BORO HALL ON YOUR BLOCK: WESTERN QUEENS: Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. successfully brought his Borough Hall on Your Block initiative to Western Queens recently, carrying on his commitment to ensure Queens residents have equitable access to the services and resources of his office.
Over the course of the five-day initiative, Borough President Richards held a pair of press conferences to announce $6.5 million in capital funding for local cultural organizations and Mount Sinai Queens, held a pair of town halls, hosted resource fairs for job seekers, immigrants and youth looking for summer engagement opportunities and centered the mental health of our seniors with an older adult wellness day, among other events.
“Borough Hall on Your Block has been an incredible way to build bridges between my office and the residents we are sworn to serve, and I could not be more grateful for the old relationships we’ve strengthened and the new friendships we have made over the last week,” said Borough President Richards. “Thank you to all our neighbors who came out to meet us and thank you to all our elected colleagues, city agencies and community-based organizations for partnering with us this week to ensure that Western Queens families are given the attention they deserve.”
Borough Hall on Your Block: Western Queens began on Tuesday, February 21 with a press conference to announce $5 million in capital funding across the Noguchi Museum and the Chocolate Factory Theater, supporting renovation and restoration work at both popular Long Island City cultural institutions. That evening, Borough President Richards hosted a Self-Defense and Bystander Training Workshop at CultureLab LIC in partnership with Artemis Self Defense and the NYC Commission on Human Rights, providing Western Queens residents with the tools they need to keep themselves and those around them safe from violence, bias incidents and other negative interactions.
Day 2 of Borough Hall on Your Block: Western Queens saw the Borough President meet with job seekers at his Jobs Recruitment Fair at LaGuardia Community College, featuring more than a dozen employers across a wide array of industries, before heading to Sunnyside Community Services to meet with area seniors who came to attend his Older Adult Mental Health Awareness Day event. The evening ended with his first of two town halls that week — a Western Queens NYCHA Town Hall at the Variety Boys and Girls Club, focusing on the voices of residents across the Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Woodside and Astoria Houses.
Borough President Richards’ second town hall of the week, a wider Western Queens Town Hall, took place on Day 3 at the Long Island City YMCA, which allowed dozens of residents from across the area to directly ask questions and voice concerns to nearly a dozen city agencies on hand. Earlier that day, Deputy Borough President Ebony Young held a Story Hour at the Long Island City branch of the Queens Public Library, as she read to a group of young children while their parents met with Borough Hall staff to discuss the services available through the office.
Highlighting his commitment to strengthening Queens’ healthcare network, Borough President Richards held a press conference on Day 4 to announce a $1.5 million allocation of capital funding to Mount Sinai Queens, which will go toward the construction of a new, 22-bed Intensive Care Unit at the Astoria hospital. Throughout that morning, more than 100 people came to his Queens Youth Opportunity Fair at the Variety Boys and Girls Club, which connected kids and families to summer youth employment, internships, volunteering opportunities and more.
Concluding Borough Hall on Your Block was an Immigrant Resource Fair at the Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement in Long Island City, where attendees met with city agencies and community-based organizations to learn how to access healthcare, legal services, financial assistance, job placement and more.
Borough President Richards first announced his intention to launch the Borough Hall on Your Block initiative during his 2022 State of the Borough address. The inaugural Borough Hall on Your Block was held in Southeast Queens in late August 2022.
The date and location of the next iteration of Borough Hall on Your Block will be announced in the coming months.
‘DOT MUST PREVENT PEDESTRIAN DEATHS’: Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris and Assembly Member Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas are calling on the New York City Department of Transportation to install a new traffic signal on Newtown Road in Astoria, including at the intersection with 45th Street. In a letter to DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, the legislators cite the recent tragic death of 7-year-old Dolma Rinchen Naadhun, who was killed in the area by a reckless driver.
“Any child’s death is tragic, but it’s even more heartbreaking when it could be prevented,” said Senate Deputy Leader Gianaris. ”The saddest part is how many times we have said this before. The DOT needs to make preventing pedestrian deaths a priority – with a traffic signal here and comprehensive improvements across Western Queens.”
“No parent should suffer the death of their child. This is even more tragic because these deaths are preventable. I echo the demand of Dolma’s father, who is only asking that the New York City Department of Transportation install a stop light at the corner of Newtown Road and 45th Street in Astoria,” said Assembly Member González-Rojas. “I also call for our state legislature to pass Sammy’s Law, which would allow New York City to establish its speed limits. We must do more, for Dolma. Inaction only permits more senseless loss.”
Dolma Rinchen Naadhun was tragically killed two weeks ago. As the legislators state in their letter, she was not the first person tragically killed in Western Queens in preventable car crashes. Senator Gianaris and Assembly Member Gonzalez-Rojas also ask the DOT to broaden their approach to preventing these tragedies and investigate more pedestrian friendly infrastructure.
SENATORS SECURE $5M TO IMPROVE TRANSPORTATION: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced that they secured $5 million in funding for two New York City universities to research how to improve the mobility of people and goods throughout the country. The funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) University Transportation Centers (UTC) Program, which provides grants to consortia of colleges and universities in order to advance state-of-the-art transportation research and technology.
The two grants secured by the senators will provide the City College of New York (CCNY) with $3 million as a Regional University Transportation Center (UTC), while New York University (NYU) will receive $2 million as a Tier 1 UTC.
“Upgrading and maintaining our transportation systems, whether it’s to move goods from one end of the city to another or to get commuters to work, is vital for New York City and the country as a whole,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “These funds will be used by some of our brightest minds to research what are the most innovative and efficient ways to move goods and residents across town and reduce congestion.”
“I’m proud to secure this $5 million in research funding for City College of New York and New York University to conduct critical research to advance transportation technology and equity throughout our region and the country,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “These colleges, and other University Transportation Centers, will be researching ways to make transportation more equitable, resilient, and sustainable, and I’ll keep fighting for the federal funds to strengthen our transportation infrastructure.”
CCNY’s funding will go toward advancing economic strength & global competitiveness, equity, and climate & sustainability for Region 2, which covers New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Working alongside City University of New York’s Bronx Community College, New Jersey Institute of Technology, NYU, Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rutgers University, State University of New York’s (SUNY) University at Albany, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, SUNY Stony Brook University, and University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, CCNY will leverage recent advances in data, analytics, and vehicle and infrastructure technologies to plan, design, implement and operate a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable transportation system for Region 2 that supports mobility and access to opportunity for all the region’s residents and businesses.
NYU’s Tier 1 UTC funding will be used to establish the Connected Communities for Smart Mobility Towards Accessible and Resilient Transportation for Equitably Reducing Congestion (C2SMARTER) Center. C2SMARTER will focus on the USDOT priority area of reducing congestion, examining how it exacerbates inequities among different population segments. Partnering with CUNY-NYC College of Technology, University of Texas-El Paso, University of Washington, Rutgers University, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, and Texas Southern University, the C2SMARTER Center will utilize the principles of USDOT’s strategic goals in using evidence-based decision making to turn research into transformative and equitable solutions that take advantage of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and connected and autonomous vehicles.
Each UTC is a consortium of two- and four-year colleges and universities that pool their resources to advance technology and expertise in the many disciplines comprising transportation through education, solutions-oriented research and technology transfer, and the exploration and sharing of cutting-edge ideas and approaches.
CON EDISON FINALIZES SALE OF ITS CLEAN ENERGY BUSINESSES: Consolidated Edison, Inc. (NYSE:ED) has successfully completed the sale of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses, Inc., including the transfer of substantially all of its assets, to RWE Renewables Americas, LLC. The transaction is valued at $6.8 billion.
“Con Edison’s focus is on New York,” said Timothy P. Cawley, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Con Edison, Inc. “We are leading the transition to a clean energy future, while maintaining a safe, cost-effective system that delivers world class reliability for our customers.”
Con Edison continues to make significant investments in clean energy transmission projects, building electrification, energy efficiency, electric vehicle infrastructure, battery storage and other technologies. In addition, Con Edison wants to invest in and operate renewable generation in New York.
“To help New York reach its ambitious clean energy goals, we continue to seek state approval of utility-owned renewable generation to benefit our customers and all New Yorkers,” Cawley added.
REPORT ANIMAL ABUSE ON CRIME STOPPERS HOTLINE: City police and ASPCA officials are urging the public to assist them to provide a lifeline for abused animals. ASPCA officials said the public can stop dangerous criminals and give animal victims a better chance to survive by reporting animal abuse on the NYPD “TIPS” hotline. “A program like the NYPD Crime Stoppers HOTLINE is an invaluable tool to help the NYPD solve animal cruelty and bring perpetrators to justice,” ASPCA officials said. “The Crime Stoppers Hotline provides a way for the public to work with the NYPD to keep their neighborhood safe and prevent violence in any form, whether it is committed against a person or an animal.”
The Crime Stoppers HOTLINE is offering a reward of up to $3,500 for information leading to arrests and indictments in animal cruelty cases throughout New York City. The program is an extension of a prior partnership established between the ASPCA and the NYPD that gives police power to respond to animal abuse complaints – and to investigate individuals who abuse helpless animals.
To report suspected animal abuse in Queens, call the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS, click on www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or go to Twitter @NYPDTips.
Queens residents may also report suspected animal abuse to the Queens District Attorney’s Office at 718-286-6000 for investigation by members of the District Attorney’s Animal Abuse Squad, authorities said. —Liz Goff
BILL TO EXPAND SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS, EXTEND SOLVENCY: On March 2, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a video press conference announcing the Social Security Expansion Act of 2023. In 2021, Social Security lifted 26.3 million Americans out of poverty, but fast-rising costs and the aging population are putting benefits of current retirees and future generations at risk. This bill would expand Social Security benefits by $2,400 a year and ensure Social Security is fully funded for the next 70+ years – all without raising taxes by one penny on over 93% of American households that make $250,000 or less, Gillibrand stated.
“Social Security touches the lives of every American, directly or indirectly. It impacts the lives of older Americans, people with disabilities, and wounded warriors. We must not only protect our Social Security system, but we must also strengthen and expand it,” said Senator Gillibrand. “In 2021, Social Security lifted 26.3 million Americans out of poverty, including more than 18 million older adults. We have to ensure that it’s giving retirees and their families the support they need – and the support they spent their entire lives earning. Social Security is truly a matter of survival for so many retirees and their families across New York and the country. Social Security is essential, and it’s something that I will do everything in my power to protect and strengthen.”
Nearly 90 years after Social Security was enacted, it remains one of the most popular and successful government programs in the history of the United States. Today, the nation’s older adult poverty rate is just 10.3%. Social Security provides an essential lifeline to the one in seven older adults who rely on the program for 90% or more of their income, as well as the roughly 50% of Americans who are 55 years old and older living without retirement savings. The Social Security Expansion Act would ensure the program’s solvency through nearly the end of the century and require millionaires and billionaires to finally pay their fair share into the program. This bill would also help low-income workers stay out of poverty by:
- Improving the Special Minimum Benefit;
- Restoring student benefits up to age 22 for children of disabled or deceased workers;
- Strengthening benefits for older Americans and people with disabilities;
- Increasing cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs);
- Expanding program benefits across the board.
The Social Security Expansion Act has been endorsed by more than 50 major organizations.
JAMES PROPOSES PRICE GOUGING RULES: New York Attorney General Letitia James on March 2 proposed rules to protect consumers and small businesses from corporate profiteering. The rules would strengthen enforcement of New York’s price gouging law, which was updated in 2020 to grant the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) rulemaking authority. The proposed rules will make it more straightforward to investigate and combat price gouging by setting clear guardrails against price increases during emergencies. The proposed rules are a continuation of Attorney General James’ efforts to protect consumers and are open to a 60-day public comment period.
“Soaring costs of essentials have pushed hardworking New Yorkers to the brink and forced hard decisions around kitchen tables,” said Attorney General James. “The rules proposed by my office will bolster our efforts to crack down on price gouging and ensure that large corporations do not take advantage of New Yorkers during difficult times. When times get tough, New Yorkers can trust that my office will always have their back.”
New York’s price gouging law bans companies throughout the supply chain from taking advantage of a market disruption to increase their profits for vital and necessary goods and services. The statute asserts that an abnormal market disruption is caused by extreme weather events, military action, energy disruptions, strikes, or national or local emergencies, or another event that leads to a declared state of emergency. In 2020, the New York State Legislature amended the law to empower OAG with rulemaking authority.
In March 2022, OAG launched the first-ever price gouging rulemaking process to gather information from consumers and industry experts on how to strengthen and clarify the state’s price gouging statute. The proposed rules are informed by OAG’s decades of experience enforcing the price gouging statute and by the public comments submitted by advocates, trade groups, and economic experts. The proposed rules include actions to:
- Clarify that a price increase over 10 percent during an abnormal market disruption may constitute price gouging. State law asserts that when there is a “gross disparity” in prices before and after an abnormal market disruption, it may be price gouging. By stating that a 10 percent increase represents a “gross disparity,” the proposed rule makes it easier for consumers and small businesses to identify and report price gouging, deters price gouging, provides enforcers with an easily administrable standard for enforcing the price gouging statute, and is widely used by other enforcers.
- Prohibit corporations with large market shares from increasing profit margins during abnormal market disruptions. The rule clarifies that dominant companies with 30 percent market share, and companies in concentrated markets, have unfair leverage and the power to drive market-wide changes. Therefore, they cannot increase their profits during abnormal market disruptions at the expense of New Yorkers.
- Create guardrails for companies that rely on dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing means prices can change depending on demand and time of day, and is favored by some companies, including ride-hailing services. Due to this pricing model, it is currently difficult to determine if a company is price gouging. This rule allows OAG to establish a benchmark by using the median price for the same good or service at the same time one week before the emergency or market disruption. This will allow for a much quicker analysis of whether illegal price gouging occurred during frequent significant weather events and emergencies that abnormally disrupt service markets that use dynamic pricing.
- Include protections for products or services introduced after a market disruption. A new product or service that is created following an emergency can be considered vital and necessary, and therefore can become subject to enforcement of the price gouging statute. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, OAG received many complaints about price gouging on goods and services introduced in response to the pandemic, such as COVID-19 at-home tests and medical treatments. These products became vital and necessary after the pandemic started. Future crises also may result in price gouging on new products or services.
- Provide clarification for what companies can claim as costs when setting prices. A company that raises their prices more than 10 percent must show a record of their costs to justify the price increase. This rule details what does and does not count as a cost for purposes of an affirmative defense.
HOCHUL ALLOCATES $150M TO JAMAICA HOSPITAL: Council Member Lynn Schulman (D29-Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, Richmond Hill) released the following statement on Feb. 28: “Today, Governor Hochul announced that she will be investing $150 million into Jamaica Hospital to expand their Emergency Department in Queens. As the Council Member that represents the community where Jamaica Hospital resides, I couldn’t be more thrilled to hear of this much needed investment. When I ran for City Council in 2021, I made expanding hospital capacity the focal point of my platform and this is a huge step towards ensuring that every resident in Council District 29 has access to quality, stable and equitable emergency services. It’s encouraging to see that our state leaders, particularly our Governor, are laser focused on expanding hospital capacity and making sure every New Yorker has access to healthcare regardless of zip code. This is just the beginning and I look forward to working with the City Council, the State Legislature, and the Governor to ensure that all of our hospitals and healthcare facilities have the resources they need to deliver the care that our residents deserve.”
‘COLLUSION BETWEEN DOC & ICE’: U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) announced that she led her Congressional colleagues in asking New York City’s Department of Correction (DOC) Commissioner Louis A. Molina to provide information about DOC’s communication practices and policies with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
“New York City has always been a welcoming place for immigrants and people who want their shot at the American Dream. That is why it is so disturbing to learn of the pattern of inappropriate communication between the Department of Correction and ICE that may have facilitated and expedited removals of immigrant New Yorkers,” said Congresswoman Meng. “City law clearly defines the situations under which communication and information sharing between DOC and ICE may occur, however, the emails shared during a recent City Council hearing suggest several instances of cooperation that is in violation of local laws. That is why I am pressing DOC for additional information about their communications practices and policies to ensure immigrant New Yorkers are not harmed by unlawful coordination between federal officials and city government. New York City has a legacy of welcoming newcomers to our country, and we must ensure that our government agencies – across all levels – are living that legacy.”
Councilmember Shahana Hanif recently led a joint hearing between the New York City Council Committees on Immigration and Criminal Justice, regarding email communications between ICE and DOC. The emails, obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, initiated by the Immigrant Defense Project and Black Alliance for Justice Immigration, revealed a culture of cooperation between the two agencies. This cooperation included ‘scheduled release times to facilitate ICE pickups’ and ‘shared unsolicited information that could be used to expedite removals.’
In 2014, a NYC law established strict parameters detailing when DOC would honor an ICE request to detain an individual 48 hours beyond their scheduled release.
“The ongoing collusion between the New York City Department of Correction and ICE officers harms immigrant communities and undermines our commitment to being a welcoming city,” said Zach Ahmad, Senior Policy Counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “People have always looked to New York City for a better future and it’s our duty to fix gaps in the city’s disentanglement laws — and put an end to ICE collaboration once and for all.”
“BAJI is neither shocked nor surprised that ICE and the Department of Correction are in cahoots with each other. These emails confirm the experiences of Black New Yorkers being handed over to ICE by agencies who were legally obligated to protect our loved ones,” said Nana Gyamfi, the Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI).
“For too long the Department of Correction and other NYC agencies have violated immigrant rights with impunity,” said Rosa Cohen-Cruz, Director of Immigration Policy at The Bronx Defenders. ”The Department’s xenophobic and hateful email exchanges with ICE display a wanton disregard for existing NYC laws intended to protect immigrants and confirm a pattern of collusion that advocates have long suspected. It is clear that we need to pass clear laws that city agencies cannot circumvent, including mechanisms to hold agencies accountable if immigrant’s rights are violated.”
“It has been over 8 years since the passage of critical local laws intended to limit New York City from working as an extension of ICE. Yet, city agencies have flouted our existing laws and funneled people into the hands of ICE, irreparably harming them, their loved ones and their communities,” said Yasmine Farhang, Director of Advocacy with the Immigrant Defense Project.
The letter was signed by six other Members of Congress: Reps. Velázquez, Clarke, Nadler, Goldman, Bowman and Ocasio-Cortez. It was endorsed by five organizations.
PLEADS GUILTY TO MANSLAUGHTER, FACES 20: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Edson Giron Figueroa pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2021 shooting death of a 25-year-old Elmont man in Jamaica.
District Attorney Katz said: “By pleading guilty, the defendant admitted responsibility for ending a man’s life during a craven robbery attempt. I hope this resolution brings closure for the victim’s family.”
Giron Figueroa, 21, of 108th Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree. Justice Kenneth Holder is expected to sentence Giron Figueroa on March 21 to 20 years in prison and five years post-release supervision.
According to the charges, at approximately 2:40 a.m. on Saturday, July 24, 2021, the defendant walked to a commercial building on 150th Street near 105th Avenue in Jamaica looking to rob someone at gunpoint. Giron Figueroa approached the victim, Albert Serrato, from behind and pointed the gun while demanding money. When Serrato turned around, the defendant fired several times and ran away. The defendant later asked a friend to dispose of the gun.
FACES ONLY TWO YEARS FOR FATALLY TORTURING PUPPY: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Paul Verite has been charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and other crimes for allegedly repeatedly injuring his 10-week-old female Boston Terrier to the point the puppy could neither walk nor stand. A necropsy and review of medical records revealed that the puppy, named Espy, suffered excruciating pain before dying.
District Attorney Katz said: “To see a trusting, defenseless creature brutalized the way this puppy was over the course of her short, tortured life makes you heartsick. The defendant will be held to account for the violence he is alleged to have inflicted upon this poor animal.”
Verite, of Clyde Street, Queens, was arraigned on a complaint charging him with aggravated cruelty to animals and overdriving, torturing and injuring animals, and failure to provide sustenance. Judge Zoll ordered Verite to return to court April 24. If convicted, he faces up to two years in prison.
According to the charges, on multiple occasions in September, October and November, Verite took Espy to Austin Veterinary Care and Blue Pearl Animal Hospital. Each time, Espy required treatment for a variety of unexplained and suspicious injuries suspected to be from blunt force trauma. During Espy’s final medical visit, a veterinarian at Austin Veterinary Care began treating the dog for a potential seizure but observed the dog was failing to respond to treatment. Suspecting Espy was suffering from a traumatic head injury, the veterinarian referred Verite to Blue Pearl Animal Hospital for emergency care. Espy arrived at Blue Pearl Animal Hospital in critical condition and was determined to be unable to stand or walk. It was determined that there was no guarantee Espy’s neurological signs would improve if surgery was performed. Verite opted to euthanize Espy. A necropsy was conducted by a forensic veterinarian who also reviewed prior medical records relating to the injuries Espy sustained during her life. It was determined the Espy suffered multiple injuries. Espy’s broken ribs presented in different stages of healing indicating that Espy had suffered multiple blunt force injuries prior to her death. These injuries caused Espy to experience excruciating pain before her death.
(Editor’s note: upsetting graphic details were edited out of the preceding paragraph.)
CHARGED WITH POSSESSING ARSENAL OF ILLEGAL WEAPONS: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Grzegorz Blachowicz was charged with criminal possession of weapons after search warrants executed at his home and a storage unit uncovered an arsenal of firearms and ammunition.
District Attorney Katz said: “Ghost gun trafficking is a developing cottage industry that threatens to make an already pervasive gun violence problem even worse. That is why this case is so important and why my office is a leader in the fight against ghost guns.”
Blachowicz, 36, of 64th Lane in Glendale, was arraigned on a 131-count complaint charging him with attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree, three counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, 26 counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, 11 counts of attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, two counts of criminal possession of a firearm, 18 counts of attempted criminal possession of a firearm, 65 counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, criminal possession of a rapid-fire modification device, two counts of unlawful purchase of body armor and two counts of unlawful possession of pistol ammunition. Judge Earle-Gargan ordered the defendant to return to Court on March 6. If convicted, Blachowicz faces up to 15 years in prison.
According to the charges, members of the Queens District Attorney’s office were conducting a long-term investigation into the purchase of polymer-based, unserialized firearm components by the defendant. These components are easily assembled into operable firearms without serial numbers—commonly referred to as “ghost guns”—that enable users to skirt background checks.
On Wednesday, officers from the New York Police Department’s Emergency Services Unit and Major Case Field Intelligence Team, and the Queens District Attorney’s Detective Bureau obtained and executed a court-authorized search warrant of the defendants’ multi-family residence, located at 7420 64th Lane, Glendale, and recovered:
One fully assembled Polymer 80 semiautomatic assault pistol ghost gun with the ability to accept a detachable magazine and a threaded barrel;
One Glock model rapid fire modification device (“Glock switch” or “auto sear”);
One 1911 model full ghost gun build kit;
Two baretta model ghost gun build kits;
One large-capacity ammunition feeding device capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition;
Fifteen additional magazines;
Four blank model Mac-11 and Mac-10 ghost gun frames;
Two bullet-resistant vests;
Ammunition of various calibers;
Various manuals for firearms including an M16A1 rifle, AK-47, browning hi-power pistol, SKS rifle and others;
One handheld dremel drill was recovered, along with other tools and materials used to manufacture and/or assemble ghost guns;
Government-issued identification, a passport identification card, and a social security card, all bearing the name Grzegorz Blachowicz.
Additionally, a court-authorized search warrant was later obtained and executed at the storage facility owned by the defendant at 7134 70th Street, Glendale, where law enforcement recovered the following:
Nine complete ghost gun assault weapon build kits, with the ability to accept a detachable magazine and a threaded barrel, for the following assault rifle models: AR-9, AR-10, AR-15, and AR-30;
One complete ghost gun semiautomatic 9mm assault pistol build kit, with the ability to accept a detachable magazine and a threaded barrel;
One complete Sig Sauer 9mm pistol build kit;
Five complete Polymer 80 semiautomatic ghost gun pistol build kits, for the following models and calibers: .45caliber, 9mm Glock 17, 9mm Glock-26, 9mm Glock-43, and .22LR-caliber;
Two complete model AK-47 assault rifle ghost gun build kits;
Twenty-five “solvent traps,” that can be readily made into firearm suppressors or silencers;
Twelve unfinished lower receivers;
One model 1911 lower receivers;
Twenty-four assault rifle lower receivers;
Over 207 large capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition;
Thousands of rounds of various ammunition, in the following calibers: .45 caliber, 9mm, 5.56 caliber, .22LR-caliber, 7.62 caliber, 300 blackout, 308 winmag, 12-gauge buck, and 25 caliber,
One ghost gunner, which is a CNC milling machine that gives the owner the ability to take unfinished lower receivers and convert them into components that can be further completed to build fully functioning firearms.
Based on the items recovered above, the defendant is alleged to have possessed one operable assault weapon, along with all of the components necessary to build up to an additional 19 completed ghost guns, including numerous assault-rifle-style weapons and semiautomatic pistols. These items were all allegedly possessed along with foundational components necessary to build additional firearms, dozens of silencers, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and large capacity magazines that can hold over ten rounds of ammunition. Additionally, the Glock model rapid-fire modification device that was recovered allows an individual to convert a semiautomatic pistol into a fully automatic machine gun.
A check conducted by the License and Permit Systems database revealed that Blachowicz does not possess or hold a license to possess or own firearms in New York City.
VELÁZQUEZ TO CBP: CURB IMPORTS OF LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES: On March 2, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) penned a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) calling on the agency to do more to curb imports of dangerous unbranded lithium-ion batteries used in electric micro-mobility devices like e-scooters and bikes. In New York City, 65,000 gig economy delivery workers, or deliveristas, rely on these devices to earn a living.
Unfortunately, the poor quality of these devices’ batteries pose a serious safety risk to deliveristas and residents due to their tendency to start fires. In 2022 alone, lithium-ion batteries caused 200 fires and six deaths in New York City.
In the letter, Velázquez called on the CBP to make efforts to seize substandard lithium-ion batteries and compel micro-mobility manufacturers, sellers, and resellers to comply with minimum safety standards.
“As public officials, it is our duty to represent the public interest and protect American consumers, especially our deliveristas, from the extreme and tragic hardships caused by lithium-ion battery fires,” wrote Congresswoman Velázquez. “The livelihoods and well-being of many American workers rely upon the safety of their vehicles, and they are still waiting on the federal government to act.”
In the letter, Rep. Velázquez requested more information on the following topics from CBP:
- CPSC and CBP procedures to determine the safety of imported lithium-ion batteries;
- Recent CPSC and CBP efforts to seize substandard lithium-ion batteries;
- CPSC plans to compel electric micro-mobility manufacturers, sellers and resellers to comply with minimum safety standards;
- CPSC campaigns to obtain recalls of faulty electric micro-mobility devices; and
- How many resources CPSC and CBP have mobilized to remain responsive to the recent uptick in lithium-ion battery sales and importations.
HOLDEN’S INTRO 722-A PASSES CITY COUNCIL: Council Member Robert Holden’s legislation, Intro 722-A, has been passed unanimously by the New York City Council. This bill requires the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) to provide regular reports on the risks associated with lithium-ion batteries and the measures they take to mitigate them. Council Member Holden’s legislation seeks to ensure that the city is prepared to respond effectively to any emergencies related to these batteries, which are increasingly used in various devices.
“With the growing use of lithium-ion batteries, we must have a better understanding of the risks associated with these batteries and what we can do to mitigate those risks,” said Council Member Holden (D-Queens). “Intro 722-A will help the FDNY to stay ahead of the curve and be better prepared to respond to any incidents involving lithium-ion batteries.”
Council Member Holden also introduced Intro 758 in October of 2022, which would require every bicycle with electric assist, electric scooter, and other legal motorized vehicle that is not otherwise required to be registered with the DMV, to be registered with DOT and receive an identifying number which would be displayed on a visible plate affixed to the vehicle. Council Member Holden also calls on Albany legislators to pass legislation requiring registration, insurance coverage, and licensing requirements for these vehicles to be permitted back on our roads.
“In recent years, we have seen a rise in the use of e-bikes and e-scooters in our city, and unfortunately, we have also seen a rise in injuries and fatalities related to these devices. We must ensure that these vehicles are operated safely and responsibly before allowing them back on our streets,” said Council Member Holden.
With the passage of Intro 722-A and the introduction of Intro 758, Council Member Robert Holden is taking important steps to improve the safety of New York City residents and ensure that the city remains prepared to respond to emerging risks and challenges.
HOUSECLEANING CO. PLEADS GUILTY IN WAGE THEFT CASE: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, joined by New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, announced that the MPStar Pros housecleaning company and its chief executive officer pleaded guilty to charges stemming from stealing wages from employees. The company advertised for apartment cleaners, hired them, allowed them to clean and then did not pay for their work, withholding more than $54,000 from the employees between 2020 and 2022. As part of the plea deal, the company will have to make full restitution to the 23 victims.
District Attorney Katz said: “At the height of the pandemic, these workers risked their lives to support their families only to fall victim to a gutless scam. I created a worker protection bureau to punish this very kind of shameless exploitation. An honest day’s work deserves and honest day’s pay and that is what we made sure will be the case for these workers.”
NYS Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said: “Any employer who steals from their workers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in New York State. I thank Queens County District Attorney Melinda Katz and her office for partnering with the Department of Labor in our continuing fight against wage theft and for ensuring justice for the victims.”
MPStar Pros Chief Executive Officer Christian Perez, 37, of Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct before Queens Acting Supreme Court Justice Jerry Iannece and was sentenced to a conditional discharge. His housecleaning company, MPStar Pros, pleaded guilty to a felony, scheme to defraud, and as part of the plea must make full restitution to the workers, paying them the more than $54,000 unpaid wages
Additionally, MPStar Pros is required to pay $10,000 that will be held in escrow by the Queens District Attorney’s office in the event additional victims of the scheme are identified.
According to the charges, MPStar Pros advertised via Facebook, Craigslist and other social media sites for persons to clean residential apartments for various clients, including short-term apartment rental operators. Many of the victims were asked to work during the height of the COVID pandemic, risking their lives to support their families. After the workers completed their jobs, MPStar Pros did not pay them their wages.
HEARING ON LONG-TERM CARE OMBUDSMAN PROGRAM: Assemblymember Ron Kim, Chair of the New York State Assembly Commitee on Aging, recently hosted a key committee hearing on the current state of the statewide watchdog and adovacy program for nursing homes called the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP). Federally mandated and nominally independent, the state program’s mission is to advocate for older adults and the disabled who live in residential health care facilities, assisted living facilities and other licensed adult care facilities. He was joined by the following Assemblymembers, who also sit on the Aging Committee: Stefani L. Zinerman, Scott A. Gray, Charles D. Fall, Christopher W. Eachus, and Lester Chang.
Assemblyman Kim and his colleagues on the committee first heard testimony from Claudette Royal, the New York State Ombudsman for the Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. Speaking on both the importance of and challenges faced by her office, she acknowledged some of the inherent difficulties and potential limitations that the Assemblymember suggested her office faced in the last few years, especially during the COVID pandemic.
She discussed the administrative capacity of the program, including the current number of staff, volunteers, backlogged complaints, and facilities her program is responsible for. Assemblymember Kim questioned whether the previous and current administration gave the state’s LTCOP the necessary independence to effectively advocate for older adults, especially during moments of crisis. Continuing on this theme, he questioned whether the previous administration had ever consulted or included the LTCOP in its decisionmaking processes for the infamous March 25th Executive Order, and for other Executive orders that impacted thousands of nursing home residents’ lives.
Following the Ombudsman’s testimony, the committee heard from various advocacy groups, including AARP and LiveOn NY, on ways to strengthen the LTCOP’s administrative capacity and give it more independence to do its job effectively. The hearing closed with further testimony from advocates for those who lost loved ones in nursing homes, including Vivian Zayas, co-founder of Voices for Seniors, Janice Dean, and the Arbeeny brothers. Each spoke of the harrowing experience of losing family members during the height of the pandemic, and their continuing efforts to hold the state accountable.
Assemblymember Ron Kim said: “Today’s hearing has been an important and insightful moment in our ongoing national efforts to combat ageism and improve our society’s treatment of older adults. I would like to thank today’s witnesses for taking the time to give their testimonies, and look forward to working with my fellow elected officials to further strengthen the capacity and independence of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.”
RICHARDS ENDORSES KATZ FOR RE-ELECTION: District Attorney Melinda Katz’s campaign for re-election announced the endorsement of Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, adding to an already impressive list of endorsements. As a Council Member, Richards chaired the Public Safety Committee, where he fought to keep New Yorkers safe and pushed a bold agenda to make sure our justice system was fair. Elected as Borough President in 2020, he represents 2.2 million Queens residents.
“It is an honor to receive the support of Borough President Donovan Richards, a tireless advocate for the public,” said District Attorney Melinda Katz. “This endorsement means so much to me, as the Borough President has always remained a critical voice for New Yorkers in the arena of criminal justice. I look forward to working with the Borough President for four more years, as we continue to make Queens a safer place to live, work and raise a family.”
“For me, Queens public safety is personal. I grew up in southeast Queens, and got involved in politics when a close friend of mine as a teenager lost his life to gun violence. Melinda Katz has served the residents of Queens diligently as their District Attorney, and I know her dedication to public safety is just as fervent as mine,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “This year, there is only one choice, we must re-elect District Attorney Melinda Katz and not take one step back from the immense progress we have made since she took office three years ago.”
Melinda Katz was elected District Attorney in 2019 and inaugurated in 2020. Katz’s campaign noted that despite taking office in the most turbulent of times, she’s provided a steady hand as she’s worked to keep Queens families safe and taken on crime head on. She’s led the effort to take illegal and ghost guns off the streets and held human traffickers and domestic abusers accountable. DA Katz launched Queens’ first-ever Conviction Integrity Unit to ensure justice for those wrongfully convicted. And she’s taken a community-first approach to public safety.
ADAMS ON MAYOR’S MENTAL HEALTH AGENDA: Speaker Adrienne Adams released the following statement on the Mayor’s Mental Health Agenda: “The Mayor’s announcement today addressing our city’s mental health crises is a welcome one. The isolation and stressors of the pandemic continue to exacerbate the multiple mental health crises already facing our communities, and they require evidence-based solutions and sustained investment.
“People experiencing substance abuse challenges require treatment, not years spent cycling through courts and jails. Instead of criminalization, we must invest in health-based programs that divert people from the justice system and towards treatment, with a focus on racial equity.
“Supportive housing is also one of our most effective tools to address homelessness, mental health, addiction, and re-entry from the justice system.
“As a city, we must continue to invest in a continuum of care that addresses the root causes of our challenges. We look forward to reviewing the details of this plan and how it is reflected in the city’s budget, as hearings occur over the next days of March.”
PUBLIC ADVOCATE RESPONDS TO MAYOR’S MENTAL HEALTH ANNOUNCEMENT: NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams released the following response to Mayor Adams’ mental health announcement: “Today’s mental health announcement thankfully centers support over enforcement, as opposed to strategies put forward in the past. Each of the three prongs of this plan are important, each are valuable, and each comes with concerns about implementation.
“Overdose prevention is urgent and essential. Expanding overdose prevention centers should be at the forefront of this work in our city just as New York should be at the forefront of the harm reduction effort nationally. I’m grateful the administration is supportive of OPCs in principle, and this must be paired with clear, consistent funding streams and a push for the governor to authorize centers and allocate funding. 24 Hour access and an increase in sites would directly, demonstrably save lives, and it’s inexcusable to deny these resources.
“Clubhouses are important spaces for New Yorkers struggling with severe mental illness, and expanding them is a welcome, important part of a holistic mental health plan. That plan must also include respite centers, though, which operate through a model equipped to provide the kind of immediate, walk-in crisis care that is needed.
“Lastly, supporting the mental health of young people, including through telehealth, is vital. At the same time, questions and concerns remain about agencies involved in identifying the need for services and the path for their provision – it is critically important that we support families, rather than police or penalize them.
“I continue to appreciate the administration’s welcome focus on mental health – one I share. Moving forward, I hope to work with them to ensure that the ideal of support is met with implementation strategies and funding levels that truly, compassionately, effectively address this crisis on all fronts.”
APPLAUD RECONFIRMATION OF REGENT: Queens legislators serving on the State Senate and Assembly Education committees applauded the reconfirmation of Judith Chin to the New York State Board of Regents, the independent entity responsible for the general supervision of all educational policies and activities within the State of New York. Chin has been the Queens member of the Regents since 2015.
Regent Chin stated, “The Board of Regents play an incredibly important role in the oversight, structure and general direction of all educational policy and infrastructure throughout the entire state. Here in New York State, representation matters more than ever before, and I am extremely proud to continue bringing my unique perspective as an Asian American, a parent, and a career educator to the New York State Board of Regents to serve all students.”
State Senator John Liu stated, “Judith Chin has served the students, families and educational community of New York with ability, accomplishment, and distinction. Her work in schools, over decades in many different capacities, and most recently as Regent, has been critical to shaping the future of educational policy in New York State. As an Asian American, the daughter of immigrants, and a resident of Queens, she has a keen understanding of the issues and concerns facing students, parents and educators within our community. Moreover, for 20 years I have personally sought her experience, wisdom and insight in my legislative work on education, and I have every confidence she will continue to make sure the voices of our community are heard when it comes to matters of education.”
State Senator Toby Stavisky stated, “I want to congratulate Regent Chin on her re-election. The Board of Regents have a long history of service in our state going back to the colonial period, overseeing all aspects of education policy and I look forward to continue working with her in the days ahead.”
State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. stated, “Regent Judith Chin has spent nearly her entire adult life in education, and I am proud to support her for another term to the Board of Regents to represent Queens. Her expertise in all levels of education makes her a great candidate to help shape the educational policies for all of New York State. I look forward to continuing to work with her, and the rest of the Board of Regents, on these vital issues.”
State Assembly Member Ron Kim said, “Judith Chin’s continued service on the Board of Regents is wonderful news for our communities in Queens. Her decades of education experience and unique understanding of the needs of our students and parents give her the insight and skills needed to supervise and direct our state’s education policies.”
State Assembly Member Pheffer Amato stated, “I congratulate Regent Chin on her re-election to the Board of Regents. The importance of education cannot be emphasized enough, and our State is taking great strides in ensuring quality education for all students. I look forward to seeing her strong and equitable commitment to all children in Queens, and throughout New York State.”
Judith J. Chin was elected by joint session of the Legislature to the Board of Regents to a three-year term (March 10, 2015 – March 31, 2018) and re-elected (April 1, 2018 – March 31, 2023) as the Regent representing the borough of Queens, the 11th Judicial District.
Regent Chin is a lifelong educator. She has served the students of New York City for over 35-year as a teacher, principal, Executive Director of Instruction and Professional Development, a Regional Superintendent, Chief Education Officer and a Supervising Superintendent for over 230 schools across the five boroughs. Her collective experiences academically and practical at the school level, at the district level, and at the central level in New York City, as well as a parent have provided her with the depth and breadth of knowledge essential in making informed decisions to sustain school improvement efforts to increase academic achievement for all students.
Regent Chin is a first generation Chinese American woman and is the first Asian-American member on the Board of Regents in its 231-year history. She understands the struggles of immigrant families and their hopes for their children to achieve the American dream. She is a product of the New York City public school system and proud that her children followed in her footsteps in choosing to enter the educational field as well.
Regent Chin has received numerous awards throughout her career: The Distinguished Educator Award in 1994, The New York State Assembly Citation for Excellence in Education in 2005, Congressional Citation for Leadership- Congressman Gregory Meeks in 2007, Distinguished Woman of the Year – Senator Frank Padavan and City Council of the City of New York Proclamation for Education Excellence in 2010.
Regent Chin is married to Henry Louis and they have one daughter, two sons and three granddaughters.
DISCUSS TRANSFORMING NURSING HOMES: On February 14, Valentine’s Day, Assembly Member Ron Kim and the Gray Panthers, led by their president Jack Kupferman, Vice President Michelle Arnot, and Rachel Bennett, founder of The Nursing Home Card Project, met with Senator Ron Wyden to discuss nursing home transformation. They were joined by Joanne Rader of the Live Oak Project.
The historic meeting was also a reunion for Senator Wyden, who decades ago co-founded the Oregon chapter of the Gray Panthers. Jack Kupferman presented him with a photo of Maggie Kuhn, the Gray Panthers Founder, whom the Senator greatly admired, and a 1978 Gray Panthers newsletter to acknowledge and honor the Senator’s past with the oragnization. Proudly donning the Gray Panthers pin, he confirmed his commitment to improving the quality of life for nursing home residents.
Kim spoke at length with the Senator about enforcing transparency among nursing home operators. Joanne Rader submitted a three-tiered plan that would allocate needed funds for staff training among other improvements. Senator Wyden acknowledged the importance of these proposals, and his office committed further meetings with other members of the Senate to advance the issues addressed.
Since 2021 Gray Panthers NYC has been hosting free monthly webinars under the umbrella of Transformation Tuesdays to address key issues for nursing home transformation with advocates, elected officials and residents. Recordings are available on the Gray Panthers NYC website.
Assembly Member Kim said: “I appreciate Senator Wyden’s willingness to speak with me and the Gray Panthers and support our efforts to transform our country’s nursing homes landscape. We hope that the backing of a national lawmaker with his experience and stature will bring a greater spotlight to these important issues and start a national conversation on our current treatment of older adults in society.”
MENG, LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEET WITH BIDEN ADMIN: U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens), New York’s representative on the Regional Leadership Council in the House of Representatives, announced that she and members of the panel met with the directors of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and White House Office of Legislative Affairs to discuss how the council can best work with them and the rest of the Biden-Harris Administration to implement the historic laws passed by Congress over the past two years.
The Regional Leadership Council was launched in January by House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries to help act as a liaison to the White House, and promote and implement legislation signed into law by President Biden. These include the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, Inflation Reduction Act, Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and the Honoring our PACT Act.
The meeting was held as New York State received more than $256 million from the infrastructure law last week for upgrading clean water infrastructure. It also follows the administration’s effort to advance affordable childcare by requiring companies seeking millions in CHIPS funding to provide a childcare plan for employees.
“I am excited to help implement and spread the word about the crucial and historic laws I helped pass and the President signed to ensure that New Yorkers are able to reap the benefits from them, and know that Democrats are delivering for their families and communities,” said Rep. Meng. “I thank OMB Director Shalanda Young and White House Legislative Affairs Director Louisa Terrell for meeting with us this week to talk about ways to make this happen throughout our country, and I look forward to leading this effort in the New York region.”
The Regional Leadership Council consists of 12 Members of Congress, all responsible for different regions of the country. It is chaired by Rep. Steny Hoyer, the former Majority Leader of the House.
“Director Young and the Office of Management and Budget play a pivotal role in implementing policy,” said Hoyer. “House Democrats’ commitment to delivering results did not end when we helped enact these groundbreaking pieces of legislation last Congress. We will continue working to ensure that the promises made through the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the other historic laws we secured in the 117th Congress are fulfilled and meeting the needs of working families nationwide. I look forward to working closely with the council and the Biden-Harris Administration to demonstrate how Americans’ taxpayer dollars are being used to create jobs, lower costs, and build a stronger, more prosperous America.”
MENG ELECTED VICE RANKING MEMBER OF APPROPRIATIONS: U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) announced that she has been elected as the Vice Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful committees in the United States Congress.
The panel funds all federal agencies, programs and projects within the United States government.
In her capacity as Vice Ranking Member, Meng will work closely with the committee’s Ranking Member (the panel’s top Democrat) Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and serve as a conduit between the committee and the House Democratic Caucus.
Meng was unanimously chosen for the position by her Democratic colleagues on the committee. She has been a member of the Appropriations Committee since 2017 and also serves as its senior member from New York.
“I am honored to have been selected to serve in this important role,” said Congresswoman Meng. “In this new position, I will continue to ensure that crucial agencies and initiatives serving New Yorkers and the American people are adequately funded, and that my home borough of Queens receives its fair share from the federal government. Over the past year, I’m proud to have brought back millions to my congressional district, and I am excited to keep up the fight and improve the lives of those I represent.”
In addition to Vice Ranking Member, Meng retains her seat on two crucial Appropriations Subcommittees: the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee and the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee.
“Congresswoman Meng is a champion for her constituents in New York and for working families all over the United States,” said Ranking Member DeLauro. “I have full confidence in Congresswoman Meng as she takes on a new role as Vice Ranking Member and value her dedication to the entire committee. Together, we have worked to reverse decades of underinvestment and lowered costs, created better-paying jobs, and helped keep our communities and our nation safe. And as a member of the State-Foreign Operations and Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittees, she will continue to increase opportunity for hardworking families and strengthen our national security.”
PHEFFER AMATO LEGISLATION: Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-South Queens) has been working around the clock in recent weeks as the Legislative Session is in full swing. As Chair of the Committee on Governmental Employees, Pheffer Amato has introduced impactful legislation that has already received major support from unions throughout New York and residents in the 23rd Assembly District.
The Assemblywoman’s legislation aims at tackling problems on a wide range of issues:
A3758: ensuring active and retired members of the NYC Police and Fire Departments are covered for a line of duty injury; and
A3761: provides sanitation workers in NYC with additional retirement benefits; and
A4008: grants disability protections for State court officers and peace officers injured on the job
In addition, the Assemblywoman has been working on legislation to expand heart disease and lung disease coverage to correction officers and deputy sheriffs. She is also committed to protecting and securing statutory presumptions pertaining to heart-related disabilities for members of the New York State Police, Fire Retirement System and the New York State and Local Employees’ Retirement System.
“This is legislation that impacts the men and women who have committed themselves to working for the betterment of our community. By strengthening our public sector and defending public employees, we elevate our middle class which enables everyone to succeed and our State to thrive,” said Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato.
A ‘LABOR POWER LEADER’: Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-South Queens) was honored with the distinction of being named number 32 in the City & State’s “2023 State Labor Power 100” which came out last week. The list includes leaders in labor across New York who are working for better pay, securing pensions, codifying protections – all things Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato has been actively supporting since she was first elected in 2017. In just two months of being appointed as the Chair of the New York State Committee on Governmental Employees she has used the role to elevate long standing issues that have impacted a wide range of public employees.
“I’m honored to be named to City & State Labor Power 100. The 23rd Assembly District has always been a community filled with public employees and I am proud to fight for them and their families every day. I want the men and women who have committed themselves to working for the State or the City to know that I have their backs and am working to make sure they are able to obtain their New York Dream,” said Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato.
MENG STATEMENT ON TRAIN CRASH IN GREECE: U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), a member of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus and House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, on March 1 issued the following statement on the deadly collision between two trains in Greece.
“I am devastated to learn about the horrible train collision in northern Greece. This is a terrible tragedy, and I am deeply saddened over the many lives that have been lost. I am praying for all who are impacted and hope for a speedy recovery to the many who have been injured.
It is critical for the United States to provide any needed assistance that our friend and ally may require. I thank all the first responders for working to save lives, especially under difficult rescue conditions.
My office stands ready to assist constituents with any affected family members in Greece.”
ADDABBO CELEBRATES START OF WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. said, “March is known across the country as Women’s History Month, and it is a time when we honor the contributions women have made to American history. Let us all take time this month to remember some of the trailblazing women who helped shape the American history, culture and society that we know and love today. Women like Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and so many more were instrumental in creating a more fair and equitable country for all citizens. Let us also celebrate the women in our lives who work incredibly hard every single day!”
QUEENS COLLEGE CELEBRATES WOMEN’S HISTORY: A series of free presentations for the college community on topics ranging from the legacy of Shirley Chisholm; to humor and feminism; self-discovery; and Latinas advocating for change will mark Women’s History Month at Queens College this month. In addition, the Office of Student Development and Leadership will collect clothing and personal care items throughout the month for donation to a local women’s shelter and the people of Ukraine.
“I’m delighted and proud that in celebration of Women’s History Month, the college is offering a wide-ranging perspective on women’s societal contributions and continuing struggles,” said Queens College President Frank H. Wu. “From the enormous impact of Shirley Chisholm’s work on black feminism and power in politics to Latina advocacy, we are focusing on the role that women have played in supporting vulnerable populations and the work that still needs to be done to ensure inclusivity in the fight for equality.”
On Wednesday, March 1, the college’s Africana Studies and SEEK Departments, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, presented a lecture by Anastasia Curwood, a University of Kentucky history professor and author of Shirley Chisholm: Champion of Black Feminist Power Politics. Chisholm was the first African American woman in Congress and—decades before the election of Barack Obama—the first African American to seek the presidential nomination from one of the United States’ two major political parties. Queens College has a direct connection to Chisholm, having hosted her as a speaker during her 1972 presidential run. Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRbplfzJqvM&feature=youtu.be (“Shirley Chisholm” on the Queens College YouTube channel) to hear Chisholm’s remarks as recorded by the college’s student-run radio station WQMC.
The Friday, March 3, Women and Gender Studies’ annual Virginia Frese Palmer Conference addressed Laughing Matters: Funny Folx and Feminism. Comics and writers Kelli Dunham, Terry Galloway, Lisa Haas, and QC alumna Lorena Russi tackled topics such as gender, bodies, and power, and took questions from the audience.
International Women’s Day, on March 8 (today), is being celebrated with Give Birth to Yourself: A Guide to Living, Writing, and Walking in Your Truth, a talk by activist and scholar Sonia Sanchez, Philadelphia’s first poet laureate and the author of more than 20 books. Sanchez’s appearance is sponsored by SEEK; CERRU; the Departments of Africana Studies, Women and Gender Studies, English, Comparative Literature, Political Science, Media Studies, and Spanish Languages and Literature; and the associate dean of the Library and the dean of Social Sciences.
Social justice leader Denise Padin Collazo, author of Thriving in the Fight: A Survival Manual for Latinas on the Front Lines of Change, will share lessons she’s learned as a longtime activist at a presentation and book signing on Monday, March 13. This event is sponsored by Latin American and Latino Studies and the Political Science Departments.
Queens College offers an interdisciplinary major and minor in Women and Gender Studies. The curriculum is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in the issues and methodologies appropriate for the study of women and gender. Students examine women’s experiences in historical and cultural perspective and explore the ways in which gender intersects with class, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, and nation. The program offers features a wide range of courses taught by more than 30 faculty members across the disciplines.
RICHARDS HOLDS WOMEN’S SANITARY PRODUCTS DRIVE: Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. released the following announcement: “Happy Women’s Herstory Month! This is a time to celebrate the achievements of the women who have shaped Queens, from the trailblazers in all walks of public life to the everyday residents who uplift their communities behind the scenes. It’s also a time to recognize how much work we have ahead of us to end various disparities, especially as it relates to reproductive and menstrual health. The inaccessibility of period products poses a serious threat to the physical and mental wellness of too many women, girls and people with periods across Queens. One-third of lower-income women nationwide report missing work, school or other events due to a lack of access to period supplies, according to reports. Access to period products also represents a larger, at times unseen barrier to economic empowerment and education. That’s why we have launched a Period Product Drive at Queens Borough Hall to support those who struggle with accessing these critically important products. My office is currently accepting new, sealed period product donations throughout the month of March and distributing them to individuals in need. A collection box is located on the first floor of Queens Borough Hall (120-55 Queens Blvd, Kew Gardens, NY 11424), and donations can be dropped off 24 hours a day. My office is here to serve you and your family. To learn more about how we’re working to build a better Queens, visit our website at queensbp.org, or contact us by phone at 718-286-3000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.” For more info on donating to the Drive, contact email@example.com. Items being collected include new, sealed tampons, pads, liners, menstrual cups and period underwear.
ADDABBO’S WOODHAVEN OFFICE OPENING CELEBRATION: New York State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. is inviting the public to attend the Grand Opening Celebration of his new District Office in Woodhaven this March.
Due to the redistricting ahead of the 2022 election, Addabbo had to leave his Howard Beach office since he no longer represents the area, and he found a new office location in Woodhaven.
On Saturday, March 11, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., Addabbo and his staff are hosting a Grand Opening Celebration at his new District Office, located at 84-16 Jamaica Avenue, to formally introduce himself and his office to the local community.
“While I will miss my office in Howard Beach, which I’ve had for the last 20 years serving in the City Council and State Senate, I am excited for this new venture in Woodhaven,” Senator Addabbo said. “Although we have been at the Jamaica Avenue office since the new district lines took effect in January, we recently got the new building sign installed, so I think this is the perfect time to hold a Grand Opening Celebration. I look forward to meeting more members of the Woodhaven community and letting them know that we are now right on Jamaica Avenue. I encourage anyone from the community to visit my office for the celebration and if they need any assistance in the future.”
LAGCC PREPS K-12 TEACHERS IN DIGITAL LITERACY: Digital phishing scams are ubiquitous today. Almost every individual has received emails from strangers, under the guise of authenticity, trying to steal their passwords, account numbers, or social security numbers. Those who unwittingly give their personal information to a scammer may lose hundreds or thousands of dollars, in addition to having countless hours of stress trying to rebuild their digital privacy. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI; fbi.gov), internet crimes like these are on the rise. Between 2019 and 2020, complaints of suspected internet crimes increased by more than 300,000, with reported losses exceeding $4.2 billion.
Learning how to recognize a phishing scam and what to do (and not do) upon receipt of a suspicious email, is critical to avoid falling prey to these criminal acts. Faculty of the Education Program at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY are part of a new $14 million four-year CUNY initiative that looks to incorporate lessons about computational thinking and computer literacy into the classroom, beginning with the youngest of students and continuing through grade 12. The initiative is funded by Google, Gotham Gives, the New York City Department of Education and the Robin Hood Learning Technology Fund and is designed to meet New York Stateʼs digital fluency standards (nysed.gov).
This academic year alone LaGuardiaʼs Education Program is receiving approximately $360,000 from the CUNY Computing Integrated Teacher Education (CITE) initiative. The funds will be used to update curriculum, enhance existing curricula, train faculty, develop new courses, and cover the tuition for public school teachersʼ professional development credentialing. Students and public school teachers alike will learn a range of computing topics, skills and issues, including cyber- awareness, password protection, algorithms, debugging, and gaming.
“This CUNY CITE funding is allowing us to update our curriculum for nursery–grade 12 teachers —preparing them to incorporate lessons about digital literacy and computational thinking into their daily classroom curriculum,” said Michele de Goeas-Malone, project lead for LaGuardiaʼs CITE work, chairperson of LaGuardiaʼs CITE committee, and co-director and faculty member of LaGuardiaʼs Education Program. “This shift is particularly important for educators of students from marginalized communities who often have limited access to computers and personal technology. These are lessons that have applications to daily life—computational thinking is a way of problem solving and approaching a project—skills that can be used personally, academically, and professionally. While learning how to avoid scammers is becoming a critical life skill.” This initiative is designed to bring STEM and digital literacy into classrooms for grades as early as kindergarten.
“Now instead of teaching computer skills in a separate class, K–12 teachers are expected to incorporate them into their daily curriculum. And itʼs not just about how to use computers and computer platforms. Itʼs a way of thinking, of problem solving and pattern recognition. Itʼs learning how to apply computational thinking to analyzing a problem and why it went wrong,” said de Goeas-Malone . “Interest in our Education Program is growing. With the number of LaGuardia students majoring in these fields more than doubling between 2020 and 2021—LaGuardiaʼs role in training tomorrowʼs teachers to teach digital literacy from kindergarten, will have a big impact,” said Dr. Arthur Lau, professor and chairperson of LaGuardiaʼs Education and Language Acquisition Department, where the Education Program is housed.
The Education Program offers four associate degree tracks: Early Childhood (birth–grade 2), Childhood (grades 1–6), Secondary (grades 7–12), and Bilingual Child.
LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), located in Long Island City, educates thousands of New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all U.S. college students study. “Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education.”
DENOUNCE CUTS TO LANGSTON HUGHES LIBRARY: On Friday, February 24, New York State Senator Jessica Ramos joined Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry and community leaders to protest proposed budget cuts to Langston Hughes Community Library & Cultural Center. Under the governor’s current executive budget proposal, the library’s funding would decrease by $112,500, zeroing out its line entirely in the state budget.
“The current proposed budget would take over $20 million from our public library system statewide and make drastic cuts to the Langston Hughes Library, a vital resource in our district. We are coming together to let the governor know that is simply unacceptable. It is upsetting that we are spending Black History Month fighting to protect spaces that honor this incredible legacy in our city,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos (D, SD-13).
“This is an important time for us as budgets are being discussed. The history of LeFrak City and the history of Langston Hughes is deeply tied to our community. It was always more than just a library, it was a place where this community could gather and celebrate Black history. This cut from our Governor, in addition to the cut to Shomburg is quite frankly, unconscionable,” said Assembly Member & Speaker Pro Tempore Jeffrion Aubry (D, AD-35)
In total, the Executive Budget presents significant cuts to libraries and cultural education, including decreases of:
- $20 million in library capital construction
- $3.5 million in operating support for libraries statewide
- $375,000 to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which eliminates the state line entirely; and
- $112,500 for Langston Hughes Community Library, which eliminates the state line entirely.
Langston Hughes Community Library & Cultural Center was established in 1969 following efforts by the local residents to honor the rich history of the Black community in Queens. It was named in honor of renowned poet and activist Langston Hughes, a New Yorker who had passed away two years earlier. The state cuts compound an already dire financial situation for New York City’s public library network, which is facing a $13 million cut in Mayor Adams’ preliminary budget.
“Libraries are the lifelines of immigrant communities, and of all communities,” said Frank Taylor, President of Community Board 3. “Libraries are a place of learning where anyone can access knowledge about all types and walks of life. They are more than needed in our communities to help our kids or adults who are still learning and evolving as educated human beings. Let’s never go back to the 70s, let’s keep moving forward; be progressive and positive towards education in our communities.”
Perla Liberato, Deputy District Director for Senator Ramos, detailed the extent of services and collaboration that happen between the Senator’s office and Langston Hughes Library. “The library has been an important partner as our office has worked to serve the influx of asylum seekers arriving in Queens since the summer. We have organized coat giveaways, cultural celebrations, family reunification and immigration resource fairs and clinics, and more. Langston Hughes is a library, a cultural center, and a resource hub that needs its funding.”
The Senate and Assembly will reconvene in Albany next week to facilitate the final joint budget hearings and begin presenting their one-house budgets. Senator Ramos and Assemblymember Aubry are determined to restore the funding for Langston Hughes before the budget is finalized on April 1.
ROZIC, MENG DISTRIBUTE FLOOD BARRIERS: Recently Assembly Member Nily Rozic’s office (D,WF-Fresh Meadows) partnered with Congresswoman Grace Meng to distribute flood barriers in front of the New York City Fire Department Engine 299/Ladder 152 fire station in Fresh Meadows.
Following the devastating flood damage across Eastern Queens during Hurricane Ida, Rozic and Meng have been leading efforts to make the communities infrastructure more resilient.
Flood barriers are similar to sandbags and can be filled with water and used as a stop-gap flood prevention measure. Each barrier is a small fillable dam (for easy storage), about the size of a lifeguard’s rescue tube. The legislators distributed over 300 barriers to residents.
VOTERS FOR ANIMAL RIGHTS ENDORSE HOLDEN: Voters for Animal Rights (VFAR) announced their endorsement of Council Member Robert Holden (D-Queens) in his bid for re-election in the New York City Council 2023 Primary and General race. VFAR President Allie Taylor praised Council Member Holden for his unwavering commitment to the animal rights movement and his tireless efforts to pass legislation that protects the welfare of animals in New York City.
Council Member Holden expressed his appreciation for the endorsement and emphasized the importance of VFAR’s work in advancing the cause of animal rights.
“VFAR has been on the ground in the Statehouse and City Hall day in and day out, fighting on behalf of the defenseless animals and ensuring that their needs are met,” said Holden. “Together, we will transition to electric horseless carriages and make New York City the capital of animal rights throughout the world.”
VFAR is a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting animal rights and welfare through political activism and education. The organization is committed to supporting candidates who share its goals and values. The endorsement of Council Member Holden is a testament to his record of championing animal rights and his commitment to making New York City a safer and more humane place for all animals.
For more information, visit the VFAR website at www.votersforanimalrights.org.
For more information about his campaign, you can holdenforcitycouncil.com.
—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts
This column was originated by John A. Toscano