Tag Archives: Congress

New legislation to protect Astoria school from ‘disruptive’ subway noise


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Members of one Astoria school, located about 50 feet away from a subway platform, are hoping a new proposed bill will help bring “peaceful learning.”

The community at P.S. 85 is met daily with noise problems caused by the N and Q elevated subway line, which shakes windows and disrupts lessons, according to parents and teachers. 

Looking to bring a stop to the noise pollution, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley announced on Monday the Peaceful Learning Act of 2014, new legislation that would require the formation of a program to lessen railway noise levels that “negatively impact” public schools in the city. 

“As another school year begins, it is unconscionable that so many children whose schools are located near elevated trains are forced to learn under these adverse conditions,” said Crowley. “If we are serious about helping our children reach their full potential, providing an adequate and peaceful learning environment is priority number one.” 

During the morning announcement, speakers were interrupted by trains passing by in front of the school. Teachers, parents and elected officials held up two fingers, a gesture used daily to pause school lectures every time a train passes.

During rush hour trains pass by every two minutes and during normal hours, every five minutes, according to officials.

The proposed federal bill will direct the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the impact of the subway noise on schools, determine acceptable ideas and evaluate the usefulness of noise reduction programs, according to the congressman.

Then schools that would be considered subject to unacceptable noise levels will be qualified to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, together with local matching funds, to build barriers or acoustical shielding to soundproof the sites.

Last December, the P.S. 85 community and elected officials rallied to call on the MTA and Department of Education to help alleviate the noise problems.

“This cannot go on any longer. This school has been here for over a hundred years, trains came after, and the school has adjusted,” said Evie Hantzopoulos, vice president of the parent association at P.S. 85. “Our kids go with it, our teachers go with it. And we all know we shouldn’t get used to things that are bad for you.”

Rebecca Bratspies, who is director of the City University of New York School of Law Center for Urban Environmental Reform and also the parent of a third grader at P.S. 85, said last fall she and another parent, Eric Black, recorded a video from inside the classroom to show the level of noise students face. 

While they recorded, the parents measured the noise level in the classroom to be 90 decibels, almost double the normal standard. 

“[The children] come here every day trying hard to learn. They do their best,” said Bratspies. “Now we have to do our best.”

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Op-ed: It’s time for Congress to raise the minimum wage


| oped@queenscourier.com

U.S. SEN KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

It’s been more than four years since Congress last raised the federal minimum wage. Hard-working families are doing all they can to make ends meet during the worst economy of our lifetime – but through no fault of their own – feel like they are just slipping further behind.

When adjusted for inflation – the federal minimum wage of $7.25 today is much lower than its peak in 1968. Too many working poor families are below the poverty line, which not only holds these families back, but also holds back our local economy from its full potential growth.

New York City is home to three of the nation’s top 10 areas with the highest cost of living, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. Queens ranked seventh in the country. For Queens residents, it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet with the rising cost of groceries, rent, transportation, and basic necessities.

Last year, New York State passed legislation increasing the wage to $9 an hour by 2015. It’s no coincidence that of the 10 states with the lowest wage gaps, seven have set a minimum wage higher than the federal rate.

Now, it is time for Congress to follow New York’s lead and take action. It is simply unacceptable that a single parent working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year to support a family, earns just $290 a week. That’s $15,000 a year – without any time off. That salary is $3,000 below the poverty line for a family of three in New York.

We need an economy that rewards hard work. Raising the federal minimum wage would give working men, women and families the power to raise themselves into the middle class – and benefit the entire economy through stronger consumer confidence and more customers for local small businesses.

In fact, increasing wages to $10.10 an hour would boost incomes for millions of American workers, and generate billions in new economic growth, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

And let’s be clear, this is not just about teenagers working part-time summer jobs.

• Close to 90 percent of the lowest wage earners who would see their paychecks increase by raising the minimum wage are over the age of 20;

• 62 percent of minimum wage earners nationwide are women, who also happen to be a growing percentage of family breadwinners;

• Nearly one-third of all single parents in America would see an increase in pay by raising the minimum wage;

• Raising the minimum wage would help more than 15 million women in America.

Last year, I stood with State Senator Jose Peralta, Make the Road New York, and Queens businesses in Jackson Heights pushing for federal legislation to help millions of workers move from the working poor into the middle class with more money in their pockets being spent in our local economy.

This week, the U.S. Senate is expected to finally vote on legislation raising the wage to $10.10 an hour over the next 3 years and indexing it to inflation moving forward to allow the rate to keep up with rising costs of living.

The bill has broad support from business leaders – including the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street Alliance, and employers like Costco – because they know that strong wages lead to a stronger workforce, higher productivity, and a growing business.

This commonsense measure is long overdue. Boosting wages would not only lift working poor families above the poverty line and onto stable ground, it can also drive economic activity, boost Queens businesses and strengthen local economies.

 

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Congressmember Crowley kicks of re-election campaign


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Dominick Totino Photography

Congressmember Joseph Crowley has launched his re-election campaign.

Crowley, who was first elected to Congress in 1998, was voted in last year to represent sections of Queens and the Bronx in the 14th Congressional District.

He officially kicked off his campaign for re-election on Sunday, March 9, in Sunnyside, though no opponents have declared their candidacies as of yet.

“It has been my privilege to represent the people of one of the most diverse districts in the country, and I am excited to announce I’ll be seeking re-election to continue to focus on the issues that matter most,” Crowley said.

The announcement came as the Woodside native gathered with other elected officials and supporters during his fifth annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Sidetracks Restaurant.

“Too many families are still struggling to get by and we need to break the gridlock in Congress to get our country moving forward again,” he said. “Using my position in the elected leadership of the House Democratic Caucus, I am fully committed to making a real difference in people’s lives. That means putting New Yorkers back to work, raising the minimum wage, protecting social services that are vital to our most vulnerable communities, and fighting hard to make immigration reform a reality.”

Recently, Crowley introduced the On-The-Job Training Act that would guarantee American workers are able to gain new skills to both compete and succeed in the job market.

 

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John Liu endorses Congressmemeber Grace Meng for re-election


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Congressmember Grace Meng

Former Comptroller John Liu put an end to rumors he may run against Congressmember Grace Meng by endorsing the popular Flushing representative for her re-election bid Monday.

“I thank John Liu for his endorsement and for highlighting the important work I’ve done in Congress during my first year in Washington,” Meng said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with him to make our city, state and borough an even better place to live.”

Liu, after an unsuccessful bid for mayor, has reportedly been eyeing a spot back in elected office.

However, the current part-time Baruch College professor has not confirmed or denied any rumors that include possible challenges to Congressmember Nydia Velázquez or State Senator Tony Avella.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Wednesday: Sun and clouds mixed. High 47. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Wednesday night: Mostly cloudy. Low near 35. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.

“Miracle on the Hudson” survivors mark 5 years

The pilot, crew and passengers who were on board a plane that made an extraordinary landing on the Hudson River are marking the fifth anniversary of that remarkable day. Read more: NBC New York

Gov panel slaps Bill de Blasio agenda with pre-K charters

Mayor de Blasio’s plan to impose limits on charter schools hit a brick wall Tuesday when a state commission recommended expanding the privately run schools by allowing them to add pre-K classes. Read more: New York Post

Report says Metro-North derailment caused $9 million in damage

Officials said Tuesday that the Metro-North derailment in the Bronx caused more than $9 million in damage. Read more: CBS New York

New York, San Francisco prosecutors join forces to investigate Monster Energy Drinks

The San Francisco city attorney and New York state attorney general have joined forces to investigate whether Monster Beverage Corp. is marketing its highly caffeinated drinks to children. Read more: NBC New York

House ready to OK government-wide $1.1T budget 

Shunning the turmoil of recent budget clashes, Congress is ready to approve a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill for this year, a compromise financing everything from airports to war costs and brimming with victories and setbacks for both parties. Read more: AP

 

What Queens pols hope to accomplish for their constituents in 2014


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photos

As we enter 2014, The Queens Courier asked our elected officials: “What do you hope to accomplish for your constituents in 2014?”

Councilmember Costa Constantinides
There are many opportunities before us to ensure that our district continues to move forward. I will work for cleaner and safer streets, a healthier environment and a better education system. We look forward to working hard for everyone on these and many other priorities in the new year.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm
In the next year, I plan to work with the Department of Education to create methodologies and policies in our schools that are more conducive to learning. I also want to continue my work to improve pedestrian safety through a three-prong approach: engineering, education and enforcement.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras
I look forward to improving the quality of life for all of my constituents, especially those who are residing along the Roosevelt Avenue corridor. In addition, I look forward to working with the Department of Education to secure more school seats and address the overcrowding issues in our district through the use of our Education Task Force. 2014 is going to be a great year!

Councilmember Peter Koo
With several projects taking off in northeast Queens, 2014 will bring exciting changes to Flushing and its surrounding area. I wish all constituents a prosperous 2014!

 

Councilmember Karen Koslowitz
I hope to continue to bring needed services to my community and to work with my constituents to make their lives easier by helping them to cut through the red tape of city government.

Councilmember Rory Lancman
I hope to make life more affordable for regular New Yorkers.

 

 

 

Councilmember Donovan Richards
I’m excited about the opportunity to work with our incoming borough president to keep Queens on the map. Melinda is someone who understands what this borough needs and how to move it forward.

Councilmember Paul Vallone
Our district office will immediately address constituent concerns and work with fellow councilmembers to reclaim outstanding capital funding and bring District 19 back to the top where it belongs.

 


Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer

In 2014, I look forward to working towards making Vision Zero a reality. The growing number of fatalities and injuries that continue to occur as a result of reckless driving and poor street design are unacceptable. No pedestrian, motorist, or cyclist should ever fear losing their lives on our city’s streets. In the new year and throughout my second term in office, I will continue to fight toward making our streets safer for all.

Councilmember Mark Weprin
I will work to keep co-ops and homes affordable and make sure my diverse district continues to be a great place to live and raise a family. I will also work with our new mayor to make our schools even better.

 

 

Councilmember Ruben Wills
I am hopeful that the strides we have made within our local schools will continue to see growth, in particular I am most excited about our feeder initiative expanding throughout the district. It is my sincerest hope that in 2014, District 28 continues to experience economic growth, improve on our education system, increase job opportunities, and share in a greater standard of living for all.

Assemblymember Ed Braunstein
I will continue to fight to reduce the plane noise that has had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of my constituents in northeast Queens. I will also continue to push for the passage of legislation that would provide tax fairness to middle-class co-op owners in New York City.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder
I will focus on individual Sandy recovery assistance, but will also ensure that large scale protection measures are in place so we are all more resilient for the future. It is unfortunate that it took a natural disaster to illustrate our deficiencies, but we must learn from our mistakes and use the opportunity to learn and grow.

Assemblymember Ron Kim
I am tremendously proud of the work we have done, but there is still more to accomplish. I will be introducing a bill to put some focus on character development in our education system, making sure that transportation plans include our borough, and looking into ways to bring in more affordable housing to downtown Flushing.

 

Assemblymember Mike Miller
My main legislative priority is using my newly appointed chairmanship to the Task Force on People with Disabilities to support legislation and directives that will directly benefit the quality of life and increase available services to the disabled. As a member of the Aging, Education, and Veterans’ Affairs committees, I will work to make sure our schools receive proper funding, our veterans are well taken care of, and our seniors receive the services and care they need.

Assemblymember Francisco Moya
I hope to pass the NYS DREAM Act this legislative session. And personally, I hope to see the greatest football team in the world, FC Barcelona, win La Liga.

Assemblymember Nily Rozic
For too many New Yorkers, the economic recovery still remains a figment. In 2014, I want to make sure government is doing its part to bolster economic security for working families, provide a sound education and improve everyone’s quality of life.

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas
The top priority in 2014 will be a renewed push for my Rape-is-Rape legislation aimed at protecting survivors by redefining the legal definition of the term ‘rape.’ Semantics really do matter, and this bill eliminates the unnecessary distinctions in terminology that de-legitimatize the trauma of rape.

 

Assemblymember David Weprin
As we enter into the new year, one of my main priorities is to ensure legislation will provide New Yorkers with much-needed aid in education, public safety, small business support, job creation, transportation, healthcare, rebuilding our infrastructure from Sandy, affordable housing, tax relief for New York’s working families and that other vital public services become law.

State Senator Tony Avella
Once again, my New Year’s resolution for 2014 will be to try and enact campaign finance reform in Albany and term limits for state legislatures.

 

 

 

State Senator Michael Gianaris
In 2014, I hope to see continued success for western Queens neighborhoods. As our communities continue to grow, I will fight for more good schools and hospital beds, better mass transit options and increased and improved green space. I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year!

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky
I am looking forward to seeing my constituents at my new district office at 142-29 37th Avenue in downtown Flushing. It is exciting being closer to my colleagues in government, nonprofit groups and businesses, and I am optimistic that 2014 will be a productive and successful year for our community.

 

Congressmember Joseph Crowley
It is imperative that in 2014 Congress enacts comprehensive immigration reform to ensure we bring millions of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, allow them to live and work here without fear of being separated from their families and offer them the opportunity to fulfill America’s promise. The time is now for meaningful reform, and I am hopeful that my Republican colleagues are equally as committed to seeing it through.

Congressmember Steve Israel
I will continue working to make sure airplane noise is kept under control, co-op and condo owners are treated fairly and are eligible for disaster grants from FEMA like other homeowners, and to improve quality-of-life issues that affect my constituents in Queens. I’m proud to represent part of Queens, and I resolve to keep working my hardest.

 

Congressmember Gregory Meeks
I would want everyone affected by the economic downturn and Superstorm Sandy to have a full recovery, that we pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill and a safe return for the troops in Afghanistan.

Congressmember Grace Meng
Continuing to work hard to maintain and improve the quality of life in Queens. So many issues to tackle: strengthening the economy, creating jobs, reducing the backlog for our veterans, protecting our seniors and children, supporting small businesses, continuing to help those impacted by Sandy, immigration reform, etc.

 

 

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Pols introduce bill in Congress to alleviate airplane noise


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The skies over Queens and the rest of the country may soon be quieter.

Congressmember Joe Crowley gathered with state and local elected officials, advocates and community members Friday to announce the introduction of the Silent Skies Act bill that will work to alleviate airplane noise pollution in neighborhoods surrounding LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports.

The new legislation will require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to implement regulations by the end of 2015 demanding commercial aircrafts to go from Stage 3 noise standards to Stage 4 noise standards, reducing the sound by 10 decibels.

“Airports can never be perfect neighbors, but we can take steps to make them better neighbors,” said Crowley. “While commercial aircraft can never be truly silent, we can make sure they are less disruptive to the families who live nearby and improve the quality of life in our communities, not just here in Queens but throughout the country.”

Advocates for the reduction of airplane noise say the loud engines disrupt sleep, distract students and drown out the noise of everyday life.

Although the FAA issued regulations that required all new commercial aircraft designs to meet these new noise standards, the new introduced legislation would also have the FAA phase out older and louder aircraft.

The Silent Skies Act will now require the FAA to bring in quieter engines at a rate of 25 percent of an airline’s planes every five years, with all commercial airlines meeting the new noise standards by 2035.

“Recent changes in flight procedures have caused constant, intolerable noise in wide area of our New York/New Jersey metro area,” said Janet McEneaney, president of Queens Quiet Skies. “For too long, the interests of residents here were not considered when aviation procedures were planned.”

The new bill, if passed, would also encourage the research and development of quieter engine technologies through authorizing a new grant program.

“It’s time for our needs to be considered,” said McEneaney. “We remind you the skies belong to all of us, not just some of us.”

Hundreds of residents in northeast Queens have pushed for noise control after the FAA approved a new flight pattern last December that brought on a large amount of low-flying planes over their neighborhoods.

“Silent skies should not just be for first class passengers,” said Crowley.

The FAA said it does not comment on proposed legislation.

The number of people in the United States who are open to significant aircraft noise has dropped by 90 percent since 1975, according to the FAA. This decrease is due to mainly reductions in aircraft noise and phase-outs of older, noisier aircraft.

 

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President Obama signs bill to end government shutdown and raise debt limit


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy US Capitol Flickr

After 16 days of the government being shut down for the first time in close to two decades, business is back up and running.

On Wednesday night, Congress passed a bill that would help fund the government through January 15, 2014 and raise the debt limit until February 7. President Barack Obama signed the bill later that night and put an end to the partial government shutdown, which he said brought “completely unnecessary damage to our economy,” reopening federal agencies and bringing federal employees back to work.

According to reports, federal workers are expected to return to work on Thursday.

“We’ve got another self-inflicted crisis that set our economy back and for what?” said President Obama on Thursday after the federal government reopened. “There was no economic rationale for all of this. Over the past four years our economy has been growing, our businesses have been increasing and our deficits have been cut in half.”

The president said the more than two-week government shutdown encouraged enemies, bolded competitors and depressed friends that look to the United States to invest in or as a role model.

“The good news is we’ll bounce back from this, we always do,” said Obama. “America is the bedrock for the global economy for a reason. We are the indispensable nation that the rest of the world looks to as the safest and most reliable place to invest.”

Obama said the main job the government has to do now is regain the trust of the American people, who “are completely fed up with Washington.”

“Today I want our people, and our businesses and the rest of the world to know that the full faith in credit in the United States remains unquestioned,” said Obama. “All my friends in Congress -understand how business is done in this town has to change. Because we’ve all got a lot of work to do on behalf of the American people and that includes the hard work of regaining their trust.”

In order to make progress, Obama called on Congress to pursue a balanced approach for a budget, approve and fix the immigration reform laws and also pass a farm bill, which American farmers and ranchers can depend on.

The shutdown, which began on October 1, resulted from a congressional stalemate over the federal budget.

The Republican-led House tried to defund and delay the Affordable Care Act, but the Democratic-controlled Senate refused to accept a bill that would derail “Obamacare.”

Ironically, the government shutdown did affect the Affordable Care Act. The Health Care Marketplace, which compiles and rates insurance offerings in each state, started accepting applications on October 1.

Any employee or office that provides national security and conducts activities essential to the national security or the safety of life and property remained open and working. This included the U.S. military, air traffic controllers, prison guards, emergency personnel and border patrol agents.

However, more than 800,000 federal workers were left without jobs temporarily. Also, intercollegiate athletic competitions at service academies – Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard – were suspended.

Due to the government shutdown all National Park facilities, including more than 400 national zoos, museums and parks, were closed. Twenty-two national parks in New York were closed including the Statue of Liberty, Gateway National Recreational Area and other facilities.

 

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Rep Meeks’ DC office closes after receiving suspicious mail, then reopens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Congressmember Gregory Meeks’ Washington, D.C. office was temporarily shut down after a staffer found a suspicious letter.

The letter contained a powdery substance, according to a Meeks staffer, and was found while another worker was sorting the mail. The Congressmember was not there at the time, and was informed of the incident.

The D.C. staff was quarantined, and the Rayburn House office was closed. The staff and other personnel were directed to avoid the area until informed otherwise. After U.S. Capitol Police investigated the matter, they determined the substance was not deadly, said police.

 

 

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Wednesday: Overcast with ice pellets and snow, then a chance of snow and a chance of rain in the afternoon. High of 41. Winds from the NNE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation 90% . Wednesday night: Overcast in the evening, then partly cloudy. Low of 36. Winds from the West at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Quintet of the Americas’ Crystal Winter Concert 

Crystal Winter, a concert performed by Quintet of the Americas at the  Catholic Charities Bayside Senior Center, features projected images of crystals, snowflakes, winter scenes and Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night. Songs will include Adam Schoenberg’s Winter Music, Sammy Cahn’s Let it Snow, Quintet of the Americas’ improvisation Starry Night, Silver Bells and more. Audience members will also have the opportunity join the Quintet playing bells, water glasses keys. Concert starts at 12:15 p.m. Admission is free. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

House approves $50.7 B in Sandy aid

Sandy victims are one step closer to receiving the relief money they need. After $9.7 billion in flood insurance funds were signed into law earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an additional $50.7 billion in aid. Read more: Queens Courier

NY passes toughest gun laws in country

Less than a week after Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to make New York the leader in gun safety, the State Legislature voted in favor of the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement, or NY SAFE Act, that would effectively keep weapons away from the mentally ill and crack down on illegal guns. Read more: Queens Courier

Elderly Queens man beaten on J train

An elderly Queens man says he was beaten while riding the subway in Brooklyn last month and police are now looking for the suspect, who was captured on newly-released surveillance video. Read more: NBC New York

Parents scramble on eve Of NYC’s first school bus strike in 33 years

New York City school bus drivers were just hours from walking off the job Tuesday night, and thousands of parents were scrambling to find alternate transportation. Read more: CBS New York

Base of spire installed on roof of 1 WTC

Workers at the rising 1 World Trade Center on Tuesday installed the first piece of the spire that will make the 104-floor skyscraper the tallest in the Western Hemisphere. Read more: ABC New York

One man dies, one hurt minutes apart at New York subway station

One New York man was killed and another seriously injured in separate incidents just minutes apart at a Manhattan station during Tuesday’s rush-hour, authorities said. Read more: Reuters 

Quinn presents vision for improving New York City schools

Christine C. Quinn, the New York City Council speaker and a presumptive candidate for mayor, laid out in a speech on Tuesday a series of proposals for improving the city’s schools, which included replacing textbooks with computer tablets, creating online resources for parents and extending the school day for many students. Read more: New York Times

Obama to unveil gun violence measures Wednesday

President Barack Obama’s broad effort to reduce gun violence will include proposed bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines as well as more than a dozen executive orders aimed at circumventing congressional opposition to stricter gun control. Read more: AP

House approves $50.7B in Sandy aid


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Sandy victims are one step closer to receiving the relief money they need.

After $9.7 billion in flood insurance funds were signed into law earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an additional $50.7 billion in aid.

In a 327-91 vote Tuesday afternoon, January 15, the House approved $17 billion in emergency funding that will go towards addressing immediate needs for victims and communities affected by Sandy.

A few hours later, a final bill that included an additional $33.7 billion for both immediate and anticipated needs was adopted in a 241-180 vote.

“We are grateful to those members of Congress who today pulled together in a unified, bipartisan coalition to assist millions of their fellow Americans in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut at their greatest time of need. The tradition of Congress being there and providing support for Americans during times of crisis, no matter where they live across this great country, lives on in today’s vote in the House of Representatives. We anticipate smooth passage when this package moves back to the Senate for final approval and for this long-awaited relief to finally make its way to our residents,” said Governors Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie and Dannel Malloy in a joint statement.

“It’s been two-and-a-half months since Sandy hammered our region, and thousands of New Yorkers continue to suffer from the devastation. Now, they will finally receive the relief that they have desperately needed, said Congressmember Grace Meng. “The battle we had to fight to secure this aid was outrageous. But I’m pleased that the money will finally start to head our way.”

Throughout the day’s legislative session, House members spoke adamantly about the bill. Some stressed the relief money’s urgency, while others objected to unrelated Sandy spending.
In the House, the majority of those opposed to the relief aid were Republicans. The Democratically controlled Senate is expected to say yes to the money next week.

In December, the Senate initially approved the full $60.4 billion Sandy aid package in one lump sum, but the House adjourned before it could follow suit.

After several politicians publicly criticized Speaker John Boehner for the early adjournment, he scheduled a vote on the legislation.

But the $60.4 billion was broken up into several votes, starting with Congress’ January 4 approval of the $9.7 billion.

That part of the legislation temporarily increases the borrowing authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for carrying out the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The $50 billion passed Tuesday includes money for FEMA disaster relief, transit and infrastructure repairs, and other recovery needs.

 

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Congress approves $9.7B in Sandy aid


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

After the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelming passed 9.7 billion in Sandy aid Friday, 354-67, the Senate unanimously approved it later that afternoon.

The money will go towards flood insurance claims for Sandy-damaged homes and businesses.

A vote on the remaining $51 billion in storm aid will take place January 15.

“Belated as the bill may be, I am pleased the House was able to finally act today on a piece of the vital Superstorm Sandy disaster relief legislation to increase borrowing authority by FEMA on behalf of the National Flood Insurance Program. This action, however, is woefully insufficient in addressing the significant concerns and needs of millions affected by last fall’s storm,” said Congressmember Gregory Meeks.

“Today’s action by the House was a necessary and critical first step towards delivering aid to the people of New York and New Jersey. While we are pleased with this progress, today was just a down payment and it is now time to go even further and pass the final and more complete, clean disaster aid bill. We are trusting Congress to act accordingly on January 15th and pass the final $51 billion instrumental for long-term rebuilding in order for New Jersey, New York and our people to recover after the severe devastation of Hurricane Sandy,” said Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie in a joint statement.

Today’s approval came after several politicians publicly criticized Speaker John Boehner earlier this week for adjourning the House before voting on the $60 billion Sandy relief package.

Following the criticism, Boehner promptly scheduled a vote on the legislation.

President Obama, who urged the House to vote and pass the aid money, is expected to sign today’s approved bill.

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

 

Meeks secures 8th term in Congress


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Congressmember Gregory Meeks's office

Incumbent Congressmember Gregory Meeks slid smoothly into victory on Tuesday, November 6, defeating challenger Allan Jennings in the 5th Congressional District.

Meeks, who won with 88.6 percent of the vote according to unofficial results, will kick off his eighth term in the House, now representing the newly drawn 5th District, encompassing all of southeast Queens and some of Nassau County.

“I have three most foremost goals,” said the incumbent. “The first is to effectively help [my] constituents resolve whatever federal issues they may have, like problems with medicare, social security, medicaid [and] immigration.”

The Democrat’s other goals relate to job creating legislation, by both supporting and introducing bills that spark employment, and also working locally to develop his district into a “more cohesive and innovative economic engine.”

“With JFK Airport, Resorts World, Belmont Racetrack, Green Acres Mall, hospitals … and a skilled workforce, the 5th CD has assets that could become job creating hubs and corridors of entrepreneurial innovation,” he said.

Meeks came out on top of challenger Jennings, who ran on the Republican line though he is a registered Democrat. Jennings also ran in the Democratic primary, but was defeated by the congressmember. He then re-entered the race on the Republican ticket.

Jennings, a former Councilmember, has repeatedly run unsuccessfully for office since the loss of his council seat in 2005.

Israel takes 3rd Congressional District


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

A Long Island-based representative has won both re-election and slices of Queens territory.

Democratic Congressmember Steve Israel claimed victory over his three challengers in the newly-redrawn 3rd Congressional District with 58 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results.

The 53-year-old from Dix Hills boasted 87,799 votes, while his main contender, Republican Stephen Labate raked in 62,305, early poll numbers showed, with more than half of precincts reporting. Libertarian Michael McDermott gathered 992 votes and the Constitution Party’s Anthony Tolda only a meager 224.

“I’m honored to have been elected in this new district,” Israel said. “It’s been a very tough week in our community, and I know the election was the last thing on most people’s minds. But I think it really shows [how] strong our community is. People didn’t have power, they didn’t know where to vote, they didn’t have gas to get to the polls, but they still got out and exercised their civic duty.”

The congressmember’s district was previously located entirely on Long Island in Suffolk County. But newly-redrawn lines mean portions of northeast Queens — Bay Terrace, Beechhurst, Whitestone, Douglaston and Little Neck -– are now in the 3rd District.

Israel has been representing the district since 2001 and ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. He was re-elected two years ago, beating Republican challenger John Gomez for the seat by 16,509 votes in Suffolk County.

“Now Democrats and Republicans must join together to rebuild our community, restore it[s] power lines and reignite the middle class,” Israel said.