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‘VOTE IN JUNE PRIMARY’; RANKED CHOICE VOTING: With the June primary coming up in NYC, State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. reminds everyone that this year’s voting will be different with Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) being implemented citywide for the first time.
On Tuesday, June 22, voters will get to decide which candidates will make it to the general election for the positions of Mayor, City Council, Borough President, Public Advocate, and Comptroller. Residents of Manhattan will get to vote on the Manhattan District Attorney position as well.
During the primary, as with all New York primaries, New Yorkers will only be able to vote for candidates running as members of the party to which they are registered, meaning Democratic voters vote for Democratic candidates and Republican voters can only vote for Republican candidates. The winners of the primaries will face off in the general election. Voters do not need any particular party affiliation to vote for anyone running in the general election.
“Primary elections are extremely important, as they decide which candidates everyone will get to vote for in the upcoming general election,” Sen. Addabbo said. “It is important that every New Yorker make their voice heard in all elections, so I am encouraging everyone to … research all the candidates to make an informed vote.”
Friday, May 28 was the deadline to register to vote in the June primary election. Here are other important dates to keep in mind as we head towards the June 22 primary:
- Early voting starts: 6/12;
- Deadline to request an absentee ballot: 6/15; and
- Last day to postmark an absentee ballot: 6/22.
This primary election will also be the first time New York City has implemented Ranked Choice Voting citywide. (RCV was used in February’s Special Election for City Council District 24.) This means voters will get to rank up to five candidates in order of preference, instead of choosing just one. Ranked Choice Voting will only be used during primary and special elections for city offices.
The way Ranked Choice Voting works is that all first choice votes are counted, and if a candidate wins more than 50% of votes, they win. However, if none of the candidates earns more than 50% of the first choice votes, then counting will continue in rounds. In each round, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. If your highest-ranked candidate is eliminated, your vote goes to the next highest ranked candidate on your ballot. This process continues until there are only two candidates left. The candidate with the most votes wins. Of course, voters are free to pick only one candidate as their number one and only choice. But if that candidate gets eliminated, the voter will not be participating in subsequent rounds.
“Should you decide to use Ranked Choice Voting, it is one way for you to have more of a say in who wins a primary or special election because even if your top choice doesn’t win, your ranking of candidates can help choose who does win,” Addabbo explained. “It helps to expand the democratic process and ensure that more voices are heard and a more diverse group of candidates have a chance to win. Measures have been taken legislatively in the state government to credibly increase participation in our elections, while simultaneously protecting the integrity and validity of the voting process. Be sure to make your voice heard. “
To learn more about Ranked Choice Voting, visit: www.voting.nyc/how-to-vote/ranked-choice-voting/.
$3.5B FOR RENTERS AND SMALL BUSINESSES: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on May 25 $3.5 billion in assistance for renters and small businesses experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rental assistance program makes up to $2.7 billion in emergency rental assistance available for struggling New Yorkers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications for the program will be accepted starting June 1 for eligible New Yorkers who are behind on their rent and have suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19. Administered by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program will provide assistance with up to 12 months of past-due rent, 3 months of prospective rental assistance and 12 months of utility arrears payments to eligible New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. The program is expected to serve between 170,000 and 200,000 households.
The small business recovery grant program makes up to $800 million in funding available for small businesses to help them recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. Applications for the program will be accepted starting June 10 for small and micro businesses and small for-profit independent arts and cultural organizations to help them recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. Flexible grants up to $50,000 will be made available to eligible small businesses and can be used for operating expenses, including payroll, rent or mortgage payments, taxes, utilities, personal protective equipment, or other business expenses incurred during the pandemic. Over 330,000 small and micro businesses are potentially eligible for this program, including 57 percent of the State’s certified MWBEs.
Governor Cuomo also announced that as of Tuesday, May 25, phase two of the Reimagine, Rebuild, Renew campaign will launch to make small businesses and residents who have been financially impacted by the pandemic aware of the many relief and recovery programs that are available in New York State. Print ads will run in local community newspapers across the state and social media ads will be featured on Facebook and Linked in with additional digital video ads advertised across the internet.
Rental Assistance Program
The rental assistance program will assist households behind on their rent and that have experienced financial hardship, that are at risk of homelessness or housing instability and that earn at or below 80 percent of area median income.
During the first 30 days, the program will prioritize the unemployed, those with income at or below 50 percent of area median income and other vulnerable populations. After the first 30 days, applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis, as long as funds remain available. For more information, applicants and landlords should visit otda.ny.gov/erap.
In addition to fiscal relief, ERAP will provide significant tenant protections. In order to receive assistance, the landlord must agree to waive any late fees due on past-due rent; and not increase the tenant’s monthly rent or evict them for one year, except in limited circumstances.
ESD has created a website, NYSBusinessRecovery.ny.gov, to highlight the various resources available to support small businesses seeking pandemic relief. The website will be continuously updated as more details and funding information as it becomes available.
HOSPITAL VISITATION DURING PANDEMIC APPROVED: The NYS Senate approved a bill (S.1035-A), sponsored by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., to ensure persons with disabilities are allowed to have an essential support person present for the duration of their hospital stay.
“The right to accompany a patient into the hospital was denied for all family members, and tragically, thousands of patients suffered and passed away alone during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Senator Addabbo said. “For disabled individuals who are unable to communicate or comprehend their medical treatment, the situation is even more tragic. The critical need for a new law allowing persons with disabilities to have an essential support person present as an advocate for their health decisions became most apparent during the pandemic. This bill will protect others moving forward and honor the memory of Fred D’Amico.”
On March 27, 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, John and Maria D’Amico took their adult, autistic son Fred, to a Long Island hospital with a fever. After Fred was admitted to the hospital, the D’Amicos were not permitted to stay with their son. On March 31, John and Maria D’Amico were told that their son had passed away leaving them devastated knowing Fred was unable to speak or advocate for himself and unable to have his loved ones and lifelong caretakers and advocates with him during his medical care and when he passed away.
“I’m happy and grateful the Senate passed the bill today even though it won’t bring back my son, I just don’t want anyone else to go through or experience the pain and sorrow that I and my family are still going through,” said a family member speaking on behalf of the D’Amico family in a statement. “I now plead and pray that the Assembly does the same and passes bill number A.4685. We urgently ask the Assembly to get this bill passed so families don’t suffer as we did.”
While the bill has passed the Senate, it is also advancing in the Assembly and is sponsored by Assemblymember Pheffer Amato (A.4685-A).
Other legislation passed by the Senate to protect persons with disabilities includes:
- 1104 – Requires building owners to develop an emergency evacuation plan for people with disabilities who work or live in high-rise buildings in New York.
- 1766-A – Establishes the Office of the Independent Intellectual and Developmental Disability Ombudsman program
- 4998 – Requires the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to establish the Care Demonstration Program, to provide community-based care to individuals with developmental disabilities.
- 4777-A – Replaces “mentally ill person” with variations of “person with a mental illness” or “person with a mental disability.”
- 6195 – Replaces certain instances of the term “mentally re***ded” with the term “individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.”
- 3920 – Allows applicants who enrolled in the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) programs, after their original date of eligibility, to receive a rent reduction beginning with the first day that they became eligible for such benefits.
- 1836 – Establishes the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities.
Now that the bill has passed the Senate and the Assembly, Addabbo and Pheffer Amato, along with bill co-sponsor Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, will hold a press conference to request that Governor Cuomo sign this bill into law.
The press conference will be held this Friday, June 4 at 12:30 p.m. at the Shops at Atlas Park, located at 8000 Copper Avenue in Glendale, with Addabbo, Pheffer Amato, Rajkumar, the D’Amico family and community activists.
“We will come together as a community and respectfully request that Governor Cuomo sign this important piece of legislation into law,” Addabbo said. “I want to thank my colleagues Assemblymembers Pheffer Amato and Rajkumar for their efforts in helping this bill get to the Governor’s desk.”
REPUBLICANS BLOCK COMMISSION ON JAN. 6 ATTACK: On May 28, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued this statement following the Senate vote against establishing an independent, bipartisan 9/11-type commission that would examine the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021:
“I am deeply disappointed that Republicans in the Senate put party over country and blocked the creation of an independent, bipartisan Commission to investigate the root causes of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“The January 6 Commission bill, which passed the House on a bipartisan vote just over a week ago, would have provided an independent and thorough investigation of one of the darkest days in our nation’s history.
“Many Republicans have recently sought to whitewash the violence we all witnessed that day and downplay the grave danger it posed to our nation. Some have claimed that it is too early for a Commission; others that it is too late. Sadly, Republicans in both the House and Senate have chosen to ignore the deadly reality of January 6 and have instead embraced the flagrant lies of a failed president who incited the insurrection and attempted to topple American democracy.
“The American people deserve the facts about the events of January 6, and they deserve accountability. As Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, I am committed to ensuring that the January 6 attack is swiftly and fully investigated.”
‘REVIEW USPS INTERNET COVERT OPERATIONS’: May 25, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform Carolyn B. Maloney and Ranking Member James Comer sent a letter to Tammy L. Whitcomb, Inspector General of the US Postal Service, expressing concerns about reports that the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is using the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) to perform intelligence operations on First Amendment activity.
“These activities raise serious questions about the scope of the program, the extent of sharing of information among law enforcement agencies, and whether USPIS has the authority to conduct such an operation,” wrote Chairwoman Maloney and Ranking Member Comer. ”We understand that USPIS has a critical law enforcement responsibility to protect the people and facilities of the Postal Service. We also appreciate that since reports of iCOP being used in connection with First Amendment activity have become public, USPIS has put certain safeguards in place and is reviewing additional ways to protect First Amendment activities. Nevertheless, significant questions about iCOP remain.”
Chairwoman Maloney and Ranking Member Comer requested that Inspector General Whitcomb conduct an evaluation of iCOP, specifically addressing questions of USPIS’ authority to conduct online intelligence operations on people in the United States, the impact of this activity, and any internal processes to ensure accountability.
That bipartisan letter follows news reports, confirmed by USPIS briefings for Committee staff, that iCOP analysts monitored social media sites for “inflammatory” posts and shared details about some posts and individuals who posted the information with other federal law enforcement agencies.
The Members requested confirmation of the review and a timeline for initiation and completion by June 4.
CO-PRESCRIBE LIFESAVING OVERDOSE ANTIDOTE: This week, the New York State Assembly passed Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein’s (D-Bayside) bill, A.336-A, which would require medical professionals to co-prescribe an antagonist, such as “Narcan,” with a new opioid prescription once annually when certain patient risk factors are present. The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support, with a vote of 144-3.
As COVID-19 cases surged in the United States in 2020, so did substance abuse, which increased during the months of uncertainty and isolation. Between January and March of 2020, 440 New York City residents died due to an accidental drug overdose, nearly 100 more deaths during the same time in 2019. According to the CDC, 81,000 drug overdoses occurred in the U.S. from May 2019 to May 2020, the highest ever recorded in a 12-month period. Drug overdose deaths in New York increased by an estimated 37% in the first eight months of 2020, year-over-year. Opioid-related overdoses mainly drove these increases.
Naloxone hydrochloride, an opioid antagonist more commonly known as “naloxone” or “Narcan,” acts to block the effects of opioids and reverse overdose. However, it is mainly used in an emergency capacity. Co-prescribing this antidote to patients with a history of overdose, or who are prescribed a high dose or cumulative prescriptions that result in 90 morphine milligram equivalents or more per day, or who concurrently use benzodiazepines would help educate New Yorkers, reverse the addiction crisis and save lives.
If signed into law, the bill would add New York to a group of at least eleven states that have now enacted similar laws in recent years. These states include, among others, New Jersey, Vermont, California and New Mexico. After mandating co-prescription, the New Mexico Department of Health reported a subsequent decline in prescription opioid overdose deaths. Studies in New Jersey have also indicated co-prescribing naloxone with prescription opioids may help reduce emergency room visits by 63% in one year.
Insurance covers naloxone for over 99% of New Yorkers today and the New York Naloxone Co-payment Assistance Program (N-CAP) covers up to $40 of an insurance co-pay for naloxone, allowing most New Yorkers to access the medication at no cost.
The companion bill in the New York State Senate is sponsored by Senator Pete Harckham.
PROPERTY TAX REFORM PUBLIC HEARINGS: The New York City Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform announced on three new virtual hearings on its 10 preliminary recommendations, scheduled for Queens on June 9, the Bronx on June 14 and Manhattan on June 16. All hearings will begin at 6:00pm.
On January 31, 2020, the Commission released a Preliminary Report with 10 initial recommendations to make NYC’s Property Tax system simpler, clearer and fairer. The Commission was formed by Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson in 2018 with a mandate to reform NYC’s property tax system while ensuring there is no reduction in revenue used to fund essential City services. An in-person hearing following the report’s release was initially scheduled for March 12, 2020 in Staten Island, but later postponed due to COVID-19.
The Commission is soliciting input from the public on the 10 initial recommendations in the Preliminary Report, specifically whether they would achieve the goals of a fairer system, would be improved by certain modifications, or should be enhanced with additional recommendations. To testify, speakers may register at the Commission’s website. Anyone wishing to testify must register no later than 24 hours in advance. Following registration, speakers will receive further instructions.
Speakers may (but do not have to) submit their presentations ahead of time by emailing them to PropTaxInfo@propertytaxcommission.nyc.gov or uploading them through an online portal. The portal and email address may also be used by those who are unable to attend but wish to submit testimony.
To request interpretation services email PropTaxInfo@propertytaxcommission.nyc.gov or call 212-676-3072 by 5:00pm three business days before the hearing. For ASL, or to request an accommodation for a disability, please email or call by 5:00pm five business days before the hearing.
COMMEMORATING SPECIFIC MILITARY UNITS: As Memorial Day approached, State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. was hard at work ensuring that veterans across New York State were honored for their service and that they get the services they need and deserve when returning home.
Addabbo, a member of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, has co-sponsored two bills in the State Senate that have both passed which will commemorate the historical and current contributions to the armed forces of the Tuskegee Airmen. Also to be commemorated are K9 Veterans.
In addition, Addabbo has also sponsored and co-sponsored two bills that focus on providing veterans with a property tax exemption and career assistance programs in city and state colleges and universities, which will be voted on by the Senate shortly.
“Tuskegee Airmen and K9 veterans are two groups that many outside of the military may not know the history behind,” said Sen. Addabbo. “These annual days of commemoration will not only appropriately honor their service and legacy, but they will also raise awareness of their importance historically and presently. It is appropriate to honor and recognize our veterans, including K9’s, for their selfless service and sacrifice.”
The first bill passed, S.1847, designates the fourth Thursday in March “Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day.” The fourth Thursday in March was chosen to honor the group because it was in March 1941 that the first Tuskegee Airmen completed their training and earned their wings. It was also the fourth Thursday in March 2007 when former President George W. Bush awarded the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African Americans allowed to serve as aviators in the United States Armed Forces, ultimately serving during World War II. In March 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron became the first group to complete its training. African Americans were allowed to begin training as airmen in response to the era’s civil rights movement, specifically pressure put on the Air Force by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The individuals who first participated in this program were known as “Red Tails.” Moton Field, where the African American pilots trained, would come to be known as the Tuskegee Army Airfield. The nearby Maxwell Field was used exclusively by white pilots.
By enacting this bill into law, New York gives much-deserved recognition to the Tuskegee Airmen who, despite facing racism both within and outside the military, courageously served their country.
The second bill, S.5720, designates March 13 “K9 Veterans Day.” Thousands of dogs have served with honor, dignity and valor throughout our country’s history. These dogs and their accompanying military personnel have served at many jobs in all of our wars, having been employed by the United States Military from World War I to present conflicts. To this day, dogs continue to serve on our borders and abroad every day, on both land and sea. Many residents actively participate in and engage in K9 training and operational activities to assist the United States military.
Due to the current war on terror, Customs Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, Border Patrol Dogs, Police Dogs, Secret Service Dogs and many more will be included with the Military Working Dogs in this recognition as they also help protect and serve our country. “K9 dogs have made the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives for their partners. It is only appropriate that we honor and recognize their contributions by designating March 13 of each year as K9 Veterans Day,” added Addabbo.
After passing the Senate, these legislative bills were sent to the Assembly Governmental Operations Committee for consideration.
The third bill Addabbo co-sponsors, S.1288, which would establish the veteran career assistance program within the SUNY and CUNY systems to provide veterans with assistance in resume writing and employment placement services.
The Addabbo-sponsored bill, S.2918, seeks to establish a real property tax exemption for the primary residence of veterans with a 100 percent service-connected disability.
Addabbo, who has also been a major supporter of the popular Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran’s Peer-to-Peer Program, recently participated in a virtual Senate meeting regarding the successful program. While the Dwyer Program is currently available in more than 16 counties across New York State, it is not available within the 5 boroughs of New York City. Addabbo is working to change that.
The virtual committee meeting highlighted how the Dwyer program allows veterans who may be battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI), to talk one-on-one with other veterans about the issues they are facing. It has been proven that veterans are more likely to open up about their feelings and thoughts about adjusting to civilian life or the injuries they sustained while in service to other veterans.
“Oftentimes veterans face very real mental health challenges upon returning to civilian life after their service,” Addabbo added. “They can sometimes feel that they have no one to speak to who would understand their troubles, which is why I feel it is vitally important to bring this program into New York City, and specifically, Queens. There is no way we can repay veterans for the sacrifices they make in serving our country, but helping them receive the mental health services they need when coming back home is a great first step.”
‘GET A SHOT TO MAKE YOUR FUTURE’ INCENTIVE: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on May 26 the Get a Shot to Make Your Future incentive for 12- to 17-year-olds to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Participants can enter into a random prize drawing and potentially receive a full scholarship to a SUNY or CUNY college beginning May 27. Winners receive a full scholarship to any public college or university, including tuition and room and board. New York State will administer the random drawing and select 10 winners a week over five weeks for a total of 50 winners. Federal COVID-19 relief and outreach funds will be used to cover the cost of this vaccination incentive program.
“Vaccination rates across the state are beginning to slow and our greatest need is with young New Yorkers who make up a large percent of positive cases and have the lowest vaccination percentage in the state,” Governor Cuomo said. ”To better reach this population and defeat COVID once and for all we need to get creative in our efforts. We’re offering all 12- to 17-year-olds a potentially life-changing opportunity—a full scholarship, room and board at any public college or university in New York—in exchange for getting vaccinated. And the earlier you get vaccinated, the more chances you have to win—it’s free, there’s no appointments and you also have a chance to win a full scholarship, so if you haven’t already done so, go get vaccinated.”
The winners will receive up to four years of full-time undergraduate study or five years in an approved five-year bachelor’s degree program.
On May 12, Governor Cuomo accepted the New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force’s recommendation to immediately implement expanded use authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds. All 12- to 17-year-olds who have been vaccinated are eligible for the incentive irrespective of when they received the vaccine.
‘VIOLENT MILITIAS IN RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM’: Below is Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney’s opening statement, as prepared for delivery, for the May 26 Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties hearing examining the role of militia groups in the current rise of violent right-wing extremism. The hearing was entitled “Confronting Violent White Supremacy (Part V): Examining the Rise of Militia Extremism”
“As members of Congress, and as Americans, we cannot afford to ignore the rising threat of militia extremism. The events of January 6th clearly demonstrated the danger that domestic violent extremism poses to our democracy.
“America cannot afford to repeat the events of that day ever again. So we need to be clear and honest about the connections between militia extremism, white supremacist domestic violent extremism, and the events of January 6th.
“On that day, the whole world watched on T.V. as extremists in military and police gear—some carrying weapons—broke into the Capitol and tried to disrupt the peaceful transition of power.
“Some of these insurrectionists were soldiers and police officers, and many others were militia members with the Oath Keepers and other anti-government gangs. While some militia groups publicly disavow racism, the history of the militia movement is deeply intertwined with white supremacy, and fast-growing militia groups that are operating today are aligned with white supremacist extremists.
“Days after the Capitol insurrection, the FBI, DHS, and the National Counterterrorism Center issued a joint warning about an increase in hateful, racist rhetoric by groups like the Three Percenters. The report warned that the gathering of domestic violent extremists on January 6th would likely foster connections between radical groups and increase the ‘willingness, capability, and motivation’ of those groups to attack our government.
“In other words, January 6th was not just a dangerous attack on our democracy; it was a massive recruiting event for these extremist groups who will continue to use it to recruit others to their cause.
“There is no room for excuses or ignoring this problem any further. We need an honest assessment of the extent of this problem, which is hiding in plain sight. Failure to address this form of extremism will doom us to repeat the destruction of January 6th.
“That is why I am calling on the Senate to pass the January 6th Commission bill that the House has already passed. Like the 9/11 Commission, it will help us to understand what happened, and more important, it will help us prevent what happened on January 6th from ever happening again.”
CONDEMN SPIKE IN ANTISEMITIC HATE CRIMES: The following officials released statements condemning the recent spike in antisemitic hate crimes:
Governor Andrew Cuomo: “I am sickened by the series of antisemitism acts in New York City and across the state, including the vandalism of a synagogue on Staten Island and several kosher restaurants throughout the city, as well as ongoing harassment of members of our Jewish community. This behavior does not represent who we are as New Yorkers, and the cowards responsible for these despicable acts are only seeking to divide and intimidate us, but we will never let hate win.
“The New York State Police have increased patrols at downstate synagogues, schools and other Jewish community facilities and is conducting outreach to Jewish communities to help address any security concerns amid this spike in antisemitic hate crimes and increased tensions caused by the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“During these troubling times, we will continue to do everything in our power to protect our Jewish brothers and sisters and stand united against hate in all its forms.”
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, author of the Never Again Education Act, released the following statement: “The recent spate of antisemitism online and here in New York, across the country, and around the world is disturbing and cannot be tolerated. I am extremely concerned that many American Jews have felt the need to hide their identity to stay safe. It’s up to all of us to stop and stand up to antisemitism wherever and whenever we see it.
“Beyond bringing those committing these attacks to justice, we need to stop antisemitism before it starts. A recent analysis of Twitter posts conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) ‘showed more than 17,000 tweets which used variations of the phrase, ‘Hitler was right’ between May 7 and May 14, 2021.’
“Hateful rhetoric and bigotry such as this is why I authored and passed the Never Again Education Act to give educators the tools they need to teach about the Holocaust and the dangers of antisemitism and hate. Children are not born with hate in their hearts, it is up to us to make sure they never learn it.”
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato: “There is no place for hate in New York State. I strongly condemn the recent acts of unprovoked violence and harassment against Jewish people. Those who commit these crimes must be held accountable. It is my fervent plea that those who disagree with others do so peacefully, but especially without any brutality.”
PUSH TO INCREASE ANTI-HATE, EXTREMISM FUNDING: U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand issued the following statement in response to the “continued and alarming rise of antisemitic and anti-Asian American hate crimes across New York City”:
“The alarming rise of antisemitic and anti-Asian American hate crimes in New York and across the country demands clear and powerful steps to help these communities keep themselves safe. Last year, I led the bipartisan push that secured a record $180 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) funding and we will build on that effort this year in the face of heightened threats to Jewish and Asian American communities, as well as other at-risk faith and communal institutions.
“In addition, I will once again fight for robust funding for FEMA’s Preparedness Grant Programs, including the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP), which are critical to helping state and local government efforts to combat the rise of domestic violent extremism in all its forms.”
HATE CRIMES CONVERSATION TONIGHT: NYS Senator John C. Liu, NYS Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, NYC Commission on Human Rights, NYC Office of Immigrants Affairs, NYC Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, and NYPD Hate Crime Task Force are having an Online Northeast Queens Anti-Asian and Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes & Bias Conversation on June 2, 6 pm. Visit bit.ly/BraunsteinLiuNEQueensConvo to join the webinar. Meeting number 173 563 1549 and Password is 6afBqf9PcP2. Simultaneous interpretations will be provided in Mandarin and Korean.
MTA TO INVEST IN MORE ELECTRIC BUSES: Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials announced on May 25 the Authority will be increasing its procurement for electric buses this year from 45 to 60 – a 33% increase, the latest step in the MTA’s ongoing mission to transform its 5,800 buses to a zero-emissions fleet by 2040. The electric buses will operate out of each of the five boroughs with the first expected to hit the road in late 2022. The Authority already operates 25 all-electric buses, and the historic 2020-2024 MTA Capital Program includes $1.1 billion in funding to buy another 500 and build charging infrastructure at eight of the 28 depots where the MTA stores and maintains its bus fleet.
This announcement comes as the MTA finalized a $39 million agreement with the New York Power Authority to install more than 50 overhead chargers to power new electric buses that will be coming next year to four MTA bus depots.
“The MTA is serious about delivering on the promise of a zero-emissions fleet by our 2040 target,” said Craig Cipriano, President of the MTA Bus Company and Senior Vice President for Buses for MTA New York City Transit.
Janno Lieber, MTA Construction and Development President said, ”Modernizing our infrastructure in this way will have far reaching impacts that can help address overdue challenges of social equity and climate change.”
“The New York Power Authority is pleased to support the MTA’s transition to a zero-emissions bus fleet by modernizing its electric vehicle charging infrastructure,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA President and CEO.
“President Biden’s American Jobs Plan is making bus electrification a priority…”, said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. ”More zero-emission buses, as well as charging infrastructure, will reduce emissions and improve air quality, especially in environmental justice communities that host a disproportionate number of bus depots.”
In NYC, approximately 75% of MTA bus depots are located in low/moderate-income communities, and transit bus routes run disproportionately through these neighborhoods. Conversion to a zero-emissions fleet will help to significantly improve air quality and public health by reducing health outcomes like asthma.
The MTA removes 17 million metric tons of carbon emissions from the air per year by providing public transit services as an alternative to personal vehicle use, and a zero-emissions bus fleet would further reduce New Yorkers’ carbon footprint. Zero-emissions propulsion technology also results in quieter operations in addition to the benefits of zero tail-pipe emissions, which make it ideal for operating vehicles in densely populated areas such as New York City. All-electric buses use an electric motor powered by a battery pack, and their propulsion systems recapture energy normally wasted in braking. Articulated buses, which are higher-capacity 60-foot-long buses used on Select Bus Service as well as on higher ridership routes, are ideal for electrification when used in densely populated urban areas where carbon emissions and traffic noise are public concerns.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT WORKING GROUP PRIORITIES: In January 2020, the Sexual Harassment Working Group unveiled its legislative agenda, which got derailed, along with a lot of other legislation, due to the pandemic. The NYS Senate just passed a number of those priorities.
“These bills were borne directly out of our lived experiences, and will help create systems of accountability for industries and institutions that protect power at the expense of dignity,” the SHWG said. ”Historically, that includes the NYS Legislature, which is why we applaud Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins for showing the institutional courage to change. We hope the NYS Assembly and Speaker Heastie will rise to her example.
“Special thanks to our champions Senators Biaggi, Gouardes, and Liu for your unwavering support. We are a group of volunteers, doing this work in our unpaid, free time and we are not going away until we have a true harassment-free New York.”
SHWG laws will:
- Includes New York State and all public employers as employers subject to the provisions of the human rights law. (S.3395A – Sen. Gounardes)
- Ban “no-rehire” clauses in workplace settlement agreements. (S.766 – Sen. Gounardes)
- Prevent sexual harassment or discrimination settlement agreements from including provisions that force victims to pay a specified amount in damages upon their violation of a non-disclosure agreement. (S.738 – Sen. Biaggi)
- Extend the statute of limitations for harassment and discrimination suits to six years. (S849A – Sen. Gounardes)
- Requires people registered as lobbyists with New York State to take an annual online anti-sexual harassment training. (S.1059 – Sen. Liu)
PREVENTING A PATRONAGE SYSTEM ACT: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman, Committee on Oversight and Reform spoke at the committee’s Business Meeting: “The Preventing a Patronage System Act prohibits reclassification of federal employees in the competitive civil service to any excepted service schedule created after September 30, 2020.
“On October 21st, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order creating a new excepted service schedule called Schedule F. It directed federal agencies to identify civil service employees whose positions were, quote, ‘policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating’ in nature. These employees would then be recommended for transition to Schedule F. Federal employees transferred to Schedule F would have been stripped of their civil service protections and rights, making it easier to terminate them.
“Let’s be honest about what this executive order would have done—it would have replaced our current nonpartisan, expert career civil service with one that was loyal only to President Trump. Science, justice, and defending our nation would have become subservient to personal loyalty to the President.
“Understandably, the creation of Schedule F was shocking to the more than 2 million federal employees who we all rely on every day for their experience, expertise, and dedication to public service.
“Many Members of this Committee, including Chairman Connolly and I, strongly condemned the Trump executive order as an attack against merit system principles of the civil service and a return the Spoils System of the 1800s.
“Fortunately, one of the first actions taken by President Biden when he came into office was to rescind that executive order. I commend President Biden for taking swift action before any positions were transferred into the new Schedule F. This bill would prevent this from ever happening again. It would fortify the protections of civil service employees, ensuring that they can continue to do their important, non-partisan work. I thank Chairman Connolly for introducing this important legislation, and I urge all my colleagues to support it.”
INDEPENDENCE OF INSPECTORS GENERAL ACT: On May 25, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement after the Committee voted favorably to send her bill, the IG Independence and Empowerment Act, to the House floor:
“I am proud that the Committee passed my comprehensive package to ensure that Inspectors General can do their jobs without fear of political retaliation and with all the tools needed to conduct thorough investigations,” said Chairwoman Maloney. ”The previous Administration’s efforts to bully, sideline, and fire independent IGs made the urgency of these reforms clear, but this bill contains a number of bipartisan proposals that both Democrats and Republicans on the Committee have supported for many years, regardless of which party controlled Congress and the White House. I look forward to the House passing this bill to enhance the independence and authorities of Inspectors General in order to strengthen their work exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in government.”
Some of the reforms included in the IG Independence and Empowerment Act include:
- Strengthening the Independence of Inspectors General – Chairwoman Maloney’s Inspector General Independence Act would prevent political retaliation by only allowing an Inspector General (IG) to be removed for cause. Chairwoman Maloney first introduced these provisions in 2020, following President Trump’s removal of the State Department Inspector General, who had been investigating Secretary Pompeo at the time, and the Intelligence Community Inspector General, who had followed the law in providing a whistleblower complaint to Congress that led to President Trump’s first impeachment.
- A provision from Rep. Katie Porter’s Accountability for Acting Officials Act would require that an acting IG be an existing IG for another agency or serving as senior staff in an OIG. This reform would prevent “dual-hatting” arrangements where a political official from within an agency is overseeing that agency as the acting IG. This occurred when President Trump named an Acting Department of Transportation Inspector General from within the Department of Transportation and an Acting State Department Inspector General from within the State Department.
- Enhancing Authorities for Inspectors General – Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Jimmy Gomez’s IG Subpoena Authority Act would grant IGs the authority to subpoena witnesses who are not currently government employees for testimony. At a recent hearing before the Committee, the Department of Justice Inspector General explained that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to be interviewed as part of the Inspector General’s investigation of the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy. Other examples of non-compliance are described in the Department of Transportation Inspector General’s recent report on former Secretary Elaine Chao, Department of Justice (DOJ) IG reports on the Fast and Furious investigation and the investigation of FISA warrants relating to Carter Page and others.
- Deborah Ross and Jamie Raskin’s Inspector General Access Act would provide the DOJ IG the authority to initiate investigations into wrongdoing by Department attorneys instead of deferring to the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility.
- Improving Transparency and Accountability for Inspectors General
- Chairman Connolly’s Enhanced Whistleblower Engagement Act would expand whistleblower trainings to Office of Inspector General employees.
- The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General wrote letters expressing support for the IG Independence and Empowerment Act.
In addition to the IG Independence and Empowerment Act, the Committee also successfully reported out the Preventing a Patronage System Act, Performance Enhancement Reform Act, No CORRUPTION Act, and several postal office renaming bills that day.
‘SUPPORT FRAUD, SCAM REDUCTION ACT’: New York Attorney General Letitia James on May 25 continued her efforts to protect senior citizens in New York against fraud. Attorney General James co-led a bipartisan coalition of 47 attorneys general in sending a letter to congressional leaders, urging them to pass the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act. The act, comprised of the Stop Senior Scam Act and Seniors Fraud Prevention Act of 2021, will assist stakeholders in training employees to recognize the warning signs of elder fraud and to prevent irreversible damage to elderly victims.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has sadly opened up senior citizens to a new array of fraudulent schemes to steal their money, their identities, and, very often, the freedoms they enjoy,” said Attorney General James. “It is vital that we make every effort to protect the elderly against fraud and irreversible harm, which is why our bipartisan coalition is calling on Congress to immediately pass the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act. We must protect the elderly and ensure we minimize the opportunities for them to become victims in the future.”
The bipartisan legislation will provide innovative ways to combat the financial exploitation of senior citizens, like establishing the Senior Scams Prevention Advisory Group that will be accountable to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The group will collect data generated by stakeholders, such as retailers, financial services, and wire-transfer companies, to help educate employees on how to identify and prevent scams that target seniors. The group will develop training and educational materials for those employees best suited to identify the warning signs of elder fraud.
The act also establishes the Office for the Prevention of Fraud Targeting Seniors housed in the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the FTC. The office will complement the efforts of the Senior Scams Prevention Advisory Group by:
- Monitoring emerging scams that target seniors through the internet, mail, robocalls, telemarketing, and television;
- Disseminating information on common fraud schemes; and
- Sharing information on how to report suspected senior fraud scams to a national fraud hotline and the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network.
The FTC will also work with the U.S. Department of Justice to log and track complaints from victims and relay the information to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
Joining Attorney General James in sending the letter to Congress are the attorneys general from 42 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.
NURSING MOTHERS ACT PASSES COMMITTEE: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), lead sponsor of H.R. 3110, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, celebrated the bill’s passage out of the House Education and Labor Committee on May 26. The bill next heads to the House floor.
Maloney introduced the bipartisan bill on May 11, with Congressional Maternity Care Caucus co-Chairs Congresswomen Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and co-chairs of the Black Maternal Health Caucus Alma Adams (D-NC) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL).
“I’m thrilled that the Education and Labor Committee today passed the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, paving the way for full House passage,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “For the health and safety of mothers and their babies, all working moms who want to breastfeed must have the time and space to pump breastmilk. These employees and their families suffer when these basic rights aren’t met. Without these protections, nursing mothers face serious health consequences, including risk of painful illness and infection, diminished milk supply, or an inability to continue breastfeeding. All working moms should be guaranteed the workplace protections to breastfeed if they want to and no new mother should be forced to choose between breastfeeding and earning a paycheck.”
The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act is endorsed by the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), A Better Balance, and UC Hastings Center for WorkLife Law.
The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would strengthen the 2010 Break Time law by:
- Closing the coverage gap. The bill would protect 9 million employees unintentionally excluded from the 2010 Break Time law by extending the law’s protections to cover salaried employees as well as other categories of employees currently exempted from protections, such as teachers, nurses, and farmworkers.
- Providing employers clarity on paid and unpaid pumping time. The bill leaves in place existing law protecting many salaried workers from having their pay docked, and clarifies that employers must pay an hourly employee for any time spent pumping if the employee is also working.
- Providing remedies for nursing mothers. The bill would ensure that nursing mothers have access to remedies that are available for other violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
US SENATE PASSES COVID-19 ORIGINS AMENDMENT: On May 26, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan amendment offered by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Roger Marshall M.D. (R-KS) that calls for transparency into the World Health Organization’s (WHO) potentially flawed report on the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak, which largely dismissed the possibility that the virus had accidentally escaped from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan. Additionally, the amendment calls for a comprehensive investigation by the U.S. and world allies into the origins of the virus if China continues to obstruct efforts to identify how and when the coronavirus pandemic began.
“There must be a thorough and transparent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic—obstruction is completely unacceptable. Our amendment makes clear that the US believes that the previous WHO investigation was flawed, that there must be accountability, and all potential origins of this virus, including a lab leak, must be investigated fully,” said Senator Gillibrand.
The passage of the amendment comes on the heels of President Biden’s call on U.S. intelligence agencies to double-down on efforts to thoroughly investigate the origins of the coronavirus and report back in 90 days. Biden said that the C.I.A and other intelligence agencies had not yet reached a consensus on how the virus originated in China and indicated that the administration is considering the possibility that the deadly virus was accidentally leaked from a lab.
MALONEY TO REINTRO OVERDRAFT PROTECTION ACT: At the May 27 Financial Services Committee virtual hearing titled “Holding Megabanks Accountable: An Update on Banking Practices, Programs and Policies,” Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), senior member of the committee, announced her intention to reintroduce the Overdraft Protection Act. This bill will crack down on unfair overdraft fees, and would establish fair and transparent practices for overdraft coverage programs. Rep. Maloney has introduced a version of this legislation since 2009.
During the hearing, Congresswoman Maloney stated, “President Obama signed into law my Credit CARD Act – a bill I wrote to end the most abusive practices of the credit card industry. According to one study, this bill alone is estimated to have saved consumers nearly $12 billion dollars a year. A 2015 CFPB study estimated that it saved consumers $16 billion dollars in the first years of its enactment. But where we made great progress on stopping abusive practices in the credit card market, there is still much work to do on banks’ overdraft practices.
“I plan to soon reintroduce my legislation, the Overdraft Protection Act, to crack down on unfair, predatory overdraft fees. Bank overdraft fees are outrageously priced, predatory, and beyond the scale of what a reasonable charge should be for this service. And we know that these fees and practices are harming consumers and taking billions out of their pockets. According to an S&P Global Market [Intelligence] article from earlier this year, the larger banks collected $8.8 billion dollars in overdraft fees ALONE and reported over $147 billion dollars in net income in 2020.
“Making these practices even more egregious, overdraft fees hit those who can afford them the least, the hardest. Those who are trapped are often cash-strapped hardworking Americans and college students who are struggling to pay their bills. And so that $8.8 billion dollars collected last year is money taken out of the hands of Americans who were just trying to keep food on the table and stay afloat in the middle of a pandemic.
“Each bank has slightly different policies, making this even more confusing to consumers. All your banks basically charge around $35 dollars for EACH overdraft, but the worst of these fees can be on debit card transactions, where the overdraft averages $20 dollars, but comes with a $35 fee. Multiple transactions can quickly add up to where a consumer is charged well over $100 dollars in fees alone.”
DELIVER $80M RELIEF TO OUR AIRPORTS: U.S. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand just announced $79,342,581 in federal funding for three major New York City and Long Island airports. Secured in the CARES Act championed by the senators, this funding was allocated through the Department of Transportation (DOT) and will serve as a lifeline to local airports struggling to stay afloat after more than a year of limited operations. This funding will help alleviate the cost required to meet increased safety standards and properly sanitize airports, including resources for janitorial services, supplies, and debt service payments. Additionally, this CARES Act funding will provide assistance for rent and minimum annual guarantees to on-airport car rental, parking, and in-terminal concessions. Airports and tourism play an important role in New York’s regional economies and have faced ongoing uncertainty as travel decreased due to the pandemic.
“Air travel is vital to the connectivity and success of New York’s economy, which is why it is critical that we provide the funding necessary to keep the airports safe and efficient for travelers and transportation workers,” said Senator Schumer. “I’m proud to deliver this funding for New York’s airports to improve air travel safety and quality, and I will continue to fight to make sure New York has the help it needs to recover from the health and economic crises caused by the pandemic.”
“As New Yorkers return to air travel, we must ensure our airports are equipped to protect the health of both travelers and transportation workers,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Personnel and sanitation costs will be a critical part of keeping airports afloat and aiding our economic recovery. This federal funding will provide New York City and Long Island’s airports with the resources needed to increase safety standards and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
John F Kennedy International will receive $52,335,466 and LaGuardia will receive $26,949,953.
AG GARLAND TAKES ACTION TO COMBAT HATE: U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) commended Attorney General Merrick Garland for putting forward a plan to better combat hate incidents.
The steps are outlined by the Attorney General in a memorandum released on May 27, and are the result of Meng’s COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and a 30-day review of how the Department of Justice can better use its resources to counter hate crimes and hate incidents. President Biden signed Meng’s bill into law last week.
“I commend and thank the Attorney General for swiftly taking action on the provisions in my COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and the Justice Department’s 30-day review,” said Meng. “The ongoing hate and violence against Asian Americans continues to terrorize the Asian American community and we are now seeing a disturbing and despicable rise in anti-Semitic attacks against the Jewish community. Let me be clear: There is no place for hate and violence anywhere in our society. It must not be tolerated, and we must eradicate it in all its forms.”
Actions the Attorney General announced in the memorandum that contain provisions from Meng’s bill include:
- The designation of a person to facilitate the review of hate crimes. The Attorney General is assigning the Chief of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division to fill this role.
- Providing resources and coordination to combat hate crimes and incidents; a Deputy Associate Attorney General will lead efforts to create and coordinate the Department’s anti-hate crime and incident resources, including implementing the Act’s provisions to issue guidance on online reporting, hate crimes reporting, data collection, creating state-run hate crime hotlines, and coordinating with the Secretary of Health and Human Services and others to raise awareness of hate crimes.
- Establishing a new full-time language access coordinator within the department in recognition that language access is a key barrier to the reporting of hate crimes and incidents. The Deputy Attorney General will oversee the establishment of this role.
The memorandum also prioritizes reinvigoration of the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service which Meng has called for, and which she separately discussed with Garland during a recent House hearing.
Meng is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science which oversees funding for the Department of Justice.
MOYA’S COMMUNITY HIRING; WAGE THEFT RESOLUTIONS: On May 27, during the stated meeting, City Council Member Francisco Moya introduced Resolution 1646 calling on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign legislation allowing the City of New York to establish a Community Hiring program.
“Since joining the City Council I have raised the lack of teeth and real local hiring in the city’s HireNYC program used on projects like neighborhood wide rezoning. And as the City opens up and is on the road to recovery, there are many New Yorkers who are still struggling to get back on their feet. The economic and health effects of COVID-19 have further exacerbated the economic disparities. We know our people want to get back to work but we must prioritize opportunities for those that have suffered the brunt of this pandemic to do so. That’s why I’ve been working with the administration to create this legislation, since before the pandemic when I joined the City Council. Establishing a community hiring program will enable us to work towards a real and equitable recovery with hundreds and thousands of jobs. Thank you to my colleagues in the City Council for joining me in calling for this,” said NYC Council Member Francisco Moya, who represents District 21 in Queens.
Resolution 1646 calling on this legislation would leverage the economic power of the billions of dollars that the City of New York and its affiliated agencies spend each year on construction, supplies, consultants, software and services to remediate those economic disparities by providing middle-class job opportunities to low-income individuals and communities including residents of New York City Housing Authority buildings. Read more here.
Also on May 27, Moya introduced Resolution 1647 calling on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign S.2766/A.3350, providing that a construction contractor shall assume liability for any unpaid wages or debt resulting from making a wage claim.
NYC Council Member Francisco Moya stated: “We cannot allow these unscrupulous companies and contractors to continue cheating the system and robbing workers. Millions of workers are being cheated out of billions of dollars in wages and benefits. We need accountability and we need justice. This is the opportunity to finally put an end to these bad contractors putting profit over people. Thank you to my colleagues in the City Council and the sponsors in Albany for standing united with our brothers and sisters.”
Resolution 1647 calling on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign S.2766, introduced by State Senator Jessica Ramos, and its companion bill A.3350, introduced by Assembly Member Latoya Joyner, would provide that a construction contractor would assume liability for any unpaid wages, benefits, damages, or attorneys’ fees related to an wage claim against any subcontractor.
HOLDEN’S ‘GRAFFITI-PROOF FENCE’ PASSES: Council Member Holden’s bill, Int. 1128-A, has been passed at the May 27 stated meeting of the New York City Council. Intro 1128-A provides that where work at a construction site has stopped for at least two years, the green wooden construction fence must be replaced with a chain link fence. The chain link fence is safer, more secure and cannot be used as a graffiti canvass, according to Holden. Under current law, wooden fences are put up around the site by the contractors. “Unfortunately, these fences deteriorate, attract graffiti and become long-term eye sores for neighbors.”
Council Member Holden (D-Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, Woodside) said, “As a civic leader for over 40 years and throughout my time in the City Council, I have worked to improve the quality of life in my district across the city. I promised my neighbors I would do something about these unsightly and unsafe fences and today, my colleagues and I have fulfilled that promise. I thank Speaker Johnson and the Cosponsors: Council Members Borelli, Ulrich, Yeger, Gjonaj, Dromm, Rodriquez, Koo and Moya.”
‘MAKING HOUSING VOUCHERS WORK’: Kathryn Garcia, Democratic candidate for mayor, announced “Equal Housing Choice,” her five-point plan to make housing vouchers actually work for low-income New Yorkers and those struggling with housing insecurity. The plan comes after Garcia last week announced sweeping plans to permanently drive down homelessness to the lowest levels in 20 years.
Her campaign noted, “After major back-to-back endorsements from The New York Times, The New York Daily News, local electeds, and multiple Democratic clubs, Garcia is surging to the top of the pack – as most recently evidenced in her campaign’s massive fundraising haul reported in the last filing period. Garcia has the highest number of New York City donors – 84% of her donors hail from one of the five boroughs – a testament to the strength of her message for a healthier, more livable, and more affordable New York City. At the center of her platform is creating more affordable housing, especially at this pivotal moment in the city’s history when so many New Yorkers are struggling to get by.”
Housing choice vouchers help solve homelessness and address income and housing inequality, Garcia noted. “And yet, a recent investigation found that nearly half of all brokers and landlords who were asked whether they would accept vouchers illegally said ‘no.’ It is illegal to discriminate against New Yorkers with vouchers—but the law is not being enforced. Thousands of those with a voucher are still stuck in shelters, unable to find an apartment where the landlord will accept them. This is unacceptable for New York City. The absence of enforcement against voucher discrimination worsens segregation, increases homelessness, and only further frustrates and despairs vulnerable New Yorkers. Additionally, current vouchers do not represent market rent in New York City and therefore are not fully serving the people they are intended for.
“Housing vouchers are a springboard to greater opportunity for unhoused and low-income New Yorkers. Stable housing is the foundation for a healthy life, enabling access to good schools, green open space, nutritious food, and other basic needs. As mayor, I will take quick and immediate action to ensure these programs are actually delivering on the promise of an affordable and safe home for any New Yorker in need. Our voucher system needs upgrades and reforms so that New York can remain a diverse city with strong, healthy, mixed income neighborhoods that make us a better and more equal city for all.”
Garcia is proposing the following five-point plan to make New York City’s housing programs work as intended:
- Improve enforcement and close loopholes in voucher discrimination laws. Too many landlords use minimum income or credit requirements as a proxy to discriminate against voucher holders, who, by definition, have low income and often little credit.
- Eliminate bureaucracy to make voucher redemption easier for tenants and landlords.
- Fund a robust mobility counseling program.
- Redesign voucher programs to reflect the reality of rent costs.
- Create a dedicated pool of apartments in all neighborhoods for New Yorkers using vouchers.
For Garcia’s detailed plans to implement the foregoing, and her full housing platform – Housing that Heals – go to www.kgfornyc.com/policy/housing-2.
RESTORE $80M FOR PARKS: On May 20, in advance of the final NYC Council Parks Committee Executive Budget Hearing, Parks Committee Chair Peter Koo, New Yorkers for Parks, New York League of Conservation Voters, District Council 37 and additional elected officials and members of the Play Fair coalition held a rally calling on the City to reinvest $80 million in the FY22 NYC Parks budget.
The Parks Department suffered a 14 percent budget cut in 2020 that deprived the agency of $84 for critical maintenance and operations just as park usage skyrocketed during the pandemic. Last month, Mayor de Blasio released an executive budget that once again appears to neglect NYC’s urgent parks and open space needs. However, nearly every democratic mayoral candidate has expressed support for increasing the parks budget.
At the rally, the Play Fair coalition, which includes more than 300 parks, community garden, environment, recreation, youth development and social justice organizations from across the five boroughs, urged the City to implement its FY22 budget platform next month.
The coalition’s budget priorities include $40 million for the Parks Department seasonal staff budget and the creation of jobs for 100 city park workers and 50 gardeners; $6 million to ensure our parks are safe by restoring 80 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers; and $3 million for 50 Urban Park Rangers to connect New Yorkers with the nature that surrounds us.
“Last year our parks were one of the principal victims of austerity budgeting during COVID. Unfortunately, we’ve seen what happens when we don’t fund our open spaces; they quickly fall into visible disrepair. The Parks Department recorded the worst citywide parks conditions on record in 2020. We cannot afford to make the same mistake this year. As NYC reemerges from COVID, we must prioritize open space in the budget and give our parks agency the resources it needs to do its job,” said Council Member Peter Koo, Chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation.
Learn more: www.ny4p.org or www.playfair.nyc
YANG’S SUMMER SAFETY PLAN TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE: With violent crime on the rise and warmer weather approaching, Andrew Yang joined with endorser, former Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Public Safety, and Bronx Borough President candidate Vanessa Gibson to release a new plan to keep New Yorkers safe during the summer.
- As mayor, Andrew Yang would:
- Make the 250 new officers assigned to our subways a 24/7 presence, not just during rush hour; and require officers to patrol every subway car at least twice during each route.
- Suppress gang and gun violence by adding 100 new detectives to the Gun Violence Suppression Division, an increase of 50%.
- Secure our houses of worship and improve public spaces.
- Take a community-oriented approach to neighborhood crime reduction with rapid response to community requests for more lighting, particularly in NYCHA developments.
- Give young people a chance to work by fully funding and expanding the Summer Youth Employment Program.
Sixty to seventy percent of gun violence in New York City is gang-related. There is only a 25.5% clearance rate for crimes overall, and 9 out of every 10 incidents of gun violence go unsolved, Yang noted. Detectives need far more resources to close cases and the existing, highly skilled gun violence and gang units of the NYPD need far more support to do their jobs. Some specifics Yang plans to:
- Release funding for Cure Violence and anti-violence organizations now, well before the new fiscal year. Mayor De Blasio just committed to adding resources to New York City’s Cure Violence program, an evidenced-based national effort that started from grassroots organizations to hire and engage people with former gang experience to intervene in community disputes well before violence takes place.
- Fully resource New York City’s Crisis Management System (CMS) before Summer 2021: In addition to resources for Cure Violence organizations, the Administration and City Council must continue to scale investment in CMS in anticipation of the summer. From 2010-2019, there was a 40% reduction in shootings in neighborhoods in the 17 highest violence precincts in New York City. When fully resourced, CMS works.
- Give young people a chance to work: The best violence prevention program is a job. Economic opportunity keeps young people in particular, busy and out of harm’s way. Expand the Summer Youth Employment Program: A Yang Administration has committed to expanding SYEP to 175,000 slots. Connect young people with jobs in the hospitality industry who are struggling to fill slots.
For more details on Yang’s plan visit www.yangforny.com/policies.
YANG URGES ALL CANDIDATES TO ACCEPT RCV RESULTS: Andrew Yang released the following statement opposing a new bill that was introduced in the NYC Council to repeal ranked choice voting (RCV).
“We should not be overturning the will of New Yorkers. The new bill to repeal ranked choice voting is a disappointing example of the status quo rejecting progress and change for our city. After failing to use the court system to dismantle RCV, they are now turning to formal legislation. We cannot sit idly by. I have said I will accept the results of ranked choice voting no matter the outcome because that’s how you support democracy. Some of my opponents have refused to say whether they will. Voters deserve to know where we stand on this essential issue.
“In 2019, I was one of the 510,000 New Yorkers who voted to implement ranked choice voting. The measure passed with nearly 75% of the vote. The bill was overwhelmingly supported because most New Yorkers are invested in giving everyone a voice and breaking away from corrupt backroom deals of old. As mayor, I will enfranchise green card holders and 16 year olds in municipal elections. Today’s actions show that unless we continuously push for expanding democracy and new leadership, special interests will pull us backwards. Change is hard, but it’s worth fighting for.”
MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURE PLANS: Democratic Candidate for New York City Mayor Kathryn Garcia announced her plans to jumpstart the city’s economic recovery by executing on long-awaited and much-needed infrastructure projects in all five boroughs. As The New York Times wrote in their endorsement of Kathryn Garcia for mayor, “New York isn’t dead. But to make it flourish again, [New Yorkers] face significant headwinds to resuscitate businesses and revive economic life.”
Garcia’s campaign stated that “The next mayor will need to work collaboratively with labor, business, and the nonprofit sector to not only recover but fully transform the city with new investments in transportation, housing, and education. Garcia is the only candidate with both the vision and the experience to get the job done.
“As mayor, Garcia will be the champion for economic development that New York City so desperately needs coming out of COVID. By pursuing countercyclical capital projects and leveraging federal infrastructure dollars, the City can create new jobs, generate new business, and take the lead in implementing modern infrastructure.
Said Garcia, “To rebuild our economy, we must rebuild our city – starting with the most urgently needed infrastructure projects in each of our five boroughs. From the Gateway project to rebuilding the BQE and a new light rail for the Richmond Avenue corridor in Staten Island, it’s clear that we have big opportunities to create jobs and build modern infrastructure fitting of the greatest city in the world. Under a Garcia administration, we will bring visionary and necessary projects to life and invest in the basic services to recover a New York City that is healthy, safe, and livable for all New Yorkers.”
Garcia’s citywide infrastructure plan consists of major commitments to improve the livability of the city and in turn, the health of New Yorkers across all five boroughs.
In Queens: Build The Queensway – She said that since 1962, the Rockaway Beach Branch train line has lain deserted and abandoned. In the last ten years however, community leaders and local residents have rallied and organized plans to transform the abandoned railway into a public park and amenity.
As mayor, Garcia would work to implement the proposal by The Friends of the QueensWay and The Trust for Public Land to transform the blighted 3.5-mile stretch of land into a new linear park and cultural greenway.
By executing on this proposal, the City can connect several neighborhoods with new much-needed green space; contribute to Vision Zero goals; boost economic activity and support for local businesses, retail, and restaurants; and enhance the quality of life for Queens residents.
Garcia also plans to:
- Fix The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway – Brooklyn
- Reimagine The Cross-Bronx Expressway – The Bronx
- Execute The Gateway Program – Manhattan
- Add West Shore Transportation – Staten Island
1199 SEIU ENDORSES SCHULMAN: Local 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest union in New York and the nation’s largest healthcare union, just endorsed community activist Lynn Schulman for election to City Council District 29 (Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, and Richmond Hill).
“Lynn Schulman is a life-long champion for healthcare workers’ rights and a fierce advocate for improving healthcare access in Queens,” said 1199 SEIU Political Director Gabby Seay. “As we continue to battle this pandemic and face the challenges ahead, we need experienced leaders like Lynn Schulman to stand up for frontline healthcare workers, fight for access to high quality healthcare for all, and ensure an equitable recovery.”
1199 SEIU represents over 250,000 healthcare workers in downstate New York. and more than 450,000 healthcare workers on the East Coast. 1199’ers work in home care, nursing homes, hospitals, and clinics and have been on the frontlines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am honored to be endorsed by 1199 SEIU, and as your next Council Member for District 29, I will use my vast experience in healthcare to ensure that our community has access to preventive and emergency medical care when it is needed,” said Lynn Schulman. “Queens was the epicenter for the pandemic because of a lack of hospital capacity and the consequences have been devastating, with many lives needlessly lost. I have a vision for our community that will ensure we have a system that provides access to the healthcare that we deserve and provide our healthcare heroes with the support they need.”
According to her campaign, “Schulman has been fighting for equitable healthcare and workers’ rights for over three decades, and has developed an extensive plan to establish a healthcare system that can improve hospital capacity, provide affordable preventive and primary care, and also have the ability to react to emergency issues such as the current pandemic. Lynn is also a staunch advocate for workers’ rights and fearless fighter for union rights.”
View her full healthcare agenda at www.schulman2021.com/healthcare.
INDOOR DINING CURFEW BEING LIFTED: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released the following statement: “During the month of May we took major steps towards reopening our economy and as of May 31, we are lifting the midnight curfew on indoor dining for bars and restaurants across New York.
“Like every other milestone of our reopening, the end of curfew for indoor dining is the result of New Yorkers banding together, practicing safety precautions and getting vaccinated, so we can defeat the virus and work our way towards a new normal.
“Our reopening approach has always been data-based and if we want to stay on our current trajectory, we need to remain vigilant across the board – especially when it comes to indoor activities. As always, we will continue to work with our local partners to make sure venues are following basic safety guidelines.”
GARCIA’S PLATFORM TO SUPPORT AND HONOR VETS: Democratic candidate for New York City Mayor Kathryn Garcia announced a package of policies to support the city’s 210,000 United States military veterans. Garcia’s platform extends across policy verticals of housing affordability, job creation and health, including nutrition and mental health care. A lifelong New Yorker, Garcia explained she was raised to understand public service as a fundamental duty. Her parents were both civil servants and her father enlisted and served in the Marines at 17 years old. Her platform for New York City’s veterans is a reflection of her own “deep commitment to service and admiration for our country’s men and women in uniform.”
Said Garcia, “Our veterans have sacrificed for all of us – now it is up to us to step up to serve them. It is shameful that of the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have answered the call to serve, so many live below the poverty line, unable to afford housing or provide for their families. The statistics point to a government that simply does not function or serve the people as intended. I’m running for mayor to right the ship and actually make our City work for New Yorkers, particularly our most vulnerable. That work must and will start with our veterans and their families.
“This Memorial Day, we honor those who sacrificed their lives serving our country, and we recommit to caring for their families and loved ones who have sacrificed as much. This Memorial Day, we must finally step up to serve our veterans the way that they have selflessly served each of us.”
- HEALTH: Address the growing mental health crisis – which disproportionately affects service members – with compassion and urgency. One in four active duty members faces a mental health struggle. Tragically, 20 current or former service members die from suicide each day. Our veterans are in crisis, struggling and dying without access to critical mental health care. As mayor, Garcia will:
Expand insurance coverage to include mental health care and expand options for quality virtual mental health services, to improve access and get New Yorkers the mental health support they need.
Leverage and promote telehealth to close disparities in mental health treatment for low-income and older New Yorkers.
—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts
This column was originated by John A. Toscano