Tag Archives: Legislation

Stop for school bus or lose license for 60 days: state Senate


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

Repeat scofflaws who zoom through school bus stop signs could face stiffer penalties under a bill the state Senate passed last week.

The legislation calls for a 60-day license suspension for drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus more than twice within 10 years.

“It’s bad enough that a driver passes a stopped school bus once, but to do it twice is unacceptable,” said upstate Sen. John Bonacic, who penned the law. “This bill is intended to make our roads safer for our school children.”

Committing the crime twice within three years is currently punishable by up to $750 and 180 days in jail. But only the monetary fine — up to $1,000 — increases for each new offense after that.

The new law, in line with citywide “Vision Zero” strides to reduce pedestrian fatalities, would temporarily yank dangerous drivers from the wheel.

“Drivers who are reckless with their lives and the lives of others, particularly with the lives of children, must be punished and taken off the roads,” Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky said.

The bill now awaits movement by the state Assembly’s Transportation Committee.

 

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Queens lawmaker wants fire hydrants tagged with markers


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Councilmember Mark Weprin

All New York City hydrants should be tagged with high-flying flags to be spotted more easily during snowstorms, a Queens lawmaker is proposing.

Councilmember Mark Weprin is reintroducing legislation this March that would require markers be placed at least three feet above hydrants.

The bill, first introduced in 2011, would help firefighters quickly pinpoint nearest hydrants that are buried in the snow, Weprin said.

It would also help homeowners locate and dig them out faster and keep motorists from accidentally parking too close.

“Hydrants get snow plowed in. There are some you can’t even see,” Weprin said. “It seems like just a common sense change.”

Six major snowstorms have slammed the city so far this winter, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during the last blast on Feb. 13.

In Central Park, Bridgeport and LaGuardia Airport, it is the third snowiest February on record, according to the National Weather Service.

The bill has never moved out of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, though similar laws exist in other cities like Orangetown, N.Y. and Santa Maria, Calif., Weprin said.

“I’m hoping we can make the case a little better now,” he said.

 

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Pols call for law change after driver with suspended license fatally strikes Woodside boy


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO

Local elected officials are calling for a change in the law to prevent another child, like 8-year-old Noshat Nahian, from losing their life.

Noshat was crossing the street with his 11-year-old sister on the way to school at P.S. 152 in Woodside around 8 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 20 when a tractor trailer traveling southbound on 61st Street made a left turn onto Northern Boulevard, striking him with its rear tires, police said. He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The driver, Mauricio Osorio-Palominos, 51, of Newark, N.J., who remained on the scene of the accident, has been charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of motor vehicle and operating vehicle in violation of safety rules, police said.

Osorio-Palominos was driving with a suspended license with multiple violations on his record during the accident, according to State Senator Michael Gianaris.

In response, Gianaris gathered with local officials, residents and advocacy groups at the site of the accident Monday to introduce legislation that would make it a felony if drivers with suspended licenses either seriously injure or kill someone with their vehicle. Under current law, a driver like Osorio-Palominos could be charged with a misdemeanor.

“The law needs to get tougher,” said Gianaris. “Those who have suspended licenses are twice as likely to kill somebody or injure somebody, or twice as likely to have major accidents, the law has to catch up with the data, we just need to get these people off the streets.”

Gianaris has also proposed the immediate impoundment of a vehicle’s license plate if it were being operated by someone with a suspended license.

The new bill will be co-sponsored by Senators Toby Ann Stavisky and Jose Peralta and also supported by Assemblymember Michael Den Dekker, Congressmember Joseph Crowley and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

“I have an 8-year-old son and it could have been my child, it could have been my son that was hit that Friday morning,” said Peralta. “And we need to send a loud message not only to the city but to anyone who does this, who rides without a license, that this is not going to be acceptable.”

Advocate groups like Transportation Alternatives, Make Queens Safer and Woodside on the Move, are also looking to implement other safety measures like crossing guards, stalled green lights and much more.

“None of this should of happen, all of this could have been prevented,” said Van Bramer. “This school has been asking for a crossing guard at this location for months. [It’s] absolutely disgraceful that the administration did not provide the crossing guard when it was requested, when it was clearly needed. Anybody who has been on this street for more than five minutes knows that this requires a crossing guard.”

Advocacy group Make Queens Safer organized a traffic safety memorial and vigil at 61st Street and Northern Boulevard Sunday where Noshat’s family and hundreds of residents gathered to remember the 8-year-old and other victims of traffic fatalities.

 

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Flushing widow pushes for hit-and-run bill


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The widow of a Flushing man killed last year in a tragic hit-and-run held back tears while she pushed for a bill to protect pedestrians.

“I’m very heartbroken, very angry,” said Taysha Dominguez. “There are no words to describe the pain and the suffering that my family is currently going through at this moment.”

Her husband, Dante Dominguez, was struck by a car while crossing 41st Avenue and Union Street on foot in Flushing last November. The driver, who is still unknown, fled and left the father of three to die, officials said. He was 45.

“Even when I step on someone’s foot, I hold accountability. I say that I’m sorry to that person,” said the widow, 30. “This person continued driving, didn’t have the heart to help save that victim. To leave the scene — that’s heartless. That is what has torn me apart.”

Lawmakers and Dante’s family returned to the scene of the crime last week to urge the City Council to pass a bill which would require more police action and the installation of nearly 200 red light cameras.

“We don’t want her husband to have died in vain,” said Councilmember Peter Koo.

The legislation would require the NYPD to make annual reports to the City Council on hit-and-runs that result in death or severe injury, detailing all actions taken to determine culprits. The city’s police department would also have to collect video surveillance from cameras near the crime scene.

The bill also calls for the city to install red light cameras in more than 150 intersections and create a tax credit for property owners who install their own devices.

Sources said the bill will soon be introduced in the City Council.

“Hit-and-runs are too frequent in Queens, and we need to do everything we can to make sure the police have the resources they need to find the drivers responsible for them,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie.

Inspector Brian Maguire of the 109th Precinct urged anyone with information on Dante’s death to anonymously help by calling 1-800-577-TIPS.

“Getting into an accident is not a crime,” the precinct’s commanding officer said. “It’s only a crime when you flee the scene.”

Dominguez said her husband was a hardworking artist who toiled through long shifts to make ends meet. She added that their family is still reeling from the loss.

“I can’t say we’re okay when we’re really not,” said Dominguez. “We have no sense of closure. We’re hurt and we’re torn. There is not enough justice being done to find out who did this.”

 

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10 years after deadly staged accident, family wants Alice’s Law passed


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The family of the 71-year-old Queens woman killed 10 years ago in a staged car accident said bureaucratic delays have held up justice — and a proposed law to stiffen penalties in such cases.

“It should have passed,” said Daniel Ross, 56, of Bayside. “I don’t want another family to go through what we went through.”

His mother, Alice Ross, died in 2003 when her car was struck in Bellerose by another vehicle.

According to the district attorney, Waurd Demolaire of Brooklyn intentionally rammed his car into hers to collect insurance money under the state’s No-Fault Law. He was convicted of manslaughter and conspiracy in 2006 and released on probation last October.

“The perpetrator got off with a very reduced sentence, considering the fact that he murdered my sister,” said Alice’s brother, Don Peters. “Now he’s free to walk the streets of New York again.”

Legislation dubbed Alice’s Law has been proposed in the State Senate and Assembly. Both bills would impose tougher criminal penalties on people who engage in staged accidents. But legislators said failure to compromise on two different versions of the law has stalled the ratification process.

The Assembly wants to classify staging accidents to defraud insurance as a class E felony, the lowest felony offense. It carries a prison sentence of one to five years.

A bill passed in the State Senate would make the crime a class D felony and upgrade it to class B if the accident causes serious injury or death to another person. That could mean a prison sentence of five to more than 25 years.

“It’s continually frustrating that there seems to be a philosophical difference between the State Senate and Assembly,” said State Senator Tony Avella, a cosponsor of the Senate bill. “Increasing penalties for any sort of crime, [the Assembly] just won’t do it.”

Assemblymember David Weprin, a sponsor of the bill in the lower house, said he is optimistic that both houses will reach a compromise and get the legislation passed this year.

The legislature has less than one month to resolve differences and get one bill approved in both houses before the session ends June 20.

Last year, the State Senate passed its bill in March and sent it to the Assembly. But according to records, the Assembly’s amended bill reached the Senate on June 19 — too late for action by the upper house.

Alice’s Law was first proposed in 2007 and has been reintroduced every year since 2010.

“It’s been too long in coming,” said Peters, 78, of Saratoga Springs. “The process has been much too slow. I wish it would become law. I think it would be a very appropriate recognition of that anniversary.”

Daniel Ross showed The Courier a copy of a letter from authorities saying the man responsible for his mother’s untimely death was now free.

“That was murder,” he said. “It could have been anybody’s mother.”

 

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College Point kids may get back on the bus


| mchan@queenscourier.com

school buses3w

A bi-partisan bill could see full school buses pulling away from J.H.S. 194 once again.

Legislation passed by the State Senate and Assembly — that now awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sign-off — would allow seventh and eighth grade students in the city to regain eligibility for school bus service.

In May 2010, the city Department of Education (DOE) announced it would end yellow school bus service for more than 4,000 seventh and eighth grade students throughout the city, as part of a “cost-saving measure.”

Community leaders said the move crippled neighborhoods like College Point, where they said there is no local middle school. Students at J.H.S. 194 in Whitestone, they said, were then forced to travel on city buses to get to and from school — their commute often totaling two hours.

Now, the new law initiated by Senator Andrew Lanza — named “Aniya’s Law,” after a 13-year-old Staten Island girl who was killed last June while crossing an intersection to catch a city bus after school — could restore yellow school bussing to city middle schoolers.

“It’s about time that we see a common sense solution to a ridiculous problem,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran. “The city literally left these kids out in the dark, adding hours to their commute to school.”

In 2010, Staten Island legislators instantly took the issue to state court due to their lack of public transportation services. State Supreme Court Justice John Fusco ruled the decision to eliminate school buses in Staten Island — as well as College Point — was made “without concern for the welfare and safety of the affected students,” according to a December 2010 report.

City officials took that ruling to Federal Court where Fusco’s decision was overturned on the basis that each student throughout the five boroughs must be treated equally. Due to a miscommunication in the DOE, parents and students at J.H.S. 194 were not informed that bus service was cut until 24 hours before the first day of the school year. The message was delivered by phone in an automated message, according to parents.

“Students in College Point were forced to spend up to an hour-and-a-half taking two or three city buses just to get to and from school. We can’t expect junior high school students to make two bus transfers to get to school every morning,” Halloran said. “It’s not safe, and it’s not fair to them. These are 11-year-old kids.”

If the governor approves the bill, the changes are slated take effect this September.

– Additional reporting by Bob Doda

Protecting ‘Good Samiritan’ businesses


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Businesses can now feel safe about being good Samaritans.

Senator Michael Gianaris announced on December 22 that he has introduced new legislation aimed at expanding upon New York’s “Good Samaritan” laws. If passed, the legislation would protect businesses and non-profits offering themselves as safe havens to citizens in distress from being held liable for damages or injuries they may incur in the process. Currently, “Good Samaritan” laws only protect individuals.

“Protecting small businesses that rush to aid someone in distress will increase the safe havens available to crime victims and make our streets safer,” said Gianaris. “By encouraging businesses to act in good faith in an emergency, this legislation creates a stronger safety net for individuals who may otherwise feel apprehensive about travelling alone or in unknown neighborhoods.”

Gianaris announced his plans to introduce the bill during an anti-crime rally in November, held to draw attention to and protest the increase in crime in western Queens. Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, who attended the rally along with the senator, co-sponsored the bill.

“Promoting public safety is a community endeavor, and organizations that step in to help the victim of a crime need to know that they have the law on their side,” said Simotas. “I am proud to sponsor Senator Gianaris’ legislation in the assembly and support small businesses and non-profits who act as ‘Good Samaritans’ to those in need.”

It’s cabbie VS cabbie on hail bill


| brennison@queenscourier.com

yellow cab

Opposing factions of cab drivers are trying to make their case before the new street hail legislation reaches Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

The city plans on issuing 30,000 new street hail permits that will allow liveries to pick up passengers in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs if the measure passes.

Members of the Livery Base Owners recently gathered on the steps of City Hall to announce the collection of 10,000 signatures urging the governor to sign the bill. Both the State Assembly and Senate have passed the legislation.

“Today’s announcement of the first 10,000 signatures collected by livery drivers and base owners stressed the importance of this historic legislation to their livelihoods and to our communities,” stated Pedro Heredia, president of Livery Base Owners, Inc.

Heredia said he hoped to reach 100,000 signatures.

“Every day we speak with our passengers about this new law that will allow us to legally do what we have been doing for over 40 years,” said Fernando Garcia, New York Association of Independent Taxi Drivers president. He called on passengers to show their support by calling the governor to encourage him to sign the bill.

While one side requests the governor to sign the bill, representatives from five taxi and livery organizations are trying to prevent the bill’s passage.

The groups, which encompass 70 percent of livery drivers and 95 percent of yellow taxis, said the bill would put many drivers out of business.

Medallions can cost upwards of $600,000 on the open market. Under the new plan the city would sell an additional 1,500 medallions.

“The permits Mayor Bloomberg is proposing would deprive working-class, mostly immigrant, drivers of the opportunity to own an asset with re-sale value,” said David Pollack, president of the Committee for Taxi Safety. “And without that valuable asset at stake, combined with a glutted market driving down drivers’ earnings, it’s easy to see how quality service standards would spiral.”

Pollack said the medallions could lose up to 25 percent of their value if the plan passes.

“We’re counting on Governor Cuomo to step in and make sure justice is done,” said taxi driver Virginia Cedeno.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that medallion owners’ investment would be protected, since yellow cabs will still have the exclusive rights in central Manhattan and the airports, which account for 97.5 percent of hails.