2017-03-29 / Political Page

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ALBANY CHALLENGES MAYOR’S SHELTER PLAN: State Senator Jeffrey Klein, a lawmaker from the Bronx, stated he does not agree with Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build 90 homeless shelters in the city over the next five years. Klein said it was a “terrible idea.”

Recently, the mayor announced that, rather than renting costly hotels and private apartments to house the homeless, the city would build 90 shelters over a five-year period. A spokesperson for the mayor said the city has already sited five shelters with another 13 projected.

Klein, who heads a breakaway group of Democrats in the Senate, stated that it’s “controversial to place five shelters around the city, let alone 90.” He added, “You see how people react when you place homeless people in a hotel in their community. That would be outrageous.”

Klein said he prefers an alternative plan created by Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi (D–Forest Hills) to create a “rent subsidy program” and give people the choice to live in their own homes. Klein said his group of Democrats, along with Assembly Democrats, have included Hevesi’s Home Stability Support program, and are trying to get funding for it.

Klein said he and his group have proposed a requirement for community notification and input to the New York City Planning Commission on the siting of homeless facilities. He said a community should be notified 45 days before a homeless shelter is sited, and there should be at least one public hearing.

Klein also added that he talked to the city about a one-week community notification requirement before homeless people are placed in a hotel or motel, but he said the de Blasio administration rejected the idea. A spokesperson for the mayor said he approves of enacting the Home Stability Support program as an additional long-term prevention tool.

De Blasio’s spokesperson also said the city is deeply committed to “an open community notification process” of at least 30 days to both elected officials and the wider community, but added that a one-week notification requirement for placing homeless people in hotels would not work.

The spokesperson stated: “In compliance with the right-to-shelter court order, the city places people in hotels in emergency situations when there is not enough shelter on a given night, and providing a one-week notice before going into a new hotel would thereby result in renting rooms that may go unused, costing taxpayers more money.”

BRAUNSTEIN: ASSEMBLY PASSES BUDGET PROPOSAL THAT MOVES NE QUEENS FORWARD: Assembly Member Edward C. Braunstein (D–Bayside) announced that he helped pass the Assembly’s 2017-18 one-house state budget proposal, which invests in vital programs and services that are beneficial to families in northeast Queens. The final budget will be negotiated by the Assembly, Senate and Governor Cuomo over the next few weeks.

The Assembly’s plan provides a total of $26.3 billion in education funding. That’s an increase of $1.8 billion over last year, and $887 million more than the executive’s proposal. The proposal provides initial funding for a four-year phase-in of the state’s obligation for New York City public schools pursuant to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

In order to help students meet rising higher education costs, the Assembly budget proposal increases funding for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). The maximum TAP award would be raised to $5,500 per year, and then increase to $6,500 over a four-year period. The Assembly also improves the Governor’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship program to provide free college tuition to more middle-class families. While the executive’s plan would provide free SUNY and CUNY tuition to families earning up to $125,000 per year, the Assembly proposal builds on this by expanding eligibility for the program and keeping up with the rising costs of college by raising the maximum income level to qualify to $150,000 in the fourth year of the program.

“If enacted, the Assembly’s one-house budget would ensure that recent graduates are not saddled with the burden of crushing student loan debt that takes decades to pay back and prevents them from buying their first home and affording other monthly expenses,” said Braunstein.

“The Assembly spending plan also rejects Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal to redirect Title XX funding that is used to support senior centers to other budgetary purposes. Restoring this funding would prevent 65 senior centers in New York City from closing,” said Braunstein.

The Assembly’s one-house budget resolution also includes $2 million for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), such as Samuel Field Y’s Clearview Assistance Program, Deepdale Cares, and NORC WOW, all of which help keep seniors in their homes. The plan also provides $2 million in additional funding to support the Community Services for the Elderly program, which provides personal care, home delivered meals, transportation, senior centers, and other important services.

The Assembly’s budget proposal provides meaningful tax incentives for small and family-owned businesses, making it easier and more profitable to operate in New York State. Under the plan, the corporate income tax rate for small businesses with an income of $290,000 or less would be reduced to 4% from 6.5%. An estimated 42,000 businesses would see significant tax relief, helping them grow and create new jobs. Further, personal income tax filers who are small business owners would have the option to deduct 15% of their income from their adjusted gross income before the personal income tax rate is applied. This deduction would provide relief to over one million small businesses.

“Small businesses fuel our state’s economy,” said Braunstein. “The Assembly’s budget proposal opens Northeast Queens up for business by cutting taxes and helping our hardworking families get the jobs they need and deserve.”

AGREE TO EXPEDITE CONSTRUCTION ON CALAMUS AVE. SEWER PROJECT: For three years, the $25 million infrastructure upgrade along Calamus Avenue has left frustrated residents with potholes in the streets, uneven sidewalks, flooding, detoured bus service and more. City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, heeding the concerns of her constituents, hosted a town hall last month with participating city agencies – the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC), Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Protection and the 104th Precinct.

The public was given the opportunity to speak directly to agency representatives and shared what they need to improve quality of life around the construction. Following the meeting, the Council Member met with DDC, and it agreed to expedite the construction that is disrupting so many local lives, said Crolwey (D–Glendale).

“For years, the Calamus Avenue Sewer Project altered lives around Maspeth, but I am encouraged that with this announcement will also come some peace for residents and a return to normalcy,” Crowley said. “Residents should not have to deal with blocked driveways, navigating around potholes or looking at the ground while they walk so they won’t trip – especially for years on end.”

“This project has already extended well beyond schedule and it is inexcusable that the DDC continues to cause problems in residents’ daily lives,” said state Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. “I am glad that after hearing the residents, the city agency will extend weekday work hours in order to complete the project by December, as pushing the date back to May 2018 would be utterly unacceptable for those who have been dealing with the project already for three years. I also think it is vital that residents in Maspeth and Woodside continue to be vocal about any quality of life issues that may be caused by the construction.”

“It is encouraging news that the projected date for the completion of the Calamus Avenue project has been moved up to address ongoing community concerns. The people of the community deserve the project completed as soon as possible,” said state Assembly Member Brian Barnwell (D–Maspeth).

Construction crews will now work Monday through Saturday, 7 am to 6 pm. This moves the projected completion date to December 28, 2017. Once finished, the Q47 bus line will return to its original route.

The sewer project, ultimately, will increase sewer capacity and thereby better manage storm water and reduce flooding in surrounding neighborhoods. The existing sewers located under Calamus Avenue and 69th Street serve as major conduits in the area’s drainage network and both will receive significant capacity upgrades to ensure the proper drainage of storm water from the streets and to help eliminate sewer backups, Crowley said.

CHAIRMAN CROWLEY: GOP HEALTH CARE BILL ‘HARMFUL’: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D–NY) issued the following statement after Republican leaders conceded they couldn't convince enough members to vote for their damaging health care repeal bill that would deny federal matching funds for Medicaid dollars raised in New York State counties: “The American Health Care Act will tremendously harm New York State, its residents, and the country as a whole by ending health care coverage for 24 million Americans, raising premiums for seniors, and cutting billions of dollars from state Medicaid programs.

“And Republican leaders, upon realizing that even members of their own party were waking up to the damaging effects of the American Health Care Act, made a last-ditch play for votes by crafting an ‘Empire State Kickback’ provision. This provision would deny federal matching funds on any Medicaid dollars raised from counties, and provide a powerful incentive for New York State to discontinue requiring county contributions altogether.

“Not only would New York City be left with the $2 billion check once other New York counties stop paying into Medicaid, but the state would be forced to respond to the lack of federal revenue in other ways – either through cuts to services, limiting Medicaid eligibility for New Yorkers, or reducing payments to health care providers. New York State could even feel obligated to raise property taxes or levy replacement fees on counties to make up the resulting shortfall.

“The ‘Empire State Kickback’ is nothing but political maneuvering of the worst kind – a shameful attempt to lure political support for a bill that remains, at its core, bad policy built by a bad process. Experts have questioned whether this kickback is constitutional, much less whether it will meet Senate budget rules. New Yorkers have had enough of backroom, closed-door dealing, and this amendment, like the base bill, should be rejected as the political ploy that it so clearly is.”

CROWLEY ON PASSING OF MARTIN MCGUINNESS: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D–NY) issued the following statement after former deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness died on March 21st.

“I’m deeply saddened to learn of Martin McGuinness’ passing. A giant for peace, he will be forever remembered for his attempts to bring change to all of Ireland. I first met Martin more than 20 years ago during his first visit to the United States, though I knew of and admired him long before that visit. We became close friends, and continued a relationship for years that was built on admiration and respect.

“Martin was one of the most extraordinary leaders I have ever met – never giving up on his belief in a united Ireland, while working to constructively bridge the divide with those who fought for a different future. His achievements, including the leadership shown during the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and his consistent, responsible support for devolution of power in the North, will be marked down in history as some of the most important efforts toward peace in modern history.

“I will forever treasure his warmth, friendship, and spirit. My thoughts and prayers are with Martin’s family and the people of Ireland during this time.”

HOUSE PASSES MENG BILL HONORING 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST WOMAN SWORN INTO CONGRESS: As the nation continues its observance of Women’s History Month, the House of Representatives passed legislation sponsored by US Rep. Grace Meng (D–NY) that would honor the 100th anniversary of the first woman sworn into Congress, former Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R–Montana).

The 100 Years of Women in Congress Act (H.R. 382), would rename the US Department of Agriculture’s Women and Minorities in STEM Fields Program (WAMS) the “Jeannette Rankin Women and Minorities in STEM Fields Program.” Rankin, in addition to being the first woman elected to Congress, was a trailblazer in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 1902.

“Today, the House fully embraces Women’s History Month by passing my legislation commemorating the incredible legacy of Rep. Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, even before women had the right to vote,” said Meng. “From politics to the sciences, Rep. Rankin was a true pioneer who continues to be an inspiration for women everywhere. I am grateful that my colleagues unanimously agreed to recognize her impact on our nation’s history by passing the 100 Years of Women in Congress Act.”

If renamed, the WAMS program would remain a competitive grants program for colleges and universities to encourage women and minorities to pursue research, degrees, and careers in STEM fields. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47% of the total US workforce, but are still vastly underrepresented in STEM fields. Although gains have been made, women still comprise only 39% of chemists and material scientists, 28% of environmental scientists and geoscientists, 16% of chemical engineers and 12% of civil engineers.

Born in 1880, Jeannette Rankin represented the state of Montana in the House. She was elected on November 7, 1916, four years prior to ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution that gave women the right to vote.

Rankin also had ties to New York City. She helped organize the New York Women’s Suffrage Party and worked for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which was headquartered in New York City. She attended the New York School of Philanthropy, which later became part of Columbia University.

The 100 Years of Women in Congress Act was co-authored by former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana), now Secretary of the US Department of the Interior. The legislation passed unanimously by voice vote. The bill also passed the House during the last session of Congress by a vote of 377- 6.

CITY MUST NOTIFY RESIDENTS OF HOMELESS SHELTERS IN ADVANCE: PERALTA: Residents in Queens have been outraged when a homeless hotel, motel or shelter has opened without notice.

But under a proposal advancing in the New York State budget, pushed by state Senator Jose Peralta (D-Queens) and his colleagues in the Independent Democratic Conference, the city would be required to give elected officials, community groups and residents ample time to provide insight on proposed new shelters.

“When hotel-to-homeless shelter conversions began happening without notification in my district, I urged the city to implement a notification process and listen to residents. But that fell on deaf ears. The city continues to ignore communities and has now placed a flimsy process in place that is inadequate. I will continue fighting so that New Yorkers have a real notification and hearing process for homeless shelters,” said Peralta.

Under the IDC proposal advancing in this year’s budget, communities would have a greater amount of input on the placement of shelters within their communities than by those announced by the Mayor’s Office. Rather than community notification 30 days prior to the opening of a permanent shelter, the proposal gives communities notice 45 days before the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services hearings. The legislation would also empower local community boards to request public hearings on a shelter. DHS would be required to modify its proposal based on reasonable concerns from such hearings.

For temporary shelters, the proposal requires notification one week from the city’s use of the hotel as a shelter and requires DHS perform inspections to ensure sites are safe and free of violations. They must also maintain a publicly available list of these sites. The legislation also requires a quarterly report from DHS on the use and proposed use of these sites to be submitted to local elected officials. Because many times hotels are used for weather-related emergencies, the legislation allows for 48-hour post placement notification in the event of an emergency situation.

The IDC is also advocating for the inclusion of the Home Stability Support program in the budget. This comprehensive initiative would provide a statewide rent supplement for families and individuals who are facing eviction, are currently homeless or who have lost housing due to domestic violence and/or hazardous conditions.

In January, Senator Peralta and the Independent Democratic Conference released an investigative report, “Horrors in Homeless Housing,” detailing the conditions inside the hotels and cluster sites used for homeless housing. The city announced a five-year phase out of these sites and a proposal to open 90 additional permanent shelters soon after.

The report listed the top 10 worst offenders in both categories, with sites that had violations for issues such as rodent and roach infestations, mold, lead paint, unlawful cooking areas and failure to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

MALONEY ON LONDON TERROR ATTACK: In response to reports of the March 22nd terror attack in London, England, Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) released the following statement:

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of London and the United Kingdom…in the wake of the terror attack near the UK Parliament and Westminster Bridge.

“As our nation’s closest ally, the United Kingdom has stood steadfast with the United States in times of trouble and we will do the same for her. We will continue to work together to thwart terrorists and defeat threats to our nations and democracies around the world. Terror, hate and fear will not win.”

WEPRIN BILL TO PREVENT WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION PASSES: The State Assembly has passed legislation sponsored by Assembly Member David Weprin (A4977) to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of religious attire, clothing or facial hair, 117-6. This marks the fourth time that the bill has advanced in the Assembly since 2014, only to be denied a floor vote in the Republican-controlled State Senate each year.

A4977 adds language to the New York State Human Rights Law to clarify that it is an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to require a person to violate or forego the wearing of attire, clothing, or facial hair in accordance with the requirements of his or her religion unless the employer demonstrates that it is unable to reasonably accommodate the person’s religious practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.

“With hate crimes rising in 2017, it is more important than ever that we stand together with our fellow Americans of faith,” said Assembly Member David Weprin. “I feel that those who choose to wear an article of faith should never be discriminated against and should never have to choose between their profession and their religious beliefs. As such, I am proud to stand with all Americans of faith, regardless of their choice to wear a hijab, kippah, turban or cross.”

FAMILIAL MATCH DNA TESTING APPROVED: District Attorney Richard A. Brown released the following statement upon the approval of familial match DNA testing by the DNA Subcommittee of the New York State Commission On Forensic Science on March 27th: ”Today’s action by the DNA Subcommittee of the NYS Commission on Forensic Science unanimously approving familial match DNA searches is an important step forward in identifying the guilty, excluding the innocent and bringing closure to the families of victims of unsolved homicides. While the journey for justice for families is not yet complete, this is an important milestone.”

REP. CROWLEY HOSTS IMMIGRATION TOWN HALL WITH MOYA: On Thursday, March 23rd, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Chair of the Democratic Caucus, hosted a town hall on immigration in conjunction with New York State Assembly Member Francisco Moya to discuss the new administration’s immigration actions, “the future for our DREAMers, and the best ways to protect our most vulnerable communities,” said Crowley. Crowley was forced to remain in the Capitol after House Republicans delayed the vote on their healthcare proposal, and gave his welcoming remarks to guests in attendance via Skype.

“The past few months have been particularly challenging for our immigrant communities,” said Rep. Crowley. “Since the very beginning of the Trump administration, I have spoken out against the executive orders to deny funding to cities like New York, to build an unnecessary and hurtful wall, and to create a deportation force that strikes fear into the hearts of immigrant New Yorkers.

“That’s why it’s imperative that we hold forums like these to inform our families, friends and neighbors of their rights, where they can get trustworthy and reliable immigration assistance, and how to best make their voices heard. I thank Assembly Member Moya for partnering with me in this effort as well as the advocates who were able to join our panel and share their expertise on how we can keep our families together.”

“New York City is committed to protecting the vulnerable immigrant communities who face uncertain futures during these unsettling times,” said Assembly Member Moya. “Prior to President Trump’s immigration actions, if you were someone with no serious conviction on your record, you at least knew where you stood and what to expect. Now it seems like anything can be cause for enforcement. When even law enforcement was left confused by Trump’s rushed and poorly-written executive order, the average person isn’t going to understand how it will impact their life. Ultimately, people need to know their rights in order to protect themselves; it is their first line of defense. Our district is lucky to have a leader in Congress like Representative Joe Crowley fighting for our community. I’m proud to have hosted this immigration town hall in conjunction with him, and hope it will provide clarity where there is confusion.”

The town hall, which was held at St. Leo Catholic Academy in Corona, drew over 200 attendees and included a panel of immigration experts from various agencies and organizations, including the Queens District Attorney’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, New York Immigration Coalition, Safe Passage Project, Sanctuary for Families, the American Immigration Lawyer Association and UnLocal.

REACTIONS TO GOP DECISION TO DROP THEIR ‘DISASTROUS’ HEALTHCARE BILL: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY 14) and Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY 12) issued statements after Republican leaders conceded they couldn’t convince enough members of the House to vote for their damaging healthcare repeal bill.

Rep. Crowley said, “The health care bill put forward by congressional Republican leadership and President Donald Trump would strip coverage from 24 million Americans, impose an unconscionable age tax on seniors, and force hard-working Americans to pay drastically more money for significantly worse health care. It’s no wonder Republicans crafted this bill in the dead of night, behind closed doors. And so it’s no wonder that it failed.

“After seven years and countless attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it is long past time for Republicans to abandon their partisan agenda and join Democrats in taking steps to continue to improve our nation’s healthcare system.”

Rep. Maloney released the following statement: “House Republicans finally realized that the bill they have proposed does not pass muster with the American people. This bill would have ripped away health insurance from 24 million Americans, increased premiums and imposed an ‘age tax’ on people over 50 years old. It would have also stripped away essential health benefits like maternity care and prescription drug coverage, while also cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Fortunately, for today at least, that was too much for the House of Representatives, but this fight is far from over.

“Many of the Republicans who opposed this bill did so because it didn’t go far enough in cutting benefits and health protections. I will continue to do everything I can to protect the significant progress we have made since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law seven years ago.”

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