Tag Archives: Congressmember Steve Israel

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. 

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Co-ops, condos still waiting for disaster aid


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A proposed federal law that would bring disaster aid to co-op and condo communities has not come any closer to being passed nearly one year after Sandy.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “It’s just prolonging the financial hardship on co-ops. Right now, we’re stuck footing the bill for cleanup and repair from the storm, and I don’t think this will be the last storm.”

Schreiber said his northeast Queens co-op expects to shell out up to $60,000 in repairs not covered by insurance.

More than $250,000 in infrastructure damage was sustained nearby in the Glen Oaks Village co-op, according to its president, Bob Friedrich.

The bill exceeds $1 million for some Rockaway co-ops in the most hard-hit areas of Queens.

The Breezy Point Cooperative, which saw about 350 homes in the beach community decimated by fire and flood, has spent $1.5 million out of the co-op’s reserves and contingency funds to get back on its feet, according to Arthur Lighthall, the co-op’s general manager.

“We had to do a good amount of repair and restoration to get things back in order,” including getting the water supply back and fixing sidewalks, Lighthall said. “The bottom line is it’s us, the shareholders, who have to pay for it.”

The pricey repair costs fall on the shoulders of co-op and condo communities due to a glitch in the law keeping them from getting FEMA storm recovery grants, local leaders said.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op,” according to Congressmember Steve Israel.

However, there is no statute that bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

Co-op and condos are also categorized as “business associations,” which makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants. It also means they cannot get funds to fix shared spaces like lobbies and roofs.

Israel introduced legislation this August that would better define co-ops in the Stafford Act, allow co-op and condo owners to apply for FEMA grants, and call for a new cap on FEMA’s Individual and Households Program.

The bipartisan bill has at least 14 cosponsors so far but currently sits in a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, according to Israel’s office.

An aide to the congressmember said any movement of the bill was delayed by the partial government shutdown, which lasted 16 days in October.

“It’s been a year since Superstorm Sandy hit, and it’s time for co-op and condo associations to get the help they deserve,” Israel said. “Although I’ll continue to fight my hardest, it’s frustrating that this bill hasn’t been passed so these homeowners can receive the vital assistance they deserve.”

The City Council unanimously passed a resolution, which is only a formal position statement, last month calling for Congress to enact the law.

“It really shouldn’t be that difficult,” Schreiber said. “I just find it so disappointing that we have a Congress that can’t even get together on changing one line of text that will benefit constituents on the East Coast, West Coast and middle of the country.”

 

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Resolution calls for co-op, condo storm recovery grants


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A Queens lawmaker introduced a resolution in the City Council last week calling for Congress to make co-op and condos eligible for federal storm recovery grants.

The measure, brought forth by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., comes after many citywide co-op and condo owners found they could not receive FEMA grants for Sandy-inflicted damages.

It would push the passage of an already proposed federal law that aims to fix a glitch keeping co-op and condo owners from disaster aid.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, officials said. However, there is no statute that bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

Co-op and condos are also categorized as “business associations,” which makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants. It also means they cannot get funds to fix shared spaces like lobbies and roofs.

“Co-ops and condos are not corporations — they are people’s homes,” Vallone said. “They deserve the same assistance as other homeowners.”

Congressmember Steve Israel introduced a law in August that would better define co-ops in the Stafford Act and allow co-op and condo owners to apply for FEMA grants.

It would also call for a new cap on FEMA’s Individual and Households Program.

A spokesperson for Israel said the bipartisan bill has 14 cosponsors so far, including Republican Congressmember Peter King, who represents parts of Long Island.

The proposed legislation currently sits in a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

While a resolution is only a formal position statement, Vallone said he hopes it will “show that the city speaks with one voice for fairness” for co-op and condo owners.

The disaster aid is needed in Queens, local leaders said, where co-op and condo communities are digging into reserves to fund fixes.

Some Queens co-ops, like Glen Oaks Village, sustained more than $250,000 in damage to infrastructure, according to the co-op’s president Bob Friedrich.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who represents some of the most Sandy-devastated areas, said co-op and condo communities in the Rockaways are facing “astronomical” renovation costs.

Repairs to buildings destroyed by the storm could easily exceed $250,000, he said.

“Nearly a year after Superstorm Sandy, co-ops and condos are still struggling to rebuild,” Ulrich said. “Congress must act now and provide relief before it’s too late.”

The City Council resolution, introduced on September 12, sits in the Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings.

Committee Chair Erik Dilan said several Sandy-related bills that await the committee’s ruling are being “actively considered.”

“We as a committee and council are active in moving things that will help the city recover or prevent disaster from another hurricane, including the co-op resolution,” Dilan said.

If the measure moves out of committee and then passes the City Council, Vallone would then urge Congress, in a letter, to enact the federal bill.

Warren Schreiber of the Presidents Co-op & Condo Council said advocates could use the City Council’s support as a bully pulpit to boost federal efforts.

“Anything that can be done to put pressure on the federal government and educate other people is absolutely welcome,” Schreiber said. “Hopefully, it sails through the City Council.”

Co-op owners still fighting for FEMA money months after Sandy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Newly proposed legislation aims to make co-op and condo associations eligible for federal storm recovery grants.

“A storm does not discriminate where it hits, and FEMA should not be discriminating what type of homeowners it helps,” said Congressmember Steve Israel, who penned the bill.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced in March it would allow co-ops and condos to receive funding from Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery assistance to help with repairs.

But leaders and local co-op presidents said the fix was just temporary.

Co-op and condo owners currently cannot receive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Sandy-inflicted damages because they are categorized as “business associations.” The title makes them eligible for federal loans, but not grants.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, Israel said. But there is no statute that bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

“It seems clear that FEMA’s policy is the result of not understanding the role of co-ops and condos in our community,” Israel said. “I am introducing this legislation to allow co-op and condo associations to apply for federal grants from FEMA so we can right this wrong and ensure that these homeowners are eligible to receive the vital assistance they deserve.”

Some Queens co-ops suffered $1 million in damages, including Cryder Point Co-ops, a waterfront community which has to repair its pier.

Glen Oaks Village sustained more than $250,000 in infrastructural damage, according to the co-op’s president Bob Friedrich.

“To deny co-ops the ability to obtain FEMA grant money simply because of the type of housing choices their residents have made is shameful and should not have taken this legislation to correct it,” Friedrich said.

The cost for repairs have fallen “squarely upon the shoulders of middle class owners,” said Warren Schreiber, co-president of Presidents Co-op & Condo Council.

New Yorkers are eligible to receive about $3.5 billion of the total $5.4 billion allocated by HUD earlier this year.

However, leaders said co-op and condo owners will have to battle it out with other retail developments, towns, villages and cities for the competitive grants used to repair common areas in the building like lobbies, boilers and elevators.

The proposed law, slated to be introduced in Congress soon, would better define housing co-ops and condos in the Stafford Act. It would also call for the rulemaking process to determine a new cap on FEMA’s Individual and Households Program.

 

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Queens Library leader recognized by White House


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Public Library

A Queens Library leader won a national honor last week for being a “Champion of Change” for cultural institutions in her community.

Jennifer Manley, the vice president of government and community affairs for the Queens Public Library, was one of 12 people in the nation this year to be recognized as an advocate for museums and libraries.

“Manley believes in the power of information and education to improve lives, one at a time, neighborhood by neighborhood,” the White House said in a statement.

The 62 branches of the Queens Public Library circulate more than 13 million items and see more than 13 million visitors a year. It has become a leader in providing services to immigrants, who make up half of the borough’s population, library and White House officials said.

“Jennifer’s work embodies what this program is all about — recognizing leaders who make a difference in their communities,” said Congressmember Steve Israel. “Queens Borough Public Library is fortunate to have leaders like

Jennifer who contribute so much to the excellence of the institution.”
Congressmember Joseph Crowley called Manley a “staunch advocate” for libraries. He said she “works hard to preserve this invaluable resource for the people who need it most.”

The Champions program gives accolades to individuals and groups who do “extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities,” the White House said.

“Jennifer has been a tremendous asset to the Queens Borough Public Library,” said Congressmember Grace Meng, “and this award exemplifies the outstanding work she’s done to make a difference throughout the many communities of Queens.”

 

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How to protect from hackers and spammers


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY CONGRESSMEMBER STEVE ISRAEL

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, we are reminded of the importance of reevaluating our security procedures. However, we also must be conscious of another challenge: the threat to our personal information from cyber-attacks.

Cyber intrusions, most recently from hackers with Chinese IP addresses, have compromised the safety of our personal information on our computers. Just the other day, a fake tweet sent by hackers from the Associated Press’ Twitter account was able to briefly send the stock market into a freefall. With all this in mind, I would like to outline a few things you can do on your computers at home to protect your privacy online and make sure that computer hackers and spammers cannot access your personal accounts or information. The following information applies to both your email and social media accounts.

Use a strong password

Your password should be something that isn’t easy to guess. The longer the password, the safer your personal information. Passwords should have upper-case and lowercase characters, numbers and even punctuation and exclamation marks. Some sites will tell you how strong a password is, so you know how well protected your account is.

Connect your mobile device to your accounts

Adding your social media and email accounts to your mobile device will require that any password changes need to be confirmed by you through that device before they become effective. It’s an additional layer of protection that’s worth the extra text message or email you will receive from time to time to confirm changes.

Be careful what you click on and where you enter information

A lot of hackers send emails and messages that look legitimate and ask for your passwords and other personal information. This is called “phishing.” Hackers are very good at making fake websites that look almost identical to the legitimate page, so it’s especially important to be careful what you click on.

Never give up your password

No employee of any company will contact you through phone or email to ask for your password. If this does happen to you, call the company directly and report it.

Download free anti-virus software and scan regularly

Anti-Virus Software is readily available and free online. You should perform a virus scan of your computer every few weeks. One good program is Avast, or AVG, which can be downloaded at www.avast.com and free.avg.com.

Israel represents the 3rd District, including Whitestone, Douglaston, Little Neck, Bayside and Flushing.

 

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Schumer pushes for co-op, condo Sandy relief


| mchan@queenscourier.com

New York’s senior senator has joined the ranks of leaders pushing for relief to storm-damaged co-ops and condos.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer penned a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last Wednesday asking the agency to establish Sandy relief program guidelines for co-ops and condos.

Co-op and condo owners currently cannot receive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Sandy-inflicted damages because they are categorized as “business associations,” according to elected federal officials. The title makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants.

“After Sandy, FEMA was able to help many communities. However, due to inflexible bureaucratic rules, co-op and condo homeowners were left in the wake,” Schumer said.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, according to Congressmember Steve Israel. But there is no statute that purposefully bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

Schumer called on HUD officials to use Community Development Block Grants Disaster Recovery funds to help co-op and condo owners repair and rebuild.

HUD allocated $5.4 billion to the recovery program early last week. New Yorkers are eligible to receive about $3.5 billion of that total.

Some Queens co-ops suffered $1 million in damages, including Cryder Point Co-ops, a waterfront community which has to repair its shambled pier.

More than half of the total buildings in Glen Oaks Village endured “moderate to severe shingle loss,” according to Bob Friedrich, the co-op’s president. The co-op will have to shell out $250,000 for infrastructural damage.

And nearly 3,000 Mitchell-Lama co-ops in the Rockaways are forced to shoulder repair costs, said Dolores Orr, co-op owner and president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association.

“It is astonishing to me that residential co-op buildings are not being afforded any financial assistance in the recovery from Sandy,” she said. “We are homeowners just like those who live in … family houses.”

 

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Redistricting may bring Congressmember Steve Israel back to Queens


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Recent redistricting may return one Long Island representative back to his childhood.

Congressmember Steve Israel currently serves the state’s 2nd Congressional District, which is located entirely on Long Island. But come November, newly-redrawn lines mean portions of northeast Queens will be added to the district.

For incumbent Israel, winning re-election would mean gaining a slice of new territory, as well as pieces from his past.

“In a sense, I’m returning to my youth. My father grew up in Queens, and I spent almost every Sunday visiting my grandparents in Flushing. I’ve spent a lot of time there,” he said. “I am incredibly excited. I can’t wait to go to work in Queens.”

The 53-year-old politician from Dix Hills, Long Island, said he is “fully partisan about only one issue.”

And that is his love for the Mets.

Israel is a member of the House Leadership, serving as the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. This month, he was appointed to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

Prior to election, he said he was a small business owner for five years, helping with marketing for Jewish community groups and high-tech businesses.

The 2nd Congressional District currently encompasses Huntington, Babylon, Islip, Smithtown and Oyster Bay and will soon include Bay Terrace, Beechhurst, Whitestone, Douglaston and Little Neck. Though the represented counties differ in demographics and property taxes, Israel said his agenda will hardly change.

He said he knows the term “rich” is relative, and still plans to continue advocating for middle class families and veterans, while growing small businesses, protecting Medicare and ensuring neighborhood safety.

Among his accomplishments so far, Israel said he has secured more than $5 million in benefits for Long Island veterans, as well as “record-level” federal investments to protect the Long Island Sound. He also voted to extend the payroll tax cut for working families, saving the average middle class family $1,500 in 2012, he said.

According to both the Nassau and Suffolk County GOP Committees, the only Republican primary challenger to face the incumbent, Israel, is Stephen Labate, a financial planner and active high-ranking officer in the U.S. armed forces. Israel, who has been representing the district since 2001, is running 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.