Queens Lawmakers On The Move Oct. 17, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Van Bramer, Salazar Oppose City’s Plan To Create Borough-Based Jails

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

In a joint statement, Queens City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside) and Brooklyn State Sen. Julia Salazar (D-D-Bushwick, Cypress Hills, Greenpoint, Williamsburgh, parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, East New York)  expressed opposition to the city’s $8.7 billion plan to shutter the Rikers Island prison and build four borough-based jails.

“Build new jails or keep Rikers open is a false choice. We know that if more jail cells are built, those cells will be filled, and it will predominantly impact black and brown communities. The City should be focused on decarceration, not investing $10 billion back into the failed, racist prison industrial complex,” the lawmakers said.

“That $10 billion dollars would be better spent on vital community resources like public education, housing, and job training that are proven to expand opportunity and reduce crime. We must seize the opportunity to close Rikers and invest in programs and services that provide incarceration alternatives and prevent others from entering the criminal justice system in the first place,” they added.

The matter is expected to come to a vote today at the city council’s stated meeting.

Grodenchik Supports Closing Rikers, Building Borough-Based Jails

City Councilmember Barry Grodenchik

City Councilmember Barry Grodenchik (D-Bayside, Queens, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Holliswood, Jamaica Estates, Little Neck Oakland Gardens, Queens Village) yesterday said he supports both the closing of the Rikers Island prison and the city’s $8.7 billion plan to build four borough-based jails.

Grodenchik’s comments come as the city council is expected to vote on the matter at today’s stated meeting.

“I am supporting the closing of Rikers Island and the move toward borough-based jails based on serious concerns about the conditions on Rikers Island and the impact of its location on those who are involved with the criminal justice system as well as those who live in nearby Queens neighborhoods,

“Former United States Attorney Preet Bharara’s investigation found abusive conditions that violate inmates’ constitutional rights and called Rikers Island a broken institution. Former New York State chief judge Jonathan Lippman’s report determined “that simply reducing the inmate population, renovating the existing facilities, or increasing resources will not solve the deep, underlying issues on Rikers Island” and called closing the facility “a moral imperative.”

“Shifting Rikers’s population to borough-based jails will directly benefit Queens neighborhoods.  The facility’s current location requires inmates to be transported in and out at significant expense and inconvenience; they have trekked across Queens whenever they have court appearances, and none of the courthouses are close to Rikers. The new Queens jail will be directly connected to the criminal courthouse in Kew Gardens, allowing for the seamless transmission of inmates between the two buildings.

“Simply put, in addition to being more convenient for attorneys, family members, and other visitors, the new facilities will be cleaner, safer, more modern, and more cost-efficient than Rikers. This decision maintains the integrity of our criminal justice system and is right for Queens,” said Grodenchik.

Weprin Statement on Death of Police Officer Linhong Li

Assemblyman David Weprin

Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows, Richmond Hill) issued the following statement mourning the death of New York City Police Department Police Officer Linhong Li.

Li, 33, committed suicide Tuesday night at his home in Queens – the 10th NYPD suicide this year.

“It is with great sadness that I join the NYPD and Fresh Meadows community to mourn the death of local community member Police Officer Linhong Li. Officer Li bravely served our city at the 24th precinct on the Upper West Side after graduating from the police academy. Prior to that, he served our country as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq. Tragically, he is the 10th member of the NYPD to take his own life this year. Our police officers face multiple stresses and traumas on the job each day while protecting us and I urge our officers to seek assistance when necessary and take advantage of the NYPD’s mental health services,” said Weprin.

“Officer Li will be remembered as a dedicated public servant and his passing is a great loss for the Borough of Queens and New York City. My heartfelt condolences go out to his wife and family at this difficult time.”

Nolan Lauds Record Increases In School Internet Capacity

Assembly Woman Catherine Nolan

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Sunnyside, Ridgewood, Astoria, Woodside, Long Island City, Maspeth, Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Dutch Kills, Blissville) applauded Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza announcement yesterday of record increases in internet access in schools. 

Since 2015, the Department of Education has boosted citywide core internet connectivity by 15 times, from 9 Gbps to 140 Gbps. Between Fall 2017 and Summer 2019, the DOE also performed a “fiber infrastructure upgrade” at all of the DOE’s approximately 1,300 school buildings — increasing each school’s circuit capacity from 10 Mbps in 2015 to a minimum of 100 Mbps citywide.

These improvements to citywide and school capacity are necessary for faster Internet and more computers at schools. The City is also updating hardware and software including routers, switchers, and firewalls to ensure schools can take full advantage of the infrastructure improvements. Each school will have a “School Tech Refresh” with hardware and software updates every five years. 

Since the start of this administration, the DOE has committed $650 million in capital funding to upgrade technology. This investment includes the ongoing replacement of school-level equipment, including routers, switchers, firewalls, and wireless access points that enable schools to take full advantage of the increased internet capacity. Schools will receive upgraded equipment every five years.

“It is so critical that all of our students have access to technology and the opportunity to learn how to use it.  Under Speaker [Carl] Heastie, our Assembly Majority has made this funding a priority, together with capital funds to eliminate trailers and temporary classroom units, to deliver key state funding to supplement the City of New York’s own commitment to this worthwhile goal. Congratulations to Chancellor Carranza on this important achievement,” said Nolan.