Queens Lawmakers On The Move Aug. 26, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Katz To Hold “Public Charge” Rule Town Hall

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz

Queens Borough President Katz and the New York Immigration Coalition announced last week that in the wake of the federal government’s latest attack on immigrant families through the Trump Administration’s proposed “Public Charge” rule they will hold a Town Hall on the issue next month.

The town hall will be held just under one month before the federal government’s new immigration policy on who can be labeled a “public charge” is scheduled to go into effect on October 15, pending a legal challenge by a number of states, including New York. 

Under current law, immigrants applying for entry into the United States or for lawful permanent residency can be denied and labeled a “public charge” for participating or being seen as likely to participate in various federal, state or local cash assistance programs, or for receiving long term institutional care.

However, the federal government’s new guidance — which does not apply to refugees, those seeking asylum or those granted asylum — would significantly expand the criteria for who can be labeled a “public charge” to include immigrants who participate or are seen as likely to participate in federal public benefit programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid or Section 8 housing assistance.

In September 2018, the Department of Homeland Security issued its proposal to significantly broaden the criteria it could use to label an immigrant applying for legal residency as a “public charge.” The proposed rule change was published in the Federal Register in October 2018.

During the ensuing public comment period, more than 266,000 individuals submitted comments to the Federal Register — the overwhelming majority of whom were opposed to the proposed change — including Katz, who stated the following:

“The proposed rule change would disproportionately impact the borough of Queens. We are the most ethnically and racially diverse county in the United States. Almost half (47.8%) of our population is foreign-born. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 68,000 children in Queens County live in mixed-status families the highest proportion in all of New York State,” wrote Katz. “I am deeply concerned that the threat of this new rule would have a chilling effect on these families temporarily in need of assistance, resulting in them opting not to apply for government help for their eligible relatives who are U.S. citizens.

“Without SNAP and housing assistance, children would fall behind in school. In an emergency, constituents would be afraid to turn to their government for help. The proposed expansion of the public charge determination would compromise our ability to build public trust,” she added.

The Town Hall is slated for 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens.

Meng Wants Trump To Prioritize Amazon Fires

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) on Friday sent a letter to President Trump calling on him to make the Amazon wildfires a top priority at this past weekend’s G7 Summit.

In the correspondence, Meng also urged the president to convene a global summit to devise solutions to curb the decimation of the Amazon.

“The Amazon is known as Earth’s lungs and the raging wildfires there have been devastating,” said Meng. “We cannot afford to lose this critical oxygen resource for our entire planet. This is a travesty of epic proportions, not just for the millions of Indigenous people and species that live in the Amazon, but for the future of all humanity. I vehemently urge President Trump to address this global emergency at the G7 Summit.”

Van Bramer Announces $3.7 Million Funding For Rainey Park

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside) on Friday announced that he secured $3.7 million in new funding in the City’s FY 2020 budget to revamp and restore Rainey Park in Astoria. 

The renovations will include improvements to the park’s play areas, athletic fields, sidewalks, and green spaces.

“I am proud to have secured $3.7 million in this year’s budget to renovate Rainey Park, adding to the $3 million I have already allocated to the project. This will be the first upgrade to Rainey Park in over a decade,” said Van Bramer. “Rainey Park is beloved by our Ravenswood community and local schools, and it provides much-needed green space to the surrounding Astoria and Long Island City areas. It is critical that we continually invest in our parks and provide all children and families with the beautiful, modernized public open spaces that they deserve.”

“From Hunters Point to Astoria, the waterfront parks of Western Queens offer stunning views and a variety of sports and recreational opportunities,” said NYC Parks Queens Borough Commissioner Michael Dockett. “We’re thrilled to announce the newest investment in our waterfront at Rainey Park in Ravenswood, Queens, thanks to generous allocations from Council Member Van Bramer and previous funding from Borough President Katz. We look forward to getting to work designing these new amenities.”

Addabbo Decries Glendale Homeless Shelter Site Announcement 

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth and parts of South Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Woodside, The Rockaways) on Friday decried the de Blasio Administration’s recent announcement they will open a homeless shelter in Glendale.

“With my district on the verge of having Mayor De Blasio place a fourth large population of homeless men within its boundaries, most recently proposed for Glendale, I will continue to oppose larger scaled shelters with limited services and inadequate transportation, while advocating for smaller, more community-appropriate sites that would better serve the homeless individuals in need,” said Addabbo.

“Where is the major progress being made to address the homeless crisis after the more than $2 billion overhaul of the Department of Homeless Services? Where are the affordable housing projects that were promised? Where is the cooperative working relationship with the local elected officials and community residents to help find real credible solutions for the homeless? Are we really “Turning the Tide” on solving the homeless crisis as the Mayor planned? Where is the creative thinking to seriously address the severe homeless situation in our city? What about utilizing city-owned sites and properties for cost-efficient modular housing as done in other states? What about developing abandoned zombie homes and providing a better living environment for homeless families, especially the children? I guess after witnessing 5 years of the De Blasio administration’s treatment of the homeless crisis, we may never know the answers,” the lawmaker added.

Cuomo Announces Second Kosciuszko Bridge To Open Thursday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Friday that the second span of the Kosciuszko Bridge will open to traffic before rush hour early Thursday morning, August 29. 

The Kosciuszko Bridge project will replace the existing 77-year-old bridge, first opened in 1939 under President Roosevelt’s administration, with two new state-of-the-art, cable-stayed bridges, one Queens-bound and one Brooklyn-bound.

The Kosciuszko Bridge, which will be the first new major bridge crossing constructed in New York City since the Verrazzano Bridge in 1964 and is four years ahead of schedule and on budget, will be open to the public from 12 noon – 6 p.m. for the community to bike or walk over the new bridge before it opens to traffic on early Thursday morning. 

“While the federal administration obsesses over building walls, in New York we are building bridges and other infrastructure critical to moving our 21st-century economy forward,” said Cuomo. “With the opening of the second span of the new Kosciuszko Bridge on Wednesday, we will once again demonstrate to the nation that it’s possible to take on big projects and to get them done on time and on budget.”

Starting early Thursday morning, the Queens-bound bridge will carry five lanes of traffic and a separate Brooklyn-bound bridge will carry four lanes, as well as a 20-feet-wide bikeway/walkway with spectacular views of Manhattan. 

Shoulders have been added to both bridges, where none currently exist. The roadway incline has also been lowered by approximately 35 feet, making it easier for trucks and other large vehicles to maintain consistent speeds on the bridge – helping reduce traffic congestion. In April 2017, traffic was shifted onto the new Queens-bound bridge and the existing bridge was removed to complete Phase 1 of the project.