Queens Lawmakers on the Move October 14, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Meng Helps Families Facing Food Insecurity

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) and Director Kate MacKenzie of the Mayor’s Office for Food Policy visited Queens food pantry La Jornada to deliver emergency food assistance on Tuesday.

Through the City’s GetFood Pandemic Food Reserve Emergency Distribution Program (P-FRED), Meng was able to secure 55 pallets of fresh produce to deliver to the food assistance organization. The items on the pallets included apples, potatoes, oranges, yams, kale, peppers, grapes, carrots, cucumbers, and celery.

The delivery comes in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision in September to change the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program’s (CFAP) Farmers to Families Food Boxes initiative that impacted which boroughs can be served by specific vendors. As a result of USDA’s sudden change, many food pantries in Queens were suddenly without vendors or guidance on who they could contract with to purchase food supplies. This problem was further complicated because the USDA provided no overlap in service, or general assistance to those suddenly without a vendor.

“USDA’s sudden changes to the CFAP initiative created confusion as food pantries suddenly found themselves with vendors who no longer could provide relief even though they have the capacity to do so. This left families in limbo and exacerbated existing hardship many face exposed to food insecurity. Because of COVID-19, people have lost their jobs and the Trump administration’s inability to lead this nation has meant additional challenges for my constituents. I hope today’s delivery will ensure La Jornada can continue its critical work to ensure that no family goes hungry,” Meng said.

Through the P-FRED program, the City of New York is ensuring pantries are well-stocked with healthy food options, with a focus on fresh produce distribution in high-need neighborhoods identified by the Task Force on Racial Equity and Inclusion. This initiative is leveraging the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds that were included in the city’s “Feeding New York” plan – an innovative way to use available resources to meet the deepest of needs. So far, more than 300 pantries have received notification of the program and order forms, with plans to deliver over 31,000 more cases of fresh produce to emergency providers, totaling approximately 1.2 million pounds of fruits and vegetables. 

Pantries interested in participating, especially those that serve the highest need communities, should email [email protected] 

Constantinides Calls for a Renewable Rikers

City Council Member Costa Constantinides

City Councilmember Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside), Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, issued the following statement on Tuesday on the New York Power Authority’s agreement to work with members of the PEAK Coalition to explore clean replacements for New York City’s dirty “peaker” plants:

“Today marks a milestone agreement between the New York Power Authority and leaders in New York City’s environmental justice communities, who for too long have lived in the shadows of smoke stacks. Committing to replace these power plants should be step one, however, in a long road to creating a clean, equitable future. This news only reinforces the need for a Renewable Rikers, which would enable the closure of gas-fired ‘peaker’ plants all over the City. We should be focused here, on renewable energy that cleans the air in historically over-polluted neighborhoods, instead of on building new natural gas plants here in Astoria.”

Peaker plants were mostly built after 2001 amid fears New York City would see rolling blackouts similar to those in California at the time. Many were built in Black and brown neighborhoods, in what are now classified by the state as Environmental Justice communities, despite residents’ protests. Though they only kick on when energy demand is at its peak, they are often the dirtiest in the state.

Constantinides has proposed closing peaker plants in place of clean, renewable energy. Central to this is Renewable Rikers, which will use the 413-acre island for renewable energy and other critical infrastructure. This will create thousands of jobs, which should be filled by people who live in environmental justice communities.

Astoria residents have also opposed the planned construction of a new natural gas-fired power plant. Western Queens generates roughly half of New York City’s power, but its residents pay an unhealthy price with higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. They have argued this plant will only worsen air quality and accelerate the effects of climate change. Instead, they believe the city must invest in clean energy that’s affordable and creates good jobs.

Adams Fights Hunger and Xenophobia

City Council Member Adrienne Adams

City Councilmember Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale Village, South Ozone Park) will unite with UA3, Inc., local food pantry operators and community leaders of all cultures to rally for community unity and support on Wednesday.

The pandemic has impacted all neighborhoods and cultures but unfortunately, the community has seen a rise in race-based fear and ignorance. Scapegoating, finger pointing and violence serves no purpose other than to distract and divide. The rally is an opportunity for the diverse borough of Queens to stand together.

The event is aligned with food distribution from UA3, Inc. to food pantry providers across Southern Queens in an effort to advance the message of unity by helping communities of all races survive the pandemic. 

The rally will be on Wednesday, October 14 at 9:30 a.m. at the Union United Methodist Church located at 126-22 150th Street in South Ozone Park.

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