Queens Lawmakers On The Move Jan. 17, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Queens Elected Demand DOE Answer To Harassment & Sexual Assault At Bayside Middle School

State Sen. John Liu
City Council Member Paul Vallone

Queens electeds including U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, Councilman Paul Vallone, State Senator John Liu, Councilman Barry Grodenchik, Councilman Peter Koo, and Assemblymembers Nily Rozic and Ed Braunstein – announced that they sent a letter to City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza demanding answers about reports of harassment and sexual assault of students at Marie Curie Middle School (M.S. 158) in Bayside.

According to recent reports, school personnel did little to address the sexual harassment of an eighth grader, and failed to stop an attack in which a 13-year-old student was beaten. In addition, another student was reportedly sexually abused when a classmate forcibly put his finger in his rectum.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

“These reported incidents are horrifying, and the apparent lack of action is deeply troubling and absolutely unacceptable,” said Meng. “No student should be subjected to harassment and violence at school. Our schools must be safe and welcoming environments for each and every student. When students are in school, they should be focused on learning, not worrying about their safety. Chancellor Carranza must immediately address the issues we’ve raised, and I await his reply to our letter. As the mother of two young boys who attend local public schools, I firmly believe that nothing is more important than ensuring the safety of our children.”

“As a representative and a parent, I am deeply disturbed by the recent incidents that have taken place at M.S. 158,” said Vallone. “When Chancellor Carranza comes to District 26 on Thursday, we expect answers and a clear action plan for this troubled school.”

“Students must feel safe and secure in their classrooms, and parents and teachers must trust that schools and the Department of Education will address problems swiftly, effectively and fairly,” said Liu. “Recent reports from this middle school indicate that procedures are not firmly in place to deal with incidents of harassment. We are ready to work with the school community and DOE to improve their response and ensure our school children can learn without fear.”

City Councilmember Barry Grodenchik

“The Education Department must have zero tolerance for harassment or violence in our schools,” said Grodenchik. “Every student has a right to learn in a safe environment.”

“It must be the first priority of the DOE to ensure the safety and security of all children within its walls,” said Koo. “Concerns of harassment of any kind must be treated with the utmost sincerity and sensitivity so that our students, parents and teachers can remain confident in the integrity of our school system.”

“The reports coming out of M.S. 158 Marie Curie send an alarming message that students’ safety is in jeopardy,” said Rozic. “Families deserve peace of mind in knowing that their children’s safety is of the utmost priority and that no effort is spared to ensure appropriate steps are being taken to hold individuals accountable. I look forward to the completion of DOE’s ongoing investigation and working with my colleagues to identify a solution that strengthens student protections and restores stability within the school.”

“I am deeply concerned by reports of bullying, harassment, and sexual assault at M.S. 158,” said Braunstein. “I join with my colleagues in demanding answers from DOE on what changes will be made to ensure that our students can learn in a secure and supportive environment.”

Constantinides Blasts Con Edison Rate Hike

City Council Member Costa Constantinides

City Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, yesterday blasted Con Edison’s approved rate hike.

His statement followed the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) 4-1 vote to allow Con Edison to raise electricity rates by an average 4.2% and gas rates by an average 7.5% this year. The decision came despite strong opposition to the rate hike, which will boost energy costs for homeowners and invest in natural gas infrastructure:

“The Public Service Commission today put a for-profit utility and the fossil fuel industry ahead of hard-working New Yorkers. Commissioners gave Con Edison their blessing to raise rates off the backs of people already struggling to pay their bills. History will be unkind to this decision, which will chain us to new fossil fuel infrastructure for generations to come. ConEd will now be able to lay more natural gas pipes throughout our City, which is a major revenue source for this dividend-driven company,” Constantinides said.

“This flies in the face of the City’s Climate Mobilization Act and the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, both of which effectively mandated a 100-percent renewable grid. That should be our focus – not recommitting to the status quo that has brought us to the edge of climate catastrophe,” he added.

The lawmaker said the PSC decision only underscores the need for a public utility in New York City. 

“Giving control of our power system to the people is perhaps the only way we’re guaranteed to truly transition toward clean, renewable energy. For too long, we’ve been conned by pseudo-monopolies who claim they’re delivering a public service while they clearly prioritize shareholders’ dividends. Sustainable, reliable electricity should be a fundamental human right, yet it appears clear not everyone will be afforded this until we literally take back our power. I’m committed to working with our partners both here in Queens and in Albany to make this a reality,” he said.

Dromm, Johnson, Gibson Opening Remarks On de Blasio Proposed Budget

City Council Member Daniel Dromm

City Councilmember and Finance Committee Chair Daniel Dromm (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst Jackson Heights), along with Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) and Capital Budget Subcommittee Chair Vanessa L. Gibson (D-Bronx) yesterday put out the following joint statement in response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $95.3 billion Preliminary Budget for Fiscal Year 2021.

“Today marks the beginning of budget negotiations for the Fiscal Year 2021, this Council’s third budget with the de Blasio Administration.

“As we have in the past, we will fight for a responsible and fair city budget that best serves a city as proudly diverse as New York. We are committed to ensuring a municipal government that is responsive to the needs of all New Yorkers, while protecting our neighbors who rely on social services and the institutions and initiatives that help keep this city the greatest in the world.

“We are keenly aware of the challenges presented to the City this year by the $6 billion state budget deficit, which is largely driven by the $4 billion Medicaid shortfall. The full impact of this deficit is unknown at the moment, but we will continue to work with our partners in state government to do everything we can to make sure that our 8.6 million constituents don’t lose critical services they depend on.

“The Council is also mindful that while the City’s economy remains healthy, we must plan for future financial slumps. We will work with the Administration to find savings in the budget while continuing to grow our priorities like Fair Fares, criminal justice reform, education, affordable housing, homelessness and transportation.

“The Council is committed to negotiating a budget that works for everyone, which means making sure we get our fair share from Albany for schools, housing and infrastructure.

Koo Responds To Falling Debris Fatality in Flushing

City Council Member Peter Koo

City Council Member Peter Koo (D-Bayside, College Point, Flushing, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Fresh Meadows, Whitestone) yesterday called for the shutting down of a building following yesterday’s fatal incident in which a pedestrian was struck and killed by falling debris from a building in downtown Flushing.

Xiang Ji, 67, of Westbury, Long Island, was fatally hit in the head just before 10 a.m. yesterday by aluminum covered plywood that fell off a building at the corner of Main Street and 41st Road that reportedly has multiple building violations.

“My heart goes out to the family and friends of the woman who was struck by falling debris today in Flushing. Such a horrific tragedy should never happen to anyone who is simply walking down the sidewalk, and it is a clear example of why building owners and city agencies need to ensure building facades are safe, especially during periods of high winds,” said Koo.

“Currently, a Stop Work Order exists on the property due to several outstanding violations, and I have called for the city to shut down the building until there is a greater understanding of this building’s safety and scaffolding is in place,” Koo added.

Asian American Orgs To Hold Queens Borough President Candidate Forum

Asian American organizations announced they will host a nonpartisan Queens Borough President Candidate Forum next week.

The following eight candidates have agreed to participate: City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, City Council Member Costa Constantinides, former City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Daniel Maio, Anthony Miranda, James Quinn, City Council Member Donovan Richards and Dao Yin

Additionally, an invitation has been extended to Everly Brown, who submitted petition signatures this week to the New York City Board of Elections.

Voters in Queens will go to the polls March 24 in a special election to choose a new borough president. Melinda Katz resigned the position before assuming her new role as Queens District Attorney.

The forum will be moderated by veteran New York City journalist Ti-Hua Chang. Questions will be asked by representatives from APA VOICE member organizations, as well as members of the audience. Simultaneous translation will be provided in Mandarin, Korean and Bengali.

The Asian Pacific American community is the fastest-growing group in New York City, now making up more than 26% of the population in the borough of Queens. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are increasingly moving into neighborhoods all across Queens, representing remarkable ethnic and geographic diversity. They are now the majority group in multiple communities. 

The forum is the first large-scale opportunity for Asian Americans in Queens to engage with the candidates directly on issues critical to their communities, including affordable housing, transportation, immigrant rights, public safety, job creation and small business development. 

The forum is slated for between 6-9 p.m., Tuesday, Jan, 21 at the Glow Community Center at One Flushing, 133-29 41st Avenue in Flushing. Members of the public may sign up for this free event at: QueensBPForum.eventbrite.com.