Queens Lawmakers on the Move May 22, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Koslowitz, Adams Join in Support of DOHMH Commish Barbot

City Council Member Karen Koslowitz
City Council Member Adrienne Adams

City Councilmembers Karen Koslowitz (D-Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill) and Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale Village, South Ozone Park) joined City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) and the rest of the Council Women’s Caucus in a statement of support for Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

The city lawmakers sai they were joining with women from across the city in demanding an apology from Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) President Ed Mullins for his use of derogatory and misogynistic language in referring to Barbot. 

The demand came following a war of words several months ago between Barbot and a police official over distribution of city masks to first responders. Barbot has since apologized for her use of words. However, Mullins and other have kep up their rhetoric.

“The use of such language is offensive, inappropriate, and demeaning, and its implications are serious. The dynamics of this interaction can set a dangerous precedent of harassment for Black and brown women,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

“We are all public servants, and as such, we expect better decorum and civility from the President of a police union as we continue efforts to combat the current COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Barbot, a Latina woman, has been on the front lines leading the DOHMH during an unprecedented, traumatic time in New York City’s public health history. Her position as a leader is unprecedented, but her work on the front lines mirrors the experience of women across the country. 

“On Monday, Dr. Barbot publicly apologized for her words during a private conversation in March with Chief Of Department Terence Monahan. When we misspeak, we correct ourselves and she did just that. We have yet to see SBA President Ed Mullins follow suit.”

Katz Issues Warnings About Online Child Predators

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz yesterday issues warnings to parents to be on the lookout for online child predators.

“The spread of the coronavirus has brought new challenges and responsibilities to all the parents and guardians in Queens County. With schools closed many teens and preteens are finding more time to explore the internet on computers and phones. Teens are naturally curious about everything including their sexuality and in this very difficult time may find themselves, through no fault of their own, in compromising positions online,” said Katz. 

“The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has seen a rise in the number of reports involving child sexual abuse material on the internet. My office has also seen an increase in the number of complaints regarding improper behavior towards teenagers and preteens on the internet. Several of these complaints have involved strangers seeking inappropriate pictures of the teens.”

Katz said now more than ever, it is important to be aware of what your child is doing on their smartphones, tablets and computers. Predators are aware that children are home during the day and may use this time to attempt to contact them and lure them into inappropriate situations. 

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) offers free digital resources through Netsmartz.org regarding online safety for children and parents. NetSmartz.org is NCMEC’s online safety education program, said Katz.

“If your child becomes a victim of an online predator, you should save whatever evidence you have, including pictures, and take screenshots of messages and contact information of the predator. You should report it to your local precinct or call (646) 610-7272. Our Computer Crime Unit is well equipped to handle these complaints,” she said.

Kim Legislation Protects Privacy in COVID Testing & Tracing

Assemblymember Ron Kim

Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Whitestone, Flushing, College Point, Murray Hill) yesterday introduced Assembly Bill No. A.10462 to ensure contact tracing protocols are put in place while maximizing privacy and civil liberties protections for all New Yorkers.

Kim’s legislation comes as private and for-profit Tech corporations design highly intrusive surveillance infrastructures for mass contact tracing, furthering the risk of outsourcing one’s civil liberties and privacy dramatically increases. The measure pushes to implement open-source, decentralized, and community-driven technologies, to prevent yet another encroachment on our civil liberties.

Dubbed “The Gold Standard”, the bill establishes a person’s biometrics and COVID-19 testing data as part of their inalienable civil rights. It delineates  guidelines for the Department of Health to create a decentralized, peer-to-peer, and protected protocol for testing to verify your immune status.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, developed nations have accepted and adopted the universal truth: “We are as strong as the most vulnerable,” said Kim. 

“This universal truth underlies the need to test and trace everyone regardless of their background or immigration status, to restart our economy again. However, there are many who fear discovery of their immigrant status and will go deeper into the shadows beyond the protections of the mainstream workforce. This makes us all vulnerable. 

“Our ‘Gold Standard’ protocol will leverage the best technology to design a 100% decentralized and peer-to-peer testing and tracing protocol safeguards people’s private information and data. In other words, undocumented, uninsured, or unbanked populations no longer have to fear about exposing themselves under these standards.” 

Astoria Electeds Lobby For Key Food Extended Lease

State Sen. Michael Gianaris
State Sen. Jessica Ramos

State Senators Michael Gianaris and Jessica Ramos, Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, and City Council Member Costa Constantinides – all of whom represent part or all of Astoria – yesterday fired off a letter today to Jenel Real Estate and A&H Acquisitions, asking that Key Food on 31st Street get at least a one-year lease until a longer deal can be worked out. 

The lawmaker’s request comes less than a week after the Queens Daily Eagle reported Key Food, which has served northern Astoria for approximately 50 years, would close for good as it’s unable to strike a deal with the landlords. 

“Supermarket workers are stepping up to serve our communities and provide an essential service during this crisis. The workers at Key Food are our neighbors and friends, continuing to work each day to make sure families are being fed. They should keep their jobs and this important community institution needs to stay open, especially during the pandemic,”  said Gianaris. 

Ramos said Local grocery stores and supermarkets play a critical role in shaping our neighborhood’s already limited relationship with fresh and healthy food access. 

“Throughout this first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, supermarket employees have demonstrated to be indispensable assets, helping sculpt our growth and community wellbeing. I join my colleagues, UFCW Local 1500, local leaders, and members of the Astoria community to advocate for an extension of Key Food’s lease to ensure local families have access to quality produce,” said Ramos.

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas
City Council Member Costa Constantinides

“It saddens me to hear that people have no moral compass in the middle of a pandemic,” said  Simotas. “Key Food’s employees are risking their lives every day to ensure northern Astoria residents do not go without food. We can not allow this corporate landlord to evict a small business, eliminate union jobs and diminish Astoria’s access to food supplies during this crisis.”

Constantinides said Key Food’s employees have gone above and beyond through this crisis, to make sure northern Astoria has access to nutritious food. “The only thanks they’ve given is a warning they’ll be out of the job by October — if not sooner. The landlord must work on a short-term  solution to keep Key Food serving our community, as well as truly work with them to keep them in northern Astoria.”