–Bayside) is once again sponsoring a Mother’s Day Essay contest for students in grades 2-5.

“My Mother’s Day Essay and Poetry contest provides a great opportunity for children to show appreciation for the many things that their mothers do, while at the same time strengthening their writing skills,” said Braunstein.

Submissions may be of any length and should be based on the theme of “Why My Mother Is So Special To Me,” said the lawmaker. District-wide prizes will be awarded in each grade and New York State Assembly Certificates of Merit will be awarded to all participating students.

If you are interested in participating, please print your name, grade and school information on your entry and submit your essay to Assemblyman Braunstein’s office at 213-33 39th Avenue, Suite 238, Bayside, NY 11361. You can also submit your essay by email to: braunstein@assembly.state.ny.us or fax it to 718-357-5947. The deadline to enter the contest is Friday, May 6, 2016.

If you have any questions, please contact Assemblyman Braunstein’s office at 718- 357-3588.

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