Tag Archives: Toby Ann Stavisky

Elmhurst site near Queens Center may soon distribute medical marijuana


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

A state-regulated medical marijuana dispensary center may soon open shop across the street from the Queens Center mall in Elmhurst.

Empire State Health Solutions, one of five organizations that the state Health Department selected to produce and/or distribute medicinal marijuana, will open a location at 89-55 Queens Blvd., a building that currently houses a Casual Male XL store and an AT&T Wireless customer care center, according to NY1. It will be one of four marijuana dispensary centers to open in New York City.

As the Health Department announced on Friday, the organizations’ selection clears a major hurdle in the state’s implementation of provisions in the Compassionate Care Act enacted in 2014, which authorized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in New York State. The medical marijuana program is on target for implementation by January 2016, about 18 months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law.

The production and distribution of medical marijuana in New York State will be heavily regulated and restricted to patients deemed qualified to receive it based on debilitating conditions. The state-sanctioned organizations will be permitted to make and sell via prescription up to five different marijuana products: oil for vaporization, oral capsules, oral sprays, injectable tubes and sublingual (under the tongue) dissolvable tablets.

Marijuana will not be provided in either loose, edible or cigarette forms.

The exact location of the dispensary center was reported by various media outlets, but the Health Department did not confirm such information, according to state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. She claimed in a phone interview that she only learned of the center’s opening — which is located within her district — through reading published reports largely based on information leaked to the press by unnamed sources.

“The notification process is lacking in transparency,” Stavisky said. “That’s not a good sign.”

Despite the communication gap, the senator believes the use of medicinal marijuana will bring a great deal of relief to patients in need — and that the law itself has enough safeguards to block recreational use.

“People have to understand that this is not going to be Colorado,” Stavisky said, referring to one of two states that legalized recreational marijuana use. “It’s for use in people with very serious or debilitating ailments…This is not something for someone looking for a quick high.”

To that end, the senator pointed out that the regulations require that only doctors may prescribe medicinal marijuana to a patient; that doctors must undergo an extensive training program to learn the conditions that would qualify a patient to receive medical marijuana; and that a qualified patient must be deemed disabled under the Civil Rights Law.

State Senator Michael Gianaris — who, like Stavisky, supported the Compassionate Care Act —welcomed the Health Department’s announcement on medical marijuana.

“It is welcome news for our economy when new jobs are created in our neighborhoods,” Gianaris said in a statement. “I look forward to working with this new local business to ensure it is a good corporate neighbor to existing residents.”

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PHOTOS: Preview of new QNS.com website at Queens Museum party


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Corazon Aguirre

Businesspeople, elected officials and other movers and shakers from across Queens came to the Queens Museum Wednesday night to get a glimpse of QNS.com, the future Internet home of The Queens Courier, Ridgewood Times, LIC Magazine and BORO magazine.

The preview party allowed guests to mingle with one another and learn more about the new website, which will launch this summer. QNS.com will continue to provide the expansive news coverage of The Courier and its sister publications while also incorporating social media elements, enabling residents from Astoria to the Rockaways to interact with one another on a variety of levels.

Courier President and CEO Victoria Schneps-Yunis and Co-Publisher Joshua Schneps welcomed several notable guests to the preview party, including state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblymen Ed Braunstein and David Weprin, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Deputy Queens Borough President Melva Miller and former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman. Representatives of City Councilmen Donovan Richards and Jimmy Van Bramer and Assemblyman Francisco Moya were also in attendance.

Following a reception, guests headed into the museum’s famous Panorama — a scale model of New York City — for a formal presentation on the new website. Stay tuned to find out the power of QNS.com.

In advance of the launch, Facebook users are invited to like the new website’s Facebook page.

 

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Immigration resource fair at Flushing YMCA on July 25


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the office of Senator Toby Ann Stavisky

The Flushing YMCA will host an immigration resource fair on Saturday, July 25, with state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblyman Ron Kim, and City Councilman Peter Koo.

Lawyers and other professionals experienced in the immigration process will be at the event, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the YMCA at 138-46 Northern Blvd. Only the first 130 attendees will be served because space is limited, so anyone interested in attending should call 646-664-9400 to reserve a spot.

The event is hosted as part of a partnership with CUNY Citizenship NOW!, the largest university-based legal assistance program in the nation. Free legal assistance in Chinese, Korean and Spanish will be available for those seeking to become American citizens.

According to Stavisky, applying for citizenship can be a costly and confusing process even for fluent English speakers.

“Becoming a citizen is a lifelong commitment to the ideals of this country and I applaud all of the applicants for their dedication and perseverance,” Stavisky said.

Koo said that assistance offered at the event would be a serious benefit to many of his constituents and encouraged the community to use it to their advantage.

“Becoming a citizen of a new country can be a complicated process that can leave applicants in a lurch due to missing documentation or inaccurate information,” Koo said. “Every day, my office receives dozens of requests from constituents seeking immigration assistance.”

Kim also encouraged Flushing residents to participate in the fair and to support the initiatives of CUNY Citizenship NOW!

“Many families in our community are looking for help and seeking consultation regarding their legal status in this country. The CUNY Citizenship NOW! Fair would provide a necessary service for those in our neighborhoods seeking to embark on a path to citizenship,” said Kim, who added that the attorneys, paralegals and volunteers at the fair were working to assist those looking to achieve the American Dream.

Eligible applicants must have lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least five years (or three years if living with and married to the same U.S. citizen), must have lived in the U.S. for at least half of the three- or five-year period and must be at least 18 years old. Attendees should bring the following:

  • Green card
  • All passports since becoming a permanent resident
  • Proof of home addresses for the last three or five years
  • Parent’s naturalization information (if applicable)
  • School/employment history for the last three or five years
  • Children’s information (date of birth, A#, addresses if applicable)
  • Marital history
  • Certified dispositions for any arrests, tickets citations and MTA disposition letters (if applicable)
  • USCIS fee waiver assistance available if applicants are receiving a means-tested benefit from a state or federal agency, have a household income at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, have a special financial hardship that USCIS should consider

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Op-ed: Time running out on education reform


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY STATE SEN. TOBY ANN STAVISKY

The clock is ticking on this year’s legislative session and one of the most important issues that still must be addressed is public education. Two weeks ago, my Senate Democratic colleagues and I introduced a comprehensive package of bills to resolve the many issues that arose because of the Common Core’s rushed implementation and a faulty Education Budget bill.
Within our legislative package is a bill that I am proud to sponsor, which would make the use of an independent, outside evaluator optional instead of required as written in this year’s budget. This unfunded mandate is one of the reasons that I voted against the Education Budget, which I believe unfairly demonized good teachers and did not go far enough to support students.
That is why I am proud to stand with my Democratic colleagues behind these bills which would restore school construction funding and fair teacher evaluation polices that the budget was missing. Highlights of this legislative package include the following:

• Improved teacher evaluations that would make them more equitable by restoring use of the locally negotiated “student achievement metric,” which more fairly assesses children who are above grade level as well as students with special needs
• Repeal of a provision that allows the state to withhold additional school aid from districts should they not have their “Annual Professional Performance Review Plans” approved by the commissioner of education by Nov. 15, 2015
• An Education Infrastructure Bank to rebuild crumbling public schools across New York State and help create good local jobs by investing $682 million from bank settlement funds paid to the state
• Creation of the “Community Schools Grant Program” to fund community schools that also offer social services to fund culturally relevant health, social and emotional services in high-needs communities

My colleagues and I have also been lobbying for Senate hearings on mayoral control—a move toward transparency that the Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked. I believe mayoral control must be extended, but also improved to include more local input on issues like co-locations and more parental involvement.

These are the reforms we must pass to improve public education—not penalizing teachers with unfair evaluations, not over-testing students, and not taking away public education for all to fund private education for the few. These are the constructive, thoughtful changes we must implement to move our education system forward.

I hope you will join the Senate Democratic Conference and me to support these bills and the idea that every child in New York, regardless of where they are from or how much money their parents make, deserves an excellent education.

Senator Stavisky represents the 16th Senatorial District, which represents parts of neighborhoods across central and eastern Queens.

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Flushing’s Pomonok Houses gets new security cameras


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Installation is complete on a new security system of 30 exterior cameras installed across eight buildings in the Pomonok Housing Development in Flushing.

The security system will be used by local law enforcement, and was financed with capital funding allocated by the offices of Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.

According to Stavisky, officials have worked for seven years to secure the funding and installation of the cameras for Pomonok Houses. Nearly $6 million in additional funding is required to outfit the entire complex with security cameras, as well as install cameras in the interiors of the building and elevators.

“Today is a major victory for the residents of Pomonok, who are now getting the high-tech security system they deserve,” said Stavisky, who added that she plans to continue to work with the Pomonok Houses, NYC Housing Authority and the NYPD for the future expansion of the security system.

A NYCHA official and a technology specialist explain how footage from the outdoor cameras will be stored and used by law enforcement to Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Council Member Rory Lancman, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and Pomonok Residents Association President Monica Corbett. (Photo courtesy of the office of Toby Ann Stavisky)

A NYCHA official and a technology specialist explain how footage from the outdoor cameras will be stored and used by law enforcement to Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Council member Rory Lancman, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and Pomonok Residents Association President Monica Corbett. (Photo courtesy of the office of Toby Ann Stavisky)

Simanowitz and Councilman Rory Lancman also pledged their commitment to outfit every building with the increased security measure.

“Pomonok has long been considered the jewel of public housing in New York City and we need to keep it that way,” Simanowitz said. “With the installation of these security cameras, residents will get an extra layer of protection and feel a greater sense of safety.”

An estimated 4,200 people reside at the Pomonok Houses complex, which is comprised of 35 buildings standing on nearly 52 acres in Flushing in an area bordered by 65th and 71st avenues and Parsons and Kissena boulevards.

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MTA, DOT scrap plans for Main Street bus-only lane in Kew Gardens Hills


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Rory Lancman's office

Facing community and political opposition, the MTA and the city Department of Transportation slammed the brakes on a proposed dedicated bus lane for the limited Q44 bus line on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills.

The news came during Wednesday night’s meeting of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association. The MTA planned to take one lane in each direction of Main Street to convert the Q44 between Flushing and Jamaica into a Select Bus Service (SBS) route.

Civic leaders and elected officials protested the plans previously, claiming the lost lane of traffic would increase vehicular traffic on Main Street while also depriving both residents and shoppers of valued parking space.

“A dedicated bus-only lane in Kew Gardens Hills was always the wrong choice for our community,” Councilman Rory Lancman said in a press release Thursday. “The proposed bus-only lane would have increased congestion, reduced parking spaces, hurt businesses and diverted cars onto residential streets.”

Lancman, along with Rep. Grace Meng, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Senators Joseph Addabbo and Toby Ann Stavisky, praised the MTA and DOT for hearing concerns about the bus lane and ultimately nixing the plan.

According to Lancman, the DOT and MTA will seek other methods to improve traffic flow on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills, including potential street reconfiguration, off-board fare collection and re-synchronizing traffic lights.

A source familiar with the plan indicated a bus-only lane is most likely for areas of Main Street north of the Long Island Expressway. However, it is not likely a bus lane would be created on Main Street south of Kew Gardens Hills due to a lack of street space.

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Op-ed: Why I voted against the education budget


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY STATE SENATOR TOBY ANN STAVISKY

As a former teacher and as the ranking member of the Senate Higher Education Committee, it was with great reluctance that I voted ‘no’ on the policies put forth by Gov. Cuomo in the budget-related education bills. While Gov. Cuomo has been a leader on a number of progressive policies, such as the SAFE Act, same-sex marriage and universal pre-K, I was disappointed by the largely regressive policies that were present in the budget as related to education.

The 2015-2016 budget that was finalized on April 1 included a $1.6 billion spending increase for education, with $1.33 billion earmarked for school aid. Though this was significantly lower than the $2 billion in state aid that was requested by the State Education Department and that my Democratic colleagues and I fought for, it still brings education funding to its highest level ever.
Unfortunately, my colleagues in the Legislature and I were forced to choose between desperately needed school aid or passing a problematic teacher evaluation structure that could be harmful to the performance of both students and teachers for years to come. This ham-fisted strategy was designed to force legislators to approve the governor’s policy on teacher evaluations, which I believe relied far too heavily on testing to determine a teacher’s effectiveness.

The governor’s original proposal would have made student scores on state tests 50 percent of a teacher’s rating (which currently count for 20 percent) and reduce principal evaluations to 15 percent (now at 60 percent). The remaining 35 percent would be determined by observation from an independent evaluator.

Making student test scores half of a teacher’s evaluation is overly punitive to hardworking educators and to students who are now steered to learn how to test well, not necessarily how to succeed in college or careers.

Many years ago when I taught at Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica, I was assigned to teach math even though I was licensed in social studies. There was a shortage of qualified teachers for STEM subjects and I was the only teacher available who had completed the relevant math coursework. I had reservations about teaching outside of my license but I did what had to be done. Faced with the same situation today, I fear high-stakes testing would have discouraged me from teaching the class.

I agree that reforms must be made to our education system so that all teachers receive the support they need and all students receive the high-quality education they deserve. But I also believe that high-stakes testing is a wrongheaded strategy. Test scores should be a smaller portion of a teacher’s score and principal and peer evaluations should carry more weight. I also agree with NYSUT that this plan unfairly strains the collective bargaining rights of teachers in their annual performance review.

Making teachers the enemy will not improve education. In fact, I fear it will only increase animosity in a debate that instead needs more collaboration and understanding between teachers, students and parents.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky represents the 16th Senatorial District covering parts of many neighborhoods in central Queens.

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Hoping for Lunar New Year holiday, lawmakers move to end Brooklyn-Queens Day


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/File photo

State lawmakers introduced on Tuesday a bill that would eliminate Brooklyn-Queens Day from the New York City public school calendar.

The measure sponsored by state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky aims to clear a day on the calendar to permit public schools to close for the Asian Lunar New Year in the winter. Brooklyn-Queens Day, which falls on the first Thursday of June, marks the foundation of the first Sunday schools in both boroughs during the 19th century.

For decades, local Protestant churches celebrated Brooklyn-Queens Day with parades through their communities, but the parades stopped in recent years as Protestant congregations plummeted. The last major Brooklyn-Queens Day parade took place in Ridgewood in 2009, ending a century-long tradition.

Nevertheless, schools in Brooklyn and Queens remain closed the first Thursday of June, but many of them use the day for staff development.

The bill states that “there is no reason to continue this anachronistic holiday in state statutes when there is pressure to increase the time students spend in school.” However, Stavisky noted, the elimination of Brooklyn-Queens Day gives the city Department of Education (DOE) flexibility in adding another holiday such as Asian Lunar New Year.

“As a former teacher, I understand the mayor and the Department of Education have a mandate to make sure students are receiving as much classroom instructional time as possible,” Stavisky said. “But educating our students and allowing them to observe important cultural holidays should not be opposing goals. I believe that removing the now defunct Brooklyn-Queens Day and replacing it with the Lunar New Year is a pragmatic solution that the mayor and the Department of Education must consider.”

Among those who joined Stavisky at a Tuesday press conference in Flushing in support of the bill were state Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymen Ron Kim and Edward Braunstein, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and City Councilman Peter Koo.

“The history of Brooklyn-Queens Day demonstrates how observance of this day on the public school calendar has changed over the years to meet the changing demographics of our city,” Koo said. “Today, approximately 15 percent of our New York City public school students identify as Asian-American, and we must take this into consideration as we prepare the school calendar for future years.”

According to Stavisky’s office, city public schools in Asian-majority neighborhoods report absentee rates as high as 80 percent on Lunar New Year, which is “the most important cultural celebration on the Asian calendar.”

Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation declaring two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as school holidays beginning this September. Koo criticized the mayor in March for failing to grant the same holiday status for the Asian Lunar New Year.

Last December, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation granting the DOE greater flexibility to close schools on cultural and religious holidays. By law, all New York City public schools are required to hold at least 180 school days every year.

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Flushing students drink from the upstate nectar of maple syrup


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky's office

John Bowne High School students went outside today for a little sweet talk.

Students from the upstate school Verona-Vernon-Sherrill High School traveled down to Flushing to meet students at John Bowne High School. The northern folk came with a sweet mission: exchange information about the science and technology behind modern maple production in New York with their fellow downstate students.

State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky was also at the school to welcome the upstate students, who drove from Verona near Oneida, N.Y. in a vehicle named the Mobile Maple Trailer. Students from both schools are part of  a learning program, Future Farmers of America, that puts an emphasis on agricultural education. Future Farmers of America is a research organization that works with the U.S. Department of Education to develop agriculture-based curricula.

“The Mobile Maple Truck is another example of how upstate and downstate economies are strongest when they support each other,” Stavisky said. “I always look forward to the yearly exchange of ideas and information between the Future Farmers of America programs at Verona-Vernon-Sherrill and John Bowne High schools. These students are learning the skills in agriculture, science, technology and business today so that they can lead these fields in our state tomorrow.”

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Primary Day 2014 coverage


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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Check back here for The Queens Courier’s Primary Day coverage from the casting of ballots to the election results.

12:03 a.m. 

The District 11 race has been called: Incumbent state Sen. Tony Avella defeats John Liu.

11:05 p.m.

Leroy Comrie has been declared the winner in the State Senate District 14 race, defeating incumbent Malcolm Smith at 70.9% with 81.7% of the precincts reporting.

10:55 p.m.

Incumbent Toby Stavisky wins her race in State Senate District 16.

10:35 p.m.

Incumbents state Sen. James Sanders and Assemblywoman Margaret Markey have been declared winners in their races.

10:22 p.m.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been declared the winner in the Democratic primary, Kathy Hochul in the lieutenant governor race: AP

9:00 p.m.

Polls are now closed.

6:16 p.m.

Leroy Comrie: “Honored to have Mayor @BilldeBlasio here in the 14th Senate District to help #gotv for our final push!”

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

5:06 p.m. “Speaking to voters in Briarwood with Assemblyman @DavidWeprin and @ElizCrowleyNYC”: 14th District State Senate candidate Leroy Comrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

3:18 p.m. State Senate candidate John Liu admonishes a Queens resident for wearing a Yankees shirt: “We’ll get you a Mets shirt.” 

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THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

3:11 p.m. The Queens Courier found this John Liu  taxi getting the word out during Primary Day.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

3:01 p.m. State Sen. Avella’s crew lays a stake at P.S. 191.

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THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

2:37 p.m.  11th District State Senate candidate John Liu talks to a parent at P.S. 191, who told him to do something instead of just making promises.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

2:26 p.m. “Happy to do my civic duty this Primary Day. #nycvotes,” Toby Ann Stavisky tweeted.

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

1:52 p.m. State Sen. Tony Avella talks to a constituent near the voting site at P.S 169. The polling place has recorded 400 votes since 6 a.m.

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

12:08 p.m. State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, who is up for re-election: “All smiles on Primary Day with @AndrewHevesi @CMKoslowitz”

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

Photo via Twitter/@tobystavisky

11:30 a.m. John Liu votes this morning, hoping to defeat incumbent state Sen. Tony Avella. “Running and voting as a proud #truedemocrat, joined by @MelindaKatz on #PrimaryDay”

Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork

Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork

10:44 a.m. 30th District Assembly candidate Dmytro Fedkowskyj: “So proud of my daughter, Deanna, who is voting for the 1st time today. Let’s vote for change! #PrimaryDay #AD30″

Photo via Twitter/@FedkowskyjForNY

Photo via Twitter/@FedkowskyjForNY

10:22 a.m. State Sen. Tony Avella’s crew passes around fliers in Bayside just off of Bell Boulevard. 

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THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

10:04 a.m. “Our support has been incredibly positive and when the polls close, we are confident that our campaign will be victorious, ” Tony Avella said in a statement after the incumbent state Senator voted this morning. “Voters understand that this race boils down to which candidate they trust to uphold this office with honor and integrity, and John Liu doesn’t pass the laugh test on either account.”

Photo courtesy of Tony Avella

Photo courtesy of Tony Avella

9:38 a.m. Leroy Comrie casts his vote. “I just voted! Thanks @TishJames for joining me! #gotv”

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

Photo via Twitter/@Leroycomrie

9:10 a.m. Public Advocate Letitia James joins 14th District State Senate candidate Leroy Comrie in Queens.

Photo via Facebook/Leroy Comrie

Photo via Facebook/Leroy Comrie

7:48 a.m.

11th District State Senate candidate John Liu greets voters at the LIRR Bayside station.

“Greeting morning commuters bright and early with @edbraunstein reminding people to vote.”

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Photo via Twitter/@LiuNewYork

 

 6:00 a.m.

Polls are open and will close at 9 p.m. You can find your poll site location at http://nyc.pollsitelocator.com or by calling the voter Phone Bank at 1-866-VOTE-NYC.

Here are the list of Queens candidates in the Democratic primary for state Senate and Assembly, as well as the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor:

State Senator (10th District)
Everly Brown
Gian Jones
James Sanders Jr. *

State Senator (11th District)
Tony Avella*
John Liu

State Senator (14th District)
Munir Avery
Leroy Comrie
Malcolm Smith*

State Senator (16th District)
S.J. Jung
Toby Ann Stavisky*

Assembly (30th District)
Dmytro Fedkowskyj
Margaret Markey*

Governor
Andrew Cuomo*
Randy Credico
Zephyr Teachout

Lieutenant Governor
Kathy Hochul
Timothy Wu

Incumbent = *

90-year-old Mets fan, WWII vet honored at Citi Field


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky

BENJAMIN FANG

A veteran’s service to wounded soldiers earned him recognition with his favorite team.

Longtime Mets fan Leonard Merer, 90, was given a New York State Senate proclamation on the night of his birthday, Aug. 4, by state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky. The Mets selected him as its Veteran of the Night.

Merer was a medic during World War II. His notable service included tending to the many casualties in Normandy after D-Day.

For his service, French President François Hollande recently awarded Merer the Insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

 

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Op-ed: SCRIE and EPIC for thousands more New York seniors


| oped@queenscourier.com

 STATE SENATOR TOBY ANN STAVISKY

I am pleased to announce that starting this week, thousands more New Yorkers will be eligible for two state programs that help keep rent and prescription drugs affordable for senior citizens. The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exception (SCRIE) and Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) are designed to protect seniors on a fixed income from the steadily rising cost of rent and prescription drugs.

Expansions to EPIC took effect immediately after the budget was passed on April 1 and changes to SCRIE took effect on July 1. The new eligibility requirements are as follows:

To qualify for SCRIE, seniors must:
• Be 62 years or older
• Live in a rent-regulated apartment (rent stabilized, controlled or Mitchell-Lama)
• Be listed on the lease
• Currently pay or will pay with a lease renewal a rent that exceeds one-third of their income
• Have an income of $50,000 or less (increased from $29,000)

To qualify for EPIC, seniors must:
• Be 65 years or older
• Be enrolled in Medicare Part D
• For individuals, have a yearly income of $75,000 or less (increased from $35,000) and for couples, have a yearly income of $100,000 or less (increased from $50,000)

I am glad that my fellow legislators recognized the importance of these programs for thousands of seniors across New York State. This year’s budget marks the first time that SCRIE has been expanded since 2009 and the first expansion of EPIC since 2001.

The new income requirements are expected to cover over 10,000 more eligible seniors this year alone.

While I applaud these long overdue changes, I am concerned that for some, this might be too little too late. The affordability of rent and prescription drugs for seniors are too important to be held at the mercy of Albany’s political whims.

To avoid this annual battle, I co-sponsored Senate Bill 1218, which would peg the maximum income allowable to be eligible for SCRIE to reflect yearly increases in the regional Consumer Price Index. So as the cost of living for more senior citizens rise, so should the number of senior citizens eligible for this critical rent assistance. The same should be done for the maximum income requirement for EPIC.

Hopefully, these reforms will be enacted when the legislature returns to Albany in January. In the meantime, I encourage all senior citizens who are now newly eligible for SCRIE and EPIC to apply for the benefits.

For more information about both of these programs, including detailed eligibility requirements and applications, visit the New York City Department of Finance website for more information about SCRIE (www.nyc.gov/SCRIE) and the New York

Department of Health (www.health.ny.gov/health_care/epic/) for more information about EPIC. You may also contact my district office at 718-445-0004 or call 311.

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky represents Senate District 16, which includes Flushing, Forest Hills, Elmhurst, Woodside, Electchester, Pomonok, Bayside and Rego Park. She is the assistant leader of the Democratic Conference and serves on the Committees on Aging and Finance.

 

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United Adult Ministries to honor advocates of older adults


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

United Adult Ministries will present the Rose Kryzak Senior Leadership Award to three honorees at the Flushing House Gala at Flushing Town Hall on May 8.

Honorees state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, Steven Goodman, Ed.D., and Alan Weinberg, LCSW, “have all soldiered on in the tradition of Rose Kryzak, making major contributions of service and caring for older adults,” said Robert F. Salant, Flushing House director of community relations.

The UAM Older Adult Ministry Award will be presented to Doris Walker, an elder of the Hollis Presbyterian Church, and Doris Ramsay, a deacon of the Valley Stream Presbyterian Church.

Tenor Daniel Rodriguez will perform at the event and will be honored with a special award for his support of various nonprofits, especially those that serve older adults.

All proceeds from the fundraising gala will support an endowment fund that allows Flushing House to remain affordable for many of the older adults who live there.

For more info, call 347-532-3025, email rsalant@uam.org or click here.

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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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Op-ed: From a lifetime of war to a final search for peace


| oped@queenscourier.com

STATE SENATOR TOBY STAVISKY

On Jan.11, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon passed away at the age of 85.

Although he could be a polarizing political figure and his policies have had many critics, I found Henry Kissinger’s remembrance of Sharon in the Jan.13 issue of The Washington Post to be an accurate and fair representation of Sharon’s legacy.

Kissinger described him as a fierce warrior. From a young age, Sharon was made famous by his talent for an unfortunate fact of Israeli life—war. He is credited for commanding the battle that turned the tide of the 1973 war, earning a reputation as a hawk.

But like many of his peers, Sharon came to understand that the best way for Israel to become a secure state was to work toward establishing a lasting peace.

In 2002, I was invited by the Israeli government to join Jewish legislators from around the world in Israel for the Sixth International Conference of Jewish Ministers and Members of Parliament. The conference included 55 legislators from 23 different countries and I was asked to serve on a panel on education.

We met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in his office on January 8, 2002. I took extensive notes during my week in Israel. Describing Sharon, I wrote:

“He is a jovial, grandfatherly general who spent 28 years in the army. Mr. Sharon spent about 45 minutes talking about the millions of people who came to Israel to build the country with a plow in one hand and a sword in the other. He told us that he grew up on a farm and is looking forward to spending more time riding his horses and that his only ambition is to bring security and peace to the people of Israel. As one who has seen the horror of war, he understands, more than many politicians, the importance of peace. He described his beloved nation as one consisting of people from 102 countries speaking 82 languages. I was thinking that Flushing is still more diverse.”

Several years later in 2005, Sharon presided over the withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip, an operation that was hailed by leaders worldwide as a remarkable act of diplomacy.

As I reflect on his life, I find myself admiring Sharon not only for his political and military prowess, but also for his unwavering dedication to serving his people. I mourn along with the people of Israel the passing of leader whose life and work shaped a nation, a region, and the world and hope that his great ambition for peace can soon be realized.

 Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, the first woman from Queens County elected to the State Senate and the first woman to Chair the Senate Committee on Higher Education, represents District 16.

 

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