Queens Lawmakers On The Move June 21, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Constantinides Announces Astoria Houses Senior Center to Remain Open

City Council Member Costa Constantinides

City Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights), other elected officials and community leaders announced yesterday that the Astoria Houses Senior Center will remain open after proposed budget cuts threatened to shutter the facility, where a $500,000 renovation is just completing.

Earlier this year, the de Blasio administration threatened to close the center along with 11 other such facilities that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) operated. Astoria Houses seniors instead would have been bused to the Queensbridge Houses senior center — located almost two miles away.

The new Fiscal Year 2020 budget, however, transfers control of the center to the Department for the Aging with City Council support.

“Today, we can celebrate both the opening of the renovated senior center, which will be able to hold more people, as well as its continued service to this community,” said Constantinides. “Though these cuts should not have been proposed in the first place, but the City Council made sure these seniors wouldn’t have to get on a bus and travel down cramped streets for basic services. This wouldn’t be possible without the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson or Finance Chair Daniel Dromm. I want to thank the Astoria Houses community, led by Claudia Coger, and government partners including Senator Michael Gianaris for joining us in this fight.”

Weprin Legislation Enabling Adoptees to Access Birth Certificates Passes Assembly

Assembly Member David Weprin

Assemblymember David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows, Richmond Hill) along with Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Health Committee Chair Richard N.Gottfried (D-Manhattan) yesterday announced the Assembly has passed legislation that would allow adoptees to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate (A.5494, Weprin).

Under the bill, adult adoptees 18 years and older would be able to receive a certified copy of their original long form birth certificate. If the adoptee is deceased, the adopted person’s direct line of descendants, the lawful representative of such adopted person or lawful representatives of such deceased adopted person’s direct line of descendants would be able to receive the birth certificate of the adoptee.

“For too long New York’s archaic laws have denied adult adoptees access to background information and a complete health history that nearly everyone has a legal right to, including those who ‘age-out’ of foster care,” said Weprin. “Our outdated laws are designed to protect the anonymity of birth parents that may not have even requested it, with no regard for the needs of the adoptee. Today’s legislation will deliver equality for all New York adoptees.”

Under current law, original birth certificates are placed under seal and cannot be accessed without a judicial proceeding, which does not guarantee that the adoptee will be given access.

Vallone Secures Nearly $19 Million for Northeast Queens Improvements

City Council Member Paul Vallone

City Council Member Paul Vallone (D-Auburndale, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Beechhurst, College Point, Douglaston, Flushing, Little Neck, Malba, Whitestone) yesterday announced he has secured $19 million in funding for Northeast Queens as part of the council’s recently passed $92.8 billion FY 2020 city budget.

In Vallone’s six years in the City Council, he has secured over $100 million in funding, a number that eclipses two decades of city budgets for the same district before he was elected to office.

“For a sixth straight year, I am proud to report record-setting funding for Northeast Queens,” said Vallone. “These budget victories would not have been possible without close work and collaboration with our City Council Speaker Cory Johnson (D-Manhattan) and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and I thank them for their ongoing partnership.”

In total, Vallone has secured over $6 million for his district’s schools and nearly $5 million for parks.

Vallone will provide over $1 million to support nonprofits exclusively in his district, such as Alley Pond Environmental Center, HANAC, Selfhelp Community Services, and the New York Junior Tennis League. Funding allocations will also allow the continuation of the Senior Transportation Program and Annual Independence Day Fireworks Show.

Also increased were the amount of schools that will receive Cultural After-School Adventure (CASA) programming, which provides cultural experiences for students by partnering with local nonprofits including Inside Broadway, Marquis Studios and the Queens Museum of Art.

Velázquez Calls For Impeachment Inquiry

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez

U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn) yesterday called for a Congressional impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump in a video message available online here.

“In December of 2016, I was the very first Member of Congress to call for the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and other potential wrongdoing.  It was my belief, at the time, that such an appointment was a necessary step to investigate how our democracy was attacked. I’ve said time and again that I wanted to see the Special Counsel complete his investigation. To that end, I’ve worked with my colleagues to protect his office from political interference.

“Since Special Counsel Mueller completed his work and the report was partially released in April, I’ve supported efforts by the House Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, the Oversight Committee and the Financial Services Committee to investigate further and conduct additional oversight.   

“I still strongly support those efforts. I’ve also, since then, been listening to my constituents, carefully reviewing the Mueller report and contemplating how our nation can best proceed. I’ve now come to the conclusion that it is time for the House Judiciary Committee to launch an impeachment inquiry.  I do not arrive at this conclusion lightly, nor take any pleasure in it. But, I simply do not see another viable option.

“Robert Mueller made clear in his report that he believed DOJ policy legally prohibited him from indicting a sitting President. The Special Counsel’s report also makes clear that it does not ‘exonerate’ the President of criminal wrongdoing.

“In fact, there are multiple instances documented in the report that strongly suggest – if Donald Trump were not President of the United States – he would be facing criminal charges for obstruction of justice.

“In recent weeks, this Administration has further upped the ante in its efforts to dodge Congressional scrutiny.  The President has continued a pattern of stonewalling Congress as it tries to carry out its constitutionally-mandated oversight responsibilities.

“Former Administration officials have ignored subpoenas to testify before Congress.   The Treasury Secretary has refused to release the President’s tax returns. Not only does this behavior prevent Congress from doing its job, but it inflicts damage on our system of checks and balances and the rule of law in our country.  In the United States, no one is above the law – not even the President.

“I was particularly alarmed this past weekend when the President, on national television, seemed to invite further foreign meddling in our elections.  Actions like these threaten to erode our democracy.

“I’ve long viewed impeachment as a last resort — not just because it is politically divisive, but also because such a course of action must be grounded in the facts.  Today, given the facts available, I believe an impeachment inquiry is the only path forward. Congress has a solemn duty to hold this President accountable and I intend to live up to that duty. This is a difficult time for our country. But, I believe deeply that we will find our way. We will continue to be guided by our constitution and hold sacred the rule of law — and we will preserve our democratic norms and institutions,” said Velazquez.

Gillibrand Announces Legislation To Block Proposed HUD Rule Against Undocumented Immigrants

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) yesterday introduced legislation to block a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule that would prohibit families from receiving federal housing aid if there is at least one member who is undocumented living in the household.

This rule proposed by HUD last month would require families receiving federal housing aid, such as those that live in public housing or receive Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, to provide evidence of citizenship or eligible immigration status for each member in the household.

If implemented, these new documentation requirements would put approximately 108,000 individuals, including an estimated 55,000 children, at risk of eviction, homelessness, or family separation. Gillibrand’s legislation would block this new rule from being implemented.

“This proposed HUD rule is another example of the Trump Administration’s clear and relentless attacks against immigrant families across this country. Undocumented immigrants are already ineligible from receiving federal housing assistance, however, this new rule would punish their entire families and would deliberately put tens of thousands of individuals, including children, at risk of eviction, homelessness, or family separation,” said Gillibrand.

“HUD should be doing everything in its power to end homelessness, but this rule would do the opposite. It’s Congress’s responsibility to step in and protect vulnerable families, and I urge my colleagues to support my legislation and prevent this HUD proposal from being implemented.”