Queens Lawmakers On The Move June 13, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Meng Condemns Proposed Public Charge Rule Denying Benefits To Immigrants

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) yesterday condemned the Trump administration’s proposed rule to limit immigrants from using public benefits.

Under the proposed  Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) public charge rule, immigrants can be denied so-called “lawful permanent residency” (Green cards) if they’ve received certain government benefits — or if the government anticipates that they may do so in the future.

The benefit programs targeted include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare), Medicaid, Medicare Part D (prescription drug subsidies) and Section 8 (housing vouchers).

“Taking away life-saving essential programs for immigrants and their children would be callous and despicable,” said Meng. “As a nation enriched by our immigrant communities, we must continue to support their access to basic necessities. I have sent letters to the administration urging them to rescind the proposed rule and I’ve spoken out against it. It is inhumane to punish law-abiding immigrants from accessing critical safety net programs like SNAP, housing assistance, and Medicaid – benefits to which they are legally entitled. I will continue to fight against this ugly proposed rule.”

Meng has repeatedly advocated against the proposed rule changes. After the changes were announced last year, she sent a letter to then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in November 2018, and another letter in December 2018.

Ramos Employee Protection Bill Passes Senate

State Sen. Jessica Ramos

State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, parts of Astoria, Woodside) yesterday saw the Senate pass her bills 4396 and 5791, which both make strides to protect workers from retaliatory or discriminatory employers.

Previously, there were different standards for providing remedies to public sector, private sector, and independent employees who have been unlawfully retaliated against by their employers, but S4396 allows one standard for providing a remedy. This is especially important for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Senate Bill 5791 establishes penalties for threatening, penalizing, discriminating, or retaliating against an employee on the basis of immigration status. This includes but is not limited to contacting United States immigration authorities or otherwise threatening to report an employee’s suspected citizenship or immigration status.

“The bills we are passing today take monumental steps towards protecting various groups of workers from retaliatory employers. Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace who are public sector, private sector, or independent employees should all have access to comprehensive remedies to hold employers accountable,” said Ramos, Chair of the Senate Labor Committee “New York’s immigrants have historically faced abuse from discriminatory employers. We are ensuring today that everyone is safe in the workplace, without the threat of being targeted by their employers because of their immigration status.”

The Office of the Attorney General, which proposed S5791, has investigated cases and received reliable reports from worker organizations, employment lawyers, and advocacy groups of employers threatening to report immigrant workers or workers’ family members to immigration officials in order to discourage employees from exercising rights protected under the Labor Law.

City Council LGBT Caucus Statement of Polanco’s Death In Rikers Island

City Council Member Daniel Dromm

City Council Member and LGTB Caucus Chair Daniel Dromm (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) issues the following statement on behalf of the caucus following the death of Layleen Polanco’s death of Rikers Island.

In April, Polanco, a transgender woman of color, was arrested on misdemeanor assault charges and sent to the Rikers Island jail complex because she could not afford to pay a $500 bail. Nearly two months later, she was found dead in her cell last Friday.

“Our hearts go out to Layleen Polanco’s family in the wake of this terrible tragedy.  Polanco was held on two low-level misdemeanor charges. Given that Polanco posed no threat to the public, it is outrageous that she was incarcerated at Rikers Island. To make matters worse, Polanco was caged away for at least 17 hours every day, for almost 60 days before she died — even though she suffered from violent seizures and should have been closely monitored,” read the caucus statement.

“Many questions remain unanswered but this much is clear: Polanco is the latest casualty of the cancer that is Rikers Island. Rikers remains a hazardous place for the incarcerated. Conditions are particularly horrendous for transgender individuals who are forced to contend with a broken system that simply cannot keep them safe. The administration must close Rikers and issue a thorough report on Polanco’s untimely death. There must be #JusticeForLayleen.”

Addabbo, Pheffer Amato Hold Call With MTA On Future of Businesses In The Rockaways

State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.
Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato

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) and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Broad Channel, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Ozone Park and the Rockaway Peninsula) yesterday held a conference call with the Governor’s office and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to discuss the future of several businesses along Beach 116th Street in the Rockaways, which have month-to-month leases with the MTA.

Last month, Addabbo and Pheffer Amato penned a joint letter to the MTA, asking that they allow the businesses — including Last Stop Gourmet Shop, Joseph A. Otton Tax & Accounting, Beach Cleaners and Tailors, and A & J Jewelry — to remain in their buildings on Beach 116th Street as they open up the Request For Proposal (RFP) process to find new tenants.

In response to the letter, during the conference call the MTA has alerted the elected officials that the RFP process will not begin until the first quarter of 2020, so the MTA will try to work out an agreement with their current tenants, possibly allowing their businesses to stay there in the Rockaways. The MTA has also asked for contacts to the local Chamber of Commerce or other community organizations to include them in future discussions regarding the RFP process.

“It is promising to see the MTA respond the way they did to our letter. No one wanted to see these businesses have to uproot themselves from the community they call home without having any say,” Addabbo said. “Now, they have the chance to work out an agreement with the MTA. Although nothing is guaranteed, what this does is give our local businesses the chance to have their voices heard, and I appreciate the MTA for working with us in attempting to resolve this local business issue.”

“As I’ve said countless times: Small businesses are the backbone of Rockaway and South Queens. I commend the MTA for hearing our concerns, and for continuing the discussion with our businesses on Beach 116th Street so that they can remain a community staple,” said Pheffer Amato. “While we still have work to do, this is the first step in ensuring that the RFP process reflects the unique needs and challenges of our community. I look forward to working with the MTA and Senator Addabbo.”