Queens Lawmakers On The Move March 21, 2018

Queens County City Council News

Meng Presses Commerce Secretary On Census Citizenship Question

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth) yesterday questioned Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross during an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, pressing him on the impacts of adding a question to the 2020 census that would ask respondents if they are citizens.

During the hearing, Ross said that he has not yet made a decision on whether or not to include the question.

Meng has opposed the Justice Department’s request to add a citizenship question to the census, and she and Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) sent a letter to the secretary in January urging him to reject the proposal.

“The Census Bureau is required to provide Congress with the final 2020 census questions by March 31,” said Meng. “It is outrageous and irresponsible that Secretary Ross still has no answer on whether or not a citizenship question will be included. In addition, the secretary failed to adequately answer my questions about the costs associated with adding such a question, and whether or not it would improve accuracy. Adding a question about citizenship status would be reckless and misguided. It would lower response rates from those in immigrant communities, make the census more expensive, and add further complications to an already underfunded and under prepared Census Bureau. There is too much is at stake to risk an inaccurate count. Secretary Ross must make a final decision, and that decision must be to reject any plan that would ask about citizenship on the 2020 census.”

An accurate census count is critical. Data collected from the census is used to determine the number of seats that each state receives in the House of Representatives, and it decides how much state and local governments receive in federal funds. The count is mandated Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.

Addabbo Votes To Pass “Toll Payer Protection Act” 

Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr.

State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth South Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Woodside, The Rockaways) this week joined with his Senate colleagues in passing legislation (S.7344) that would improve the toll billing process for motorists while making it easier for consumers to dispute errors and excessive fees.

The measure comes as cashless tolling becomes more commonplace in Queens and elsewhere throughout the state.

“Cashless tolling has many benefits, including reduced traffic congestion and decreased air pollution from idling cars,” said Addabbo. “However, many drivers are experiencing late or missing toll statements that can lead to high fees and vehicle registration suspensions, or are receiving bills that are simply inaccurate.  There are significant glitches in the existing cashless tolling system, and we need to get them fixed.”

Under cashless tolling, which is in effect on many bridges, roads and tunnels in Queens and around the state, drivers with EZPass continue to have their tolls automatically deducted from their accounts and receive statements for their trips.

Drivers without EZPass, however, have a photograph taken of their license plates when they pass through the facilities, and a bill is later mailed to them at the postal address on file with the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles. Sometimes bills arrive late, or not at all, which can leave consumers unwittingly facing large fines for non-payment, as well as motor vehicle registration suspensions.

Addabbo mentioned that he had his constituents in mind when voting for the bill, since his office has addressed a number of complaints from throughout his district, such as his Rockaway constituency.

“The bill I am supporting creates a Toll Payers’ Bill of Rights, which includes the option of receiving cashless tolling statements via text message or e-mail within a shorter and more specific time frame,” said Addabbo, noting that paper toll statements generally go out to drivers within 30-45 days of the trip.

“This would be a quicker and more efficient way of alerting drivers to tolls they need to pay back to the state. It would also save New York taxpayers money on postage and administration, create improved electronic billing records, and help to alleviate continued confusion about cashless tolling fees.”

De Blasio Vallone Laud Tourism Increase

Mayor BIll de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC & Company—New York City’s official destination marketing organization— yesterday announced that 2017 was the eighth consecutive year for record-breaking tourism, with the City welcoming an estimated 62.8 million visitors last year, an increase of 2.3 million visitors over 2016.

Visitation for 2017 was comprised of 49.7 million domestic and 13.1 million international visitors, both all-time highs.

“We’re keeping our door to the world open,” said de Blasio. “Even with all the headwinds from the White House, we attracted a record number of visitors to our city. That’s a testament to the strength of our tourism sector and the values of our city.”

City Council Member Paul Vallone

City Council Member Paul Vallone (D-Alley Pond Park, Bay Terrace, Bayside, College Point, Douglaston, East Elmhurst, Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Little Neck, Whitestone), chair of the council’s Economic Development Committee, also lauded the increase in tourism.

“It would seem to be no surprise that the greatest city would continue to see growth in tourism year after year. However, the reality is that many challenges had to be overcome in order to continue this unparalleled growth,” said Vallone.

“The real takeaway here is that our city continues to successfully create countless reasons for visitors to come and I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to support initiatives and campaigns that will continue to make New York City the premier tourist destination in the world,” Vallone added.

Meeks Urges More Asset Manager Diversity IN Education Endowments 

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-Jamaica, Laurelton, Rosedale, Cambria Heights, Saint Albans, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway, JFK Airport) and Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA), both senior members of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, yesterday called for greater utilization of diverse asset management firms, especially among educational endowments that generally receive favorable tax treatment on the federal level.

The demand came in the form of a letter to congressional leaders and the heads of two Congressional tax-writing committees.

While the letter makes clear that Congress should repeal the GOP’s misguided excise tax on colleges and universities, the letter argues that fully reinstating endowments’ tax-free statuses should be coupled with diversity requirements consistent with the federal government’s interests in equal opportunity and closing the racial and gender wealth gaps.

The letter was sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.  The letter was also sent to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the relevant tax-writing committees including Senators Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden from the Finance Committee and Representatives Kevin Brady and Richard Neal from the Ways and Means Committee.

Peralta Nabs Plumbers Union Endorsement

State Senator Jose Peralta

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) yesterday received the UA Plumbers Local 1 Union r endorsement for re-election campaign for District 13.

“The men and women of Local 1 are proud to throw our support behind a strong advocate for organized labor, Senator Jose Peralta. Over the course of his tenure in the Senate, he has made his progressive values clear by being a champion for working families through his dedicated efforts in the Fight for 15 and Paid Family Leave. He has ensured that the safety of our members and their ability to make a living wage remains a top priority. We are excited to stand with him as we work together to move New York forward,” said Mike Apuzzo, Business Manager of Plumbers Local 1.

“I am honored by the faith Mike Apuzzo and the rest of Local 1 have placed in my re-election campaign. The more than 6,000 members of Local 1 have always been dedicated to providing the best workmanship for our community and state, and I intend to do the same for my constituents in the Senate. The working men and women of this state deserve to have a representative who will look out for their best interests. Through my efforts to raise the minimum wage and ensure protected paid family leave, I have shown a strong record of fighting for working families, and I pledge to continue this work. I look forward to the opportunity to continue demonstrating my commitment to our union workforce across New York,” said Peralta.