2017-10-25 / Political Page

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DEMS URGE CONGRESS ‘PASS BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION FOR RELIEF TO PR, USVI’: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY), along with 18 Democratic members of Congress, sent a letter to the Ways and Means Committee urging the tax-writing panel to move forward with legislation to provide comprehensive relief to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other U.S. territories or states affected by natural disasters.

U.S. tax law, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, treats Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands differently than mainland states – putting the families living there at a disadvantage. In a letter to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the House Democrats pushed for an end to this unequal treatment so hardworking families in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can swiftly recover.

“As the leaders of the most powerful committee in the House of Representatives, we urge you to convene the Committee on Ways and Means as soon as possible to pass bipartisan legislation to provide comprehensive relief to these hard-hit areas, addressing both their immediate needs as well as the issues they will face over the long-term recovery,” the lawmakers wrote. “Understanding the deeper needs of our fellow Americans in these U.S. territories, the Committee can and must do more – especially in the areas of individual relief, employment and job assistance, disaster relief, environmental remediation, and housing aid.”

The letter calls for immediate action to increase the allocation of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to help those whose homes were destroyed, provide additional funding for the New Markets Tax Credits to help restart the private sector business, and make permanent excise taxes to help restart the territories’ economies.

DEMAND AN EMERGENCY CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF RESPONSE & RECOVERY: Amidst the continued crisis from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the White House on October 22 to immediately appoint an experienced emergency “CEO of Response & Recovery” to coordinate the federal response in Puerto Rico. Schumer said this individual would have a direct line and access to the President, the Governor of Puerto Rico, all Cabinet Secretaries, members of Congress, and local Puerto Rican officials to help coordinate relief efforts and assist Puerto Rico in developing a plan for recovery and rebuilding, and executing that plan. Schumer said that the federal response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has been disorganized, slow-footed and mismanaged. Puerto Rico has been completely devastated, and is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. One month after the hurricane, one million American citizens still do not have access to running water, and millions lack electricity. Schumer added that FEMA alone does not have the ability to manage the disaster and is stretched too thin.

“It’s been more than a month since Maria, but 80% of the lights in Puerto Rico are still out, and American citizens are unsure about where their next glass of clean water will come from – this is just unconscionable and demands new action,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY) said, “It’s tragically clear this administration was caught flat footed when Maria hit Puerto Rico. Everyone knew a historically catastrophic hurricane was barreling toward an island with vulnerable infrastructure, yet there wasn’t a meaningful plan in place to efficiently deploy federal resources.”

“It’s time for the Trump Administration to give this crisis the attention it deserves. Immediately after Hurricane Maria, I called for the creation of a White House Task Force to coordinate relief efforts post Hurricane Maria. The appointment of a CEO or ‘czar’ is a similar idea to help streamline coordination efforts and make sure Puerto Rico’s needs are met,” said Congressmember Serrano.

Schumer said there are several examples of why we need better coordination and management. One, there are too many different chains of command working all on their own. Two, we need better coordination of bringing people to Puerto Rico from the mainland because supplies are not getting to the people who need them; that includes water and food, Schumer said. Thirdly, the CEO would coordinate which federal agencies best can get needed supplies to the people of Puerto Rico.

Schumer noted an emergency “CEO of Response & Recovery” to assist Puerto Rico would help coordinate emergency response activities among the various federal agencies, from FEMA, to DoD, to the Department of Energy, to the Treasury Department. They would also oversee disaster assistance distribution and federal contractual arrangements to ensure that there is no waste, fraud, or abuse.

FEMA is currently responding to multiple major disasters – from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas to the devastating wildfires blazing across California and as a result, Schumer said that their ability to manage the disaster recovery in Puerto Rico is clearly inadequate. For instance, Puerto Rico’s governor submitted a request for federal funding nearly three weeks ago, however, FEMA has yet to provide its stamp of approval on the federal dollars that would allow the Commonwealth to be reimbursed for rebuilding roads and bridges, water control facilities, public utilities, and more. The scale of the destruction and the complexity of the recovery process in Puerto Rico necessitates an experienced, high-level official with his or her sole focus on helping to coordinate and facilitate the emergency response and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

Eighty percent of the island is still without electricity, meaning some have not had power for 45 days, since Hurricane Irma hit in September. The Army Corps of Engineers has said it needs 2,000 additional workers to help with restoring the power, yet it has only brought in approximately 200 workers. Downed power lines remain on the ground. Currently, only 33 percent of the island’s cell sites are functional, and only 53 percent of cell towers have been fully restored.

Just offshore of Puerto Rico, the USNS Comfort, a vessel equipped with a fully operational hospital, could prove to be instrumental in the road to recovery for many seeking medical attention. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to get patients onto the ship. As of Friday, just 43 of the 250 beds on the USNS Comfort were occupied, despite the ship’s arrival weeks ago.

Schumer noted that when Trump was asked how he would grade the White House’s response to the disaster in Puerto Rico, Trump said he would give it a “ten.”

VAN BRAMER OPPOSES PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION: On November 7, voters in New York State will vote on Proposal 1, a ballot question to determine if New York State will hold a constitutional convention. New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer issued the following statement Sunday to express his strong opposition to the proposed constitutional convention and his steadfast intention to vote “no” on Proposal 1.

“I am strongly opposed to the New York State Constitutional Convention. A constitutional convention raises deep concerns to me about the possibility of lowering and diminishing workers’ pensions, something I would never stand for. A constitutional convention would open up governance in our state to special interests and extremely wealthy individuals and would see the delegate selection process rigged by the same Republican gerrymandering we have seen from Albany in our legislative and congressional districts. Simply put, a Constitutional Convention would run the risk of rolling back decades of progress on environmental protections, workers’ rights, civil rights, and more, and for those reasons I will be voting “no” and urge others to do the same.”

AVELLA URGES CONSTITUENTS: VOTE ‘NO’ ON CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION: NYS Senator Tony Avella released the following statement regarding this November’s ballot proposal calling for a State Constitutional Convention:

“In less than a month, New Yorkers from all over the state will take to the polls to decide the shape of their city, county, and state for the near future. The back of every New Yorker’s ballot will have a very important proposal that could have a detrimental impact on our state if approved. I am talking, of course, about ‘Proposal 1’ calling for a State Constitutional Convention,” Avella stated.

”The idea of redoing the constitution sounds good on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper, you will find opening every part of the Constitution, in this politically charged chaotic environment is risky, at best, and will do more harm than good.

“A Constitutional Convention would put many of our long-established labor protections in jeopardy and could also significantly roll back many of the hard-fought environmental regulations that are crucial to our state,” Avella stated.

“If you thought that politics was controlled by special interests and dark money, a Constitutional Convention would worsen an already bad situation. Individual provisions of the State Constitution can be amended at any time, as seen in the other two proposals on the ballot this year. Both are constitutional amendments that went through the normal process for the legislature to amend the constitution which are now before the electorate for a vote,” Avella explained.

“For example, Proposal 2 allows for the complete or partial forfeiture of an elected official’s pension if he or she is convicted of a certain type of felony. This is a huge step forward in holding corrupt politicians accountable. I urge voters to vote in favor of Ballot Proposal 2. I certainly agree that we need to improve the functioning of our state government, making it more accountable to the people; but a Constitutional Convention that opens up every aspect of our constitution does not accomplish that goal.

“I urge voters to vote “no” on the constitutional convention, (Ballot Proposal 1). It’s the only way to guarantee that we maintain important protections for all New Yorkers,” Avella concluded.

ADDABBO TO MEET WITH KEW GARDENS HILLS RESIDENTS: The newly reopened Kew Gardens Hills branch of the Queens Library will be the site of the next in a series of Mobile Office hours hosted by NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. On Thursday, October 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Addabbo will meet with local residents at the renovated library, which is located at 71-34 Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills.

Addabbo said, “I am looking forward to returning to the Kew Gardens Hills library, as this will be my first Mobile Office hours there since its reopening,” said Addabbo. “Sometimes local residents are unable to visit my offices during regular working hours, so I’ve simply decided to bring the services of my Senate offices to them at a time that is more convenient for them.”

Addabbo thanked the Queens Library system for providing him with continuing opportunities to hold Mobile Office hours at local libraries in different areas of his Senate district, and is hopeful Kew Gardens Hills residents will come out and express their concerns to him on October 26.

For further information, or to learn about other mobile office hours planned around the district, constituents may contact Addabbo’s office at 718- 738-1111.

SERGEANTS BENEVOLENT ASSOC. ENDORSES MALLIOTAKIS: Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis, the Republican nominee in the race for mayor, received the endorsement of the New York City Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) on Tuesday, October 17 during their monthly meeting, held at Antun’s in Queens Village. Ed Mullins, longtime president of the SBA said, “As mayor, Nicole Malliotakis will stand with us when times get tough; she’ll mourn with us and she’ll be there to swear in new members of the department.”

The Sergeants Benevolent Association is made up of approximately 13,000 active and retired sergeants of the NYPD, making it the fifth largest police union in the nation.

SBA President Ed Mullins said, “Today, the Sergeants Benevolent Association is proud to endorse Nicole Malliotakis in the race for mayor. Make no mistake; Assemblywoman Maliotakis is the polar opposite of Bill de Blasio. During her career in the New York State Assembly, Nicole Malliotakis has proven by her actions and her votes that she supports law enforcement and safe communities. She believes in the men and women of the NYPD and understands the danger they face on a daily basis. She also believes in the leadership and dedication of the men and women in this room; the frontline supervisors of the world’s best police department.

“As mayor, Nicole Malliotakis will stand with us when times get tough; she’ll be there to mourn with us, and she’ll be there to swear in new members of the department and shake their hands. She’ll work with the NYPD and communities of color to implement real programs that will establish trust, help our homeless that have been abandoned, and work with the governor to improve our transit system.

“On the campaign trail she hasn’t hesitated to call out those who wanted to honor a convicted FALN terrorist as he paraded up Fifth Avenue, or the judges, appointed by our mayor, who put repeat offenders back on the street, time and again.

“Hopefully, New Yorkers who care about our city and its future will join with us in supporting Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis in the race for mayor.”

Assemblywoman Malliotakis said, “I’d like to thank the members of the SBA and President Ed Mullins for their strong words of support. Like so many other New Yorkers you recognize the damage this mayor has done to our city and to your police department.

“During his term in office, Bill de Blasio has done his best to roll back successes of the prior 20 years. Whether it’s the decriminalization of quality of life crimes, or the mayor’s refusal to compromise on his Sanctuary City policy, which, if kept in place, may jeopardize tens of millions in federal counter-terror funding. Both you and I know that’s wrong for law and order and wrong for our city.

“As mayor, I will make rebuilding the relationship between City Hall and the men and women of the NYPD a priority. I will be a mayor who will find the time to listen to and work with union leaders and not freeze out those who represent some of the bravest and most dedicated workers in city government.

“I’ll work to give the NYPD the resources to fight crime and protect New Yorkers and I will fight for the expansion of programs that build relationships with communities, especially those that focus on our youth and provide them with positive activities and mentoring by off-duty members of the NYPD.

“The main purpose of any government is the protection of its citizens and you are the front line in making that happen right here in New York. Thank you for your support and stay safe!”

CROWLEY ON ALEXANDER-MURRAY HEALTH CARE COMPROMISE: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement on the health care compromise announced by State Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray:

“President Trump and congressional Republicans have put the American healthcare system in a tailspin with their unending attempts to sabotage our insurance markets. For middle-class Americans who are facing double-digit premium hikes due to the president’s actions, doing nothing is not an option. We must reverse the damage done by the president’s sabotage and ensure consumer protections remain strong.

“The cooperation between Sens. Alexander and Murray is a positive example of how Republicans and Democrats can work together to craft policies that benefit all Americans, and I look forward to reviewing the full legislative text of this deal. Stabilizing insurance markets, lowering premiums, and keeping in place critical subsidies for low-income families is an urgently needed first-step to improve health care.

“Moving forward, I hope Republicans in the House and Senate will recognize the importance of putting aside their partisan obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act and work with us to pursue both short and long-term solutions to improve the health care system for all Americans.”

CROWLEY ON COURT DECISION TO BLOCK TRUMP’S THIRD ‘MUSLIM TRAVEL BAN’: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement after a U.S. District Court judge in Hawaii blocked the third iteration of President Trump’s ban on travels from predominantly Muslim countries:

“The courts have once again confirmed that President Trump’s Muslim ban is unconstitutional and un-American. This latest ruling proves that no matter how many times the White House attempts to rewrite the Muslim ban, it remains a misguided and hateful policy that undermines America’s global standing and will put our national security at risk.”

PERALTA ANNOUNCES ALLOCATION FOR CORONA SELF-HELP CENTER: NYS Senator Jose Peralta announced on October 17 a $10,000 state allocation he secured for Corona Self-Help Center. This funding will provide English classes for the members of the organization, which offers mainly addiction treatment and counseling services. The funds will be used to hire a teacher and purchase class-related supplies. Senator Peralta made the announcement at the group’s Corona location.

“New Yorkers who seek help and go to Corona Self-Help Center show great courage by taking the first step towards recovering from addiction and reintegrating themselves into society. We have a responsibility to assist them as much as we can to make sure they have an opportunity for social and family reintegration,” Senator Peralta said.

“I want to thank Senator Peralta for this contribution to the members of the Corona Self-Help Center, which will be used to offer English classes. Knowing English is a vital tool for them as they reintegrate into society,” said Armando Franco, Vice President of Corona Self-Help Center, Inc. “The funds will allow us to hire an English teacher and offer members English-classes at different levels.”

Corona Self-Help Center works to rehabilitate people suffering from the consequences of substance use disorders, focusing on their physical, mental and spiritual health by contributing to the individual’s social and family reintegration in a dignified and efficient way. “The organization’s vision is to become a model program that improves the recovery of drug addicts and establishes self-sufficient communitarian centers in areas of need. Its recovery programs provide members with housing, food and clothing for a three-month period while they attend in-house 12- step meetings, workshops/lecture series and ensuring they are provided with a strong foundation for their recovery based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-Step Self-Help Program,” Peralta stated.

NEW LAW CO-SPONSORED BY ADDABBO WILL HELP TO ADDRESS FOOD WASTE: A new law (Chapter 316) co-sponsored by NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. seeks to encourage school districts, universities and other educational institutions to begin programs where they are able to donate excess, unused and edible food to volunteer organizations engaged in feeding needy New York residents. The measure, which will go into effect next March, requires the State Education Department and NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets to develop voluntary guidelines to move the donation program forward.

“The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that food waste makes up approximately 14 percent of solid municipal waste in the nation each year, which translates into about 34 million tons annually,” said Addabbo, a member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. “This new law holds great potential for reducing food waste in educational institutions while lending an important helping hand to individuals, seniors, families and children who face challenges in getting enough to eat.”

Addabbo noted that bad weather, power outages, or other unexpected events may lead to circumstances where food may be wasted when students are not able to come to class or need to leave early. “It’s simply a shame to see nutritious meals go into the trash when they could be used to fight hunger in our city and state,” he said.

Addabbo also co-sponsors comprehensive legislation (S.5461/A.3412) that would greatly expand donation programs by requiring state and local governments, educational institutions, and food service establishments contracted by these entities to minimize food waste. Under the “State and Local Government Food Waste Prevention and Diversion Act,” excess food, food scraps and organic waste would be used first – as appropriate – to supply organizations feeding the hungry, and then to provide animal food. In addition, organic waste and food scraps would be processed to create products such as bio-diesels, soaps, and agricultural soil amendments, including compost.

“The reuse of excess food, in addition to addressing heartbreaking hunger issues in our communities, has great benefits for our entire environment,” said Addabbo. “It reduces the amount of organic waste in our landfills, and allows vegetable matter to become valuable compost for farmers and gardeners. It can also help create employment opportunities in the growing ‘green jobs’ sector of our economy.”

Addabbo noted that the 2016 New York City and State Hunger Report prepared by Hunger Free America found that almost half of all working-age New York City and State residents who can’t afford sufficient food live in households that are employed. In New York City alone, from 2013 through 2015, 424,307 residents who are food insecure lived in households with at least one person working. During this same time period, about one in five New York City children – or about 429,000 – were experiencing hunger.

“I look forward to tracking the progress and success of the new law encouraging school food donations when it goes into effect in the spring,” said Addabbo. “When the new legislative session begins in January, I will also work to expand opportunities for more innovative methods of reducing food waste, protecting our environment, and addressing the very serious problem of hunger in our communities.”

HAPPY DIWALI FROM CHAIRMAN CROWLEY: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY) issued the following statement in celebration of Diwali:

“Happy Diwali to the millions of Indian Americans and all those celebrating this joyous festival of lights. This meaningful holiday celebrates the pursuit of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil. It is a time for reflection and renewal and a time for peace. As people from many backgrounds come together to celebrate Diwali, let us all be reminded of the important message of setting aside our differences and working together as one.”

Known as the festival of lights, Diwali is a time for thanksgiving and prayer for health, knowledge, and prosperity. The festival is widely celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and many others. Diwali falls on the last day of the last month in the lunar calendar.

When serving as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Crowley helped organize the first-ever Congressional Diwali celebration in 2013. This event is now the largest annual Congressional event related to the Indian American community. The event goes beyond celebrating a major global festival to also provide a consistent annual forum to advance issues important to India and the Indian American community.

VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS’ HEALTH BENEFITS NOW LAW: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation on October 22 to deliver health care benefits to volunteer firefighters who have been diagnosed with certain cancers.

“New York is forever grateful to the 96,000 volunteer firefighters who selflessly put their own personal safety at risk in order to keep their neighbors and communities safe, Governor Cuomo said. “With this measure, we will provide these courageous New Yorkers the protections they need and the peace of mind they deserve.”

Currently, volunteer firefighters are eligible for accidental disability and death benefits through Workers’ Compensation if they are injured in the line of duty. Effective January 1, 2019, firefighters will also be eligible for health benefits to support treatment for life-threatening cancers.

Under the bill (S1411B-A711B), volunteer firefighters who contract certain cancers will receive access to tax-free disability and death benefits. Specifically, volunteer firefighters diagnosed with cancers of the lung, prostate, breast, lymphatic, hematological, digestive, urinary, neurological, reproductive system, or melanoma will be automatically eligible for health benefits if:

 Upon entry to volunteer, a physical exam did not show any evidence of the cancers covered by this bill;

 Individuals have at least five years of service fighting fire in the interior of buildings; and

 The firefighter is currently active or within five years of his or her last active date.

This legislation builds on a number of actions taken by this administration to protect the lives of both career and volunteer firefighters in New York State. Most recently, the Governor signed legislation expanding benefits for New Yorkers who participated in 9/11 response and recovery efforts. Under the bill, residents are eligible for unlimited paid leave at 100 percent of their regular salary, dating back to the time of their diagnosis.

In 2015, the Governor announced the roll-out of NY Responds, a universal approach to disaster response and recovery that connects emergency management agencies, fire and EMS responders with the New York State Emergency Operations Center in Albany.

GIANARIS ON THE MTA’S ENHANCED STATION INITIATIVE: NYS Senator Michael Gianaris had this to say regarding the MTA’s massive renovation project on the N/W line in Astoria:

“There are few examples of the MTA’s misplaced priorities as glaring as its Enhanced Station Initiative. At a time when we face a crisis of subway reliability and accessibility, the MTA chooses to spend hundreds of millions of precious dollars on cosmetic improvements that will do nothing to improve subway service or accessibility. Even worse, the MTA recently diverted over $1 billion dollars from signal fixes and new subway cars to pay for this initiative. While it will be more pleasant for subway riders to stare at more beautiful stations while they wait longer and longer for delayed trains, the MTA’s inattention to the larger problem is bordering on scandalous.”

Gianaris noted October 23 marks the first day of an eight-month shutdown of the 36th and 30th Avenue N/W train stations in Astoria, which are represented by the Senator.

STATEMENT FROM MTA CHAIR: CITY IS RESPONSIBLE: MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota responded to a statement by Mayor de Blasio regarding the presence of homeless people in the subway system: “The Mayor was asked about the homeless sleeping on the subways and one of his first words in response was ‘MTA.’ New Yorkers get (that) the Mayor is making every attempt to distance himself from the Transit Authority, but they aren’t fools. The fact is that since 1995 the NYPD has been the police force charged with enforcement in the subway system. The MTA board gave Mayor Giuliani the authority to consolidate the Transit Police within the NYPD, giving the city primary jurisdiction. That’s a fact. Recently, the MTA has repeatedly asked the NYPD to help the expanding number of homeless people in the system find shelter outside of the trains and stations. The NYPD needs to enhance its homeless outreach efforts in the subways. We all know that homeless people need help – clean shelters, job training, mental health services – and leaving them on the trains is degrading for all. The response is not to defend or excuse the presence of the homeless, but to get them the help they desperately need. Every New York City mayor since Koch has realized this except our current mayor. We again are asking the NYPD to step up their presence and increase enforcement and the city must stop running from its responsibility. We hear from subway riders all day long and their opinion is unanimous: Mayor, fund the subway repair plan and get the sleeping homeless off the .trains. It’s the mayor’s job.

NYPD: ‘HOMELESS REFUSE HELP’: The NYPD Deputy Commissioner Public Information, Stephen P. Davis released a statement on the NYPD’s role in protecting and maintaining quality of life in the subways: “The New York City subway system is among the safest places in the safest city in America. The chance of being a victim of a major crime is roughly one in a million. Any other characterization denigrates the hard work of the men and women of the NYPD.

Quality-of-life enforcement in transit remains a priority for the Department, with more than 3,500 arrests and 12,300 summonses issued for quality-of-life offenses this year. The most recent HOPE survey recorded 1,812 homeless people in transit. Homelessness is not a crime and homeless people who are not violating subway rules cannot be ejected from the system. The NYPD and its social service partners have made more than 10,000 contacts in 2017 with homeless people to offer services and shelter. More than ninety percent of those people have refused services.”

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