Queens Lawmakers on the Move Nov. 11, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Gianaris Bill Would Allow Mailed Ballots to be Counted on Election Day

Senator Michael Gianaris

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, parts of Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Woodhaven) announced new legislation (S9089) on Tuesday that would allow absentee ballots to be counted on Election Day. 

Under current law, absentee ballots wait nearly a week to be canvassed. For example, the first day of ballots being opened and canvassed in many areas of New York this year was on Tuesday, November 10.

“There is no good excuse for election results to continue to be up in the air weeks and months after people have already cast their votes,” said Gianaris. “Our Senate Majority will continue to do the work of improving our election processes to ensure everyone has easy access to the ballot and election results are clear and timely.”

Senator Gianaris’ proposal would allow absentee ballots to begin being canvassed three hours before polls closed on Election Day – which would be 6 p.m. Absentee ballot envelopes would be examined for validity at the time of their arrival at local Boards of Elections.

Sanders Hosts Post-Election Event

State Sen. James Sanders Jr.

State Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, Edgemere, Bayswater, Arverne and Far Rockaway) hosted a virtual event on Facebook Live on Monday in light of the results of this historic presidential election where a panel of experts discussed the future of the nation. 

The guest speakers were: U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks and Adriano Espaillat, State Senators Michael Gianaris, Leroy Comrie, Jamaal T. Bailey, and Brian Benjamin, and State Assemblymembers Alicia Hyndman and Clyde Vanel, and State Assemblymember-Elect Khaleel Anderson, Chairman of the Will County Republican Central Committee in Illinois George Pearson, and Co-Chair of the NYC DSA Sumanthy Kumar.

To watch a recording of the virtual event go to YouTube. 

BP Lee Announces Funding for Cancer Treatment Technology

Acting Borough President Sharon Lee.

Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee announced on Tuesday a $5.4 million allocation to NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst to fully fund the purchase and installation of a new medical linear accelerator (LINAC) in its oncology unit within months, augmenting the Level 1 trauma center’s ability to provide life-saving, high-quality care to Queens residents battling cancer. 

This will be the first LINAC in any of the 11 NYC Health + Hospitals citywide.

 “Cancer has spared no one in some way, and stolen so many. The battle against cancer is a fierce race against precious time,” said Lee. “Investing in cutting-edge technology and bringing it right here to Elmhurst Hospital is a direct investment into our families, our futures and more birthdays. Top-of-the-line treatment should and will be available for us right here at home, without having to cross a bridge or go through a tunnel. Queens families are worth it, and so we are bringing precision and speed to give our fight against cancer a stronger chance. Thanks to everyone at Elmhurst Hospital – and the leadership of Israel Rocha – for inspiring the confidence for this public investment into uncompromised, world-class public care.”

The best piece of equipment in the industry, the new Varian TrueBeam linear accelerator — a state-of-the-art external beam radiation device that targets and destroys cancerous cells with high-energy x-rays while sparing surrounding healthy tissue — will be installed in early 2021. The existing linear accelerator was originally installed in 2004 and is nearing the end of its useful life. Upon its installation, the innovative radiotherapy technology will be used to image and treat a wide range of cancers, while ensuring faster and more precise care for the patient.

Lee’s $5.4 million allocation represents the single largest discretionary allocation to NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst by the Queens Borough President’s Office in nearly two decades; this also makes up nearly half of the $11 million allocated to the facility since Fiscal Year 2015. Previous Elmhurst Hospital capital projects funded by the Queens Borough President’s Office include Emergency Department renovations (FY15), renovations to labor and delivery rooms (FY19 and FY20) and upgrades to the angiography suite (FY16 and FY18).

This critical investment in NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst’s ability to offer state-of-the-art care reflects the public confidence Rocha, Jr. and all of the personnel and professionals has inspired at the hospital — serving vastly diverse communities totaling approximately one million people — with more than 1,000 patients treated annually through its Cancer Care Program.

De Blasio Announces New Mental Health Crises Response Teams

Mayor BIll de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray announced on Tuesday that new Mental Health Teams of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) health professionals and mental health crisis workers will be dispatched through 911 to respond to mental health emergencies in two high-need communities for the first time in the city’s history, 

“One in five New Yorkers struggle with a mental health condition. Now, more than ever, we must do everything we can to reach those people before crisis strikes,” said de Blasio. “For the first time in our city’s history, health responders will be the default responders for a person in crisis, making sure those struggling with mental illness receive the help they need.”

The overall number of mental health 911 calls fell by over 8,000 in 2019, the first decline following a decade in which 911 mental health calls increased every year and in every precinct in the city. This decline, which has continued into 2020, follows a concerted effort to strengthen how the City prevents and responds to mental health crises, including the introduction of new mobile intervention and treatment teams over the last several years.

Currently, NYPD officers and FDNY Emergency Medical Services Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) respond to nearly all mental health 911 calls, regardless of the severity of health needs, whether a crime is involved, or whether there is an imminent risk of violence. In the health-centered pilot announced today, new Mental Health Teams of health professionals and crisis workers from FDNY Emergency Medical Services will be the default response to mental health emergencies in two high-need precincts.