2018-06-13 / Political Page

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CROWLEY SLAMS ICE DIRECTOR FOR PLAN TO ADDRESS ‘KNOWN HATE GROUP’: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) wrote a letter to Acting Director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan expressing dismay over the ICE director’s plan to address a known hate group, Crowley announced.

Crowley explained, “Homan is scheduled to address the Center for Immigration Studies, a racist anti-immigrant hate group that has a long track-record of demonizing immigrants, on Tuesday.” Crowley told Homan that it is disqualifying for a government official, especially one charged with interacting with immigrant communities, to address the group.

“It is highly inappropriate for a senior official of a federal agency to engage with a group that spreads such abhorrent viewpoints, including white supremacism and anti-Semitism, and I urge you to immediately retract your plans to speak,” Crowley wrote.

The Center for Immigration Studies is part of a network founded by white nationalist John Tanton, and in a wide-ranging study, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that CIS has circulated “white nationalist content thousands of times” and has a “record of publishing reports that hype the criminality of immigrants.”

“Lending legitimacy to a hate group and splitting children from families does not in any way protect national security and public safety, nor does it demonstrate the integrity and fairness that is expected of a federal agency. Instead, it fosters an environment in which extremist viewpoints come to be seen as acceptable and justified by the highest levels of your agency,” Crowley wrote. “Speaking to a group like this is disqualifying for a federal official entrusted with acting in the best interests of the general public.”

SUPREME COURT RULING ON MASTERPIECE CAKESHOP CASE ‘DISCRIMINATORY’:

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) and the NYC Council LGBT Caucus released responses to the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court decision which found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated Jack Phillips’ religious freedom by ruling against him when he refused to provide his services to a gay couple:

House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley: “It’s extremely disappointing that the Supreme Court ruled today against civil rights and in favor of discrimination. We’ve made incredible progress as a nation securing the innate rights of members of the LGBTQ community. Taking a step back, especially during LGBTQ Pride Month, is disappointing and a clear sign we must continue the fight to ensure everyone has the right to love who they love and be who they are, without consequence.

“While this decision was specific to the circumstances of this case, I want the future to be a place where we honor the right of all Americans to have access to goods and services without discrimination based on their sexual orientation. And while it is paramount that we respect each other’s religious beliefs, it cannot be at the expense of the rights of others.

“Democrats will keep working on behalf of all Americans to ensure that no matter one’s sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or religion, they have the same rights and freedoms. We can all work together to prevent discriminatory acts.”

NYC Council LGBT Caucus: “We are profoundly disappointed by today’s Supreme Court decision. It sends a message that it is somehow acceptable to discriminate against same-sex couples in the United States. Though the ruling is narrow, it will surely embolden those who seek to erode protections for LGBTQ Americans and those who would relegate us to permanent second-class citizenship. While the New York City Council has successfully passed and improved laws to protect LGBTQ New Yorkers across the five boroughs, there is much more work to do here in the Big Apple. Now more than ever, it is time for Albany to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and other measures that would strengthen such protections and extend them to those living in other parts of the state.” The statement was signed by Caucus Chair Daniel Dromm and caucus participants NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and NYC Council Members Ritchie Torres, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Carlos Menchaca.

ANTI-GAY ATTACK AFTER PRIDE PARADE AN ‘OUTRAGE’: An apparent anti-gay attack took place in Jackson Heights on the evening of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade on Sunday, June 3. In response, the parade’s founder, NYC Council Member and Chair of the council’s LGBT Caucus Daniel Dromm released the following statement: “I am outraged that this anti-gay attack occurred in the wake of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade. My heart goes out to Brandon Soriano, the survivor of the attack. It is horrific that a member of the LGBTQ community experienced such violence after Queens Pride, a celebration of who we are. I founded the parade in 1993 as a way to fight back against such anti-LGBTQ oppression. While the fight for equality and justice for LGBTQ people in Queens has come a long way since then, sadly, attacks like these still occur. They are in no way representative of Jackson Heights or our borough, and we will continue to resist attempts like these which seek to force us back into the closet. Queens Pride is about LGBTQ visibility, our greatest asset, and will remain so.”

REPUBLICANS ‘SABOTAGING MEDICARE’: Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) released the following statement on the 2018 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Report: “Today’s Social Security and Medicare Trustees Report presents a bleak picture for our nation’s seniors and vulnerable individuals by providing new proof that the campaign by President Trump and congressional Republicans to destroy the Affordable Care Act has had devastating impacts on Medicare. By repealing the individual mandate, driving up individual market premiums, and increasing the rate of uncompensated care, the Republican tax bill has threatened the future of health care by cutting the life of the Medicare trust fund by three years. This is irresponsible governing from Republicans.

“Still, today’s report provides evidence that Social Security is an essential program, which makes it all the more important that Congress focuses on ways to grow, strengthen, and expand Social Security—and not succumb to efforts by Republicans to undermine and slash Americans’ hard-earned benefits. This is how Democrats intend to govern. I hope Republicans will join us.”

CROWLEY $10 BILLION SCHOOLS BILL ADDRESSES OVERCROWDING: Congress Member Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, introduced legislation to invest $10 billion toward building new schools to address chronic overcrowding in primary, middle, and high schools.

The School Overcrowding Reduction Act is part of Crowley’s Better Deal for Queens and the Bronx, a comprehensive plan put forward by Crowley to improve the lives of families, working men and women, and students in New York’s 14th Congressional District.

“Our nation’s students deserve a world-class education, but we have failed to allocate the resources necessary for them to flourish,” said Congressman Crowley. “My district is home to some of the most overcrowded schools in the country, including Corona, where there is a need for more than 5,000 additional classroom seats. There’s no time to waste on half-measures. Surely if my Republican colleagues can spend $2.3 trillion doling out tax breaks to ‘the one percent,’ we can invest a fraction of that into the next generation of American innovators and leaders.”

“Students succeed when they’re in schools equipped with the resources, tools and conditions that promote high-quality teaching and learning,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “The teacher walkouts this year in Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia and elsewhere made clear that putting public education on the budgetary chopping block has resulted in overcrowded classrooms nationwide, making it more difficult for educators to effectively reach individual students and cater to diverse needs. More than a quarter of states lack class-size restrictions, yet state governments are still failing to budget for new schools and additional teachers. This bill does just that.” She added that the bill seeks reduce student-to-teacher ratios specifically in disadvantaged communities.

Mary Filardo, Executive Director of the 21st Century School Fund, echoed the above sentiments, adding that the Rebuild America’s School Infrastructure Coalition (BASIC) appreciates Crowley’s “recognition that overcrowding in our nation’s public schools is also an equity issue—giving every child the opportunity to have a first class education.”

“Here in New York City, about 300,000 students are in classes of 30 or more, and more than half a million are crammed into overcrowded school buildings,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters. “Yet the city’s capital plan is only half-funded. One cannot ensure either educational equity or excellence under these conditions. This bill will provide critical federal funds to help alleviate overcrowding and excessive class sizes in NYC and the nation as a whole.”

This legislation would invest $10 billion in federal funding for new school construction to reduce the number of overcrowded schools in areas like New York City. Research conducted by the US Department of Education shows that class-size reduction can significantly improve student performance and additional studies show that smaller classrooms allow teachers to better accommodate the unique learning styles of their students, Crowley explained.

New York City classrooms have become overly crowded in the past two decades. Some of the largest classrooms in New York City, which cram more than 30 students per class, are located in Queens and the Bronx. According to the NYC DOE, the city’s largest 6th grade classes are all located in the Bronx, and Queens is home to the largest class sizes for grades K-3. This is especially relevant in light of efforts to improve the representation of African Americans and Latinos in the city’s specialized high schools.

 

Crowley has championed policies that support our nation’s students and teachers throughout his time in Congress. Last month, he introduced legislation to combat noise pollution in schools, an issue that acutely impacts New York City schoolchildren. In April, he advocated for additional funding for federal aid programs that benefit low-income college students in the 2019 government funding bill. He has also partnered with local elected officials to ensure that the needs of students living in Queens and the Bronx are fully satisfied.

MOYA CALLS FOR VILLAVICENCIO’S RELEASE FROM ICE DETENTION: Council Member Francisco Moya, the only Ecuadorian American in the New York City Council and the first Ecuadorian American elected to public office in the US, has called on the New York Field Office of ICE to release Pablo Villavicencio Calderon in light of a federal judge halting his deportation. He said, “I am heartened to see that the Honorable Alison J. Nathan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has halted the deportation of Pablo Villavicencio Calderon—a husband, father of two girls and an Ecuadorian immigrant with no criminal history. This ruling is a victory for justice, though small, and must immediately be followed up with his release from the New York field office of Immigration Customs and Enforcement custody.

“As the son of Ecuadorian immigrants myself, Pablo’s story resonates with me personally. My family came here looking for the equality of opportunity for which this nation is renowned. Like Pablo did, my family put down roots here, started a family and worked hard to provide for that family. There’s no question that my American life is the product of their American Dream.

“But Pablo has been robbed of the opportunity that I so benefited from. On June 1, a branch of the US government sought his services, accepted those services and then threatened him with deportation for those services. This level of unapologetic exploitation and cruelty is baffling.

“Pablo’s fortitude is everything America claims to value. Here is a man who risked his own well-being so that when he clocked out after a long shift he could return to his daughters—his youngest suffering from a congenital heart disease defect—safe in the knowledge that he was doing everything he could to provide for them.

“This is a man who should be permitted to return to his family and complete his immigration application. I would be honored to call this man my neighbor and I am saddened that I cannot yet call him my fellow American.”

Francisco Moya is a New York City Council Member representing District 21, which encompasses East Elmhurst, Lefrak City and Corona, where he was born and raised, and remains an active resident. Prior to Moya’s 2017 election to the Council, he was elected to the 39th Assembly District in 2010, becoming the first Ecuadorian-American elected to public office in the United States.

Villavicencio is an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador who was detained by ICE when a military base ordered pizza and when he delivered it, they called ICE on him. His wife and children are American citizens and his application for a green card is pending.

CROWLEY ENDORSEMENTS: Congress Member Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) was endorsed on June 5 by groups and individuals championing progressive policies in New York, in Congress, and across the United States; on June 6 by Democratic leaders in the State Legislature: Speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl Heastie and Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins; and on June 7 by LGBTQ+ Community Leaders.

Democratic leaders in NYS Legislature:

“The Bronx needs leaders like Joe Crowley fighting for their rights and opportunities in Congress. I’ve seen firsthand how doggedly Joe works to ensure that our families have access to health care, education, and affordable housing,” said Speaker Heastie. “I’m proud to support his reelection campaign and know he’ll keep fighting for the Bronx for years to come.”

“I’ve always been impressed by the tenacity with which Joe Crowley fights for New York families. He’s on the frontline of every major policy fight and has a proven record of bringing home wins for our communities. His advocacy on health care, education, and housing have improved the lives of countless New Yorkers,” said Leader Stewart-Cousins. “There is no one better to represent Queens and the Bronx than Joe!”

Progressives:

“Joe Crowley is a champion for working families and is on the frontlines combating the hateful, un-American policies of President Trump. We need people like Joe in Congress to serve as an aggressive check on this president and to champion progressive policies, including Dodd-Frank and criminal justice, that make the economy and our country more just for working men and women,” said Congress Member Maxine Waters (D-CA).

“Joe Crowley fights every day to expand economic opportunity and strengthen the middle class. From his work on college affordability and apprenticeships to fighting to raise the minimum wage and expand access to affordable health care, Joe understands the challenges that American families face and he’s working to find solutions,” said Congress Member Mark Pocan (D-WI), co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “And when President Trump and his administration have attacked communities in New York and across the country—including immigrants, women, seniors, and LGBTQ individuals—Joe has stood up and fought back. Joe Crowley works tirelessly to make a difference on Capitol Hill and I’m proud to endorse his campaign for reelection.”

“Joe Crowley is the type of progressive leader we need in Congress fighting for working Americans. I’ve been proud to work alongside him advocating for a more just criminal justice system, decriminalization of marijuana, and programs that bring new opportunities to all Americans,” said Congress Member Ro Khanna (D-CA). “I strongly ‘re-endorse’ his reelection campaign!”

“Congressman Joe Crowley has been a champion for LGBTQ equality from his first day in Congress. From marriage equality to the repeal of the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law, we have been able to count on him to speak out and fight on our behalf. His leadership will be critical for the battles ahead, including passing the Equality Act and ensuring President Trump’s transgender military service Twitter ban never goes into effect,” said JoDee Winterhof, SVP for Policy & Political Affairs, Human Rights Campaign.

New York Working Families Party Director Bill Lipton said, “Joe Crowley has supported key WFP priorities, including the Fight for $15 and immigration reform. We’re confident he will continue to fight for New York’s working families in Congress, and that’s why we’re supporting his campaign for reelection to the US House of Representatives.”

LGBTQ+ Community Leaders: Crowley was endorsed on June 7 by leaders of the LGBTQ+ community in New York and across the country. They endorsed him for his support of gay rights, as well as other important issues.

“Now, more than ever, we need bold progressive leadership in Washington to lead the fight against Donald Trump and his destructive agenda,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “That is why I enthusiastically endorse Congressman Joe Crowley for reelection. Throughout his career, Congressman Crowley has achieved concrete results for the people of his district while fighting for the values that define our country. Whether it’s creating good-paying jobs, protecting Social Security or defending the social safety net, Joe has delivered for New Yorkers. These turbulent times call for leaders like Joe Crowley, and I’m proud to support him.” 

“Joe Crowley is the right person for the job,” said openly gay New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm. “With the Trump White House threatening to erase the progress the LGBT rights movement has made in recent years, it is imperative that we have a proven ally fighting for us in DC. Congressman Crowley has shown that he has the intelligence and determination to deliver for LGBT Americans. I know he will continue to help make historic gains for our community and I am proud to endorse him.”

 “Congressman Crowley has long been a champion of LGBT equality. A supporter of my right to be married to Dan Hendrick, our Congressman battles in Washington on our behalf on a daily basis,” said New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “And as the son of union parents, I know Congressman Crowley believes deeply in the rights of workers and the dignity of all work. A staunch ally of labor, our Congressman is helping to provide better pay and benefits to workers across this country.”

“Joe is one of the most progressive, effective Congress members in the country,” said former Speaker of the New York City Council Chris Quinn. “Women, LGBTQ individuals, immigrants, and so many other individuals have an ally in Joe. He has always stood with us—even when he was the only one. I proudly endorse Joe Crowley.”

“Beyond being a full supporter of LGBT rights, having Congressman Crowley in the room gives the LGBT community an invaluable ally who knows how government works. His leadership in the House means zero tolerance for exclusion or going backward,” said former New York City Council Member James Vacca.

Enthusiastic statements of support were also made by the Jim Owels Liberal Democratic Club; Michael Mallon, President of the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens; and Stonewall Democratic Club’s Rod Townsend.

Crowley has been a longtime ally to the LGBTQ+ community in New York and across the United States. He led the fight for Federal funding for HOPWA—Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS—the only federal housing program for people with HIV/AIDS. He also strongly advocated for legislation to amend US immigration law to allow US citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor their permanent partners for residency.

In 2015, Crowley joined an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of legalizing same-sex marriage. In March of 2014, he also urged President Obama to issue an executive order requiring that federal contractors not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, which the president did issue shortly after.

In 2011, Crowley whipped state legislators on the need for marriage equality in New York. In 2010, he voted to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy so gays and lesbians could serve openly in the military. He also voted for legislation to expand the definition of a hate crime to include crimes motivated by bias against the victim’s sexual orientation, gender, identity or disability. 

Congress Member Crowley represents Queens and the Bronx in New York’s 14th Congressional District. He’s additionally been endorsed by more than two dozen labor groups, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Make the Road Action, and the NYS Immigrant Action Fund, among many others.

PERALTA URGES SENATE TO PASS HIS SCHOOL ZONE SPEED CAM BILL: 

NYS Senator Jose Peralta released the followiing statement regarding his proposal to expand the city’s school zone speed camera program: “It is time for the Senate to act, now that the New York City Council has approved the home rule request required for the State Legislature to pass my bill (S.6046-C) that will expand and extend the New York City school zone speed camera program. This life-saving program expires in July. We cannot allow the city’s children to return from summer vacation to unsafe streets. We now have 33 co-sponsors, including the entire Democratic Conference plus Republicans Marty Golden and Patty Ritchie. I urge my colleagues to bring my bill to the Senate floor and to do right by the city’s schoolchildren. It is our obligation to protect them when they travel to and from school every day.”

BILL TO HELP THOSE WITH DOWN SYNDROME APPROVED: Legislation (S.4013/A.5305B) sponsored by NYS Assembly Member Mike Miller and NYS Senator Joe Addabbo to increase public awareness of Down Syndrome and fund research projects into the chromosomal disorder was recently approved by the full State Senate and Assembly.

“This bill authorizes the creation of distinctive Down Syndrome Awareness license plates for people in New York who want to spread the word about this condition,” Addabbo explained. “In addition, money raised from the sale of these license plates will be directed to a new Down Syndrome Research Fund. I am delighted that my Senate and Assembly colleagues recognize the importance of supporting individuals and families living with this disorder.”

“I am very pleased with bill A.5305B passing unanimously in the Assembly,” Miller said. “The Department of Motor Vehicles will now offer distinctive license plates for family members whose relatives have Down Syndrome. Anyone who purchases a license plate will help fund research for causes, treatment and prevention.”

Down Syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. Every year, about 6,000 children are born with Down’s, or about one in every 700 babies. It occurs in people of all races and economic levels. Both legislators noted that the life expectancy for individuals with Down Syndrome has increased significantly over the years—from 25 in 1983 to 60 years of age today. The Assembly Member and Senator said that the initiation of the bill originated with a request from a mutual constituent.

Now that the legislation has been approved by both the Senate and Assembly, it will be sent to Governor Cuomo for his consideration.

CROWLEY STATEMENT ON PASSING OF BILL FLYNN: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) issued the following statement on the passing of Bill Flynn: “Bill was an early and strong supporter of peace in the North of Ireland and played a critical role in organizing Irish Americans to support the peace process. Without his pioneering efforts, securing peace would have been all the more difficult. He will truly be missed.”

ADDABBO’S ENHANCED STAR EXEMPTION FOR DISABLED SPOUSES APPROVED: The New York State Senate recently approved legislation (S.2613) co-sponsored by NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. that would enable disabled surviving spouses, regardless of their age, to continue receiving tax benefits through the enhanced School Tax Relief (STAR) program in the event their STAR-eligible husbands or wives pass away.

“Under current law, disabled surviving spouses may only continue to receive property tax exemptions under enhanced STAR if they are 62 years of age or older,” Addabbo said. “This bill recognizes that financial hardships remain for disabled survivors, regardless of their age, and that grieving husbands and wives already facing challenges should not be further burdened by the loss of STAR assistance.”

Enhanced STAR is a state program that enables property owners 65 and older, whose household incomes are $86,000 or less, to receive exemptions from their school-related property taxes. Basic STAR also provides tax exemptions for property owners of any age with household incomes of up to $500,000.

“Disabled New York residents who suffer through the terrible loss of their spouses should not also need to worry about losing property tax exemptions that help them make ends meet,” said Addabbo, who is a member of the Senate Aging Committee.

Having passed the Senate, the legislation is now under consideration by the Assembly Committee on Real Property Taxation.

ADDABBO’S GRANTS FOR MUNICIPALITIES THAT HIRE VETERANS APPROVED: The State Senate recently approved legislation (S.3879) co-sponsored by NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. that would encourage local governments to hire former military members by creating a state grant program to cover part of their salaries.

“New York has made progress in encouraging private employers to hire former servicemen and women through its Hire-A-Vet program, which provides tax credits to businesses that provide jobs for veterans,” said Addabbo, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs. “This new legislation goes further: offering state grants to municipalities that hire vets for local government jobs.”

Under the proposal, municipalities that hire veterans for at least one year and for at least 35 hours a week would be eligible for the funding. Grants would range from up to $5,000 for a qualified veteran, and up to $15,000 for a disabled veteran. Qualified veterans are defined as those who served on active duty in any branch of the armed forces or state militia and who were honorably or generally discharged any time after September 11, 2001. Eligible veterans must also begin working for the municipality between January 1, 2019 and January 1, 2021.

“While the employment picture has improved for many of our veterans, there are still many former servicemen and women seeking employment,” said Addabbo. “We already offer incentives to private businesses to hire veterans, and it makes good sense to provide grants to local governments that would benefit from the many talents and skills these military men and women bring to the table.”

Now that the bill has passed the Senate, it is under review by the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means.

ASSEMBLY PASSES LEGISLATION TO SUPPORT THOSE WITH DISABILITIES: Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-South Queens) announced that she helped pass a legislative package to help ensure equality and fairness for New Yorkers with disabilities by strengthening anti-discrimination protections and improving access to critical resources. The package was passed through the Assembly last week in recognition of this year’s Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day, which was May 30.

Protecting disability rights: Another bill re-establishes the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities. And to better protect people with disabilities from housing discrimination, a measure would clarify that reasonable accommodation to enable a person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling includes the use of an animal to alleviate the symptoms or effects of a disability (A.7283).

Improving safety and emergency preparedness: Requiring every high-rise building owner to establish and maintain an emergency evacuation plan for disabled occupants and visitors; requiring counties with local emergency management plans to maintain a confidential registry of people of all ages with disabilities who may require evacuation assistance and shelter during a disaster. People would be provided with the option to be included in the registry (A.6865).

Supporting veterans: To better assist veterans with service-related disabilities, the Assembly legislation includes a measure that would establish the New York State Interagency Coordinating Council for Service-Disabled Veterans. “This council would play a critical role in helping the brave men and women who became disabled serving their country get the support and resources they deserve,” Pheffer Amato said.

Strengthening opportunities: Those with disabilities often face challenges, especially discrimination, when trying to enter the workforce, Pheffer Amato noted. The unemployment rate of people with disabilities is significantly higher than those without a disability.  To help combat this inequality, the Assembly passed a measure that would establish a small business tax credit for the employment of people with disabilities (A.1369-A).

Ensuring access to vital equipment: A small percentage of New Yorkers need individually configured equipment, known as complex rehabilitation technology (CRT), such as a customized wheelchair. The Assembly passed a bill that would require the Commissioner of Health to maintain specific reimbursement and billing procedures within Medicaid for CRT products and services.

Helping New Yorkers with disabilities stay in their homes: The Assembly package includes two measures to provide tax credits for homeowners who make their homes more accessible for people with disabilities.

KATZ REACTS TO LIFE SENTENCE OF IMAM KILLER: Borough President Melinda Katz stated the following in response to the sentence issued to Oscar Morel, convicted for murdering Imam Maulana Akonjee and his aide Thara Uddin as they walked home following prayers at Al-Furqan Jame Masjid in Ozone Park in August 2016. Morel was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

“Morel executed Imam Akonjee and Thara Uddin mere blocks from the mosque in cold blood, from which the community, still reeling, mourns to this day. The two men were fathers devoted to their faith, their families and the community, and their murder shook the community and instilled fear through its core. The justified sentence delivered today sends a powerful message that in Queens, such heinous acts of hate will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Queens thanks the stellar team at District Attorney Richard Brown’s office for this strong delivery of justice.”

KOO’S BILL ADDRESSES STREET VENDOR POLLUTION, SIDEWALK OBSTRUCTIONS

Council Member Peter Koo introduced on June 7 a pair of bills that look to address two major quality of life issues in downtown Flushing and throughout the city of New York—street vendor pollution and sidewalk obstructions. Intro. 969 will prohibit all sidewalk obstructions in downtown Flushing and stoopline stands in certain areas of downtown Flushing. Intro. 970 will prohibit the use of under-fired char broilers at mobile food vending units citywide.

Last year, the Flushing community celebrated the completion of up to nine feet of widened sidewalks on Main Street. The new space was intended to provide critical relief to the hundreds of thousands of commuters who use the transportation hub’s more than 20 bus lines, subway, LIRR, and others who visit Flushing for its restaurants and shopping.

“Unfortunately, the widened sidewalks gave rise to an increase in illegal street vendors and stoopline stands—people who are taking advantage of the new space to sell everything from health insurance, counterfeit handbags, bed sheets, pots and pans, fruits and vegetables, cell phones, and even socks,” said Council Member Koo. “We are overrun with sidewalk obstructions, and our sidewalks have become an obstacle course. As a small business owner, I have no objection to people innovating in order to turn a profit, but I wholeheartedly object to those who do so at the expense of their community.”

Licensed veterans and vending protected under the Constitution’s freedom of speech provisions would be exempt from these restrictions.

The other bill, Intro 970, would prohibit the use of under-fired char broilers in mobile food vending units throughout the city. According to recent testimony by the Department of Health, one food vendor grilling meat for a day emits the same amount of particulate pollution as a diesel truck driving 3,500 miles—the distance from New York City to Denver and back.

 “Making these vendors more environmentally safe will reduce particulate matter and significantly improve the air quality of our city,” Koo added.

The legislation would not restrict flattop grills, such as the griddles used in Halal trucks.

PHEFFER AMATO TO HOST METROCARD VAN IN HOWARD BEACH, FAR ROCKAWAY: On Friday, August 31, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-South Queens) will host a MTA MetroCard Van at two locations: outside the Lindenwood Shopping Center (82-35 153rd Avenue, Howard Beach) from 10:00 am to noon; and outside the Wavecrest Shopping Center (2-43 Beach 20th St, Far Rockaway) from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Residents can utilize the MetroCard van to purchase standard, senior or other reduced-fare cards locally, without having to visit a train station.

“More and more people are taking advantage of mass transit,” said Pheffer Amato, “We do not have nearly enough transit options here in South Queens, but we’re working on it.  In the meantime, it’s great to have options to get a MetroCard without having to climb a flight of stairs to a train station, especially for seniors and disabled folks. Thanks to the MTA for coming out, and I look forward to seeing everyone on August 31!  This is just one great step in a long push to bring real mass transit access to everyone in South Queens.”

CROWLEY CO-SPONSORS PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) released the following statement to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act:

“The Equal Pay Act was instrumental in ending wage discrimination, but 55 years after the passage of this seminal legislation, we still struggle to fully achieve wage equality between men and women. Women today earn only 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, and for African American women and Latinas, that number is significantly lower.

“Not only is this a gross injustice, but it is a severe drag on our economy. And as women’s earnings become more and more critical to their families’ financial stability, the consequences of the gender pay gap are far reaching. I’m proud to be a co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would strengthen the Equal Pay Act, better enforce wage discrimination, and ensure women are paid a salary that reflects their work and value.”

GOP REJECTS CROWLEY’S CLIMATE CHANGE STUDY AMENDMENT: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) issued the following statement after his amendment to the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, which would have barred Republicans from using federal funds to stop the study of climate change, was rejected by Republicans in the House:

“Republicans continue to hide from the reality of climate change. Instead of trying to find solutions, they attempt to block all study and debate. These efforts won’t erase the facts—climate change is a real threat to our planet and our national security. Democrats will continue to push for action on climate change, and I hope Republicans will eventually take their heads out of the sand and join us.”

—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts

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