Queens Lawmakers On The Move Dec. 5, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Koo Lauds Signing Of Bills Relating To The City’s Potter’s Field

City Council Member Peter Koo/via Facebook

City Council Member Peter Koo (D-Bayside, College Point, Flushing, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Fresh Meadows, Whitestone) yesterday lauded Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signing four bills related to the future of Hart Island, which is also known as the city’s Potter’s FIeld – a place for the burial of unknown, unclaimed or indigent people.

Hart Island is a 131-acre island located in the Bronx, near City Island, at the western end of Long Island Sound. Besides serving as the city’s Potter’s Field, the island has served many roles, including a Civil War internment camp, a psychiatric institution, and a Nike Missile launch site for the United States Military.

The first measure,  Int. 906-A, transfers the control of Hart Island from the Department of Correction to NYC Parks. The second measure, Int. 909-B, mandates the creation of a public travel plan for Hart Island. The third measure, Int. 1580-A, requires a public hearing on burials. The last measure, 1559-A, establishes a Human Resources Administration (HRA)  office to support people in need of burial assistance.

The City recognizes that the current system for burying those who are indigent, unidentified or not claimed presents inherent complications for family and loved ones, and is not sustainable over the long term. This legislative package will further the Administration’s efforts to create a new path forward in the approach to public burials that is more responsive to the needs of families and loved ones. 

HRA released an RFI in September seeking information about alternative burial practices, including other possible locations. This is a first step in the process for HRA to eventually take over responsibility for burials of the indigent, unidentified and unclaimed under a new framework.

“The City of New York is looking to finally pay its respects to those interred in our largest burial ground at Hart Island. By transferring control to the Parks Department, we will give access to the families of the deceased and pull back island’s veil of secrecy that has existed for far too long,” said Koo, chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation.

CM Miller Lauds Signing Of Expanding Prevailing Wage Bill

Councilmember I. Daneek Miller

City Council Member I Daneek Miller (D-Cambria Heights, Hollis, Jamaica, St. Albans, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens) yesterday lauded Mayor Bill de Blasio signage of Intro. 1321-A, which will expand the guarantee of prevailing wages to building service workers in City financed projects. 

The prevailing wage for building service workers reflects the pay and benefits paid by the majority of private employers and requires benefits like health insurance, retirement, and paid time off.  Since 2012, prevailing wages were required for building service employees in most developments where a private developer received at least $1 million in discretionary financial assistance from the City. The 2012 law exempted all affordable housing projects from the wage standard.

The bill signed yesterday will cover additional developers and projects by removing the current exemption in the Prevailing Wage Law for affordable housing projects and not-for-profit developers of residential projects. Now, building service workers in most residential projects receiving financial assistance of at least $1 million for new construction or preservation will be guaranteed the prevailing wage. The bill exempts smaller residential projects with fewer than 120 units, certain supportive housing projects, deeply affordable preservation projects and NYCHA projects financed through the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program.

“My colleagues and I in the Council are committed to seeing working people prosper and earn wages that sustain families,” said Miller, chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor. “Since day one, we have fought to maintain the dignity of our workforce and provide protections for the men and women that make our city run every day. I am looking forward to witnessing the full implementation of this bill, and congratulate 32BJ for their success in this endeavor.”

Gillibrand Addresses Steep Rise In Military And Veteran Suicides 

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, yesterday led a subcommittee hearing to examine the issue of service member, family, and veteran suicides, and strategies to prevent these tragedies.

Gillibrand first called for this hearing immediately following a U.S. Department of Defense report showing that service member suicide rates spiked in 2018 after rising steadily for years. According to the DoD report, 541 service members died by suicide in 2018, and suicide rates had been increasing every year for the past five years before this year’s alarming spike. The increase in suicides is especially prevalent among younger service members and veterans.

“There has been a narrative for a long time that military suicide is due primarily to PTSD and combat missions, and we must take the toll of combat on military members very seriously. But the report clearly demonstrates that combat missions are not directly correlative to the service members who die by suicide,” said Gillibrand in her opening remarks at the hearing.

Gillibrand noted the military and the DoD spend more and more each year on suicide prevention, but the results are not nearly good enough and more needs to be done.

“I urge the Department of Defense to review their reporting rules for mental health professionals to ensure that they are allowing for maximum confidentiality for our service members while also protecting them from those around them. If we can eliminate the barriers that stand between our service members and access to mental healthcare, I believe we can begin to make progress toward addressing our military suicide rate,” Gillibrand said.

Cuomo Names TWA Hotel At JFK Airport As Historic Preservation Award Recipient

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo yesterday announced that the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport was one of the 10 projects that have received 2019 State Historic Preservation Awards. 

“New York has transformed over centuries into a state defined by its diverse history, and there is no better way to see that history than in our unique architecture and places,” said Cuomo. “These historic awards and nominations will proudly preserve the lives and stories of countless New Yorkers into the future.”

Created in 1980, the State Historic Preservation Awards are awarded by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation each year to honor excellence in the protection and revitalization of historic and cultural resources. The Governor also signed legislation in 2013 to bolster state use of rehabilitation tax credits, which have spurred billions of dollars in completed investments of historic commercial properties and tens of millions in owner-occupied historic homes.

The TWA Hotel transformed the former Trans World Airlines terminal, which was designed by world-renowned architect Eero Saarinen in 1962 and closed to the public in 2001, into the centerpiece of a modern 512-room hotel that preserves its neo-futuristic design. 

The hotel has 50,000 square feet of event space, a 10,000-square-foot observation deck and pool, and a 10,000 square-foot fitness facility. Opening in May 2019, the project also incorporated a Lockheed Constellation L1649A “Starliner” aircraft – a post-WWII passenger airliner and one of only four remaining in the world – as a cocktail lounge.