Tag Archives: Assemblymember Nily Rozic

Pols call for more city buses to run through Douglaston


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

More city buses need to roll through Douglaston, local elected officials demanded Monday, calling the neighborhood a “transit desert.”

Five major bus routes, coupled with sporadic service, are not enough to serve the area’s growing ridership, according to Congressmember Steve Israel and Assemblymember Nily Rozic.

“This is not just a matter of convenience for Douglaston residents,” Israel said. “This is just the smart thing to do.”

The two called for an increase in federal and state funding to buy more local and express buses, bus lines and bus stops in the neighborhood they said was “underserved” by mass transit.

Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senator Tony Avella, Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, Councilmember Paul Vallone and the Straphanger’s Campaign are also on board.

Rozic said current service was “unreliable, unsustainable and unacceptable.”

But an MTA spokesperson said improvements have been made to the QM3 and QM8’s running times and frequency in the past year.

The Q36 has also been extended and the Q76 weekend service has been restored and expanded, the spokesperson said. Weekend Q31 service will also be restored this spring. 

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Bayside town hall meeting to discuss registration changes to school tax relief program


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A town hall meeting will be held in Bayside next week to discuss registration changes to a controversial school tax relief program.

The state’s STAR program provides a partial school tax exemption for most primary residences in which homeowners and their spouses make less than $500,000 combined.

But a recent audit by the state comptroller’s office found the STAR system rife with fraud and abuse.

Findings showed nearly 20 percent of exemptions from January 2010 to July 2011 were given by local assessors to ineligible residents.

The erroneous handouts cost the state $13 million that fiscal year, according to the audit.

To thwart the problem, a new law requires all homeowners who receive the basic exemption to register with the state’s Tax Department for ongoing benefits.

The need for renewal does not apply to seniors or those who receive enhanced STAR benefits. The change also does not affect current year exemptions.

Homeowners will not need to re-apply every year.

Those seeking more information can attend an October 2 informational meeting hosted by Assemblymember Nily Rozic.

The town hall will take place at 209-15 Horace Harding Expressway from 7 to 9 p.m.

There will be representatives on hand from multiple state and city agencies, as well as Chinese and Korean translators.

“Queens families depend on this tax relief program, and maintaining it is a priority,” Rozic said. “Protecting the STAR program from fraud allows these savings to continue to help families keep more money in their pockets.”

To register with the state’s Tax Department, which monitors eligibility, call 518-457-2036 or go to https://www8.tax.ny.gov/STRP/strpStart.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Residents rally against Bayside school


| editorial@queenscourier.com

JOHANN HAMILTON 

Bayside residents are not happy with a recent proposal to place a school in their neighborhood.

Dozens of community members gathered on the corner of 48th Avenue and 210th Street, where the Department of Education (DOE) has proposed placing a 416-seat primary school. The new school, about a half-mile away from P.S. 31, would replace Keil Brothers Garden Center and Nursery. However, State Senator Tony Avella, Assemblymember Nily Rozic and local residents are up in arms over the idea.

“We’re here to express our outrage at the board for trying to push this through without consulting us,” said Avella. “They tried to make this happen before the community could get properly organized, and the DOE has also refused to allow a representative from Community Board 11 to attend the meeting where they’ll be discussing it.”

The opponents contend that placing the proposed school between the backyards of several residential homes would drastically increase traffic congestion, noise levels and parking problems. They also say property value in the area would see a significant decrease.

“This is wrong and out of character for this community,” said Rozic. “Just because it’s the summer doesn’t mean we’re not here and don’t want to talk about what goes on in our community.”

Although the City Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses was scheduled to hold a public hearing about the proposal, it has since been rescheduled for next month. Residents hope they will be able to voice their strong opposition then.

“It is simply disgraceful to not include the community board,” said Avella. “We’re going to push back against this and tell the DOE that this does not work for us.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

State Legislature restores cuts for disabled services


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

It was a reversal of fortune.

A $120 million cut to the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) would have left programs shorthanded, officials said. But the state legislature eliminated the threat and voted unanimously to fully restore what was lost.

The Assembly voted last week to appropriate $90 million for OPWDD. That was in addition to $30 million already restored during the budget process. The Senate approved the funds the next day.

Assemblymember Nily Rozic, an OPWDD advocate, has worked closely with organizations such as the Queens Centers for Progress and said the need for services is “enormous.”

“There’s no reason to penalize this community, their families and their caretakers,” she said.
When the cuts were officially made earlier this year, Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said the hardest part in passing the budget was accepting the OPWDD reductions.

“After passing the budget, we committed to doing whatever necessary to restore it,” he said. “This affects real people and real jobs.”

Goldfeder said he has seen firsthand how the cuts affect the disabled and their families even though he has been chair of the Autism Retention Committee for just a few months.

“It’s painful,” he said. “There’s no better role for the government to protect its citizens than the restoration of these cuts.”

The total $120 million restoration will go directly to facilities that provide services to the developmentally disabled, Goldfeder said.

Although the restoration went through, OPWDD funds still need to be increased in order to provide the best care, officials said. After an initial cut several years ago, OPWDD has seen no increase in funding.

However, Goldfeder said last week’s budget reversal was just a first step, and that there is a bright economic outlook for the future.

“This is the first place we have to look to restore a lot of the cuts that have taken place over the years,” he said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Pols push for sewer upgrades as Queens homes take on water


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jim Gallagher

An outdated sewer system is leaving large swathes of Queens vulnerable to serious flooding, according to a pair of elected officials.

“Year after year, Queens residents have been fighting the trauma and financial burden of flood damage to their homes and lives,” said Assemblymember Nily Rozic. “We cannot continue to let our working families weather the storm alone.”

For decades, poor infrastructure in Fresh Meadows has caused basements and garages to flood with sewage during heavy rainstorms, local leaders said.

“If we have a torrential downpour, all the water gets backed up,” said Jim Gallagher, president of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association.

He added that sewer pipes in the neighborhood can only handle about an inch and a half of water per hour. Any more rainfall causes water to pour into homes.

The problem also extends to Glendale, where rainy weather shut down the flood-prone Cooper Avenue underpass last weekend.

The closure between 74th Street and 69th Road was due to “construction and the anticipation of flooding,” according to city alerts. It lasted from Friday afternoon to Saturday night.

Last August, three residents were caught in a deluge there. Cars were submerged under several feet of water and emergency responders had to rescue the trio.

A spokesperson for Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) plans to add new catch basins to the underpass, but the department has not committed to major infrastructure improvements.

Thousands in southeast Queens say they have also been suffering from mold spores and flooding since the city took over the water supply in 1996.

According to DEP spokesperson Christopher Gilbride, the city has “invested hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading the sewer system in Queens” over the last decade and will continue to make improvements.

But Rozic and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio last week said they wanted the department to speed up the sewers upgrades and reexamine reimbursement policies for homeowners until then.

“Put simply, severe weather is the new normal,” they wrote in a joint letter to DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland.

The pair urged the department to make flood-prone neighborhoods a priority in capital plans and expedite short-term flood mitigation measures like street landscaping to reduce storm runoff.

“After the wake-up call Sandy delivered, there’s just no excuse for inaction,” de Blasio said. “We can’t keep leaving families high and dry.”

Yolanda Gallagher of Fresh Meadows shows how high flood levels reached in Utopia Parkway homes after a storm last August.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Program directors say restored funds for disabled not enough


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The looming cuts to the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) have been restored, but only by a fraction.

Initially, the state’s budget called for a total slash of $240 million from OPWDD services, but the final budget gave back $30 million. Program administrators say this is still not enough.

“The challenge our industry faces is a growing demand with a diminishing revenue stream. The work force now has to shrink,” said Peter Smergut, executive director at Life’s WORC.

Life’s WORC, a program geared towards assisting developmentally disabled individuals lead active and independent lifestyles, has a 76 percent cost of labor. Now, because of the cuts, they have had to “freeze” employee positions, not fill other positions and also look to reallocate resources in ways they would not have traditionally thought to do, Smergut said.

Disabled services organizations rely heavily on funding from OPWDD, and without it, some groups find it difficult to make any concrete adjustments in their spending.

“It’s tough to be in an environment when you’re relying on this funding, and the funding is constantly changing,” said Dr. Susan Provenzano of The Shield Institute.

Initially, the State Senate and the Assembly voted to restore $120 million to the OPWDD budget. Assemblymember Nily Rozic said that along with community groups such as the Queens Centers for Progress, they attempted to bring the necessity of a full restoration to the forefront.

“Through subsequent negotiations, we were able to secure $30 million for these critical services, but not nearly enough,” Rozic said. “I will continue to speak out on the need for a greater restoration to avoid program closures, staff layoffs and irreparable harm to some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

Rozic did say however that the state budget provides a balanced spending plan that addresses fundamental issues facing families, including increasing the state’s minimum wage and providing schools with the funding needed for children to receive a quality education.

“Any cuts are devastating,” said Provenzano. “We have to provide stability. We have to constantly be advocating, and it leaves a lot of questions for us approaching the future.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Op-Ed: Empowering women


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY ASSEMBLYMEMBER NILY ROZIC

Women’s History Month marks my third month as an assemblymember. It is a time to recognize the women who have come before to make this world a better place. While we have many great women to celebrate, we have more work ahead. At a time when polarization is defining many of today’s headlines, it is more important than ever to discuss how women’s voices alter the conversation. How can we work together to make our voices stronger? To borrow a phrase from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, how do we make sure that we are all getting off the sidelines? How do we make sure we are not waiting in a never-ending queue or that we are equal partners in the policy and decision making process?

We have made progress in the number of women holding elected office, but women remain severely underrepresented in our political institutions. Women still only make up 21 percent of the New York State Legislature and 18 percent of Congress, so it is clear that something is missing. That gap will be filled by the next generation of female leaders, and we must do what we can to encourage them to get involved.

Women are underrepresented not because we cannot raise the money or talk to voters, but because we are less likely to even run in the first place. On average, a woman is asked to run for office seven times before she decides to run. More role models like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are needed to show young women they can aim high. There have been shining examples of this locally, particularly Congressmember Grace Meng’s historic victory this past November — a huge victory for Queens women!

I ran for office to show young women that they can do it too — that women could wake up every day, look in the mirror and know they can run and win. Mothers, aunts, sisters and daughters are good for our government and our nation.

The fight for equality will not be won simply by having more female legislators. While New York has passed many laws to ensure women’s equality, we still have many steps to take. The Women’s Equality Act proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo will shine a light on many of the problems faced by New York women and take a big step forward on issues of pay equality and reproductive rights. The Women’s Equality Act is an effort that I will continue fighting for, as it is clear that women’s perspectives lead to better understanding, better conversation, and eventually better laws.

There are also many times when women’s issues, such as reproductive rights, are discussed without input from female legislators or a discussion of how women are actually impacted. This scenario played out in Congress as House Republicans attempted to restrict access to birth control under President Barack Obama’s health care reform. Hormonal contraceptives are only available for women, yet there was not one woman on the panel invited to discuss the impact of the legislation. Underrepresentation is not always that obvious, however. The imbalance of women in public office creates a lack of female voices at times they are most needed. The simple act of more women running for office will change this dynamic, and it is important that we encourage young women to run.

Women’s History Month is about empowerment, and nothing is more empowering than knowing that no office is off limits. Politics has long been a field in which women could not imagine themselves participating, and thankfully it is changing. As the youngest female legislator in the New York State Assembly, I see firsthand the contributions that women are making in government.

I also know that as long as we continue to do good work and advocate for common sense policy, young women will play a significant role in helping our communities prosper.

Assemblymember Nily Rozic was elected to the 25th Assembly District in November 2012, representing neighborhoods in northeast Queens, including Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Hillcrest, Fresh Meadows, Oakland Gardens, Bayside and Douglaston.

Disabled cuts fight not over


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

The State Legislature recently voted to restore funds through its budgets to disabled programs. But with negotiations still on the horizon, the battle isn’t over.

“With so many Queens families continuing to struggle during these tough economic times, we must do everything we can to ensure New York State has programs in place to help people in need,” said Assemblymember Nily Rozic.

The assembly budget proposal would restore $120 million to not-for-profit organizations that work with developmentally disabled individuals, and an additional $20 million to maintain state-operated mental health services. The Senate proposal also would restore $120 million.

Hundreds of organizations citywide tailored toward developmentally disabled individuals could be subject to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget amendments that will result in a $240 million cut in funding, effective April 1, if an accord between the the executive and legislative branch is not reached.

Charlie Houston, executive director of the Queens Center for Progress (QCP), said that with a cut like the one being proposed, there is “no way” that the center’s services wouldn’t be affected.

“We would have to lay staff off,” he said. “There’s no way we could avoid that.”

A main issue concerning administrators of these organizations, elected officials and disabled individuals is losing members of the “family” they have created in their respective programs.

“I love being here,” said Alan Rosen, a participant in the day program at The Shield Institute. “I don’t want [my aide] to leave, I like her so much.”

Groups such as QCP and The Shield Institute work towards helping disabled individuals live a progressive lifestyle, becoming more active and independent. Each day, they have different activities such as painting and cooking, and also visit different sites throughout the community.

These daily programs and trips outside of the facilities are the ones that could potentially get the ax if administrators are forced to let go of staff. Many patients require constant supervision and care, and without staff, that consistency could become unavailable.

“It would be a movement back towards custodial kind of care, rather than community integration,” said Houston. “It’s a real step backwards.”

Houston also said they may have to close certain programs for weeks at a time.

“What it would come to, for safety reasons, is they’ll just plop them in front of a TV day in and day out,” said Margaret MacPherson, whose brother, Thomas Hatch, 65, goes to QCP. “[But] it’s so important for them to see that life goes on outside of those four walls.”

Hatch lives with eight other people, all of whom need around-the-clock supervision due to different medical issues. MacPherson fears that without an adequate amount of staff, they may lose some of this supervision.

“These people cannot speak for themselves,” she said. “I see that there is absolutely not a nickel of surplus money, and I’m just heart sick for them.”

She said that the QCP staff does a job that is not so pretty, but they remain the loveliest and finest people.

“I’ve been concerned [about the budget] before, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this concerned,” she admitted.

There will be a three-way negotiation between the assembly, senate and governor, projected for some time next week, which will determine how much money will officially be restored.

“This isn’t a matter of agencies taking cuts,” said Houston. “It’s going to affect people – a lot of people.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES