Queens Lawmakers on the Move June 22, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Meeks, Richards Call for Investigation Following NYPD Chokehold Use in Rockaway

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks
City Councilmember Donovan Richards

U.S. Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D- Jamaica, Laurelton, Rosedale, Cambria Heights, Saint Albans, Springfield Gardens, The Rockaways, JFK Airport) and City Councilmember Donovan Richards (D-Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens) yesterday called for further investigation following an incident of excessive police force on the Rockaway boardwalk, captured on camera showing an officer restricting a man’s airflow.

“It is clear to us, having watched both the cellphone video posted online and the NYPD’s subsequently released body camera footage, the manner in which the man was being restrained was excessive and life threatening. The horrifying encounter captures exactly the behavior that we have marched into streets these recent weeks to reform,” the lawmakers said.

“Though this man did not die during the encounter, he very well could have died as a result of the officer restricting his airflow. Law enforcement does not have the right to deny someone the ability to breathe. It is dangerous and, as we’ve too often seen, lethal use of force. That is why we have taken action on the City, State and federal level to prohibit chokeholds, and create consequences for their use.

“In speaking to Commissioner Shea, we confirmed that the department suspended the officer in question without pay, acting quickly and appropriately. We emphasized the need for further investigation to thoroughly assess what transpired, including looking at the officer’s history.”

Van Bramer Committee To Hear Legislation Concerning Reopening Art & Cultural Institutions

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside), chair of the  Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, today will chair the meeting to hear a proposed measure that would require the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) to create a report related to New York City-based art and cultural institutions’ plans for reopening, post-COVID-19 closures. 

The report would be submitted to Mayor, the Speaker of the Council and posted online no later than 60 days after the effective date of this local law, and consider information related to: (1) steps institutions are taking to prepare for reopening; (2) how federal, state, and city safety guidelines related to COVID-19 should be incorporated into reopening plans; (3) strategies for the continuation of digital platforms and remote programming developed during COVID-19 closures; and (4) any other considerations deemed by DCLA to be relevant to reopening plans for cultural institutions. 

The bill would also require the DCLA Commissioner to include a recommendation to the Mayor and the Speaker of the Council about whether continued reporting on the topic is necessary and appropriate.

The remote hearing is slated for 10 a.m., today June 22. Watch here.

AG James: NYPD Commissioner Shea to Testify on Interactions Between Police and the Public  

State Attorney General Letitia James

State Attorney General Letitia James yesterday announced that New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Dermot Shea will testify today in her office’s ongoing investigation into recent interactions between the NYPD and the public. 

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is charged with conducting an independent investigation into the NYPD’s actions throughout the recent protests and the policies and systemic realities that inform these actions. The OAG has received hundreds of submissions to the complaints email address and online portal. The OAG is reviewing those submissions, reviewing camera phone footage, interviewing witnesses, and reviewing relevant documents that have been provided by the NYPD at the OAG’s request.  

“The public deserves answers, and I am glad the NYPD has agreed to testify as part of our investigation,” said James. “We heard hours of troubling testimony from brave New Yorkers about their interactions with the NYPD over the past few weeks, but our investigation would be incomplete without getting answers directly from the NYPD. True accountability and justice will only come when the truth is laid bare for all to hear.”  

Shea will testify at 11 a.m., today, June 22.The public will be able to listen to that testimony live by visiting: ag.ny.gov/livestream.  

Meng Demands IRS Fix Broken Economic Stimulus Payment Hotline

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) announced on Friday that she sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig calling for the expeditious release of Economic Impact Payments (EIP) to all eligible recipients, and to immediately fix the inadequate operations of the IRS’ EIP hotline.

Meng’s correspondence comes after hearing from numerous constituents in her Queens district who have still not received their EIP. While the IRS recently hired 3,500 telephone operators to help answer questions on its new hotline, difficulty persists in reaching those operators.

“The third coronavirus relief package, the CARES Act, created the Economic Impact Payment program to help eligible Americans with a one-time payment to help weather the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Meng. “Since then, many who were expecting a payment have not received one. When the IRS recently announced that it hired 3,500 telephone operators to help people track down their stimulus checks, I was encouraged by this news. I am outraged, however, that my constituents and my staff continue to face enormous difficulty with getting answers about their EIP payments. Secretary Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Rettig must take immediate action to ensure timely responses to constituents’ concerns, and the speedy delivery of payments.”

The number for the IRS hotline is 800-919-9835. It was recently set up to help address many common questions that individuals have about receiving their impact payments.

The CARES Act, formally entitled the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, established payments consisting of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.

Meeks Introduces Legislation Requiring Wall Street Disclosures Relating to Police Brutality

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks

U.S. Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D) on Friday introduced legislation that would require Wall Street firms to disclose whether they have profited from underwriting bonds that are used to cover the costs of police brutality or civil rights violations by law enforcement.  

The Disclose Police Brutality Bonds Act of 2020 would also mandate disclosures as to whether financial institutions have partnered with minority and women-owned businesses in underwriting these bonds.

“This crucial legislation will bring transparency to abuses of power by law enforcement and help black and brown owned businesses enter the municipal bond space. By shining a light on the police brutality bond market, we can bring about positive change both in law enforcement and the financial services sector,” said Meeks, who chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions.

The bill has already been cosponsored by Congressmembers Nydia M. Velazquez, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Congressman Al Green, Congressman David Scott, and Congressman Juan Vargas. 

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