2016-06-29 / Political Page

Ex-Queens DA John Santucci-Dead At 85

John J. Santucci, whose political career in Queens spanned almost 30 years in the latter part of the 1900s, including service as the Queens District Attorney and in the State Senate, has died at the age of 85, according to a grandson, The New York Times reported.

Santucci’s 14 years of service as DA was at times very controversial, and he retired in 1991 after running the office for about 15 years. Then-Governor Hugh Carey, chose as his replacement Richard A. Brown, then a Supreme Court Justice. DA Brown still occupies the office.

Santucci is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Edna Anna Hayes; three sons, Thomas, John R., and Robert; three daughters, Mary Panvini, Carol Santucci, and Edna Masone, two brothers, Thomas, a cardiologist, and Fred, a retired Justice of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court; and 12 grandchildren. Santucci, who grew up in Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, had homes in Garden City and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Santucci was born in Queens on April 2, 1931, the eldest of three brothers. He earned his law degree at St. John’s University and then became an assistant district attorney from 1958 to 1964, the usual stepping stone for young men and women planning to carve out a political career.

Among his contemporaries around Borough Hall in Kew Gardens were longtime Queens Borough President Donald Manes; colorful Matthew Troy, a Queens Democratic Party leader and City Councilmember; Geraldine Ferraro, who started out as an ADA, but advanced to become a member of Congress and a candidate for the U.S. Vice Presidency.

Santucci would cross paths with some of the above during his reign as Queens DA, but it all came as part of the job even though they were defendants being prosecuted by his office.

During these years, this political writer was covering Queens politics for the New York Daily News as the day-to-day competition unfolded. As it happened, after Santucci left the DA’s office, he decided to run for the Queens borough president’s job and drew Sidney Leviss, Manes’ successor as his opponent.

It turned out to be a fierce, ugly battle, resulting in a photo finish, with Leviss as the winner. Although the borough presidents office was hard to take, Santucci quit the game after it was over.

Getting back to Santucci’s career as district attorney, the most controversial and newsworthy story that occurred on Santucci’s watch was the explosive, racially charged Howard Beach gang fight between black and white groups after they left a popular pizza place late one evening.

As the three black kids were leaving, remarks were exchanged with the white kids and it eventually got out of hand. The black kids started running and headed across the nearby Belt Parkway separating. But one of the black youth was struck by a car on the highway and died.

It was a tough case to deal with. Charges flew back and forth, and Santucci was getting nowhere with it because witnesses didn’t cooperate, so he turned it over to a specially appointed state prosecutor, Charles Hynes, who later became the Brooklyn District Attorney.

Hynes eventually won manslaughter convictions against three of the white kids, and six others were convicted of lesser charges.

Santucci retired, succeeded by Brown, who inherited a case which involved indictments against five cops on murder and police brutality charges. Brown settled the case by dropping all charges against four defendants and reducing the charges against the other.

Santucci retired after being replaced by Brown and he and his family spent much of their time in Florida.

Others from the group that included Manes, Troy and the others had more tragic endings. Manes’ case was the most tragic. He took his own life as he awaited trial on federal charges. Troy died of natural causes and Congressmember Vaccaro died many years later from cancer.

ADDABBO BACKS TOUGH PENALTIES FOR AIMING LASERS AT PLANES: Noting that the dangerous practice of pointing high-powered lasers at aircraft can incapacitate pilots and endanger both passengers and innocent people on the ground, State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. recently voted to approve legislation (S.6815) in the State Senate to raise the penalties for this increasingly common crime.

“Given that my district has both LaGuardia and JFK International Airport nearby, many of us are already living with serious issues that come hand-in-hand with being in close proximity to major transportation hubs,” said Addabbo. “Seeing planes crash from irresponsible people directing lasers into cockpits and blinding pilots should never be one of them.”

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) said existing state penalties which can be levied against those who engage in this highly dangerous behavior – ranging from one to four years in prison – simply aren’t stringent enough in light of the tragic consequences that can arise from blinding aircraft operators. He pointed to a March 9, 2015 case in which a Bronx man pointed a laser at three passenger planes and a police helicopter as they flew near LaGuardia Airport, which ended with all of the pilots suffering eye injuries, some of which were treated in local hospitals.

“While no one died in this incident, it should certainly serve as a wake-up call that our penalties for this despicable form of ‘laser tag’ need to be increased,” said Addabbo, noting that the original state law addressing the activity was approved in 2014. “This new legislation would enable those who direct laser pointers at aircraft to be slapped with felony charges carrying from 7 to 25 years in prison, depending on the severity of the act. I believe those penalties are more in line with the crime.”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were 5,352 recorded laser strikes from January to October in 2015, up from 2,837 for the entire year of 2010. In 2013, metropolitan New York City airports experienced 99 strikes, an increase from 71 the year before.

“I hope the Assembly will join with the Senate in increasing penalties for this increasingly common and highly dangerous activity,” said Addabbo. “We need to make our skies friendlier, and keep our pilots, aircraft passengers and neighborhoods surrounding airports safe from harm.”

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

NOLAN OPPOSES BUILDING SIZE IN LIC, NYC: Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, (D–Western Queens) announced her opposition to legislation introduced in the NYS Legislature, (A.7807/S.5469) that would allow for larger residential buildings in New York City.

“I am opposed to lifting the current cap on the FAR.  We already have numerous very high buildings in Long Island City, with more on the way.  I cannot permit any loosening of this restriction without a firmer commitment to infrastructure support, such as more schools and increasing the reliability and capacity of our mass transit system.

 “There are a number of towers planned that I have opposed, including one by selling MTA air rights.  Many planned are of unprecedented heights. This development needs better planning and support for our existing community. School overcrowding, mass transit and road congestion are serious problems in Western Queens that must be addressed before any greater building masses can be allowed.  With recent re-zonings around the city, including Western Queens, there are ample opportunities to build more affordable housing.    Any more changes to allow for even larger buildings is unnecessary and would be unconscionable.”

The legislation would remove a State law cap on the FAR (floor area ratio) at 12.  The FAR restricts the amount of usable space a new building can have.   A higher FAR would allow for larger buildings.  Any changes in zoning would first have to be approved by the NYC  City Planning Commission and the NYC City Council.   The City has claimed that the change is necessary to move forward their affordable housing plan.

 The bill was reported from the Senate Housing, Construction and Community Development and is on the NYS Senate calendar.  In the Assembly, the bill has not been acted upon.

ADDABBO BACKS BILL MAKING IT A FELONY TO IMPERSONATE UTILITY WORKER: Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. recently joined with his Senate colleagues to pass legislation (S.7338) that would make it a Class E felony to impersonate a utility worker for the purpose of illegally gaining entrance to another person’s home, a crime that could carry a prison term of up to four years.

“We’ve heard many horror stories of criminals posing as utility workers so that they can enter the homes of unsuspecting residents and commit robbery, or worse,” said Addabbo. “While anyone can be vulnerable to this cynical scheme, it is a scam that is often used to target senior citizens.”

While Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) stated his district offices frequently get constituent calls regarding instances of utility worker impostors, he noted that in 2014, an elderly man in Woodside was robbed of $70,000 when a pair of criminals posing as Con Edison workers talked their way into his home. This past March, an 81-year-old Coney Island woman was bound and gagged by a burglar pretending to be a utility worker, and a 26-year-old Bronx mother was tied up and sexually assaulted – with her young daughter in the home – by two men claiming to be from Con Edison.

“Although these more heartrending cases make the news, I would suspect that many more people are being duped and robbed by scammers knocking on doors and pretending to be looking for gas leaks, checking electrical outlets or otherwise pretending to be legitimate utility workers,” said Addabbo. “Even in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there were multiple reports of criminals looting properties while posing as Con Edison employees.”

He noted that some scammers, by lying to residents about unpaid utility bills, have gained entry by claiming that power to the home would be cut off. Addabbo said he hopes the prospect of being sentenced from one to four years in prison would help to deter this type of treacherous act.

“Not only do these criminals victimize unsuspecting homeowners, but they give a bad name to utility employees who are working in our neighborhoods and simply trying to do their jobs when there are power outages and other serious problems with the utility infrastructure,” he said.

Addabbo urged his constituents to always take precautions – such as asking to see photo identification, looking for official utility vehicles parked nearby or calling the specific company to see if workers have been dispatched to the area – before ever allowing a purported utility employee into their homes.

In the Assembly, the bill was under consideration by the Codes Committee.

EMERGENCY SERVICES INCENTIVE ACT OK’D, ADDABBO REPORTS: In order to lend a helping hand to volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers, the New York State Senate, with the support of Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., recently approved legislation (S.2780) that would provide tax breaks, health care assistance and other new benefits to men and women who selflessly give their time and talents to these vital emergency services organizations.

“Volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers in my district and throughout the state provide incredible and often dangerous services around the clock to help others in their communities at their times of greatest need,” said Addabbo (D–Howard Beach), who has a number of dedicated volunteer fire and ambulances corps in his district. “Our ‘vollies’ are a special breed of giving people who risk their own safety in efforts to save others, and they richly deserve our encouragement and support.”

Under the “Omnibus Emergency Services Volunteer Incentive Act,” which is also designed to help volunteer firefighting and ambulance companies recruit new members, a variety of new benefits would be offered. Those who have actively volunteered for four or more taxable years would be able to claim a $400 personal income tax credit, and a volunteer recruitment service loan forgiveness program would be established to help selected members afford the cost of higher education for up to five years.

In addition, volunteer fire companies would be allowed to use a portion of fire insurance premiums to participate in plans to offer medical or hospital services or insurance to their members. A final provision would exempt the payment of all motor vehicle registration fees, and other use taxes on vehicles used by volunteer fire and ambulance workers to carry out their responsibilities, regardless of how much the vehicles are used for either volunteer service or personal use.

“The benefits that would be provided under this proposal would serve as both a ‘thank you’ to our volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers and as an important tool to encourage other community members to join their ranks,” said Addabbo. “Our volunteer emergency workers contribute so much to our communities, whether they are saving neighbors from burning buildings, helping to create calm out of chaos in the midst of natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, aiding other professional first responders in times of tremendous public need or providing vital, initial medical care to people on their way to hospitals for further treatment.”

After being approved by the State Senate, the legislation was under review by the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means.

FANTASY SPORTS LEGISLATION PASSES WITH ADDABBO’S SUPPORT: Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, made the following statement regarding the Senate and Assembly passage of legislation to legalize and regulate fantasy sports in New York State:

“I am pleased the State Senate and Assembly have taken action to regulate an online sports pastime that three million people in our state enjoy and that was readily available for 10 years before the legality of this popular activity came into question in New York. Under the agreement, fantasy sports – which allows players to act as owners of a virtual sports team, build rosters and compete against other players for prizes – will be regulated and back in action for the upcoming football season.

“Under the agreement, which must still pass muster with Governor Cuomo, revenues from this type of activity in New York will flow to the state and be targeted to educational purposes. By some estimates, this revenue may be close to $6 million a year. The legislation covers both daily and season-long gaming, and provides the State Gaming Commission with a regulatory role in fantasy sports.

“The measure, which classifies fantasy sports as games of skill rather than chance, contains a number of consumer safeguards to prevent people under 18 from playing, protect new fans from being taken advantage of by experienced participants, provide full disclosure about prizes and offer public information about problem gambling assistance.

“In addition, the legislation requires companies that offer fantasy sports to register with the state.  Principals of the companies must undergo criminal background checks and would be automatically disqualified if convicted of a felony crime in New York or elsewhere associated with gambling or bookmaking.

“Taxes and fees associated with fantasy sports would provide a new income stream for New York State to help bolster our educational system, much like revenues that now go to public schools through the state lottery. Furthermore, the millions of fans of fantasy sports in our state will once again be able to legally participate in games they enjoy, while helping to benefit New York’s economy with their activities. I hope Governor Cuomo will sign this legislation into law,” concluded Addabbo.

SENATE OK’S ADDABBO-CO-SPONSORED BILL TO COMBAT SUICIDE BY SCHOOL-AGED KIDS: Describing it as “an important effort to prevent tragedy before it happens,” Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. applauded the recent State Senate passage of a bill (S.4261) he co-sponsors to require the State Education Department (SED) and State Office of Mental Health (OMH) to develop materials focusing on suicide prevention and signs of depression among school-aged children, and to provide them with educators throughout New York State.

“There is no question that early intervention and recognition of suicidal behavior is key to preventing these heart-breaking incidents among students,” said Addabbo, a member of the Senate Committee on Education. “We need to keep our eyes wide open, paying close attention to our children both at home and at school and working to better recognize the signs of impending tragedy.”

Under the bill, the SED and OMH would develop materials on suicide prevention and signs of depression, to be made available through their public websites. In addition, SED would be charged with ensuring that suicide prevention instruction is provided to secondary-school aged children by certified health education teachers, Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) explained.

To underscore the importance of these efforts, Addabbo noted that suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24 in the United States.

“In addition, a study released by the National Center for Health Statistics in April showed that the overall United States suicide rate has surged to its highest levels in almost 30 years, affecting virtually all age groups,” he said.

Of particular alarm to the researchers, was a finding that the national suicide rate among girls ages 10 to 14, while low, tripled from 50 in 1999 to 150 in 2014. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for New York residents ages 15 to 34, and the third leading cause for children ages 10 to 14.

“By teaching our educators to better recognize the signs of potential suicidal tendencies, and by helping our young people to understand the gravity of this problem, I hope we will see fewer students giving up on life before they have had a chance to live it,” said Addabbo, adding that it is vital that at-risk youth be made aware that help is available to them. “Our school-aged children are already going through so many physical, emotional and psychological changes as they grow up, which may make some of our youth more susceptible to self-harm. We already know that kids can be cruel at times, and when you add in easy access to social media that can be used for ceaseless and horrific bullying, we’re looking at a recipe for possible disaster.”

As the father of two daughters, Addabbo said he is committed to ensuring that all students in New York State are provided with support systems and programs that could very well mean the difference between life and death for young people who are in despair and feel they have nowhere to turn for compassion or assistance.

“As a parent, I cannot even begin to imagine the agony and overwhelming grief of losing a child, particularly if they die by their own hand,” he said. “This educational outreach could help to ensure that fewer mothers and fathers are ever placed in a position of suffering these insurmountable and senseless tragedies.”

Having passed the State Senate, the bill was under review by the Assembly Education Committee.

KOO FAVORS COUNCIL VOTE TO APPROVE ONE FLUSHING: City Councilman Peter Koo (D–Flushing) said the following in support of the One Flushing development that was approved unanimously by the City Council last week.

“One Flushing is an opportunity to create a 100% affordable housing development with a community center that is open to the public in the heart of Flushing. While this development comes at the expense of one of our community’s cherished Municipal Parking Lots, it addresses one of the greater needs we face today – the need for affordable housing.

“Just down the street, another 100% affordable building called Macedonia Plaza cut its ribbon last year. This building had an astounding 40,000 applicants for only 140 apartments. It goes to show just how desperate New Yorkers are for affordable housing.

“This is a unique public-private partnership that will deliver deep levels of affordable housing, and senior affordable housing that will go as low as 37% AMI. The project also creates retail space opportunities for local businesses and will include at least 5,000 square feet of space for a community center that will be open to all. The building is also expected to include additional amenities, such as a rooftop garden, senior services, and it will replace and add to the parking spaces that will be lost.”

ADDABBO VOTES YES ON ONE YEAR EXTENSION OF MAYORAL CONTROL OF NYC SCHOOLS: Senator Joseph P.. Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) made the following statement on the one-year extension of New York City mayoral control of schools approved by the Senate and Assembly at the end of the 2016 legislative session on June 18th:

“As a member of the Senate Education Committee and the father of two daughters in public schools, I am glad the Senate and Assembly took last-minute action to extend mayoral control of New York City schools for one year instead of plunging the system into chaos and hurting our students, teachers, administrators and other educational stakeholders. Political maneuvering almost had us facing the prospect of reliving the bad old days we experienced prior to the adoption of the mayoral control system. In this light, I am pleased that the primary concern for the welfare of our school children and the quality of their education ultimately prevailed.

“While I would have preferred an extension of mayoral control, with reforms to provide principals with greater input into the operation of individual schools and to offer parents more of a say in the education system, I have no objection to the new transparency that will now be required of the City administration with regard to education spending throughout the five boroughs. To my mind, this is just an extension of the accountability the mayoral control system is already supposed to offer. When we see more clearly how and where our education dollars are being spent by the City, we will better be able to identify successful strategies and adjust other policies that don’t appear to be working. We must never lose sight of the fact that our children and their future success must be our number one priority.”

ADDABBO VOTES FOR LEAD TESTING OF SCHOOL WATER IN NYS: Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., who serves on both the Senate Education and Senate Environmental Conservation committees, made the following statement on legislation (S.8158) approved by the Senate and Assembly, to require periodic lead testing in school water supplies throughout New York:

“It is a victory for students, educators and families throughout New York that our state will soon take extra precautions to test school water supplies for dangerous levels of lead that can poison our children and cause a wide range of physical and neurological problems. With this initiative, New York will become the first state in the nation to adopt such stringent practices and standards to keep our schools and children safe from lead contamination.

“The State Department of Health and State Department of Education will develop regulations for testing and determining acceptable levels of lead in drinking water, and the state will also provide resources for schools to help them afford the testing, and any other equipment they might require, such as filters, to remediate any problems found. State agencies will coordinate with local county health departments on the issue, and results of testing will be provided to the public. When lead contamination is discovered, school districts will be required to provide alternative sources of clean drinking water until the problem is eliminated.

“While most schools that rely upon municipal water do not face contamination issues from the water supplies themselves, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that lead builds up in old sinks, water pipes and fountains, and can then leach into drinking water in the buildings. We don’t want Flint, Michigan to happen here, and we have already seen some schools in upstate New York face elevated levels of lead. This legislation will build upon federal rules already in place that govern lead levels in drinking water, and will help to protect our children, who are most susceptible to this toxin, from preventable brain damage and other disorders that can result from exposure to this dangerous heavy metal.

“I look forward to Governor Cuomo signing this important public health and safety legislation into law, and I was proud to vote in favor of it,” Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) concluded.

MALONEY DEMANDS GUN CONTROL AT HOUSE FLOOR SIT-IN: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney released the following statement last week at the House floor gun control sit-in as a cache of weapons was discovered in a truck on its way to NYC via the Holland Tunnel:

“It has been two days since the Senate failed to pass four pieces of legislation aimed at curbing gun violence, and two days since the Republican Party showed once again that they are willing to put the lives of millions of Americans at risk. And in the House, we cannot even get a vote.  Time after time we have pushed for Congress to say ‘Enough is Enough!’ but our attempts have been blocked at every turn.

“We cannot accept inaction. We need to pass measures to protect our citizens, and we need to do it now. Just yesterday, three people were arrested with a truck full of loaded guns that they were bringing into New York City through the Holland Tunnel. These weapons were only found because the authorities pulled the truck over for a cracked windshield. We don’t know what those guns were intended to be used for. Without that mistake, those guns could now be on the streets of NYC. We need to enact better gun safety laws, because the next truck full of weapons may not have a cracked windshield, or a busted taillight.

“That is why I am proud to join my colleagues in the House of Representatives for a historic sit-in to push for a vote on essential gun safety legislation. We have been pushed to the breaking point, and I find it appalling that Speaker Ryan would allow the House to recess without bringing this to a vote. This inaction is an insult to those who have lost their lives to gun violence. We are done with moments of silence unaccompanied by moments of action. We are done watching as more people are murdered by guns. I echo my fellow Democrats: No bill, no break!”

The sit-in lasted 26 hours. House Speaker Paul Ryan said he had no intention of bringing up voting on bills that would have barred suspected terrorists on no-fly lists from buying guns and that would impose universal background checks on potential gun buyers.

Ryan said the bills had already failed in committee.

The Republican leadership had ordered a news blackout of the sit-in, but knowledge of the sit-in was spread to the people by the Democratic representatives’ use of social media.

The house is now on recess and will reconvene in early July.

Democrats have vowed to continue to “push, pull, stand up – and if necessary, sit down,” said Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the last living member of the “Big Six,” civil rights leaders of the movement in the 1960s.

CROWLEY STATEMENT ON SUPREME COURT FAILURE TO MOVE FORWARD THE PRESIDENT’S EXECUTIVE ACTIONS ON IMMIGRATION: Congressman Joe Crowley (D–Queens, The Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, released a statement last week on the announcement of a tie by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of United States v. Texas, a political lawsuit designed to block President Obama’s 2014 executive actions to grant specific, discrete immigration relief for millions of families. While a tied outcome is not a ruling on the merits of these actions or the political lawsuit going after them, the absence of a decision allows the lower court injunction to stand, blocking these actions from going forward. However, the original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program begun in 2012 continues to proceed as normal.

Crowley declared: “This week, we’ve had a lot of emotional debates on some of the most important issues facing our nation. With today’s Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Texas, I am forced to take a pause from ongoing efforts to call attention to the lack of action on reasonable gun legislation to address another area of Republican obstruction – immigration reform.

“Throughout my career in Congress, I have fought to substantively reform our nation’s broken immigration system. My district, like so many others across the country, is filled with hard-working men and women who came here in search of a better life for their children and families. But they have been driven into the shadows of fear, when all they want is to live and work and give back to their community like everyone else. It is unconscionable that Republicans in Congress have refused to take the clear action needed for these families and for our nation.

“Recognizing the damage that the status quo has brought to families, President Obama took specific, common-sense action, using long-recognized executive discretion to allow families to stay together without the threat of deportation hanging over their heads, and for people to have the chance to work and support their families. Presidents of both parties for decades have taken similar action to allow federal agencies to use discretion in enforcing existing laws.

“Despite the clear legality – and logic – of this action, Texas and other states put politics above people, and turned to the court system as a way to continue their anti-immigrant agenda. I am disappointed the Supreme Court was not able to affirm what we all know – that the President’s actions were in line with well-established legal precedent and the use of executive discretion. On yet another issue, this lack of a decision makes clear how important it is for Republicans to stop their record of obstruction and confirm a Supreme Court justice so that these important matters can be fairly decided.

“This is of course a disappointing setback, but the legal and moral fight are far from over. I believe firmly that we are on the right side of history, and I will never stop fighting for a reasonable, humane immigration system that keeps families together, strengthens our country, and honors our proud tradition of welcoming immigrants.”

Congressman Crowley is the nine-term representative from the 14th Congressional District of New York, which includes sections of Queens and the Bronx. He is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and serves as Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives.

PERALTA STATEMENT ON U.S. SUPREME COURT RULING ON IMMIGRATION: State Senator Jose Peralta (D–East Elmhurst) issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court ruling that blocks President Barack Obama’s executive action from protecting millions of immigrants.

“As the sponsor of the DREAM Act, I am extremely disappointed by today’s news of a deadlock at the U.S. Supreme Court, which will have the effect of blocking President Obama’s important immigration reform policies, because of the trickle down effect that this may have on our struggle to pass the DREAM Act. This is not only a defeat for the millions of undocumented immigrants affected by the decision, but a defeat for all of us as Americans.”

DROMM DECRIES SCOTUS DECISION ON IMMIGRATION: Councilman Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) issued the following statement on the Supreme Court’s 4-4 decision concerning the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs:

“Today the Supreme Court has effectively allowed one notoriously anti-immigrant judge in Texas to obstruct a program vital to our nation’s progress,” said New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst). “The communities I represent – the sons and daughters, and mothers and fathers – deserve better than this. Our resolve is only strengthened to continue to fight for justice for these families, who are American in all ways but their immigration status.”

ADDABBO FAVORS ACTION ON ‘ZOMBIE’ PROPERTIES: Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. made the following statement regarding the Senate and Assembly passage of legislation (S.8159) which included welcome provisions to combat so-called “zombie” properties, which are often left to fall into disrepair following foreclosure proceedings. The bill has now been signed into law by Governor Cuomo.

“For many years, areas of my district – including Howard Beach, Lindenwood and Middle Village – have been plagued by vacant buildings that have been left to deteriorate after their owners have suffered foreclosure proceedings and been forced to abandon the property. These so-called ‘zombie’ properties have attracted squatters, served as magnets for vandalism and other more dangerous criminal behavior, and have pulled down the real estate values of the surrounding properties.

“I am very pleased that a plan was approved at the very end of the 2016 legislative session to combat this problem that has occurred, and continues to occur, statewide, as homeowners find themselves unable to afford their mortgages. The comprehensive measure, which has been approved by Governor Cuomo, attacks the issue of ‘zombie’ one-to-four-family residential properties from a number of different angles.

“This new law will impose a pre-foreclosure duty on banks and mortgage servicers to maintain vacant and abandoned properties and prevent them from disintegrating. Mandatory settlement conferences will be improved to better protect homeowners facing foreclosure, and a Consumer Bill of Rights will be established to inform property owners of their rights in foreclosure proceedings in an effort to protect communities. Success must be our number one priority.”

ADDABBO BILL BOLSTERS CAREER AID PROGRAMS FOR VETS: In an effort to strengthen career assistance services now offered to veterans through the State Senate’s recently approved legislation (S.7130), co-sponsored by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. will require the State Division of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to collaborate with SUNY and CUNY in helping former servicemen and women translate military experience into civilian job skills for their resumes.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach), who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, noted that the legislation had its genesis in a roundtable he and other members of the Committee held in February, to gather input on how to better serve the employment needs of veterans.

“It became clear through our discussions that it is often difficult for veterans to translate the work they did in the armed forces into civilian employment terms, and that employers also have trouble understanding how military experience and skills can satisfy their job openings,” said Addabbo. “By having the DVA formally collaborate with our SUNY and CUNY institutions on these aspects of resume writing and job placement, I think we will be in a better position to help our veterans gain new employment when they return home from service.”

The DVA would be required to report annually on how many veterans are using the career assistance programs.

Addabbo sponsored a 2014 law that required the DVA to include a military skills translator feature on the agency’s website, and he continues to push his legislation (S.4233) that would grant academic credit to veterans at SUNY and CUNY institutions for relevant skills and experience gained in the armed forces.

“While the employment outlook for returning veterans has been improving, we should continue to do all in our power to make sure these brave men and women are able to care for themselves and their families when they leave the armed forces,” said Addabbo. “Helping our veterans to access good jobs and be able to support themselves is a big part of that equation.”

In the Assembly, the bill is under consideration by the Committee on Higher Education.

ADDABBO MOBILE OFFICE HOURS AT REGO PARK LIBRARY: In his ongoing scheduling of mobile office hours around the district, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. will meet with constituents during mobile office hours in Rego Park next week.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) visits each library in his district multiple times per year, as part of his commitment to personally assist as many people in his district as possible. The Senator will be at the Rego Park Library, located at 91-41 63rd Drive, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 7th to meet with residents wishing to talk with him about problems they may be having, or to bring community issues to light. By holding mobile office hours at different libraries throughout his vast Senate district, Addabbo makes it more convenient for constituents to come to him at a time that is easier for them and a site right in their own community.

“As an elected official, making sure I interact with the people I represent is one of my top priorities,” said Addabbo. “I have always urged my constituents to contact me if I can help them in any way, but it is not always easy for some people to do that during normal business hours. These extended office hours, held at night in various neighborhoods throughout my district, are an excellent way to make sure I am not only reaching as many residents as possible, but also making it more convenient by coming to them. I look forward to another successful round of mobile office hours over the next few months and, as always, encourage those who need assistance to take advantage of these library visits.”

Additional mobile office hours are being scheduled for future dates and locations throughout the district. For more information, contact Addabbo’s Howard Beach Office at 718-738-1111.

ADDABBO SUMS UP 2016 LEGISLATIVE SESSION: State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) made the following statement on the accomplishments and lost opportunities of the 2016 New York State legislative session, which drew to a close in the Senate at approximately 5 a.m. Saturday, June 18th:

“It always seems to happen in the New York State Legislature, that the last hours of the six-month legislative session were marked by the appearance of ‘The Big Ugly,’ which can best be described as the kitchen sink of state government, with a wide variety of unrelated issues all thrown into one big piece of legislation and then served up on a platter for approval. I still think this is a terrible way to do the public’s business, making and passing deals in the middle of the night, when important issues could have and should have been openly and honestly debated in the light of day over the last six months.

“With that said, some good came out of ‘The Big Ugly,’ and a number of other actions we took over the course of the 2016 Senate and Assembly session. In the State Budget, of course, we were able to adopt paid family leave, raise the minimum wage, approve a middle class personal income tax cut and take other important steps to benefit the people of New York State.  But we didn’t stop there.

“For children in New York City schools, mayoral control has now been extended for one more year with a new requirement that detailed information be provided by the City on education spending for every individual school. A program is being put into place to require lead testing of school water systems throughout New York to protect all students from poisoning. School districts are being given an extra three months to develop teacher and principal evaluation plans before facing the threat of lost state aid, although I still strongly believe funding and educator evaluations should never have been tied together in the first place.

“To combat the terrible heroin and opioid epidemic in New York, legislation was approved to remove insurance barriers to treatment, ensure better and more thorough medical care for users, expand the use of life-saving overdose reversal medication, and step up abuse prevention efforts, such as placing new limits on opioid prescriptions and offering better information on the risks of drug abuse and addiction.

“While they do not go nearly as far as I believe they should, the Legislature passed some new measures to combat corruption and help restore the public’s trust in government. These include new disclosure requirements for political consultants, lobbying reforms, stronger rules governing independent campaign expenditures and a proposed constitutional amendment, which could go before voters next November, to strip pensions from legislators and other government officials who are convicted of crimes related to their public office, regardless of when that public service began. Unfortunately, the so-called ‘LLC loophole’ which allows for virtually unlimited campaign contributions by shadowy corporations remained intact, much to my disappointment.

“I appreciate that important new attention is being paid to ‘zombie properties,’ which are a big problem in my district. A bill was approved to better protect homebuyers against foreclosure, combat the proliferation of vacant and abandoned bank-owned properties and ensure that these empty homes are not permitted to fall into complete and utter disrepair. We also provided authority for some $570 million to be directed to building and operating 1,200 units of supportive housing as part of a multi-year, $20 billion program to address homelessness in New York, but I sincerely hope this initiative will be accelerated. We need to do much more, and much more quickly, to put roofs over the heads of our most needy individuals, and families who are living on the streets and in shelters.

“I also supported proposals to provide the State and City University systems with an extra $50 million in capital funding, expand breast cancer treatment and prevention efforts and help to implement new railroad safety mandates in the face of recent fatal crashes involving trains and motor vehicles. Legislative action also ensures that our bar and restaurant industry will benefit from the approval of the ‘Brunch Bill’ allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages before noon on Sundays, and New York’s three million fantasy sports fans will soon be able to legally play these online games again, with revenues from this newly regulated activity going to support education funding.

“On top of the more highly publicized items considered during the last weeks of the 2016 session, I am also very pleased that several of my own pieces of legislation, including a bill to continue protecting Jamaica Bay from harmful contamination, and an initiative to prevent and reduce workplace injuries, were approved by both the Senate and Assembly and will now go to the Governor for his review.

“In the end, there’s always a lot of the ‘good, the bad, and the Big Ugly’ associated with every legislative session. But between the vital policies approved in the 2016-17 State Budget, and the progress we made right up until sunrise on June 18th in doing the work of the public, I believe our 2016 accomplishments far outweigh our failures.”

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