Tag Archives: Governor Andrew Cuomo

De Blasio releases report, gives testimony in Albany on pre-K plan


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@NYCMayorsOffice

Mayor Bill de Blasio testified in Albany Monday on an interagency report he released the same day detailing plans to provide free full-day pre-kindergarten for every 4-year-old in the city by increasing taxes on the wealthy.

“The reality is that today, fewer than 27 percent of 4-year-olds in New York City have access to full-day pre-K,” the mayor said.

To authorize the tax hikes, he will need permission from Albany lawmakers.

Specifically, he is asking for an income tax surcharge, which would increase the current 3.9 percent rate to a 4.4 percent rate on those with annual incomes of a half-million dollars or more over the next five years.

It would also allow for the expansion of middle school extended learning programs, de Blasio said.

At an average cost of $10,239 per child, under the plan, 73,250 children would be eligible for full-day pre-kindergarten by the 2015-2016 school year, beginning with 53,604 in September 2014.

The total cost is estimated at $340 million annually, with $97 million dedicated to start-up infrastructure and costs required to upgrade program quality in the first year.

The plan will require approximately 2,000 new classrooms in public schools and community-based settings across the city, according to the Department of Education.

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a statewide plan for universal, full-day pre-kindergarten in his budget address last week, with an estimated cost of $1.5 billion over the next five years. The state would fully fund the program.

“That’s an idea we strongly endorse and we appreciate his leadership on this issue,” de Blasio said.

But he said the funding must be  “predictable and consistent,” and isolated from the state budget.

“Universal pre-K and after-school programs must have a dedicated funding stream, a locked box, shielded from what we all know is the inevitable give and take of the budgeting process,” the mayor said.

According to the report, proceeds from “the proposed personal income tax surcharge will be dedicated solely to the expansion and enhancement of New York City’s pre – kindergarten and after-school programs. The city will place these funds in a ‘lockbox.’”

Ready to Launch: New York City’s Implementation Plan for Free, High-Quality, Full-Day Universal Pre-Kinderg… by NYC Mayor’s Office

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Barbara Sheehan seeks clemency, sticking to self-defense argument


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYSPAC

Six months ago Barbara Sheehan began her five-year sentence after shooting and killing her husband. Today, she is seeking an exception to her prison stay, and wants to serve her time for weapons possession at home.

The 52-year-old Howard Beach resident fatally shot her husband, retired NYPD Sergeant Raymond Sheehan, 11 times with two different guns in February 2008. She said she suffered nearly two decades of abuse at her husband’s hands and he would have killed her had she not pulled the trigger.

“When you’re in a domestic violence situation, it’s not as black and white as it appears to be,” Sheehan told The Courier. “Just looking at his face, his eyes told me this was it. He was getting up and he was going to kill me.”

A prison support group created an online petition to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to grant Sheehan clemency. So far, about 2,000 people have signed and pledged their support.

Sheehan was acquitted of murder but charged with weapons possession for the second gun she used that day. She is currently serving her sentence at the Albion Correctional Facility in upstate New York.

The former school secretary was charged because when she shot with the second firearm, her husband no longer posed a threat. However, she said he didn’t die after shots from the first gun.

“He was still trying to come after me,” she said.

After starting her time last summer, she reached out to the New York State Prisoner Assistance Center (PAC) to address an “administrative issue” in the prison, said PAC Executive Director Mario Vredenburg. He then started to look into Sheehan’s case and is helping her apply for executive clemency.

If the order is granted, Sheehan will be able to serve the remainder of her sentence from home. The toughest part about prison, she said, is being far from her family and two children.

Vredenburg said prisoners can apply for clemency in exceptional circumstances, namely if something was legally wrong with the conviction. He said there was no criminal intent when Sheehan used the two guns, they were not her guns to begin with and Sheehan’s life was “in imminent danger.”

Additionally, Sheehan said the jury was “forbidden” to hear her psychiatrist’s testimony, who would have detailed her “state of mind” at the time of the shooting.

“I was not able to defend myself properly,” she said.

The PAC will file on Sheehan’s behalf with the governor’s office in March.

“We’re not asking for the governor to say it was legal for her to use that gun. We’re asking him to forgive her conviction,” Vredenburg said.

To see the petition and read more, click here.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

NY State minimum wage to increase to $8 per hour starting Dec. 31


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Changes are coming to the state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation systems, and there will be an increase in minimum wage.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the passage of the state budget in March, 2013, which included raises in the minimum wage to $8 per hour from $7.25, effective Dec. 31.

Previously, New York lagged behind 19 other states in minimum wage levels. By the end of 2014, the minimum wage will increase to $8.75 and then $9, by the end of 2015.

“Thanks to the persistence of the Assembly majority, this budget ensures that tens of thousands of hardworking, minimum-wage-earning New Yorkers will be receiving much-deserved and badly needed raises in each of the next two years,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said.

Reforms coming to New York State unemployment insurance include enhancements to prevent fraud and aggressively require claimants to look for work, among other improvements. Also, there will be an increase in wage bases.

Currently, employers pay unemployment insurance contributions on each worker’s earnings up to a certain point called the wage base. The current wage base for 2013 is $8,500. The wage base will be adjusted on January 1 each year and increase to $13,000 by 2026.

After 2026, the wage base will be adjusted annually on January 1 to 16 percent of the state’s average annual wage.

The workers’ compensation system is under repair as well.

The system is under a business process re-engineering, focusing on improving the system’s processes, performance management and upgrading technology.

Right now over 30 states use a national electronic standard for worker’s compensation injury reporting. New York will join this growing trend of electronic injury reporting in 2014.

The state hopes that this move will reduce paper forms and duplicate filings, provide greatly expanded access to injury and payment data, simplify and speed up case processing, and allow the workers’ compensation board to better regulate the workers’ compensation system.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

 

$50 million to protect Howard Beach from storms


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Howard Beach homes will now be protected, starting at the coast.

Spring Creek and Jamaica Bay will undergo a multi-million dollar resiliency project that Governor Andrew Cuomo said will better protect homes and businesses from destructive storms.

“Like several other communities located by the water, Howard Beach suffered incredible damage from storm surges during Sandy,” Cuomo said. “To strengthen Howard Beach against future flooding and storms, we are moving forward on a major project that improves the natural infrastructure along Spring Creek and the Jamaica Bay coast, with the approval of federal funding.”

About 3,000 homes were damaged during Sandy in the low-lying community.

Roughly $50 million will go towards engineering, designing and executing this project, which will cover 150 acres. Excavation, re-contouring and re-vegetation will be implemented by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to create a self-sustaining system of wave-dampening barriers intended to reduce storm damage.

“Addressing the flooding problem in Howard Beach is long overdue,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo. “A project like this cannot happen fast enough.”

Low and high level vegetated salt marshes, as well as dunes and elevated grasslands will be used to protect the community against future storm surges, similar to the floodwaters experienced during Sandy, and a rise in sea level.

About 765,000 cubic yards of material will be dug up across the site and reshaped into an elevated area, and 40,000 cubic yards of sand will be imported and spread across the site.

“I am most interested in the timeframe of this major project, since flood mitigation is a serious concern for my constituents, and the scope of this project is to ensure all parts of Howard Beach, inclusive of New and Old Howard, as well as Hamilton Beach,” Addabbo said.

Mitigation will be done along the eastern shore of Spring Creek on the north shore of Jamaica Bay. The site is bound by the Belt Parkway to the north and a series of roadways to the southeast, including 78th Street, 161st Avenue, 83rd Street, 165th Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard. It comprises the western and southern perimeter of Howard Beach.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Cuomo announces $37M in projects to keep LaGuardia from flooding


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

After Sandy forced LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to close last year for three days, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced $37.5 million in storm mitigation and resiliency projects to protect important infrastructure from future flooding.

“Sandy forced us to reevaluate how we prepare for and respond to major natural disasters in New York,” said Cuomo. “The question is not if another storm will hit, but when, and the state is doing everything it can to ensure that New York’s infrastructure is strong and durable when the time comes.”

Last year during Sandy, LGA’s airfield was flooded by more than 100 million gallons of water from Flushing Bay, causing the airport to cease commercial flight operations for three days. The surge flooded the five high-capacity pump houses which the airport depended on to drain any water.

The five projects announced by the governor include the installation of flood barrier raised banks around the West Field Lighting Vault, which houses runway and taxiway lighting systems, and construction of a concrete flood wall around the West End Substation that is key to powering the airfield systems.

The other projects feature construction of two gravity drains that will release storm water into Flushing Bay, replacement of existing generators with bigger and more efficient emergency back-up generators, and restoration of LGA’s monitoring and control system, to allow the airport to quickly monitor and deal with any issues with its electrical distribution system.

“Projects like these will significantly improve flood protection and electrical resiliency at LaGuardia and throughout the state,” said Cuomo. “New York State government is working every day to build back better than before.”

Federal funds are expected to cover $28.1 million of the total project costs.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Cuomo veto fast-tracks aircraft noise studies


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo shut down a Senate bill last week and instead demanded the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey conduct a noise study and establish a community roundtable.

The governor vetoed a two-state bill last Wednesday that would have required the authority to determine the effects of aircraft noise with a one-time noise and land use compatibility study at all five Port Authority airports.

The legislation, passed by the New York State Legislature, would have needed approval from both Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Cuomo’s veto bypasses the need for New Jersey’s companion legislation and directs the Port Authority to meet with the community and conduct noise studies at LaGuardia and JFK Airports.

“I recognize that aircraft noise has been a concern for residents of Queens County and Nassau County,” Cuomo wrote in his veto note.

The push for noise control comes after the Federal Aviation Administration approved a new flight pattern last December that brought on a barrage of low-flying planes over parts of northeast Queens.

“Residents living among the highest air traffic in the country should have every opportunity to present their views to the appropriate authorities and a vehicle to gather information and hold people accountable,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Cuomo, Gillibrand back Paul Vallone in District 19 race


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Governor Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand endorsed Democratic City Council candidate Paul Vallone for District 19 Wednesday.

Cuomo said Vallone could carry the legacy of his family.

“I have known the Vallone family for decades and admire their contributions of public service to the City of New York,” the governor said in a statement. “In my mind, there is no question that Paul Vallone is the right man for the job.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

QueensWay study moving forward


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association

Over three miles of abandoned railway could become the much-debated, yet eagerly anticipated, QueensWay Park for the borough.

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land introduced a design team on Tuesday, August 20 set to study the 3.5-mile greenway that was once the Rockaway Beach LIRR line, running from Rego Park to Ozone Park.

If approved and the project moves forward, the QueensWay would be double the size of Manhattan’s High Line, The Courier reported in December.

The year-long study, starting after Labor Day, will be conducted by WXY architecture + urban design and dlandstudio and will look at a variety of ways to convert the abandoned rail line into parkland, including engineering requirements, environmental impact and community feedback.

“The QueensWay is going to be New York’s next great park,” said Marc Matsil, New York state director of the Trust for Public Land. “Our mission is to protect land for people, and this is a perfect fit with that goal.”

The walkway will connect multiple communities and provide green space for 250,000 people in the borough, said Trust for Public Land officials. Art, sculptures and food from around the world will also be included.

Jack Friedman, Queens Chamber of Commerce executive director, said this initiative will provide a “much-needed boost” to the borough’s economy and local businesses.

The study will be funded by a $467,000 grant from Governor Andrew Cuomo as well as $140,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection and private donors.
However, not everybody is on board with the study, or the QueensWay itself.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said he believes local residents would greatly benefit from “a complete restoration of the Rockaway Beach Line.”

“I am confident that any objective study regarding the best use for the abandoned rail line will conclude that a transportation option is the only real choice,” he said. “The current lack of public transit options in Queens is strangling our businesses and hurting our families.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

 

 

Law to alert community boards about contaminated site cleanups


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of State Senator Tony Avella

The state is set to begin notifying community boards when cleanups of contaminated land are planned in their areas.

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently approved a bill that would make the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) responsible for alerting community boards of brownfield site cleanups.

Quoting Public Law, the DEC defines a brownfield as “any real property, the redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a contaminant.” Brownfields can include industrial sites or abandoned gas stations with hazardous waste or petroleum.

The DEC currently notifies adjacent property owners, nearby schools and local newspapers in the event of a cleanup. There is a 30-day public comment period after a cleanup request is made.

Under the new law, residents who attend their community board’s monthly meetings will be given more time to develop a comment before scheduled public hearings.

State Senator Tony Avella, who sponsored the bill, said the advanced warning is needed because significant environmental brownfield cleanup projects often lead to large developments that can affect locals.

“Community boards are our first line of defense in protecting our quality of life,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, who introduced the law.

The cleanup of the Waterpointe-Whitestone brownfield site sparked the legislation, lawmakers said. Community Board 7, which represents the area, said it was never informed of the initial cleanup application.

“Providing board members with information about brownfield sites will ensure that the community has eyes and ears on the ground to make certain that all remediation is done appropriately,” Braunstein said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Mostly cloudy with thunderstorms and a chance of rain. High of 81. Winds from the SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%. Monday night: Mostly cloudy with thunderstorms and a chance of rain. Low of 72. Winds from the SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Saturday Night Fever

Come to Astoria Park at 8:30 p.m. for a free screening of the movie “Saturday Night Fever.”  Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Package of beauty supplies triggers police, FBI response at JFK

Police and federal agents responded to JFK Airport’s postal facility after two customs agents reported a strange odor coming from a package Sunday, officials said. Read more: NBC New York

Quinn aims to raise the legal dropout age to make sure that a legal adult is making the decision

Kids would be legally barred from dropping out of high school until they turn 18 under a proposal announced Sunday by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Read more: New York Daily News 

New York State cracks down on speeders, other traffic violators

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday announced a weeklong crackdown targeting speeders and aggressive drivers around the state. Read more: CBS New York 

Poll: most New Yorkers embarrassed by Weiner, Spitzer

Even most New Yorkers watching Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer in political races dominated by their sex scandals want to forget about it. Read more: AP

Holder: Some drug offenders shouldn’t face mandatory minimum sentences

Attorney General Eric Holder is directing federal prosecutors to change they way they file charges for some drug crimes, to reduce the number of convictions for offenses that carry inflexible, mandatory minimum sentences. Read more: NBC New York

 

200 homes in Bayside, Flushing file airplane noise complaints last month


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

Almost all the noise complaints filed last month at three major airports came from Queens, according to data obtained by The Courier.

More than 700 calls about airplane noise flooded LaGuardia Airport this June, while 348 grievances came in about John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to statistics from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Out of 1,061 total complaints that poured in last month, only 18 complaints were made to Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.

The complaints came from almost 200 homes in Queens, mostly in Flushing and Bayside, according to Port Authority data collected June 1-30.

About 500 complaints to LaGuardia were from those neighborhoods, with a majority of calls coming from residents near Travis Triangle and Bowne Park.

Residents from across the Queens border in nearby Floral Park made most of the complaints to JFK, a total of 200.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a new flight pattern last December, much to the dismay of residents who say the procedure causes nonstop noise from low-flying planes.

The Port Authority and the FAA said they expect upcoming projects to reduce noise.

Representatives from both agencies addressed the Queens Borough President’s Aviation Advisory Council on July 22.

They said plans to soon rebuild and modernize the Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia would allow for larger planes on the runways. With more passengers per plane, that would mean fewer aircraft in the sky.

Officials also said by 2016, airports will be mandated to only use planes with engine sound-absorbing designs.

Planes going in and out of New York airports, with the exception of corporate aircraft, are currently “Stage 3” planes. The designation means engines are moved further into the interior of the plane to lessen noise.

Propellers are also shaped to deaden sound.

Barbara Brown, chair of the Eastern Queens Alliance, said larger planes would not be helpful.

“Even if flights are getting quieter, that won’t mean anything if there are more flights taking place in general,” she said.

Port Authority officials said they are also in the process of replacing 22 noise monitoring terminals and should be done by spring 2014.

They added that a public website will soon launch for people to monitor noise decibel readings and file noise complaints.

U.S. Senators Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and multiple congressmembers from the city and Long Island have called for more action. They recently sent a letter to Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye urging his agency to create an airport advisory committee.

“It is simple common sense to say that the largest metropolitan area in the country should have an airport advisory committee like the one we are proposing,” Schumer said, “a body that would help increase quality of life for locals.”

The New York state legislature passed a bill this year that would require the Port Authority to conduct a one-time study to determine the effects of aircraft noise on Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Jersey residents.

It awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature in New York and ultimately needs New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s approval as well.

Additional reporting by Johann Hamilton

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Cuomo passes bill to make rebuilding easier for Breezy Point residents


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Sullivan & Galleshaw, LLP

Sandy left 135 homes incinerated and hundreds more damaged by flooding. Governor Andrew Cuomo passed a bill on Thursday, July 10 that will allow affected residents to waive the Board of Standard and Appeals (BSA) process and allow them to rebuild immediately.

“Before today, Breezy Point residents faced the prospect of waiting up to a year for approval to rebuild homes devastated during Sandy,” Cuomo said. “Signing this law [gives] these New Yorkers an easier way forward as they continue to restore their homes and neighborhoods.”

Breezy Point does not have street frontage. Instead, there are sandy pathways throughout the community. Due to this unique layout, many building and homeowners who hoped to reconstruct were previously required to file for a special permit through the BSA.

The BSA process can take as long as 18 months to complete, said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, who drafted the legislation.

“Now it’s a simple building process,” he said. “They won’t have to worry about the lengthy, bureaucratic BSA process.”

Those looking to rebuild will submit a permit to the city Department of Buildings and “once the permit is approved by this single agency, building is permissible,” Goldfeder said.

“Now, rather than spend the summer swimming in a sea of red tape, we can start rebuilding the hundreds of homes tragically lost during Sandy,” said Arthur Lighthall, Breezy Point resident and president of the Breezy Point Co-Op. “If there is one thing that Breezy Point has shown time and time again, it is that we are a resilient community. We will rebuild and come back stronger than before.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Cuomo signs tougher texting-while-driving law


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's Flickr

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation into law strengthening texting-while-driving penalties for young and new drivers.

“Statistic after statistic shows that texting-while-driving is a chronic problem in our society, particularly among teenagers, and it will only get worse if we do not take action to prevent this deadly behavior,” said Cuomo. “That is what this law will do: it will make drivers of all ages think twice before taking their eyes off the road to answer a message on their phone.”

The new law will apply to probationary license holders, those who passed their test within the last six months and junior license holders, drivers under 18 who have some license restrictions.

For the first conviction, probationary and junior licenses will be suspended for 60 days. If there is another violation within six months of the license being restored, probationary licenses will be revoked for six months and junior licenses for 60 days.

Those are the same penalties probationary and junior licenses holders receive for speeding and reckless driving.

When Cuomo proposed the legislation, he also directed the state DMV to increase penalties for texting-while-driving for all drivers starting the weekend of June 1. He asked the New York State Police to increase enforcement of the texting-while-driving ban during the summer.

Under the order, the DMV increased the number of points earned on a person’s driving record from three to five if they are convicted of texting-while-driving and other cell-phone related violations.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Pols push for two-state study of airplane noise


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Airport operators have become the target of the latest localized effort to quiet Queens skies.

The state legislature has passed a bill that would require the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to conduct a one-time study to determine the effects of aircraft noise on Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Jersey residents.

“With this study on aircraft noise, we can best determine the use of certain runways and flight paths and use federal funding to solve this serious issue,” said Assemblymember Edward Ra, who represents parts of Nassau County.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a new flight pattern last December, much to the dismay of residents who say the procedure causes nonstop noise from low-flying planes.

The bill would require the bi-state authority to submit its findings to both state legislatures by next June, depending on when it is enacted.

It awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature in New York and ultimately needs Governor Chris Christie’s approval in New Jersey, though it was only introduced in the New Jersey Senate last month.

“We’re confident that if we get this study done, it will prove that there is a significant impact on our communities and the FAA and Port Authority will be required to find measures to remediate this problem,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein.

The legislation would also require the Port Authority — which operates five hubs in New York and New Jersey, including John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airports — to hold biennial public hearings.

“It is about time that all the communities that are affected stand up and say to the FAA and the Port Authority, ‘We’re not going to take it anymore,’’ said State Senator Tony Avella. “We may live by the airports, but when we all moved here, the air traffic was nothing like it is now.”

The FAA has since formed a committee to review its decision-making process, officials announced in May, and has agreed to hear out impacted communities.