2018-06-20 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

New Green Card Obstacle

A copy of this received at the offices of the
Queens Gazette.
June 8, 2018
Mr. Donald J. Trump, President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write as elected representatives of the people of New York State to express our strong opposition to the proposed changes to the Inadmissibility and Deportability on Public Charge Grounds rules (RIN 1615-AA22). If finalized, these changes would fundamentally and negatively alter who we are as a nation, directly threaten the health and well-being of millions of New Yorkers, and impose a significant economic burden on our state.

A “public charge” is defined in US immigrant proceedings as an immigrant green card/residency applicant likely to become primarily dependent on government assistance for sufficiency. Under current federal regulations, only two types of public benefits are considered in making a public charge determination: public cash welfare assistance and government-funded institutionalization for long-term care. If an applicant is considered likely to become a public charge, the applicant is deemed inadmissible for a green card/permanent residency.

On March 28, 2018, the Washington Post published a draft proposal from your administration which called for the expansion of the definition of “public charge” in immigration proceedings. If enacted, numerous additional public benefits would be added to the consideration for public charge determination, including: SNAP/food stamp benefits; Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits; Medicaid assistance; the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); housing vouchers; homeless services; and after-school programs, among numerous other programs. Ultimately, this rule would force millions of vulnerable families and individuals to decide between two options: 1) harm their chances at qualifying for permanent resident status by receiving public benefits; or 2) harm their chances at self-sufficiency by foregoing benefits to which they and their families are legally entitled and upon which they depend, in order to avoid a public charge determination.

The drafted rule also includes consideration of benefits enrollment by applicants’ family members in public charge determinations, meaning that the children of immigrant New Yorkers, including US citizens, would be subject to the rule.

To give a sense of just one area of impact, there are currently 1.5 million children in New York who are either US citizens and have at least one immigrant parent. Of these, 704,000 are enrolled in Medicaid or Child Health Plus. All of them could be impacted by this rule. It is not difficult to imagine the dire outcome for New York of hundreds of thousands of children disenrolling from health insurance benefits.

If enacted, these proposed regulations would be vindictive toward immigrants in the United States who are lawfully working through our legal system to attain resident status. They would also hinder the ability of those who ultimately acquire resident status from contributing to our economic system, as a result of having to decline benefits that would help them attain self-sufficiency.

The consequences of these regulations are economically significant. Immigrants contribute massively to the New York State economy, through payment of $48.9 billion in taxes, as owners of nearly 300,000 businesses and employers of nearly 500,000 New Yorkers.

Beyond economics, this proposal is a particular affront to New Yorkers because it tears at our sense of who we are as a people. We recognize the significant contribution that immigrants have made and continue to make to our nation, our state, and our neighborhoods. We are justifiably proud that Lady Liberty has stood in New York Harbor as a universal symbol of freedom for well over a century.

The history is well-known, but bears repeating. In 1883, Emma Lazarus submitted her poem, New Colossus, to be auctioned off to support the building of a pedestal in New York Harbor on which would be placed the Statue of Liberty. It was mounted on the pedestal’s lower level in 1903. To this day, it proudly pronounces that the New Colossus is unlike the storied ancient wonders that stood imposingly to instill fear in all who approached. Instead, this Statue of Liberty, this Mother of Exiles, welcomes poor and weary pilgrims to her land with a lighted torch to guide them.

That is who we are.

As representatives of the people of New York, we urge you and your administration to reject outright this ill-advised change in policy and recognize that this nation is not strong in spite of immigration; it is strong because of immigration. Sincerely,

Andrew D. Hevesi, 28th AD
And 70 colleagues in the State Senate and Assembly cc: Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of
Management and Budget

Need Better Solution

A copy of this letter was received at the offices of the Queens Gazette.
June 11, 2018
Office of the Mayor
Mayor Bill de Blasio
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
Re: Homeless Shelter in Assembly District 38
Dear Mayor de Blasio,

Earlier this week, I was informed by the Department of Homeless Services that come winter 2018, a homeless shelter will open in my Assembly district. If I were given any opportunity by the city to speak on behalf of my constituents before this decision was made for us, I would have pointed out that my community already serves the homeless by way of a drop-in homeless shelter at 100-32 Atlantic Avenue in Ozone Park, which is less than 200 feet from a public high school. DHS informed me that a permanent shelter will be placed at 85- 15 101st Avenue in Ozone Park. The location of the permanent shelter is one mile away from the aforementioned drop-in center for homeless services. I would like to understand your administration’s perspective on how having two shelters forced upon my Assembly district and Community Board 9 without any input from the community which it will affect is fair to my constituents and students in the surrounding schools. These schools include:

St. Mary Gate of Heaven
High School for Construction Trades
Junior High School 210
PS 64
Richmond Hill High School
MS 137
John Adams High School
St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy

How is placing a homeless shelter to house 113 single men ages 21 and up who are dealing with mental illness and addiction near seven schools in my district safe?

I understand the Department of Homeless Services is doing away with hotel shelters with their Turning the Tide Plan and will accordingly eliminate the hotel shelter in Kew Gardens. However, burdening Community Board 9 again and the Ozone Park neighborhood is not the solution. Instead of the city working with the community by communicating with local civic groups, stakeholders and elected officials as to where a shelter should be placed, DHS and Lantern non-profit independently found a location. I also had to find out through a QNS.com article, that the plan is to add yet an additional shelter over the next few years. Your administration continues to fail at transparency which leaves my constituents in the dark, and it continuous to be unacceptable.

In an email from DHS containing details about the shelter, the Office of External Affairs highlights the fulfillment of the 30-day notice requirement. I would like to highlight that thirty days’ notice is not enough time for a community to adequately prepare and address concerns that come along with placing a homeless shelter for men with mental illness and addiction issues in a family-oriented neighborhood. For example, is a shelter the best environment for those dealing with mental illness and addiction issues? Wouldn’t a facility that is trained to treat mental illness and addiction be in the best interest of these men who can tend to their care and treatment plan?

New York City is facing a housing crisis. However, implementing homeless shelters throughout Queens is not a long-term solution to end the homeless epidemic. Our community needs more housing vouchers and more affordable housing units to keep New Yorkers in their homes. Your administration should be doing everything possible to prevent New Yorkers from entering shelters to begin with. More than ever, our city has become too expensive and as the cost of living continues to increase, more people are living paycheck to paycheck. These are the issues that need to be addressed to keep families and individuals in their homes. The survival of New York City’s middle class is dependent on coming up with solutions to these problems. Homeless shelters are not the solution and placing them in a residential neighborhood like Ozone Park does not do anyone justice—not the schools, not the residents, and definitely not the local businesses. I urge you and DHS to reconsider the homeless shelter that is slated to open in my district (in the ) winter of 2018, and instead focus on a better strategic long-term plan on where to place the 113 men who are dealing with addiction and mental illness. Sincerely,

Mike Miller
AD 38

L Reno Repercussions

To The Editor:

It has been almost six years since the Canarsie L subway line tunnel, between Brooklyn and Manhattan, was damaged due to Hurricane Sandy. Taxpayers, commuters, transit advocates and residents wonder why actual reconstruction work will not start until 2019, at the earliest. Under the Hurricane Sandy Recovery and Resiliency Programs administered by the Federal Transit Administration, billions of dollars have been obligated to the MTA and NYC DOT. NJ Transit, Port Authority of NY & NJ and PATH have also benefited. Most projects have contracts, are well under way and many have been successfully completed. As of January 2018, the MTA has received $4.5 billion under seven recovery formula and $1.2 billion under 13 competitive resiliency grants. NYC DOT has received $45 million for four recovery grants and $60 million under two competitive resiliency projects grants. These grants have collectively funded hundreds of projects around town.

Thousands of existing L line subway riders will now switch to other options once tunnel reconstruction starts in 2019. Some will use the G line and transfer north at Court Square to either the 7, E or M lines. Others will travel south to Hoyt Schermerhorn and transfer to the A or C and with a possible second connection at Jay St Metro Tech to the F or R lines. Another G line option is to transfer at 4th Avenue and 9th Street to the R line with connections at Atlantic Avenue-Barclay Center to the B, D, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4 and 5 lines. Others will switch to the J, M and Z lines at various stations or Broadway Junction East New York for the A, C. J or Z lines. All of this will add significant new riders to the already overcrowded A, C, E, F, J, R, Z and 7 lines, impacting several hundred thousand existing riders on those routes. There should be lesser impacts with fewer new riders joining the existing B, D, N, Q, 2, 3, 4 and 5 line customers. Reserving one lane on the Williamsburg Bridge for a conga line of buses will result in the diversion of single occupancy and commercial vehicles to other bridges and tunnels. How many thousands of former L line riders will switch to cars as a means of travel? Traffic diverted from 14th Street in Manhattan to adjacent local streets will also have consequences.

The MTA has a long-term Americans Disability Act Compliance Plan in place and approved by the Federal Transit Administration Office of Civil Rights. The plan provides a road map for bringing more of the 471 NYC Transit subway stations into compliance over coming years. There is also the current 2014-2034 Capital Needs Assessment Plan; ongoing $32 billion 2015 - 2019 Five Year Capital Plan and upcoming 2020 - 2024 Five Year Capital Plan already under development behind the scenes by MTA HQ staff. When did the MTA plan on installing elevators at additional subway stations in Manhattan on the 14th Street Canarsie Line? The most cost effective time to do this would be when the stations are shut down during tunnel reconstruction. The contractor is already on site, mobilized with a staging area for workers, supplies and debris removal. There is little need for NYC Transit to provide expensive Force Account (track employees) Flagging protection for third party construction contractor workers. Third rail power can be turned off and there is no active passenger train service. Installation of elevators could be added as option clause or change order to the base construction contract. MTA could exercise the option at a later date during construction when future funding could become available. Going back years or decades later to install ADA-compliant elevators at other stations along 14th Street will be far more expensive and take many more months to complete. Any construction on a station platform directly adjacent to 24/7 train service would require extensive expensive NYC Transit Force Account Flagging support.

There are several sources of funding for elevator installation to happen. The MTA is in the process of developing grant applications and a public hearing for the 2018 FTA Program of Projects to support a series of grant applications. This would support applying for over $1.3 billion in available 2018 Federal Transit Administration funding. You could add the 14th Street Canarsie Line elevators to the proposed Program of Projects, If not, why not do it next year as part of a potential $1.4 billion 2019 FTA formula funding? You could also add this project to the upcoming MTA 2020 - 2024 Five Year Capital Program.

Why not also take advantage of the Canarsie Line Manhattan shutdown to look at other possible improvements west of 8th Avenue? You could construct a pocket track one block to 9th Avenue. This could provide storage for trains going out of service due to mechanical problems. It would also improve overall service reliability. Dig several more blocks and add a new station around West Street and 11th Avenue. Imagine the benefits of additional service to the growing West Village and Chelsea neighborhoods along with easier High Line access. Better yet, turn north on 11th Avenue and build an extension connecting with the Javits Center and Flushing #7 Hudson Yards Station.

Everyone can agree that this essential work needs to be done. Delaying the start of work year after year only increases costs even more. Does the MTA have additional available local sources to supplement federal funding should project costs end up exceeding available federal grant dollars? Final costs will never be known until construction bids are awarded followed by inevitable contract change orders due to unforeseen site conditions or last minute changes in scope during construction. Next, there is beneficial use upon completion of all tunnel work resulting in return of passenger service on the Canarsie L line in Manhattan. This is followed by completion of all contract punch list items. The last step is the release of retainage and final payment made to the contractor. At that point, you will really know if all the pain and suffering was worth the final price tag.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

Breakdown Of Decency

To The Editor:

It seems that morality and respect for each other in this country are rapidly fading away. There is so much disrespect and unkindness in our society today. Aren’t children supposed to be taught to be respectful by their parents? It seems that this is something that is not really happening in many homes across America. Words such as “please,” “may I” and “thank you” are virtually nonexistent in today’s vocabulary for both children and adults. You hold open a door for someone when entering or leaving a store, bank or other building, and hardly anyone even says “thank you.” While walking down the street if someone accidentally bumps into you, that person does not even say “excuse me.” There are no common courtesies anymore, and that is a very sad testimony to how people are acting. What is happening to our society and country with regard to morals, respect and the value of life, both human and animal? Cruelty and abuse to both people and animals seems to be a very commonplace element in everyday life now, and that should not be the case at all. Look at all of the school and other shootings that have occurred in our country for the last 20 years—a total breakdown of decency and respect for life.

John Amato
Fresh Meadows

SS, Medicare In Trouble

To The Editor:

It has just come to my attention that Social Security and Medicare are in the red. Social Security can still make full payments until 2034 and Medicare's reserves are due to run out by 2026. This I find quite troubling. I'm 69 years old and my wife is 65 and is also collecting Social Security benefits. I'm working part-time now for Northeast Plumbing for 38 years to supplement what I get from Social Security. It would be a hardship and a struggle to have benefits reduced. In the last three years I have had four operations due to an aggressive cancer and have depended on Medicare benefits, as has my wife who had a recent operation. And to add more insult to injury it has been reported the government has used past Social Security surpluses and the government owes the program $3 trillion to fund other spending. As a senior citizen I call for Congress to find solutions to keep these programs going. Senior citizens across this great nation have worked all their lives to make this nation what it is today and demand to be given our rightful due. And not to do this is an insult to all senior citizens. That would be a national disgrace.

Frederick R. Bedell Jr.
Glen Oaks Village

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