2015-11-11 / Political Page

Zadroga Advocates Unite As GOP Seeks Program Cutbacks

Members of the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations… united at the 9/11 site last week to voice their opposition to new proposals that would make harmful cuts to health care and compensation for sickened first responders and only temporarily extend benefits.

In sharp contrast, Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney’s bill renewing benefits under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1786), would fully fund and permanently extend the health and compensation benefits.

Maloney’s bill has broad bipartisan support, with 241 House cosponsors, a clear majority, Maloney said. US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer have introduced the same bill in the Senate and now have 62 cosponsors, a bipartisan and filibuster proof majority.

Maloney was joined by New York Congressmembers Joseph Crowley, Nydia Velazquez, Steve Israel and Grace Meng at the rally at the September 11 World Trade Center site, which was also attended by many advocate groups. Maloney stated there:

“The cancers suffered by 9/11 responders aren’t five year cancers. Five years of health care won’t do. It should and must be permanent and fully funded. We must continue providing high-quality care to the heroes and heroines of 9/11. And we must provide the full compensation we promised. We cannot tell those who have already lost so much that the compensation they were promised will be cut by more than half. The Zadroga Act must be permanent and fully funded so that these brave men and women never again have to beg Congress for the care and compensation they need and deserve.”

It also emerged at the rally that the legislation that Maloney was attacking had been introduced by Congressman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia and chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Goodlatte was outed last week as being solely responsible for blocking passage of bills like Maloney’s by not even holding a hearing on the legislation.

Local senators and congressmembers also joined in attacking the latest Republican move to scuttle Maloney’s new Zadroga Act:

•Senator Gillibrand stated, “This was an irresponsible move that will cause unnecessary consternation for thousands of first responders…”

•Senator Schumer: “It is a black mark on Congress that the Zadroga bill was ever allowed to expire…”

•Congressman Crowley: “…what we need is not a step backward – we need a vote. We need a vote on the legislation that makes permanent the promise of health care for our 9/11 heroes.”

•Congressswoman Meng: “We cannot accept anything less than a full and permanent extension of the Zadroga Act:”

•Congresswoman Velazquez: “It is time to permanently reauthorize with adequate funding the programs that care for first responders’ health…”

•Congressman Israel: “As a nation, we made a commitment to stand together and never forget the brave men and women who acted without hesitation on 9/11. It is our moral obligation to uphold this promise…”

DA BROWN ON FACEBOOK FOR IMMIGRANT AFFAIRS: Queens DA Richard Brown has announced… that his Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA) now has a presence in social media with a brand new Facebook page.

Brown explained, “This is another access point for newcomers of Queens County, as well as longtime residents who were born abroad, to get help they need. Whether you are a victim of a crime or have questions about your rights, the OIA’s Facebook page is a great starting point.”

The Facebook page link is: www.facebook.com.Queens-District- Attorneys-Office-of-Immigrant-Affairs- 1617889155149720/

Brown stated, “Queens County is the most ethnically diverse urban environment in America. Forty-seven percent of the 2.3 million people who live in Queens were born in a foreign country. There are more than 160 different languages spoken in our borough. As such, earlier this year my office created the Office of Immigrant Affairs to help immigrants navigate the criminal justice system. Far too often members of these communities are targeted and exploited – both by crimes of violence and crimes of financial exploitation.”

Brown continued, explaining that the Office of Immigrant Affairs was created to specifically help immigrants who have become victims of crimes – regardless of their immigrant status. This Facebook page will help OIA reach immigrant communities and will have a host of information available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, Polish and Bengali to start. And as the Facebook page grows, more text in other languages will be added.

OIA’s Director, Assistant District Attorney Carmencita Gutierrez, emphasized that everyone deserves to live a life without being victimized regardless of what language they speak or their immigration status.

ADDABBO URGES RESIDENTS ‘SUBMIT COMMENTS ON BUS PROPOSAL’: As the city Department of Transportation (DOT) prepares to hold a series of town hall meetings regarding a contentious proposal to bring Select Bus Service (SBS) to Woodhaven-Cross Bay Boulevard, state Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. is reminding residents of the importance of attending the meetings and submitting input about the project.

The SBS plan seeks to remove a lane of traffic from Woodhaven/Cross Bay Boulevard in Ozone Park in order to create a “Bus Only” lane for the Q 52 and Q 53 routes, Addabbo explained, and place pedestrians waiting for a bus on the median. Addabbo contends this plan would ultimately add unnecessary congestion to a main thoroughfare that is already extremely overcrowded and would place pedestrians at serious risk as they would be forced to cross an active roadway in a limited amount of time in order to board the bus from the median.

Addabbo (D–Ozone Park) stated, “Long after DOT has decided whether to implement this plan in our neighborhoods and move on, we are left behind to deal with the outcome, whether it be good or bad. “It is crucial that we help the agency make an informed decision by providing as much input as possible before any plans are set in stone.

Addabbo added: “You may think your opinion does not matter, but in this case, it could not be more important. I encourage all my constituents to take advantage of these town hall meetings, contact DOT and submit your questions and concerns while you still have the chance.”

Addabbo said that since the proposal was first announced, he has raised several concerns about the project with city officials, even organizing a bus tour of the route with DOT and MTA staff in August to show them first-hand some of the major problems that would be brought about by the proposed changes. He emphasized that he has continuously encouraged both residents and city agencies to consider the interest of five key categories that would be affected by the implementation of the new bus route plan: bus riders, car drivers, pedestrians, local businesses and residential side streets.

“This plan would affect more than just the straphangers who ride the buses or the motorists who drive behind them,” Addabbo emphasized. “It would put pedestrians in harm’s way by moving bus stops to medians along an extremely busy Woodhaven-Cross Bay Boulevard. The removal of left turns onto major commercial roadways, such as Jamaica and Liberty Avenues, would hinder the success of local businesses located on these streets as drivers would no longer be able to access them easily.

Addabbo added: “Residential streets would become busier than ever as drivers – including delivery trucks – begin to use side streets to avoid the increased congestion on the main road as a result of removing a lane of traffic. This plan would have consequences for everyone in the community, and it is important that we voice our concerns immediately.”

Addabbo said he intends to inform the residents of when the DOT town hall meetings will take place as soon as the dates become available. In the meantime, he is encouraging residents to frequently check DOT’s website for information about the new bus lane proposals.

ELECTED OFFICIALS’ ‘RESOURCE FAIR’ FOR VETS: Nine Queens elected officials are banding together to host a special resource fair for borough veterans tomorrow, (following Veterans Day), from 6 to 8 pm at PS/IS 49 in Middle Village.

The event is designed to help the borough’s veterans to access the many benefits and services that are available to them through government agencies on the federal, state and city levels.

It is being sponsored by Congresswoman Grace Meng, Borough President Melinda Katz, City Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley and Eric Ulrich, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Assemblymembers Margaret Markey, Mike Miller, Catherine Nolan and Michael DenDekker.

The event will also include presentations by representatives from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, US Small Business Administration (SBA), New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and several other state and city agencies, groups and advocates.

Although veterans are entitled to receive numerous benefits and services, many are unsure how to access these important resources. In addition, many veterans are unaware that some resources even exist.

The Veterans Resource Fair is open to all, free of charge. No RSVP is necessary. It will take place in PS/IS 49’s cafeteria. The school is located at 63-60 80th Street in Middle Village.

QUEENS BP: NO RENTING PUBLIC PARKS TO FOR-PROFITS FOR PAID ADMISSION EVENT: In response to questions about applications filed by forprofit organizations recently with the city to shut down major portions of Flushing Meadows/Corona Park to the public in order to accommodate paid-admission events next summer, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz responded “NO”.

Katz’ verbatim, unedited response follows:

“Queens is increasingly becoming a premier destination for entertainment, culture, and tourism. While public events of any scale that enhance our borough are encouraged, I take issue when it is at the expense of cutting off public access to our treasured parks like Flushing Meadow/Corona Park, which is enjoyed by thousands of families and residents every week in the summer months. Doing so without a public review process would fly in the face of the very principle behind our public parks, which is space designated for public access and equity.

Katz continued: “The use of our public parks – especially one as utilized as Flushing Meadows/Corona Park – must be coordinated and planned under an official city policy, because the absence of one renders the entire process arbitrary and unfair. There must also be engagement with the affected community and a real accounting of the adverse and residual impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods. Quite frankly, it’s still unclear how limited resources expended for events of such scale would be returned to Queens and its families.”

Continuing, Katz stated, “These proposals to rent out precious public parkland to for-profit organizations for paid-admission events are therefore not acceptable at this time. It has never been done before in Queens, and without a fair city policy approved by the community to properly shape the significant precedent, we should not start now.

The Borough President further noted, “Flushing Meadows/Corona Park hosts thousands of families every week in the summer months, and residents would otherwise be limited in access to alternative space for countless activities like soccer, softball, baseball, tennis, cricket, bicycling, family picnics, BBQs, birthdays, weddings, and other special events.”

Katz concluded: “If the applications submitted this week are granted, it would be the first time ever for Queens to lend its treasured parkland to for – profit organizations for paid-admission events. The dates requested would displace several standing homegrown events enjoyed by tens of thousands of Queens residents, including the annual World’s Fair Anniversary Festival, the Louis Armstrong Festival and, of course, our beloved Mets.”

ADDABBO GETS HIGH MARKS IN EDUCATION VOTING: A group of school business officials have given high grades to state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. on a legislative report card which they recently issued covering every member of the State Legislature.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach), whose two daughters attend NYC public schools, reported that the New York State Association of School Business Officials (NYSASBO), in its annual report named him “one of just a handful of legislators who received an ‘A’ for his voting record on education pieces this year.”

Addabbo said the grade was issued for his “voting to approve bills that would amend tax caps, provide better resources for disabled pre-school students and reduce frequency of internal audits.”

Addabbo explained he “has been a longtime supporter of improving the educational environment for students” and frequently meets with principals, teachers and students at local schools within his 15th Senate district.

“Education is so important to a community, not just because it molds our children into vibrant young adults, but because the state of a school system can affect the entire character of a neighborhood,” Addabbo said.

“When our communities have good schools,” he said, “they allow families to stay within their area and not look to move away. As elected officials, it is our duty to do what we can to make sure our children are given the best opportunities to succeed and become the individuals we know they have the potential to be.”

MENG’S BILL CREATES SAFEGUARDS FOR CHILD MODELS, ACTORS: Coinciding with Fashion Week in New York City recently, Congresswoman Grace Meng has introduced the Child Performer Protection Act, aimed at protecting children who work as actors and models in the film, television and modeling industries.

Meng (D–Flushing) noted, “Although the Fair Labor Standards Act sets employment criteria for children in the US, child models and performers are not covered by the law. Instead, the regulation of minors in the entertainment industry is left up to individual states, many of which offer few protections. As a result, child actors and models often stand to be – and have been – exploited, manipulated and mistreated.”

The lawmaker pointed out, “Working as a child model or actor can be an incredible opportunity, and lead to success for a lifetime. However, the work can come with much risk. Sometimes kids are asked to undress in front of others or are put in compromising positions at a young age. Some reality shows have children being filmed while changing clothes or going to the bathroom. Young performers can also have their earnings taken by their parents, leaving them with nothing when they turn 18. Although there are a patchwork of disparate state laws, these regulations offer inconsistent protections.

“That’s why we need a national standard; a federal law that would finally ensure that children in acting and modeling are adequately protected. I look forward to continuing to work with the many stakeholders involved to bring the best possible protections to children.”

Meng said her legislation, if enacted, would create a federal baseline of protections that child performers would be entitled to nationwide. These basic and commonsense safeguards would include:

1) Establishing a maximum number of hours that child models and actors can continuously work. Restrictions level off based on age Although many child workers have maximum work hour protections set by the Fair Labor Standards Act or state laws, numerous child performers and independent contractors are exempt.

2) Requiring that compensation be provided in cash wages. Presently, runway models are sometimes not fairly compensated for their work and are instead paid with unusable clothes or handbags that were worn in fashion shows.

3) Requiring that 15 percent of a child’s earnings be placed in a trust account until the child turns 18 (unless a financial need for the money is demonstrated).

The provision is modeled after similar laws in California and New York, states with thriving entertainment industries. The intent is to prevent parents from taking the money earned by their child.

4) Creating a private right of action for kids who are sexually harassed; allowing children to sue their employers if sexually harassed while on the job.

Meng added: “No child in the competitive and adult world of acting and modeling should ever be at risk because of the state they’re working in, their lack of union representation or predatory adults. We must provide increased safeguards for kids in these industries, and I urge my colleagues in Congress to make it happen by passing this bill.”

The Child Performer Protection Act has been referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, where it is awaiting further action.

Meng is a founder and Co-Chair of the Kids Safety Caucus, the first bi-partisan coalition in the House – which she helped launch in 2013 and which promotes childsafety issues.

CROWLEY WELCOMES TREASURY’S EXPANSION OF MYRA SAVINGS: Congressman Joseph Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, welcomed the Treasury Department’s nationwide expansion of its myRA retirement savings program. In Crowley’s Building Better Savings, Building Brighter Futures plan, the lawmaker proposed ways to make Americans more financially secure throughout their lifetimes, including making the myRA program permanent.

Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) stated: “We know Americans want to save for retirement, but we also know that far too many workers face significant barriers that make saving not just a daunting process, but, in many cases, simply impossible. The myRA program gives Americans a safe, stable, and portable savings option that relieves some of the common barriers workers face to saving in the first place, such as high minimum contributions and early withdrawal penalties. With the expansion of this program nationwide, more Americans will have the opportunity to save for their future and achieve much-needed financial security.

“Now, we must ensure the myRA program is here to stay. That’s why I included this program in my Building Better Savings, Building Brighter Futures plan, and is why I will be working to codify myRA into law. We must make every effort to put the ability to save back in the hands of American families and create a culture of saving.”

Crowley said, according to recent studies, one-third of all workers – and nearly two-thirds of workers earning less than $35,000 a year – report that they are not saving any money for their retirement.

Many of them say they recognize the importance of saving for retirement or other potential needs, Crowley said, but for a variety of reasons are not using existing savings vehicles. The myRA program was created to help workers who face barriers to saving – such as not having access to an employersponsored savings plan, or difficulty in meeting the minimum contributions required by traditional accounts.

Crowley says the myRA program will allow a worker to open an account with as little as $1, and gives them the ability to make automatic payments every pay period. There also are no maintenance charges or fees associated with these accounts, meaning every dollar that is invested will be returned – plus interest – to the account holder. Crowley said under the myRA program, participants can withdraw funds from their account at any time, tax-free and penalty-free – so these funds can be used as an emergency rainy-day fund as well as a future retirement account, further breaking down a barrier against savings.

PAT ON THE BACK FROM NOLAN: Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) sent this note congratulating Sunnyside Community Services after it received funds to support caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementia:

“Congratulations to Judy Zangwill and her team at Sunnyside Community Services (SCS) for being one of only nine groups selected statewide to receive critically needed funding for families facing Alzheimer’s disease in a loved one.

When Governor Cuomo and the Legislature fund these important initiatives outstanding organizations like SCS have the ability to secure funding and provide the necessary services to help and support our families in the community.”

QUEENS COUNTY YOUNG DEMOCRATS RESPOND: There were only two Queens Democratic candidates for public office on last Tuesday’s Election Day menu, so you can depend on it, the Queens County Young Democrats (QCYD) were out in force to get the party faithful to the polls to cast ballots and assure victories for Barry Grodenchik and Alicia Hyndman.

Grodenchik was running to fill a City Council vacancy in northeast Queens’ 23rd district, and Hyndman was running to fill a vacancy in south Queens’ 29th AD, and both won easily. QCYD members “knocked on hundreds of doors and spent hours phone banking to turn out voters in Queens” for the two candidates, according to a release we received.

QCYD President Jorge Franjul said, “In a year where low turnout is expected, we are incredibly proud to help our local candidates motivate and turn out voters. Going out into the community and talking with voters was key to getting Alicia and Barry elected. A special thank you to all our members who helped make our Get Out the Vote campaign a success.”

QCYD is an organization of Democrats between the ages of 16 and 36, dedicated to advancing the highest principles of the Democratic Party and inspiring the participation of all people in politics, public policy and service.

As the officially recognized youth arm of the Queens Democratic Party, QCYD is especially focused on inspiring, educating and involving young people who want to make a difference. QCYD members help elect Democrats at the city, state and federal level, and also hold elected representatives accountable to fight for Democratic issues.

To reach the organization, contact Quintin Maidment at Quintin Maidment @gmail.com 607-624-9263.

MILLER BACKS SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM FOR STEM STUDENTS: In a recent release, Assemblyman Michael Miller expressed high praise for a New York State college scholarship program designed to attract college-bound students to major in STEM studies.

Miller (D–Woodhaven) noted that students approaching graduation have a hard choice between many colleges that will eventually be very costly and “a career in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) field can be an attractive option.”

Still pushing the STEM choice, Miller states: “New York State created an exciting new scholarship program for high-achieving high school students. Under the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Incentive Program, students in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes who plan to study STEM at a SUNY or CUNY school can earn full tuition scholarships for four or five year programs.

“In return,” says Miller, “those students must keep their grades up and work and live in the state for five consecutive years after graduation in a STEM-related field. Not only will this scholarship help inspire more students to enroll in STEM majors, it also keeps them from being saddled with crushing student loan debt upon graduation.”

Miller also points out that many of the best-paying, most secure jobs are STEMrelated and are expected to grow 14 percent between 2014 and 2024, more than other jobs, and employers are still seeking STEM graduates.

Speaking of the STEM program, Miller states, “By offering scholarships to our best and brightest, we’re helping to put more kids on the path to a brighter future and investing in the future of our state.”

For more information or to apply for this scholarship, Miller says visit www.hesc.ny.gov.stem or send him an email at millermg@assembly.state.ny.us.

MENG TRANSPORTATION BILLS PASSED BY HOUSE: The House of Representatives passed three key pieces of transportation-related legislation sponsored by Congresswoman Grace Meng last week. The bills, passed unanimously, were attached to the $325 billion Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act, the massive measure which funds the nation’s roads, bridges, highways and mass transit system.

Meng (D–Flushing) stated the legislation “seeks to enhance safety of school buses, improve performance of car seats and protect motorists’ privacy in driverless vehicles.”

Meng’s provisions include the following:

•Legislation To Improve School Bus Safety

Under this measure, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) would be required to review existing federal and state rules and guidance that cover things such as bus maintenance, driver training, inspection standards, and public access to inspection results and accident data. After these items are reviewed, experts would be required to issue recommendations on best practices that aim to improve the safety and reliability of school bus transportation. GAO is an independent, non partisan government agency that evaluates and investigates data for Congress.

•Legislation To Improve Performance Of Child Car Seats:

This provision would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to improve data collection on the types of child restraint systems in use when a child is involved in an automobile collision. After three years of collecting data, the legislation would mandate that the Secretary of Transportation submit a report to Congress on the performance of different types of child restraint systems. Data improvements would include information on the type of child restraint system in use – a five-point harness or booster seat – and whether the restraint was forward or rearfacing when the crash occurred.

•Legislation To Address Privacy Protections In Driverless Cars

This measure would add consumer privacy protections to the list of items GAO must assess when evaluating the readiness of the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to handle autonomous vehicle technologies such as driverless cars. A provision in the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act would require GAO to assess the readiness and challenges of autonomous vehicle technology, and provide a report on it to Congress. Examining privacy protections would ensure that these issues are addressed when this technology is rolled out in the future.

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