Tag Archives: Governor Andrew Cuomo

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

 

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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.”

 

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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.

 

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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.

Politician pushing for tax-free Jamaica


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Downtown Jamaica could be included in a tax exemption program that stands to give an economic boost to the area around York College.

Governor Andrew Cuomo created and passed a program that installed tax-free zones in designated area around SUNY campuses. When State Senator Malcolm Smith caught wind of the new venture, he proposed getting Queens in on the action.

“A university or school can be the center for economic development for a neighborhood,” he said. “York College is the center of southeast Queens.”

The program, Start-Up NY, aims to bring revenue to communities in need by giving unprecedented exemptions from sales, property, state and corporate taxes for 10 years. It also includes exemptions from state personal income taxes for employees in newly created jobs.

If Smith’s proposal is passed, York College could apply to sponsor a tax-free zone around it. Among the criteria for a neighborhood to gain the special status, it has to have the highest poverty rate out of all college neighborhoods in the borough. The York College community has a roughly 20 percent poverty rate, slightly higher than any other college community in Queens.

The initiative is designed with an eye to attracting businesses that can enhance employment opportunities for students and graduates. Retail outlets and real estate firms will not be eligible to participate, while fiber optics companies and other high tech ventures are sought.

“These are very powerful incentives,” Smith said. “If properly applied, they could be transformative for York and economically regenerative for Jamaica.”

Smith has engaged in talks with Dr. Marcia Keizs, president of York College, to execute this economic vision. The legislator said he has “no doubt” Cuomo will approve the proposal.

“There is a strong community presence and involvement in the program,” he said, “because that’s what’s going to make it exceptional and transparent.”

 

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State Legislature restores cuts for disabled services


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

It was a reversal of fortune.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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State gaming agreement leaves Queens out of casino deal


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators have come to an agreement on a gaming deal that would effectively put four casinos upstate and leave Queens without one for now.

There is a seven-year hold on increasing the number of New York casinos, according to Cuomo’s office. After that, the entire state is up for grabs pending new legislation.

This leaves Resorts World Casino New York City out of the running to become a Las Vegas-style casino with full table games, as some Queens officials had hoped.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo, whose district includes the Racino and Aqueduct, said on Wednesday, June 19 that he was still reviewing the bill before it enters the Senate and Assembly for votes. His top concern, he said, was how it would affect his district.

“I’m still going through it because I need to look at the whole bill in its entirety,” he said. “My first priority is my district.”

He added that constituents might not necessarily venture upstate for gaming, but could cross the border to Connecticut or New Jersey instead.

“If they’re going to just have some entertainment, they’re basically going to stay local,” he said.
Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder also opposed Cuomo’s original plan, which barred downstate casinos. He said he is still reviewing the bill and is hopeful Resorts World could become a full casino.

“I’m still going through the bill to determine the rest of the merit, if it’s something I can vote for,” he said. “New York City is in the running in the seven years. They’re on an equal footing as everyone else in seven years.”

Along with colleagues and business leaders, Addabbo and Goldfeder argued that if the referendum passes, Resorts World could be a fully operational casino as soon as January. They said an expanded wagering facility would have led to 1,000 jobs along with stimulating the economy in the area.

Cuomo has pushed for upstate casinos, which are expected to boost tourism, since his State of the State address earlier this year. Throughout negotiations, his goal was to make sure full casinos come to upstate New York first.

“Today’s agreement with the Legislature would establish world-class destination gaming resorts to attract tourists to Upstate New York, generating economic activity for local businesses and creating thousands of good paying jobs where we need it most,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) similar to those at Resorts World will also expand in the state. Nassau and Suffolk Counties are possible sites. According to the governor’s office, the number of VLTs could increase if the November referendum cannot pass in order to make up for revenue expected from full casinos.

 

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Upstate casino bill could stop plan for full gaming at Resorts World


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Resorts-002

It could be no dice for full gaming at Resorts World Casino New York City if a new bill in Albany goes through.

A full gaming bill would allow games such as blackjack, roulette and poker to be legal in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan, the Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act, calls for three upstate casinos if the referendum is passed by voters in November. A downstate casino — anything south of Putnam and Rockland Counties — would have to wait until the first upstate one has opened five years from now.

Queens legislators have said if New York City is left out, it would kill 1,000 expected jobs and an economic boost for south Queens.

Cuomo first introduced the idea during his State of the State address this January. It was part of a push for more upstate tourism.

The legislature has until June 20 to negotiate and pass the bill through both the Senate and Assembly before ending for the summer.

Cuomo emphasized his priorities on WNYC’s “Capitol Pressroom” on Tuesday, June 11.

“That’s about the upstate economy,” he said. “We’re trying to keep the emphasis on upstate.”

Queens legislators and business leaders held a press conference on May 28 calling for a “fair share” in the gaming bill.

They argued that Resorts World could expand by January 2014 if voters approve gaming this November.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, whose district includes the Racino, said the area needs jobs and further economic activity in the wake of Sandy. He contends that expanding gaming at Resorts World would give the needed push.

“I think that [the bill]’s a good starting point, but I don’t see how I can support a bill that doesn’t recognize the need for job creation in southern Queens and Rockaway,” he said. “Since Sandy, Queens is even more in need of the economic boost that the casino will provide. I’m hopeful the governor will recognize that as well.”

State Senator John Bonacic, chair of the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, has been supportive of Resorts World becoming a full casino if the bill is passed. He called for the governor to change the gaming plan to include Queens and put the kibosh on any ideas for a casino in Nassau County.

Bonacic has proposed a bill that would establish upstate casinos before granting two casinos to Queens or Westchester County between 2019 and 2021.

“Long Islanders and New York City residents are open to gaming in Queens, as the success of the Aqueduct VLT [Video Lottery Terminal] casino has shown,” Bonacic said.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo said he could not support Cuomo’s bill in its current form. If Cuomo’s bill passes both chambers, Addabbo said voters might not support a plan that leaves the city out.

“The people vote no,” he said, “This whole thing comes down like a house of cards.”

 

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After budget cuts, legislative package aims to help disabled


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

In the wake of a significant budget cut to programs for developmentally disabled people, lawmakers are seeking ways to provide such individuals with more security.

A budget amendment enacted by Governor Andrew Cuomo cut 4.5 percent of state funding for organizations that help disabled individuals live healthy and independent lifestyles. Now, advocates both in and outside of the governor’s administration are fighting for legislation intended to protect the quality of support and services for these individuals.

“This legislative package will work to help remove unnecessary and discriminatory barriers that prevent many people with disabilities from living well-deserved self-reliant lives,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, chair of the Mental Health Subcommittee on Autism Retention.

One of several bills in the package is the People with Developmental Disabilities Restoration and Reinvestment Act of 2013. It would appropriate up to $90 million to fully restore state funding to services for people with developmental disabilities.

The bill would tap savings to implement an agenda focused on services for individuals, community integration and more. The legislature would make up for funds not covered by the savings through a contingency appropriation.

Another bill in the package would amend the state’s Human Rights Law to require state and local government facilities to remove barriers which limit access to transportation or government services and buildings.

An additional bill would establish an advocacy program to advise individuals about their rights and responsibilities. Other bills entail access to sign language interpreters, housing preferences for tenants with limited mobility, eliminating discriminatory practices and more.

“This legislative package will provide the necessary state funding to improve the behavior and growth of individuals with developmental disabilities,” Goldfeder said. “There has been significant progress in achieving mental and physical health parity in New York State.”

The Assembly and the Senate will vote on the package in the coming weeks.

 

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Governor Cuomo introduces women’s rights legislation


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's Flickr

Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by members of the Women’s Equality Coalition, unveiled new legislation today aimed at ending gender discrimination and inequality in the workplace, and protecting abortion rights.

The Women’s Equality Act also strengthens human trafficking laws, provides protections for domestic violence victims and ends family status discrimination.

“In 1848, the women’s suffrage movement began in America at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Since then, New York has been at the forefront of important social and legal movements that have advanced the equal treatment of all people,” said Cuomo. “Over the years, however, New York has fallen behind in its role as a progressive leader on women’s rights. The Women’s Equality Act, which I introduced today, is designed to address gender inequality in our communities, and to restore New York as a leader in women’s rights.”

According to a statement from the governor the bill will:

Achieve Pay Equity: The bill would finally shatter the glass ceiling by eliminating the ability of employers to point to “any other factor other than sex” to justify pay disparities and instead require that their pay decisions be based on legitimate reasons. In addition, the legislation would protect an employee’s right to share wage information with other employees without being retaliated against, and increase damages to successful plaintiffs in pay equity discrimination cases. Currently, in New York, women earn 84% of what men earn, and over a lifetime will earn $500,000 less than men. Jobs that are traditionally held by women pay significantly less than jobs predominately employing men. And, in New York, a woman working full time is paid, on average, $42,113 per year, while a man is paid $50,388 per year. In 2013, this is both inexcusable and absurd.

Stop Sexual Harassment in All Workplaces: The new law would ban sexual harassment in every workplace, regardless of the number of employees, so all workers are protected. Currently, New York State law only prohibits sexual harassment in workplaces with four or more employees. In 2011, women accounted for 75% of all sexual harassment complaints filed with the NYS Division of Human Rights and 83% of those filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Over 60% of New York State employers have less than four employees.

Remove Barriers to Remedying Discrimination: The legislation would allow successful plaintiffs to recover attorney’s fees in employment or credit discrimination cases based on sex. This will enable victims, most of whom are women, to have the opportunity to vindicate their rights and be made whole in cases where they prevail. Currently, plaintiffs cannot recover attorney fees at trial for employment discrimination cases, making it costly to bring a case. Approximately 77% of sex based employment discrimination cases filed with New York State are filed by women.

End Family Status Discrimination: The bill would prohibit employers from denying work or promotions to workers simply because they have children. By enacting this legislation, New York would be just the 5th state in the nation in protecting against family status discrimination. Currently, New York State law only prohibits discrimination based on “familial status” in areas of housing and credit. Discrimination on the basis of family status adversely affects women with children, particularly women in poor or low income households.

Stop Housing Discrimination for Victims of Domestic Violence: The new law would prohibit landlords from discriminating against victims of domestic violence. Under the current state law, victims of domestic violence are not protected from discrimination in housing, allowing landlords to reject those most in need of housing. Discrimination against victims of domestic violence is almost always discrimination against women since 85% of domestic violence victims are women.

Stop Source-of-Income Discrimination: This legislation would prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants based on lawful source of income, and therefore maximizes a family’s ability to secure safe and decent housing. Since women account for 76% of all housing choice voucher recipients, including Section 8 vouchers, many of the landlords who refuse to rent to recipients of Section 8 or other public housing assistance recipients are discriminating against women.

Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Strengthening Order-of-Protection Laws: The legislation creates a pilot program to allow domestic violence victims to seek temporary orders of protection through electronic means rather than having to appear in person. In addition, this bill would ensure that orders of protection are translated, when needed, and makes clear that a victim of domestic violence who has an order of protection against her abuser cannot be accused of violating her own order of protection. Currently, domestic violence victims face too many obstacles in securing much needed protection from their abusers. This bill would remove many of those obstacles, and ensure that domestic violence victims get the protection they need.

Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws: This legislation would strengthen New York’s existing human trafficking laws. It would, in part, eliminate the requirement that “coercion” be proven in a sex trafficking prosecution when the victims of sex trafficking are minors. In addition, the bill would increase the penalties for trafficking and create an affirmative defense in prostitution prosecutions if the defendant was herself a sex trafficking victim. This bill seeks to address the massive underground trafficking industry by holding traffickers accountable, making prosecution and enforcement more effective, and giving greater protections to victims.

Stop Pregnancy Discrimination Once and For All: The legislation would create a specific protection that requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. The current protections for working, pregnant women are confusing and have been misinterpreted. Some pregnancies can result in medical conditions requiring reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

 

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Governor Cuomo announces stricter penalties for driving while texting


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Twitter/@NYGovCuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced new actions to strengthen penalties for texting-while-driving in order to keep all New Yorkers safe on the road.

Effective June 1, Cuomo directed the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to establish tougher penalties for texting-while-driving for all drivers and new penalties for young and new drivers.

“As the father of three teenagers, I know firsthand the importance of instilling safe practices in our young drivers who are developing lifelong habits as they learn to navigate the road,” said Cuomo. “Inattention and inexperience is a deadly combination – one this legislation seeks to deter. We are urging young and inexperienced drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, while putting stronger penalties in place for drivers of all ages who violate the law and put others in danger. No parent should have to experience losing a child at the hands of a text message.”

Starting this weekend, Cuomo has also asked the New York State Police to increase enforcement of the texting-while-driving ban during the summer.

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

Cuomo is also proposing legislation that would impose the same penalties on drivers for texting-while-driving that they currently receive for speeding and reckless driving.

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

“With the increased use of mobile devices, we have all become more concerned about safety on our highway,” said DMV Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala. “I congratulate Governor Cuomo on his continued efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and for putting increased penalties in place for those who engage in the dangerous behavior of texting while driving.”

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Clear in the morning, then partly cloudy. High of 63. Winds from the NNW at 5 to 10 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 48. Winds from the NNW at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: An Evening with Choreographers Rich + Tone

Discovered by Michael Jackson’s choreographer while freestyling at a California club, the brothers Rich + Tone Taluega are two of the most successful choreographers in the business. They have also worked with Madonna, JLo, Usher, Chris Brown, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera and Black Eyed Peas. Rich + Tone will present some highlights from their body of work and give a live demonstration of their choreography at the Museum of the Moving Image at 7 p.m. Free. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Boston Marathon bombing suspect moved from hospital to prison

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been moved from the hospital to the Federal Medical Center Devens, a federal prison for inmates requiring long-term medical care, the U.S. Marshals Service said Friday. Read more: ABC New York

Senate passes bill to ease FAA furloughs; House vote expected as early as Friday

With flight delays mounting, the Senate approved hurry-up legislation Thursday night to end air traffic controller furloughs blamed for inconveniencing large numbers of travelers. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Whitestone home burglarized, family bound and robbed at gunpoint

Four gun-toting goons crept into a Queens home and yanked a family out of their beds during a terrifying middle-of-the-night robbery Thursday, police sources said. Read more: New York Daily News

Ex-Marine says cops beat him in Jamaica’s 103rd Precinct: suit

The Queens district attorney’s office is investigating a former Marine’s claim that he was punched and kicked in the face by cops as they ejected him from the 103rd Precinct stationhouse, where he had gone to retrieve a friend’s personal property. Read more: New York Daily News

Cuomo wants credit bureaus to reconsider Sandy victims’ scores

Last October, as Hurricane Sandy tore through Staten Island, Allison Puglisi’s home was severely damaged. Read more: NY1

Tight security at NFL Draft

NYPD Hercules teams stood with guns at the ready. Nearby, bomb-sniffing dogs were on the prowl. Welcome, to the first round of the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Read more: Fox New York

U.S. Senate gun control vote disappoints New York lawmakers


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's Flickr

The build-up lasted a full four months.

From the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School to the State of the Union and rallies afterward, tougher laws on gun control were debated and pored over until U.S. Senators finally voted 54-46 in favor of an amendment to strengthen background checks at gun shows and online.

However, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 needed 60 “aye” votes to pass.

In New York, many state officials were deeply disappointed when the news came out of Washington on Wednesday, April 17.

“I was embarrassed,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris. “Our New York delegation did terrific work, but I was embarrassed by the U.S. Senate. They couldn’t even do the simplest reform which itself was a far cry from what we really needed.”

City Councilmember Donovan Richards echoed the sentiment.

“It’s a crying shame. I would urge these individuals who voted down the bill to come visit the parents of the countless lives that were lost. Blood is on their hands.”

U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand voted in favor of the amendment.

Gianaris was one of the first state senators to push for tougher gun laws last year when he put forth legislation expanding background checks and banning assault rifles.

Background checks were eventually incorporated into the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act of 2013.

In January, the New York State Legislature passed the SAFE Act, which includes some of the toughest gun laws in the country. The bill initially limited magazine capacity to seven bullets, banned assault rifles and tightened background checks. Critics viewed it as a radical, knee-jerk reaction by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the Sandy Hook shooting while legislators were chastised for the rush to pass the bill.

Cuomo later backtracked on the magazine limit as a compromise to reach this year’s budget on time.

Federal background checks under the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 would have been lighter than checks outlined in New York’s SAFE Act.

The New York bill allows mental health professionals to alert the state if a patient has the potential to be violent. If the threat is deemed viable, the state can revoke the patient’s gun license.

While New York is traditionally viewed as a liberal state, Gianaris said the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) lobby here is as prominent as in Washington. However, he said New Yorkers generally supported the SAFE Act despite the NRA presence.

Assemblymember Nily Rozic, a co-sponsor of the SAFE Act, traveled to the nation’s capital last month as part of the Assembly’s Black, Latino and Asian caucus to lobby for the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act.

She and Assembly colleagues from across the state pushed for a wide package of gun control bills, which she described as the first step in better nationwide gun laws.

Rozic said she was disappointed the Senate could not get the amendment to pass, but is hopeful looking forward.

“We had some great conversations,” she said. “I’d be happy to go back to D.C. and continue the fight.”

Richards, a proponent of gun buyback programs, said the goal is to take away criminals’ opportunities to get their hands on weapons.

“If we’re not doing what we can to ensure that these individuals don’t have gun access,” he said, “we’re doing a disservice to our children, to our community.”

All New York legislators, however, have not been in favor of the SAFE Act and gun legislation.

State Senator Greg Ball, who represents parts of Duchess and Putnam Counties, has actively opposed the bill, citing the loss of rights to people who legally purchased assault rifles.

Addressing the senate debate on the bill in January, Ball said making assault rifles illegal did not compensate for the help mentally ill people in the state really need. To make his point, he described a constituent with a bipolar, schizophrenic son who Ball said did not get proper state care.

“She fears for her life and the lives of her neighbors every day,” he told his fellow Senators. “And the mental health system in the state of New York has failed her repeatedly. It’s a kangaroo system where that child will be treated like a number, and a ticking time bomb to go off. And that single mom doesn’t have the support of the state, or that system, to care for that child.”

Instead, the Republican alleged the SAFE Act was a ploy to help Cuomo one day become president, and that it and would make criminals out of otherwise law-abiding gun owners.

Ball was not available for comment by press time.

In Richards’ southeast Queens district, gun safety is of utmost concern. He mentioned several individuals among his constituency who lost their lives due to gun violence, including his friend Darnell Patterson. Patterson was murdered in South Jamaica.

“The list goes on and on,” he said. “As government officials, we’re supposed to [...] do as much as we can to protect everyday citizens.”

-BY TERENCE M. CULLEN & MAGGIE HAYES

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Wednesday: Overcast in the morning, then mostly cloudy. High of 64. Winds from the NNE at 5 to 10 mph. Wednesday night: Mostly cloudy. Low of 50. Winds from the SE at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: “Every Day Is a Holiday” 

Starting at 6 p.m., come view the film “Every Day is a Holiday” at the Flushing Library. Join filmmaker Theresa Loong for a discussion and screening of her film (in English with Chinese subtitles) that tells the story of a Chinese prisoner of war, taken by the Japanese, and his quest to become a United States citizen. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Bombs used in Boston Marathon attack said to be made from pressure cookers

One of the explosive devices used in the bombings of the Boston Marathon appeared to have been in a metal pressure cooker packed with nails and ball bearings, CBS News reported. Read more: CBS New York/AP

John Liu campaign fund-raisers begin corruption conspiracy trial

The conspiracy trial of two allies to mayoral hopeful John Liu opened Tuesday with federal prosecutors casting the pair as crooks bent on skirting campaign finance laws. Read more: New York Daily News

Over 5,000 register for NYC bike sharing program

New York City’s Department of Transportation says more than 5,000 people have registered this week for a bike-sharing program that launches in May. Read more: Fox New York/AP

JFK Airport finch pincher Marlon Hariram gets 6 months in prison

A birdbrained smuggler nabbed at Kennedy Airport with nine singing finches from Guyana hidden up his sleeve was sentenced Tuesday to six months in prison. Read more: New York Daily News

Cuomo holds steady in poll but fares poorly on corruption

Gov. Cuomo can exhale. A new poll shows his job approval ratings held steady between March and April after dropping since he signed New York’s controversial new gun control law in January. Read more: New York Post

Pat Summerall voice of NFL dies at 82

Pat Summerall, the NFL player-turned-broadcaster whose deep, resonate voice called games for more than 40 years, has died at the age of 82. Read more: ABC New York/AP