Political Odds & Ends, Nov. 24, 2021

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Liu, Kaplan Induct Sgt. Gong into Senate Vet Hall of Fame

State Sen. John Liu
State Sen. Anna Kaplan

State Senators Anna M. Kaplan (D-North Hills) and John Liu (D-Queens) last Friday joined local elected officials, local Asian-American civic leaders, and members of the community for a ceremony to induct Ret. Master Sgt. Peter Gong into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame for 2021.

Gong, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, served 12 years in the United States Army and 16 years in the U.S. Air Force. He has received 20 medals, including for more than 25 helicopter combat missions, M14 rifle marksmanship, and the conspicuous service cross. He continues to be active as a sought-after color guard leader, and is looked up to in local Chinese-American civic groups, and speaking out against hate crimes.

Born in Brooklyn to parents who emigrated from Canton, China through Ellis Island, a young Peter Gong and his 5 brothers and 2 sisters were instilled to never forget their commitment to family and community. 

“We all owe a significant debt of gratitude to the men and woman who have answered the call to serve, and who courageously defended our freedoms in the armed forces,” said Kaplan. “As a young man in the Army, Peter endured malaria, snakes, leeches, and casual racism while air-jumping into the rice paddies of Vietnam-his honor and duty to country unwavering under 60 pounds of gear on his back. Since retiring from the military, Peter has been a cherished hero in our community, and an outspoken advocate against hate and xenophobia. At a time when hate and bias targeting the Asian American community has exploded across the country, Peter’s activism is more important than ever.”

“Peter Gong is an exemplary veteran who not only risked his life to defend our American ideals of freedom and democracy but who then returned home and continued to serve our country and community for half a century. He remains incredibly active in veterans and Chinese-American organizations, something so meaningful since he was ostracized as a Chinese-American by his fellow servicemen he fought alongside during wartime,” said Liu.

For more than a decade, the New York State Senate has had a tradition of honoring remarkable Veterans from around the state who have distinguished themselves both in military and civilian life by inducting them into the Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame, and each year, one Veteran from each of New York’s 63 Senate Districts is selected to receive this rare tribute.

Rajkumar Hosts Winter Drive Thanksgiving Giveaway

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-Queens), in partnership with Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Relief USA and Lions Club of Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park, hosted a Winter Drive Thanksgiving Giveaway yesterday at her district office.

Ending food insecurity has been a priority for Rajkumar. In New York City, an estimated 1.5 to 2 million people are now food insecure, following an increase of 30% to 50% during the pandemic. In recognition of this, the Assemblywoman hosted food giveaways at her office almost every week for 5 months, often partnering with ICNA Relief USA. She also helped pass A00963, which assists supermarkets in donating excess food to hunger relief organizations.

“We must rid my district and our state of food insecurity,” said Rajkumar. “This Thanksgiving, I am proud to step up to provide food relief working hand in hand with community leaders and organizations to relieve hunger. Because of these efforts, thousands more of our friends and neighbors can have a happy Thanksgiving.”

Schumer Announces Fed Money for Biking Infrastructure 

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) today will announce that because of the just-passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) that New York City is poised to land tens-of-millions of dollars in fed funds that will be used to preserve, maintain, plan for and expand biking infrastructure across the city. 

Schumer will say that under BIF, a $5 billion dollar federal pot of funds will mean that New York secures about $289,129,324. These funds, in addition to another $5B pot for Safe Streets, will be used by state and city officials to expand and sustain ‘Vision Zero,’ Safe Street priorities and bike lanes. 

Schumer will explain what he means when he says ‘bike lanes for jobs, climate and equality.’ Schumer will say that this mode of transportation peddles support for all three causes. Schumer will point to the notorious Queensboro Bridge bike lane to explain the dangers of inadequate bike lanes and how they hinder mobility. 

Schumer will also explain that under Build Back Better (BBB), now in negotiation, that biking infrastructure and projects like a new Queensboro Bridge bike lane could get even more support. Schumer will make the case for the notion that biking is now at the core of life in the Big Apple as he details this new federal support for the beloved transportation method.  

Louis Bill Establishes City Office of Not-for-Profit Organization Services

Council Member Farah Louis
City Council Member Farah Louis

City Council Member Farah Louis (D-Brooklyn) yesterday saw the city council approve her legislation requiring the Mayor to establish a new Office of Not-for-Profit Organization Services. 

New York City partners with thousands of not-for-profits that deliver critical services to communities throughout the five boroughs. Many of these organizations rely heavily on city funding and other city-provided resources in order to fulfill their missions. Although the City provides various forms of support and guidance to its not-for-profit partners, many organizations continue to face challenges when interacting with the City.

“Not-for-profit organizations across this city provide an incredible scope of services each and every day, and in many cases, are the lifeblood of immigrant, Black and Brown communities in this city. One of the challenges that many nonprofit organizations face is balancing their day-to-day operations while keeping pace with the needs of New Yorkers during their time of need, which increased exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Louis.

“As a City, we recognize that running a nonprofit organization is never easy and it can be difficult to navigate the checks and balances in place throughout City government. My bill, Intro 1784, is intended to provide nonprofit organizations with a liaison that can help streamline the budgeting process from allocation to disbursement while bridging the communication and information gap between City agencies and the organizations working on the ground,” she added.

The new Office of Not-for-Profit Organization Services will serve as a liaison for not-for-profits—helping them navigate city policies, procedures and regulations, and connecting them with various city resources. It would also advise city agencies on measures to improve their programs and processes to better support the not-for-profit sector. 

In addition, the Office Not-for-Profit Organization Services would establish a number of standing advisory committees–comprised of not-for-profit leaders and representatives from city agencies–to help identify challenges facing the not-for-profit community and devise effective solutions to those challenges.

Levin’s Four Bills Helping Vulnerable Youth Passes City Council

City Councilman Stephen Levin

City Council Member Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) yesterday saw four bills he sponsored regarding the wellbeing of the City’s vulnerable youth pass the city council.

Introductions 139, 150, and 148 and 2405 will make significant strides to improve outcomes for young people in New York City who are experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness. The bills will expand eligibility and access to rental assistance programs through CityFHEPS, and ensure that youth have the same opportunities to secure housing when exiting shelter or other temporary settings. 

About 100,000 students face housing instability each year. The challenges of housing are often compounded by long distances to schools and a lack of adequate transportation access. Intro 150 would require the creation of a task force regarding the transportation of students in temporary housing. The task force would issue a report assessing barriers to arranging transportation for students in temporary housing and recommendations for addressing those barriers. 

Homelessness is associated with health outcome disparities and providing healthcare at school settings is an important component of addressing health inequity among young people. Introduction 139 would expand DOE’s reporting requirements to include data on school-based health centers, illnesses, and health screenings, disaggregated by housing status.

In addition, Introductions 148 and 2405 will enable runaway and homeless youth, and young people aging out of foster care to access New York City’s rental assistance program. Together, the bills will transform access to permanent housing for thousands of youth experiencing homelessness and youth in foster care across New York City each year.  

“We have a responsibility to the young people of this city to ensure that whether they are exiting out of a youth shelter or the foster system, that they have the tools they need to thrive,” said Levin. “Often, these young people don’t have support through traditional means or the guidance of the agency in which they are exiting to secure housing or permanent living arrangements. Homeless youth have been waiting on voucher access through the City FHEPS program for years since the Mayor pledged access to this program for youth in early 2017, and I am glad to see these bills pass today. It is long overdue, but the time has finally come.”

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