Queens Lawmakers On The Move Dec. 17, 2018

Queens County City Council News

Kim Responds To $150 Million In Student Loan Cancellation

Assemblymember Ron Kim

Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Whitestone, Flushing, College Point, Murray Hill) on Friday released the following statement Friday after a federal judge ordered the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to cancel $150 million in student debt:

“I find it absolutely appalling that [DOE] Secretary Betsy Devos fought tooth and nail to rewrite the rules so students defrauded by private schools on their loans would have no recourse. It was only when the court ruled against her that she gave in and finally forgave 15,000 borrowers a total of $150 million of student debt. The money was loaned in the first place to now-closed for-profit colleges that cheated their students. In addition to cancelling the debt, I call on the federal government to pay back the interest collected from the 15,000 borrowers over the years. It’s the right thing to do.

“In our state, nearly 3 million New Yorkers are stuck with close to $90 billion in student debt, and those figures continue to grow. These alarming statistics match the trends in many other states and represent a crisis in the making. It is time for our state and federal government to work together on a one-time cancellation or write down of this astronomical debt, which will otherwise cause severe harm to future generations and untold damage to our economy.”

Gillibrand Pushes To End Fed Cash Bail System

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) yesterday stood with Reverend Al Sharpton, Geoffrey Eaton, 1st Vice President NAACP New York State Conference in calling on Congress to pass legislation to end the current federal cash bail system that disproportionately results in low-income people of color being locked up even if they have not yet been convicted of a crime.

Gillibrand said that in New York and across the country, the cash bail system results in incarceration where income levels can determine whether or not individuals are able to be released from jail. Hundreds of thousands of people in jails across the U.S. have not yet been convicted of a crime and are waiting for a trial. People who cannot pay their bail, which can range from $1,000 to $5000 on average in New York City, are forced to either sit in jail for days, months, or even years, pay exorbitant fees to a bail bondsman, or plead guilty and give up their right to defend themselves at trial, she said.

According to a study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, people of color are more likely to be assigned monetary bail and on average assigned to pay higher bail amounts than their white counterparts. According to the ACLU, the for-profit bail industry makes between $1.4 and $2.4 billion each year.

“The cash bail system in our country is discriminatory and a disaster,” said Gillibrand. “If you’ve been accused of a crime – just accused – you might have to wait in jail for months, or even longer, before you get to have your trial and tell your side of the story. There are thousands of New Yorkers sitting in jail right now simply because they cannot pay their bail. We should not be locking people up just because they don’t have the financial means to afford their bail. I’m calling on Congress to solve this problem once and for all and pass legislation that would finally get rid of our cash bail system at the federal level, and push all 50 states to do the same.”

Gillibrand is a cosponsor of the No Cash Bail Act, legislation that would eliminate the cash bail system at the federal level and encourage states to reform their pretrial systems by using alternative practices that prohibit the use of cash bail. The ACLU, Brennan Center, and Color of Change support this bill. Specifically, this legislation:

  • Ends the use of secured bonds in federal criminal proceedings.
  • Provides grants to states that wish to implement alternate pretrial systems and reduce their pretrial detention population.
  • Withholds grant funding from states that continue to use a money bail pretrial system.
  • Requires a GAO study three years after implementation to ensure the new alternate systems are also not leading to disparate detentions rates.

Katz, Queens Borough Board To Review Regional Economic Snapshot

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (D) today will chair the Queens Borough Board and they will hear a presentation from the City’s Department of City Planning on its recently published report entitled, “The Geography of Jobs.”

The report provides an economic snapshot of the metropolitan region with analyses of recent employment, industry, labor force and housing development trends in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008. It also describes the shifting geography of growth throughout New York City, northern New Jersey, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and southwest Connecticut.

The presentation is slated for 5:30 p.m., today, Dec. 17 at Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens.

Constantinides Committee Hears Dromm Bill Phasing In Electric School buses

City Council Member Costa Constantinides
City Council Member Daniel Dromm

City Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, part of Long Island City), chair of the council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, will have the committee hold a hearing on City Council Member Daniel Dromm‘s (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) bill to phase in electric school buses.

The proposed local law will require that commencing September 1, 2020, all school buses subject to New York City school bus contracts, that do not use a closed crankcase ventilation system, shall be electric vehicles. Electricity for such electric vehicles shall be generated on-site.

This local law further requires that all other school buses, shall, after 10 years of use, be replaced by compressed natural gas, hybrid school buses or all electric. The measure further provides that use of such compressed natural gas or hybrid school buses is limited to 10 years and such school buses must thereafter be replaced with all electric zero emission school buses.

The hearing is slated for 11 a.m., today, Dec. 17 at 250 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. The meeting is open to the public.

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