Queens Lawmakers On The Move Feb. 14, 2020

Queens County City Council News

DA Katz Announces Estranged Husband Sentenced For Stabbing Wife To Death

Queens District Attorney Katz

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced yesterday today that a Queens man has been sentenced to prison for manslaughter in the stabbing death of his estranged wife inside of a Jackson Heights nail salon.

Katz’ office said the defendant,  William Rivas, 39, of Corona plead guilty to manslaughter in the first-degree before Queens Supreme Court Justice David Kirschner, who imposed the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

According to the charges, Rivas entered the Tu S’tilo Salon and Spa, on 37th Avenue shortly before 7 p.m. Aug. 7, 2019, and approached his estranged wife, Carmen Iris Santiago, 35. The two began to argue until the owner of the shop escorted him out of the salon. 

A few moments later, however, Rivas barged back in and this time pulled out a long knife. He repeatedly stabbed the victim in her chest. Police, who responded to the scene, found the defendant on top of his bleeding wife. Ms. Santiago, the mother of 2 children, was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she died.

“Today’s sentence of the court punishes this defendant for committing this fatal domestic violence attack against his estranged wife, whom he repeatedly stabbed in front of horrified onlookers at her workplace,” said Katz.

Schumer, Gillibrand Push For Security Grant Aid To Nonprofits

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) yesterday announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) led a workshop in New York City to aid faith-based, community, and nonprofit organizations in applying for funding through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). 

This workshop followed Schumer and Gillibrand’s push for FEMA and NYS DHSES to work directly with New York communities, shaken by hate crimes, through public forums to facilitate grant applications. 

“It’s a good step that the federal and state governments heeded our call to work directly with local applicants in New York City to aid in the Nonprofit Security Grant Program application process. New York City community members should not feel vulnerable while gathering in their houses of worship, while dropping their kids off at school, or while heading to the local JCC or any other faith-based community center,” said Schumer. “We must confront the rise in anti-Semitism and other hate crimes head-on, not to mention the persistent threat of terror attacks. That’s why I worked so hard to deliver a significant increase in funds for this vital program.”

“I’m pleased that faith-based, community, and nonprofit organizations in New York will get the support they deserve,” said Gillibrand. “In recent years, the Jewish community has too often come under attack from anti-Semitic violence. No one — from any community — should fear being targeted for their religious beliefs, traditions, and culture. I’m glad the government heeded our call for NSGP workshops, so that vulnerable communities will be able to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

Schumer and Gillibrand have long advocated for the robust funding of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. As part of the recent bipartisan spending agreement, Schumer and Gillibrand delivered $90 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program—a $30 million increase. 

Constantinides Gets SAAVA Endorsement For BP Race

City Council Member Costa Constantinides

City Councilmember Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, parts of Long Island City, Woodside) yesterday received the South Asian American Voters Association (SAAVA) endorsement in the upcoming Borough President’s special election.

SAAVA members cited Constantinides’ long record of fighting for and supporting the South Asian-American community. He has been a forward-thinking advocate who’s sought to get equity by fixing broken City policies that negatively impact our immigrant neighbors. Those solutions include:

  • Renaming a Jackson Heights corner as “Mount Everest Way” to recognize the Nepali community’s contributions to the neighborhood;
  • Hosting an International Mother Language Day celebration to recognize the Bangladeshi-American community in Queens and all of our immigrant neighbors;
  • Securing more access to language services and interpretation at Queens’ public hospitals;
  • Fought for prayer equity by asking the Department of Transportation to suspend certain street rules on special days of worship; 
  • Brought in South Asian voices in his Council office and on his campaign; 
  • Rallied against the Trump administration’s xenophobic travel ban in January 2017 that barred visitors from Muslim-majority nations; 
  • Pushing the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to make key documents such as learner’s permit, drivers license, and other applications in more languages. 

“I cannot thank SAAVA enough for its members’ support,” said Constantinides. “Queens’ South Asian American population has made our borough a stronger, richer place. I’ll continue to fight for this growing community at Queens Borough Hall.” 

The special election is slated for March 24.

Liu’s Legislation Promoting Diversity in Education System Passes Senate

State Sen. John Liu

State Sen. John Liu (D-Flushing, College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Douglaston-Little Neck, parts of Hollis, Bellerose) this week saw his legislation to attract underrepresented candidates into the teaching profession pass the Senate Democratic Majority.

The measure was part of a package of bills to strengthen New York’s education system through training and research. The bills passed will create a diversity task force as well as a commission to study SUNY Schools that lack an educational opportunity program. The legislation will also assist in partnerships to empower underrepresented groups in the teaching profession, and moves the Armistead commission to the appropriate department. 

Specifically, Liu’s bill dubbed Grow Your Own Initiatives (S.7635) encourages school districts, BOCES, and institutions of higher education to develop partnerships to attract underrepresented candidates into the teaching profession. 

Other legislation in this package includes:

  • Educator Diversity Taskforce: This bill, S.5808A, sponsored by Senator Velmanette Montgomery, establishes a task force on educator diversity in New York State to study the presence of educator diversity.
  • Commission on Educational Opportunity Program: This bill, S.6788A, sponsored by Senator Jamaal Bailey, creates a temporary state commission to study the ten SUNY Community colleges not currently participating in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and make recommendations for legislative action based upon its findings.  
  • Statewide and Regional Conventions: This bill, S.7642, sponsored by Senator Robert Jackson, directs the Education Commissioner to convene statewide and regional conventions to bring together underrepresented educators annually to discuss experiences, best practices, and afford for networking, mentorship opportunities, and support. 
  • Establishing The Amistad Commission: This bill, S.6445, sponsored by Senator Robert Jackson, will move the Amistad commission from the Department of State to the New York State Education Department.

Stringer Calls For Tenant Bill of Rights” Legislation 

Comptroller Scott Stringer

City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer (D) yesterday called for legislation creating a far-reaching “Tenant Bill of Rights” that would require landlords to share with tenants critical information on housing protections, including safeguards related to applications and security deposits; anti-discrimination; heat and hot water access; habitability; rental payments; evictions and renewals, and specific laws related to seniors. 

Stringer said the proposal would mandate inclusion of a Tenant Bill of Rights at every lease-signing to ensure all New Yorker renters are aware of their legal protections upon entering into a housing agreement.

“Affordable and secure housing is a basic human right. Knowledge is power, and the rights and resources generations of activists fought for should be accessible, clear and mandatory for every single tenant,” said Stringer.

“A Tenant Bill of Rights would enshrine key principles and mandate that landlords who must provide all of their tenants with information that protects them against abuse and neglect — like charging illegally high-security deposits at the time of lease-signing, or not providing heat on a cold winter’s night. We need to mandate that all tenants are empowered with a bill of rights at every lease signing,” he added.

More from Around New York