Queens Lawmakers On The Move July 29, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Meng Urges De Blasio To Begin Lead Testing In Queens NYCHA Developments

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) Friday urged Mayor de Blasio to expedite the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) lead paint testing initiative so that testing can finally begin at complexes in Queens.

“While the city rightly prioritized testing in complexes with the highest number of children under 6, the reported backlog on testing and failure to begin testing in Queens is unacceptable,” Meng wrote in a letter to the Mayor. “As of July 23, not a single NYCHA complex in Queens has been tested. Located in my district, the Pomonok Houses, in particular, have the highest number of children under 6 in Queens – fourth highest across all NYCHA complexes; but these have yet to be tested. In these houses, each of the more than 300 children under 6 are threatened by the dangers of lead poisoning. I urge you to expedite the testing process throughout the city and begin testing in Queens as soon as possible.”

Meng’s district includes three NYCHA developments: Pomonok, Latimer Gardens, and the Bland Houses, all of which are located in Flushing.

“Inspecting approximately 135,000 apartments throughout the city is a vast undertaking,” said Meng. “But that challenge cannot get in the way of testing housing units in Queens. Health and safety must always be the top priority for all who reside in NYCHA complexes, particularly children, who should never be forced to endure exposure to lead. I await answers from the Mayor.”

Constantinides TV Stations for Including Dem Presidential Primary Forums On Climate Change

City Council Member Costa Constantinides

City Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), chair of the council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, said Friday he was heartened on the CNN and MSNBC decision to host a climate town hall or a climate forum in the coming weeks.

In June, Constantinides penned a letter to NBC News President Andrew Lack asking the network dedicate significant time to how candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in 2020 would fight climate change. The letter came after the DNC blocked Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D-WA) request for a climate change-specific debate.

“Our calls to bring climate change onto the national stage have been answered. CNN and MSNBC should be applauded for their forward-thinking decisions to hold Democratic presidential primary forums focused solely on this existential threat. Anyone who’s walked around New York City in the last two weeks knows this phenomenon is a clear and present danger that our entire nation should’ve addressed yesterday,” said Constantinides.

“Americans deserve to know how potential nominees will get us out of this crisis, because the Trump administration has clearly prioritized pollution over people. If CNN has not selected a venue for its New York City forum, I’d recommend holding it in Queens, which saw some of the worst damage from Sandy and will be the borough most affected by climate change in the coming decades,” he added.

Meeks Warns of GAO Report Revealing Cyber Vulnerabilities 

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.) Friday issued the following statement regarding a U.S. Government of Accountability Office (GAO) report he requested to investigate alleged fraudulent comment submissions to the U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s public comment period of its rulemaking process. 

This is the first of two anticipated reports, particularly focusing on what if any guidelines and policies agencies have to assess and track the integrity of public comments:

“In 2017 I asked GAO to investigate the deluge of suspicious and potentially fake comments submitted to the FCC during its open comment period for the proposed reversal of net neutrality. It was clear then that open comment periods, during which the general public is supposed to be able to convey their thoughts and concerns on a proposed rule, are susceptible to cyber-attacks meant to obscure and suppress public opinion. Today’s public release of their analysis confirms that fear, and worse, show’s that this vulnerability is not limited to FCC but to many of our agencies,” said Meeks.

“Our agencies must modernize their systems for tracking and assessing the validity of comment submissions, filtering out nefarious attempts by bots to skew the sentiments of the public. There needs to be protocols in place to discern which comments are duplicative, which are fabricated, and collect information that could assist in tracking where attacks are being organized. Thankfully this GAO report lays out a roadmap for that modernization, providing recommendations that now agencies are beginning to take.

“The digital age has made it easier for our democracy to be more direct, but also more exposed to subversion. We have seen that in our election, and we are seeing that in our agencies. Public input is indispensable in the designing of sound policy, and even one incidence of fraudulent activity threatens to undermine the legitimacy of public comments as a whole. The ability of people to contribute to public comments must be preserved,” he added.

GAO Report: https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-19-483

Kim District Report Show Continued Economic Distress In Queens

Assemblymember Ron Kim

Assemblymember Ron Kim (D-Whitestone, Flushing, College Point, Murray Hill) and his staff on Friday unveiled a district trends report that showed continued economic distress in his district and Queens as a whole.

The “snapshot” of constituent concerns and issues came from gathering and analyzing constituents cases data from 2017-2019. 

“Unsurprisingly, housing remains the most important issue for this period of time, as it has been since I first entered office. The demand for financial literacy and requests for tax-related assistance remains our most popular seasonal program, followed up a broader but persistent need year-round need for greater translation and language access services. I thank my team for their hard work in compiling this report, and hope it helps to illuminate our path forward as an office devoted to public service.”

A copy of the report can be viewed here.

Schumer To Feds: Keep Honey Bees Healthy And Buzzing

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) yesterday decried a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) decision to stop collecting data on honey bees that puts the species and the New York State economy at risk. 

Schumer said that New York is a hive of productivity, but that this recent decision by the feds could derail much of what keeps our state competitive and robust as an agricultural hub. He called on the USDA to reverse course immediately, and instead, step-up their work on bee populations.

“Now it sure helps, but you don’t need to be a beekeeper to understand that bees pollinate the Big Apple and Long Island,” said Schumer. “Really, all you need to do is look around the city and the Island and you will see that we are a hive of productivity—and it’s because of the bees. From farmers’ markets, to farm-to-table restaurants that act as an economic boost, to Hudson Valley farming that solidifies our area as an agricultural hub, we have a lot to tout—and it is because of bees.”

Schumer said the dwindling bee population is of particular concern for New York City and Long Island, which is a hive of economic activity. For example, bees on Manhattan rooftops pollinate flowers and plants in Central Park. And according to USDA, agricultural production on Long Island alone reaches upwards of $250 million, due significantly to the work of the 450 species of wild pollinators across New York. 

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