2017-04-05 / Political Page

Call For More Transparency In High School Application Process

In the wake of an admissions failure for the coming school year at Maspeth High School, City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley has taken action to ensure every student, from every school, gets an equal opportunity for a good education. In order to do this, the Council Member believes a policy change must be made to take the admission process out of the hands of local schools, and into the hands of the city, who can then make it a public, transparent process.

Earlier this month, the community was notified that the administration at Maspeth High School did not include applications from students at parochial schools, including students considered a “priority” for acceptance. Since identifying this omission, these students were then admitted at the same rate at which public school students were, Crowley reported.

When choosing students for New York City high school admissions, the Department of Education (DOE) uses an algorithm to process and accept applications. When 8th grade students attend a high school fair and sign onto a list for a specific school, they are considered priority to attend the next year.

“It is unacceptable that any student is denied the chance to go to the high school of their choice, whether they come from parochial, private or public education. When human error is responsible for excluding a group of students, someone must be held accountable. Policy must be put into place to ensure this does not happen again,” Crowley said.

The Council Member submitted two legislative requests, which will soon be drafted into bills and voted on by the City Council:

• A local law requiring the New York City DOE to post the application process for admission to each public high school on the Department’s website and to disclose the number of applications received and the number of students admitted each school year. Any lotteries for admittance should be conducted in a public setting where applicants can attend to witness the results.

• A local law to require the New York City DOE to disclose on the Department’s website the zip codes of admitted students to zoned high schools each school year. The Department should also be required to disclose how the algorithm it uses to select high school students for admission is formulated.

“We need greater transparency in the admission process so New York City families can rest assured that they are not being discriminated against,” Crowley said. “I stand with my constituents and call for real, meaningful change.”

Crowley met today with the DOE on the matter, who said they will publicly share admissions numbers for the school.

MENG REPORTS PAROCHIAL SCHOOL STUDENTS EXCLUDED FROM ADMISSIONS PROCESS AT MASPETH HS: US Rep. Grace Meng (D–Queens) issued the following statement about reports of parochial school students being excluded from the admissions process at Maspeth High School:

“Allegations of intentionally shutting out students from parochial schools are deeply troubling, and blaming the exclusion of students on a clerical error is unacceptable.

“This ordeal has made it clear that there must be greater transparency and openness in the admissions process.

“Each and every student must be given the proper and appropriate consideration for acceptance. Failure to do so for all students is something that cannot be tolerated.”

ADDABBO IRKED BY MASPETH HS ADMISSIONS PROCEDURE: “It is crushing to tell an eligible student, not once, but twice, that they will not be accepted to the school of their choice because of a ‘clerical error’ within the NYC Department of Education.” Addabbo said. “It is wholly unacceptable. The process by which a limited unscreened school is supposed to operate is by giving preference to students who show interest, attend information sessions and who academically qualify, which is not what we have here. This is why I believe an investigation by an authoritative agency may be warranted in this instance. My office plans on looking into this matter further.”

ADDABBO AGREES WITH COURT ON FLAT RATE RENT FREEZE: “The recent State Supreme Court decision to uphold a flat rate rent freeze for tenants living in one of New York City’s million rent-stabilized apartments, will help guarantee the affordability of housing for many lower-income families in the borough for at least one more year,” Addabbo said. “It is vital that we continue to monitor the issue, to ensure that we are not pricing out our residents, which include seniors, veterans and families with children, by keeping rent on one – and two-year leases at a low and reasonable cost.”

CROWLEY WELCOMES NEW 104TH PRECINCT C.O.: City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, in the following statement said: “Deputy Inspector Mark Wachter was an excellent Commanding Officer for the 104th Precinct, and I am grateful for his service to our local communities, and I wish him the best in the future. I am confident that Commanding Officer John Mastronardi will continue to successfully lead the precinct and keep our families safe. I welcome him to our community.”

CROWLEY BILL BECOMES LAW: Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed intro 0247-A into law, a bill sponsored by City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley to increase penalties for the performance of unlicensed electrical work citywide.

“When electrical work is done by unlicensed contractors, both workers and civilians are put at grave risk of either fires or explosions,” Crowley said. “I believe these stiffer penalties are necessary to effectively deter unlicensed contractors from engaging in work that is a threat to New Yorkers’ safety.”

Crowley explained that the law brings penalties up to the level that has been established for other licensed construction trades performing work without a license. The maximum criminal penalty will now be a $25,000 fine, and up to one year imprisonment. The law also codifies the civil penality for a first time violation at $4,800.

“In a city that never sleeps, it’s imperative that electrical work is done by skilled, trained professionals. It’s a matter of public safety,” said Crowley (D–Glendale).

“The days of doing unlicensed electrical work in New York City without adequate consequences are over! Introduction 247-A is a timely and necessary update that will act as a strong disincentive to performing unlicensed electrical work, which is a public safety hazard and a growing problem in New York City. For over 125 years, the New York Electrical Contractors Association has been responsible for high quality and safe electrical installations. We are the leading trade association of electrical contractors in New York City. We help build New York, serve our communities in times of crisis, and promote the highest standards of worker safety in the industry. Thank you Councilwoman Crowley, Housing Committee Chair Williams, and the New York City Council for your support and for the electrical contracting industry. “ said Stephen Gianotti, President of the New York Electrical Contractors Association, Inc.

“The unionized electrical industry spends a great deal of money on safety, through our Statecertified apprenticeship school and continuing education and training programs. On the other hand, untrained electrical workers employed by unscrupulous, non-union and unlicensed contractors frequently become part of the underground economy. They often put themselves and general public at great risk because they do not know how to work safely. By updating the penalty provisions of the Electrical Code, the Council is sending a strong message that unsafe, unlicensed electrical work will not be tolerated in New York City,” said John Mannino, President of the Association of Electrical Contractors.

ADDABBO REMARKS ON SUBCOMMITTEE’S APPROVAL OF FAMILIAL DNA MATCHING: State Senator Joseph Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) stated: “Following the tragic death of Howard Beach resident and constituent Karina Vetrano, your state elected officials have continued to push the Commission on Forensic Science to adopt guidelines that would allow the use of familial DNA testing, a system that has been proven effective in other parts of the country,” Addabbo said. “Today, I commend the subcommittee for the Commission on Forensic Science for hearing the advantage so proper use of familial DNA and approving its use in our state. It is our hope that by approving the careful use of familial DNA matching, we will be better equipped to solve investigations and assist law enforcement.”

The use of familial DNA was only approved by the subcommittee for the Commission on Forensic Science, as of March 27, 2017.

PHEFFER AMATO HAILS APPROVAL OF FAMILIAL DNA MATCHING TECHNIQUE: In August of last year, Karina Vetrano, 30, was murdered while out for an afternoon run. Eight months later, a suspect is awaiting trial. Vetrano’s killing sent shockwaves through her tight-knit community of Howard Beach, in South Queens. In January Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato, representative for Howard Beach and surrounding communities, asked the State Commission on Forensic Science (SCFS), to change the law so investigators can use familial DNA matching, or “FM,” in pursuit of new suspects.

Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach) noted that the cutting-edge tactic, which builds a “family tree” map that can provide investigators with new leads, has been instrumental in closing several high-profile murder cases over the past decade. New York State’s laws were ambiguous on the tool, making prosecutors very reluctant to use it, lest cases be thrown out or overturned on appeal.

Last January, before the use of familial DNA became approved, Pheffer Amato had released the following statement: “As a mother and daughter,” says Pheffer Amato, “I’m unfortunately very cognizant that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to face prison than other criminals. As an elected official, I must look out for victims, their families and the whole community. The Vetrano family and so many others in my district continue to face the daily struggles of loss, made worse by the fact that Karina’s killer is yet to be found. In order to promote justice, to ease the pain of family and community members and to protect against an active threat to everyone’s safety, I strongly urge the SCFS to allow use of familial DNA searching in this case, and in all cases moving forward.” She encouraged those who were impacted and had opinions on the use of FM to join her on February 10th at the Division of Criminal Justice Services, Office of Forensic Services, where she gave testimony. She also urged constituents and other interested parties to contact her office with input on the matter.

As of March 27th, the number of states that allow FM is 10, including New York State.

ADDABBO FAVORS CASHLESS TOLLING FOR OUR AREA BRIDGES: MTA Bridges and Tunnels will be removing tolling stations along the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge and the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge on April 30th as part of Governor Cuomo’s plans to implement open road, or “cashless” tolling, for all city bridges and tunnels by the end of 2017, State Senator Joseph Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) reported.

Sometime around the summer of 1983, Senator Joe Addabbo worked as a toll booth officer at the Cross Bay Bridge. Addabbo had a unique seasonal job, giving beachgoers change from the then-90 cent tolls, while being extremely jealous that while he was working in his brown uniform, others went off to enjoy Rockaway Beach. It was back then that Addabbo realized how unfair that toll was for the residents of Queens. Now, the upcoming cashless tolls reveal that the toll booth officer may witness the same fate of the dinosaur – extinction.

“While the MTA has assured me that there will be no immediate loss of jobs, I am concerned about the possible elimination of the toll booth positions over time. Aside from the likely jobs reduction, there are other issues that will have to be monitored with the new cashless toll arrangement, such as the potential for lax enforcement against toll evaders and unpaid invoices mailed to the registered vehicle owners, which could cause the MTA to lose millions,” Addabbo stated.

On a positive note, the Senator believes cashless tolling will actually alleviate congestion and odor emissions along the boulevard, which comes as a great relief to his constituents in Broad Channel.

The new open road tolling system will allow drivers with an E-Z Pass to drive through gateless tolls along the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge and the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. For drivers without an E-Z Pass, the new tolling system will take a photo of their vehicle’s license plate and a bill will be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. In preparation of the new tolling system, Governor Cuomo announced in January new DMV regulations which will allow the state to suspend an owner’s registration for three toll violations over the course of five years, as well as new MTA regulations that will impose increasing fines for nonpayment of tolls.

While the Governor’s plans include provisions to enforce stiffer penalties on toll evaders and outof state travelers, Addabbo feels more can be done for the taxpaying residents in his district and throughout Queens. The Senator has been advocating for an idea that has been heard before – remove the toll entirely on the Cross Bay Bridge and, if not completely, then minimally, from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

Addabbo said, “Access over the bridge should be free for all Queens residents. We all know that the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge is the only bridge in New York City that requires you pay a toll to travel within the same borough. As I recently drove into the Rockaway part of my district and watched the dismantling of the toll structures there, I thought that this toll should be eliminated totally.”

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