It was reported last week that State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Catherine Nolan were drawing up a proposed constitutional amendment that could prevent the governor from making changes in the budget proposals that are submitted by the state attorney general and the state comptroller.
This development came after it was revealed in last Friday’sDaily News that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new counsel had sent surveys to 61 state agencies soliciting information about their interactions with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.
Gianaris told the News that “As much as possible, we need to remove politics from the proper functions of government. Creating independence in the budgets of the attorney general and comptroller would be a great way to do that.”
Nolan’s reaction was that the attorney general and comptroller were both “statewide elected officials. It’s important that they have the freedom and independence to do the jobs that the people elected them to do.”
Presently, the budgets of the attorney general and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli are treated the same as other state agencies. They cannot be changed, only voted up or down.
Meanwhile, the five-page, 22-question survey that Cuomo’s counsel, Alphonso David, sent out to 61 state agencies, asks how often agency lawyers hear from the attorney general’s staff, does the AG’s staff give them enough time to review legal briefs, and what happens if the agency and the AG’s office have different legal theories on a case.
David said the survey was important to determine how the states legal problems are handled.
VALLONE, CHIN: MAYOR SHORTCHANGES SENIORS: Councilmembers Paul Vallone and Margaret Chin charged last week that Mayor de Blasio “hasn’t met the challenge to provide enough senior funding” in the FY 16 executive budget.
Last week, following the City Council’s FY 2016 executive budget hearing for the city’s Department for the Aging (DFTA), Chin, Committee on Seniors Chair, and Vallone, Subcommittee on Senior Centers chair, declared in a joint statement:
“Today’s executive budget hearing for the city’s Department for the Aging showed us once again that Mayor de Blasio and his administration have not yet shown the proper willingness and urgency to step up and support seniors in our city.
“By the year 2030, around one in five New Yorkers will be a senior – and today, one in five seniors in our city already live in poverty. Instead of responding to that need, the de Blasio administration continues to pick away at DFTA’s core funding and reverse the strides we all made for the aging population in last year’s budget.”
Chin (D–Manhattan) and Vallone (D–Bayside) continued:
“The administration has ignored our calls for $4.3 million to support senior center operations, $3 million to help 2,000 seniors on the case management waitlist, and $4.25 million to provide homecare to 500 struggling seniors on a waitlist. Furthermore, the administration has failed to include the $2 million needed to fund the Elder Abuse RFP, which would go to combat one of the most crucial issues facing our vulnerable senior population. We learned today that, instead they’re still discussing other options.”
The seniors advocates concluded: “On top of that, even while the mayor’s FY 2016 Executive Budget includes more than $4 billion in savings reserves, DFTA was forced to give back more than $3 million in ‘efficiency savings.’ Let’s call that what it is – a major cut that’s going to result in reduced services for vulnerable seniors. That’s not fair to our seniors, and it frankly makes no sense.”
In closing, Vallone and Chin warned: “Seniors can’t keep waiting for the support they need. It’s time for Mayor de Blasio to stop talking about helping seniors and start taking action by providing the funding DFTA needs to get the job done.”
ADDABBO EXPLAINS NEW BILL SITING HOMELESS SHELTERS: In last week’s Gazette (June 3), we reported that the State Senate had passed a bill which would require far more transparency and community involvement and knowledge of the facts before a homeless shelter or other social service facility could be opened in a community.
It would require the City Planning Commission to hold hearings on the matter and also approve the project under a fixed set of rules. The new bill approved by the State Senate was in response to several instances of homeless centers suddenly opening in communities where residents had no knowledge of them in advance.
This week, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach), one of several Queens lawmakers who co-sponsored the bill, revisited it and offered comments to make its purpose clearer.
Addabbo started by noting the bill, (S. 4542), had been sponsored by Senator Jeff Klein (D–Bronx), and it “would require a far more transparent and inclusive process, with greater public notification, when homeless shelters or other social services facilities are being located in communities throughout New York City.’
Addabbo continued: “This legislation, while not avoiding or ignoring the crisis of homelessness, substance abuse, or other serious social ills in our society, does provide a necessary means for community members to be fully involved from the get-go, when homeless shelters or other social service facilities are planned for their neighborhoods.
“All too often, communities are finding that facilities are being virtually rammed down their throats, with no real thought given to whether the buildings are appropriate for the programs, whether the neighborhoods have adequate transit or other services, or whether the proposed operators have questionable track records that should be challenged.”
Addabbo, explaining the bills provisions, said: “Under the legislation, social service providers, including those operating supportive housing for the homeless, would be required to notify community boards and the City Planning Commission (CPC) within 45 to 90 days of selecting a location for a facility. The CPC would then be required to hold public hearings to gather local input on the proposed facilities, and this agency would also have the final authority, within 60 to 90 days following the hearings to approve, deny or modify the community-based programs. Community boards may also request that hearings be held within the same time frame if a provider is planning to renew its lease – permitting local input in instances where questions have been raised about the operations of the facility.”
Continuing, Addabbo said, “The fact of the matter is that we need transparency, honesty and in-depth community conversations about these programs – before they happen, not after the fact.” To make his point, he cited the “ongoing controversy about the proposed homeless shelter planned for Cooper Avenue in Glendale.
“This project appeared virtually out of thin air, with no opportunity for the community to raise legitimate concerns about the facility, the track record of the operators, or other very pertinent issues – which then fell on deaf ears when brought to the attention of city officials. We can’t let this continue to happen. It’s not about trying to keep people in need out of our neighborhoods. It’s about bringing neighborhoods together, with all the information they require, to help determine the best outcomes for these same people in need.”
Addabbo said the passage of the new legislation by Klein was also noted by Dawn Scala of the Glendale/Middle Village Coalition that has been challenging the Cooper Avenue Facility and asking for a much more comprehensive environmental review of the program. Addabbo said that Scala stated:
“Critical to ensuring the success of a homeless shelter in any neighborhood is to make sure the community is not ignored in the siting process, and providing full transparency… at the very beginning….”
CROWLEY STATEMENT RECOGNIZING IMMIGRANT HERITAGE MONTH: Congressman Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, issued the following statement in recognition of Immigrant Heritage Month, which is celebrated annually during the month of June:
“America is a nation of immigrants – a fact that unites us all. As the son and grandson of Irish immigrants, my family’s story is not unlike stories you hear every day, across the country. For generations, this country has offered a better future and a better way of life to people from all corners of the world.
“I often say that immigrants are the bravest people I know – because they choose to leave behind everything and face the unknown. They do it in pursuit of the promise that America offers them.
“During Immigrant Heritage Month, let us join together to celebrate the diversity of our nation’s past, present and future.”
MALONEY OFFERS GUN VIOLENCE, GUN SAFETY BILLS: As various anti-gun groups called for action on National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney introduced two measures to address the gun violence that is escalating steadily across the nation.
Maloney said the first bill would set aside $10 million in funding each year for FY 2016 through FY 2021 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct or support research on firearm safety or gun violence prevention.
The second bill, the Handgun Trigger Safety Act, seeks to improve gun safety by ensuring that only authorized users would be able to operate handguns utilizing personalization (or “smart gun”) technology.
Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) noted that, “on average, there are 32,000 deaths and 76,00 injuries occurring from gun violence each year in the United States.”
Both bills were co-sponsored by Senator Edward J. Markey (D–Mass.)
Maloney stated: “Some would have us believe that the laws currently on the books are sufficient to address the tens of thousands of gun related deaths that occur each year. A few extremists even oppose basic public health research to help us understand why gun violence has reached epidemic proportions. They also oppose implementing new smart gun technologies that can help reduce the tragic number of accidental shooting deaths each year, many of which have taken the lives of young children.
The majority of Americans support sensible steps to reduce the bloodshed in our streets, schools, churches, and other public spaces. The bills I am introducing with Senator Markey today would help save lives and make our communities safer.”
Continuing, Maloney said, “Due to a ban on federal funding for gun violence research that almost halted entirely gun violence research, policymakers, health care practitioners, researchers, and others lack comprehensive, scientific information about the causes and characteristics of gun violence, or the best strategies to prevent future tragedies. President Obama lifted the 17-year ban in 2013, and earlier this year, he included $10 million for gun violence research in the Department of Health and Human Services FY 2016 budget request.”
The CDC research bill is endorsed by Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Stop Handgun Violence, Third Way, the Illinois Council to prevent Gun Violence, Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, Children’s Defense Fund, Newtown Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, the Brady Campaign, Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, and the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.”
Among Senators co-sponsoring the CDC research bill are Senators Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), Charles Schumer (D–NY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D–NY).
Maloney explained the “Handgun Trigger Safety Act would support the use of personalization (or smart gun) technology that allows the purchaser of a gun to designate authorized user(s) who can operate the gun and would make the gun inoperable for all others. Personalized handguns are already sold overseas and have been available in the United States since 2011.”
MALONEY SAID THE HANDGUN TRIGGER SAFETY ACT WOULD:
• Authorize grants to develop and improve “personalized” handgun technology to increase efficacy and decrease costs;
Mandate that, within five years of enactment, all newly manufactured handguns must be personalized, ensuring that they can only be operated by authorized users;
Mandate that, within 10 years of enactment, anyone selling a handgun must retrofit it with personalization technology before that sale can be completed; and
Provide reimbursement to manufacturers for the costs of retrofitting handguns through the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund.
MARKEY SEEKS VOTE ON CHILD VICTIMS ACT: With New York ranked among the worst states in America for victims, the sponsors of the bill to completely eliminate the Statute of Limitations for child sex abuse crimes are demanding a vote before the present session ends.
Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D–Maspeth) stated in a letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie:
“Over recent years there has been a growing awareness across the nation of the need to act to expose this scourge. We have seen many widely publicized reports of incidents of abuse by high-profile individuals, and of cover-ups by institutions and organizations in amateur and elite sports, schools, youth programs, universities, religious and other organizations. Scientific advancement in DNA testing also makes it more possible than ever to hold perpetrators accountable.”
Markey and the 61 co-sponsors of her bill pointed out, “Rape or molestation of a child is among the very worst offenses in our society, but New York State’s outdated statute of limitations now permits pedophiles and those who hide them to evade accountability for their crimes.”
But she added, “The Child Victims Act will completely eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations for these offenses and it also provides a one-year civil ‘window’ that will expose abusers who have been hidden and evaded justice.”
From the victims’ standpoint, Markey noted, “There is no limit on what is a lifetime of suffering and anguish for so many victims of child sexual abuse. That is why there should be no limit on the ability of victims and society to prosecute abusers and no limit on holding accountable those institutions and organizations that have deliberately protected and hidden pedophiles.”
CLINTON CAMPAIGN KICKOFF ON ROOSEVELT ISLAND: Come this Saturday, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is scheduled to officially launch her campaign in Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. At this writing there have been no clues given out about what razzle dazzle she might be preparing. No word either how she plans to handle a conflict that’s brewing – June 13 is also scheduled for the celebration of Roosevelt Island Day.
According to Sherie Helstein, vice president of the island’s Residents Association, “months of planning for the local celebration won’t be dumped to accommodate a potential influx of Clinton fans,” she was quoted as saying in the June 2 edition of the New York Daily News. “It’s their problem to get around us… we are the community,” she said.
Other residents are also concerned there might be a problem because there are so few transit options serving the island.
From another source – The Washington Post – we’re told that Clinton will use the occasion to unveil former President Bill Clinton and daughter, Chelsea, at their first campaign appearance.
Following Roosevelt Island, Clinton will visit Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada during the following week.
MALONEY BILL REQUIRES LIABILITY INSURANCE FOR GUN OWNERS: Liability insurance for gun owners would be required for gun owners under a bill introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan). Maloney reasons: “We require insurance to own a car, but no such requirement exists for guns. The results are clear: car fatalities have declined by 25 percent in the last decade, but gun fatalities continue to rise.”
Maloney explains, “One reason is that auto insurance incentivizes precautions that reduce accidents, and make crashes less deadly. No similar incentives exist for gun owners. An insurance requirement would allow the free market to encourage cautious behavior and help save lives. Adequate liability coverage would also ensure that the victims of gun violence are fairly compensated when crimes or accidents occur.”
Maloney said “the bill would require gun buyers to have liability insurance coverage before being allowed to purchase a weapon and imposes a fine of $10,000 if an owner is found not to have the required coverage. Service members and law enforcement officers are exempt from the insurance requirement, Maloney said.
DENDEKKER OFFERS FREE PAPER SHREDDING, E-RECYCLING: A free paper shredding and e-recycling event is being offered by Assemblyman Michael DenDekker this Saturday at the Jackson Heights Shopping Center on 77th Street, between 30th and 31st Avenues in Jackson Heights.
Paper shredding will be done between 10 am and 1 pm and e-recycling from 10 am and 4 pm. Members of the community are invited to safely dispose of all paper products as well as unwanted and/or broken electronics, including: working and non-working computers, TVs, VCRs, DVD players, phones, audio/visual equipment, cell phones and PDAs. For more information, please contact DenDekker’s district office at 718 457-0384.
ADDABBO BACKS BILL MANDATING “LOTTERY FUNDS FOR EDUCATION ONLY”: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. reports he and his senate colleagues have passed legislation (S.165) “making it absolutely clear that funds raised through the New York State Lottery can only be used to support education and not be diverted to other purposes.”
Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) explained that the Lottery provides billions of dollars for school aid every year, more than $51.6 billion for New York’s 700 school districts since it was started 48 years ago.
But Addabbo, a member of the Senate Education Committee, said “…many of my constituents are still concerned that lottery dollars may wrongly be diverted to other purposes other than education.”
However, he emphasized, “This legislation makes it absolutely clear that these dollars can only be used to benefit our students and our schools and that they cannot be commingled with other state funds.”
Addabbo also noted that “it has not been uncommon over the years for certain ‘dedicated funds’ to be raided to pay for altogether different programs when the economy takes a downturn or new initiatives are in need of support.”
As an example, he pointed to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, which has been “robbed of approximately $500 million since its inception, with the diverted funds being spent for non-environmental purposes.”
The lawmaker also noted that the NYS Division of the Lottery provided $3.17 billion to the state’s school districts in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, with more than $1 billion of that coming to New York City. He adds NYC schools have received $19.7 billion from the Lottery since 1977. Lottery revenues generally make up roughly 15 percent of the annual school aid package statewide, he said. During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, $2.26 billion in traditional lottery revenues went to schools, along with $916 million from video gaming – such as that found at the Resorts World Racino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park.
Addabbo also stated that lottery aid and its distribution are generally “a common source of confusion” for many New York residents. He says, “This is because lottery dollars are not a supplement to state education aid, but part of the entire funding package.
“If we didn’t have money from lottery sales, we would need to raise taxes, cut important state services, or otherwise find ways to replace the lottery funds that go to New York’s schools,” he said.
“Given that New York State has not yet lived up to its commitment to New York City’s schoolchildren under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision, we have to make sure that not one penny of lottery funding goes astray,” he explained, adding, “The legislation approved by the Senate would help to bolster that commitment.”
The Senate’s passage of legislation to assure that state lottery funds are used only to support education in New York State would now be considered by the Assembly Education Committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood).
STATE SENATE VOTES TO MAKE FORCIBLE TOUCHING A FELONY ON PUBLIC TRANSIT: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. recently joined his Senate colleagues in approving legislation that would crack down on passengers on public transportation who “forcibly touch other passengers in a sexual manner,” saying the penalty for such “abominable behavior” should be raised to a felony from a misdemeanor.
Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said the legislation was drafted after a New York State Court of Appeals decision “allowed a threetime sexual offender, who assaulted subway riders to get off without prison time.”
The lawmaker explained. “While the district attorney sought felony charges, the case was thrown out because there was no proof the victims felt threatened with violence – meaning that only a misdemeanor sex abuse charge, carrying a maximum of three months in jail, could be applied.”
Addabbo said, “This bill we passed in the Senate would raise this type of reprehensible behavior to a Class D felony, which – depending on prior criminal record – could carry a punishment ranging from probation to a maximum of seven years in prison.”
Under the proposal, these acts would now be classified as sexual abuse in the first degree.
He continued: “People who are riding subways, buses or other forms of crowded public transportation should be able to take mass transit to go to work or otherwise go about their daily lives without suffering unwanted sexual contact from strangers.”
“Hopefully,” Addabbo concluded, “these significantly higher penalties will both serve as a deterrent to this behavior and a promise that gropers and grinders will be taken off the streets and off our public transit.”
Now that the legislation has been approved by the Senate, it is under consideration by the State Assembly Committee on Codes.
MALONEY REPORT ON SS PAYMENTS TO NAZIS: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has released details of a new report from the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General which closes the book on SS payments to former Nazis who came to live in the US after World War II.
Maloney says the new report showed this unlikely group of 133 alleged and convicted Nazis collected a total of $20.1 million in Social Security benefits as of May of this year. While the book was being closed on this chapter, a law sponsored by Maloney, called the No Social Security for Nazis Act was enacted to prevent any payments to be made to that group ever again.
“We now have a full accounting of the Social Security benefits paid to alleged and convicted Nazis, Maloney stated. “More than $20 million in benefits were paid to 133 individuals who we have reason to believe participated in the atrocities of the Holocaust.
It is outrageous that any Nazis were able to receive benefits, but this report also makes clear that the Social Security Administration lacked the legal authority to terminate benefits in far too many of these cases.
“I helped lead the effort last year to pass legislation that would end benefits for the handful of Nazis who slipped through the cracks and continued to receive benefits.”
Maloney requested the report after an Associated Press investigation estimated that millions in benefits were paid to Nazis.
Before turning to the reports findings, Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) stated: “This report reminds us that we still live with consequences of the Holocaust and it is still our responsibility to hold those who participated in Nazi war crimes accountable. One lineups and visit crime scenes. Interns are assigned to various bureaus in the office, ranging from Intake, Gang Violence and Hate Crimes to Economic and Environmental Crimes and our Detective Bureau. They help prosecutors prepare for trial and those with accounting experience assist our forensic accounting staff. These are real life experiences that cannot be replicated in the classroom.”
The program, which began this week, attracted nearly 600 applicants. Among the interns selected for this year’s program are students from the State and City Universities of New York, as well as those from as far away as California, Louisiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Law students – from both local schools and from across the country – make up the majority of the interns.
As part of the annual program, a lecture series is set up each week for the interns at which Brown and members of his staff speak on a variety of legal topics followed by a question and answer session.
Each year internships play an important part in the professional and personal development of future assistant district attorneys. To underscore that point, Chief Assistant District Attorney John M. Ryan told the summer class how, while in law school, he was undecided about his future plans until he accepted an offer of an internship with the District Attorney’s office more than 40 years ago – which set him on his career path as a prosecutor. way to do that is by providing as much information to the public as possible. This report hopefully provides some clarity and helps inform sound policy in the future.”
The report states that SSA paid $20.2 million in benefits to 133 individuals alleged, or found, to have participated in Nazi persecution. This occurred because the Social Security Act did not prohibit the payment of most of these benefits when they were paid.
The $20.2 million in benefits included $14.5 million paid to 95 beneficiaries who were not deported and $5.7 million paid to 38 beneficiaries who were deported.
Of the $20.2 million in benefits, SSA improperly paid four beneficiaries $15,658 because it did not timely suspend benefits the month after it received the final order of deportation or removal from the Department of Justice.
When the No Social Security for Nazis Act became law, four beneficiaries were affected by the new law. The IG report found that SSA properly stopped payments to four beneficiaries who were in current pay status as of January 2015.
SSA did not stop payments to one additional beneficiary who allegedly participated in Nazi persecution because he left the United States before a deportation action was filed and did not have US citizenship or a settlement agreement with DOJ. As such, the beneficiary, who lived in Germany was not subject to the provisions of the new law and received payments until SSA terminated his benefits in May 2015 because of his death in March 2015.
The full report is available here: www.oig.ssc.gov/audits-and- investigations/audit-reports/A-09-15-50013.
QUEENS BLVD. SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS ADVANCE: Queens Boulevard, the “Boulevard of Death,” suddenly transformed into the “Boulevard of Life” following Queens Community Board 2’s vote last week in support of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposed corridor safety improvements along Queens Boulevard from Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street in Elmhurst.
After the meeting, DOT’s Polly Trottenberg issued the following statement:
“Community Board 2’s unanimous vote tonight is a big step toward turning Queens Boulevard into the ‘Boulevard of Life’. This investment made by the de Blasio administration will make the boulevard safer, greener and better for all users. I would like to thank the community for its support and local leaders, such as Councilman Van Bramer, for their leadership.”
STATEMENT: by State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) on TSA deficiencies and the need to invest in security:
“Whether it is at our airports or train stations, we have recently witnessed how critical it is to continue the investments of attention and funding to security measures. With JFK airport, along with the work of the TSA, and the A train line affecting my district and its residents, I remain cognizant of the fact that every level of government must remain vigilant in their respective efforts to guard against terrorism and vandalism, and protect the safety and well-being of others.”
Full article: http://www.qgazette.com/news/2015-06-10/Political_Page