Constantinides Outlines A Sustainable Future for Western Queens
City Councilmember Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) laid out a plan to enhance the long-term resiliency and sustainability of New York City in his 2021 virtual State of the District Address.
In his speech, he called for Shore Boulevard to be permanently opened to pedestrians, for all fossil fuel infrastructure in western Queens to be phased out in favor of a “Renewable Row,” and for the Council to pass a slate of bills to enhance the city’s resiliency.
“I’m proud of everything that I’ve been able to accomplish as your Council Member during my term,” said Constantinides. “We’ve been able to expand our hospital, provide millions in funding for our parks, and get every District 22 student out of trailers. Tonight, I’ve laid out the steps that our district, and our city, must do more to be truly green and sustainable, including changing the dominant car culture and turning western Queens into a hub for renewable energy. I want to commit us to a climate-centered New York City that will endure even after I have left office.”
Constantinides called for the section of Shore Boulevard within Astoria Park to be permanently restricted to non-vehicular uses, and for the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) and the community to envision how to restrict non-vehicular traffic on Shore boulevard between Ditmars Boulevard and 20th Avenue. According to NYC Open Data, every intersection along this route has had at least one crash over the last decade. The councilmember also announced a partnership with the DOT to formulate a Community Advisory Board that will create a plan to redesign 21st Street. Finally, he called on DOT to do more to protect bike lanes and to reopen the Queensboro Bridge Southern Roadway to bicyclists, as the COVID pandemic has further demonstrated the need to give New Yorkers safe alternative forms of transportation.
The councilmember was also proud to confirm that HANAC will build a new 100% affordable senior housing development at 31-07 31st Street. This building, financed through the Senior Affordable Rental Apartments (SARA) Program, will provide housing for seniors with incomes up to $45,000 for a family of two. 30% of the units will also be set aside for formerly homeless seniors, and the building will feature social services and a community center. With this project, Constantinides has secured commitments to build over 300 units of affordable housing for vulnerable New Yorkers.
Constantinides also announced that he will be combining three pending bills into the New York City Rise to Resiliency Act. The Act would consist of Intro. 1620, which would require the city to create a comprehensive, five-borough plan to protect the entire city from climate change, and Intro. 2149, which establishes climate resiliency indicators. At the Council hearings on these bills, numerous organizations and community groups testified to their importance, stressing that many neighborhoods are left unprotected by current city plans, and that a lack of climate data further impedes community-driven resiliency work. Int. 2092, which codifies the city’s Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines, will be heard in the Council’s Committee on Resiliency and Waterfronts on Monday, January 25.
The councilmember also highlighted some of the major victories that District 22 has seen since 2014, such as park improvements, affordable housing, and education.
Holden Calls for Gifted and Talented Program to Continue
City Councilmember Robert Holden (D-Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, Woodside) released a statement on Wednesday about the Gifted and Talented Program:
“Once again, the Mayor and the Chancellor are putting their own political agenda ahead of our students’ needs and dumping another problem into the lap of the next administration. New York’s most vital resource is our children, and they need all the help we can give them. Our city’s future depends on well-educated youth, who will lead the city tomorrow. The Gifted and Talented program must continue.
In my district and across the city, many children of immigrant families are enrolled in the Gifted and Talented program. These parents and children work very hard for their share of the American Dream. They shouldn’t be deprived of that opportunity.
This is why I introduced Resolution 417, that would keep tested G&T, ensure it is in every school district and would also that ensure every school has an advanced class and every middle school has an SP or honors program.”
De Blasio Launches Fair Share NYC
Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Jonnel Doris launched Fair Share NYC on Wednesday, a targeted campaign to connect small business owners to federal relief funds.
Federal funds include the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a forgivable loan to help businesses keep their workforce employed, and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance, a grant of up to $10,000 for businesses in low-income communities.
“PPP loans can be a lifeline for hard-hit small businesses in all five boroughs, and New York City will do everything we can to connect these businesses to the resources they deserve,” said de Blasio. “I encourage every New Yorker to shop local and help these community anchors get back on their feet in the weeks and months to come.”
Fair Share NYC aims to provide technical assistance to businesses seeking to access $284.45 billion in PPP loans that was recently approved in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021. This new package provides additional funding for businesses that did not receive PPP money in the first round, especially minority- and women-owned businesses. It also earmarks funding for “very small” businesses and lending through community-based lenders.
The city is offering free resources through Fair Share NYC to help businesses secure loans. Resources include:
- Daily webinars to review the PPP and EIDL Advance programs and offer guidance on how to apply;
- One-on-one assistance to find the best financing option for each business and get help filling out the application;
- Connections to PPP lenders; and
- Information about additional federal resources.
Resources will be available in multiple languages, including Spanish and Chinese. Small businesses should visit nyc.gov/ppp or call 888-SBS-4NYC for more information.
Comrie Elections Reforms Pass Senate
State Senator Leroy Comrie’s (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) two bills which were included in a package of voting reform legislation passed on Monday at the start of the 2021 Legislative Session.
“We know now that allowing any eligible voter the right to cast a ballot by mail not only increases participation, but it also gives opportunity to folks who otherwise would be disenfranchised because of circumstances outside of their control,” said Comrie. “New Yorkers need no-excuse absentee voting enshrined in our state constitution as well as a reliable and user-friendly system for tracking absentee ballots online. I am proud to stand with Leader Stewart-Cousins and my Democratic Conference colleagues in support of expanding access to the ballot.”
Comrie’s bills include a constitutional amendment that would make permanent no-excuse absentee voting, which has been allowed through executive order on a temporary basis since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a bill to establish an online tracking system for absentee ballots.
S1028, sponsored by Comrie, ensures that all voters in the state have access to absentee ballot tracking by requiring the New York State Board of Elections to create a statewide absentee ballot tracking system for absentee voters ensure that their vote is counted in the election while allowing counties and the New York City Board of Elections to also maintain their own absentee tracking systems.
S360, sponsored by Comrie, amends the State Constitution to allow for any voter to vote by absentee without an excuse.