Tag Archives: steve israel

Op-ed: Tax Equity for New Yorkers


| oped@queenscourier.com


U.S. REP. STEVE ISRAEL

Brian and Amy are your typical middle-class New Yorkers. They’ve worked hard to build a comfortable life for their three children in Hicksville, Long Island, and hoped to remain there to be near family.

However, every year during tax season they are hit by a bill from the federal government that makes them question if they will be able to continue living in such a high-cost area. Their story is all too familiar and I wanted proof that we need to change the federal tax code to account for New York families facing some of the highest costs of living in the country.

To get an answer, I asked Third Way, a centrist think tank focused on middle-class issues especially relevant to families in our area, to actually crunch the data on how much New Yorkers pay in federal taxes compared to similar families across the country. The report, “A Tale of Three Cities,” compared the effects of the federal tax code on three typical middle-class families — one from Hicksville, New York, another from Akron, Ohio, and a third from McAllen, Texas.

The numbers were striking. The data shows that New Yorkers pay more in federal taxes because the federal tax code does not account for differences in wages and costs of living across different regions. This means that many New York families who are solidly middle class, but may make more on paper than similar families elsewhere, do not qualify for many income-based tax credits.

For example, a worker in low-cost, low-wage McAllen, Texas, can qualify for tax credits to help with his child care costs, while a similarly hard-working New Yorker, who may earn more, but also pays more for everything from gasoline to groceries, can’t access the same amount of benefi ts. Applying the same tax code to families in vastly different circumstances makes no sense — even a Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s costs $1 more in Nassau County than it does in McAllen.

Even worse, in an expensive area like New York, a working- class family can end up owing thousands of dollars on its federal tax return, while a nearly identical family in low-cost McAllen can end up receiving thousands in return.

This glaring inequality is just plain wrong. Regional differences in costs of living should be accounted for in the federal tax code.

Two bills I’ve introduced would help level the playing field for New York taxpayers. The Tax Equity Act would adjust tax brackets for all areas with a higher cost-of-living than the national average, and the Student Loan Employment Benefits Act would allow those working to set aside up to $5,000 of their salary, tax-free, to repay their student loans. I am also drafting legislation that would index future tax credits to regional costs of living.

These common-sense measures will strengthen the middle class and lay the foundation for New York’s future. It’s time to give New York taxpayers like Amy and Brian the fairness they deserve.

The full Third Way Report can be viewed at www.israel.house.gov.

 

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BP Marshall joins chorus for FAA exemption


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Borough President Helen Marshall has joined the ranks of Queens congressmembers who are urging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to exempt two major city airports from a new federal rule.

“While the FAA’s Regional Administrator for our area has made an effort to work with my office and others in the borough, I believe that this is not the time to evade community input,” Marshall said in a letter to the administration.

The proposed FAA provision, officials said, would establish two new categorical exclusions, which would essentially allow the FAA to permanently implement new flight changes without conducting environmental studies.

Marshall and Congressmembers Steve Israel, Grace Meng and Joseph Crowley wrote a letter last week calling for the head of the FAA, Administrator Michael Huerta, to exempt LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airports from the order.

A categorical exclusion was applied to a newly approved flight path over Queens called the TNNIS IV climb. Residents said the change has brought upon a drastic increase in air noise.

“To implement such changes without first subjecting their potential impacts to the rigorous scrutiny of experts and the public during the environmental review process would, in my opinion, be irresponsible,” Marshall said.

Queens residents still have until September 30 to submit public comment to the FAA on the proposed rule by visiting www.regulations.gov or faxing comments to 202-493-2251.

Community Boards 7 and 13 passed a resolution this week urging the governor to support a bill that would require the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to conduct a noise study.

The boards join Community Board 11, which passed a resolution earlier this month.

 

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Pols call on FAA to exempt Queens airports from proposed federal rule


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Congressmember Steve Israel’s office

Two major city airports should be exempt from a new federal rule that would allow flight changes to be made without an environmental review, Queens congressmembers are demanding.

Representatives Steve Israel, Grace Meng and Joseph Crowley are urging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to continue to implement change impact studies at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airports.

A proposed FAA provision would establish two new categorical exclusions to avoid an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act, elected officials said.

The new rule, officials said, would essentially allow the FAA to permanently implement new flight procedures without conducting environmental studies.

“The FAA should be focused on reducing noise and air pollution,” Israel said, “not making it easier to bypass vital environmental studies.”

The congressmembers said the head of the FAA, Administrator Michael Huerta, has the ability to exempt the two airports, which use “the most congested airspace in the country.”

A categorical exclusion was applied to a newly approved flight path over Queens called the TNNIS IV climb. Residents said the change has brought upon a barrage of low-flying planes and an increase in air noise.

“It is outrageous that the FAA is seeking greater leeway to exempt itself from vital environmental studies which determine whether or not new airplane routes — and the accompanying noise — adversely impact affected communities,” Meng said.

“The agency’s plan to further sidestep this critical process is a slap in the face to all who live and work underneath new flight patterns,” she continued.

Queens residents have until September 30 to submit public comment to the FAA on the proposed rule by visiting http://www.regulations.gov.

They can also fax comments to 202-493-2251 or mail them to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue S.E., Washington, D.C. 20590-0001.

“There isn’t a single plane that comes or goes from our airports that doesn’t fly directly over someone’s house,” Crowley said.

“Given this reality,” Crowley continued, “whenever the FAA is considering changes to the way flights arrive at and depart from our airports, the agency must thoroughly study the impacts it will have on our communities, especially with respect to noise.”

 

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FAA to look into JFK, LaGuardia flight patterns


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Queens residents fighting feds over airplane noise that turned some suburban neighborhoods into veritable warzones last summer have won a small battle.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has agreed to form a committee to review the decision-making process it used last December when the agency approved new flight patterns over the borough.

The new routes adhere to a required three-mile separation between planes arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport and planes taking off from LaGuardia Airport’s runway 13 while using a new, precise navigation system, FAA officials said.

But during a six-month trial period last year, some residents said they suffered from a barrage of low-flying airplanes that soared over their homes every minute of two six-hour stretches a day.

Forming the committee “is a move in the right direction,” said Congressmember Grace Meng.

“Although more still needs to be done, this is a positive move that can hopefully have an effect on the increased airplane noise that Queens residents have been forced to endure,” Meng said.

The FAA said there would be fewer planes flying overhead this summer, but there could be times residents will hear the same turbulence they did last summer and fall.

Meng and Congressmember Steve Israel sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in February asking him to consider the borough’s concerns.

A group of elected officials from Queens met with FAA officials in Washington, D.C. to hash out a plan.

“I hope it results in a more balanced plan that will alleviate the noise pollution for our constituents,” Israel said.

FAA officials agreed during a March town hall meeting to involve the community in future decisions and to continue hearing them out.

 

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Queens congressmembers get mixed results on environment


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Some Queens congressmembers aced their green test last year. But some were average, and one was at the bottom of the class.

That is according to the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) latest national environmental scorecard.

Congressmembers Steve Israel and Carolyn Maloney were tops, with each scoring a 97, followed by Joseph Crowley with a 91. Both of the state’s U.S. Senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, scored 93 percent. Nydia Velázquez trailed slightly with an 86 percent and Gregory Meeks pulled a 77 percent.

Former representative Gary Ackerman scored a 74. But another retiring congressmember, Bob Turner, had an abysmal 3 percent, a low matched by Tea Party Republicans representing Big Oil districts in Texas.

The scores are based on 14 Senate votes and 35 House votes on public health, clean energy, land and wildlife conservation issues.

“In the face of unprecedented attacks on laws protecting water, air and land, environmental allies like Steve Israel, Caroline [sic] Maloney … stood up for our values and put New Yorkers first,” said NYLCV President Marcia Bystryn in a statement. “While Americans were seeing the historic impacts of extreme weather right outside their window, members like … Bob Turner continued to ignore the reality of climate change.”

The state’s average House score in the most recent review was 65 percent, falling drastically from 97 percent in 2010.

“The U.S. House of Representatives sided with Big Oil and corporate polluters time and time again in 2012, cementing its status as the most anti-environmental House in our nation’s history,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the country’s League of Conservation Voters.

“The best that can be said about this session of the 112th Congress is that it’s over,” Karpinski said.

 

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Law keeps co-op owners from receiving federal storm recovery grants


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A glitch in the law is keeping co-op owners from receiving federal storm recovery grants, officials said.

According to Congressmember Steve Israel, co-ops are shouldering the costs of repair for Sandy-inflicted damages because they are categorized as “business associations,” making them ineligible for federal grants — only loans.

The Stafford Act, which governs how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, Israel said. But there is no statute that purposefully bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

“FEMA is taking an overzealous interpretation to this,” said Israel. “It discriminates against co-op owners. It’s one thing to be devastated by a hurricane. It’s another to be devastated by a loophole.”

Cryder Point Co-ops suffered $1 million in damage that left their waterfront community’s pier in shambles, said Phil Resnick, vice president of the co-op’s board of directors.

More than half of the total buildings in Glen Oaks Village endured “moderate to severe shingle loss,” leading to $250,000 in infrastructural damages, said Bob Friedrich, the co-op’s president. The unbudgeted costs also include the removal of downed trees.

“Housing co-ops are not business associations. We do not generate income based on corporate or private profit,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “Many middle-class shareholders who are already experiencing financial difficulties will not be able to absorb the additional charges.”

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Grace Meng sworn in as first Asian-American from NY in Congress


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

The Courier tagged along on a bus trip to Washington, D. C. as the 113th Congress was sworn in.

It’s five in the morning, and over 100 people gathered outside in Flushing, anxiously waiting to board buses making the trek down to our nation’s capital to watch the 113th Congress — and the first Asian-American from New York — be sworn in.

Former Assemblymember Grace Meng made history last November when she was elected to represent the 6th Congressional District.

Community leaders and constituents journeyed to Washington, D.C. on Thursday, January 3 to witness her, along with Hakeem Jeffries, Gregory Meeks and Steve Israel, officially become members of the 113th Congress.

“We are very proud today,” said Councilmember Peter Koo. “It’s very historic. I hope that she [Meng] will be a role model and a trailblazer for the new generation.”

After the drive to D.C., supporters were able to watch the newly minted Congressmembers cast their first vote for House Speaker, and then be officially sworn in to the new session.

Hakeem Jeffries, Meng’s former colleague in the Assembly, was also sworn in to represent the 8th Congressional District — which includes Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Lindenwood. Jeffries faced a comparatively lighter general election than Meng, after the Brooklyn-based legislator beat Councilmember Charles Barron in a June primary election.

Incumbent members of Congress Joseph Crowley of the 14th District, Gregory Meeks of the 5th District, and Steve Israel of the 3rd held onto their positions in the House and were also sworn into the new session.

After the swearing in ceremony, Meng joined her constituents and spoke about upcoming plans in her new position. Gun control legislation, immigration reform and passing the Sandy aid bill are at the forefront.

“There are a lot of issues that we need to work on, and I look forward to working with you,” Meng said. “And you all are the eyes and ears of our community.”

 

Local pols angry over Sandy bill delay


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Though the House of Representatives managed to pass legislation before falling over the fiscal cliff, it didn’t vote on a $60 billion Sandy relief package before the end of the current house session on Wednesday.

But this afternoon Speaker John Boehner said that the House would vote on the storm aid by January 15.

That statement followed a chorus of criticism from local politicians who know how desperate their constituents are for the relief money.

“This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented. The fact that days continue to go by while people suffer, families are out of their homes, and men and women remain jobless and struggling during these harsh winter months is a dereliction of duty. When American citizens are in need we come to their aid. That tradition was abandoned in the House last night,” said Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie in a joint statement.

Katrina emergency relief legislation was passed less than month from the time the hurricane hit. It’s been 66 days since Sandy devastated parts of the Northeast.

“New Yorkers continue to suffer from the havoc Sandy wreaked upon our region, and they desperately need help now,” said U.S. congressmember-elect Grace Meng, who will be sworn in tomorrow in Washington D.C.

“I call on House Republicans to reconsider their misguided decision, and immediately hold a vote in the opening days of the new congress. People cannot wait any longer,” she continued.

The next House session, which starts Thursday, will include Meng and the other newly elected members.

Congressmember Steve Israel, who represents areas of Queens and Long Island, echoed the outrage of other politicians.

“In the very last minute they pulled the rug from under us,” he told Fox 5 New York. “When it came to New Yorkers and people in NJ they said no. It is simply indefensible. There is going to be a delay in getting these funds to the people who need them. It was John Boehner and Eric Cantor who turned their backs on New Yorkers and New Jerseyans.”

Queens’ Morning roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Wednesday: Overcast with a chance of rain, then rain in the afternoon. High of 43. Windy. Winds from the NNE at 30 to 35 mph with gusts to 45 mph. Chance of rain 90% with rainfall amounts near 0.2 in. possible. Wednesday Night: Overcast with snow and rain, then rain after midnight. Low of 34 with a windchill as low as 25F. Windy. Winds from the North at 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 55 mph shifting to the South after midnight. Chance of precipitation 90% .

QUEENS COURIER ELECTION COVERAGE

Democrats expand Senate grip but fail to win House

Democrats strengthened their hold on the Senate but failed Tuesday to recapture the majority in the House of Representatives they lost two years ago. President Barack Obama, in his freshly authorized second term, will face the same divided Congress in 2013 that has bedeviled efforts to enact his major legislation. Read more: AP

Nor’easter bearing down on New York City; Mayor Bloomberg orders city parks and beaches shut

A gust of rare good news arrived Tuesday for New Yorkers still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy: A second storm bearing down on the Big Apple will be weaker than expected. Read more: New York Daily News

Bloomberg: New York voting machine system is a ‘nightmare’ When voting was still in progress Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted the voting machine system, calling it a “nightmare” and saying the old machines worked fine. Read more: CBS New York

Displaced by hurricane, but returning home, briefly, to vote

Just after daybreak, under a pink-hued sky, the first voters began to pick their way through the sand and muck that had been the streets of Bay Head, N.J. Sidestepping the occasional dead fish with its one-eyed stare, they steadily found their way to the firehouse, where a huge generator powered one of the few sources of heat in the tiny seaside borough. Read more: New York Times 

Former St. John’s dean Cecilia Chang dead of apparent suicide

Cecilia Chang, the former dean of St. John’s University, who is on trial for stealing $1 million from the school, was found dead in her Jamaica home Tuesday morning of an apparent suicide, according to multiple reports. Read more: Queens Courier

Israel takes 3rd Congressional District


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

A Long Island-based representative has won both re-election and slices of Queens territory.

Democratic Congressmember Steve Israel claimed victory over his three challengers in the newly-redrawn 3rd Congressional District with 58 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results.

The 53-year-old from Dix Hills boasted 87,799 votes, while his main contender, Republican Stephen Labate raked in 62,305, early poll numbers showed, with more than half of precincts reporting. Libertarian Michael McDermott gathered 992 votes and the Constitution Party’s Anthony Tolda only a meager 224.

“I’m honored to have been elected in this new district,” Israel said. “It’s been a very tough week in our community, and I know the election was the last thing on most people’s minds. But I think it really shows [how] strong our community is. People didn’t have power, they didn’t know where to vote, they didn’t have gas to get to the polls, but they still got out and exercised their civic duty.”

The congressmember’s district was previously located entirely on Long Island in Suffolk County. But newly-redrawn lines mean portions of northeast Queens — Bay Terrace, Beechhurst, Whitestone, Douglaston and Little Neck -– are now in the 3rd District.

Israel has been representing the district since 2001 and ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. He was re-elected two years ago, beating Republican challenger John Gomez for the seat by 16,509 votes in Suffolk County.

“Now Democrats and Republicans must join together to rebuild our community, restore it[s] power lines and reignite the middle class,” Israel said.