Queens Lawmakers on the Move June 17, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Meng Introduces Farm to Fridge Act

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park) and Fred Upton (R-MI) announced yesterday that they introduced the Farm to Fridge Act (H.R. 7035), a bill which would expand two existing programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in order to help farmers and merchants pivot from selling to restaurants to selling directly to consumers.

The legislation would allow the USDA to provide grants to farmers and merchants who have been impacted by COVID-19. It would authorize $20 million for the Value Added Producer Grants program for farmers to purchase equipment to expand their operations to sell directly-to-consumers; and $14 million for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program for farmers markets, food councils, and local governments to ensure families have access to locally- and regionally-produced agriculture. 

Both of these will ultimately add necessary capital to help both farmers and merchants close gaps in our supply chain, supplement income to farmers, and increase food access for families. The legislation also prioritizes the use of these grants on products that have been made in America.

“I introduced the Farm to Fridge Act to ensure farmers and merchants can secure new markets to sell their agricultural goods,” said Meng. “COVID-19 forced many restaurants to temporarily close which has affected farmers’ and merchants’ sales to these establishments. The national health crisis has also meant many families do not have access to healthy food at home. In introducing this legislation with Congressman Upton, I hope to strengthen food security, help farmers and merchants, and ensure that families have fresh food.”

The Farm to Fridge Act, H.R. 7035, is endorsed by the National Producers of Milk Federation, New York Farm Bureau, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the Farmers Markets Coalition.

Dromm Lauds Court Decision Halting ICE From Arresting Undocumented Immigrants

City Council Member Daniel Dromm

City Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) yesterday lauded Federal Judge Jed Rakoff‘s ruling to halt Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from arresting undocumented immigrants in and around New York State courthouses

“Judge Rakoff’s ruling bans ICE from interfering with the proper administration of justice in the State of New York,” said Dromm. “ICE’s shameful practice of detaining undocumented crime victims, witnesses and defendants in and around courthouses makes a mockery of our judicial system. It negatively impacted hundreds of cases across the State, often helping criminals evade justice and, even more tragically, retraumatizing survivors of violence. 

“I commend New York State Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez for bringing this case to court and for protecting the integrity of our judicial system. We must never permit ICE or any other entity to tamper with our courthouses and other vehicles of justice,” he added.

Koo Encourages Restaurants to Apply for Restaurant Revitalization Program

City Council Member Peter Koo

City Council Member Peter Koo (D-Bayside, College Point, Flushing, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Fresh Meadows, Whitestone) yesterday urged all restaurant owners to tap into the implementation of the Restaurant Revitalization Program – a $3 million city program that supports unemployed and underemployed restaurant workers. 

Although the program only offers priority to 27 target neighborhoods that the administration deemed to be hit hardest by the coronavirus, it does not prevent other communities from applying either.

“While it is unfortunate that this revitalization program chose to ignore just how devastating COVID-19 has been to Flushing and other hard-hit communities, it is important to note all communities are eligible for this funding regardless of their location. Nearly half of the restaurants in Flushing have re-opened and all are slowly trying to get back on their feet,” said Koo.

“The Restaurant Revitalization Program can help speed this process along, and I strongly encourage our area restaurants to review the program information, and apply if they feel they meet the criteria,” he added.

Restaurants interested in applying for the revitalization program should check the program information and apply here.

Gillibrand Pushes Legislation to Fund and Stabilize Child Care

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is pushing for the inclusion of the Child Care Is Essential Act (CCEA) in the next coronavirus relief package. 

The CCEA would establish a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund to provide grants to stabilize child care providers who are open during the pandemic and would help child care providers that were forced to close to safely reopen. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly half of all child care providers have had to shut their doors and the industry faces a potential loss of more than 4 million child care slots, which would leave millions of families without access to essential child care services when normal work and life schedules resume. 

“Our nation was facing a child care crisis even before the pandemic hit, with millions of working families struggling to afford high-quality and safe child care,” said Gillibrand. “Now our nation’s child care providers, and parents who rely on them, are facing unprecedented instability and uncertainty. There’s no recovering from this recession if parents can’t get back to work, and the Child Care is Essential Act will support providers who have been caring for the children of essential workers during this crisis and will ensure that others can safely reopen their doors and help parents get back to work. Congress must pass it, both for our recovery and for our future.”

Richards Supports Civilian Oversight of Police Surveillance 

City Councilmember Donovan Richards

City Councilmember Donovan Richards (D-Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens) yesterday threw his support behind the proposed Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act.

The measure, Intro. 487, requires the NYPD to publicly disclose information on its surveillance technology tools and to develop policies on how it uses those tools. The bill would also require annual oversight of the NYPD’s use of surveillance technology to ensure compliance with those policies. 

The legislation, which was heard by the Council’s Committee on Public Safety, which Donovan chairs, was crafted with feedback from civil rights and civil liberties groups concerned over the lack of oversight of the NYPD’s use of surveillance tools on the public. 

The NYPD has access to cell site simulators to capture cell phone information, facial recognition technology, license plate readers and X-ray vans, but there has been little public information on the capabilities of these tools  and how the NYPD’s uses the private information they collect. In addition, the public has no way of knowing what other surveillance tools the NYPD uses. 

“In 2020, technology is developing faster than ever before and we need to be able to adapt just as quickly to ensure that there are regulations and safeguards to protect our civil liberties. I am proud to pass the POST Act knowing that while Big Brother is watching us, we are watching Big Brother,” said Richards.

The measure is expected to be voted on at tomorrow’s City Council stated meeting.

Sanders Jr. to Host Early Voting Event

State Sen. James Sanders Jr.

State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Rochdale Village, Rar Rockaway) in cooperation with the NYC Board of Elections invites residents to vote early at a special event tomorrow.

Note: Only those who are designated for this poll location will actually be allowed to vote along with the senator, but everyone is asked to come out and show their support and encourage others to vote early.

The event is slated for 10 a.m., tomorrow, June 18  at the Rockaway YMCA, 207 Beach 73rd Street, Arverne in Rockaway. To find your early voting location, call 311 or visit: nyc.pollsitelocator.com/search

Vallone Announces Long-Awaited Whitestone Traffic Changes

City Council Member Paul Vallone

City Council Member Paul A. Vallone (D-Alley Pond Park, Bay Terrace, Bayside, College Point, Douglaston, East Elmhurst, Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Little Neck, Whitestone) that the long-requested one-way conversions at 17th Avenue, 17th Road, and 157th Street in Whitestone would be implemented by the end of the month. 

The impacted streets surround JHS 194 and Saint Luke’s School, where traffic flow and safety has been a cause of concern for the surrounding community for a number of years. 

Construction appropriate to a new one-way conversion is scheduled to take place on the following dates:

* 17 Avenue between 150 Street and Francis Lewis Boulevard, from two way to one way eastbound – Tuesday, 6/23/20.

* 157 Street between 16 Road and 17 Road, from two way to one way southbound – Tuesday, 6/23/20.

* 17 Road between 157 Street and 150 Street, from two way to one way westbound – Wednesday, 6/24/20.

“The safety of our children always comes first, and these traffic flow changes will serve to improve pick-up and drop-off conditions for our students, parents, and teachers,” sad Vallone. “These traffic changes are a win for the Whitestone community members who have long requested improved street safety at this location. I thank DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia for working closely with my office on this issue.”

Parking will be preserved on both sides of the impacted streets. Community members parked in the area will be asked to please turn their vehicles to face the new direction of traffic. For questions, residents may contact the Queens Borough Commissioner’s Office at 212-839-2510.