Queens Lawmakers On The Move Feb. 25, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Grodenchik, Van Bramer Hold Joint Committee Meeting On Improving Gender & Cultural Diversity For All Park Monuments

City Councilmember Barry Grodenchik
City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

City Council Members Barry Grodenchik (D-Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Holliswood, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens, Queens Village), chair of the Parks Committee; Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside), chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee; and Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), chair of the Women’s Committee today will co-host a joint committee meeting on improving the gender and cultural diversity of monuments located in city parks.

On the agenda is creating a task force to examine the monuments, statues, public art, and historical markers on city-owned property.

The task force ill study and issue recommendations regarding monuments, statues, public art, and historical markers on city-owned property, placing special emphasis on those that have been subject to sustained negative attention or may be viewed as inconsistent with the values of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The hearing will also look at a bill requiring the city’s art commission to ensure that women are depicted in at least 50 percent of approved works.

The hearing is slated for 10 a.m., today, Feb 25 at City Hall in Lower Manhattan.

Gillibrand Calls On Legislation To Protect From Prescription Drug Price Gouging

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) yesterday joined patients, health care advocates, and medical professionals to call on Congress to pass legislation that would protect New Yorkers from prescription drug price gouging, help drive down prescription drug prices, and help ensure that all patients have access to affordable medications.

Gillibrand’s push comes as the Senate Finance Committee is set to hear testimony from pharmaceutical executives next week as part of a hearing on rising prescription drug prices.

There is currently no law to prevent drug manufacturers from spiking the price of their drugs. In 2018, Americans spent an all-time high of $360 billion on prescription drugs. According to the AARP, brand name drug prices increased four times faster than general inflation in 2017.

Gillibrand’s legislation, the Stop Price Gouging Act, would penalize drug companies that raise prices of medication without justification. Any revenues collected through this bill would be reinvested in future drug research and development at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Too many New Yorkers are suffering because too many drug companies care more about their own profits than whether sick patients have access to medicine. That is one of the root causes of our country’s skyrocketing prescription drug costs, and Congress needs to do more to solve this problem now,” said Gillibrand. “This urgently needed legislation would finally hold companies accountable and penalize them when they gouge the price of a prescription drug without cause. I am proud to introduce this bill, and I urge my colleagues to join me in fighting to pass it.”

Schumer Demands Feds Put Up At Least $1.2 Billion For NYCHA

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) yesterday said in light of the recent settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the City of New York and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), HUD should put up at least $1.2 billion in a new federal investment for NYCHA.

“We have seen the spiraling results of decades of federal disinvestment in public housing at NYCHA, specifically,” said Schumer. “The recent settlement between NYCHA and HUD was important and a positive step forward, but you cannot address the structural and systemic problems here without the federal government providing its fair share to fix the pipes, the boilers, address lead and more. That is why, as the Trump Administration crafts its upcoming budget, I am urging HUD to add at least $1.2 billion in its request for public housing authorities that NYCHA can immediately tap.”

According to HUD, the agreement establishes specific requirements and milestones to address health and safety hazards at NYCHA properties, including lead-based paint, mold, heat, vermin, among others. NYCHA was not placed into receivership, but the federal government will now have stronger controls to oversee NYCHA.

The agreement also includes a federal monitor appointed by HUD, SDNY, and NYC to address health and safety hazards. The federal monitor will be required to submit quarterly reports to both HUD and SDNY.  

“The recent settlement gives the feds control over NYCHA, and so, it is only fair they increase funding to help reverse decades of federal disinvestment in New York City public housing,” said Schumer.

Meng, Cuomo On Anti-Semitic Graffiti Found In Rego Park

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park) on Saturday strongly denounced the anti-Semitic graffiti, including swastikas, found Friday in a Rego Park schoolyard.

“I am outraged and sickened that hate has reared its ugly head in our community. The drawings found in the playground of P.S. 139 are disgusting and unacceptable and everybody throughout this diverse and welcoming borough must condemn these anti-Semitic images,” said Meng. There is no place for hate in Queens or anywhere in our society and these acts will not be tolerated. I thank the hardworking detectives of the NYPD who are investigating and I hope the perpetrators are found and swiftly brought to justice.” 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed the state police hate crimes task force to assist in the investigation of the hateful vandalism.

“I am appalled and disgusted by the Swastikas and other anti-Semitic symbols of hate that were scrawled in a Queens schoolyard,” said Cuomo. “New Yorkers stand with the Jewish community against anti-Semitism in all its forms, especially in the wake of the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in our nation’s history. We declare that there is no hate in our state, and we will always stand together against hate and discrimination.”

Lancman, Richards Hold Oversight Hearing on Family Separation in Criminal Cases 

City Councilman Rory Lancman.
City Council Member Donovan Richards

City Council Members Rory I. Lancman (D-Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Electchester, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills, Jamaica), chair of the Justice Committee and Donovan Richards (D-Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens), chair of the public Safety Committee, today will hold a joint hearing on family separation in criminal cases.

The hearing comes after the widely publicized arrest of Jazmine Headley, where officers physically removed her young child from her arms. After charges were initially filed against her, a full order of protection was put in place that prevented her from seeing her child for several days. The charges were ultimately dismissed and the order of protection was lifted.

The Committees will examine the NYPD’s protocols for separating children from their parents in non-domestic violence cases and criminal court processing where District Attorneys seek an order of protection in non-domestic violence cases.

Two pieces of legislation will be considered at the hearing:

Intro 806 (Williams) – Creating an interagency task force to be charged with studying the obstacles faced by children of incarcerated parents, from arrest to reunification.

Intro 1349 (Dromm) – Requiring the NYPD to implement child sensitive arrest policies.

The hearing is slated for 10 a.m., today Feb. 25 at City Hall in Lower Manhattan.

Katz Announces Senior Staff Appointments

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz on Friday announced appointments to her senior leadership team: Shurn Anderson as Director of Economic Development, Brent Weitzberg as Director of Health & Human Services and Seniors, and Anayeli Gomez-Brittain as Policy Advisor to the Borough President.

“Shurn, Brent and Anayeli have long demonstrated themselves to be exceedingly capable in serving the people of Queens with integrity, experience and professionalism,” said Katz.

“Their commitment to the empowerment of the growing families and communities across Queens is second to none. I have full confidence in their abilities to execute my vision and priorities for this great borough of 2.35 million people.”

As Director of Economic Development, Anderson is charged with executing Katz’ economic development initiatives and priorities, including but not limited to the Jamaica NOW Action Plan, the Governor’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Willets Point Redevelopment, the Western Queens Tech Zone Strategic Plan, Sunnyside Yard, and more. Anderson also directs and oversees the operations of the Borough President’s Economic Development team, which provides assistance to the borough’s small businesses, entrepreneurs, Chambers of Commerce, Local Development Corporations and its thirteen Business Improvement Districts. In addition, Anderson will continue to serve as the Borough President’s primary liaison to Queens Community Boards 12 and 13, and lead the Borough President’s African American Heritage Committee.

As Director of Health & Human Services and Seniors, Weitzberg is charged with executing Katz’s priority services relating but not limited to health, mental health, aging and seniors, homeless services, children’s services, disabilities, food insecurity and animal welfare. With nearly 354,000 seniors and over 620,000 children and youth residing in Queens, Weitzberg will monitor the fruition of Katz’s $33 million in capital investments across over 18 hospitals and health care facilities, as well as her $10 million in investments across 84 senior centers and service providers. Weitzberg will also oversee programmatic initiatives with the Queens District Attorney’s Office, Safe Horizon and Barrier Free Living under the $900,000 three-year federal grant from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

As Policy Advisor to the Borough President, Gomez-Brittain will be charged with advancing the top priorities of Katz’s policy agenda and managing outreach strategies on matters including but not limited to labor, prevailing wage, immigration, human trafficking, domestic violence, hate- and bias-related crimes, community relations and more.