Queens Lawmakers on the Move Feb. 11, 2021

Queens County City Council News

Constantinides Hosts Environmental Protection Hearing

City Council Member Costa Constantinides

City Councilmember Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, and the rest of the committee are holding a remote hearing on Thursday. 

The hearing will cover legislation about Rikers Island and testing for the coronavirus in the city’s sewage. 

For more information, see the agenda.

The virtual hearing will take place on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 10:30 a.m. in Virtual Room 1.

Meng Urges Smithsonian to Honor Corky Lee

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, First Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, announced on Wednesday that she led a letter to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. urging officials there to create a special exhibit honoring the late photographer Corky Lee.

Lee, who was from Meng’s home borough of Queens, New York, was a prolific photographer who captured the Asian American lived experiences in the United States from the 1975 protests against police brutality to the gentrification of New York City’s Chinatown, and from the anti-Muslim hate in the post-9/11 era to the anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex that consists of 19 museums and galleries.

“Photographs are powerful tools and mediums to communicate the human experience. Corky understood this when he studied at Queens College and saw a photo of the Transcontinental Railroad that depicted no Chinese laborers despite them having built it,” said Meng. “From that moment, he dedicated his life to covering our community and making sure our cries, struggles, laughter, and solidarity with others were captured. His whole life was focused on this – helping lift up our stories and giving voice to the greater AAPI community in the United States. Let’s honor Corky by creating an exhibit at our nation’s national museum that highlights his work and legacy. I look forward to seeing this come to fruition.”

Corky Lee passed away on January 27 due to complications from COVID-19.

Meng sent the letter to Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch and Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Director Lisa Sasaki. A copy of the correspondence can be viewed here.

Gianaris’ No Citizen is Above the Law Act Passes 

Senator Michael Gianaris

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris’ legislation, the “No Citizen is Above the Law Act” (S.1408), was passed by the Senate Democratic Majority on Wednesday.

The act will ensure that laws are equally applied to all citizens in New York State, including the President of the United States. 

This legislation was introduced in response to former President Donald Trump’s repeated legal maneuverings to obfuscate investigations by the New York State Attorney General and Manhattan District Attorney. 

“Any President who breaks the law should be held accountable without regard to the time they spend in office. As our nation prepares for an unprecedented second impeachment trial, we must close the loophole that allows Presidents to escape culpability by exploiting statutes of limitations due to Presidential immunity,” said Gianaris, a sponsor of the bill.

Gianaris’ legislation will pause the statute of limitations for all crimes alleged to be committed by the sitting President of the United States, thwarting all efforts to impede on-going criminal investigations. Under current law, the immunity enjoyed by presidents can be used to run out the statute of limitations on criminal charges. The bill will take effect immediately, allowing prosecutors in New York State currently pursuing investigations into the former President of the United States to pursue charges if warranted.

Watch Senator Gianaris’ floor speech on the No Citizen Is Above the Law Act here.

Stavisky Passes Legislation Supporting Student Aid in Higher Education

State Sen. Toby Stavisky

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Central Queens), Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, and the Senate Democratic Majority passed legislation to improve student aid in New York’s higher education institutions. 

Within this legislative package are a series of bills sponsored by Senator Stavisky, standardizing the award schedule of the Tuition Assistance Program for dependent and independent students, and protecting the privacy rights of immigrant students on campus.

“All New Yorkers should have access to higher education, regardless of when they pursue it,” said Stavisky. “This legislation makes sure students who initially qualified for TAP benefits in the past can receive financial assistance that reflects the current cost of tuition if they choose to re-enroll in college. Additional legislation protects the immigrant student community by prohibiting colleges from asking about their immigration status so they can pursue their educational aspirations without fear of deportation.”

In addition to the bills sponsored by Stavisky, this package includes legislation that will provide support for veteran students through campus resources and academic credit opportunities, create a task force to study refinance options for private student loans and help provide the community and state college systems of New York with additional support. 

More information on all these bills can be found here.