Tag Archives: Andrew Cuomo

Primary Day 2014 coverage


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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Check back here for The Queens Courier’s Primary Day coverage from the casting of ballots to the election results.

12:03 a.m. 

The District 11 race has been called: Incumbent state Sen. Tony Avella defeats John Liu.

11:05 p.m.

Leroy Comrie has been declared the winner in the State Senate District 14 race, defeating incumbent Malcolm Smith at 70.9% with 81.7% of the precincts reporting.

10:55 p.m.

Incumbent Toby Stavisky wins her race in State Senate District 16.

10:35 p.m.

Incumbents state Sen. James Sanders and Assemblywoman Margaret Markey have been declared winners in their races.

10:22 p.m.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been declared the winner in the Democratic primary, Kathy Hochul in the lieutenant governor race: AP

9:00 p.m.

Polls are now closed.

6:16 p.m.

Leroy Comrie: “Honored to have Mayor @BilldeBlasio here in the 14th Senate District to help #gotv for our final push!”

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

5:06 p.m. “Speaking to voters in Briarwood with Assemblyman @DavidWeprin and @ElizCrowleyNYC”: 14th District State Senate candidate Leroy Comrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

3:18 p.m. State Senate candidate John Liu admonishes a Queens resident for wearing a Yankees shirt: “We’ll get you a Mets shirt.” 

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THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

3:11 p.m. The Queens Courier found this John Liu  taxi getting the word out during Primary Day.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

3:01 p.m. State Sen. Avella’s crew lays a stake at P.S. 191.

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THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

2:37 p.m.  11th District State Senate candidate John Liu talks to a parent at P.S. 191, who told him to do something instead of just making promises.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

2:26 p.m. “Happy to do my civic duty this Primary Day. #nycvotes,” Toby Ann Stavisky tweeted.

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

1:52 p.m. State Sen. Tony Avella talks to a constituent near the voting site at P.S 169. The polling place has recorded 400 votes since 6 a.m.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

12:08 p.m. State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, who is up for re-election: “All smiles on Primary Day with @AndrewHevesi @CMKoslowitz”

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

11:30 a.m. John Liu votes this morning, hoping to defeat incumbent state Sen. Tony Avella. “Running and voting as a proud #truedemocrat, joined by @MelindaKatz on #PrimaryDay”

Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork

Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork

10:44 a.m. 30th District Assembly candidate Dmytro Fedkowskyj: “So proud of my daughter, Deanna, who is voting for the 1st time today. Let’s vote for change! #PrimaryDay #AD30″

Photo via Twitter/@FedkowskyjForNY

Photo via Twitter/@FedkowskyjForNY

10:22 a.m. State Sen. Tony Avella’s crew passes around fliers in Bayside just off of Bell Boulevard. 

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THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

10:04 a.m. “Our support has been incredibly positive and when the polls close, we are confident that our campaign will be victorious, ” Tony Avella said in a statement after the incumbent state Senator voted this morning. “Voters understand that this race boils down to which candidate they trust to uphold this office with honor and integrity, and John Liu doesn’t pass the laugh test on either account.”

Photo courtesy of Tony Avella

Photo courtesy of Tony Avella

9:38 a.m. Leroy Comrie casts his vote. “I just voted! Thanks @TishJames for joining me! #gotv”

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

9:10 a.m. Public Advocate Letitia James joins 14th District State Senate candidate Leroy Comrie in Queens.

Photo via Facebook/Leroy Comrie

Photo via Facebook/Leroy Comrie

7:48 a.m.

11th District State Senate candidate John Liu greets voters at the LIRR Bayside station.

“Greeting morning commuters bright and early with @edbraunstein reminding people to vote.”

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Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork

 

 6:00 a.m.

Polls are open and will close at 9 p.m. You can find your poll site location at http://nyc.pollsitelocator.com or by calling the voter Phone Bank at 1-866-VOTE-NYC.

Here are the list of Queens candidates in the Democratic primary for state Senate and Assembly, as well as the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor:

State Senator (10th District)
Everly Brown
Gian Jones
James Sanders Jr. *

State Senator (11th District)
Tony Avella*
John Liu

State Senator (14th District)
Munir Avery
Leroy Comrie
Malcolm Smith*

State Senator (16th District)
S.J. Jung
Toby Ann Stavisky*

Assembly (30th District)
Dmytro Fedkowskyj
Margaret Markey*

Governor
Andrew Cuomo*
Randy Credico
Zephyr Teachout

Lieutenant Governor
Kathy Hochul
Timothy Wu

Incumbent = *

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announces GOP run for governor


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video via YouTube/Rob Astorino

Rob Astorino is asking voters whether New York is winning or losing.

The Westchester County Executive, in a video challenging Andrew Cuomo’s economic successes in leading the state, has announced he is running on the Republican ticket for governor.

“I’m tired of listening to the fairy tale that everything is just great when it’s just the opposite. I’m tired of watching New York’s decline,” he said, declaring his candidacy Wednesday.

If the state is winning, Astorino, 46, proclaimed, then re-elect Cuomo, but the evidence, he added, shows it is not.

New York has the highest taxes in the country, worst business climate, most corrupt government and second highest electric rates, Astorino claimed.

The video also attacked the governor for raising taxes and for his plan to fund college classes in prisons.

Astorino called Cuomo’s handling of Common Core a “disaster,” and promised to replace it with better standards, teaching and testing, all set and controlled at the local level. He additionally said New York needs more charter schools, not fewer.

He promised bipartisan, inclusive governing that he said helped get “Westchester back on the winning path again.”

Before he was elected to his first term as County Executive in 2009, Astorino served on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, and was a Mount Pleasant councilmember for 12 years.

Though he won re-election last year in a 2-1 Democratic county, he has an uphill battle if he faces Cuomo in the general election.

Cuomo, a popular incumbent, already has more than $33 million in campaign funds, according to the New York State Board of Elections.

A Feb. 13 Quinnipiac University poll showed Cuomo, with a 63 percent job approval rating, would beat Astorino 58 to 24 percent.

It also found he would easily defeat another potential challenger, Donald Trump.

The 2010 GOP candidate for governor, Carl Paladino, could reportedly run as a third party candidate.

 

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Mayor Bill de Blasio welcomes city to 2014 winter storm number six


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Cristabelle Tumola

Updated 9:15 p.m.

A state of emergency has been declared as the Nor’Easter storm targets the five boroughs.

“Welcome to winter storm number six of the last six weeks,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

De Blasio said the snow has come down “heavier and faster than the weather service had predicted last night.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency Thursday morning “so that we can continue to effectively respond to the storm and aid communities in need.”

Cuomo said the state is adequately prepared with salt supplies, and said snow is expected to fall throughout the day at two to three inches per hour.

Ten to 14 inches are expected by tonight, de Blasio said, but could be affected by a mix of freezing rain and sleet.

The mayor continued to urge drivers to stay off the road, and said mass transit is the best option.

For the Friday morning rush hour, the MTA expects to run normal subway service, but some express service may run local because of track conditions, the transit agency said. Buses should run at 80 percent capacity.

The Long Island Rail Road plans to operate at 90 percent of its normal weekday schedule, and is canceling 14 morning rush hour trains.

The Department of Sanitation pre-treated roads and began salting roadways at 3 a.m. Thursday morning. “Extra efforts” were made to address tertiary roads as well, de Blasio said.

To track plowing progress, click here.

Alternate side parking regulations and garbage and recycling pick-up is suspended through Saturday. De Blasio said trash pick-up won’t be “in earnest” until Tuesday.

To check the city’s progress or sign up for regular alerts, click here.

With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola

 

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Cuomo cracks down on public corruption


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's Flickr

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND TERENCE M. CULLEN

In light of several recent political scandals, including the arrests of Queens legislators Malcolm Smith and Dan Halloran, Governor Andrew Cuomo is cracking down on corruption.

He announced the Public Trust act on Tuesday, April 9, which would make it easier to convict wrongdoers of public corruption under broader legal definitions.

“Preventing public corruption is essential to ensuring that government works and can effectively keep the public’s trust,” said Cuomo. “The Public Trust Act recognizes that crimes of public corruption should be treated more seriously than other white-collar crimes because when they break the law, they also break the public trust that the people have placed in government.”

Crimes expanded under the new legislation include bribery of a public servant, defrauding the government and failure to report public corruption.

The Public Trust Act would also limit immunity for witnesses testifying before a grand jury investigating official misconduct or government fraud.

“We welcome these important new tools that Governor Cuomo is proposing today. They will strengthen our laws and make it possible for prosecutors to more effectively investigate and prosecute public corruption,” said District Attorney Richard Brown.

If they’re found guilty of corruption-related offenses, legislators or associates will face tougher jail sentences.
Anyone convicted would also be prohibited them from “holding any elected or civil office, lobbying, contracting, receiving state funding, or doing business with the state, directly or through an organization.”

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, who chairs the chamber’s Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee, told Community Board 9 on April 9 that the Smith debacle was “one of the stupidest scandals” he ever saw.

Hevesi, whose father, Alan, is on parole after being convicted on a “pay-to-play” scandal, said Cuomo’s reforms would do away with government loopholes.

“Part of the reform that Governor Cuomo has brought today is called ending the Wilson Pakula system,” Hevesi said.

“When you’re talking about checks and balances for a bad system, the governor announced today that that’s one of the things he’s looking at.”

The Wilson Pakula Certificate requires three of the five borough party chiefs to approve a candidate from another party to run for office as a member of their own party. In Smith’s case, the Democrat needed the green light from three Republican party chairs.

Hevesi’s committee will soon push for its own legislation that will help investigate the misuse of state funds or poor behavior by elected officials. Because the last few chairs had short tenures on the committee, Hevesi said it’s been hard to get long-term legislation put through.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo, in a statement, said the legislation put forth by Cuomo was long-awaited but the first step.

Addabbo testified before the Attorney General earlier this year on the need for campaign finance reform – another effort to help clean up Albany and party politics.

“It shouldn’t take a number of recently-arrested elected officials to wake up the Legislature to enact tougher ethics and anti-corruption laws. In Albany, it’s long overdue,” Addabbo said. “I am hopeful that the State Legislature expands on these proposals and explores other means of addressing the issue, such as passing campaign finance reform, along with other pending legislative measures.”

 

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Cuomo to hold New Year’s open house at Executive Mansion


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo via Flickr/governorandrewcuomo

Want to spend New Year’s with the governor? Well, here’s your chance.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is opening the doors to the Executive Mansion in Albany on New Year’s Day and he’s invited the whole state to join him.

The open house will take place from 1-3 p.m.

All adults over 16 wishing to join the governor must have a ticket to get in and space is limited.

Click here to sign up for the open house

Registration will remain open until 6 p.m. tonight. If the number of requests exceeds the available space, guests will be selected by lottery.

No photos or videos will be allowed.

 

Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 52. West wind 8 to 13 mph. Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 39. Northwest wind around 9 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: Carols ‘n’ Cookies ‘n’ Cocoa ‘n’ Cheer

Celebrate the season with warm wishes, delicious treats and the renowned choral group Voices That Blend. There will also be an Aquinas Honor Society video presentation of Jacob’s Gift, the story of how Jacob Riis brought Christmas caroling to the U.S. in 1911. Free admission and free parking on the grounds.  Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Gov. Cuomo, Gov. Christie and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy demand quick action from Congress to provide $60 billion in disaster aid for states devastated by Sandy

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and 125 powerful CEOs issued an extraordinary plea to Congress on Thursday, demanding quick action on $60 billion in disaster aid for states devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Read more: Daily News

Five people arrested in Queens gun-trafficking crackdown

Authorities say five people have been arrested in a crackdown on gun trafficking in southeast Queens. The arrests were announced Thursday by District Attorney Richard A. Brown and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Read more: NY Post

Air Serv JFK security workers vote to authorize strike

Security workers at JFK Airport who work for Air Serv authorized a strike Thursday for December 20, the middle of the Christmas rush, if their concerns are not addressed. The officers employed by Global Elite will vote Friday. Read more: NY1

‘Drunk’ driver in fatal Queensboro Bridge crash faces up to 25 years in jail after turning down plea deal

A man who turned down a six-month plea deal after cops said he drunkenly drove his car off a Queensboro Bridge ramp — killing a pedestrian and destroying two businesses – now faces up to 25 years in jail. Read more: NY Post

Benefit events the next step in Sandy recovery

The hammers and work gloves are giving way to guitars and open wallets. Now that the initial chaos and cleanup has subsided, local groups and officials are shifting their focus toward galas and concerts to benefit those whose lives were torn asunder by Superstorm Sandy. Read more: Daily News

Queens nightclub owner acquitted in Teaneck double-homicide

Jurors in Hackensack on Thursday acquitted a Queens nightclub owner of a double street killing in Teaneck, rejecting prosecutors’ arguments that a cocaine scheme gone awry, an electronic trail to the crime scene, and his conflicting statements to police proved his guilt. Read more: The Record

Susan Rice pulls out as candidate for Secretary of State

Embattled UN Ambassador Susan Rice has taken her name out of the race for secretary of state, three months after her controversial comments on the Benghazi attack, according to broadcast reports today. Read more: NY Post

 

Obama asks for $60 billion in federal aid for Sandy relief


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The Obama administration has requested $60.4 billion in federal resources for “response, recovery and mitigation related to Sandy damages in all affected states,” according to a letter from Jeffrey Zients, the deputy director for management, to House Speaker John Boehner.

However, that is less than the $80 billion initially sought for the destruction in the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Councilmember James Sanders, who has been working with his constituents throughout Far Rockaway. “And I encourage [the president] to take the next step.”

The next step, said Sanders, is to get the rest of the aid that the devastated areas need. New York is reported to need $42 billion, New Jersey $37 billion and Connecticut $3 billion.

The New York Times also reported that “the president’s plan would not cover several big-ticket items sought by state governments. It would not pay for damage already covered by private insurance, and would extend aid only to primary residences.”

But according to the Obama administration, the amount requested “includes efforts to repair storm damage to homes and public infrastructure and to help affected communities prepare for future storms.”

“Eighty billion is what would make us whole,” countered Sanders. “When we spoke of other national disasters, we met their needs, and that was correct. Let’s make sure that this area receives the same treatment.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also sees this federal aid as a start, but knows that more is necessary.

“While the total funding request released by the White House is not everything requested, we have always been realistic about the fiscal constraints facing the federal government. Now it’s up to Congress to come together and . . . work extremely hard to deliver the maximum possible aid.”

Tolls reinstated on Rockaway bridges


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Cross Bay Bridgew

Tolls on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, suspended since Sandy, went back into the effect on Saturday, December 1. Crossing once again costs $3.25 in the cash lane and $1.80 for E-ZPass users.

Since the bridge reopened a few days after the storm, fares going across the Cross Bay, along with the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge going into Brooklyn, were waived to allow people on and off the peninsula for relief efforts. But as the Rockaways slowly bounce back to normalcy, the decision was made to reinstate the fare.

Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the halt on tolls on Cross Bay through all of November, according to MTA spokesperson Judie Glave. Despite outsiders coming into the Rockaways to help with recovery efforts, the transit authority is required to collect tolls from everyone going in.

“MTA Bridges and Tunnels has a bond covenant, which requires us to collect tolls from everyone who goes through,” said Glave.

Rockaway residents, however, do get a break thanks to a program that tracks E-ZPass tags for residents within the region’s six zip codes. The Rockaway Rebate program went into effect earlier this year, pushed for by Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. The program redeems tolls for these residents who are travelling in and out of mainland Queens, Glave said.

Goldfeder, who has sought several means to ease the intra-borough toll burden since coming into office last September, said he would communicate with MTA chair Joseph Lhota and Cuomo to see what steps can be taken going forward for inexpensive transportation across Jamaica Bay.

“I was responsible in working with the governor in working to eradicate the toll for the last month,” he said. “I will absolutely talk to Joe Lhota at the MTA and the governor to discuss possible options for further discounts and rebates.”

Grant will put residents affected by Sandyback to work


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Thousands knocked onto the unemployment line by Sandy can now head back to work, while also helping fellow residents affected by the storm.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $27 million federal grant to put 5,000 unemployed New Yorkers to work cleaning up areas ravaged by the storm.

The funds were provided by a National Emergency Grant.

“As New York State begins to rebuild and clean up after the incredible destruction caused by Sandy, the enormous amount of work to be done gives us a chance to provide young and unemployed New Yorkers with job opportunities cleaning up their communities,” said Cuomo.

The Department of Labor is working with local officials in affected areas to identify locations to dispatch the cleanup and rebuilding crews. An additional 700 New Yorkers are set to be hired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to replace out of state employees that descended on the state after Sandy.

Unemployment claims skyrocketed in the aftermath of Sandy, with 46,000 more residents requesting unemployment insurance after the storm, approximately a 33 percent increase. Prior to Sandy, the unemployment rate fell from 8.9 percent to 8.7 percent in October, according to the Department of Labor.

“What is the economic impact of those claims? When are those people going back to work? What happened to those businesses?” asked Cuomo.

Besides the unemployment claims, 265,000 businesses were affected by Sandy, the governor said.

“There was a tremendous loss of valuable commercial property, much of it in downtown Manhattan. It could be another month before some of those buildings come back online,” he said. “That’s a lot of jobs, that’s a lot of economic loss for the state”

Residents in disaster areas may be eligible for federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) relief which is open to those injured during the storm and unable to work, were unable to reach their job because of transportation issues or if their workplace was destroyed.

Interested unemployed residents can log onto www.labor.ny.gov/sandyjobs or http://www.labor.ny.gov/jobs/regional.shtm to apply.

Cuomo announces plans to speed up Sandy insurance claims


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

Insurance companies will need to answer Sandy insurance claims quicker or face poor grades in the state’s new online grading system for insurers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the new measures yesterday to help expedite insurance payments to victims of Superstorm Sandy. The Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued a new regulation that will cut insurance companies’ time to follow up on claims from 15 days to six days.

Companies that do not begin investigating within six days face a fine of $1,000.

“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it is vital that New Yorkers receive their claim settlements as soon as possible, so that they can rebuild their homes, businesses and lives,” Cuomo said. “There simply is no substitute for speed when it comes to insurance payouts after a storm. We must do everything possible to make sure we hold insurance companies accountable to their customers.”

In addition to speeding up claims, the governor announced an online grading system assessing insurance companies to hold them accountable. The reports cards can be found at www.NYInsure.ny.gov.   The criteria insurance companies will be judged on is:

  • Number of claims and dollar amount of claims
  • Average time for an adjuster to inspect
  • Number of claims closed with and without payment so far
  • Total number of consumer complaints
  • Number of complaints as a percentage of number of claims

Bloomberg visits D.C. seeking federal aid


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Flickr/nycmayorsoffice Photo credit: Spencer T Tucker

Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited the nation’s capital yesterday meeting with lawmakers to request Sandy aid, while Governor Andrew Cuomo joined a neighboring governor in appealing for maximum federal support.

“Hurricane recovery is not a partisan issue – and in New York, we have a united front of Democrats and Republicans,” said Bloomberg, who was accompanied by Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. “Now, we have to bring together both sides in Washington – and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The mayor also met with other Washington leaders, including, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee Congressmember Hal Rogers, Senators Sue Collins and Lamar Alexander and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

“I described the enormous job of recovery that is still ahead of us – a job that we’re undertaking in close proximity with Governor Cuomo, and members of both parties of New York State’s Congressional delegation,” Bloomberg said.

The city has already authorized $1.2 billion in emergency spending. Bloomberg said the New York City will need about $15 billion from the federal government for losses not covered by insurance.

“There’s every reason for Congress to provide us with the assistance we need, given New York City’s importance to the health of the entire nation,” Bloomberg said.

The mayor is also requesting 100 percent reimbursement from FEMA.

Cuomo released a joint statement with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asserting they will work together to secure federal aid. The neighboring governors said their states are “inextricably linked” and therefore share a common goal in rebuilding.

“It is our shared commitment to the people of our states to work in partnership so that our needs are met and we receive as much federal support as possible,” the statement said.

Cuomo visits Breezy Point, promises community will come back stronger


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thanksgiving Eve visited first responders and Breezy Point residents and promised them that, despite the current turmoil, the entire New York community would be rebuilt and stronger in a year’s time.

“Today you see a day of damage, but you come back here in a year from now and you will see a community that is rebuilt better than before and a community that is stronger than it was before,” he said. “Because that’s what Breezy Point is all about and that’s what New York is all about, and I’m proud to be part of it.”

The governor, surrounded by state and federal officials who represent the area, called the collaboration between communities in the Rockaways, and the state as a whole was touching and something he was proud to be a part of. The small signs of recovery already showing in Breezy Point, Cuomo said, were inspiring and a good sign for the future.

“This is a special community, Breezy Point, and this is really devastating damage,” he said, “but you know it’s also a metaphor for what this is really a metaphor for what this is all about: it’s a very strong community, and they’re rebuilding and you see progress already. And it’s a heartwarming story around Thanksgiving the way people have come together, the way New Yorkers have come together, and the way the spirit of the community is going to rebuild.”

Help getting back home after Sandy


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is answering Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for prompt assistance for New Yorkers whose homes were affected by Superstorm Sandy.

FEMA will bring in contractors to disaster-stricken areas to perform basic repairs so homes can once again become livable, and residents can return while longer term repairs are in progress. However, only residents in federally declared devastated counties that are registered with FEMA are eligible to participate. To register, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

“When Hurricane Sandy hit our state, New Yorkers saw their homes severely damaged or completely destroyed,” said Cuomo. “The FEMA assistance will make a big difference as we continue New York’s long term recovery.”

FEMA has developed a two-step approach to helping storm victims make these vital repairs. The Shelter and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) program will be implemented in conjunction with the Individuals and Households Program (IHP) to get residents in their homes, and keep them there.

“The solution is to get people back into their homes safely,” said Michael Byrne, FEMA federal coordinating officer.

The STEP Program is a new program, intended to provide temporary electrical measures and exterior repairs, which includes patching windows or exterior doors, tarp on the roof and minor electrical work – all necessary inspections for habitability. Homeowners can then use FEMA’s Individual Assistance to make permanent repairs.

Regarding financial assistance for these repairs, the IHP Program enables individuals to address expenses that cannot be met through other forms of insurance. Forms for housing assistance under this program include the temporary housing repair, replacement and semi-permanent/permanent construction that homeowners receive through the STEP program.

“Now it is time to restore and rebuild these homes, and help people get back in their homes in time for winter,” said Cuomo.

Obama lands at JFK, tours areas hardest hit by Sandy


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

By Alexa Altman and Terence Cullen

“I’m very proud of you, New York,” said President Barack Obama. “You guys are tough. You bounce back, just as America always bounces back. The same is going to be true this time out.”

Alongside New York’s most prominent officials, Obama surveyed damage in the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.

“We are going to be here until the rebuilding is complete,” he said while touring Staten Island. “I’m going to be coming back in the future to make sure that we have followed through on that commitment.”

The president, accompanied by Senators Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, landed at JFK International Airport just after 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, November 15, where he was greeted by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Obama immediately boarded helicopter Marine One, where he aerially toured some of the damage to the Rockaway peninsula, including Breezy Point, where 111 homes burned down during the storm.

During their trip toward Staten Island, the president was briefed on the city’s current situation by Cuomo, Bloomberg, Napolitano and Donovan.

While New York is currently in recovery mode, the president said there is still plenty to be accomplished on the way to getting the city back up and running.

“Now, more specifically, we are now still in the process of recovery,” Obama said. “As you can see, as you travel around parts of Staten Island, as we flew over parts of … other parts of the city and the region that had been impacted, there is still a lot of cleanup to do.”

Over the past few weeks, aid organizations such as FEMA and the American Red Cross have been criticized for their alleged slow response time and lack of presence in badly damaged regions like Broad Channel and Howard Beach. Obama said he and his team will be working closely with these organizations and local governments to ensure victims receive the assistance they need.

“People still need emergency help. They still need heat. They still need power. They still need food. They still need shelter,” said the president. “Kids are still trying to figure out where they’re going to school. So there’s a lot of short-term, immediate stuff that has to be dealt with. And we are going to make sure that we stay here as long as people need that immediate help. That’s FEMA’s primary task.”

While on the ground in Staten Island, Obama privately met with homeowners and those filing insurance claims with the Small Business Association (SBA).

“What is your situation?” he asked one woman in the SBA tent.

“These folks are here to help, OK,” he said to another.

“During difficult times like this,” said the president near the end of his trip to New York, “we’re reminded that we’re all bound together and that we have to look out for each other. And a lot of the things that seem important, the petty differences melt away, and we focus on what binds us together, and that we as Americans are going to stand with each other in our hour of need.”

— With pool reports

 

Loan help for students struggling after Sandy


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo is lifting the burden that Sandy placed upon students struggling to pay off school loans, allowing storm victims a grace period to get back on their feet.

“We are working to provide New Yorkers recovering from Sandy with as much relief and support as possible,” said the governor.

Cuomo directed the New York State Higher Education Services (HESC) to grant temporary loan relief to the students living in areas devastated by the storm, allowing them a 90-day grace period.

“Anyone in the declared disaster areas having difficulty at this time, we want to help them,” said Kathy Crowder, HESC spokesperson. “If they cannot pay or are having stress in trying to make those bills at this time, we don’t want this to be an additional burden.”

Halting student loans for these three months will only extend the length of payment, not the monthly dollar amount. However, because additional time will be added, interest on payments will continue to accrue, according to Crowder.

If requested, students in Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, Rockland Suffolk and Westchester are eligible. The grace period started October 27 and runs through January 25, 2013. All members of the military who have been called to help in Sandy’s aftermath will also be eligible.

To begin the process of a temporary suspension of student loans, call 1-866-991-HESC (4372) or email dept736@hesc.nyc.gov.