Queens Lawmakers On The Move March 6, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Vallone Passes Bill to Combat Reckless Developers

City Council Member Paul Vallone

City Council Member Paul Vallone (D-Auburndale, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Beechhurst, College Point, Douglaston, Flushing, Little Neck, Malba, Whitestone) last week saw the City Council unanimously pass his legislation to allow the Department of Buildings (DOB) to also issue a stop work order whenever a notice to revoke is given in order to promote safety at construction sites and to ensure that construction ceases when there is evidence that work is occurring in violation of the law.

Civic activists have often pointed to the problematic “limbo” period that occurs after the DOB issues a notice to revoke. These notices are often issued to property owners and contractors when concerns arise about potential zoning or permit violations. After a notice to revoke is issued, the property owners must respond to the objections and concerns within 10 or 15 business days. If left unanswered, then permits are revoked and a stop work order is issued. In the past however, construction was allowed to continue during this two-week period.

“Too often, a notice to revoke has really been little more than a notice to finish your work as soon as possible before the DOB can act. What good is a notice to revoke if it has no teeth? Valid concerns and clear evidence should be more than enough to warrant a stop work order, especially when a property owner or contractor has a history of violations,” said Vallone.

“I’m proud to pass this bill which finally gives the DOB the tools they need to combat reckless developers and the blatant disregard of construction permit requirements. Granting the DOB the discretion to choose when to issue stop work orders also helps protect regular homeowners who make an honest mistake from suffering the same consequences as those who operate with no regard for our communities and laws.” 

Vallone Calls on State to Commit to Full Time Public Transportation at Belmont Park

City Council member Paul Vallone (D-Auburndale, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Beechhurst, College Point, Douglaston, Flushing, Little Neck, Malba, Whitestone) is urging the Empire State Development and New York Arena Partners to institute a traffic-mitigation plan to ensure quality of life for the residents of Eastern Queens as re-development plans for Belmont Park take shape.

Belmont Park lies just east of the Queens/Nassau border, and Vallone submitted official testimony to Empire State Development last month outlining local congestion concerns and proposed remedies.

“I represent Auburndale, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Beechhurst, College Point, Douglaston, Flushing, Little Neck, Malba, and Whitestone, neighborhoods just a few miles away from Belmont Park,” Vallone’s testimony reads. “As a lifelong New York Islanders fan, I am personally thrilled that the team will be returning to their original home of Nassau County … [However], without the proper forethought, this project could negatively affect quality of life for the thousands of my constituents who depend on the active road and railways surrounding Belmont Park to commute every day.”

The Belmont Park Redevelopment Civic and Land Use Improvement Project includes plans to construct a 19-000 seat hockey stadium, a hotel, and a number of commercial facilities in the plot adjacent to the existing Belmont Track. With daily attendance levels projected to reach between 60,000 and 100,000 visitors during peak periods, coming up with a plan to mitigate traffic influx is imperative.

Addabbo Stresses Residents Call 911 Before They Dig Up Property

Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr.

State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth, parts of South Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Woodside, The Rockaways) is reminding property owners to contact New York 811 to inspect the ground for any contaminants or utility lines if they are making plans for digging on their property for any reason, such as planting a tree or installing an in-ground pool.

By law, contractors and excavators that work within the five boroughs, and within Nassau and Suffolk Counties, are required to call 811 at least 48 hours and no more than 10 business days before beginning any mechanized digging or excavation work. This is to ensure that any underground lines are marked.

“Making sure that the ground of a dig site is free of any harmful contaminants or important utility lines before any digging occurs is vital for a homeowner or contractor,” Addabbo said. “New York 811 has worked for nearly 30 years to make that process simple for homeowners and contractors. I encourage anyone who plans on digging on their property to reach out to New York 811 before starting.”

Homeowners can contact New York 811 directly at 1-800-272-4480 or by simply calling 811. For excavation work completed on personal property, it is the contractor’s responsibility, not the homeowner’s, to contact New York 811.

Sanders Call for Funding for Student Loan Consumer Assistance Program

State Sen. James Sanders Jr.

State Sen. James Sanders, Jr. (D-Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Rosedale, parts of Far Rockaway) yesterday joined a group of state lawmakers in calling for the creation of an independent, statewide student loan consumer assistance program, including a toll-free “Help Line,” to assist borrowers in New York fight back against deceptive student loan industry practices.

Under the Trump Administration, protections for student borrowers have been steadily eroded. Last year, the student loan ombudsman at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau resigned to protest sweeping changes at the Bureau that he said protected “the interests of the biggest financial companies in America” to the detriment of borrowers.

As the federal government has retreated from its oversight and enforcement responsibilities, states have had to step in with legal action against loan servicers who mislead borrowers, illegally drive up repayment costs and make serious errors in the processing of student loans.  Only a few months ago, a lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General resulted in a $9 million settlement against Conduent Education Services for misleading borrowers in New York State.

The Inspector General’s report is just the latest example of the failure of the Trump Administration to protect borrowers and rein in the nation’s $1.5 trillion loan servicing industry. The report, released earlier this month, examined the practices of the nine private companies authorized to service federal student loans. It found that the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) had failed to exert oversight over the loan servicer sector, putting millions of borrowers at risk. That includes nearly 2.4 million New Yorkers with outstanding student loans.

“Ensuring loan servicers are providing honest information to borrowers and complying with standard codes of conduct as fiduciaries is the responsibility of the USDOE. We now know that the USDOE has not done its job, and as a result, these firms are operating without oversight, imperiling the financial health millions of consumers,” said Sanders Jr. (D-Queens), Chair of Committee on Banks. “Regulating and licensing student loan servicers operating in New York is critically important, but so is giving New Yorkers with student loan debt access to resources, counseling and unbiased financial advice to help them effectively manage their debt and avoid outcomes that could worsen their financial situation.”