As we grapple with the impact of the most severe economic downturn in generations, I am working hard to minimize the adverse affects on vital local organizations and services.
In my work on the State budget this year and in my own local allocations, I have sought to ensure that available State funding is shared equitably by those who most need assistance and support.
As you will see in this newsletter, that includes sponsorship of outdoor summer programs for adults and children, enhanced aid to our local senior citizen centers, support for neighborhood shopping areas, and funding for community improvement groups, emergency food providers, and those that assist new Americans, veterans, and children.
Over the weeks to come, as we continue to make funding adjustments for the current year, I am dedicated to minimizing the brunt of the economic downturn on our neighborhoods and service providers. I will do all I can to see that 30th District residents get help when they need it in order to weather these tough times.
Supporting neighborhood merchants and improving our local shopping areas is essential to maintain a strong community. That is why I am pleased to provide State funding this year for two organizations that work hard to keep their retail areas safe, clean and make them more attractive for shoppers.
Revitalizing the 36th Avenue Strip
The Central Astoria Local Development Coalition has worked since 1979 to preserve and enhance the vitality of Astoria with programs and activities for businesses and community residents as well as bringing cultural enrichment to the area.
The Coalition is partnering with the Dutch Kills Civic Association on a new initiative to revitalize the 36th Avenue Business Association in order to foster improvements along the commercial strip. Local businesses will set priorities for physical improvements and develop a street cleaning program. A shoppers’ directory is also in the works that will help draw new customers by spreading the word about the exciting array of international shops, supermarkets, clubs and restaurants located along 36th Avenue.
Continuing Support for Grand Avenue
Thanks to the diligent work of the members of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce the shopping area along Grand Avenue and adjacent blocks has been transformed with improvements, flower baskets, lighting and a street maintenance program that has drawn praise from both shoppers and local retailers.
I am pleased to provide new State funding to keep the Doe Fund’s Ready Willing & Able program at work to keep the streets and sidewalks neat and clean. They also do the cleaning and painting that keeps the street furniture and other amenities attractive.
Looking to additional measures that would provide long-term benefits for the Grand Avenue corridor, I am working with state transportation officials to explore the feasibility of decking over the Long Island Expressway to re-establish a continuous retail presence and also provide additional parking.
Providing summer entertainment and fun for children and families close to home has become an important part of summer in the 30th Assembly District and I am pleased to have brought home State funding again this year to make it possible for music and children’s activities in parks and public spaces throughout our communities.
For children and families, there were games, puppet shows, arts and crafts activities, skating, musical entertainment and movies in the Dutch Kills Playground, Frank Principe-Maurice, Reiff, Windmuller, Little Bush, Big Bush, and Frontera Parks. Concerts this summer included outdoor performances at Boulevard Gardens, Windmuller Park, Big Six Towers, Reiff Playground and Sunnyside Gardens.
Community service organizations provide vital services for seniors and children, tenants and homeowners, and many people in need. Everyone who lives in our neighborhoods benefits from the work they do, which is even more essential in these trying economic times. That’s why I am pleased to have provided $220,000 in State funding to support their work this year.
Senior organizations who have received my allocations to further their 2009 programs include SelfHelp Maspeth Senior Center and the SelfHelp Big Six Center, St. Mary’s Golden Age Center and the Woodside Senior Center (Samaritan Village).
State funding I am providing to Woodside on the Move will enhance its community development projects, provide after-school and educational and recreational opportunities for local youth, support cultural activities and help with the organization’s work to revitalize the local business environment.
Maspeth Town Hall is an important hub for the entire Greater Maspeth community, providing important free and low-cost educational, recreational and cultural programs for residents of all ages and I am delighted to support its work again this year.
POMOC (Polonians Organized to Minister to Our Community) provides a wide range of services to low-income families and Polish immigrants. My State support will help with its work this year in counseling about employment, entitlements and such emergency support as food for needy clients.
Another immigrant services organization I am pleased to support this year is the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, which provides citizenship information, assistance with obtaining employment, computer training and health awareness, college information and senior services.
Among other organizations that have received State allocations from me include: Vietnam Veterans of America-Queens Chapter 32, United Vets & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth, Catholic War Veterans, NY Junior Tennis League, the New York Irish Center, the Child Center of New York, Astoria Queens Sharing and Caring, Astoria Performing Arts Center, Queens Theatre in the Park, Trinity Lutheran Food Pantry, Diocese of Brooklyn Drug Prevention Program, Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation, NY Branch-International Dyslexia Association, Midori Foundation, and American Red Cross of Greater New York.
Education, transportation and the State budget were three subjects that dominated our work in the regular legislative session this year.
For education, we successfully adopted a New York City School Governance Law that renewed the Mayor’s responsibility for the city’s public schools. Responding to public concerns reflected in extensive hearings, the new law provides greater parental participation and input, more transparency and improved accountability in the management and operation of the city’s schools. Renewal of this law with the new safeguards ensures that the educational progress we have seen over recent years will continue.
Child Victims Act
Momentum continues to build across the state for enactment of the Child Victims Act, my bill to bring justice to victims of childhood sexual abuse and expose pedophiles that have been shielded by those who employ them. “The Faces of the 1 in 5” was the title of this June exhibit in Albany which included photos of children who had been abused. Speakers at this opening ceremony included several adults whose photos were part of the exhibit. The legislation, sponsored in the State Senate by Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, has a growing majority of support in the Assembly and may go to the floor of both houses for debate and a vote before the end of the year.
The Legislature was successful in saving the basic transit fare, preventing service cuts and providing a long-term financing source for the beleaguered Metropolitan Transportation Authority. This public transit system is vital to the region’s economy and to our neighborhoods and we averted a threatened crisis by our actions. We also ensured that $6 billion in State funding for MTA capital projects will enhance our investment in the transportation system and provide a dedicated funding stream in future years.
The State budget is a persistent challenge in these uncertain economic times, but the Legislature and the Governor were successful in continuing a high level of support for the most vital State programs and services. Aided by Federal stimulus money, we closed a $17 billion budget gap and sharply reduced a projected 4-year budget deficit. We also rejected proposed nuisance taxes on everything from sodas to haircuts, saving some $2.1 billion for working New Yorkers, shifting the burden instead to a temporary tax increase on the wealthiest 3 percent of taxpayers.
Two of my bills were signed into law by the Governor recently. One provides an annual cost of living increase in benefits for the families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Another provides for the award of unreimbursed costs of counseling for children who have been victims of a crime. Among several bills of mine that have passed the Assembly and are awaiting action by the Senate is an important one that would amend the state insurance law to require that health insurance companies pay for out-of-network dialysis treatments for those they insure.
In the book, Carter talks about his childhood struggle with his mother’s mental illness and also reveals that he is a victim of childhood sexual abuse. Assemblywoman Markey’s bill, the Child Victims Act of New York, now before the State Legislature would extend the statute of limitations in criminal and civil actions involving child sexual abuse.
One in five children in America has been the victim of child sexual abuse, resulting in life-long psychological and social problems, costing U.S. taxpayers $104 billion each year. Dominic courageously describes how he faced up to the scars of his abuse and eloquently shares his experiences. I thought this inspirational book should be available in every library in Queens and was pleased to present these copies.
Prescription Saver Card
Save money on prescription drugs with the new Prescription Saver Card issued by the New York State Health Department. It provides discounts of up to 60 percent on generics and as much as 35 percent on brand-name drugs. The free card is available to people between the ages of 50 and 64 with an annual income of less than $50,000 for married couples or $35,000 for single individuals. Get an application at more than 2500 participating pharmacies or by calling 800-788-6917.
Health Coverage Expanded
Parents may now keep their unmarried children on group health insurance policies thanks to a new law that is now effective. Where coverage for dependent children had previously ended at age 19 or up to age 23 when the child graduated from college, now they may be covered up to age 29.
Get Help with COBRA
New Yorkers who are laid off from their jobs have a right to purchase health insurance from their former employers instead of buying more expensive coverage on the open market. Thanks to a change in the law, the period of this COBRA coverage has been extended from 18 to 36 months. In addition, those who lost their jobs after September 1, 2008, may also now be eligible for a 65 percent subsidy in COBRA premiums for nine months. For information, call 1-800-342-3736.