Queens Gazette

I On Politics



MEEKS ON H.R. 2 CHILD DEPOR­TATION ACT: U.S. Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (NY-05) released the following statement on the passage of HR 2: “Speaker McCarthy and House Republi­cans authored and passed a bill that keeps Trump-era immigration policies in place and does nothing but punish those who are fleeing extreme violence and persecution. As Title 42 – a policy that I have long fought to end – expires and the crisis at the border continues, Congress needs to work together to create a viable path forward to fix our broken immigration system.

“Now is the time to pass comprehensive immigration reform. It is NOT the time to turn our backs on asylum seekers.

“The Republicans’ cruel bill will not modernize our immigration laws, but would wreck our economy, cripple our ports of entry and destroy the asylum sys­tem.

“While ending Title 42 is taking the cor­rect course, it is imperative that Congress works together to deliver bipartisan and hu­mane legislation that strengthens our coun­try’s immigration system.”

HOCHUL: MOBILIZE SHELTER FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS: Governor Kathy Hochul issued a letter to President Biden on May 12, urging him to direct ad­ditional federal resources to the State of New York as it faces unprecedented num­bers of asylum seekers set to arrive as Title 42 expires. Building on ongoing conversa­tions with federal, state, and local leaders, Governor Hochul convened meetings with New York’s bipartisan Congressional del­egation, the New York Association of Counties, and the New York Conference of Mayors to provide updates on the State’s efforts to support asylum seekers and fur­ther aid needed to address this situation.

“New Yorkers are working together to welcome asylum seekers and provide the necessary shelter and resources for these individuals who are simply coming to our state looking for a better life,” Governor Hochul said. “For months, I have been urg­ing our federal leaders to provide needed flexibility and additional support for New York as we handle unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers arriving in our state. I will continue working hand-in-hand with leaders from all levels of government to co­ordinate our statewide response and secure the resources we need to support these new arrivals.”

That day’s actions are Governor Hochul’s latest efforts to address the arrival of asylum seekers in New York. Last week, Governor Hochul issued an Executive Order that is providing the State with greater flexibility to procure the resources necessary for municipalities to support asy­lum seekers and allowing the State to in­crease the National Guard mobilization to 1,500 service members. Governor Hochul also worked with the Legislature to include a $1 billion funding commitment in the FY24 State Budget for New York City, in­cluding $741 million for shelter costs, $162 million to support the ongoing National Guard presence, $137 million in health care through NYC Care, $26 million in public assistance, $25 million for the voluntary re­location of families to permanent housing and an additional $5 million for enhanced support through the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and $10 million for legal assistance through the Office of New Americans.

Governor Hochul’s office noted she has consistently pushed for additional federal support, specifically regarding funding and shortened waiting periods before asylum seekers can legally work, in conversations with President Biden, DHS Secretary May­orkas, Chief of Staff Zients, former Chief of Staff Klain and other federal officials.

FAKED PUBLIC OPPOSITION TO NET NEUTRALITY: New York Attorney General Letitia James secured $615,000 on May 10 from three companies, LCX, Lead ID, and Ifficient, that supplied millions of fake public comments to influence a 2017 proceeding by the Federal Communica­tions Commission (FCC) to repeal net neu­trality rules. Net neutrality prohibits broadband providers from blocking, slow­ing down, or charging companies to prior­itize certain content on the internet. An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that the fake com­ments used the identities of millions of con­sumers, including thousands of New Yorkers, without their knowledge or con­sent. Collectively, the three companies have agreed to pay $615,000 in penalties and disgorgement. This is the second series of agreements secured by Attorney General James with companies that supplied fake comments to the FCC.

“Public comment opportunities are a chance for Americans to give their input on important government policies, and these companies abused that for their own selfish purposes,” said Attorney General James. “No one should have their identity co- opted by manipulative companies and used to falsely promote a private agenda. Through this agreement, we are holding three more companies accountable for im­personating Americans without their knowledge or consent. We will always fight to ensure that consumers’ identities are protected and fraudulent companies are stopped.”

That day’s agreements are the result of an investigation by OAG that uncovered widespread fraud and abusive practices surrounding efforts to sway the FCC in the agency’s 2017 net neutrality rulemaking proceeding. As detailed in a report by OAG, the nation’s largest broadband com­panies funded a secret campaign to gener­ate millions of comments to the FCC in 2017. These comments provided “cover” for the FCC to repeal net neutrality rules.

To help generate these comments, the broadband industry engaged commercial lead generators that used advertisements and prizes, like gift cards and sweepstakes entries, to encourage consumers to join the campaign. However, nearly every lead gen­erator that was hired to enroll consumers in the campaign instead simply fabricated consumers’ responses. As a result, more than 8.5 million fake comments that imper­sonated real people were submitted to the FCC, and more than half a million fake let­ters were sent to Congress.

Two of the companies, LCX and Lead ID, were each engaged to enroll consumers in the campaign. Instead, each independ­ently fabricated responses for 1.5 million consumers. The third company, Ifficient, acted as an intermediary, engaging other lead generators to enroll consumers in the campaign. Ifficient supplied its client with more than 840,000 fake responses it had re­ceived from the lead generators it had hired.

The OAG’s investigation also revealed that the fraud perpetrated by the various lead generators in the net neutrality cam­paign infected other government proceed­ings as well. Several of the lead generation firms involved in the broadband industry’s net neutrality comment campaigns had also worked on other, unrelated campaigns to influence regulatory agencies and public officials. In nearly all of these advocacy campaigns, the lead generation firms en­gaged in fraud. As a result, more than 1 million fake comments were generated for other rulemaking proceedings, and more than 3.5 million fake digital signatures for letters and petitions were generated for fed­eral and state legislators and government officials across the nation.

LCX and Lead ID were responsible for many of these fake comments, letters, and petition signatures. Across four advocacy campaigns in 2017 and 2018, LCX fabri­cated consumer responses used in approx­imately 900,000 public comments submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) at the U.S. Department of the Interior. Similarly, in ad­vocacy campaigns between 2017 and 2019, Lead ID fabricated more than half a million consumer responses. These campaigns tar­geted a variety of government agencies and officials at the federal and state levels.

The agreements announced on May 10 require the three companies and their prin­cipals to pay penalties and disgorgement. LCX and its principals will pay $400,000 in penalties and disgorgement to New York and $100,000 to the San Diego District At­torney’s Office. Lead ID and its principal will pay $30,000 in penalties and disgorge­ment to New York. Ifficient will pay $63,750 in penalties and disgorgement to New York, and $21,250 to Colorado.

HOCHUL & MENG NAMED TO BIDEN-HARRIS ADVISORY BOARD: On May 10, the Biden-Harris 2024 reelec­tion campaign announced the formation of its National Advisory Board and named New York Democrats Governor Kathy Hochul and U.S. Representative Grace Meng to serve as initial members. The campaign has stated that the National Ad­visory Board will be comprised of 50 lead­ing voices in the Democratic Party who will take a leadership role in helping de­liver President Biden and Vice President Harris’ message and engage voters across the country.

“President Biden is right – the stakes of the 2024 election couldn’t be higher. I am honored to join the diverse coalition of Democratic leaders on the Biden-Harris 2024 reelection campaign National Advi­sory Board. I remain committed to defend­ing our fundamental rights across New York and the nation. President Biden and Vice President Harris have a proven track record of fighting for working families and have made clear electing a Republican would take us backward. Let’s finish the job,” said Governor Kathy Hochul.

“It is an honor to join such outstanding leaders on the Biden-Harris National Advi­sory Board and I’m excited to get down to work. From the American Rescue Plan to the federal infrastructure bill, the President has enacted historic legislation to move our country forward and make the investments that our communities need and deserve. I look forward to spreading this message and helping to re-elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for another four years,” said Rep. Grace Meng.

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi will serve as chair of the Advisory Board. The entire Board will help the campaign’s ef­See forts to build on and expand the winning coalition that sent President Biden to the White House in 2020.

Board members will participate in reg­ular media interviews, assist with fundrais­ing efforts and events, leverage their networks and platforms to amplify the campaign’s message to voters, and engage directly with voters through grassroots ef­forts and events in key battleground states. This initial group represents a cross section of leaders in the Party who reflect the Biden coalition’s diversity across many facets, with more members likely to come on board as the campaign builds and grows.

“The stakes of this election couldn’t be higher,” said President Joe Biden. “Our freedom and democracy are on the line. I’m grateful to this group of diverse and dy­namic leaders who will help us win the bat­tle for the soul of America and finish the job for the American people.”

“Successful campaigns are always inno­vating and finding new ways to get their message in front of voters and accomplish the ambitious goals we set for ourselves,” said Biden-Harris Spokesperson Kevin Munoz. “The Democratic Party is fortunate to have an incredible slate of passionate and compelling leaders, all of whom are united behind the Biden-Harris 2024 cam­paign. They are representative of the broad, diverse coalition of voters who came to­gether in 2020 to deliver President Biden and Vice President Harris a historic victory, and we are so grateful for their dedication to help this campaign prevail over the MAGA extremist agenda and help Presi­dent Biden finish the job for the American people.”

BILL TO CREATE COVID-19 TASK FORCE: On May 10, U.S. Sena­tors Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the bipar­tisan National Task Force on the COVID-19 Pandemic Act, legislation that would create a 9/11 Commission-style task force to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force would investigate the origins of the pandemic, the U.S. response, availability of medical supplies and other resources, pub­lic health messaging, the government’s role in the development and distribution of vac­cines, and more. The task force would have the authority to hold hearings, take testi­mony and issues subpoenas, and would be comprised of 10 members, five appointed from each party. The task force would sub­mit an interim report to Congress and the president within one year, and a final report within 20 months of its initial meeting.

“The pandemic fundamentally changed our society, economy and public health sys­tems, and it is essential Congress takes ac­tion to preent and prepare for future public health emergencies,” said Senator Gilli­brand. “The bipartisan National Task Force on the COVID-19 Pandemic Act would create a 9/11 Commission-style COVID-19 task force that would conduct a compre­hensive investigation into all aspects of the pandemic and analyze the U.S. and global response. A scientific and clear-eyed inves­tigation is absolutely critical to strengthen­ing our nation’s preparedness for future health crises.”

“Getting to the bottom of the COVID-19 origins is not a partisan mission; it’s our duty and, quite frankly, a matter of national security,” said Senator Marshall. “Ameri­cans deserve answers. We owe it to the families who lost loved ones, the children who were taken from their classrooms for years, and the businesses that collapsed during the shutdowns to determine the ori­gins of the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure nothing like this ever happens again. This bipartisan legislation will create a non-par­tisan, non-political, 9/11 style commission to get to the root causes of the COVID-19 virus outbreak and provide essential insight into our vulnerabilities to prevent future crises.”

“There’s no question we were unpre­pared to effectively respond to the COVID-19 outbreak a few years ago,” said Senator Feinstein. “This devastating pandemic has presented us with a unique opportunity to learn from what happened in order to better prepare for the next one. Our bipartisan legislation would establish a 9/11-style commission to identify ways to improve our preparedness and response efforts. We owe it to those we lost to not forsake this important responsibility.”

“In hindsight, there were many missteps made in the preparation and response to COVID-19—and possibly even in the ori­gins of the pandemic,” said Senator Ernst. “Learning from these mistakes is the only way to avoid them in the future. Every day we delay this independent, transparent in­vestigation, we risk a fatal repeat. I am proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to uncover the truth before it is too late.”

The National Task Force on the COVID-19 Pandemic Act is led by Sena­tors Gillibrand, Marshall, Feinstein, and Ernst and is cosponsored by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).

BILL PROHIBITS SALE OF BODY ARMOR TO DOMESTIC TERROR­ISTS: In advance of the one-year anniver­sary of the Tops Friendly Market grocery store shooting in Buffalo, New York, U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY) and Brian Hig­gins (D-NY) announced the reintroduction of the Aaron Salter, Jr., Responsible Body Armor Possession Act.

The legislation is named in memory of Aaron Salter, Jr., the supermarket security guard killed in the massacre who was un­able to stop the shooter since he was pro­tected by enhanced body armor during the attack. Salter, a resident of Lockport, New York, was a 30-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department.

The bill would prohibit the sale, transfer or possession of enhanced body armor by civilians unless they meet specific employ­ment exemptions, such as law enforcement or active-duty military personnel. En­hanced body armor is defined as body armor that meets or exceeds a Level III bal­listic resistance level—which is tested to stop 7.62mm rifle ammunition—as deter­mined by the National Institution of Jus­tice.

“In past mass shootings, perpetrators have worn body armor that has prolonged the duration of these horrific attacks,” said Congresswoman Meng, a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. “Aaron Salter Jr., faced such an in­dividual whose body armor ensured that the massacre continued despite shots re­ceived from Salter’s firearm. The fact that bad actors have access to equipment de­signed to stop military grade ammunition is dangerous for communities and threatens law enforcement’s ability to respond during a shooting. We must do any and everything we can to limit the devastation of mass shootings before they begin. Our bill is a common-sense step to ensure dangerous in­dividuals cannot access enhanced body armor. I thank Congressman Higgins for his leadership and we will work to see it signed into law.”

“One year ago, a racist, hateful individ­ual traveled to my community of Western New York to commit mass violence at a su­permarket on Jefferson Avenue in East Buf­falo,” said Congressman Higgins. “Armed with an AR-15 assault weapon, he shot 13 of our neighbors, killing 10 of them in just two minutes and three seconds. It is often said that the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Re­tired police officer Aaron Salter, Jr., the se­curity guard on duty on May 14, 2022, was a good guy with a gun, but his weapon was no match for the military-grade body armor the shooter wore. Body armor designed for war zones has no place in our neighbor­hoods. The Aaron Salter, Jr., Responsible Body Armor Possession Act prohibits civil­ians from buying and selling this enhanced armor. I am proud to once again join Rep. Meng in introducing this commonsense measure. It protects communities, as well as law enforcement answering the call when public safety is at risk.”

“Mass shooters have only one objective: to kill as many people as quickly as possi­ble,” said Kris Brown, President of Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “More and more commonly, they are employing body armor during these shootings to pro­tect themselves, prolonging their attacks and making it much more difficult for law enforcement to intervene. Brady applauds Representatives Meng and Higgins for in­troducing legislation to prevent mass shooters from accessing military-grade protective armor.”

“When a criminal or dangerous individ­ual is wearing enhanced body armor, they can often continue their violent acts even after being engaged by law enforcement,” said Laura Cooper, Executive Director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “Tragedies such as the Tops Supermarket shooting in Buffalo have shown the chal­lenge this can pose.”

In addition to Buffalo, shootings by gunmen wearing body armor have taken place in Sutherland Springs, Texas; Aurora, Colorado; Boulder, Colorado; San Bernardino, California and many other communities.

CIVIL SERVICE EXAM FEES WAIVED: Assemblywoman Stacey Phef­fer Amato (D-South Queens) led the charge to make changes to the State’s civil service system in the recent budget. As Chair of the Committee of Governmental Employees, Pheffer Amato had a unique place in the State budget negotiations and was able to secure the implementation of new pro­grams.

For years the cost of the State’s civil service exams had been a concern for those applying for jobs. One would pay a fee, but in the event you didn’t pass, or the results were released too late to be used for that role, you didn’t receive a refund. That changed with the enactment of a pilot pro­gram to waive civil service fees. With the State having a hiring and retention prob­lem, Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato’s goal was to help stem the tide and bring more people to be employed by the State.

Pheffer Amato also secured a needed so­lution to the ongoing teacher shortage across New York State. School districts and BOCES outside NYC would have the abil­ity to employ retirees without a reduction in their pension. School districts across the State have voiced their inability to retain teachers and the negative impact this has had on students. Through this legislation being added to the budget, it gives school districts the ability to bring back experi­enced retired teachers without hurting their retirement pension, while also allowing the search and training for new teachers to con­tinue.

“These are changes that will help all of us as a whole. With these pieces of my leg­islation included in the budget we are tak­ing drastic steps to remove barriers to getting a job and people being able to ob­tain the New York Dream. We’re ensuring anyone who wants to take a civil service exam can and that school districts will have the ability to have teachers in classrooms. This, along with other components of the State’s budget will make an improvement and bring a benefit to our State,” said As­semblywoman Pheffer Amato.

AG HAILS BIDEN RULE COM­PENSATING AIRLINE PASSEN­GERS: New York Attorney General Letitia James released the following statement in response to new rules announced by Presi­dent Joe Biden’s administration requiring airlines to compensate passengers for can­cellations or significant delays:

“Millions of Americans have been in­convenienced because airlines have over­booked flights, refused to secure adequate staffing, or otherwise failed to ensure they can take off and land when they promised. That is why I urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to take action and hold air­lines accountable, and that is why I am thrilled that President Biden is addressing this problem. New Yorkers, and all Ameri­cans, deserve to know that airlines will live up to their promises, and pay the conse­quences when they are at fault for cancel­lations and delays.”

Attorney General James has been a leader in standing up for consumers, and has been outspoken on the need to ensure airline companies provide quality services for New Yorkers and all Americans. Airline cancellations, poor service, and costly de­lays were one of the top ten complaints made by New York consumers in 2022. In August 2022, Attorney General James called on the U.S. Department of Trans­portation (DOT) to take action to address widespread airline cancelations and delays, which have disrupted travel plans for mil­lions of consumers. In September 2021, Attorney General James urged DOT to take action to end airline “slot-squatting,” which is a practice where airlines occupy flight slots at airports but under-utilize them, holding on to slots simply to prevent them from being used by their competitors, thereby inconveniencing consumers.

MILLIONS FOR IMPROVE­MENTS TO QUEENS HIGHWAYS: U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) an­nounced on May 8 that the federal infra­structure bill has provided Queens with millions of dollars to help pay for crucial highway improvements throughout the borough.

Known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the historic legislation was signed by President Biden in November 2021 after Meng helped pass the measure in Con­gress. It allocated $1.2 trillion for infra­structure projects across the country including billions for New York’s roads, bridges, highways, mass transit, airports and more.

The highway projects in Queens in­clude:

•More than $6.5 million for Safety Im­provements on the Long Island Express­way (LIE) from 48th Street to Little Neck Parkway.

The project will improve safety by in­creasing the length of the entrance and exit ramps along this 11.80 mile stretch of the LIE.

•Over $40 million for Mobility Im­provements on the eastbound Long Island Expressway between the Clearview Ex­pressway and Springfield Boulevard and replacement of the Oceania Street Bridge.

The eastbound Long Island Expressway between the entrance ramps from the Clearview Expressway and the exit ramp to Springfield Boulevard experience heavy congestion during peak periods. This con­gestion is exacerbated by the high volume of truck traffic, both on the entrance ramps from the Clearview Expressway and on the eastbound Long Island Expressway main­line. The existing acceleration and deceler­ation lanes at the Clearview Expressway, Oceania Street, Bell Boulevard and Spring­field Boulevard do not provide sufficient distance to accommodate the vehicles which enter and exit the Long Island Ex­pressway. The project will construct an auxiliary lane to connect the entrance ramp from the Clearview with the exit ramp to Springfield Boulevard. The provision of a continuous lane for entering and exiting traffic will alleviate congestion and reduce delays.

•Nearly $900,000 for Safety Improve­ments on the Grand Central Parkway be­tween Francis Lewis Boulevard and 188th Street.

The project reconfigured exit and en­trance ramps along the Grand Central Park­way to improve safety and reduce congestion. It connected entrance and exit ramps eastbound between Francis Lewis Boulevard and 188th Street, and between the Clearview Expressway and 188th Street in the westbound direction, creating auxiliary lanes in each direction to give drivers additional space to enter or exit the parkway.

•$33.9 million for Van Wyck Express­way Viaduct Rehabilitation

This project will be a first phase of Van Wyck Expressway–Long Island Expwy In­terchange structural rehabilitation. The project will replace concrete deck, perform corrective repairs of bridge steel and con­crete elements on the College Point Boule­vard ramp and concrete deck replacement and concrete piers repairs on selected spans of the Van Wyck Expressway viaduct over the Long Island Expressway. This project will also reseal and repair/replace deterio­rated joints.

•More than $1 million for Kew Gardens Interchange Infrastructure and Operational Improvement.

This project replaced highway viaducts and ramp structures, realigned ramps and added highway shoulders and installed a multi-use path for pedestrian and bicycle usage along the Kew Gardens Interchange, an intersection of the Grand Central Park­way, Van Wyck Expressway, Jackie Robin­son Parkway and Union Turnpike.

“The federal infrastructure bill was a sweeping and historic measure that pro­vided essential funding to fix our aging roads and transportation systems, and I’m thrilled that it is delivering results for Queens,” said Meng. “This money pro­vided to our borough will help enhance our local highways and make them safer for all who travel on them. I look forward to Queens reaping even more benefits from the infrastructure law to further improve our communities.”

Meng also joined the President at the White House when he signed the infra­structure legislation into law in November 2021.

MAYOR, CHANCELLOR AN­NOUNCE ‘NYC READS’ CAMPAIGN: New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor David C. Banks just launched the citywide campaign, “New York City Reads,” to declare literacy and reading instruction as the core focus and overriding priority of New York City’s public schools. The campaign renews the commitment of public schools to the pri­mary responsibility of ensuring the city’s students become confident readers and are able to learn basic algebra. With half of New York City students not proficient at reading, and more than two-thirds nation­ally, Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks declared that now is the time for the city and nation to act.

“Our youth have to be equipped with all the resources necessary to succeed, espe­cially while recovering from the challenges of learning during the pandemic,” said New York State Senator Leroy Comrie. “I commend Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks on getting back to basics with the “New York City Reads” Campaign. Liter­acy is a key component to academic suc­cess, and we must continue to encourage students to be confident readers through the use of proven methods while equipping teachers with the best possible curriculum tools available.”

“With this bold and historic initiative by Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks, New York City public schools will lead the na­tion in reading and literacy instruction,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “Currently, half of New York City students are not reading profi­ciently. The time has come to turn this dire situation around. People who are proficient in reading earn 40% more income, are six times more likely to graduate high school, have 70% higher math and science test scores, and are more than twice as likely to report being satisfied with their lives. The “New York City Reads” campaign imple­ments the latest evidence-based, custom-tailored reading and math curricula, coupled with comprehensive training of educators. This will allow every student of every background to reach proficiency in reading and to reach their full potential in life. We owe it to our kids to give them this chance.”

SENATE PASSES BAN ON ‘DEVO­CALIZATION’ SURGERY: Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, a leading voice on animal rights in the Senate who has long pushed to ban this procedure, an­nounced the State Senate passed his ban (S.142) on the surgical devocalization of animals, “a barbaric procedure which re­moves the ability of animals to communi­cate.”

“We must be the voice for animals who cannot speak for themselves and fight back against a violent procedure meant to con­venience humans at great pain to their companions,” said Senator Gianaris. “I am pleased the State Senate passed my legis­lation to ban devocalization and will con­tinue fighting for the animals who enrich our lives every day.”

Devocalization, also known as ventricu­locordectomy, debarking, devoicing, or bark softening, is a surgical procedure to alter or remove tissues in the vocal chords of an animal to muffle or eliminate their bark or meow. The brutal procedure is done either through the oral cavity or directly through the larynx and can lead to respira­tory issues in animals, psychological dam­age, and risks putting them in danger.

Senator Gianaris is a leader on animal welfare issues in the Senate, passing the nation’s first-ever statewide ban on cat de­clawing and winning the fight to prevent retail pet stores from selling animals from puppy mills, instead promoting pet adop­tion.

NYPD TO TRAIN ON INTERACT­ING WITH PEOPLE WITH AUTISM: New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed Intro. 273-B, which will require the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to provide training to officers on how to rec­ognize and interact with people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“Equipping ‘New York’s Finest’ with the tools to better interact with people with autism spectrum disorder is critical to ad­vancing safety and justice for all New Yorkers,” said Mayor Adams. “The legis­lation we are signing today will ensure the NYPD continues to serve all communities across our city fairly and equitably, and we thank Councilmember Narcisse for her partnership.”

“Public safety depends on the respectful and fair treatment of all communities, and the Adams administration is committed to advancing that mission across our entire public safety apparatus,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks III. “This legislation will help us build on the gains we have made under Mayor Adams and ensure New York City remains the safest big city in America.”

“The women and men of the New York City Police Department are fully dedicated to our mission of enhancing public safety by meeting the needs of everyone we serve,” said NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell. “This new training will inform and educate our officers about the expression of autism spectrum disorder, and provide practical guidance about rec­ognizing and interacting with people with autism.”

Intro. 273-B — sponsored by New York City Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse — will require the NYPD to provide offi­cers with training related to recognizing and interacting with individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The training will include enhancing awareness and a practi­cal understanding of autism spectrum dis­order, development of the interpersonal skills to safely respond to emergencies in­volving someone with autism spectrum dis­order, and instruction on interview and investigative techniques to utilize in cases involving individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The legislation takes effect imme­diately.

“Police interactions with New Yorkers with ASD are inevitable,” said New York City Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse. “New Yorkers with ASD have unique needs, and at times, their behavior and mannerisms can be misinterpreted as an act of aggression or non-compliance. This new law will fully train our police officers on how best to approach and engage with peo­ple on the autism spectrum. This will lead to safer outcomes for all parties involved. I thank Mayor Adams for signing the bill into law.”

ALERT: HEALTH INSURANCE RENEWAL SCAMS: New York Attorney General Letitia James and Acting Depart­ment of Health (DOH) Commissioner Dr. James McDonald warned New Yorkers about a new scam targeting New Yorkers enrolled in public health insurance pro­grams and provided important tips to pro­tect consumers. For the first time since March 2020, people enrolled in Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan will have to renew their health insurance coverage. Attorney General James and Act­ing Commissioner Dr. McDonald are urg­ing New Yorkers to be vigilant in light of reports of scammers deceptively calling people and asking them to pay hundreds of dollars to maintain their health insurance.

“It is despicable that scammers are try­ing to exploit New Yorkers’ need for qual­ity health insurance and uncertainty over ongoing Medicaid coverage,” said Attor­ney General James. “The best tool con­sumers and families have to combat scams is knowledge, and that is why I am com­mitted to raising this issue. I urge everyone to follow our important tips, and anyone impacted by this scam to contact my office immediately.”

“These schemes are maliciously preying on public health insurance enrollees as they navigate the return of renewals for the first time in three years,” said Acting Commis­sioner Dr. McDonald. “Such actions are downright criminal, and I ask all New Yorkers to read these guidelines and help protect each other from this fraudulent abuse.”

The federal Consolidated Appropria­tions Act of 2023 ended the continuous coverage requirements effective March 31, 2023. As a result, New York State has re­sumed the practice of reviewing and re­newing eligibility for those enrolled in Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Es­sential Plan. Starting in mid-March, en­rollees are being sent renewal notices well in advance of their coverage end dates with detailed instructions of how to stay covered and their deadline to take action. There have been reports of scammers taking ad­vantage of this process and threatening New Yorkers that their Medicaid coverage is at risk for cancellation or that they have actually already lost their Medicaid bene­fits, unless they provide hundreds of dollars to reinstate or continue benefits. This is false, and New York agencies that admin­ister Medicaid benefits will never charge or ask for money from consumers to enroll or re-enroll. New Yorkers are encouraged to visit the New York State Department of Health website or its Medicaid information page to learn how they can renew health in­surance.

Additionally, Attorney General James and Acting Commissioner Dr. McDonald provided the following tips:

• No one can ever charge you a fee to renew your health insurance in Medicaid, Child Health Plus, or the Essential Plan. o If you enrolled in health insurance through the New York State of Health, many people are available to help you renew for free. These include the state’s health certified enrollment assistors (in­cluding navigators, agents, and brokers) and customer service representatives. For information or guidance, visit the State of Health’s website or call 1-855-355-5777. o If you enrolled in Medicaid through either your county’s Medicaid office or through New York City’s Human Re­sources Administration (HRA), there are also many people available to help you for free. Contact the office where you enrolled to ask questions and get help with renewing your insurance.

• Government agencies will never threaten you, demand you pay money, or ask for credit information in a text message or phone call.

• Report suspected fraud. o Call the New York State of Health’s Customer Service Center at 1-855-355-5777. TTY users should call 1-800-662-1220. Call your county’s Medicaid office or HRA at the phone number listed on the State of Health’s Medicaid page. o Contact the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Health Care Helpline at 1-800-428-9071 or the New York State De­partment of Financial Services’ Consumer Hotline at 1-800-342-3736.

Additional information about renewing your coverage:

• If you enrolled in health insurance through NY State of Health, many people are available to help you renew for free. These include NY State of Health-certified enrollment assistors (including navigators, agents, and brokers) and customer service representatives. Find help at nystate­ofhealth. ny.gov or 1-855-355-5777.

• If you enrolled in Medicaid through ei­ther your county’s Medicaid office or through HRA, there are also many people available to help you for free. Contact the office where you enrolled to ask questions and get help with renewing your insurance.

• Keep your personal information pri­vate. Only share information needed to renew with someone you know is either a NY State of Health-certified enrollment as­sistor or customer service representative, a facilitated enroller for the aged, blind and disabled or an employee of your county’s Medicaid office or HRA.

• Look for the official NY State of Health or Medicaid logos (at the top of this page) or the logo of your county’s Medi­caid office or HRA before you complete any forms.

Any New Yorker who suspects that they are a victim of a scam are encouraged to re­port it to OAG by submitting a complaint online or calling 1-800-771-7755.

TEEN CHARGED IN HATE CRIME ATTACK OF JEWISH MAN: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz an­nounced that a second individual, a 17-year-old male, has been charged with assault as a hate crime for an attack in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The de­fendant, along with others, repeatedly kicked a Jewish man knocking him to the ground and taking his money, his credit cards, his phone and other personal items.

District Attorney Katz said: “Unpro­voked attacks on Queens residents, espe­cially ones motivated by hate, will not be tolerated. This defendant will now be held accountable for this alleged antisemitic at­tack.”

The defendant, of Ithaca Street in Elmhurst, has been arraigned on a 14-count complaint charging him with assault in the second degree as a hate crime; two counts of robbery in the second degree; assault in the second degree; assault in the third de­gree as a hate crime; two counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree; criminal pos­session of stolen property in the fourth de­gree; assault in the third degree; criminal mischief in the fourth degree; petit larceny; criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree; identity theft in the third degree; and unlawful possession of per­sonal identification information in the third degree.

According to the charges:

On Sunday, February 19, Sam Levy, 48, was walking along the Roundabout in Flushing Meadows Corona Park at approx­imately 8:25 p.m. when he saw the defen­dant and approximately five others. The defendant and one of the others separated from the group and positioned themselves at opposite ends of the Roundabout, forcing Levy to have to pass either one of them to exit the area.

As Levy continued walking, he sensed someone run towards him from behind. He turned and saw the defendant running to­ward him. Levy ran, but the defendant caught up to him and struck him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. The defendant and the approximately five others gathered around the prone Levy.

The defendant then kicked Levy on the left side of his face, breaking his glasses and causing bruising and swelling to his left eye.

As Levy attempted to get to his feet, he was dragged back down by the defendant and others who continued to kick him about the head, face, torso and legs and then demanded money. Levy reached into his pocket and took out approximately $200 and his wallet, which contained his identification and credit cards, and tossed them toward the defendant.

While some of the perpetrators contin­ued kicking Levy, others collected the money and wallet and took his cell phone and his house and car keys from his pants pocket.

The group continued kicking Levy while a member of the group yelled out, “___ Jew.” As Levy was being kicked, he yelled out more than 20 times that he was having a heart attack. As some members fled the location, the defendant continued kicking Mr. Levy for another minute and then fled.

Security camera video footage from a Burger King near the park shows the defen­dant, two other males and a female approx­imately three hours after the attack at a kiosk using what appear to be credit or bank cards. It has been determined that the cards belonged to Levy.

Levy was transported to a local hospital. As a result of the attack, he sustained bruised ribs, bruising and swelling to his left eye and experienced substantial pain to his torso, back and head.

18 TO LIFE SENTENCE IN STAB­BING DEATH OF WIFE: Queens Dis­From trict Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Carmelo Mendoza was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison for the fatal stabbing of his wife during an argument inside their Jackson Heights apartment in July 2020.

District Attorney Katz said: “This man was responsible for a brutal murder, which he carried out in front of the victim’s teen- age daughter. I hope the grieving family finds a measure of solace in knowing he will be going to prison for a long time.”

Mendoza, 44, of 34th Road in Jackson Heights, pleaded guilty last month to mur­der in the second degree before Queens Supreme Court Justice Ira Margulis who imposed the indeterminate sentence of 18 years to life in prison.

According to the charges:

On July 3, 2020, in the early morning, Mendoza argued with his wife, Yaquelin Collado, 45, in their bedroom. The fight continued into a hallway and eventually into the kitchen.

After hearing her mother’s screams, the victim’s 19-year-old daughter immediately rushed toward the couple and saw Men­doza stab her mother repeatedly in the chest, neck and torso. The young woman attempted to stop the defendant by throw­ing items at him and tried to push him off her mother.

Mendoza fell to the floor and got back up and continued to stab Collado. The vic­tim said to her daughter in Spanish, “I’m dying, get out of here.” The daughter, who injured her leg as she tried to intervene, ran out of the apartment and began banging on her neighbors’ doors, screaming for help. She then called her boyfriend and 911.

When police entered the apartment, they found Mendoza lying on top of Collado who was in a pool of blood with a kitchen knife nearby. The defendant stabbed him­self numerous times in the abdomen.

Collado and the defendant were both taken to a local hospital where, as result of approximately 27 knife wounds, Collado was pronounced dead. The defendant was treated for self-inflicted injuries.

SENTENCED 13 YRS IN STAB­BING DEATH OF ACQUAINTANCE: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz an­nounced that Marcos Anzurez was sen­tenced to 13 years in prison for manslaughter in the stabbing death of an acquaintance in 2018.

District Attorney Katz said: “A simple argument escalated into the brutal killing of a young man. Unfortunately, we cannot reverse that tragedy, but we have succeeded in taking a killer off of our streets.”

Anzurez, 34, of 59th Avenue in Flush­ing, was convicted by a jury in November 2022 of manslaughter in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. Queens Supreme Court Jus­tice Michael Aloise imposed a determinate sentence of 13 years in prison, to be fol­lowed by five years post-release supervi­sion.

According to trial testimony:

On March 11, 2018, Anzurez and Luis Angel Solis Apolonio, 29, engaged in a heated argument that turned into a physical altercation.

After being separated by an eyewitness, Anzurez turned his back and appeared to walk away. He then quickly turned back around holding a folding knife in his hand and began slashing and stabbing the victim. The blade sliced into Apolonio’s neck, torso and extremities, causing his death.

SENATE PASSES ‘EMMA’S LAW’ AS PART OF VICTIMS’ RIGHTS: On May 9, the New York State Senate ad­vanced legislation to strengthen the rights of survivors of crimes. Included in this package is Emma’s Law, sponsored by Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (11th Senate District). This legislation is named in honor of Emma Grace O’Rourke, whose father suffered a severe brain injury after being rear ended by another motorist. Emma, who was 11 years old at the time of the sen­tencing, wanted to address the court to ex­press how the tragedy affected her and her family but was denied that opportunity be­cause the guilty driver had pled to a misde­meanor, not a felony. Under current law, only victims of felony crimes have the guaranteed right to make a victim impact statement.

“Misdemeanor offenses can be life-al­tering experiences and often carry the same trauma as felonies,” says Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “This was the case for Emma Grace O’Rourke, her father and her family. Victim impact statements are not only pow­erful in laying bare the lasting impact of a crime, but can also be therapeutic for sur­vivors in desperate need of an emotional outlet. They are survivors and should be able to speak out if they so choose.”

This bill will allow survivors of misde­meanor offenses, including impacted loved ones, with the Court’s consent, to present an impact statement at the defendant’s sen­tencing. It is sponsored in the Assembly by Carrie Woerner. You can find more infor­mation on the bill on the New York State Senate website (s8761).

KIM RALLIES WITH VULNERA­BLE TENANTS: On Sunday, May 7, As­semblymember Ron Kim stood with the tenants and mom-and-pop store owners of 142-41 Franklin Avenue. The residents and small businesses located in the rent-sta­bilized building have been fighting what they say are ongoing efforts to displace them by a new landlord, and discussed the harrowing circumstances with the Assem­blyman. Those present said they had an amicable relationship for decades with the previous landlord until last year, when the building was sold to the current landlord, listed in some records as 139-149 Nassau Blvd. L.I.C.

After this, they said, there has been a dramatic and unacceptable spike in issues and problems with the building. Starting with the shutting off of their gas for over half a year, which they say already caused several tenants in rent-stabilized units to leave, they have dealt with a severe neglect of basic services. The lack of a super for the building and many other disruptive conditions have destroyed their quality of life. Some stated their belief that the new owner was seeking to force all of the rent- stabilized tenants to leave in order raise their rents to market-price levels.

In addition to residents, several small business owners on the Bowne Street side of the building spoke out. The lack of gas has greatly affected their business, said Jerry and his wife, who run the Bowne Street Laundromat. Syad, owner of Venice Pizza, and Beatriz, owner of El Rincon De La Vieja, agreed, and discussed their own frustrating interactions with the landlord and the management company. The mom-and-pop shops were already struggling after COVID, they said, and this ongoing issue may force them to close.

Assemblymember Kim promised that his office would continue to do all that it could to assist the tenants and small busi­nesses. He has been working with Queens Communities Resist, the Holly Civic Asso­ciation, and local community leaders who helped the tenants start a case in Housing Court. He said his team has also been com­municating with the city’s Tenant Support Unit, and working with the city’s Depart­ment of Buildings and Small Business Services to assist the mom-and-pop stores.

HUGE VICTORY FOR FDNY: As­semblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-South Queens) was thanked by members of the FDNY and first responders when her legislation, A.5055, was included in the New York State budget. Pheffer Amato is known for being an ally for firefighters and all first responders in NYC, and across the State, supporters noted. The Assembly­woman has championed legislation during her tenure in the State Legislature from get­ting first responders unlimited sick leave for 9/11 related illness, to working to pro­vide a cost of living increase for all line-of-duty widows or widowers.

A.5055 is legislation that would allow firefighters who previously started and served as EMT’s to obtain service credit for their previous work if they became fire­fighters. Prior, members of the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund who had prior creditable service as an EMT with the FDNY were not able to receive Fire De­partment Pension service credit for such service. Their past service did not apply to their minimum number of years needed for a vested, early, or regular service retire­ment. That changed the other day when Ph­effer Amato’s legislation was included in the final State budget.

“This is a victory for our firefighters who wake up every day, run towards the emergency, and put their lives on the line to protect us. These are our bravest and it is beyond time that they receive credit for their amazing work. Having negotiated and advocated for this policy change in the final budget was the right thing to do for our he­roes,” said Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato. During negotiations for the budget Pheffer Amato committed to a group of 300 firefighters that this legislation would be in the budget – a promise made and kept!

President Andrew Ansbro of the Uni­formed Firefighters Association (UFA), the Union that represents NYC firefighters thanked Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato. “The Assemblywoman has always been someone firefighters and first responders could count on. Her commitment is unpar­alleled and through this dynamic partner­ship we were able to bring this legislation across the finish line. Assemblywoman Ph­effer Amato worked around the clock to get this victory for our members and their fam­ilies,” said union president Andrew Ansbro. This legislation is estimated to positively impact over 1400 members of the FDNY.

OCM PREVIEWS UPDATED PRO­POSED CANNABIS REG’S: The Of­fice of Cannabis Management (OCM) shared a preview of the updated proposed adult-use cannabis program regulations to be considered by the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) during its May 11th Board Meeting. The proposed regulations were initially approved by the CCB on Novem­ber 21 and then available for a 60-day pub­lic comment period. The preview focuses on revisions to the regulations since the ini­tial draft.

To see the Office’s preview of the pre­vious draft regulations, visit cannabis.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2022/11/office-of-cannabis-management-previews-new-adult-use-cannabis-regula­tions.pdf.

These regulations are designed to pro­mote public health and safety and establish a consumer-driven, equitable, adult-use cannabis market to build upon the pro­posed regulations advanced in fall of 2022, with revisions based on over 3,500 individ­ual comments received from the public.

The regulations provide the framework for the adult-use program in New York by clarifying adult-use market architecture, defining the activities allowed under each license type, setting out application criteria and much more.

This preview includes revisions to the proposed regulations, such as:

1. Provisional Licenses & Visibility into the Application Process

2. Registered Organization Expansion into Adult-Use Market

3. Realigned Supply License Tier Own­ership Provisions

4. Updates to Goods and Services Rev­enues Limits

5. Adjustments to Microbusiness and Cultivator Licenses Authorizations

6. Social Consumption Allowances for Adult-Use Dispensaries

7. Updates to Environmental and En­ergy Usage Rules

8. Receivership Rules to Protect Li­censees

Provisional Licenses & Visibility into Application Process:

The revised regulations formalize the provisional license and the process to re­ceive one. Applicants without a pre-deter­mined location seeking a license would be provided a provisional license after submit­ting initial information regarding their busi­ness and the applicant’s eligibility. Provisional licensing will lower up-front costs for applicants and allow them a form of “pre-approval” by the State as they seek a location for their cannabis business, raise funds and capital, and build their teams.

These revised regulations also outline the general application process, allowing prospective applicants to prepare required materials before applications windows for­mally open.

Registered Organization Expansion into Adult-Use Market:

The revised regulations outline how reg­istered organizations, New York’s current medical cannabis providers, will transition into the adult-use cannabis market which authorization is outlined in the Cannabis Law. New York’s 10 registered organiza­tions are each currently allowed to operate up to 8 medical dispensaries. The Cannabis Law allows registered organizations partic­ipating in the adult-use market to co-locate up to three of these dispensaries for both medical and adult-use sales.

Realigned Supply License Tier Own­ership Provisions:

Under the revised regulations, True Par­ties of Interest in a registered organization that is licensed under Article 4, are now al­lowed to be True Parties of Interest (via passive investors) in supply-side busi­nesses (Cultivation, Cooperatives, Proces­sors, Distributors, and Microbusinesses). The regulations still prohibit True Parties of Interest in New York’s retail businesses from holding ownership stakes in supply-side businesses outside of New York which is a foundation of the two-tier market struc­ture set out in the Cannabis Law.

Updates to True Party of Interest In­vestment Rules:

These revised regulations increase the annual compensation arrangement thresh­old to be considered a True Party of Interest in an adult-use cannabis license or appli­cant from the greatest of 10% of gross rev­enue; 50% of net revenues; or $100,000, to the greatest of 10% of gross revenue; 50% of net revenues; or $250,000. This ex­tended cap is in response to significant feedback from the public and OCM li­censees who indicated desire for more flex­ibility for certain contracted specialized services.

Adjustments to Microbusiness and Cul­tivator Licenses:

These revised regulations will allow mi­crobusiness licensees to purchase up to 500 pounds of cannabis biomass per year, and additional biomass in certain business-threatening circumstances (e.g. crop fail­ure). This will allow these size-limited licensees to have protections against an un­foreseen issues with their cannabis har­vests.

These revised regulations also added the option for conditional cultivators (former hemp farmers supplying the adult-use mar­ket now) to transition to becoming cooper­atives or microbusiness licensees at the end of conditional period.

On-Site Consumption Allowances for Adult-Use Dispensaries:

The revised regulations create multiple pathways for New York’s licensed adult-use cannabis businesses and local govern­ments to allow New Yorkers 21 years of age and older to consume cannabis in des­ignated licensed areas.

Receivership Rules to Protect Li­censees:

The revised regulations now include a section on receivership for unexpected li­cense transition. Since cannabis is not yet federally legal, cannabis entrepreneurs do not have access to federal bankruptcy courts. This creates opportunities for li­censees to have options similar to bank­ruptcy protections.

If the revised regulations are approved by the CCB, they will be filed in the New York State Register and opened for a 45-day public comment period. These revised regulations will be made available to the public via the OCM website at least 24 hours before the May 11th Cannabis Con­trol Board meeting.

VELÁZQUEZ URGES HEALTHY, CLIMATE FRIENDLY MEALS IN SCHOOLS: On May 10, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) led twenty-three Mem­bers of Congress in sending a letter to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack urging the agency to work with schools to facilitate plant-forward menus featuring nutritious, climate-friendly, and culturally appropriate options.

“USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is uniquely positioned to advance equity and inclusion, while supporting climate and conservation goals in the final Child Nutri­tion Program meal patterns rule,” wrote the lawmakers. “Once finalized, we hope these revised meal patterns will facilitate plant-forward menus so that the Child Nutrition Programs better align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, support the health and wellbeing of our children, and meet student and operator demand.”

The letter comes as USDA undergoes its most recent revisions to ensure that the Child Nutrition Program meal patterns align with the most recent Dietary Guide­lines for Americans.

In the letter, the lawmakers stress that providing increased access to plant-based and non-dairy milk options will:

1. Align with USDA’s mission “to serve all Americans,” and its vision to properly nourish our nation’s children, spur eco­nomic development, and preserve our en­vironment.

2. Advance USDA’s core values of re­spect, dignity, equity, and inclusion; there are a range of cultural, ethnic, religious, and physiological needs for plant-based op­tions. Most Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) are lactose intol­erant, and BIPOC are three times as likely to follow a plant-based diet than white peo­ple.

3. Better align with the Dietary Guide­lines for Americans, including by increas­ing intake of beans, peas, and lentils; nuts and seeds; and dietary fiber, and by diver­sifying protein intake.

4. Meet the demand from students – who are the ultimate beneficiaries of Child Nutrition Programs – for plant-based op­tions, which has grown as the K-12 student population has become increasingly racially and culturally diverse as well as en­vironmentally conscious and concerned for animal welfare.

5. Resolve Child Nutrition Program op­erators’ challenges in meeting this student demand, which are due in part to regulatory barriers in the current meal pattern regula­tions.

6. Support USDA’s climate and conser­vation goals; plant-rich diets are a highly effective way to reduce our impact on the climate because the production process re­sults in less greenhouse gas emissions, re­quiring fewer land and water resources.

EXPANSION OF SCHOOL MEALS IN FY 2024 BUDGET: On May 14, As­semblymember Jessica González-Rojas lauded the recent expansion of school meals in the FY 2024 enacted state budget. She commended legislative leadership for the inclusion of $135 million in the state budget to provide breakfast and lunch to more students in low-income communities, an effort which she was the lead champion for in the State Assembly. She noted that this effort was advanced as an economic re­lief effort for parents, including mothers, who have felt the increased burden of fi­nancial uncertainty.

The funding is estimated to provide school meals to 300,000 students including 60,000 students who will be newly able to access free meals across 300 schools. Part of the funding will go towards already par­ticipating schools with Community Eligi­bility Provision (CEP) which will now be fully reimbursed at the free level. This funding will also help address school meal debt, which many schools have had to incur due to using school funding to make up the difference to provide free school meals to children. There is currently about $25 mil­lion in unpaid school meal debt.

While almost 60% of New York schools have offered free meals for all students through the community eligibility provi­sion (CEP), small schools in areas where poverty is prevalent but less concentrated have often been ineligible for CEP. The ef­fort will save families $140 per child each month in grocery spending.

In 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a waiver to all schools that wanted to pro­vide free breakfast and lunch. The waiver expired at the end of June 2022, causing hundreds of thousands of children to be kicked off the program and families to ex­perience a hunger cliff. One in seven chil­dren in New York experiences hunger and this disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx children. Assemblymember González-Rojas re-introduced legislation this year, A1941, which would require free breakfast and lunch to be provided to all schools in New York State.

“As a mother myself I can’t think of a cause more critical for government to ad­dress than feeding hungry children. I com­mend the legislative leaders, including Speaker Heastie for their inclusion of $135 million in our enacted state budget to ex­pand school meals to more students and schools across our state,” said Assembly­member González-Rojas. “I look forward to our state expanding school meals to about 300,000 students across 950 schools in our state. I am grateful to all of the ad­vocates and all of my colleagues who sup­ported the Healthy School Meals for All NY campaign. While this allocation is not everything that we sought, this fight is far from over. I look forward to continuing to organize with advocates and my colleagues to achieve universal school meals for all of our students and bring more relief to our New York families.”

QUEENS COUNCIL MEMBERS ENDORSE DA KATZ: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz’ momentum for re-election continues to grow, with her cam­paign announcing the endorsement of Democratic members of the City Council’s Queens delegation. The elected leaders, from every corner of Queens, cited Katz’ successful work to make Queens safer, en­gage communities across Queens, get guns off our streets, fight human trafficking, re­duce gang violence, address domestic abuse, prosecute wage theft, and protect workers, seniors, immigrants, and others. Endorsers include Council Speaker Adri­enne Adams, Councilmember Sandra Ung, Councilmember Francisco Moya, Coun­cilmember Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Councilmember Lynn Schulman, Coun­cilmember Nantasha Williams, Coun­cilmember Linda Lee, Councilmember Bob Holden, and Councilmember Jim Gen­naro.

“I am so honored to receive this tremen­dous support from trusted leaders who rep­resent the full diversity of our amazing Borough,” said DA Melinda Katz. “Our work to modernize this office, keep Queens safe through unprecedented challenges, and reform and improve our criminal justice system to make it fairer, stronger and more effective is working, but it works best when we all work together. While those on the far right seek to divide us with fear-mongering and falsehoods, I am proud to be working with these partners in government to de­liver real results.”

“Throughout her career in public serv­ice, Melinda Katz has proven that she knows how to get results. With Queens res­idents’ concerns about crime and fairness in our criminal justice system, Melinda has taken the lead to make our streets safer while protecting our rights,” said Council Speaker Adams.

“From protecting immigrants’ access to a fair criminal justice system to fighting wage theft and unsafe working conditions to helping our small businesses, Melinda Katz has taken the lead on making her of­fice more responsive and stronger. She’s in the community, hearing our concerns, and getting results. I’m proud to endorse her,” said Councilmember Moya.

“Melinda Katz is successfully using the DA’s office to enhance public safety, from combating hate crimes, protecting small businesses to fighting human trafficking and domestic violence. I’m proud to call her my DA, and proud to support her for re-election,” said Councilmember Ung.

“Melinda Katz is a neighbor and a friend, but more importantly she has ful­filled the promises she made when she ran for DA, putting a laser focus on making Queens safer by taking down gangs and getting guns off our streets, while modern­izing the office and making it more equi­table, fairer and more transparent,” said Councilmember Schulman.

“As District Attorney, Melinda Katz has made our criminal justice system fairer and stronger, which makes all of us safer. She’s gotten countless guns off our streets and shows up when we need her. I’m especially pleased to see that she created a Conviction Integrity Unit as she promised which has overturned more than 100 wrongful con­victions, and I look forward to its continu­ing work to undo more of the injustices of the past. She’s earned re-election, and I’m proud to endorse her,” said Councilmember Brooks-Powers.

“Our neighborhoods, our schools, our stores, and our students are safer because Melinda Katz is our District Attorney. From getting guns off our streets to prose­cuting human trafficking to helping our small businesses, she’s doing the hard work to address people’s concerns and deliver re­sults,” said Councilmember Lee.

“Queens needs a tough, fair, experi­enced District Attorney to ensure that our families are safe and that justice is done. Melinda Katz has proven that she IS that District Attorney, and I will do all I can on behalf of the safety of my constituents to see that Melinda gets re-elected,” stated Councilmember Gennaro.

“Melinda Katz has proven to be a sen­sible District Attorney who collaborates closely with me on quality of life issues, in­cluding noise complaints. She has been an outspoken critic of criminal justice reforms that jeopardize the safety of my con­stituents, and that’s why I’m proud to en­dorse her for another term,” said Councilmember Holden.

Melinda Katz was elected District Attor­ney in 2019 and inaugurated in 2020. Sup­porters note that despite taking office in the most turbulent of times, Katz has “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.”

AG JAMES ENDORSES SCHUL­MAN FOR RE-ELECTION: Council Member Lynn Schulman announced the endorsement of New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Council Member Schulman is seeking re-election in the 29th Council District, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Kew Gar­dens, Richmond Hill, and Rego Park.

“As a longtime admirer of Attorney General Tish James, I could not be more honored to receive her endorsement in my re-election campaign,” said Council Mem­ber Schulman. “Both Tish and I have given Queens our word that we will never back down when it comes to building a brighter borough. Together, we are steadfastly com­mitted to protecting our reproductive rights, fighting for equitable healthcare, and advocating for those who are most vul­nerable. I’m thrilled that our campaign will have Tish and other incredible leaders be­hind us when New Yorkers head to the polls next month.”

“Women’s rights are in the crosshairs. We urgently need fighters in elected office who will center our rights and actively work to strengthen them,” said Attorney General James. “As Chair of the Health Committee and someone with firsthand ex­perience in healthcare, Lynn has led the way in fighting against those who seek to roll back reproductive rights. She has been a results-driven advocate for increasing hospital capacity in Queens and ensuring equitable healthcare access for those who unfortunately fall between the cracks. Now more than ever, we need leaders like Lynn Schulman who will stand up and fight the good fight. I am proud to give Lynn my support and I endorse her re-election to the Council.”

Attorney General James joins a broad coalition of elected leaders, labor unions, and community organizations supporting Council Member Schulman for re-election to the 29th District.

GIANARIS JOINS 31ST AVE OPEN STREET RALLY FOR STREET SAFETY: Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris joined street safety advocates and local officials at the 31st Avenue Open Street to encourage area residents to com­plete the New York City Department of Transportation’s (NYCDOT) survey on street safety and public realm improve­ments.

“Enough is enough – we must not wait for more deaths to protect pedestrians and cyclists in our neighborhood,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. “I was pleased to join community members and colleagues on the 31st Avenue Open Street to stress the importance of street safety in Astoria.”

Senator Gianaris was joined by Senator Kristen Gonzalez, Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani, Council Member Tiffany Cabán, Families for Safe Streets, the 31st Avenue Open Street Collective, Transportation Alternatives, and Las Deliv­eristas Unidos.

About the DOT Street Safety Survey: The NYCDOT is collecting community feedback and ideas to improve bike net­work connections and the public realm for pedestrians in Astoria, Queens. The pri­mary focus area of this survey is 31st Av­enue from Vernon Boulevard to 51st Street, as well as the opportunity to identify new north and/or south bike network connec­tions in Astoria. The survey can be viewed at www.surveymonkey.com/r/astoriaplan­ning.

OVER 120 ATTEND ADDABBO’S SENIOR JOB FAIR: On Friday, May 5, State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. hosted his first Senior Job Fair since 2020 in con­junction with Queens Community House. Over 120 residents aged 55 and older vis­ited the Kew Gardens Community Center to speak with the companies on hand about potential open positions.

“I was thrilled to meet with all of these constituents who were looking for work and took the time to come to the job fair. It was a wonderful turnout,” Addabbo said. “I want to thank our partners at Queens Community House for allowing us to use their space, and I wish all jobseekers the best of luck in securing a new job.”

MEEKS CONDEMNS ASSAD’S READMISSION TO ARAB LEAGUE: Representatives Gregory W. Meeks and Michael McCaul, Ranking Member and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement condemning the Arab League’s decision to re-admit Bashar Al-Assad.

“Readmitting Assad to the Arab League is a grave strategic mistake that will em­bolden Assad, Russia, and Iran to continue butchering civilians and destabilizing the Middle East. Assad and his backers faced no accountability for murdering hundreds of thousands of Syrians and detaining and torturing tens of thousands more, using chemical weapons, brutally bombing Syria into oblivion, and undermining regional se­curity through narco-trafficking. Assad has not changed – he will continue these atroc­ities, while setting a global precedent that ruthless dictators can wait out accountabil­ity for their crimes. The United States must fully enforce the Caesar Act and other sanctions to freeze normalization efforts with this war criminal.”

RICHARDS’ AAPI HERITAGE CELEBRATION: Borough President Donovan Richards Jr., in conjuction with other elected officials and various organi­zations, is hosting his annual Asian Amer­ican Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month Celebration. Enjoy a powerful evening of cultural performances, honors for outstanding local leaders and organiza­tions, refreshments and much more on Monday, May 22, from 6-8 pm at Helen Marshall Cultural Center at Queens Bor­ough Hall (120-55 Queens Blvd, Kew Gar­dens).

MEMORIAL DAY ESSAY / POETRY CONTEST: Councilmember Sandra Ung invites students in grades 2-5 to enter the Memorial Day Essay & Poetry Contrest. Submissions can be any length and should have the theme: “What Memorial Day Means to Me.” If you (or your child) would like to participate, print your full name, grade, and school information on your entry and submit your essay or poem by Monday, May 22. Submissions may be mailed to Councilmember Ung’s office at 135-27 38th Ave, Suite 388, Flushing, NY, 11354, or emailed to District20@council.nyc.gov with the subject heading: “Memorial Day Essay & Poetry Contest.”

One winner from each grade will be presented with a City Council Certificate during the Councilmember’s annual Flushing Memorial Ceremony in Kissena Park on Friday, May 26 at 3 pm. For further information, please contact 718-888-8747.

—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts

This column was originated by John A. Toscano

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