Queens Lawmakers on the Move Dec. 16, 2020

Queens County City Council News

James Urges Reforms to NYC Tax Lien Sale

State Attorney General Letitia James

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday called on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) to enact permanent, meaningful reform to the city’s tax lien sale. 

The authorizing legislation allowing the city to conduct the lien sale expires on December 31, 2020, providing an opportunity for significant reform. In a letter to de Blasio and Johnson, James urged New York City to utilize community land trusts and land banks for delinquent properties, ensuring residents can stay in their homes. 

“In the new year, we will have an opportunity to transform the tax lien sale from a process that tears down neighborhoods to one that builds them up,” said James. “With a few key changes to the way we approach tax liens, we are able to create a system that keeps homeowners in their homes, and stabilizes neighborhoods, all while continuing to allow the city to collect tax revenue. For the benefit of all New Yorkers, I urge Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Council to enact real, lasting reform to the tax lien sale.”

Every year, the New York City Department of Finance (DOF) holds a tax lien sale, through which the tax liens on properties for unpaid property taxes and water bills are sold off in an auction. The terms imposed by the tax lien sale on New Yorkers are dramatic: mandatory five percent surcharges, legal fees, and a nine or 18 percent interest rate that compounds daily. These additional fees can quickly turn a relatively small tax lien into an overwhelming financial burden, eventually pushing homeowners into foreclosure. By utilizing community land trusts and land banks instead of an auction, residents can remain in their homes and properties will be permanently secured as community assets.

New York City’s authorizing legislation to hold the tax lien sale expires December 31, and it requires action from the New York City Council to reauthorize any tax liens sales after that date.

On August 31, 2020, James and a group of 57 local, state, and federal officials urged the delay of the city’s annual tax and water lien sale. In a letter, the group called for the removal of more than 4,700 Class 1 Properties, or residential buildings with three or fewer units, from the tax lien sale. On September 4, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order temporarily halting the lien sale through the end of 2020.

Moya Holds Zoning and Franchises Hearing

City Councilmember Francisco Moya .

City Councilmember Francisco Moya, Chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Corona in Queens, including Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Lefrak City and LaGuardia Airport), and the rest of the committee are holding a hearing on multiple items on Wednesday. 

The committee will discuss a resolution submitted by the mayor for the granting of franchises for the provision of telecommunications services. They will also discuss four land use applications for properties in Brooklyn. For more information see the agenda. 

The remote hearing will take place in Virtual Room 1 on Wednesday, December 16 at 10:30 a.m. 

BP Richards Releases Statement on COVID-19 Vaccine

City Council Member Donovan Richards

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards stated the following in response to the arrival of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in New York City, which was administered first to Northwell Health Long Island Jewish Medical Center nurse Sandra Lindsay in Queens on Monday:

“More than 95,000 Queens residents have contracted COVID-19 over the past nine months, including more than 6,000 of our friends, neighbors and loved ones whom we’ve lost to this unforgiving virus. Today’s arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine will not lessen our collective pain, but today’s historic feat of science and medicine is the day we permanently altered the course of this pandemic — saving countless lives in the process,” said Richards. “It is not lost on Queens — the epicenter of the epicenter of this pandemic, where communities of color were hit with starting severity — that a Black female healthcare hero administered New York State’s first dose of the vaccine to another Black female healthcare hero. As vaccines become more widely available, a just recovery from COVID-19 and the inequalities in our society it exposed means routing these life-saving inoculations toward our historically underserved and hardest hit communities.”

Gianaris Re-Appointed Senate Deputy Majority Leader

Senator Michael Gianaris

State Senator Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, parts of Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Woodhaven) was re-appointed as State Senate Deputy Majority Leader by Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers). 

This will mark the Queens’ legislator’s second term as the second highest ranking senator in New York and the highest-ranking Senate member from New York City. He was also reappointed as Chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. 

“I am honored to continue serving in this role so we can continue the historic progress we’ve already enacted,” said Gianaris. “Working alongside Leader Stewart-Cousins and our unprecedented Democratic Majority, we will deliver policy solutions that ensure opportunity for everyone in our state.”  

Gianaris was first chosen as Deputy Majority Leader following the 2018 elections, when the 40-person conference first took the majority. This year, the Senate Democratic Majority is expanding to 43 members.

Gianaris serves as the highest-ranking member of the state Senate representing New York City and the second-highest ranking member of the chamber. Gianaris has played a critical role in crafting policy in the Senate leadership, including landmark tenant protections, expanding access to voting rights, and funding improved public transit. He will continue managing the legislative agenda on the floor of the Senate. 

AOC Hosts December Town Hall

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Astoria, College Point, Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside, parts of the Bronx) will host her monthly town hall for NY-14 constituents on Thursday. 

During the virtual event, the congresswoman will give an update on negotiations around a COVID-19 relief package and review accomplishments from her first term. Additionally, she will take questions from constituents. 

The virtual town hall will take place on Thursday, December 17 at 6:30 p.m. Sign up here to receive log-in information.

Sanders to Introduce Bill to End Abuse of No-Knock Warrants

State Sen. James Sanders Jr.

State Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, Edgemere, Bayswater, Arverne and Far Rockaway) will be joined by his colleagues in government, Senator Brian Benjamin and Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, as well as national organization Campaign Zero, to announce the introduction of comprehensive search warrant reform legislation in New York State, specifically as it relates to no-knock warrants.  

“We must stop the over militarization of our communities,” Sanders said. “The abuse of no-knock warrants disproportionally affects black and brown people and can often result in death as was seen in the tragic cases of Breonna Taylor, Alberta Spruill and too many others. Today, we are putting forth the most comprehensive, groundbreaking legislation in the nation when it comes to these police raids, which should only be used under extreme circumstances and with accountability.”

Sanders’ legislation will serve as a national model for reform, addressing systemic abuses in the execution of search warrants that have cost lives, undermined trust, and caused incalculable damage across the state and the country. The legislation, developed in collaboration with pioneering police reform activists and experts at Campaign Zero, will end the use of “no knock” and nighttime search raids in all but the most extreme and dangerous circumstances; ban the use of non-uniformed officers and flashbang/concussion grenades; improve transparency and accountability in the search warrant application process; and establish a robust uniform data collection system for search warrants statewide.

Speakers will include: Chief Sponsor in the Senate State Senator James Sanders Jr., Co-Prime Sponsor in the Senate State Senator Brian Benjamin, Chief Sponsor in Assembly Assemblymember Daniel O‘Donnell, criminal justice scholar Dr. Peter Kraska, and DeRay MeKesson & Katie Ryan from the police reform campaign, Campaign Zero.

The press conference will take place on Thursday, December 17 at 11 a.m. on Facebook Live.