Tag Archives: Department of Justice

Bill proposed in State Assembly to cover GPS tracking devices for kids with autism


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Handout

Staten Island Assemblymember Matthew Titone introduced a bill in the State Assembly that would require insurance companies to offer GPS device tracking coverage for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The bill comes after autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was laid to rest.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on October 4, when he ran out of the school, located just across from the East River. His body was found on January 16, washed up in College Point.

“The tracking devices are crucial in finding lost children quickly and safely,” said Titone. “Unfortunately, such devices can be expensive and difficult to maintain.”

Titone also added that insurance companies would be responsible for covering the costs of the equipment and monitoring services.

In January, Senator Charles Schumer introduced a bill called “Avonte’s Law” which will create and fund a program to provide voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families of children with ASD or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common.

Later that same month, the Department of Justice agreed to take existing funding which already helps track seniors with Alzheimer’s and expand it to children with ASD.

The funding will become available to police departments or other local law enforcement groups that would be able to provide tracking devices to parents, schools and legal guardians interested in the program.

 

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Op-ed: Let’s be their voice


| oped@queenscourier.com

U.S. SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER

The heartbreak and agony that Avonte  Oquendo’s family has had to endure is one that I can’t even begin to imagine. Over the course of the past few months, Avonte became more than just a face on a missing poster. New Yorkers came together to search for Avonte and pray for his safe return; we felt like he was a child we knew personally. While we cannot change the past, we must take the necessary steps to prevent this from happening again—and that’s why I am introducing “Avonte’s Law.”

Avonte’s running away was not an isolated incident; running away or wandering among children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder is more common than one may think. In fact, nearly half of children with autism over the age of four have attempted to wander. Often times, these children wander due to being over-stimulated by loud noises or bright lights – something that is a particular challenge for children with autism in New York City.

I recently met with Vanessa Fontaine and Doris McCoy, Avonte’s mother and grandmother, as well as Michael Rosen, the Executive Vice President of Autism Speaks. Mr. Rosen shared personal stories about his son, Nicky, who has autism and is nonverbal. He spoke about Nicky’s experience with wandering. I listened intently when Mr. Rosen said that Nicky once ran out of the house and made his way into the neighbor’s living room to watch Disney movies—a fascination of Nicky’s. Thankfully, Nicky was found safe.

Our children are too precious for us to wait another day when life-saving technology and precautionary measures are right at our fingertips. Technology such as GPS or Radio Frequency(RF) tracking is on the market now, and they allow parents, schools and law enforcement to locate a child if he or she wanders or goes missing. The Department of Justice runs a very successful program that provides tracking devices to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who have similar wandering tendencies. So, after Avonte went missing, I urged the Department of Justice to use their existing grant funds to allow children with autism access to these life-saving tracking devices – this past week, they did just that.

The program would be completely voluntary for parents, but it would be a major stress reliever for the thousands of parents of children with autism. Most importantly, though, this technology has the power to save lives.

That is why when the world learned of the tragic fate of Avonte Oquendo, I drafted legislation that will create a permanent program with dedicated federal funding to provide tracking devices for children with autism, as well as training and education for parents and communities. The legislation, “Avonte’s Law,” will allow Avonte’s memory to live on while helping to prevent any more children with autism from going missing.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice will allow existing DOJ grant funds to be used for children with autism. This is terrific news, as it means that localities can soon put federal funds towards these life-saving tracking devices as well as education for law enforcement that deal with this issue on a daily basis. This is a major step in the right direction, and I will continue to work on this very important issue until “Avonte’s Law” is passed, which would provide a more solid stream of funding to help children across New York and the rest of the country.

We must be the voice of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Schumer was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998. Following the elections of 2006, Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed him to serve as Vice Chair of the Democratic Conference, the number three position on the Democratic Leadership team and a position he continues to hold. In 2009, Schumer was selected as the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees federal elections, voting rights, campaign finance, and the operation of the Senate complex. He also sits on the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; the Judiciary Committee, where he is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security; the Joint Economic Committee, where he is the Vice Chairman; and the Joint Committee on the Library.

 

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Senator Charles Schumer introduces ‘Avonte’s Law’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Senator Charles Schumer's Office

A day after autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was laid to rest, one politician announced legislation that could help prevent a similar tragedy from happening.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on October 4 when he ran out of the school. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Senator Charles Schumer announced Sunday he will be introducing a bill called “Avonte’s Law” which will create and fund a program providing voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common. The program would only include children whose parents choose to use the devices.

“The tragic end to the search for Avonte Oquendo clearly demonstrated that we need to do more to protect children with autism who are at risk of running away,” said Schumer. “Thousands of families face the awful reality each and every day that their child with autism may run away. Making voluntary tracking devices available will help put parents at ease, and most importantly, help prevent future tragedies like Avonte’s.”

The bill would create a new grant program within the Department of Justice allowing the agency to award funds to local law enforcement agencies or organizations wanting to provide tracking devices for children with Autism. The funds would also help provide training and other resources to schools allowing them to be prepared to react to a situation like Avonte’s.

The new program would be modeled from the federal program already being used to help track seniors with Alzheimer’s.

“Avonte’s Law” will authorize $10 million in federal money to purchase the voluntary tracking devices and training for parents, schools and local law enforcement. The program would be run by the police department or other local law enforcement and would provide training on how to use and maintain the devices. 

The tracking devices could be worn as non-tampering wristwatches, anklets or be clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces. The devices could also be woven into specially designed clothing.

“The tragic fate of Avonte Oquendo hit home with parents in New York and across the country,” said Liz Feld, president of autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks. “We need to raise awareness and increase education so that tragedies like this never happen again.”

 

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Schumer calls for program providing voluntary tracking devices for autistic kids


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

It’s been a month since Avonte Oquendo was last seen leaving his Long Island City school. Now, one politician is proposing a program that could help prevent another child from going missing.

Senator Charles Schumer has called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to both create and fund a program which would provide voluntary tracking devices for children with autism or other development disorders. The program would only include children whose parents choose to use the devices and would be designed for children with disorders in which bolting, running or wandering is common.

“The sights and sounds of cities, schools and other busy places can be over-stimulating and distracting for children and teens with autism, often leading to wandering as a way to escape,” said Schumer. “Voluntary tracking devices will help our teachers and parents in the event that the child runs away and, God forbid, goes missing.”

The tracking devices could be used as non-tampering wristwatches, anklets, or can be clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces.

When the child or teen goes missing, either the caregiver, parent or school notifies the device company, and then a trained emergency team responds to the location. A tracking device program like this already exists in Massachusetts. One kind of device, made by Project Lifesaver, averages a recovery time of 30 minutes.

Schumer also said the devices would be used together with educational and behavior supports.

Schumer called on the DOJ to award funds to local law enforcement agencies or organizations that would provide tracking devices for children with Autism. The DOJ has already awarded competitive grants to such organization that aide in finding missing people with Alzheimer’s.

“Funding this program will help put school systems and parents of children and teens with autism at ease knowing where their children are,” said Schumer.

 

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Districting commission files final map for approval


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

The lines have been drawn and they’re staying.

New York City’s Districting Commission filed Monday, March 4 its final map to the City Clerk for approval. The final of three drafts had been submitted to the City Council on February 8, after which the legislature had three weeks to vote or the new districts would automatically be adopted.

And that’s just what happened.

The Commission will now file the map with the Department of Justice, who will have 60 days to ensure the plan is kosher with Section 5 the Voting Rights Act. Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan are all covered under this part of the law to ensure that minority voting rights are ensured and protected.

There are 35 minority districts in the city under the new plan, according to the Districting Commission, in which racial and language minorities are the dominate block in the district. This is a five district increase from the 30 of such created in 2003.

 

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Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: A slight chance of showers after 4pm. Mostly sunny, with a high near 48. North wind 5 to 7 mph becoming east in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 20 percent. Thursday night: Clear in the evening, then partly cloudy. Low of 36. Winds from the NNW at 5 to 15 mph

EVENT of the DAY: The Prodigal Scrooge: A Holiday Gospel Faith Musical

Ozone Park’s New Life Apostolic Church presents Ebenezer Scrooge as an arrogant, wealthy casino owner who lives a lavish lifestyle on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Though once a faithful servant of Christ, he allows his determination for success to overshadow all aspects of his life. This unique musical fuses the Charles Dickens classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ with the New Testament parable of the The Prodigal Son. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

1 dead, 33 injured in 35-vehicle crash on Long Island Expressway

One person died and 33 people were hurt in a 35-vehicle crash on the Long Island Expressway Wednesday that may have been caused by an out-of-control trucker, authorities said. Some vehicles, including an 18-wheel tractor trailer, were set ablaze after the two-dozen cars and trucks smashed up in the wild wreck near Exit 68 in Shirley shortly before 3 p.m., authorities said. Read more: Daily News

Exiting pols lavish raises on staffers

Lame-duck state legislators showered loyal staffers with fat raises after their defeats, a Post analysis of state-payroll records found. As state Sens. Shirley Huntley (D-Queens) and David Storobin (R-Brooklyn) prepared to exit their government offices at the end of this month, they suddenly promoted pet staffers and granted them salary hikes that, in some cases, are higher pay rates than their own. Read more: NY Post

Queens resident staying at grocery store after Sandy destroyed his apartment

With no place to live, Michael Riley spends his days sitting on this ledge and his nights inside a grocery store. He has been a fixture there for nearly two weeks after Hurricane Sandy destroyed his apartment. Read more: NY1

Phony Queens doc busted for bad butt surgery

A phony Queens doctor was busted Wednesday for botching a butt enhancement, police said Wednesday. Liliana Coello, 39, was charged with assault, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon, the syringe she used to inject the victim’s buttocks with silicone, police said. Read more: Daily News

Council bills aim to study Sandy impact, prevent future damages

Members of the City Council have introduced legislation to improve infrastructure across the five boroughs, in hopes of protecting against damage from future storms. The package of bills suggests installing higher floors in new buildings located in flood- prone areas. Read more: NY1

Queens psychiatric hospital settles with government over discrimination claim

A Queens psychiatric hospital has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, following a claim that it discriminated against non-U.S. citizens in hiring procedures. Read more: CBS NY

 

Local pols reject Morgan Stanley price fixing settlement


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Local elected officials are expending “energy” to ensure Morgan Stanley doesn’t get a quick “fix” to its illegal pricing ploy.

Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. are pushing a federal judge to reject the proposed settlement in the price-fixing case involving the investment bank and two western Queens energy plants – Astoria Generating Company and KeySpan Energy Corporation.

The scheme, which caused ratepayers to lose roughly $300 million over two years, generated $21.6 million for Morgan Stanley.

Gianaris and Vallone recently sent a letter to the judge overseeing the case, William Pauley, requesting a re-evaluation of the $4.8 million settlement reached between the bank and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The officials are hoping the fine is increased, and believe a provision should be included compensating ratepayers who suffered financial losses.

“Allowing a deep-pocketed investment bank to get away with just a slap on the wrist would be treated as the cost of doing business and would continue to permit the bank to reap the benefits of its illicit profits,” Gianaris said. “The settlement proposal is an insult to ratepayers during a difficult economic time, and I encourage Judge Pauley to protect the public by rejecting this proposal.”

According to DOJ, KeySpan and Morgan Stanley entered into an agreement in January of 2006 which provided KeySpan with a financial interest in the electricity capacity sales of its largest competitor, Astoria Generating Company. By providing KeySpan revenues from its competitor’s capacity sales, the agreement had the anticompetitive effect of eliminating KeySpan’s incentive to sell its electricity at lower prices.

A spokesperson from Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

“This settlement with a major financial institution will signal to the financial services community that use of derivatives for anticompetitive ends will not be tolerated,” said Sharis Pozen, acting assistant attorney general in charge of DOJ’s Antitrust Division. “Disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, as was paid here, is an effective Antitrust Division tool to remedy harm to competition.”

KeySpan reached a $12 million settlement with DOJ for violating antitrust laws.

“This issue was resolved last year through a settlement with DOJ, and we consider the matter closed,” said a spokesperson for National Grid, which purchased KeySpan. “We believe the private class actions lack merit and we will continue to act accordingly.”

John Reese, senior vice president of U.S. Power Generating Company, which owns Astoria Generating Company, declined to comment regarding the settlement, but he did emphasize the importance of fair play in the economy.

“We were doing an agreement with Morgan Stanley, and we were not aware of their agreement with KeySpan,” said Reese. “The deal they did, we had no knowledge of. We received none of the benefits of what happened in that deal, and that is why were not fined and received no violations. For a market to work efficiently, everyone has to follow the rules. When you break the rules, you have to be punished accordingly.”

The current court settlement would allow Morgan Stanley to keep roughly $16.8 million of the profit they received through the price-fixing scheme, which Vallone and Gianaris believe to be egregious.

“Who came up with this deal – Bernie Madoff,” Vallone asked. “How could DOJ and the court allow Morgan Stanley to conspire with KeySpan to artificially raise rates and make millions of dollars without returning one cent to the ratepayers?”