Simotas Fights to Protect Astoria’s Consumers
Calls for Moratorium on Winter Utility Shutdowns

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas introduced legislation this summer to strengthen consumer protections for New York’s energy consumers. Currently, the law provides certain protections for consumers with medical emergencies, the elderly, blind and disabled, and to all consumers during the cold weather period. The legislation would prohibit utility companies from terminating service during the winter months until the Public Service Commission can conduct a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of these consumer protection policies. The bill comes on the heels of an AARP study finding that despite consumer protections already in place, 321,995 utility shutdowns occurred in New York in 2010, including 50,809 in December, January, February, and March.

“The number of households that had their electricity and gas shut off by New York utility companies last year is staggering,” Assemblymember Simotas said. “In this economy, people are struggling to pay their energy bills more than ever. We owe it to our residents to have the Public Service Commission thoroughly assess the quality of our consumer protection laws.”

Assemblymember Simotas, joined by Assembly colleagues and representatives of the AARP, announces her bill to strengthen consumer protections for energy customers.

Resources for Utility Assistance

Simotas Moves to Prohibit ‘Toxic Toys’
from Children’s Day Care Centers

After learning that insufficient restrictions exist on toys containing hazardous materials in New York day care centers, Assemblymember Simotas authored legislation to ban “toxic toys” from such facilities throughout the state. Defining toxic toys as products covered in lead paint, created in unsanitary conditions, made of a contaminated substance, or stuffed toys not sufficiently wrapped when purchased, the bill would require that all day care centers meet appropriate safety standards to protect children.

Assemblymember Simotas addresses a public hearing on child product safety, where she discussed legislation she authored that would prohibit day care centers in New York from possessing “toxic toys.”

“The least we can do for working parents is ensure that their children will not be exposed to harmful materials when left at a day care center,” Assemblymember Simotas said. “This bill would add a measure of security for those parents and clarify the definition of ‘toxic toys’ so that day care centers know what products they can and cannot purchase.”

The legislation comes on the heels of millions of toys being recalled over the past few years, including 10 million by Fisher-Price alone in 2010. Simotas discussed her bill, among other issues, at a recent public hearing held on child product safety, where she and her Assembly colleagues agreed that more needed to be done to protect children from potentially harmful toys. “I look forward to working with the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee towards passing this bill and other initiatives aimed at making New York’s child-care facilities safer,” Assemblymember Simotas said.

School Safety Alert Program

Simotas Kicks Off ‘Mobile District Office’ Series

Since taking office, Assemblymember Simotas has continued to be an active presence in the western Queens community, increasing her outreach efforts recently with monthly “Mobile District Office” events.

Assemblymember Simotas began the series in September on Steinway Street between 25th and 28th Avenues, and visited the Marine Terrace and Central Astoria apartments near Astoria Park in October. She and her staff met with dozens of residents, handing out informational brochures on programs for senior citizens and homeowners, and fielding questions about topics ranging from unemployment to quality of life issues. Assemblymember Simotas will continue to hold mobile office hours each month in different locations throughout western Queens.

“While our door is always open to constituents, not everyone has the time or the ability to travel to our office if they need assistance,” Assemblymember Simotas said. “By bringing the office to them, we’re letting the members of our community know that we’re here to help and be a resource for them.”

Assemblymember Simotas speaks with a constituent at the first installment of her “Mobile District Office” series. The legislator will hold mobile office hours every month in different parts of the 36th Assembly District.

Come See Us at Our Next Mobile District Office

Simotas Gets Tough on Crime

One of Assemblymember Simotas’ top legislative priorities this year was making New York a safer place and increasing penalties on violent criminals and sex offenders.

In a disturbing incident that recently occurred at an Astoria public library, an unidentified man made inappropriate contact with a 7-year-old child. After learning that the penalty for this crime was only a misdemeanor, Assemblymember Simotas teamed up with City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. and State Senator Michael Gianaris to introduce legislation making the “forcible touching of a child” a felony.

“It is disturbing to learn that a child was victimized in a public library, a place intended to be a safe, comfortable learning environment,” Assemblymember Simotas said. “Those who prey on children are the worst kinds of criminals, and our laws should treat them as such.”

In addition to the forcible touching bill, Assemblymember Simotas introduced several other pieces of legislation aimed at making more information about registered sex offenders available to the public and allowing for harsher sentences on criminals who prey on children.

Assemblymember Simotas also took measures to protect law enforcement officials, collaborating with Senator Gianaris on a bill signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo that cracks down on criminals who attempt to obstruct felony investigations through the use and installation of explosive devices. The legislation responds to a nationwide surge in felons – especially drug traffickers – “booby-trapping” compartments in vehicles to hide contraband, placing investigating officers in danger.

“Our public safety depends on law enforcement officials being able to investigate criminal activity without the risk of being harmed by rigged devices intended to prevent them from discovering illegal products or activities,” Assemblymember Simotas said. “This law holds individuals who use these devices – and those who enable them – accountable and provides the men and women who serve and protect our communities with an added measure of security.”

Assemblymember Simotas, pictured here with Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown and New York City Council Public Safety Chair Peter Vallone, Jr., attends a “National Night Out Against Crime” event at Astoria Park.

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas
DISTRICT OFFICE: 21-77 31 Street, Suite 107, Astoria, NY 11105 • 718-545-3889, FAX: 718-545-3607
ALBANY OFFICE: Room 833, LOB, Albany, NY 12248 • 518-455-5014, FAX: 518-455-4044