Tag Archives: Andrew Cuomo

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.

Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Today’s Forecast

Thursday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 48. Breezy, with a northwest wind 17 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 37. Northwest wind 11 to 16 mph.

Event of the Day: Bruce Lee Fights Back From the Grave

Devil Science Theater 3000 is an interactive event where the audience plays drinking games and makes fun of terrible movies while being egged on by professional comedians in the crowd. Find our more or view more events

Ex-St. John’s University dean Cecilia Chang rejected sweet plea deal before suicide

In the end, disgraced St. John’s University dean Cecilia Chang chose death over a life of dishonor — even at one point rejecting a sweet plea deal of two to six years in a so-called Club Fed prison, the Daily News has learned. Read more: Daily News

Gov. Cuomo fires Emergency Management chief over Sandy tree removal: sources

Office of Emergency Management boss Steven Kuhr was fired after allegedly sending workers to clear a tree in his Long Island driveway as other victims of the storm suffered, sources said yesterday. Read more: NY Post

Nor’easter brings snow, surges to storm-shocked city

A nor’easter brought heavy wind gusts and a snow Wednesday to a city trying to recover from last week’s superstorm, and coastal communities in the five boroughs were forced to endure another round of storm surges. Read more: NY1

Councilman James Sanders rips LIPA over Rockaway power outage

As tensions mount on a powerless Rockaway peninsula, the barbs being tossed at the Long Island Power Authority are becoming harsher with each passing day. City Councilman and soon-to-be state Sen. James Sanders Jr. blasted the utility on Wednesday and its top executive Michael Hervey after Sanders was told many of LIPA’s customers in Queens could be without power for up to three more weeks. Read more: Daily News

New York AG goes after post-Sandy price gougers

The state attorney general yesterday slapped a subpoena on Craigslist, demanding that the popular Web site identify sellers who jacked up prices on post-Sandy gas, generators and other supplies, The Post has learned. Read more: NY Post

Ex-con who shot Nassau County cop and motorist dead should be thrown in prison for the rest of his life: prosecutors

The Queens ex-con who gunned down a Nassau County cop and a motorist near Belmont Park to avoid returning to prison should spend the rest of his life behind bars, prosecutors said Wednesday as the alleged triggerman was indicated for murder, robbery and weapons possession. Read more: Daily News

Headlines from around the web


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

The Afternoon Roundup

What marathon runners are doing today

The controversy over the ING NYC Marathon—and the city’s decision to hold it in spite of widespread Hurricane Sandy damage and then cancel it after intense backlash—turned what is usually a joyous NYC event into an uncomfortable topic. And it turned the runners, who truly do love NYC and the experience seeing it across 26 miles, into unwitting villains. Let’s leave the villainy to others—ahem, New York Road Runners Club—and celebrate the runners’ spirit: About a thousand headed to Staten Island this morning to help with relief efforts, while 2,000 are in Central Park running a marathon and raising money for relief efforts! Gothamist

Hurricane Sandy drives down major crime, but burglaries are up

The city saw a significant drop in several categories of major crime – but a slight uptick in reported burglaries – with the onslaught of Superstorm Sandy. Murders citywide dropped 86% from Monday, when the hurricane hit, to Friday, compared with the same time frame in 2011, NYPD statistics show.NYDailyNews 

Cuomo says subway service will not be normal on Monday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Chuck Schumer, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and other city and state officials huddled together for a press conference updating New Yorkers on the latest Hurricane Sandy response plans inside the Governor’s NYC Office in Manhattan. Cuomo had some sobering words about what the state of the subways would be like tomorrow: “Service will not be normal tomorrow,” he said. “Volume will be way up, schools will be open, and because of the gas problem, many more people will be on mass transit.” Gothamist

Queens residents arm themselves from looters

When night falls in the Rockaways, the hoods come out. Ever since Sandy strafed the Queens peninsula and tore up the boardwalk, it’s become an often lawless place where cops are even scarcer than electrical power and food. Locals say they are arming themselves with guns, baseball bats, booby traps — even a bow and arrow — to defend against looters. NYDailyNews

 

Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Today’s Forecast

Thursday: A slight chance of showers after 3pm. Cloudy, with a high near 56. West wind 9 to 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%. Thursday night: A slight chance of showers before 10pm. Cloudy, with a low around 47. West wind 9 to 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Limited subway service returns this morning

Limited subway service will return to New York City tomorrow morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced. Fourteen lines will be providing partial service days after the system sustained the worst damage in its 108-year history. There is no indication as of yet what lines or stops will be in service. There will be no subway service between 34th St in Midtown and Downtown Brooklyn. Read more: Queens Courier

Mayor mandates car passenger minimums in Manhattan

Cars with less than three passengers will be virtually barred from entering Manhattan, Mayor Bloomberg announced today, in a desperate bid to relief gridlocked city streets. This post-Hurricane Sandy rule will be enforced from 6 a.m. to midnight tomorrow and Friday. Read more: NY Post

Old Howard Beach residents wonder why they weren’t evacuated

As the flood waters from Hurricane Sandy ebb back in to Jamaica Bay, some are questioning why residents of Howard Beach were not evacuated. Howard Beach lies on the edge of Evacuation Zone A, which, for Queens, includes the Rockaways, parts of Long Island City, Broad Channel and nearby Hamilton Beach. Read more: Queens Courier

Bellevue Hospital evacuating patients after power outage

Bellevue Hospital began evacuating hundreds of patients Wednesday after fuel pumps swamped by 17 million gallons of water from superstorm Sandy conked out, putting backup generators in peril. The decision to clear out capped two challenging days at the city’s flagship public hospital — where lights flickered, elevators shut down, plumbing failed and the National Guard had to man a bucket brigade. Read more: Daily News

Prominent Queens attorney and philanthropist John G. Nicholas dies at age 79

John G. Nicholas, a prominent Queens lawyer and philanthropist, died on Oct. 15. He was 79. His family said the cause of death was heart failure. “He was a true humanitarian and he placed his faith in people,” said his son Charles Nicholas, 51, an attorney from Syosset, L.I. “He was a defender of the oppressed.” Read more: Daily News

Cuomo requests maximum reimbursement for Hurricane Sandy damage from FEMA


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting a maximum reimbursement from the federal government for damage suffered during Hurricane Sandy.

“Our counties are responding to the continued impacts of multi-building fires, tunnel closures, power losses to hospitals and other critical infrastructure, destroyed homes and sheltered populations — all in the midst of historic flooding that has complicated emergency response operations exponentially,” Cuomo wrote.

Cuomo said that the damage from Hurricane Sandy warrants the the maximum assistance allowed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Cuomo said the support is needed in the continuing efforts to restore the state following Sandy’s devastation.

Businesses are estimated to have lost $6 billion in revenue due to the storm, the letter stated.

Obama declared New York a major disaster on Monday.

 

Cuomo endorses Addabbo in 15th Senate District race


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of State Senator Joe Addabbo

During the primary race for Senate District 15 this summer, now-Republican nominee and Councilmember Eric Ulrich picked up a major endorsement from former Governor George Pataki.

This fall, State Senator Joseph Addabbo, running for his third term, has seen Ulrich’s bet and raised him an incumbent.

Governor Andrew Cuomo endorsed Addabbo on Monday, October 8 at the outset of the Columbus Day Parade in Manhattan.

In his endorsement, Cuomo noted that Addabbo, and the legislature, had been productive in voting on tough issues, and in the end, he said, made the correct decision when voting.

“Now, a number of elected officials are in difficult elections, I believe, in part, because of votes they took,” Cuomo said.

The first-term governor added that Addabbo had “political courage” to stand up for issues and the people he represented.

“And I want his constituents to know today that he is a man of conscience, he is a man of integrity, he is a man of courage, and that’s what you want in an elected official — especially in Albany,” he said.

Addabbo said of the endorsement that he looked forward to continuing to work with Cuomo in Albany for another two years and work toward the number of problems facing the state.

“I look forward to continue working with Governor Cuomo to improve educational opportunities, create jobs, fight for stronger gun control, and once again be proud of our state government,” Addabbo said.

The candidates are set for several debates with less than a month until voters — from Maspeth all the way to Rockaway — cast their ballot on November 6 to see if Addabbo goes back to Albany in December, or if Ulrich will be taking the Taconic to work.

Cuomo announces stricter DUI laws


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Stock image

Booze, cruise and lose. New York is cracking down on intoxicated drivers.

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced an initiative to remove drivers with repeat alcohol or drug-related driving convictions from New York’s roads.

According to Cuomo, these more rigid regulations, enforced by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), will make the state among the toughest in the nation against drivers who persistently get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

“We are saying ‘enough is enough’ to those who have chronically abused their driving privileges and threatened the safety of other drivers, passengers and pedestrians,” said Cuomo. “This comprehensive effort will make New York safer by keeping these drivers off our roadways.”

Every year, more than 300 people are killed and 6,000 injured on roads throughout the state as a result of drunk driving.

Over the past few years, the percentage of crashes resulting in an injury where the driver had three or more alcohol related convictions has increased, spiking from 22 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2010.

Current law dictates that individuals with multiple DUI offenses cannot permanently lose their licenses. Under New York State law, the only scenario where a license could be indefinitely removed is if they have two alcohol or drug related convictions stemming from crashes that resulted in physical injury or death.

Under the new regulations, the DMV will deny applications for reinstatement of a license if the applicant has five or more alcohol or drug-related driving convictions during his or her lifetime or three or more alcohol or drug-related driving convictions in the last 25 years as well as one other serious driving offense during that period. Serious driving offenses include a fatal crash, accumulating 20 or more violation points within the last 25 years, or having two or more driving convictions each worth five or more points.

Forest Hills attorney Rochelle Berliner, who represents individuals busted for drunk driving, said cases where clients have multiple DUIs are uncommon.

“It’s a tough state to have a DUI arrest,” said Berliner. “There’s not a lot of flexibility with the district attorney’s office and this is going to make it worse.”

According to Berliner, penalties for drinking and driving vary depending on the county in which the arrest occurs and the perpetrator’s blood alcohol level during the police-administered Breathalyzer exam.

In Queens, if a first-offending individual’s blood alcohol level is relatively close to .08 — the legal limit in New York State — they have an increased chance of getting the misdemeanor infraction of impaired. Logging a blood alcohol level over .18 is known as aggravated and results in harsher consequences.

Berliner said she understood why there are constant efforts to increase the severity of the penalty for drinking and driving. However, the attorney was not completely convinced that the law will keep people from operating a car while intoxicated.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect a huge number of people but it just keeps increasing the negative penalties for a person who gets caught driving under the influence,” said Berliner. “It’s better to get people the help they need before they get to that point.”