Tag Archives: Legislation

State Senate bill gives communities input on homeless shelters


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Communities will now have the chance to hear plans for proposed social service facility sites before they appear in their neighborhoods.

The Senate recently approved legislation co-sponsored by Senator Joseph Addabbo requiring a more transparent process when it comes to locating homeless shelters or other social service facilities in communities throughout the city.

“This legislation, while not avoiding or ignoring the crisis of homelessness, substance abuse or other serious social ills in our society, does provide a necessary means for community members to be fully involved from the get-go when homeless shelters or other social service facilities are planned for their neighborhoods,” Addabbo said.

“All too often, communities are finding that facilities are being virtually rammed down their throats, with no real thought given to whether the buildings are appropriate for the programs, whether the neighborhoods have adequate transit or other services, or whether the proposed operators have questionable track records that should be challenged,” he added.

Under the new legislation, social service providers would be required to notify community boards and the City Planning Commission (CPC) within 45 to 90 days of selecting a location for their facility. The CPC would then have to hold public hearings to gather local input on the proposed facilities.

Within 60 to 90 days of the public hearings, the CPC would have the final authority to approve, deny or modify the community-based programs.

Community boards may also request hearings be held within the same time frame if a provider is planning on renewing its lease. This allows for local input in cases where questions have been raised about the operation of the facility.

“The fact of the matter is that we need transparency, honesty and in-depth community conversations about these programs—before they happen, not after the fact,” Addaboo said.

The Senator pointed out the proposed homeless shelter planned for Cooper Avenue in Glendale as a prime example.

“This project appeared virtually out of thin air, with no opportunity for the community to raise legitimate concerns about the facility, the track record of the operators, or other very pertinent issues—which then fell on deaf ears when brought to the attention of city officials,” he added. “We can’t let this continue to happen. It’s not about trying to keep people in need out of our neighborhoods—it’s about bringing neighborhoods together, with all the information they require, to help determine the best outcomes for these same people in need.”

The bill is currently under consideration by the Assembly Committee on Cities.

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Queens pol proposes law to ban sexy transit ads


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

Parents and lawmakers want to restore a little bit of innocence in a vulgar world — or at least in the public transit system.

If passed, new legislation introduced by state Senator Leroy Comrie will prohibit advertising alcoholic beverages and provocative content to minors on state-owned property. According to the senator, the aim of the bill is to protect children from negative messages, and protect the families from intrusion of content inappropriate for children while in a public space or using mass transit.

Comrie said that instead of promoting a vice-filled lifestyle, public advertising should encourage children to think of their futures.

“When demand for such advertising space is already high, the state should either opt to conduct business with companies that do not choose to sell themselves using sex or alcohol, or use the state’s advertising budget to promote community improvement initiatives, such as anti-drug campaigns,” Comrie said.

The bill was introduced only a few weeks after the senator received complaints on the issue from concerned parents. To strengthen their stance, supporters of the legislation cite studies that have shown that media taken in by adolescents may be an important factor determining whether they initiate sexual intercourse.

The members of the community who advocated for the change said that they thought provocative advertising was a destructive force in the lives of local children.

“In our urban neighborhoods, we need positive images, and our kids need to know that there are other things out there than liquor and sex,” Clarence Wittingham said.

The senate still has a couple of weeks in which bills will be introduced, and in this time Comrie’s office will be seeking support for the advertising bill from other members in the senate and local advocacy groups. Senator Comrie is currently in talks with another legislator to co-sponsor the bill and move it forward for a vote, but staff members at his office declined to name the potential co-sponsor.

The bill would take effect 90 days after being voted into law.

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Addabbo eyes improved health care and tax breaks for veterans


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

SoldiersSalutingHC1011_L_300_C_R

The Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs has recently approved a legislative package of four bills, all co-sponsored by state Senator Joseph Addabbo, which aim to improve health care and help lower property taxes for veterans of all ages.

“Our veterans — whether they served many years ago or are returning home from service — deserve our utmost respect,” said Addabbo, who is the ranking member of the Senate Veterans Committee. “This package of bills is now moving towards a vote by the full Senate and I am hopeful they will be enacted by both houses of the state Legislature before the end of the 2015 legislative season.”

The four bills would establish a veterans’ gerontological advisory committee within the state Office for the Aging to help ensure the state plans appropriately for the needs of an aging veteran population, including programming for long-term and continuing care; health promotion and rehabilitation; and other issues of concern to aging servicemen and women.

Additionally, the state Division of Veterans Affairs would be required to form and disseminate to former service members a “fact sheet” regarding various veteran-specific health care services offered at local hospitals.

The bills would also green-light local real property tax exemptions for reservist veterans who served under the Federal Reserve Forces Act of 1955. This would provide them with tax savings similar to those already available to other Cold War-era service members.

Additionally, the bills will authorize local governments across New York State to adopt laws prohibiting increases in real property tax liability for veterans who are receiving tax exemptions related to their service.

“Full approval of these four pieces of legislation would help to advance important goals that I think we all hold for our veterans: the ability to access appropriate and effective health care services and the ability to keep roofs over their heads when other basic living expenses seem to be rising all the time,” Addabbo said. “We will never be able to adequately thank those who risked everything for all of us in service to our country, but working to ensure our veterans are able to enjoy a decent quality of life when they return to us is a step in the right direction.”

The bills are currently waiting to be considered by the full Senate. An Assembly committee is examining companion bills similar to Addabbo’s legislation.

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Pols continue push for law change after another Queens hit-and-run


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO

Local elected officials are hoping a change in the law will prevent unlicensed drivers from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and avoid yet another death.

In response to a fatal hit-and-run in Elmhurst on Sunday, which took the life of a 26-year-old woman, state Senator Michael Gianaris gathered with local officials and advocacy groups on Tuesday morning at the site of the crash to reintroduce legislation he put forth more than a year ago.

The change in law would make it a felony if drivers with suspended licenses either seriously injure or kill someone with their vehicle. The proposal, included in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero agenda, would also include immediate impoundment of a vehicle involved in such accidents.

“Unfortunately we’re here for something that should have been done a while ago but has yet to be done,” Gianaris said. “We’re now for the third time in little over a year in western Queens alone dealing with an incident where someone who did not have a proper license to drive has hit and killed someone.”

According to the NYPD, the victim was struck at about 10:40 p.m. on Sunday at the intersection of 76th Street and Woodside Avenue as she attempted to cross the intersection.

A Mitsubishi box truck was traveling southbound on 76th Street and was making a left turn onto Woodside Avenue when it hit the woman, who was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

The driver fled after striking the woman, but an eyewitness reportedly chased down the truck. The driver, 27-year-old Valentine Gonzalez, was nabbed just blocks away, at 73rd Street and 41st Avenue, and taken into custody, cops said.

Under the current law, Gonzalez has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death and driving without a license.

“After yet another hit-and-run by an unlicensed driver, it’s time that New Yorkers stood up and said that enough is enough,” Assemblyman Francisco Moya said. “Current laws are not tough enough if reckless drivers, like Valentine Gonzalez, are still able to drive on our streets. How many more fatalities will there be before we say the laws must be changed?”

The proposed bill, which is co-sponsored by state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, was initially introduced following the 2013 fatal accident in Woodside where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was struck on his way to school at P.S. 152.

“It’s time for the punishment to fit the crime. If you get behind the wheel when you’re not authorized to do so and you kill somebody or you injure somebody you should go to jail. That way we will keep it from happening again in the future,” Gianaris said.

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Bill introduced to City Council calling for term limits for community boards


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

A new bill that was set to be introduced in the City Council Wednesday calls for putting term limits on community board members appointed in mid-2016 or later.

Councilman Daniel Dromm, who is one of the initial sponsors of the bill, was set to introduce legislation in the Council’s Government Operations Committee that would establish term limits for community board members.

Currently under law there is no limit to the number of consecutive two-year terms board members could either be appointed to or serve.

If the new bill were to pass, those appointed for a first term starting April 1, 2016, or after would only be allowed to serve twelve years, or six consecutive terms.

Under the proposed bill, a board member such as former Community Board 2 chair Joseph Conley would not have been able to serve the almost three decades he had under his belt.

Dromm told the Gotham Gazette that just how communities change, he believes community boards should, too. Although he “applauds” and thanks those who serve 30 or 40 years on a board, he added that he thinks they “need to move things around.”

Community boards have up to 50 voting members. Votes by community boards are non-binding, but they often carry influence with elected officials.

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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.