Queens Lawmakers On The Move June 26, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Meeks Introduces Resolution Designating June as African American Music Appreciation Month

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks

U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica, Laurelton, Rosedale, Cambria Heights, Saint Albans, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway, JFK Airport) alongside U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) yesterday introduced a resolution honoring the contributions of African Americans to America’s musical heritage. 

The resolution also calls for greater access to music education for African American students, who received the lowest scores of all ethnicities on the most recent National Assessment for Educational Progress arts assessment. Another recent Department of Education (DOE) study found that only seven percent of music teacher licensure candidates were African American.

“The Senate recognizes the contributions of African Americans to the musical heritage of the United States; the wide array of talented and popular African-American musical artists, composers, song-writers, and musicians who are underrecognized for contributions to music; the achievements, talent, and hard work of African-American pioneer artists, and the obstacles that those artists overcame to gain recognition; the need for African-American students to have greater access to and participation in music education in schools across the United States; and Black History Month and African-American Music Appreciation Month as an important time to celebrate the impact of the African- American musical heritage on the musical heritage of the United States; and to encourage greater access to music education so that the next generation may continue to greatly contribute to the musical heritage of the United States,” read an excerpt from the bill.

Meng Calls For Review of How FAA Handles Impact of Aircraft Noise Over Queens 

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth) yesterday called on the head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has considered community noise impacts while implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) in major metropolitan areas such as Queens and the rest of the New York area. 

NextGen is the FAA-led modernization of the nation’s air transportation system to increase the safety, efficiency, capacity, predictability, and resiliency of U.S. aviation. Part of this new effort involves new flight routes, which have caused communities to experience increased aircraft noise.

The Congresswoman called for the review in a letter, with 28 other Members of Congress, to Gene Dodaro, the Comptroller General of the United States. Meng is a founding member and former Co-Chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus. Queens is home to both of the city’s main airports, Laguardia and John F. Kennedy International located in East Elmhurst and Jamaica, respectively.

“The impact of airplane noise on my constituents is unacceptable and continues to impact their quality of life. “I’m pleased to be part of this letter calling on GAO to review how the FAA measures aircraft noise, how it evaluates and mitigates noise impacts, and the extent to which the FAA has worked with and responded to communities impacted by airplane noise,” said Meng. 

“The reality is – for those in my district – the constant bombardment of noise is unbearable. That is why, I believe it is necessary for GAO to study this issue and provide insight into how communities are affected by NextGen. I urge GAO to take up this study for the good of my constituents, and all those affected by airplane noise,” added Meng.  

Simotas Announces Passage of Bill Expanding Employee Protections Against Sexual Harassment In Workplace 

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria, Long Island City) announced yesterday that her bill extending the rights of employees against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace passed both the NYS Assembly and Senate.  

The new protections take a comprehensive approach to reducing sexual harassment, focusing on the rights of the employee and the responsibilities of the employer. On the reporting end, this bill extends the statute of limitations to report sexual harassment to the Division of Human Rights to three years from the discriminatory act, widening the window for reporting and seeking damages. 

The bill also extends sexual harassment protections to employees of small businesses of all sizes, whereas protections previously would have only applied to employers who have four or more employees. Additionally, the bill prohibits non- disclosure agreements that prevent employees from initiating or participating in an investigation conducted by a federal, state, or local agency, sharing information necessary to receive unemployment or other public benefits, or speaking with an attorney.

“No one should be forced to work in a toxic environment or subjected to any form of harassment as the cost of earning a living. We must send a clear message to New York’s workforce that it is our responsibility to protect workers, not institutions that enable harassers,” said Simotas. 

“With this legislation, we will create stronger safeguards against harassment and eliminate barriers to justice so that employees who have been harmed can find relief and we can move towards eradicating the root causes of these abuses of power,” added Simotas.

Addabbo Applauds Senate Passage Of “Robocall Prevention Act”

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth and parts of South Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Woodside, The Rockaways) yesterday applauded New York State Senate passage of the “Robocall Prevention Act.”

The bill (S.3297-D), co-sponsored by Addabbo, would limit robocalls to state residents and requires telephone service providers to offer free call mitigation technology to telephone customers. The measure requires telephone service providers to supply consumers with technology that can identify and block unwanted calls. Although some providers do offer call mitigation technology for free, others charge for its services, or haven’t made it widely available or easy to use, especially for VoIP landline phones. The bill would require this technology be made available free of charge, to any consumer who requests it.

According to YouMail, a company that tracks robocalls, 25 billion robocalls have been placed nationwide in the first five months of 2019. Unwanted robocalls have disproportionately targeted New Yorkers who have logged 1.5 billion robocalls so far in 2019. 

Weak oversight and the abundance of new technology have led to the sharp rise in robocalls. Land-lines have very limited protections which leads to a disproportionate impact on the elderly. Technologically, the arrival of Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) dialing has allowed companies to discharge millions of calls for pennies and spoofing, or the ability to fake a telephone number, makes consumers even more vulnerable to unwanted calls and scams. This technology has undermined the effectiveness of the federal government’s Do Not Call Registry, which previously protected New Yorkers from telemarketers.

“Robocalls are not only irritating but they undermine both privacy and safety, use up low-income consumer’s limited minutes and subject consumers to harassing telemarketing and debt collecting tactics. This legislation will restore control to the consumer and eliminate the daily barrage of unwanted calls,” said Addabbo.