Queens Lawmakers on the Move Jan. 6, 2021

Queens County City Council News

Gonazález-Rojas Announces Invest In Our New York Act

Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas

State Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Woodside) on Tuesday joined with statewide elected officials, grassroots organizations and advocates to launch the Invest In Our New York Act — a historic state legislative package to rebuild New York’s economy and end tax breaks for the wealthiest New Yorkers. 

If passed, the Invest In Our New York Act would represent the single largest measure taken to close New York’s inequality gap in decades, marking a massive reversal from years of austerity budgets that have decimated public schools, affordable housing, healthcare, immigrant workers, and localities, while providing tax breaks to the wealthiest New Yorkers.

”The year 2020 ended with no aid to states and localities from our federal government. We have been asked to sit still and wait as we have watched our constituents and communities suffer from eviction, hunger, unemployment, deteriorating mental health, and a fiscal crisis that threatens our safety net. We will not wait.” said González-Rojas. ”Today I am joining the Invest in our New York campaign because it is time to tax the rich and bring long-term relief to our neighbors who suffered before COVID-19, are suffering now, and will continue to suffer from its long-term implications after this if we do not act swiftly and boldly. The time is now.”

The statewide Invest In Our New York Campaign, led by dozens of grassroots organizations, launched the campaign outside New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office with dozens of state elected officials. The campaign additionally released a new report — “Invest In Our New York: Plan to Fund Our Future” — outlining the state’s decade of economic mismanagement and underfunded public services, leading to the economic crisis New York faces today — and the legislative path to recovery. Campaign launches are being held across New York State this week, with public events in New York City, Albany, Rochester and Long Island.

Gianaris Criticizes NYCHA “Blueprint” Plan

Senator Michael Gianaris

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, parts of Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Woodhaven) criticized NYCHA’s latest turnaround effort in testimony delivered to the agency as they review the Blueprint for Change: Transformation Plan. 

Gianaris, who represents the Queensbridge, Ravenswood, and Astoria Houses NYCHA developments, expressed concern over the new ownership model, including the proposed Housing Preservation Trust, and the limited public engagement around the plan to date.

“This plan was developed without sufficient input from NYCHA residents and creates too much uncertainty about the future of our public housing stock and how it would be managed,” said Gianaris. “The desperation to do what is necessary to fix NYCHA should not lead to the adoption of a plan that could make things worse if not developed properly.”

In recent weeks, Gianaris met with numerous NYCHA tenants and leaders who fear NYCHA’s Blueprint for Change plan could push them out of their homes. 

Gianaris’ full testimony can be found here.

Schumer, Jeffries’ Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act to be Signed into Law

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer
U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D) and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-South Ozone Park, Howard Beach and parts of Brooklyn) announced on Tuesday that H.R. 4508, the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act, is on the way to the president to be signed into law. 

“Today is an important step toward ensuring women and girls around the world have access to quality education,” said Schumer. 

Jeffries introduced the bill in 2019 to promote access to higher education for girls in Pakistan by directing the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to issue at least half of its scholarships for higher education in Pakistan under the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Program to women. 

“At home and abroad, women and girls face barriers to obtaining an education, hindering their ability to fulfill their God-given potential,” said Jeffries. “If we empower girls through education, they have the opportunity to uplift themselves, their families, neighborhoods and nations.”

The bill is named for Malala Yousafzai, who in 2008 began making the case for access to education for women and girls in Pakistan despite objections from the Taliban. On October 9, 2012, Malala was on the way home when the Taliban ambushed her bus and shot her in the head. Remarkably, she survived and continued to speak out, becoming a world-renowned figure in the fight for education.  

More than 500 million adult women across the globe struggle with literacy as a result of missing out on education. In Pakistan, only 32 percent of primary school age girls are in school. The rate of higher education enrollment beyond primary and secondary school drops down to just 9 percent for girls in Pakistan. In comparison, the global average rate of higher education enrollment is 40 percent for girls.

USAID’s Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Program funds full tuition and stipends for housing, textbooks and food for financially strained Pakistani youth to complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree at thirty partner universities across Pakistan. The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act will ensure at least half of those scholarships go to women and girls in Pakistan.  

The bill is endorsed by the Malala Fund, Amnesty International USA, CARE USA, Borgen Project, Basic Education Coalition and Plan International USA.

Mengs Helps Make Housing Co-ops Eligible for Coronavirus Relief Funds

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) announced on Tuesday that she helped make housing cooperatives eligible to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) signature coronavirus relief initiative to assist struggling small businesses during the national health crisis. 

This change was included in the $900 billion coronavirus relief package that was signed into law on December 27.

In March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act created PPP which provides forgivable loans provided certain conditions are met, but SBA subsequently rendered housing co-ops ineligible to participate in the program. Since then, Meng worked with her congressional colleagues and the President’s Co-op & Condo Council to reverse this omission.

“Financial relief is finally available to housing cooperatives in Queens that have faced declining revenues and increasing costs during COVID-19. I am relieved that they will soon be able to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program and get the assistance they need,” said Meng. “COVID-19 has placed an unprecedented strain on the affordable cooperative housing units in New York City alone. Leaving out co-ops from PPP was a disservice to them despite their economic hardship. I was proud to press the Administration on this issue, and to help secure language in the Heroes Act and Heroes Act 2.0, which passed the House in May and October, respectively. While the Senate Republicans needlessly held up for months any relief for working families, I am glad that we finally secured eligibility for co-ops in the recent coronavirus relief package. Cooperatives remain a critical source of affordable housing for Queens and New York families and they must be made whole in the midst of this unprecedented public health and economic crises. Opening up the PPP to these entities will give them this lifeline. I want to thank my congressional colleagues and the President’s Co-op & Condo Council for their partnership on this issue. I encourage all to apply once the program resumes, and I will continue to push for more assistance to help families and workers in Queens in the coming months.”

Koslowitz Holds Rules, Privileges and Elections Committee Hearing 

City Council Member Karen Koslowitz

City Councilmember Karen Koslowitz (D-Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill), Chair of the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections, and the rest of the committee are holding a hearing on Wednesday. 

The hearing will be about amending a rule about changes in membership to Standing Committees of the Council in the Rules of the Council. 

See the agenda for more details. 

The remote hearing will take place on Wednesday, January 6 at 10 a.m. in Virtual Room 1.