50TH ANNIVERSARY OF ROE V. WADE: On Jan. 22, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries released the following statement on the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
“For 49 years, Roe v. Wade was the law of the land and ensured that women in our country had the freedom to control their bodies and make their own health care decisions. This fundamental right has been stripped away by a runaway radical, right wing Supreme Court majority as part of the extreme MAGA Republican agenda to criminalize abortion, outlaw contraception and force government-mandated pregnancies.
House Democrats will continue to stand on the side of freedom because we believe every American deserves to make their own choices about their future. We will not allow House Republicans to turn back the clock on progress as they march toward a nationwide ban on abortion.”
ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO BE TELEVISED: Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay released the following statement on Jan. 17 on Committee Meeting Broadcasts: ”Assembly committee meetings will finally be televised, representing a welcome and overdue measure of transparency to our legislative work. Assembly Republicans introduced this measure prior to 2016, when the law requiring televised meetings was passed.
“Today’s news, that the meetings will finally be televised, is a step toward better government, and a welcome change to outdated legislative proceedings. The Legislature functions best when its business is conducted in the open and subject to input from diverse, public interests. I am pleased to see this will be the case going forward.”
CRYPTOCURRENCY PLATFORM FINED $24M: New York Attorney General Letitia James and a multistate coalition on Jan. 19 secured up to $24 million from cryptocurrency companies Nexo Inc. and Nexo Capital Inc. (Nexo) for engaging in the unregistered offer and sale of securities and commodities and for lying to investors about their registration status. The Jan. 19’s agreement will resolve a civil lawsuit brought by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) against Nexo in September 2022, as well as administrative actions by securities regulators in nine other states. Nexo will also be banned from the securities industry in New York for five years and must notify all its U.S. investors, including roughly 3,000 New Yorkers, to withdraw their assets from the platform. New York will receive more than $1.9 million from Nexo as part of the Jan. 19’s agreement.
“Cryptocurrency companies are unreliable and shady, but they are not immune from accountability,” said Attorney General James. “Nexo ignored repeated warnings by my office to register and today they are paying the price for their wrongdoing. The days of crypto companies acting like the rules do not apply to them are ending. I thank my partners in other states and on the federal level for joining me in this effort to hold Nexo accountable for their unacceptable practices.”
The agreement addresses Nexo’s unregistered offer and sale of securities in the form of an interest-bearing virtual currency account called the Earn Interest Product (EIP). Attorney General James and a multistate coalition secured up to $22.5 million due to Nexo’s unregistered offer and sale of the EIP. Each of the 53 U.S. jurisdictions that are members of the North American Securities Administrators Association will be eligible to claim a settlement of more than $424,000. Additionally, Attorney General James secured $1.5 million for New York to settle Nexo’s unregistered purchase and sale of securities and commodities through a virtual currency trading platform called the Nexo Exchange.
In addition to monetary relief, the Jan. 19’s agreement includes a five-year ban on Nexo offering or selling securities in New York. Under the agreement, Nexo will be required to notify all remaining U.S. investors to withdraw their virtual assets from Nexo’s platform by April 1, 2023. Nexo will also be required to segregate U.S. investor assets, recognize that U.S. investors hold legal title to those assets, and not lend, stake, or otherwise use those assets in risky speculative activities. Nexo has also agreed to verify the identity of all prospective new customers to ensure it does not violate the bar on unregistered activity in New York.
Joining Attorney General James in the Jan. 19’s agreement are state securities regulators from California, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Jan. 19 also announced a parallel settlement in which Nexo agreed to pay an additional $22.5 million and cease the offer and sale of variable-rate EIP accounts in the United States.
The Jan. 19 filing continues Attorney General James’ efforts to protect New York investors and regulate the cryptocurrency industry. Earlier this month, Attorney General James sued the former CEO of Celsius for defrauding investors and concealing Celsius’s dire financial condition. In June 2022, Attorney General James warned New Yorkers of the dangerous risks of investing in cryptocurrencies after the market reached then-record lows. Also in June, Attorney General James reached a nearly $1 million settlement with crypto platform BlockFi Lending LLC for offering unregistered securities. In March 2022, Attorney General James issued a taxpayer notice to virtual currency investors and their tax advisors to accurately declare and pay taxes on their virtual investments. In October 2021, Attorney General James directed unregistered crypto lending platforms to cease operations for not fulfilling their legal obligations. In March 2021, Attorney General James warned New Yorkers of the risks of cryptocurrency investments and reminded investment platforms of their legal obligations.
Attorney General James once again urges New Yorkers who have been affected by deceptive conduct in the virtual assets market to report these issues to OAG. Attorney General James also encourages workers in the cryptocurrency industry who may have witnessed misconduct or fraud to file a whistleblower complaint with her office, which can be done anonymously.
BILL PASSES TO WARN OF FINANCIAL SCAMS: Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris announced the State Senate passed his legislation (S.177) to protect New Yorkers against financial fraud. Senator Gianaris’ bill requires money transmitters – like banks, wire services, and apps – to provide consumers with a warning before transferring money.
“Whether salacious crimes ripped from the headlines or frauds perpetrated on a daily basis against our seniors, financial scams are all too prevalent,” said Senate Deputy Leader Gianaris. “New Yorkers deserve the strongest protections against these predators and my legislation would present a strong defense to keep consumers and their wallets safe. I am pleased the Senate is passing this bill.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 56,000 Americans reported losing over $547 million in romance scams in 2021. Senator Gianaris’ legislation will require financial institutions to provide a warning to customers of the danger of consumer fraud when transferring funds.
VOTE TO REQUIRE SUPERPAC SPENDING DISCLOSURE: On Jan. 19, the New York City Council voted the Council voted on legislation that would require additional disclosures from SuperPACs spending on a ballot proposal. They also voted on the “Skip the Stuff” legislation to decrease plastic waste in New York City. The legislation would prohibit restaurants, third-party food delivery services, and courier services from providing eating utensils, napkins, condiment packets, and extra food and beverage containers to customers with their take-out and delivery orders, unless specifically requested. More than 320 million tons of plastic are consumed each year globally, with 95% of plastic only used once and 14% for recycling. The “Skip the Stuff” legislation would decrease the amount of plastic in our waste stream, and it would reduce expenses for food service establishments.
In addition, they voted to establish a program to provide transition services for students with disabilities entering higher education, provide cultural programming relevant to prevalent spoken languages at older adult centers, require a know your rights pamphlet for older adults, and create housing support programs for older adults.
Committee on Governmental Operations:
Independent expenditure committees (aka Super PACs) that spend money supporting or opposing candidates have certain disclosure requirements that do not currently apply to those SuperPACs spending on ballot proposals. Introduction 855, sponsored by Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, would require additional disclosure from Super PACs that fund advertisements supporting or opposing local ballot proposals. Specifically, these organizations would be required to report information about their funding sources to the Campaign Finance Board. In addition, they would be required to identify themselves by name, along with their top three donors, in their literature, advertisements, and other communications. By adding these new disclosure requirements, this bill would ensure that Super PACs that spend on ballot proposals are subject to the same rules as those that spend on candidates and close a loophole in the City’s campaign finance law.
“Transparency in our elections is crucial for democratic accountability,” said Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers. “Regardless of whether Super PACs are spending money on candidates or ballot proposals, the public deserves to know where the money comes from. Introduction 855 gets rid of an anti-democratic discrepancy in our campaign finance laws and ensures more transparency in our elections.”
Committee on Higher Education:
Introduction 660-A, sponsored by Higher Education Committee Chair Eric Dinowitz, would ease the transition from high school to higher education for students with disabilities, by requiring the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) or any office designated by the mayor to establish a program to help such students in obtaining accommodations at institutions of higher education, by providing a system for students to consent to the sharing of information about their special education services, and providing student advocates for related support. The bill also requires the designated office to conduct outreach and submit an annual report on the program.
Committee on Aging: The Council will vote on and pass three items related to the “Age in Place NYC” legislative package sponsored by Aging Committee Chair Crystal Hudson. Introduction 673-A would guarantee full legal representation for anyone 60 years of age and older in eviction or termination of tenancy proceedings in housing court. In addition, it would establish a housing support program for older New Yorkers at risk of foreclosure or eviction. The bill directs the Office of Civil Justice to work with older adults to educate and inform them about their rights in housing court.
“In the next two decades, New York City will see a 40% increase in its older adult population compared to a mere 3% increase in the general population,” said Council Member Crystal Hudson. “Simply put, we are not ready to handle this demographic change. The passage of Intros. 672A, 673A, and 674A, bills central to my Age In Place NYC legislative package, set us down a path where we will be able to better care for our older neighbors Jan. 19 and for our aging City tomorrow.”
Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations:
Following the devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Fiona on the Island of Puerto Rico, recent infrastructure issues, and local calls for political self-determination, the Council adopted the following resolutions:
Resolution 387, sponsored by Council Member Diana Ayala, calls on the U.S. Congress to repeal the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the “Jones Act”.
Resolution 392-A, sponsored by Council Member Tiffany Cabán, declares support for a democratically governed public entity that will provide reliable and affordable electrical power to the people of Puerto Rico and supporting the immediate cancellation of the contract with LUMA Energy.
Resolution 57-A, sponsored by Council Member Diana Ayala, calls on Congress to pass, and the President to sign, a bill in support of self-determination for Puerto Rico.
The Council also passed the following Land Use items:
- 97-27 57th Avenue Commercial Overlay – SWDM 57 LLC seeks a zoning map amendment to map a C2-4 commercial overlay in Corona neighborhood of Queens. The proposed commercial overlay would facilitate the mixed-use redevelopment of the existing Food Bazaar supermarket site on 57th Avenue, with an expanded supermarket, 25 supermarket parking spaces in the cellar, approximately 3,000 square feet of loading space on the ground floor, 82 residential apartments to be constructed above and 41 residential parking spaces to be constructed under the existing R6B and R6A zoning.
- 58-02 Northern Boulevard Rezoning – 58-02 Northern Blvd LLC seeks a zoning map amendment to change the existing R5 zoning district to an R6B/C2-2 zoning district and a zoning text amendment to designate the rezoned area as a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) area. These actions would facilitate a new two-story, 8,000-square-foot auto showroom in Woodside neighborhood of Queens. The Council will be voting on a resolution to disapprove this application in Council Member Won’s district.
The Council also passed the following Finance item:
Transparency resolution: Approving new designations and changes of certain organizations receiving funding in the Expense Budget.
SAD FIRST ANNIVERSARY: New York City Mayor Eric Adams released the following statement on Jan. 21, the first anniversary of the shooting that claimed the lives of detectives first grade Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora:
“Today marks one year since the shooting that resulted in the loss of two heroes of our city, detectives first grade Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora. These exceptional young men dedicated their lives to protecting their fellow New Yorkers, embodying the valor and sacrifice that makes the NYPD the greatest police department in the world. Detectives Rivera and Mora left our city safer and stronger.
“Our hearts are with their friends, families, loved ones, and all New Yorkers. As anyone who has ever worn the uniform will tell you, policing is a family business. While unbreakable bonds are forged between officers, the most important relationships are found in the homes that officers hope to return to at the end of each day. As we remember these heroes today, we must never forget the debt that we owe, as a city, to their families for sharing their loved ones with us.
“One year after this terrible incident, a tremendous amount of sadness and grief remains, but our mission to build a safer city is never-ending. Let us live as detectives Rivera and Mora lived: with dedication to this city, to each other, and to the noble pursuit of peace. Today, we stand as one city as we remember their sacrifice.”
QUEENS ELECTEDS ISSUE STATEMENTS ON MASS SHOOTING:
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens), First Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, issued the following statement on Jan. 22 about the massacre in Monterey Park, California.
“I am horrified and deeply saddened to learn about the attack in Monterey Park following a Lunar New Year festival. It is a truly devastating way to ring in the new year, and I condemn this terrible and senseless act of violence against the Asian American community. My heart goes out to all who are impacted.
My office has been in contact with the White House and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) to help monitor the situation and see how we can help in any way possible.”
State Senator John Liu stated the following: “As New Yorkers celebrate the start of the Lunar New Year, yet another mass shooting took the lives of 10 people across the country in Monterey Park, California, and injured 10 others. As we await more details of this horrific massacre in a majority Asian community, we are reminded of the incessant barrage of hate and constant state-of-alert Asian Americans are forced to live by today. We are not helpless, and there are steps we can take to combat ignorance, fear and hatred. Asian Americans proudly share our heritage, culture and traditions on Lunar New Year not only for our benefit, but with great hope and expectation that we may help to bridge cultural divides and ultimately erode the stereotypes and racism that too often prevents our country from reaching the dreams of our forefathers, one that MLK so fittingly reiterated when he said ‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’
“In some ways, Americans did rise up, from ending slavery to the civil rights movement; we have baby stepped our way toward our country’s greatest ideals, but many long, rough roads lay forked before us. We may stay the course and allow for the status quo of hatred to continue, or we choose a path that includes the education necessary to teach our children to learn our shared histories, cultures and traditions as a means to stomp out ignorance, fear and senseless gun violence.
“For now, our hearts are with Monterey Park.”
NEW SPECIAL PROSECUTIONS DIVISION: District Attorney Melinda Katz announced the creation of a division in her office that will be dedicated to investigating and prosecuting criminals who prey on society’s most vulnerable. The Special Prosecutions Division, comprised of the Special Victims and Domestic Violence Bureaus and the Juvenile Prosecutions Unit, will be led by newly appointed Executive Assistant District Attorney Joyce Smith, a veteran prosecutor and former acting district attorney of Nassau County.
District Attorney Katz said: “Launching the new Special Prosecutions Division and putting it in the very capable hands of EADA Smith marks an important moment in the history of the office of the Queens District Attorney. I look forward to the important work she and the Special Prosecutions team will be doing on behalf of the people of Queens.”
District Attorney Katz also announced the promotion of Assistant District Attorney Shawn Clark to Executive Assistant District Attorney of the Major Crimes Division, and the appointment of Albert Teichman as Director of Special Projects.
District Attorney Katz said: “I will be working closely with them on policies and programs to improve public safety in Queens. Their vast experience and deep commitment will be valuable resources.”
EADA Smith most recently served as Executive Assistant District Attorney for the New York County District Attorney’s Office as lead of its newly created Special Victims Division, comprised of specially trained, experienced staff and dedicated comprehensive resources. In this role, she oversaw the design and development of the division and worked to enhance the office’s response to vulnerable victims. EADA Smith previously served as Acting Nassau County District Attorney, managing more than 450 attorneys, investigators, and administrative staff, and overseeing the prosecution of more than 30,000 cases a year and a budget of more than $50 million. During her tenure as Acting District Attorney, Smith enacted Nassau’s first pre-arraignment diversion program, initiated significant investigations to combat violent crime, promoted enhanced services to the victims of gender-based violence, led initiatives to improve the diversity and inclusiveness of the office, and championed legislation to increase juror pay.
EADA Clark takes over as Executive Assistant District Attorney of the Major Crimes Division, where he most recently served as bureau chief of the Career Criminal Major Crimes Bureau. In addition to CCMCB, Clark will also oversee the Homicide, Hate Crimes and Forensic Science bureaus. EADA Clark began his career in the Queens District Attorney’s Office in 1996. He worked in various bureaus, including Criminal Court, Intake, Homicide Investigations, Homicide Trials, Narcotic Trials and Supreme Court Trial Bureau, where he was promoted to Deputy Chief. Clark later transferred to CCMCB as Deputy Chief and was promoted to Bureau Chief.
Assistant District Attorney Teichman brings a wealth of prosecutorial experience to the office. During a lengthy tenure at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, he served as Chief Assistant District Attorney, overseeing a team of 250 attorneys and 200 support personnel who handled more than 30,000 cases a year. Teichman also served as CADA and EADA in the Kings County District Attorney’s office over a period of 20 years. There, he planned and managed a $60 million budget and directed the daily operations of an office of more than 500 attorneys and 600 support personnel. Director Teichman led initiatives to increase efficiency in case intake processes and improved the responsiveness of the 24-hour Major Case Response Program.
EADA Smith, EADA Clark and Director Teichman join the Executive Staff for the Queens District Attorney, which also includes Chief ADA Jennifer Naiburg, Counsel to the DA John Castellano, Counsel to the Chief ADA Vincent Carroll, EADA of Community Partnerships Colleen Babb, EADA of Investigations Gerard Brave, EADA of Appeals & Special Litigations Johnnette Traill, EADA of Criminal Practice and Policy Theresa Shanahan and EADA of the Supreme Court Trial Pishoy Yacoub.
FACES 30 FOR ARSENAL & DRUGS: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Kevin Sygney was charged on Jan. 19 with criminal possession of weapons and controlled substances after a search warrant executed at his St. Albans home uncovered an arsenal of firearms and ammunition, as well as more than eight ounces of cocaine and 625 tablets of methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or “molly.”
District Attorney Katz said: “We will not relent in the war against illegal guns. We will continue fighting this plague, on the streets and in the courts, with everything we have.”
Sygney, 37, of 112th Road, St. Albans, was arraigned on a 55-count complaint charging him with criminal possession of a weapon in the first, second and third degrees and criminal possession of controlled substances in the first, second and third degrees. Queens Criminal Court Judge Marty Lentz ordered the defendant to return to court January 23. If convicted, Sygney faces up to 30 years in prison.
According to the charges, at approximately 7:15 p.m., on January 17, police executed a court-authorized search warrant on Sygney’s place of residence. Inside, they found Sygney and recovered $1,746.25 from him. Inside the residence police also found:
One .40 caliber Taurus pistol loaded with 10 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition
Five .9mm caliber Glock pistols
One .9mm caliber Springfield Armory pistol
One .40 caliber Glock pistol loaded with 14 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition
Two .223 caliber AR pistols,
One .32 caliber revolver,
One .45 caliber Zenith Zig pistol
One .357 caliber Glock.
One .40 caliber Glock pistol loaded with 14 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition
One .44 caliber revolver loaded with five rounds of .44 caliber ammunition in the cylinder
One 7.62 caliber x 39 Romarm/Cugir pistol loaded with 27 rounds of 7.62 caliber x 39 ammunition
Two .9mm caliber Ruger pistols
One .44 caliber Ruger revolver
One round of .40 caliber ammunition
One 30-round magazine loaded with 1 round of .762 caliber ammunition
Two bullet proof vests
Eight rounds of .40 caliber ammunition
29 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition
49 rounds of .9mm ammunition
Three 30-round magazines
One 10-round magazine
One 15-round magazine containing 15 rounds of .9mm caliber ammunition,
One 30-round magazine containing 27 7.62 caliber x 39 rounds of ammunition
Also recovered was a backpack containing the following:
Four vacuum sealed plastic bags containing a quantity of cocaine weighing in excess of eight ounces from the large pocket of the bag
One plastic bag containing 625 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine tablets weighing approximately 218 grams.
SCHUMER: AR-15 MARKETED TO CHILDREN AS ‘JR-15’ Amid another mass shooting and revealing that a Chicago-area company, WEE1 Tactical’s marketing and advertising might actually be breaking Federal Trade Commission laws, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer urged an investigation Jan. 22. Schumer said the company, which is peddling a “JR-15” for sale—meant to be the children’s version of the AR-15—is using tactics and optics that could violate the law, including implicit and explicit uses.
“The last thing we need to be doing is shrinking deadly weapons of war and marketing them to young children,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “We must stop the raining of bullets on children and rein in this horrendous and gross marketing campaign, so others, just like it, don’t pop up. The FTC has the power and the proof to take a hard look at this dangerous ‘JR-15’ marketing effort.”
Schumer specifically asked the FTC to look into the “fact that people under the age of 18 cannot legally own a gun, so why is this company so fervently marketing to kids?” Schumer said this is a serious question with federal consequences as he unveiled a public letter to the FTC and made the case for action. Schumer said that the bottom line here is simple: with the epidemic of youth gun violence and a series of recent mass shootings, an idea like this—a children’s AR-15—should never see the light of day.
According to the company’s advertising, “…the JR-15 is the first in a line of shooting platforms that will assist families” and “…functions like a modern sporting rifle, however and most importantly its small size, lightweight & rugged polymer construction and ergonomics are geared towards smaller enthusiasts.” It depicts a very small child operating the weapon with these claims.
Schumer hinted at federal action last week when he told the Daily News that the marketing of the JR-15 is a “serious question with federal consequences.”
MENG’S LAW TO HELP COMBAT FLOODING: U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced on Jan. 17 that Meng’s legislation seeking to help combat flooding in Queens has been signed into law by President Biden.
The measure, which follows unprecedented flooding that Queens experienced from Hurricane Ida as well as flooding from other storms, authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers – in working with the City of New York – to spend nearly $120 million on upgrading environmental infrastructure in the borough. These include projects to help improve water and wastewater infrastructure, storm water management, and combined sewer overflows.
The legislation was signed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 7776), which is Congress’ annual defense spending bill. It was signed after passing the House and Senate last month.
“During Hurricane Ida in September 2021, severe flooding wreaked havoc on Queens, hitting my congressional district especially hard,” said Congresswoman Meng. “Lives were lost and homes and property sustained extensive damage. In addition, our borough was impacted further over the past year by heavy rainfall that caused additional flooding in our communities. Addressing this problem has got to be a top priority, and the signing of my legislation into law brings us one step closer toward developing solutions and upgrading the infrastructure we need.”
“Hurricane Ida devastated communities across New York, and Queens in particular suffered immense damage to its roads, businesses and homes, and lives were tragically lost,” said Senator Schumer. “I visited Queens after the storm with Representative Meng and we worked together to deliver this valuable federal support to improve flood protection and upgrade our water and sewer systems. Now, we are another important step closer to improving water infrastructure and management to help combat future flooding.”
Meng’s legislation allows the Army Corps to spend the money to address the problem of flooding, and now that the measure has been enacted, Congress must allocate the funding for it so that the Corps can move forward with needed improvements.
Congresswoman Meng is New York’s senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, which provides funding to federal agencies and programs including the Army Corps of Engineers.
EPA FINDS PLANE FUEL THREAT: New York Attorney General Letitia James joined a multistate coalition of 12 attorneys general in supporting the proposed finding of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that emissions from leaded aviation gasoline (avgas) in piston-engine planes cause or contribute to air pollution that endangers public health and welfare. If finalized, the long-overdue finding will require EPA to implement lead emission standards and regulations for piston-engine planes under the Clean Air Act, and require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish aircraft fuel standards that are consistent with the aircraft lead emission standards. In the comment letter, the attorneys general urge EPA to swiftly finalize its proposed finding and begin the rulemaking process to protect the public — especially environmental justice communities near airports for piston-engine planes — from exposure to lead air pollution.
“Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers live within two miles of airports that spew tons of dangerous lead into their communities every year,” said Attorney General James. “Recognizing that leaded aviation fuel is a significant threat to public health is a big step towards eliminating this threat through proper regulation and oversight from federal officials. I am proud to join my fellow attorneys general in supporting EPA in this long-overdue action. We need government to address this problem and ensure New Yorkers, and all Americans, are protected from lead poisoning.”
Leaded avgas is the only remaining lead-containing transportation fuel, and its combustion is the single largest contributor of airborne lead emissions in the United States. Prolonged, and even short-term lead exposure can cause memory loss, nausea, fatigue, and increase the risk of developing hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, and infertility. Lead exposure is particularly dangerous for children, whose developing brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to its damaging effects. The impacts of lead exposure in children include behavioral issues, slowed body growth, reduced IQ, and a predisposition to depression, anxiety, or high-risk behavior. There is widespread scientific consensus that there is no safe level of lead exposure for children.
Small piston-engine planes powered by leaded avgas are estimated to release more than 13,000 pounds of lead in New York’s environment and communities each year, and are the greatest source of air emissions of lead in the state. Almost 300,000 New Yorkers live within 1.5 miles of one of the 18 highest lead-emitting airports in New York state. Ten of the airports have at least one elementary school located within 1.5 miles from their runways and nearly 6,000 children attend the 14 elementary schools within these areas. The communities surrounding the 18 highest-emitting airports are also often disproportionately composed of low-income residents and people of color. Over 40 percent of these airports are located in or near areas identified by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as potential environmental justice areas.
Much, if not all, of the lead emissions from piston-engine planes could be avoided. In 2014, the FAA launched the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative to speed up the “deployment of the most promising unleaded replacements,” but despite FAA’s certification of various unleaded fuels, including two recent fuel replacements suitable for nearly all piston-engine planes, these unleaded aviation fuels have not successfully penetrated the market. Less than three percent of U.S. airports that service piston-engine planes sell unleaded alternatives.
In the comment letter, the attorneys general support EPA’s proposed finding, urge the agency to swiftly issue a final endangerment determination, and initiate a rulemaking to regulate lead emissions from avgas. In the comment letter, the attorneys general note that leaded avgas is a significant and preventable source of airborne lead pollution and that states have a vested interest in protecting their residents from the public health harms associated with exposure to lead pollution from piston-engine planes that use leaded avgas. The attorneys general also urge EPA to swiftly finalize its proposed finding and address the serious public health and environmental justice harms posed by avgas in a rulemaking for aircraft lead emissions.
Joining Attorney General James in submitting the comment letter are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
MTA SERVICE ADVISORY FOR E, F, M LINES: On Jan. 20, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced switch replacement and Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) related work on the A,C, E, lines between Feb. 17 and Feb. 27; Service on the following lines will be impacted: A, C, D, E, F, and M lines
“This critical work is being done over the holiday week to ensure minimal impact to customers. Due to the holiday, service will only be affected on four weekdays. Ridership on Tuesday through Friday that week has historically been 7% lower than typical weekday ridership.”
Customers are encouraged to sign up for the MTA Weekender, a weekly newsletter sent every Friday to inform customers of weekend service changes throughout the transit system.
The work will begin during Presidents’ Day weekend. This work will include replacement of tracks and switches north of 42 St – Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Customers are advised of the following service impacts:
Uptown A, C, and E trains will operate normally.
Weekdays [Tuesday, Feb. 21 – Friday, Feb. 24]
Downtown C trains will run express from 145 St to Canal St
Downtown E trains will run on the m line from 5 Av/53 St to W 4 St
Downtown D trains will run local from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle
Select F trains will operate via the e line between Roosevelt Av and 47-50 Sts – Rockefeller Center during *rush hours
*Brooklyn-bound during morning rush hour, Queens-bound during afternoon rush hour
M trains will run via the j, z line between Delancey St-Essex St and Chambers St
M trains will terminate at Chambers St; no m service between Essex St and Forest Hills-71 Av
Downtown A trains will run express from 59 St – Columbus Circle to Canal St at all hours, including late nights
Weekends and Presidents’ Day Holiday
Downtown C trains will run express from 59 St – Columbus Circle to Canal St
Downtown E trains will run on the m line from 5 Av/53 St to W 4 St
Downtown A trains will run express from 59 St – Columbus Circle to Canal St at all hours, including late nights
Presidents’ Day Weekend only [9:45 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17 – 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21]
F trains will run on the e line between Roosevelt Av and Rockefeller Center
Weekend of Feb. 25 – Feb. 27 only [8 a.m. – 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26]
M trains will run on the f and q between Metropolitan Av and 96 St – 2 Av.
For real-time service updates and information, customers can use the following options:
MYmta app – Customers who use the comprehensive MYmta smartphone app will see real-time travel information for all MTA services all in one place.
Live Subway Map – The Live Subway Map shows the real-time position of trains, planned service changes at any given time, highlights accessible stations, and much more.
Twitter – Twitter users can follow @NYCTSubway for service updates and customer service support.
WhatsApp – Customers can chat with NYC Transit via WhatsApp. Riders can receive customer service support in their native language through the help of Google Translate.
For those who prefer to contact the MTA by telephone, information is available by dialing 511. Connecticut customers should call 877-690-5114. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing can use their preferred service provider for the free 711 relay to reach the MTA at 511.
‘MAKE LUNAR NEW YEAR A FEDERAL HOLIDAY’ As the Asian American community prepares to begin celebrating Lunar New Year on Sunday, January 22, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens), First Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, on Jan. 20 reintroduced a package of legislation to commemorate the holiday.
Meng’s legislative Lunar New Year package includes the Lunar New Year Day Act which would establish Lunar New Year as the 12th federal holiday recognized across the United States. It also includes a resolution, the “Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Lunar New Year” that commemorates the long history and explains the cultural importance of the holiday.
“Lunar New Year is one of the most significant holidays for the Asian American community. Dating back over 4,000 years, today it is celebrated by millions of Asian Americans and many non-Asian Americans in the United States,” said Meng. “I have been championing efforts to celebrate and recognize this holiday since I was a member of the New York State Assembly. I was thrilled to help New York City be among the first municipalities to make Lunar New Year a public school holiday, and I am honored to continue leading this effort at the federal level. Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in our country, and it is important that our history and culture be recognized as part of this nation’s shared culture. My federal holiday bill is about more than just a day off from work or school. It is about educating people on cultural practices and expanding experiences beyond one’s individual heritage. I look forward to shepherding this bill through the House and would like to wish everybody celebrating in Queens and around the world a happy, healthy, and prosperous Year of the Rabbit!”
Lunar New Year celebrates the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. People often celebrate with festivals, special foods, gatherings with family and loved ones, and a variety of cultural traditions and performances. In the U.S., the day also highlights the culture, heritage, and contributions of Asian Americans. This year celebrates the Year of the Rabbit, which is considered the luckiest of the 12 animals that are assigned to the Zodiac calendar. The Rabbit symbolizes elegance, peace, and mercy. Congresswoman Meng was born in the Year of the Rabbit. For Vietnamese Lunar New Year, this year marks the Year of the Cat.
LIU ON LUNAR NEW YEAR: Senator John Liu stated the following about the start of the Lunar New Year, the Year of the Rabbit: “The Lunar New Year has become such an important festivity that is celebrated with great revelry not only in Asian communities, but by people around the world. We eagerly look forward to this time of year not only because we can spend time with our families and reconnect with our heritage, but also so that we may share our culture, history and traditions with our neighbors, friends and community.
“As Asian Americans, we have seen years of anti-Asian hate crimes wreak havoc on our community. On Lunar New Year, we take this moment to share our culture, teach our history and learn not only about our differences, but of the commonalities that unite us and bring us together.
“The rabbit symbolizes longevity, peace and prosperity, and the Year of the Rabbit is forecast to be a year of hope and new beginnings. Wishing all a peaceful, healthy, happy and prosperous Lunar New Year!”
$672M ELECTRIC AND GAS BILL RELIEF: Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Jan. 19, that 478,000 residential customers and 56,000 small businesses in New York State will receive assistance totaling $672 million to pay off unaffordable past due utility bills. The Jan. 19 announcement is the largest utility customer financial assistance program in state history and follows a series of policies announced last week to address energy affordability and emissions reductions as part of Governor Hochul’s State of the State address.
“Every New Yorker deserves affordable energy, yet too many New Yorkers are at risk of having their lights turned off due to financial problems caused by the pandemic,” Governor Hochul said. “Earlier this month, I laid out extensive proposals to make energy more affordable in my State of the State address, and with this historic electric and gas utility relief we’re achieving another major milestone to help New Yorkers stay warm during the cold winter months.”
The debt-forgiveness program approved on Jan. 19 by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) will provide financial relief to customers and will help avoid huge statewide termination of service, making utility bills more affordable for all households and small businesses. These one-time credits provide relief to all residential non-low-income customers and small-commercial customers for the period through May 1, 2022, similar to a program approved last summer for low-income customers.
Earlier this month, Governor Hochul announced ambitious and comprehensive policies to address energy affordability and reduce climate-altering emissions from every sector of the economy as part of the 2023 State of the State. Governor Hochul directed the Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to advance an economywide Cap-and-Invest Program that establishes a declining cap on greenhouse gas emissions, invests in programs that drive emissions reductions, and maintains competitiveness of New York industries. Critically, this Cap-and-Invest Program will drive significant benefits to New Yorkers in the form of a Climate Action Rebate.
Governor Hochul also announced $200 million in relief for high electric bills by providing a discount to more than 800,000 New Yorkers making under $75,000 who have not been eligible for the State’s current utility discount program, a new initiative that is separate from the Jan. 19 $672 million announcement. In addition, Governor Hochul announced the creation of the Energy Affordability Guarantee, the first-in-the nation pilot program that ensures low-income New Yorkers participating in the EmPower Plus program never pay more than 6 percent of their incomes on electricity and incentivizes them to fully electrify their homes.
In the Jan. 19 groundbreaking decision, the PSC approved recommendations made by the Energy Affordability Policy Working Group, a group of stakeholders that included the most prominent consumer advocacy groups in the state. The working group proposed a statewide program to resolve all arrears through May 1, 2022, of approximately 75 percent of residential non-low-income and small business customers, and partially resolve arrears for approximately 25 percent of remaining customers via a one-time credit. The financial cost to New Yorkers of adopting the arrears relief program is less than the estimated $1 billion to $1.3 billion cost of inaction, and it will also potentially avoid a significant amount of downgrading of customers’ credit. The automatic credit is limited by an ‘up to’ monetary cap for each utility. This second phase would also allow residential non-low-income customers who previously had their service terminated in 2022 for non-payment to participate, so that their eligible arrears might be resolved.
This is the second round of major funding to be provided to consumers to offset utility bill arrears that accumulated due to the COVID-19 pandemic since Governor Hochul announced $567 million in June 2022 to help low-income electric and gas utility customers pay off past utility bills. This included debt relief available to low-income customers from the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program to reduce unpaid utility bills is coupled with $250 million from a New York State budget appropriation to eliminate pandemic-related unpaid utility bills for low-income households.
In the June round of bill relief, utility shareholders provided more than $36 million in contributions to benefit customers. In the Jan. 19 round of bill relief, utility shareholders provided an $101 million to benefit customers — an amount that far exceeds any utility contributions for pandemic relief across the United States.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant financial hardship to customers and resulted in the shuttering of businesses and widespread loss of jobs statewide. Unpaid consumer and small business utility debts have risen considerably since March 2020 and are beyond the ability of most impacted New Yorkers to pay.
In addition to Commission staff and the major utilities — Con Edison, Central Hudson Gas & Electric, National Grid, New York State Electric & Gas, Orange & Rockland, and Rochester Gas & Electric —stakeholders in the working group include the City of New York, the Alliance for a Green Economy, the Public Utility Law Project of New York, Inc., Citizens for Local Power, the Long Island Progressive Coalition, the Utility Intervention Unit of the Department of State, AARP New York, the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, and the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
The just-approved relief will result in an increase of only 0.5 percent on the average customer’s total bill, an increase that will end in one to four years for most of the state, depending on the utility and the amount of existing arrears. Importantly, the relief program will successfully avert potential service terminations for more than 478,000 residential and 56,000 small commercial customers and help potentially help avoid bankruptcies for many small businesses.
OANA SURVEY: Old Astoria Neighborhood Association announced they have partnered with the NYC Small Business Services and Queens Economic Development Corporation to have both small business owners (merchants) and the general public (consumers) fill out surveys to determine needs that should be addressed.
“Our small businesses are the lifeblood of Astoria, and the city is asking for information to develop new programs and grants to help them survive and grow! We are looking for business owners on 30th Avenue and Astoria Blvd in Astoria, and any consumers who shop on these two small business corridors (to fill out the survey). We have focused the last 3 months on this task and taken a hiatus from meetings. Surveys are available in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. Your comments are the driving force that can help our small business survive and grow. WE URGE EVERYONE TO PARTICIPATE!” said OANA President Richard Khuzami.
To fill out a survey, visit oana-ny.org/small-business-services-avenue-nyc/
The deadline is Jan. 31.
For more info, visit www.oana-ny.org.
CO-OP, HOME, CONDO OWNERS BENEFIT / TAX BREAK INFO SESSIONS: Three events will be held in three months and three locations in which you can: Learn how to Lower Your Property Taxes. Learn about benefit programs for home, condo, and co-op owners, including eligibility and how to apply; Learn about your annual notice of property value (NOPV); and Learn how to submit questions to the Department of Finance.
For more information: email [email protected] or call 718-765-6675.
- Sponsored by State Senator John Liu and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein:
Thursday, January 26, 2:00 p.m – 4:00 p.m., Korean Community Services Center, 203-05 32nd Avenue, Bayside, NY 11361.
- Sponsored by Senator Liu, Assembly Member Nily Rozic, Assembly Member David Weprin, Council Member Jim Gennaro, and Council Member Linda Lee:
Wednesday, February 22, 5:30 p.m – 7:30 p.m., at Hillcrest Jewish Center, 183-02 Union Turnpike, Fresh Meadows, NY 11366.
- Sponsored by Senator Liu, Assembly Member Ron Kim, and Council Member Sandra Ung:
Thursday, March 2, 5:30 p.m – 7:30 p.m., Flushing Library, 41-17 Main Street, Flushing, NY 11355.
BRAUNSTEIN’S VALENTINES FOR VETS: Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein is sponsoring Valentines for Vets. He said, “Your donation of a card, candy (sugar-free a plus), playing cards, large or jumbo-sized puzzles, or a NEW clothing item such as pajamas, robes, t-shirts and socks will show hospitalized and disabled veterans how much we appreciate the sacrifices they made for us. Please note that we are unable to accept toiletries.” You can drop off donations by Tuesday, February 7, at Braunstein’s office, 213-33 39th Ave, Suite 238. If you have any questions, you can call 718-357-3588.
—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts
This column was originated by John A. Toscano