Queens Lawmakers On The Move July 8, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Meng Calls For Improved Data of Lead Water Lines

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), last week joined by members of the city’s Congressional delegation, sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler encouraging his agency to require all water systems to collect, maintain, and publish data on water lines made out of lead, which are known as Lead Service Lines (LSLs).

Drinking water from LSLs can pose health hazards as lead leaches into the water when lines age. The effects on children are especially severe, potentially causing irreversible neurological and behavioral damages such as reduced IQ and shorter attention spans, according to the World Health Organization. In order to replace all LSLs in the United States, data on where such lines exist must be available; currently, this data does not exist.

That is why states and municipalities, such as New York City, have implemented plans to ensure the safety of drinking water including the NYC Parks Department testing outdoor drinking fountains for lead and remedying problems that are found.

While some states and municipalities have developed plans and guidelines to address LSLs, there is a lack of reliable national data to estimate the cost of replacing LSLs. An EPA requirement for data collection would allow better data information to be used in initiatives to replace LSLs.

“Safe and clean drinking water is a basic human right,” said Meng. “We cannot remain ignorant to the lead pipes across the nation that adversely affect the health of us and our children. This data collection will be critical for Congress and the EPA to eliminate these health hazards from our country.”

Meng called for the EPA to require the additional data when the Lead and Copper Rule is updated in 2020. The rule seeks to decrease the amount of lead and copper in public drinking water.

Meeks Leads NYC Delegation Letter to CBP Decrying Derisive Facebook Group

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks

U.S. Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-Jamaica, Laurelton, Rosedale, Cambria Heights, Saint Albans, Springfield Gardens, The Rockaways, JFK Airport) last week was the lead writer that included the city’s entire Congressional delegation in firing off a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in response to reports on an online Facebook page where current and former CBP employees shared offensive and derisive material about migrants. 

The letter to CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan expressed deep concerns by revelations of over 9,000 current and former employees of the CBP participating in a Facebook group where derogatory and racially offensive comments and content are shared. 

“Some of the material suggests that these employees, who have the public trust to look after refugees and migrants at our border, are dehumanizing these children and families. That content included jokes about the death of a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy.

The letter asked the CBP to address the following questions:

1)      Does CBP have protocols for actively evaluating personnel of potential de-sensitization and/or racial and gender prejudice that could interfere with their duties?

2)      What efforts has CBP undertaken or will it take to address the potential culture of dehumanization in regards to migrants and refugees?

3)      What training does CBP personnel receive for upholding the standards of conduct of the agency outside working hours, and what mechanisms are in place when a breach of conduct occurs?

4)      How many reports were made to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General by migrants, health care professionals, ngos, lawyers, and other concerned groups about inappropriate behavior by CBP personnel, both on or off duty, for each month and location between January 2017 and August 2019?

5)      We understand from reports that CBP has contacted the Department of Homeland Security to launch an investigation into staff associated with the Facebook page; aside of termination of personnel found to have violated standards of conduct, what if any actions are you prepared to take in order to address and remedy any damage associated with their behavior?

The lawmakers await a prompt response.

Cruz, Weprin Join Onto U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Brief In Support of LGBTQ

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz.
Assemblymember David Weprin

Assembly Member Catalina Cruz (D-Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) and David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows, Richmond Hill) last week joined with the de Blasio Administration in announcing the city along with Los Angeles and a coalition of 66 local governments across the nation in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of three LGBTQ employees in their legal fight to remain covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in the workplace.

Amici supports plaintiffs in the following cases:

R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. EEOC & Aimee Stephens – Funeral home director fired after informing owner that she is transgender.

Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda – Skydiving instructor fired after disclosing that he was gay.

Bostock v. Clayton County – Child welfare services coordinator fired after employer learned he is gay.

The brief argues that government agencies, institutions and communities are strengthened by longstanding local laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex, and that these institutions and individuals would be harmed if the Court eliminates federal discrimination protections for LGBTQ workers.

“New York City has consistently sought to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community and has lead the nationwide initiative to eradicate workplace discrimination.  I strongly support the Amicus Brief filed by the City supporting the Plaintiffs in these anti-discrimination cases, and in opposition to those employers who seek to narrow already-existing federal law in order to exclude LGBTQ workers from discrimination protections.  It is time that the rest of the country catch up to New York City and take a greater initiative to protect LGBTQ individuals in the workplace, as well as in their communities,” said Cruz.

“No group should be subject to discrimination in the workplace including LGBTQ workers who have faced many hardships. Diversity in the workplace is one of our country’s great strengths and we are constitutionally obligated to eradicate discrimination based sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Weprin. “LGBTQ rights are human rights and I urge the Court to uphold protections for workers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”