Queens Lawmakers on the Move September 16, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Constantinides Announces Bill to Decriminalize “Jaywalking”

City Council Member Costa Constantinides

Councilmember Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) announced Tuesday that he will introduce a bill to effectively decriminalize “jaywalking.” 

This will end the arbitrary enforcement overwhelmingly against Black and Latinx New Yorkers, as well as pave the way for pedestrian friendly streets, the release said. 

“Every New Yorker crosses in the middle of the block, but that can end in a ticket depending on your skin color,” said Constantinides. “It’s beyond time we end this system by changing these outdated rules, which no longer reflect New York City’s modern day streetscape.” 

The legislation would bring the city’s street rules in line with those of the state, which allow a pedestrian to cross at any point of the street — so long as there is no oncoming traffic. By doing so, it will remove criminal and civil penalties for “jaywalking.” Right now, the city’s streets are governed by rigid, archaic rules in which pedestrians must cross within marked pathways when given a walk signal. Anyone cited for these violations must physically go to court to pay a fine, while drivers are allowed to settle their infractions online. 

A Streetsblog analysis from earlier this year found Black and Latinx New Yorkers received 89.8 percent of the 397 illegal crossing tickets issued in 2019. The first three months of 2020 — before the COVID-19 pandemic hit — followed the same trend, according to the safe-streets news organization, though the NYPD claims there is no racial bias in issuing tickets.

Advocates for safer streets hailed the forthcoming legislation, which will be introduced at the City Council’s September 16th Stated Meeting. 

Vallone Introduces Resolutions After Con Ed’s Response to Tropical Storm Isaias

City Council Member Paul Vallone

City Councilmember Paul Vallone’s (D-Auburndale, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Beechhurst, College Point, Douglaston, Flushing, Little Neck, Malba, Whitestone) resolutions which seek to push Con Edison to make needed service improvements, better prioritize restoration efforts across the five boroughs, and take accountability for damage sustained on private property during weather events were heard by the New York City Council Committees on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing, Parks and Recreation, Resiliency and Waterfronts, and Environmental Protection during a remote joint oversight hearing on “Tree Removals and the Restoration of Power in the Aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias” on Monday. 

“Con Edison’s failure to quickly restore power to tens of thousands of Queens residents in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias meant that the borough hardest hit by COVID-19 also became the hardest hit by this weather event,” said Vallone. “A borough-by-borough approach to Con Edison’s emergency response, advance identification of vulnerable utility infrastructure, and accountability for damage to private property during storm events are just a few ways we can take action now and prevent a similar unacceptable outcome in the future.”

Outages after Tropical Storm Isaias were highest in Queens, where over 46,000 Queens households were without power as of 10 a.m. on Aug. 5, the day after the storm hit New York City. Con Edison estimates around 600,000 individuals in NYC were impacted by outages due to Isaias. 

The first resolution calls upon Consolidated Edison to increase resources dedicated to service restoration on a borough by borough basis and create a report of the most vulnerable utility infrastructure in each borough. The second resolution calls upon the New York State legislature to pass and the Governor to sign legislation to require Consolidated Edison to cover the costs of wires downed or damaged by a storm that run from private homes to utility poles.

Comrie Addresses Food Insecurity in Southeast Queens

State Senator Leroy Comrie

State Senator Leroy Comrie (D-Briarwood, Cambria Heights, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Hillcrest, Jamaica, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens, Laurelton, Queens Village, Rosedale, South Jamaica, Springfield Gardens, St. Albans) joined EmblemHealth and the Campaign Against Hunger for a pop up pantry at the EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care facility on Linden Boulevard in Cambria Heights on Monday.

“The pandemic has exacerbated existing food insecurity issues in Southeast Queens, but through partnerships like this with the business and nonprofit community, we have had tremendous success in helping working families put food on the table,” said Comrie. 

Hundreds of boxes and bags filled with fresh produce, protein, and nonperishables as well as cloth face masks and hand sanitizer were distributed to local residents in need. The event also coincided with the re-opening of the local EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care office, which had been closed to the public as staff conducted services virtually and by telephone due to the pandemic.

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