Queens Lawmakers On The Move April 16, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Meng Wants Greater White House Response to NY Long Term Care Facilities

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) yesterday called for a greater White House response to the COVID-19 outbreak in long term care facilities in New York. 

“New York is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is the hardest hit area and needs more resources and funding, not just for our hospitals, but our long term care facilities where the most vulnerable population resides. I have heard from constituents about the dire situation in nursing homes – staffing shortages, lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and the need for testing, all of which are not to blame nursing facilities, but the White House’s response to this public health emergency,” said Meng.

“The dangerously delayed response of President Trump and his administration to effectively mitigate this crisis has killed thousands. We do not have sufficient testing capabilities, which means we cannot test everyone who presents COVID-19 symptoms or health care workers who work in high exposure areas. Consequently, it makes our fight against this highly contagious and invisible enemy even harder. We do not have enough PPE, which was the administration’s responsibility to start procuring early in preparation of this crisis. As a result, long term care facilities have seen staff shortages and lost residents, and are now operating beyond their normal capacity with insufficient staffing and PPE to protect health care personnel and patients.

“I am calling for the urgent need to turn our attention to saving long term care facilities, its staff and residents. I am calling for and working on more federal data on the effects COVID-19 has had on nursing homes. I will be fighting to increase mobile testing and prioritize nursing homes for tests as they become available. Today, I spoke with HHS Secretary Alex Azar regarding the issue of long term care facilities during a conference call I had with him, and I welcome any collaboration to help our nursing homes right now before more of our elderly population succumbs to COVID-19 complications.” 

DA Katz Agrees to Release Some But Not All Rikers Inmates

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said yesterday that her and the office’s senior staff are carefully reviewing many of requests for defendants to be immediately released from the City’s jails. 

The Office collaborates with defense attorneys, the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Corrections to identify those whose release would serve the interests of justice – and takes the steps necessary to secure that result.

Last week, Katz was alerted to 20 defendants whose immediate release the defense would seek in a mass writ. 

“Six applications were for defendants with parole violations were heard in Court yesterday and our Office did not oppose releasing four of those defendants. Some defendant’s cases were resolved with our consent or withdrawn. Today, the Office opposed the release of the remaining 8 defendants at a hearing that was presided over by Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth C. Holder. After a lengthy court proceeding this morning, the Court dismissed the defense petition,” said Katz.

Amongst the defendants who had made applications for immediate release was defendant Christopher Ransom. Ransom is being held pending trial for an alleged string of robberies that culminated in the murder of NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen, who was shot and killed when police responded to a robbery in progress at a cell phone store in Richmond Hill in February 2019.  DA Katz’s Office opposed Ransom’s request for release and his request was denied by the Court.

Throughout this pandemic, the DA’s Office has prioritized releasing individuals in the interest of justice, while also keeping in mind the safety of our communities here in Queens.  Decisions are made balancing public safety issues and public health issues while also evaluating the merits of each petition. The interests of justice are best served by these thoughtful, case specific resolutions, said Katz.

U.S. Senate Dems Urge Extended Work Authorizations for DACA, TPS Immigrants

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

U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, yesterday led 37 Senators in a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to automatically extend work authorizations for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients and other impacted immigrants.

Signing onto the letter were U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).  

More than 200,000 DACA recipients are working in occupational areas the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identifies as part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce.”  TPS recipients, like DACA recipients, are vital contributors to the economy and health care workforce, with more than 130,000 TPS holders serving as “essential critical infrastructure workers.”

“This simple measure, which is well within your executive authority, will save American lives and avoid further disruptions to our economy,” the Senators wrote.  “By contrast, going ahead with your Administration’s efforts to deport more than a million DACA and TPS recipients would be needlessly cruel and greatly weaken our nation’s essential workforce.”

Addabbo: Don’t Open Schools Until Pandemic Under Control

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth, parts of South Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Woodside, The Rockaways) yesterday said while the mayor and governor argue over who has the authority to re-open schools in New York City and State before the end of this academic year, he believes as a member of the Senate Education Committee, to not make any decisions regarding the re-opening of our schools until there is a better handle on the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We cannot risk sending students, teachers and staff back to schools prematurely. If we do, we may witness a spike in Coronavirus cases once again. I understand this is a confusing and trying time for us all, but we must work together, with all levels of government and citizens, in order to protect the health of our residents, and more specifically when discussing the schools, our children and school personnel,” said Addabbo.

Queens Lawmakers Demand DOE Provide Feminine Hygeine Supplies

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan
Assemblymember Aravella Simotas

Queens Democratic lawmakers including Assembly Members Catherine Nolan and Aravella Simotas, and U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney, and Grace Meng yesterday urged the city’s Department of Education (DOE) to make feminine hygiene products available at all Meal Hubs

These items are currently sitting in supply closets and nurse’s offices throughout New York City schools and the DOE should implement an immediate plan to offer these critical supplies to any New Yorker in need, the lawmakers said.

“Part of ensuring students succeed and thrive during times of crisis means remembering and addressing the needs of students, “ said Nolan. “To that end, it is critical that New York City’s students have access to the DOE’s feminine hygiene supplies. The need for these supplies does not stop, even when the City has to.”

“Menstruation is a natural process that many New Yorkers experience and the lack of access to appropriate period products can cause serious health risks. Period poverty affects so many New Yorkers and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has left many people without incomes, exacerbating the problem. Using supplies the city already has and redistributing them to those who need them most is a feasible action that will bring relief to many people who menstruate,” said Simotas.