Assemblywoman Margaret Markey Reports to the People - Spring 2010

A Message from
Assemblywoman
Margaret Markey...

Dear Neighbors:

Even though there are signs that the national economic crunch is easing, we are now feeling it more intensely than ever in New York State.

Every level of state and local government is facing the challenge of how to manage to provide the most essential public safety, health, educational services from a reduced public pocketbook.

As the Legislature and the State Administration grapple with the agonizing challenge before us this year, all of us are working hard to balance this austerity with the need to provide New York children, seniors and those in need the most basic human services.

I am also committed to continuing support at the highest possible level for community organizations that provide vital services in our local neighborhoods.

As we continue other work in Albany, I am hopeful that 2010 will be the year that the Child Victims Act of New York is adopted by both houses of the Legislature. This law would extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes and expose active pedophiles and those who have shielded them. With support for the bill continuing to build in the Assembly, it is now progressing in the Senate where it is sponsored by Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson.

Sincerely,

Margaret Markey

Finally, a Timetable for Getting
Big Trucks off Grand Avenue
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I spoke at the press conference along with Congressman Joseph Crowley, Senator Joseph Addabbo, Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley, Jimmy VanBramer and others.

There are hopeful signs that, at long last, this will be the year that we get a commitment to move dangerous truck traffic out of the main commercial area of Grand Avenue.

Everybody knows that big trucks don’t belong on local shopping streets. They kill retail business; they create hazardous conditions for pedestrians; and they pollute the air. It is important to do everything possible --- as soon as possible --- to reduce truck traffic on Grand Avenue.

Getting those big trucks off this street has been the community’s goal for more than a decade. Frank Principe and Community Board Five developed a Maspeth Bypass Plan a decade ago to reduce dangerous truck traffic through the heart of the community.

We have now been notified that the long-awaited “Maspeth Bypass” may finally be implemented by the city Department of Transportation (DOT).

A decade of pressure and lobbying by elected officials and community leaders is finally getting us results as the city has announced a timetable for completing its engineering analysis of alternatives for the bypass, including the Community Board Five proposal. The city will present a final plan to the community in September. In October, the agency will make a final recommendation of a plan for implementation.

With community frustrations over the long delay in resolving the long-standing threat to the community posed by the dangerous truck traffic, I joined other elected officials and civic leaders at a press conference on Grand Avenue earlier this year to suggest a change in the designation of the street south of 69th Street to a “Local Route” for truckers. This is something the city can do right now to reduce the number of big trucks that cut through the heart of Maspeth on their way to other boroughs and the DOT has promised to give us an answer to the proposal this spring.

But changing the designation of the street immediately to make it a local route for truckers will require more than signs if it is to be successful; the regulations must also be vigorously enforced. It’s up to the Police to catch truckers who violate the ban and make sure they are fined.

To help do this I am sponsoring a bill in the Assembly that will permit the City to place cameras at key intersections --- like Grand Avenue and 69th Street --- and make it possible for the police to track down owners and operators and fine them when they break the law.

In these tough economic times, it is important that we do everything we can to help neighborhood businesses survive. Getting trucks off this street now will make a difference to Maspeth and I join with my colleagues in asking the Department of Transportation to support the request we are making --- and to enforce it.


Community News

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Volunteers Clean, Green at
Sunnyside Gardens Park

Cleaning up and beautification in Sunnyside is a year-round effort and I was delighted to join Ciaran Staunton and volunteers from the Friends of Sunnyside Gardens Park on a recent Saturday as they continued to improve the Barnett Avenue frontage of the park.

This area has been a major dumping ground for years so Ciaran and his neighbors from Sunnyside Gardens and Phipps Houses decided to clean it up and add plantings to help improve the area to complement the major renovation of the park that is now nearing completion.

These residents love their community and their volunteer efforts, supported by the Sanitation Department and the Department of Transportation, set an outstanding example of how citizens are prepared to come forward in these tight economic times to pitch in and make their neighborhood greener and cleaner.

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Queens Library Lobby Visit
Preserving support for library services at the Queens Public Library in these challenging economic times was the Number One topic when this group of borough residents met with me in Albany recently. From left are: Kendra Hoaas, Tatyana Magazinnik and Karen Keys.


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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Maspeth
I was pleased to join Congressman Joseph Crowley and my friends from Maspeth Town Hall at their annual St. Patrick’s Day event in March at St. Adelbert’s Church. From left is Bob Reilly, myself, Eileen Reilly and Congressman Crowley.

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No OTB Kiosks in Local Stores
As the NYC Off-Track Betting Corporation seeks to bring financial stability to its operations, I strongly objected to a proposal its leader made at a January public hearing that would significantly expand its business by placing free-standing betting kiosks in local stores and restaurants where they could be easily available to youngsters. The proposal was withdrawn.
Protecting Dutch Kills from Too-tall Buildings

I was proud to join the community twice this year in objecting to a plea by a developer to get a hardship exemption that would permit him to proceed to build an out-of-character high rise building at 39-35 27th Street in Dutch Kills even though it is no longer legal under the new zoning for the area.

The community, supported by Community Board One, the Dutch Kills Civic Association and most local civic groups, convinced the city to rezone the area to protect the low-rise, mixed residential-commercial neighborhood from continuing assault by developers who had been exploiting the old zoning to build out-of-character, too-tall buildings on low-rise residential streets.

More than a dozen developers, including the owner of this property, rushed to avoid the new, more-restrictive zoning and beat a deadline so their out-of-character buildings could be legally grandfathered. This developer failed to qualify by the deadline and is asking the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals to permit him to proceed anyway. In my testimony I pointed out that the developer was well aware of the intent of the new rezoning and the time constraints he faced for his project. The “hardship” he cited in his appeal was entirely of his own making as the city repeatedly stopped work on the project because of unsafe working conditions and damages his project inflicted on neighboring buildings.

We are protecting Dutch Kills for its residents and future generations. We must not let an irresponsible developer circumvent the new zoning that the community worked so hard to achieve.



Change in Garbage Plan will Keep Big Trucks Off City Streets

A garbage disposal plan that threatened to add hundreds of additional big trucks every week to the streets of Maspeth has been altered and the change is a welcome development for the community.

Waste Management’s agreement with New York City calls for the company to receive municipal waste from six community districts in Western Queens at a facility on Review Avenue in an industrial area of West Maspeth, containerize it and ship it to out-of-state landfills by rail.

With no direct rail connection at that location, Waste Management planned to use city streets to transport the garbage to the Maspeth Rail Yard, a mile and a half away, raising safety and environmental concerns. Now, the company has submitted a new plan that will utilize private roadways along the Long Island Rail Road tracks to carry the garbage to a newly activated Blissville Rail Yard, eliminating the need to use city streets.

There have been long-standing concerns about what is already excessive truck traffic in and throughout the commercial and residential streets of Maspeth. No one was pleased about a plan that was going to add hundreds of additional truck trips to our local streets when the Review Avenue facility of Waste Management begins to operate at full capacity over the coming years. This change eliminates that threat.


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Confer on Traffic Concerns
I recently met with Borough Transportation Commissioner Maura McCarthy to discuss traffic concerns throughout the 30th Assembly District. Top of my list of issues is implementation of the long-awaited Maspeth Bypass to get trucks out of residential and shopping areas. Another important goal for me is to secure a traffic light at 65th Place and 53rd Avenue near Ridgewood Gardens.
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Lobbying for Health Care
Anna Kril and Eartha Washington of Astoria Queens Sharing and Caring visited me in Albany to update me on the important work of their organization that provides support, education and counseling for local cancer victims.


Concern About Rail Lines in Western Queens

Noise and environmental issues related to the railroad lines that pass through Western Queens have been a constant subject of concern for the residents who live along the tracks. I am pleased to be working with a new coalition of community groups that have come together to address the complex and overlapping set of agencies and companies whose cooperation and assistance will be required to address them.

The group, Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES), has held several meetings to discuss a wide range of concerns as the prospect looms for significantly increasing traffic along these lines with the advent of new municipal solid waste management contracts.

I am a sponsor of legislation that would help regulate the noise from idling locomotives, like those that have caused such concern for residents who live adjacent to these rail lines. I have also reached out to U.S. Representatives Joseph Crowley, Anthony Weiner and Nydia Velazquez to explore the possibility of providing federal assistance for Queens residents whose property abuts them. This could include installation of double-glazed windows and other noise suppression measures similar to the noise abatement programs created for buildings in the flight paths of LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports.


Report from Albany

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Food Safety and Farm Issues
To keep up to date on current developments in New York State agriculture and on farms, I recently met with this delegation from the Montgomery County Farm Bureau. As a member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, I am pleased to have sponsored several laws to help ensure the safety of the food available in our local stores. One signed into law last year and being updated in the current session at the request of the Governor creates a task force to monitor slaughterhouses and feed mills to ensure that non-ambulatory animals (so-called “downers” who cannot walk) do not get into the food supply.

Get E-mail Notification about Dangerous Sex Offenders

When sex offenders move into our neighborhoods, it can pose a serious threat to the safety and well-being of our children. That’s why last year I sponsored a new law that makes it easier for families to find out if sexual predators are residing in their community. Called E-Alert, the new law took effect last month and makes it possible for Queens residents to receive free automatic e-mail updates about Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders who reside in our communities.

In the past, concerned residents – if not otherwise specifically notified – would have to continually check the sex offender registry for updates themselves. This law permits any resident to sign up with the Division of Criminal Justice Services to receive automatic e-mail notifications when a registered sex offender moves into his or her neighborhood. For information, visit the website, www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us.

E-Alert is the latest in a series of laws that build on the Assembly’s long standing commitment to keeping New York’s families safe, including: The Luring Law, which creates the crime of luring a child into a motor vehicle, building or isolated area with the intent of committing any violent felony or felony sex offense; and e-STOP, the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act that prevents sexual predators from victimizing children on Internet social networking sites by prohibiting sex offenders from using the Internet for inappropriate reasons.

My Dialysis Treatment Bill is Adopted by the Assembly

I was pleased when the Assembly passed my bill to require insurance companies to provide coverage for out of network dialysis treatment.

Individuals with kidney failure need regular dialysis treatment, often several times a week, in order to survive. Some individuals requiring dialysis treatment are unable to travel away from home for more than a day or two because they cannot afford the uninsured costs of this treatment. Effectively, this means that some individuals are faced with the prospect of paying expensive medical bills for regular dialysis treatments, or staying home.

Many but not all health insurance plans allow these patients to travel for personal or business and receive dialysis treatment at reasonable rates while they are away from home. My bill will make it necessary for all companies offering plans in New York to do so with reasonable requirements for notification and reimbursement of any extra costs.

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Senator Neil Breslin. When adopted in that house and signed by the Governor, it will be possible for people requiring dialysis to get their treatments while traveling without having to pay potentially expensive out-of-network services.


Don’t Kill Student MTA Fares

The suggestion that the MTA might eliminate the student transit fare discount is a particularly outrageous proposal and I have objected to it in the strongest possible terms to the President of the MTA. Withdrawing this long-standing financial support for children would place an unconscionable economic burden on city families and must be prevented.

When I and my colleagues in the Legislature enacted a financial package for the MTA last year, we acted to ensure that the agency could continue to provide reliable and economical public transportation for riders. While the MTA must now respond to new economic challenges, an increase in student transit fees is not acceptable.

Consumer Bills for Health and Safety

Consumers will be protected as a result of two other bills I have introduced in the current legislative session. One prohibits the re-selling of undergarments that has been returned to a store that is not in its sealed, unopened original package. Another will require shopping mall department stores to post directional signs indicating the direction of travel to the nearest exit in the event of an emergency.

I was shocked to learn that it is a common trend for employees at some high-end department stores, including Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Macy’s and Bloomingdales, to put underwear that has been returned to the store back on their racks for resale. An undercover NBC television news segment documented the practice at several stores in a recent undercover segment. Some retailers even use a process for “refreshing”, though not cleaning it, before returning it to racks for resale. This practice is dangerous to the health of all consumers and my bill, if adopted, would prohibit the return of undergarments that are not in their original, sealed packages.

My signage bill will make it mandatory for there to be clear directions posted to the nearest exit in certain large stores. The layout of racks and counters in many shopping center department stores sometimes makes it difficult for a shopper to find the way out of a store in the event of an emergency. My bill will require the store owner or lessee to clearly post signs so that shoppers in any part of the store can be directed to doors, openings or passageways where they can safely exit the store.

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey
DISTRICT OFFICE: 55-19 69th Street • Maspeth, New York 11378 • 718-651-3185
ALBANY OFFICE: Room 654 Legislative Office Building • Albany, New York 12248 • 518-455-4755
E-mail: markeym@assembly.state.ny.us

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