Queens Lawmakers on the Move June 24, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Katz Moves to Vacate Conviction in Murder Case

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz yesterday announced the filing of a joint motion to vacate the murder conviction of Samuel Brownridge, who was incarcerated for more than 25 years for a crime that he did not commit. 

Brownridge was convicted based on two eyewitness identifications. The motion filed yesterday details new evidence that both undermines the reliability of those eyewitness identifications and implicates a violent felon, Garfield Brown, as the actual shooter in the 1994 execution-style murder of a 32-year-old man in St. Albans, Queens.

“This is a profoundly poignant day for Mr. Brownridge. After decades of voicing his innocence – this man who served 25 years for a crime he did not commit – will finally be unencumbered by this miscarriage of justice. When I created my Conviction Integrity Unit, it was my goal to do our best to undo the wrongs when our justice system makes life-altering errors. This is our first case and we will continue to work diligently to investigate credible wrongful convictions,” said Katz.

The joint motion was filed with Brownridge’s defense attorney, Donna Aldea. Because Garfield Brown was shot and killed by police who were attempting to apprehend him in relation to other murders, no further prosecution is warranted. 

Sanders Hosts Future of Public Education in Southeast Queens Conversation

State Sen. James Sanders Jr.

State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Rosedale, parts of Far Rockaway) today will join Southeast Queens leaders and a panel of experts to host a virtual community conversation on the future of public education in Southeast Queens after coronavirus.

The event is co-sponsored by other Southeast Queens elected officials including Senator Leroy Comrie and John Liu, Assembly Members Clyde Vanel, Alicia Hyndman and Council Member Adrienne Adams.

“We will examine what the pandemic has taught us about the role of public schools in our everyday lives in Southeast Queens and what priorities really matter regarding public education in our community. If schools re-open in the Fall, what kind of education should the community of Southeast Queens demand?” said Sanders in his e-mailed newsletter. 

Joining the conversation will be Shannon Tahoe, Interim Commissioner of Education & President of the University of the State of New York. The panel also includes Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO; and Dennis Walcott, President and CEO of Queens Public Library, both native New Yorkers.

The virtual conversation is slated for 3 p.m. on Facebook Live. RSVP on Eventbrite HERE

Gillibrand Urges USDA to Release $100 Million Broadband Funding 

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) yesterday urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately release $100 million in rural broadband funding, as millions of families continue to adjust to a new normal of online learning, work, and health care due to the COVID-19 crisis. 

“It’s disappointing, and frankly unacceptable, that the administration has yet to invest hard-won funding for rural broadband infrastructure that Congress guaranteed in the CARES Act,” said Gillibrand. “Because of the administration’s inaction, New Yorkers have been trying to do the impossible and get by in the era of COVID without access to broadband in their homes, relying instead on free public Wi-Fi or limited satellite internet. We must fight to close the pervasive digital divide in our country and ensure that every American has access to vital technological resources, no matter their zip code or socioeconomic status. Rural and native families cannot wait any longer, and I’m going to fight to get this funding to the communities that need it the most.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic, rural and native communities already faced a substantial broadband gap. According to a recent FCC report, over 25% of rural Americans are without access to quality broadband, compared to only 1.7% of Americans living in urban areas. the pandemic has exacerbated this divide, as Americans are forced to stay, learn and work from home.

Gillibrand called on the Trump administration to quickly spend the $100 million in funding for federal grants administered through the USDA ReConnect program under the CARES Act, in order to prioritize and expand rural communities’ essential access to broadband. The ReConnect program is desperately needed to provide loans and grants for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment required to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas. 

De Blasio Establishes Illegal Firework Task Force

Mayor BIll de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday established a multi-agency task force to crack down on illegal fireworks sales that will consist of 10 officers from the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, 12 FDNY Fire Marshals and 20 members of the Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

“Illegal fireworks are both dangerous and a public nuisance,” said de Blasio. “We’re cracking down on this activity at the source to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers and the ability of our neighbors to get some sleep.”

The task force will target suppliers, distributors and possessors of large quantities of illegal fireworks by conducting investigations and sting operations within and outside of New York City to disrupt supply chains. The FDNY will also launch a public safety campaign, including public service announcements and social media, to illustrate the dangers of illegal fireworks.

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