NY Lawmakers on the Move, March 25, 2022

Lawmakers on the Move

Comrie, Wallace Call for Database of Economic Deals to Increase Transparency  

State Senator Leroy Comrie
Assembly Mmember Monica Wallace

State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) and Assembly Member Monica Wallace (D-Lancaster) yesterday called for the Legislature and Governor Hochul to include their “database of deals” legislation (A8325A/S5711A) in the final state budget. 

The legislation would require Empire State Development to maintain a searchable state database of all economic development subsidies and benefits. Both the Assembly and Senate budget proposals included this legislation, and the legislators are urging for it to be inthe  final budget. 

New York State spends billions of state taxpayer dollars each year to attract businesses and create jobs. However, it is nearly impossible to track that money and thus it is difficult to determine how much public money different private entities are receiving.  This lack of transparency also makes it impossible to assess whether the public investment of taxpayer dollars is having the economic development impact intended.   

The legislation would mandate that Empire State Development develop a searchable database for any project receiving state subsidies, which would identify the total economic development benefit for a particular project, the time period over which the benefits will be received, and the job creation targets.  

“Better value for taxpayer dollars results from policy experts, the media, and the public all having access to high quality information,” said Comrie. “Adopting a comprehensive database of deals requirement, would deliver the up-to-date information we need to ensure we get the best out of our economic development investments.”

“The public deserves to know that their taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely,” said Wallace. “By organizing these subsidies in a single, searchable database, we will bring more transparency and accountability to state economic development programs and improve oversight as to how public funds are spent.” 

 Myrie to Hold Emergency “Save SUNY Downstate” Rally

State Senator Zellnor Myrie
State Senator Zellnor Myrie

State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) and labor leaders today are making an emergency appeal to include critically-needed funding in this year’s State Budget to make SUNY-Downstate Hospital whole.

The appeal comes after former Governor Andrew Cuomo designated SUNY-Downstate Medical Center as a “COVID-only” hospital on March 28, 2020. 

This designation required the hospital to divert all non-COVID inpatient cases to other facilities, cancel all elective and emergent surgeries, close all clinics, and divert all obstetric patients to other hospitals. As a result, the hospital has sustained monthly revenue losses, even after the designation was lifted, and has ballooned to a COVID-related deficit of over $150 million.

The emergency rally is slated for 12 noon, today, March 25 at SUNY-Downstate Medical Center, 450 Clarkson Avenue in Brooklyn.

Hanif Introduces Bill To Outlaw Dangerous Space Heaters 

City Council Member Shahana Hanif

City Council Member Shahana Hanif (D-Brooklyn) yesterday introduced a bill to outlaw the sale of many dangerous personal space heaters, similar to the one that caused the Bronx fire that claimed 17 lives at the beginning of the year. 

The legislation would ban the sale of personal space heaters that don’t have automatic shutoffs, heaters that aren’t certified by the Department of Consumer Products, and mandate that such devices must be outfitted with internal thermostats. 

As the first Muslim woman City Council Member, Hanif has taken a leading role in organizing recovery efforts and championing this legislation in part because the majority of the fire victims were Black Muslim Immigrants. 

“The Bronx Fire was an unspeakable tragedy for our City and this legislation fixes one very important piece of the puzzle that led to the dangerous fire,” said Hanif. “These hazardous space heaters can be found in buildings across the City, many of which have exacerbating structural issues that can turn a simple malfunction into a life-threatening tragedy. With this legislation, and legislation championed by my colleagues to address automatic closing doors and adequate building heating, our City is taking real meaningful steps to ensure tragedies like these never happen again.”

Won Introduces Legislative Package Expanding Language Access in City Government

City Council Member Julie Won

City Council Member Julie Won (D-Queens) yesterday introduced two bills, Intro 136 and Intro 137, that would require the city provide emergency information in many languages and create an infrastructure for agencies to access community integrated translation services. 

Intro 137 would require the city to translate and disseminate any information from emergency declarations from the state and federal government and provide emergency notifications where applicable in designated citywide languages. Intro 136 would see public facing city agencies create comprehensive procurement lists of community integrated translation services to provide effective services in languages outside of English. 

The danger of the lack of translation services was made very clear over the past 2 years with the pandemic and flooding from Hurricane Ida, which tragically took the lives of so many in District 26 and the city as a whole. Last September 13 New York City residents were killed by Hurricane Ida, many of whom were limited in their English proficiency and may not have had access to accessible information about storm safety. 

Last month, Attorney General James called on the National Weather Service (NWS) and U.S. Commerce Department to expand language accessibility for severe weather alerts. Currently, warnings from the NWS, which are issued in advance of a severe weather event, are not accessible in any language except for English and Spanish.

“In our City, over 200 languages and dialects are spoken and 1.8 million New Yorkers have limited proficiency in English. This reality must be reflected in how our city government operates and services the people of our city. Emergencies require quick, clear, and effective communication, and it must be done in the languages of our city or we are purposely excluding almost 25% of New Yorkers who are limited in their English proficiency. ” said Won “As a first generation immigrant and with English as my second language, I am honored to advocate on behalf of all immigrants to get these bills passed to make language access a pillar of New York City.”

Jeffries, Schumer Secure $3 Million for Campaign Against Hunger 

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

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn, Queens) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced this week they secured $3 million for The Campaign Against Hunger through the recently-passed government funding law. 

The money will fund a permanent community food hub, a first-of-its-kind ecosystem that uses food access, education and innovation in urban farming to break the systemic and interconnected cycle of hunger and poverty in New York City.

The hub will be outfitted with 30,000-40,000 square feet of growing space, a commercial kitchen for workforce innovation and training for disadvantaged youths, and other community support activities. In addition, this hub will amplify the emergency food network capacity to store, pack and distribute healthy food in urban communities during pandemics, hurricanes and other emergencies.  

“The pandemic hit us incredibly hard here in Brooklyn, throughout New York City and of course, across the nation. But we are a resilient community and brighter days are ahead. Nobody demonstrated that resilience more than Dr. Melony Samuels and The Campaign Against Hunger. They were there for our communities during the pandemic, and we’re going to make sure that they have the resources to continue to be there for us forever. I was proud to work with Senator Schumer to secure $3 million in federal funds for The Campaign Against Hunger to help them continue their vital work,” said Jeffries.

“No New Yorker should ever have to go to bed hungry or have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, which is why Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and I delivered this transformational funding to The Campaign Against Hunger,” said Schumer. “From youth empowerment, to nutrition education and community engagement, The Campaign Against Hunger is providing the necessary services to dismantle the interconnected cycles of hunger and poverty. With this substantial funding, they can dramatically expand their community approach to combatting food insecurity by creating a first-of-its-kind food hub in Brooklyn for urban farming, workforce innovation and more.”