Queens Lawmakers on the Move Nov. 2, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Lancman to Join Cuomo Administration

City Councilman Rory Lancman, candidate in the Queens District Attorney Race. Photo Courtesy Lancman’s office.

City Councilmember Rory Lancman (D-Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Electchester, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills, Jamaica) and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Friday that, in the wake of repeated failures by utility and telecom companies to meet their obligations to New Yorkers, Lancman, a seasoned lawyer and legislator, has been appointed as statewide Special Counsel for Ratepayer Protection. 

“Every New Yorker should be able to turn on the lights, heat their homes and open their faucets to clean water because their electricity, gas and water providers are meeting their obligations to provide safe, reliable, and affordable service as the law requires,” said Lancman.

In this role, Lancman will represent the interests of residential and commercial customers of New York’s regulated electric, gas, water, and telecom companies, with the ability to participate as a party in Public Service Commission proceedings, conduct hearings and investigations, undertake discovery to compel documents and testimony, and otherwise marshal the resources of the Department of Public Service to safeguard the interests of ratepayers and hold accountable those utilities and telecoms which fail to meet their contractual and regulatory obligations to their customers. 

As Special Counsel, Lancman will review the performance of all utilities in New York across all sectors — electric, natural gas, private water, and telecommunications. His primary role will include determining whether utilities are making the investments required; whether utilities are performing as required; whether utilities are responding adequately to consumers — both residential and commercial; and whether utilities are complying with renewable energy goals and standards. As Special Counsel, Lancman will enhance and strengthen the Department’s existing protections of utility consumer interests.

The Special Counsel may make presentations to the New York State Public Service Commission at its monthly meetings on findings and file regular reports to the Commission assessing the operations of such utilities. The Special Counsel may also issue reports, hold forums with consumers and stakeholders in the community and various industry sectors, and make recommendations regarding the necessity of legislation, will also have a dedicated website landing page that will refer complaints from consumers for investigation by the Special Counsel.

Ocasio-Cortez Introduces Legislation to Create Public Banks

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Astoria, College Point, Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside, parts of the Bronx) on Friday, along with U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), introduced the historic Public Banking Act, which allows for the creation of state and locally administered public banks by establishing the Public Bank Grant program administered by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board which would provide grants for the formation, chartering and capitalization of public banks. 

“Public banks are uniquely able to address the economic inequality and structural racism exacerbated by the banking industry’s discriminatory policies and  predatory practices,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “The creation of public banks will also facilitate the use of public resources to construct a myriad of public goods including affordable housing and local renewable energy projects. Public banks empower states and municipalities to establish new channels of public investment to help solve systemic crises.”

It also codifies that public banks may be members of the Federal Reserve. Public banks can offer lower debt costs to city and state governments, fund public infrastructure projects, and encourage entrepreneurship by providing loans to small businesses at lower interest rates and with lower fees. 

The legislation also creates a pathway for state-chartered banks to gain federal recognition and recognizes a framework for public banks to interact with Fed Accounts, postal banking, and Digital Dollar platforms. As such, the passage of The Public Banking Act would provide a much-needed financial lifeline to states and municipalities, as well as unbanked and underbanked residents, that have been left in dire straits by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The full text of the Public Banking Act can be read here.

Comrie, Sanders and Schumer Mourn the Hon. Archie Spigner

State Senator Leroy Comrie
State Sen. James Sanders Jr.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer

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), State Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-Rochdale Village, Far Rockaway) and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer all mourned the passing of former city councilmember, the Honorable Archie Spigner.

“Our community and indeed our whole city lost a giant this week in the passing of the Hon. Archie Spigner. Archie Spigner forged a career in public service that spanned more than half of a century and made him a legend in his own time, and not just in Southeast Queens or New York City, but throughout our country. A trailblazer, Archie was a transformative figure in civics, government and politics, and is as responsible as anyone else alive today for making Black representation in government a reality. We are all standing on the shoulders of Archie Spigner,” said Comrie. “To me and to so many others, Archie was not only the Dean of Southeast Queens politics, he was my friend and mentor – in fact, my political father – and my heart is heavy because of this tremendous loss. As we process and mourn his passing, we will determine how we can commemorate and memorialize him in a way befitting someone of his stature. He was one-of-a kind, and I and many of my colleagues in government were blessed to have been guided by his wisdom and his caring ways. May we celebrate his legacy and the incredible life he led in the service of others.”

Spigner died on Thursday, October 29 at age 92. 

“Archie Spigner was a leader and steadfast pillar of Southeast Queens for decades. He broke barriers, ably represented Queens communities and delivered many improvements for area parks, health centers, senior services and schools. Archie was a good friend of mine and a man of easy and affable disposition that made him a pleasure to work with. I will miss him dearly and extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends,” said Schumer

Spigner was the first black man from Queens elected to the New York City Council. He was elected to represent District 27 in 1974. He served until 2001 when he became term limited. 

“I was greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Archie Spigner, the Dean of Southeast Queens. He was an incredible figure, a pioneer who helped a generation of people understand politics. He will be sorely missed,” said Sanders. 

More from Around New York