Queens Gazette

I On Politics

 

MALONEY CALLS FOR IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) called on the House of Representatives to begin the impeachment process, at a rally on June 15 at Foley Square in Manhattan. “I’ve been thinking about impeachment for a long time. It is not something that Congress, or our country, can undertake lightly – it’s a terrible, weighty thing.

“After carefully reviewing evidence laid out in the Mueller Report, after attending numerous hearings, after listening to the concerns of my constituents, and after doing as much soul-searching as I’ve ever done in my life, it is my inescapable conclusion that the House of Representatives must open an impeachment inquiry against the president of the United States.

“Just this week, the president went on national television and said that he would accept information from a foreign government in the course of the campaign, putting himself in the debt of a foreign power. He has learned nothing from the Mueller report and investigation. He has said that he will continue to stonewall any investigation and fight every subpoena, before he even sees them. He continues to put himself above the law and his own interests over the American people and our democracy.

“I do not say this lightly. Impeachment is going to be a painful ordeal for our already divided nation. But given the evidence we’ve seen of numerous violations of public trust and democratic norms, our commitment to the Constitution demands our action. And the strength of our faith in the Constitution gives me hope that we will emerge stronger than before.”

ROZIC CALLS FOR PERMANENT FUNDING OF VCF: On June 13, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D,WFP-Fresh Meadows) announced passage of her resolution urging the United States Congress to pass the Never Forget the Heroes Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act (H.R.7062/S.3592). The bill, which is sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), was the subject of a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing last week and passed out of the House’s Judiciary Committee on June 12. Passage of the resolution coincides with visits from members of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) and Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) as part of their advocacy day.

Rozic, who serves as chair of the Office of State-Federal Relations, said, “Our city’s Bravest, who answered the call of duty on 9/11 and the aftermath that followed deserve better than to face uncertainty over mounting medical costs from related illnesses. As next steps are being determined in Congress to permanently fund the VCF, we remain grateful to the leadership of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and New York’s Congressional Delegation for putting first responders’ voices front and center.”

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was first authorized in 2001 to provide compensation to first responders for losses resulting from 9/11-related illnesses and was funded through 2004. In 2011, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was created to reauthorize funding and establish the World Trade Center Health Program – which has been permanently funded as of 2015.

It is estimated that more than 50,000 New Yorkers have registered claims through the VCF. Earlier this year it was announced that the remaining funding in the VCF is insufficient to cover pending and future claims ahead of its December 2020 expiration date.

 

 

Rozic’s resolution was introduced with bipartisan support. Prior to its passage, Rozic introduced FDNY First Deputy Commissioner Laura Kavanagh on the floor of the Assembly. Kavanagh is the second woman in the agency’s history to attain such rank. She began her career with the FDNY as assistant commissioner of External Affairs, where she advocated for legislation protecting first responders and spearheaded citywide fire safety programs.

Several of Rozic’s colleagues, including Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, and Assemblyman Michael Cusick introduced the following members of the UFA and UFOA: Gerard Fitzgerald, president, UFA; LeRoy McGinnis, vice president, UFA; George Farinacci, vice president, UFOA; and James McCarthy, treasurer, UFOA.

COMMITTEE PASSES PERMANENT 9/11 VICTIMS’ FUND: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) celebrated committee passage of the Never Forget the Heroes Act on June 12. Reps. Maloney, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Peter King (R-NY) introduced H.R.1327 on February 25. The bill currently has 312 bipartisan cosponsors, 81 of whom are Republicans.

“We are going to make the VCF permanent because there is no other choice. We have a double moral obligation to our 9/11 first responders, survivors, and their families. First, to those who ran to save lives, putting others ahead of themselves. They were selflessly there for us – we now must be there for them. Secondly, to all those our government told it was safe to breathe the air, drink the water – and go back to work and school – when it wasn’t. We lied to them, and now we need to do everything we can to be there for them and make their suffering less.

“This bill is about fulfilling our promise to ‘Never Forget.’ And we won’t stop fighting until we guarantee that this program will be there for anyone and everyone who needs it.”

ENDORSEMENTS CONTINUE FOR KATZ FOR DA: Most recently, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, 1199SEIU, NYS Senator John Liu, and Congressman Adriano Espaillat announced their endorsement of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in the race for district attorney.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, the highest-ranking woman elected official in New York state, announced her endorsement of Katz on June 14. Hochul joins Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, the Brooklyn-Queens and New York City chapters of the National Organization of Women, and Planned Parenthood NYC Votes PAC in supporting Katz, a sign that Katz’s platform of bringing a larger emphasis to women’s rights in the DA’s office is resonating across the city and state, Hochul noted.

“Nobody is better prepared to bring criminal justice reform to Queens than Melinda Katz. Not only is she a skilled attorney, she’s a dedicated public servant who knows how to build a diverse coalition to push for change better than anyone else. Melinda understands that civil rights and reforms to the justice system go hand-in-hand with public safety. Her agenda to change the DA’s office will make it more responsive to the community and better equipped to protect workers, immigrants, women, and people of color. I’m proud to endorse her and look forward to seeing her become the first woman district attorney of Queens,” said Hochul

Kathy Hochul has served the people of New York at the local, state, and federal level. In 2011 she became the first Democrat to represent the 26th Congressional District in 40 years, and made veteran’s issues and economic development a top priority. As the lieutenant governor, she has spearheaded the governor’s campaign against sexual assault and harassment and has co-chaired the Heroin and Opioid Abuse Task Force.

1199SEIU, the largest healthcare worker union in the nation and one of the most powerful organizing forces in the state, representing over 450,000 healthcare workers in five states stated: “We are proud to endorse Melinda Katz for Queens district attorney. As an attorney and public servant, she’s never shied away from a tough fight against powerful interests, and she’s always been deeply involved in the communities she represents. She’s proven time and again that she can create change and progress by building relationships neighborhood by neighborhood across Queens. From reducing gun violence to creating an entirely new bureau dedicated to protecting workers’ rights, the changes she’s proposing will create a safer and more just community for everyone,” said Gabby Seay, 1199SEIU’s political director.

NYS Senator John Liu, a trailblazing progressive leader who was the first Asian-American elected to citywide office and legislative office in New York, said, “Melinda Katz will be an exceptional district attorney. What sets her apart is a deep commitment to ensuring social and equitable justice in Queens. She has built long-standing relationships throughout the borough, and at a time when criminal justice reform is taking hold across the city, we need someone like Melinda who we can trust to deliver these reforms in Queens. She’s an expert attorney who is dedicated to making change, and she’ll start by diversifying the district attorney’s office to better represent communities across our borough. I’m excited to endorse her and look forward to seeing her win on June 25,” said State Senator Liu.

Liu’s support for Katz is a significant endorsement, as Liu represents a large part of northern and eastern Queens.

Congressman Adriano Espaillat, the first Dominican-American member of Congress and a lifelong criminal justice reform advocate, joins Councilman Francisco Moya, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and over 300 community leaders, elected officials, and labor unions in a broad coalition of support that has generated significant momentum for Katz ahead of the June 25 election. Espaillat began his career at the NYC Criminal Justice Agency, a non-profit agency that provided pre-trial services to defendants in criminal court. Rep. Espaillat said, “Over-policing and systemic biases in our criminal justice system have plagued communities across Queens and across our city. We need meaningful criminal justice reform, and Melinda Katz is by far the best person to deliver that necessary change to Queens. She’s spent her career building relationships and trust with communities across her borough, and those personal ties will ensure that she will reform the DA’s office to deliver justice for everyone in Queens. As borough president, she’s stood up for immigrants against the Trump administration, helping families get free legal resources, and she’ll be able to do even more for the immigrant community as district attorney. I’m proud to endorse her today.”

Katz has received a host of endorsements from elected officials, unions, community leaders, activists, and organizations, including: the UFT, 32BJ SEIU, LIUNA Local 78, NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, the borough presidents of Brooklyn and the Bronx, Congressmembers Tom Suozzi, Carolyn Maloney, and Greg Meeks, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, to name only a few. A full list of endorsements can be seen at katz4da.com/endorsements-2019.

GIANARIS’ BILL SETS PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY DATE: NYS Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris has introduced legislation setting the 2020 presidential primary date for April 28, 2020.

“It is important for New York to maximize its influence in the presidential nominating process and this bill does just that,” said Sen. Gianaris. “The selected date will increase our state’s allotment of delegates based on party rules.”

This date will also entitle New York Democrats to an additional delegate bonus of 25% at their nominating convention, for a total of 327 delegates.

This will be the first presidential primary where early voting will be in place, a policy passed by the NYS Senate earlier this year.

HISTORIC RENT LAWS PACKAGE: NYS Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris voted to pass the most significant pro-tenant protection laws in the history of New York. The new rent laws, which Gianaris helped write, will make living in New York more affordable for hundreds of thousands of families.

Sen. Gianaris said, “After years of displacement caused by rent laws that worked against them, New York’s tenants finally have a seat at the table, thanks to a new Senate that is working with our Assembly partners to eagerly champion housing affordability. This sweeping legislation provides the strongest tenant protections since the rent laws were enacted decades ago and I am proud to have worked with incredible grassroots organizers to deliver this historic progress.

“The legislation addresses a wide variety of tenant issues: it will eliminate vacancy decontrol and the vacancy bonus, extend preferential rents for the duration of a tenancy, dramatically reform MCIs and IAIs, and extend tenant safeguards statewide, among other changes. I am honored that we passed this today.”

Video of Senator Gianaris’ floor speech on rent laws is available at youtu.be/nkIdJuqlOic.

CITY COUNCIL, MAYOR ANNOUNCE FY 2020 BUDGET: City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Finance Committee Chair Daniel Dromm, Capital Budget Subcommittee Chair Vanessa Gibson and Mayor Bill de Blasio on June 13 announced an agreement on the Fiscal Year 2020 budget. The $92.8 billion budget improves quality of life for all New Yorkers and encourages fiscal responsibility, they stated.

The Fiscal Year 2020 budget includes many of the priorities the Council pushed for in order to improve the lives of all New Yorkers, including a commitment to work towards pay parity for daycare providers, fair funding for parks, increased resources for libraries, summer youth programs, and trash collection.

“The FY 2020 budget is a progressive and responsible budget that truly delivers for all New Yorkers. From increases in funding for our parks and LGBTQ community services to an allocation for additional school social workers, this is a budget in which we can all take pride.  It is a statement of our priorities and helps ensure that all of our constituents, particularly the most vulnerable, are protected and served.  By adding $250 million to city reserves, the FY 2020 budget helps NYC weather any downturn in the economy that might come our way,” said Councilman Dromm.

The FY2020 budget will include:

  • Establishing pay parity for Early Childhood Education providers: Early childhood educators at community-based organizations (CBO) historically get paid far less than the rest of their DOE counterparts. The pay difference in some cases is as much as $35,000.
  • Establishing pay parity for public defense providers and district attorneys.
  • Expanding the staffing of the Office of Hate Crimes.
  • Expanding reserves with a $250 million allocation.
  • Launching a 2020 Census campaign by launching a major outreach effort.
  • Expand foster care programming.
  • Expand the Comprehensive After School System of New York City (COMPASS).
  • Restore School’s Out New York City (SONYC).
  • Add slots for the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).
  • Increase social workers in schools.
  • Restore funding for breakfast in the classroom.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR NY’ERS WITH DISABILITIES: NYS Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-South Queens) announced that she voted to pass a series of bills to help New Yorkers with disabilities lead full, independent lives by ensuring access to critical resources, expanding disability rights and encouraging more job opportunities. The legislative package was passed in recognition of this year’s Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day on May 29.

  • People with disabilities face numerous financial burdens and to help manage these costs, the New York Achieving a Better Life Experience (NY ABLE) Program allows New Yorkers with disabilities and their families to save money in tax-advantaged accounts without impacting their eligibility for federal benefit programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.
  • The Assembly’s legislative package also includes measures to fight discrimination, including a bill that would waive the state’s sovereign immunity with regard to application of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 as they apply to the protection of state employees (A.1092).
  • Further, the legislative package includes measures to reestablish the Office of Advocate for People with Disabilities (A.4737); and require public officers and bodies to provide interpreters and assistive listening devices for deaf or hard of hearing individuals at public hearings under certain conditions (A.3385-A).
  • To support New Yorkers with disabilities on their higher education journey, the Assembly legislation includes a bill that would reauthorize the current law that requires publishers or manufacturers of printed instructional materials for college students to provide them in electronic formats (A.7251) at a cost comparable to the printed version.
  • The legislative package includes a measure that would require the state Board of Elections to post a copy of a sample ballot, including electronically for use with a computer screen-reading program, on its website prior to each election as soon as the relevant information becomes available (A.163).
  • To ensure New Yorkers with disabilities are protected in case of an emergency, the Assembly passed a measure that requires 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 (A.3923).
  • Many individuals with disabilities are faced with discrimination and the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than twice the rate of those without a disability. To help level the playing field, the Assembly passed a measure that would establish a small-business tax credit for the employment of people with disabilities (A.7475).
  • To strengthen services for those with disabilities, the Assembly passed measures ensuring public assistance and health care meet diverse needs: requiring local social services districts, after considering certain factors, to give controlling weight to a recipient/applicant’s regular physician’s opinion when determining potential work limitations or exemptions due to a disability (A.4236); and requiring the Commissioner of Health to maintain specific reimbursement and billing procedures within Medicaid for complex rehabilitation technology (CRT) products and services to ensure that payments permit adequate access for patients (A.7492). CRTs include customized wheelchairs
  • The Assembly legislation also includes a bill that would create a tax credit for either new or retrofitted principal residences that are universally designed to be accessible and adaptable housing (A.2493).

GENDER DISCRIMINATION IN DISABILITY INSURANCE: NYS Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris announced that the NYS Senate passed his legislation (S.3664A) outlawing gender discrimination in disability insurance policies. Currently, gender is a determinative factor in insurance premiums. Gianaris’ legislation would prohibit insurers from using gender as a tool to determine risk. Last month, Gianaris met with women small business owners in Long Island City to discuss the bill.

“Small businesses should not be penalized for hiring female employees and this proposal would level the playing field for women in the workplace,” said Sen. Gianaris. “The deck is already stacked against women in the job market and I am proud the Senate passed my legislation to make things fairer.”

Gianaris’ legislation bans insurers from charging different rates based on the insured person’s gender. Doctor Disability, a leading brokerage of disability insurance for the medical field, has stated it can cost up to 50% more to insure a female employee than a male. Small businesses in Queens have said it costs up to three times more to provide this insurance to women than men. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed similar legislation in January.

 

“To dismantle structural sexism we need to change the perception and, in this case, the reality that women cost more to employ than men. My business employed approximately 45 women last year and 7 men, and it burned me to pay that bill – signing a check and an agreement with an insurance company to support discrimination in my workplace,” said Sheila Lewandowski, executive director of the Chocolate Factory Theater. “If we allow insurance companies to charge more to cover women for disability or any insurance we are, as a society telling businesses that it is cheaper to hire men than women. That is structural sexism. It is discrimination. Charging more to cover women for disability insurance is a remnant of a time when women could not even get a loan without a man signing for them. I am thrilled the Senate stood up for women and small businesses and I thank Senator Gianaris for his leadership on this issue.”

MALONEY BILL INCREASES CORPORATE BOARD DIVERSITY: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), chair of the House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets, on June 13 introduced the Diversity in Corporate Leadership Act of 2019, to ensure that investors and the public have the information they need about the gender, racial, and ethnic diversity of corporate boards.

The bill requires public companies to disclose the gender, racial, and ethnic composition of their boards of directors every year in their proxy statements that they send to shareholders and investors and creates a Diversity Advisory Group to study the issue and recommend strategies and best practices to increase diversity on corporate boards.

“I strongly believe that by requiring companies to take a real look at the gender, racial, and ethnic makeup of their boards, we will create incentives and inspire change so that these boards better resemble the American public at large. By disclosing this information to investors, we are also empowering shareholders to support companies that embody their ideals and pull investment from those that don’t. Beyond making moral and common sense, more diversity also makes financial sense. Studies have repeatedly found that companies with more diverse leadership are better positioned to succeed. Why wouldn’t companies want to show off that they’re making smart financial decisions by moving towards more diversity and equality on their boards?”

PUBLIC CHARGE RULE DENIES BENEFITS TO IMMIGRANTS: On June 12, Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill condemning the Trump administration’s proposed rule to limit immigrants from using public benefits. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposed public charge rule would have dire consequences for immigrant communities, forcing families to choose between maintaining their legal immigration status and daily necessities such as food, healthcare and housing.

“Taking away life-saving essential programs for immigrants and their children would be callous and despicable,” said Congresswoman Meng. “As a nation enriched by our immigrant communities, we must continue to support their access to basic necessities. I have sent letters to the administration urging them to rescind the proposed rule and I’ve spoken out against it. It is inhumane to punish law-abiding immigrants (by denying access to) critical safety net programs like SNAP, housing assistance, and Medicaid – benefits to which they are legally entitled. I will continue to fight against this ugly proposed rule.”

Meng has repeatedly advocated against the proposed rule changes. After the changes were announced last year, she sent a letter to then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in November 2018, and another letter in December 2018.

CUOMO GREENLIGHTS LICENSES FOR THE UNDOCUMENTED: Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Green Light Bill on June 17 allowing undocumented New Yorkers to apply for a standard state driver’s license. The Assembly passed the bill on June 13 and the Senate passed it on the evening of June 17 amid cheers.

Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law after assurances by the state solicitor general there were sufficient safeguards to prevent federal authorities from accessing the DMV database. NYS Attorney General Letitia James who oversees the solicitor general said Monday night she reviewed the bill and found there are safeguards to prevent that from happening, according to reports. The governor’s signature makes New York the 13th state to authorize drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants.

“This legislation, known as the Green Light bill, would improve road safety, raise revenue and boost the economy. It should also be noted that, contrary to fear-mongering from opponents, this legislation does not allow for voting,” said Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) who helped pass the bill. “Regardless of where you were born, every resident of my community should be able to earn the right to operate a motor vehicle, provided that they pass the written test and the road test. While New York City has one of the best mass transportation systems in the country, not every area of our state is as transportation-friendly.”

A recent poll released by Siena College showed more than 50 percent of New Yorkers surveyed were against allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

MALONEY’S ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING ACT PASSES: On June 12, the House Committee on Financial Services voted to pass Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney’s (D-NY) Corporate Transparency Act out of committee. Maloney has been working for over a decade to pass legislation to crack down on anonymous shell companies and the use of NYC properties as bank accounts instead of homes, which drives up home prices for all New Yorkers.

Rep. Maloney said “I am tired of money launderers using NYC apartments as bank accounts and driving up home prices for New Yorkers. My bill, the Corporate Transparency Act, will crack down on anonymous shell companies and help to stop this practice by requiring companies to disclose their true, benefiting owners – the people who actually own the LLC – when the company is formed.

“This bill is also critical for our national security, because it finally allows law enforcement to track the money that terrorist groups use to finance their operations. Disrupting terrorist financing networks should be one of our top priorities, but right now, terrorist groups can easily hide their money using anonymous shell companies. That is completely unacceptable. And its not just terrorists – far too many criminal networks can legally hide and launder their money legally here in the US. We should all be outraged that human traffickers, gun rings, and drug cartels are skirting the law because we allow these shady practices.

“The Corporate Transparency Act is one of the most important bills our committee will consider this Congress and I am thrilled that so many members of the committee agree with this and voted to pass the bill. I’m hopeful that this bill will pass the House like it did in the committee-with a bipartisan vote.”

SCHUMER URGES FAA REQUIRE BLACK BOXES FOR CHOPPERS: On the heels of the Midtown helicopter crash in Manhattan on June 10, and with new safety concerns across Long Island, US Senator Charles Schumer is citing the lack of a black box, also known as a flight data recorder (FDR), as cause for serious concern for the ongoing investigation, while also revealing that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been trying for years, without success, to compel the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to mandate the installation of these often critical data preservers on many helicopter models. Schumer urged the FAA on June 16 to heed the longstanding recommendations of the NTSB and get to work on a plan to see them installed as a basic safety feature.

“[I]n the name of safety, the FAA must take another look at the NTSB’s reports on chopper crashes similar to the one in New York City just last week and propel the safety measures that have been collecting dust for far too long,” said Sen. Schumer.

As early as 2013, the NTSB had implored the FAA to mandate the installation of flight data recorders and a cockpit voice recorder in “all newly manufactured turbine-powered, non-experimental, non-restricted-category aircraft that are not equipped with a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder.” In later years, the NTSB also urged installation in all existing variations of similar helicopters, as well. Either way, Schumer points out, the recommendations have not been followed.

A major crash that first spurred the NTSB to urge action in this area occurred in 2011.

According to the NTSB, “The ‘black box’ onboard an aircraft records many different operating conditions of the flight. By regulation, newly manufactured aircraft must monitor at least 88 important parameters such as time, altitude, airspeed, heading, and aircraft attitude. In addition, some flight data recorders or FDRs can record the status of more than 1,000 other in-flight characteristics that can aid in the investigation. The items monitored can be anything from flap position to auto-pilot mode or even smoke alarms.

Both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder have proven to be valuable tools in the accident investigation process. They can provide information that may be difficult or impossible to obtain by other means.

As for why the FAA has not moved on this issue, Schumer explained the agency has said they cannot find a positive cost-benefit to requiring these kinds of devices on helicopters. Schumer disagrees with this stance, and points to the recent New York City crash and concerns across Long Island as reasons for the FAA to act.

On Monday, June 10, Tim McCormack died when the helicopter he piloted for American Continental Properties crashed on the rooftop of a building in Midtown Manhattan. McCormack was the only person on board the privately owned Agusta A109E helicopter and no other people were injured or killed in the crash, according to local law enforcement officials. The helicopter took off from the East 34th Street Heliport around 1:30 pm, at a time when the city was experiencing heavy rain, wind and poor visibility. The pilot did not have an instrument rating, which would permit him to fly in such poor weather, the FAA said.

Schumer explained that the National Transportation Safety Board is in the midst of investigating last week’s crash in Manhattan, an investigation Schumer helped spur, which could take as long as two years to complete, as reported by CNN. A preliminary report will be released in two weeks but will not shed any light on what caused the tragic crash. According to an NTSB investigator, the helicopter did not have a black box on board and the pilot never communicated with air-traffic control, neither of which was required. Investigators continue to look for other recording devices that were aboard the aircraft but gathering evidence is difficult considering the location of the crash and the post-crash fire.

MALONEY: BAN NON-ESSENTIAL CHOPPERS FROM MANHATTAN: Following news reports that a helicopter crashed onto the roof of the AXA Equitable building located at 787 7th Avenue, between 51st and 52nd Streets, sparking a two-alarm fire, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), who represents the area in Congress, issued the following statement:

“New York City experienced yet another deadly helicopter crash, this time, with our nightmare of having a helicopter crash into a building. It appears that the pilot was killed and no one else was seriously injured – but this pilot’s death is one too many. We cannot rely on good fortune to protect people on the ground. It is past time for the FAA to ban unnecessary helicopters from the skies over our densely packed urban city. The risks to New Yorkers are just too high.”

The AXA Equitable building was not equipped with a helipad.

On March 22, 2018, Congressmembers Carolyn B. Maloney and Jerrold Nadler led a group of their New York and New Jersey colleagues in voicing their continued opposition to helicopter tourism in light of the March 11, 2018 helicopter crash in New York City’s East River that killed five passengers

In response to a 2007 report by the National Transportation Safety Board on the October 2006 plane crash on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Maloney urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to permanently prohibit aircraft from flying over the East River.

New York banned helicopters from landing on rooftops following a 1977 crash into the Pan Am Building (now called the Met Life Building).

BILL TO STUDY AIRPORT NOISE AND HEALTH IMPACT PASSES SENATE: The New York State Senate passed legislation (S.5855) co-sponsored by NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. which mandates New York state study the environmental, noise and human health impacts caused by runways, including new runways, and air traffic at John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport.

“Communities in areas around JFK and LaGuardia Airports have experienced a declining quality of life as a result of noise pollution and possibly other ill effects from air traffic patterns,” said Sen. Addabbo. “Noise complaints in affected neighborhoods have skyrocketed due to changing air traffic patterns and too many planes flying on low approaches to these airports. Through this study, we hope to develop a comprehensive plan to address these issues so the neighborhoods can experience a better quality of life now and in the future.”

As a result of the changing air traffic patterns and low approaching planes, communities in Nassau and Suffolk counties and parts of New York City experience a near-constant and deafening noise level that studies have shown is significantly above the day-night average noise level of 6 decibels. Currently, decibel levels are calculated using an average per day system, which doesn’t accurately portray the extreme noise created by planes exceeding those threshold levels on a daily basis. This bill will require DEC to monitor noise levels experienced in 2020 and 2021 with particular attention to the impact of pollution and emissions on the life, health and property values of residents living adjacent to flight paths.

The bill was delivered to the Assembly for consideration.

CUOMO SUPPORTS SURROGACY, BAN ON GAY AND TRANS PANIC DEFENSE: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on June 13 that 12 members of the New York congressional delegation joined his growing campaign to legalize surrogacy and ban the “gay and trans panic” legal defense before the end of session on June 19. Both bills were proposed in the governor’s FY 2020 Executive Budget but were not adopted by the legislature, leaving them to be considered outside of the budget during the remainder of the legislative session. The congressional delegation members joined the governor’s coalition on June 13, following a rally the day before at the LGBT Community Center where the governor was joined by several LGBTQ advocacy groups, along with Bravo TV producer and host, Andy Cohen. On May 30, the governor launched a campaign and website dedicated to passing the two proposals before the end of session.

“New York State is the progressive capital of the nation and in these divisive times we must continue to lead with bold action that promotes acceptance and equality,” Governor Cuomo said. “The status quo on surrogacy and the gay and trans panic defense is repugnant to our values and with this growing campaign we are sending a clear message to lawmakers: inaction is unacceptable – pass the bills now.”

Gestational surrogacy provides same-sex couples and couples struggling with fertility the ability to conceive a child with the help of medical advances in assisted reproduction. Current state laws not only ban gestational surrogacy, but also fail to clearly define who the legal parents are when a child is conceived via reproductive technology. To broaden the inclusivity of New York’s reproductive health laws, the Governor proposed legislation in the FY 2020 Executive Budget to lift the ban on surrogacy contracts that would also ensure protections for all parties involved.

Current gay and trans panic defenses allow those responsible for violent crimes against LGBTQ people to receive a lesser sentence, and in some cases, even avoid being convicted, by placing the blame on a victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity due to a loophole in state law.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney said, “No one should have to leave their home to start a family because of New York’s antiquated surrogacy laws. That is long overdue to fix. It is also absolutely ridiculous that anyone can still claim gay or trans ‘panic’ as a defense for assaulting someone. It has been an outrageous, hateful defense and should have been eliminated years ago. The legislature right now can legalize gestational surrogacy and ban these homophobic defense claims. It can right wrongs that have plagued the state for decades. I thank Governor Cuomo for his continued support of the LGBTQ community.”

Representatives Gregory Meeks, Grace Meng and Nydia Velazquez also released statements in support.

 

Throughout his administration, Governor Cuomo has been a champion of LGBTQ rights, most notably passing the Marriage Equality Act in 2011. Earlier this year, the Governor signed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, prohibiting employers, educational institutions, landlords, creditors, and others from discriminating against individuals on the basis of gender identity or expression, and making offenses committed on the basis of gender identity or expression hate crimes under New York State law. The Governor also signed legislation banning the practice of conversion therapy by expanding the definition of professional misconduct for professions licensed under the education law to include engaging in conversion therapy with a patient under the age of eighteen years.

Most recently, in anticipation of the potential rollback of critical Affordable Care Act provisions, Cuomo directed the Department of Health to issue regulations prohibiting health care providers from discriminating against transgender patients, and directed the Department of Financial Services to issue regulations expanding anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals when accessing health insurance. These directives were in direct response to the Trump administration’s proposal to repeal a federal regulation that clarifies that the Affordable Care Act’s non-discrimination protections based on sex include protections based on gender identity. By removing these protections, approximately 90,300 transgender New Yorkers would be exposed to unfair, blatant and unlawful discrimination.

In direct response to the federal government’s rollbacks on federal protections for transgender students in 2017, the Governor directed the State Education Department to issue a directive to school districts reinforcing the protections from discrimination and harassment afforded to transgender students under New York State law.

GIANARIS, SENATE MAJORITY PROTECT LGBTQ: NYS Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris announced on June 11 that he and the Senate majority passed legislation that will provide greater protection and services for New York’s LGBTQ community. The bills advanced by the Senate Democratic Majority will establish the Modern Family Act, abolish the use of “gay or trans panic” as a defense, and create the transgender youth and young adult suicide prevention task force. The Senate majority will also pass the New York State Restoration of Honor Act that will correct the records of veterans discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation.

Sen. Gianaris said, “In New York state, love always wins. I was honored to cast one of the deciding votes for marriage equality and continued to fight for full equality earlier this session when we passed GENDA and a ban on conversion therapy. Now we proudly march through Pride Month with an additional ambitious agenda to make New York fairer for the LGBTQ community.”

The historic legislation passed by the Senate Democratic majority includes:

  • The Modern Family Act: This bill, S.2071, sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman, will lift the existing ban on genetic surrogacy and provide clear and decisive legal procedures to ensure children born through assisted reproduction and surrogacy have secure and legally recognized parental relationships with their intended parents.
  • Abolishing “Gay Panic” Defense: This bill, S.3293, sponsored by Hoylman, will limit the use of extreme emotional disturbance as an affirmative defense, commonly known as the “gay panic” or “trans panic” defense, to a charge of murder in the second degree.
  • LGBTQ Suicide Prevention Task Force: This bill, S.6315, sponsored by Senator Julia Salazar, will establish the LGBTQ Youth and Young Adult Suicide Prevention Task Force to examine, evaluate, and determine how to improve mental health and suicide prevention for New York’s LGBTQ youth and young adults up to the age of 24.
  • NYS Restoration of Honor Act: This bill, S.45-B, sponsored by Hoylman, will restore eligibility for state programs and benefits for LGBTQ veterans and veterans with certain qualifying conditions who were less than honorably discharged from military service due solely to their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or those who received less than honorable discharges as a result of military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Gender Identity Data: This bill, S.6321, sponsored by Senator Kevin Thomas, will require the collection of additional demographic information for an improved understanding of the diversity of the state’s LGBTQ community and its needs and experiences.

Senator Gianaris has been a staunch advocate of the LGBTQ community his entire time in office, including serving as a decisive vote in support of marriage equality in 2011.

STRINGER CALLS ON ASSEMBLY TO LEGALIZE SURROGACY: NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer called on the NYS Assembly to legalize surrogacy in New York state: “New York is supposed to lead the way when it comes to equality and progressive values. But when it comes to gestational surrogacy, New York’s laws are antiquated, out of step with our progressive spirit, and downright wrong. The status quo inexplicably forces LGBTQ+ and infertile couples who dream of raising a family in New York to leave the state to go through the surrogacy process. This is discriminatory and it comes at a massive cost to New Yorkers, personally and financially.

“The greatest joy in my life is being a parent, and we need to help all New Yorkers have options to choose when, if, and how to become parents themselves. The legislation advanced by Governor Cuomo would be a game-changer. It would provide New Yorkers the ability to start families through gestational surrogacy and bring New York’s laws into the 21st century, along with 47 other states. The Senate, and Senator Brad Hoylman in particular, deserve credit for passing this bill – and the Assembly has only a few days left to follow suit. This is about fairness and making the dream of raising a family reality for more New Yorkers. Equality cannot wait – the Assembly must act.”

LGBT CAUCUS STATEMENT ON DEATH AT RIKERS: The NYC Council LGBT Caucus released the following statement on Layleen Polanco’s death on Rikers Island: “Our hearts go out to Layleen Polanco’s family in the wake of this terrible tragedy. Polanco was held on two low-level misdemeanor charges. Given that Polanco posed no threat to the public, it is outrageous that she was incarcerated at Rikers Island. To make matters worse, Polanco was caged away for at least 17 hours every day, for almost 60 days before she died – even though she suffered from violent seizures and should have been closely monitored. Many questions remain unanswered but this much is clear: Polanco is the latest casualty of the cancer that is Rikers Island. Rikers remains a hazardous place for the incarcerated. Conditions are particularly horrendous for transgender individuals who are forced to contend with a broken system that simply cannot keep them safe. The administration must close Rikers and issue a thorough report on Polanco’s untimely death. There must be #JusticeForLayleen.”

MENG TO POMPEO: LET THE PRIDE FLAG FLY: On June 11, Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY), a vice chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing concern about the State Department’s rejection of requests by US Embassies to fly rainbow flags in honor of LGBT Pride Month. Meng’s letter urges the State Department to reverse its position and immediately allow Pride flags to be flown.

“The Trump administration’s quiet efforts to undermine America’s international support for LGBT rights is deeply discomforting and sends the wrong message to LGBT Americans about our moral compass,” said Rep. Meng. “June is LGBT Pride Month and it is a time to reaffirm our commitment to LGBT rights at home and abroad. Simple acts of solidarity, such as flying the Pride flag, demonstrate our resolve to be a beacon of hope for those who reside in hostile environments for LGBT individuals. We shouldn’t backtrack on LGBT rights; we should march forward and pursue efforts that strengthen LGBT rights at home and abroad. Mr. Secretary, let the Pride flag fly proudly at all US Embassies!”

STAVISKY BILL PROTECTS IMMIGRANT COLLEGE STUDENTS: The Senate passed NYS Senator Toby Ann Stavisky’s bill to prevent the City University of New York (CUNY) and the State University of New York (SUNY) from asking about a student’s immigration status. The purpose of this legislation, S.2550, is to prevent the federal government from deporting immigrant students.

“By prohibiting CUNY and SUNY from determining if a student is from a specific Muslim-majority nation, or whether a student has proper immigration status, we reaffirm our commitment to all students,” Senator Stavisky stated. “Schools should be a safe haven for everyone, regardless of their immigration status,” she concluded.

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic is the Assembly sponsor of S.2550, which can be viewed at www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s2550

GIANARIS’ GUN ORIGIN REGISTRY BILL PASSES: NYS Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris announced the Senate passed his legislation (S.4442-A) mandating the state’s Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) establish a database tracking the state and county of origin of guns used in crimes in New York. This proposal would tackle the “iron pipeline,” whereby guns purchased in states with lax gun laws are brought into New York and used in crimes.

“Stopping the iron pipeline is possible if New York leads the way. Despite having among the toughest gun laws in the country, our state experiences too many gun-related crimes due to firearms originating elsewhere,” said Sen. Gianaris “While the federal government will not take action to combat gun violence, New York should use data to expose states that are part of the problem. I am pleased the Senate has passed this crucial legislation today (June 11).”

“We applaud the Senate for passing Senator Gianaris’s iron pipeline bill to thwart illegal gun trafficking and protect the lives of New Yorkers,” said Rebecca Fischer, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. “New York state has some of the strongest gun safety laws in the country, but firearms trafficked from weak gun law states continue to cause senseless tragedy. This legislation will strengthen New York’s capacity to track the origin of guns (used criminally) and prevent them from flowing into our communities.”

“We know that the systems used to protect New Yorkers are only as good as the information that goes into them,” said June Rubin, New York Chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We’re grateful to lawmakers for strengthening the safeguards to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.”

Senator Gianaris’ bill requires DCJS and the New York State Police to publish a quarterly report about the origins of guns used in crimes. According to a 2015 analysis by The New York Times, two-thirds of guns used in crimes in New York were imported from other states.

KOO APPOINTED CHAIR OF PARKS COMMITTEE: NYC Councilman Peter Koo released the following statement upon his appointment to the chair of the NYC Council Committee on Parks and Recreation: “I am thrilled at my appointment to the chair of the NYC Council Committee on Parks and Recreation. From the world famous Central Park to local treasures like Kissena Park, New York City’s parks serve as places of refuge for every community in the five boroughs where residents and visitors can enjoy the benefits of the natural world. As the representative of over 350 acres of parkland in Council District 20, I know firsthand just how important it is to ensure every park and playground serves its residents as a safe space for recreational opportunities, programs, and activities.

“I look forward to building on our city’s legacy as steward to the greatest green spaces in the world. I’d like to thank Speaker Corey Johnson and Queens Delegation Chair Karen Koslowitz for their tremendous leadership in the Council and for their partnership in ensuring our parks in every borough receive their fair share.”

ADDABBO, PHEFFER AMATO: MTA REPRIEVES BUSINESSES ON BEACH 116TH ST: This month, NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato held a conference call with the governor’s office and the MTA to discuss the future of several businesses along Beach 116th Street in the Rockaways, which have month-to-month leases with the MTA.

Last month, Addabbo and Pheffer Amato penned a joint letter to the MTA, asking that they allow the businesses – including Last Stop Gourmet Shop, Joseph A. Otton Tax & Accounting, Beach Cleaners and Tailors, and A&J Jewelry – to remain in their buildings on Beach 116th Street as they open up the Request For Proposal (RFP) process to find new tenants.

In response to the letter, the MTA alerted the elected officials during the conference call that the RFP process will not begin until the first quarter of 2020, so the MTA will try to work out an agreement with their current tenants, possibly allowing their businesses to stay there in the Rockaways. The MTA has also asked for contacts to the local Chamber of Commerce or other community organizations to include them in future discussions regarding the RFP process.

 

 

“It is promising to see the MTA respond the way they did to our letter. No one wanted to see these businesses have to uproot themselves from the community they call home without having any say,” Sen. Addabbo said. “Now, they have the chance to work out an agreement with the MTA. Although nothing is guaranteed, what this does is give our local businesses the chance to have their voices heard, and I appreciate the MTA for working with us in attempting to resolve this local business issue.”

“As I’ve said countless times: Small businesses are the backbone of Rockaway and South Queens. I commend the MTA for hearing our concerns, and for continuing the discussion with our businesses on Beach 116th Street so that they can remain a community staple,” said Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato. “While we still have work to do, this is the first step in ensuring that the RFP process reflects the unique needs and challenges of our community. I look forward to working with the MTA and Senator Addabbo.”

ADDABBO, LIBRARY CELEBRATE ANNIVERSARY: In May, the community celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Queens Public Library Glendale Branch’s temporary location at Atlas Park.

In 2018, as the Glendale library branch on Myrtle Avenue was preparing to undergo much-needed renovations, NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.’s office played an integral part in bringing the Queens Public Library into Atlas Park.

“With the Glendale branch about to be shut down for renovations, I didn’t want to leave the people of Glendale without the full services of a library for an extended period of time,” said Sen. Addabbo, adding that although a mobile library branch was planned for Glendale while the branch was closed, he didn’t believe it would sufficiently serve Glendale. “I am so glad to see that the temporary space is being utilized by the public and I would like to thank Queens Public Library, Atlas Park, and everyone involved in making this happen.”

According to Queens Public Library, between May 2018 and April 2019, the temporary location saw 69,411 people use the facility. The space held 314 programs – including several story time programs outside on Atlas Park’s lawn – which were attended by 2,186 children. On top of that, the location has been signing up many new customers, especially on Saturdays.

“Since opening its doors a little over a year ago, our temporary Glendale space has thrived, becoming an indispensable resource for local residents and a popular destination among shoppers visiting the mall,” said Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “We are grateful to State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo and Atlas Park for making it possible for Queens Public Library to continue serving the community while the Glendale branch is undergoing renovations.”

“The Shops at Atlas Park focuses on family-friendly opportunities which has made it a perfect temporary location for Queens Borough Public Library during renovations,” said Peter DeLucia, property manager of The Shops at Atlas Park. “They have been wonderful partners and we hope our relationship will continue after they go back to their former location on Myrtle Avenue.”

TRANSPARENT BILLING SOFTWARE TASK FORCE: NYC Councilman Peter Koo introduced on June 13 Intro. 1602, legislation that would create a task force to study the feasibility of using transparent billing software by city agencies to hold vendors accountable for all work done by computer.

Transparent billing software is defined as software designed to permit the user to verify the accuracy of time billed for work performed on a computer, whether through keystroke and mouse event tracking, screenshots or other functions that have an auditing purpose.

The bill comes on the heels of reports of expensive delays, cost overruns and overcharges in several multimillion dollar technology contracts.

Recently it was reported that the city was overcharged at least $16 million for a contract to build an electronic procurement system.

In April, reports highlighted cost overruns in the NYCWiN contract amounting to $55.1 million.

The CityTime scandal began as a $63 million contract to build a citywide time-keeping system, but contractors were not appropriately tracked, resulting in a scheme that ballooned to more than $700 million and several arrests.

Councilman Koo stated, “The City of New York has spent billions of dollars on technology contracts, but we have seen too many examples where deliverables are not met, either through costly delays or even outright fraud – as was the case in the infamous CityTime contract that came in 10 times over budget. We must increase oversight of these big tech contracts to ensure absolute accountability for delays, cost overruns, overcharges, waste, fraud, and abuse. The creation of a task force is the first step toward understanding how different agencies oversee and audit their contracts and contractors, and it will bring us one step closer to the goal of ensuring all work done by city contractors on computers is monitored, evaluated, and audited.”

ADDABBO BILL TO COVER WASTE TRAINS PASSES SENATE: Legislation sponsored by NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. to require hard lids or sturdy tarping on top of “trash trains” has been approved by the NYS Senate. Sen. Addabbo said, “For years now, many of my constituents have complained of terrible odors and spilled garbage from trains carrying waste through their communities. When trains loaded down with waste sit for a long time on the tracks at transfer stations, it has negative ramifications for the public health, our environment and local property values. My bill would help to address these issues by requiring that trash being transported by rail be contained more completely and effectively.”

Under the legislation (S.2490), trains carrying putrescible waste – or trash which is subject to decay – would be covered with hard, sealing lids before exiting their transfer stations. Non-putrescible waste would be covered with hard tarping.

“While transporting waste by rail may be environmentally and economically preferable to using fleets of trucks, the practice certainly has its drawbacks,” said Addabbo. “However, I believe that ‘putting a lid on it’ will help to reduce the negative impacts of hauling trash by train. We should be able to cut down on pollution without subjecting railway neighbors to unpleasant odors and other unfortunate side effects.”

Having passed the Senate, the legislation is now under review by the Assembly.

ROZIC ALLOCATES FUNDING FOR JOHN BOWNE HS: On Monday, June 17, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D,WF-Fresh Meadows) announced $35,500 in funding for John Bowne High School in Flushing. The funding has been allocated for John Bowne’s hydroponics program, an alternative method of growing plants without soil by using water-based nutrient solutions. The use of hydroponics is part of John Bowne’s Agriculture Program which has been nationally recognized for its urban agricultural education offerings, including classes in the plant and animal sciences.

—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts

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