Joseph R.

reports to
the people
Fall 2004

INSIDE this newsletter…..









We Must Stop Reckless and Negligent
Drivers from Killing Innocent People

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol Chairs Hearing to
Prevent Deaths and Injuries Caused by Reckless or Negligent Drivers

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, Chairman of the NYS Assembly Committee on Codes, chaired a public hearing on preventing deaths and injuries caused by reckless and negligent driving. The mission of this public hearing was to explore new ways of preventing deaths involving motor vehicles.

“Unfortunately, there are too many drivers on the road who have been unable to curb their unsafe driving lifestyle. Their risky driving patterns must be halted. My legislation does that. Dangerous drivers will now face penalties and jail time that will remove them from the roads and force them to exchange their bad habits for safe ones.”

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol

Nationwide, New York State is a leader in implementing innovative traffic safety programs. The fatality rate involving motor vehicles is nearly 25 percent lower than the national average. However, in 2002, over 1,500 people died on New York roadways. The panel’s aim is to reduce preventable deaths to zero. The members of the panel listened to over a dozen testimonials. Testimony was given by government officials, prosecutors and devastated families whose loved ones were killed in an accident involving a car.

“There were many suggestions that are easy to implement almost immediately. Technical alterations, such as timing traffic lights to slow down speeders trying to make the next light and extending curbs to better protect pedestrians, will be considered for immediate implementation,” said Assemblyman Lentol. “Other proposed changes that require new legislation take more time to put in place, but new laws can save lives across the state of New York. As the Chairman of the Codes Committee, I examine all legislation that carries penalties. I am deeply committed to passing fair and balanced legislation that will save lives.”

During the hearings, Assemblyman Lentol questioned participants about his legislation, A11352. This bill is titled Vehicular Homicide (A11352\Lentol).

The proposal creates the new crime of “vehicular homicide.” It would apply to drivers who have a history of unsafe, dangerous driving and have previously killed someone while behind the wheel. Under terms of the legislation, drivers who again cause death by committing any one of a number of major traffic violations would be charged with the newly created Class E felony crime of “vehicular homicide.”

Assemblyman Lentol said, “having spoken with many victims of reckless driving, I cannot understand the utter disregard certain drivers show for the value of human life. So much can be lost as a result of careless, dangerous driving. I believe passage of my bill, which will hold reckless drivers accountable for their actions, will help to ease the present suffering of some families who have lost loved ones and prevent future tragedies.”

Lentol Brings Movie
Production Jobs to Brooklyn

Assemblyman Lentol has worked for the passage of legislation that will bring thousands of jobs to Brooklyn, more specifically to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Lentol’s district. Mr. Lentol s ponsored legislation signed into law in August to provide tax credits to the production industry to help New York remain competitive in this business. Above, Assemblyman Lentol meets with Speaker Silver, David Steiner, Steiner Studios, Lew Wells, Co-Producer of the West Wing and other Brooklyn Delegation members to promote the passage of this legislation.

Updates: In my last newsletter I updated you on rezoning issues. In this newsletter I want to alert you to the City’s major citywide garbage plan that will affect our neighborhoods. I include in this letter two timetables that outline the public review process on both of these important issues: the City’s Solid Waste Plan and the City’s Greenpoint/Williamsburg Rezoning plan. There are many dedicated residents who have been working on these issues for some time, but now they need the full attention and support of our community. This information is supplied by our local Community Board One. Contact the Board to keep updated and to make sure changes have not occurred.

Solid Waste Management Plan

The City of New York Department of Sanitation has released its Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan, Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). This plan outlines how New York City will transport and export its garbage. A part of this plan calls for upgrading and using marine garbage transfer stations. The plan will establish a citywide system where garbage will be carted to marine garbage transfer stations then exported by barge to another location. The Greenpoint Garbage Marine Transfer Station (GMTS) conversion is included in this plan. Assemblyman Lentol has opposed the inclusion of the GMTS because our neighborhoods already carry more than acceptable amounts of garbage from throughout the City. Transfer stations bring with them truck traffic, odors, pests and other problems. Following is the current schedule for Public Review and Involvement in the public scoping meetings:

  • NYSDEC Part 360 Permit/DEIS Hearings
  • City Council Hearings on the City’s Draft Waste Management Plan
  • Comments on the DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement)
  • Publication of the Final Environmental Impact Statement
  • Adoption of the Plan
  • Implementation by the City of New York

Greenpoint Williamsburg Rezoning Projected ULURP Timeline:

In Summer 2004 the Rezoning plan for our neighborhoods in Greenpoint/Northside will be certified which begins the official Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Following is a general timeline for the ULURP process:

  • City Planning Certifies the application for a zoning change — the ULURP clock starts.
  • Community Board Receives the ULURP Application and has 60 days to review it.
  • Borough President’s Review Period begins — 30 day review period.
  • City Planning Review Period Begins — 60 days.
  • City Council Review Period — 50 day review period with a 15 day City Planning Department review time period to make modifications. — City Council Votes on Plan.
  • Mayor Reviews Application — can veto City Council Vote — 5 day review period.
  • City Council Final Review — opportunity for Overrides during this review.

Winner of a
Maritime College

Pictured with Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol is Christopher Oktausk of Greenpoint who was selected as a recipient of the Cadet Appointment Program Scholarship at the State University of New York Maritime College. The scholarship is sponsored by the New York State Assembly and Senate and allows Assemblymembers to recommend a student from their district who has excelled academically and in community participation. If the candidate meets the strict guidelines, he/she is awarded a four year full tuition scholarship. This is an extremely prestigious program that boasts a 100% professional placement upon graduation with the average starting salary for last year’s class being $52,000.


Protect Your Children From On-Line Criminals
Message from . . . Member of Assembly Joseph R. Lentol:

Computers are wonderful tools that can open the door to an incredible world of information for our children. But parents should be aware that this door works both ways – with children able to access the world and the world able to interact with your children.

Authorities nationwide have become increasingly aware of pedophiles who use computer bulletin boards aimed at youths to engage children and adolescents in sexually oriented conversations.

Authorities have become increasingly aware of pedophiles who use computer bulletin boards aimed at youths to engage children and teens in sexually oriented conversations, attempting to lure unsuspecting kids into their lurid world. In the most serious cases, the pedophile will try to arrange a meeting with the victim. But even when this does not occur, these deviants have invited or conned numerous victims into graphic, self-revealing conversations and other actions, while posing as a friend. The Assembly passed a bill, which is now the law, that makes it a felony for an adult to use a computer to knowingly solicit a minor for sexual activities. While this law punishes abusers and brings them to justice, you must remember that parents are always their children’s first line of defense. Protect Your Children if you have a computer connected to an on-line service, or if your child has access to such a hook-up at the home of a friend or relative. Warn your child about the dangers of trusting a stranger they meet in cyberspace. Just because a person appears to be a friendly pen pal your child’s own age, does not mean that is who is on the other end of the connection. Warn your child to report to you any message that makes him or her uncomfortable. You should also warn your child never to give personal information such as their address, phone number or school to someone over an on-line service. And be aware yourself. Adults can also be victims. There are numerous police warnings of scam artists working the Internet, offering pyramid schemes, phony stock deals and other con games. Parents Be Aware. Your child may be receiving inappropriate messages or materials via a computer modem or on-line services. The following are several potential danger signs:

  • your child begins to spend unusual amounts of time on-line
  • the computer suddenly and repeatedly goes dark when you enter the room, as though your child were hiding something
  • your child uses a large number of disks to retrieve materials or you find hidden disks
  • your child seems reluctant to discuss the messages he or she has been receiving

Pictures can be easily digitalized and transmitted via a modem or on-line services, and many pictures show things you don’t want your children to see. You should be aware that many picture files use extensions .GIF, .GL, .TIF, .JPG, .AVI, .FLI, .PCX, and .PIC. Look for them on both floppy and hard disk directories.

For more information, contact the National Center for Missing andExploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 or the New York City Police Department.

InternetSafety Tips

Teach your children how to be smart and safe on the Internet — they should be no more welcoming to Internet strangers than they would be to a stranger on the street.

Know what your children are doing and who they are communicating with on-line.

Keep the computer in a family living area of your home so children cannot use the computer privately.

Spend time with your child while on-line.

Request your on-line service block certain services so you can prevent your child from accessing “adult” bulletin boards.

Warn your children:
  • never give out identifying information such as name, address, school name or telephone number and never send their picture without checking with you first.
  • never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening or make them feel uncomfortable.
  • never arrange a meeting without telling you — and if it’s okay, only meet in a public location with you present.
  • to get to know on-line friends, just as they would get to know any of their friends.

Assemblyman Lentol Offers
Important Consumer Information

Assemblyman Lentol receives many calls every day asking for information on various consumer advocacy issues. The questions range from quality day care to financing college. Here are some examples of consumer guidance pamphlets you will find on Assemblyman Lentol’s website. Keep checking, as new ones are added on a regular basis:

The Facts About Credit

What If You Are Unable to Make Your Health Care Decisions?

Child Health Plus

Family Health Plus — Making Quality
Insurance Available to New Yorkers

HMO Consumers Can Fight Back

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol’s Terrorism Law Helps New York to Respond Efficiently and Effectively During a Disaster

Assemblyman Lentol participated in Public Hearings that reviewed the City and State’s preparedness for major emergencies. Mr. Lentol is pictured here questioning government officials about whether funds that the NYS Legislature allocated to improve communications were used prudently. To review the Committee report issued as a result of these hearings “First Responders: A Last Priority? The Status of New York State Preparedness” click here.
Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol announced that his terrorism bill has passed the NYS Senate and has been signed into law by the governor. The comprehensive bill, written by Assemblyman Lentol, will prepare New York to fend off potential attacks and will improve our state’s response to natural disasters, acts of terrorism and massive emergencies.

“After 9/11, we realize that we are prime targets for terrorism and we were simply not properly prepared to efficiently minimize damages during a massive disaster,” said Assemblyman Lentol. “With this law we will be better prepared in terms of our reaction and damage control during a state of emergency.”

The bill:

  • Establishes a State Office of Homeland Security to coordinate anti-terrorism efforts;
  • Expands the availability of hazardous material training for first responders;
  • Requires a review of security in and around chemical plants;
  • Makes public- and private-use airports more secure.

“ The more advanced preparation we do, the more time we can spend on helping anyone affected by a natural disaster or act of terrorism,” said Assemblyman Lentol. “We know that we will be active targets and we need to be prepared fully.”

The bill also deals with captured terrorists, toughening sentences to ensure that those convicted of terrorist-related crimes will not be free to target us again.

The bill:

  • Creates the crimes of criminal possession and criminal use of chemical or biological weapons, including sentence of mandatory imprisonment without parole for class A-1 offenders;
  • Eliminates the statute of limitations on dangerous terrorism crimes;
  • Drastically increases the penalties for terrorism–related money laundering; and
  • Amends the state’s wiretapping and eavesdropping laws to give law enforcement authority to listen in on terrorism suspects and interrupt their plots.

“I’d rather be prepared for an attack that doesn’t happen than unprepared for one that does,” Lentol said. “We have to be ready — and that means giving defendants and responders alike the tools they need to get their job done. That’s exactly what this bill does.”

HMO Consumers Can Fight Back

What you should know...

Can Consumers Appeal Their HMO’s Decisions?
The External Appeals Law provides an independent appeal process for reasons of medical necessity to New Yorkers who have been denied health insurance benefits.

The law also allows consumers to appeal decisions when a treatment or service is denied because it is considered to be experimental or investigational in nature.

Consumers can file an application with the State Department of Insurance requesting an external appeal agent review the case.

This law will help ensure that consumers have access to an independent expert review of what is appropriate and what is best for them medically.

How Does The External Appeal Process Work?
To be eligible for an independent appeal, a consumer must have first used the health plan’s internal appeal process and received a denial on or after July 1, 1999, or both the plan and the consumer must agree to waive their rights to the internal review and move directly to an independent external review.

The external appeal process does not replace the plan’s internal process. If, after going through the first level appeal of the internal process, the consumer (or a provider in some cases) still disagrees with the decision, he/she can apply to the New York State Department of Insurance to request to have the appeal reviewed by an external agent who is independent from your health plan.

How Can A Consumer Get An External Appeal Application?
When a health plan issues a final adverse determination at the first level of appeal, the plan must provide the consumer written notification of the decision, including the reason for the denial; a description of the external appeal process; and the application form and instructions for filing the application.

Persons can also obtain an external appeal application from the State Department of Insurance or the State Department of Health.

Who Decides An External Appeal?
The Department of Insurance reviews all external appeal applications. If the department determines the applicant is eligible, an external appeal agent is appointed. External appeal agents must not have any affiliation with the health care plan to prevent any conflict of interest. The selected external appeal agent will review the request to determine if the denied service is medically necessary and should be covered by the plan.

When Must An Appeal Be Filed?
Under the law, persons have 45 days from the date they received a final determination from the plan’s internal appeal process to file for external review. External appeal agents have 30 days to make a decision. For emergency cases, the Insurance Department can process a complete application within 24 hours and the reviewer renders a decision within three days.

Consumers lose their right to appeal if they don’t file an application with the Insurance Department for an external appeal within 45 days after the final adverse decision from the first level internal plan appeal.

What Does An External Appeal Cost?
Plans may charge a fee (up to $50.00) that must be included with the application for an external appeal. This money will be refunded if the appeal is decided in the consumers’ favor. If you can demonstrate financial hardship, the fee may be waived. For those covered under Medicaid or Child Health Plus, there is no fee.

Are Health Plans Bound By These Decisions?
Health plans must abide by the decision of the impartial panel or face stiff penalties and sanctions by the state.

What If My Employer Is Self-Insured?
If you are a member of a self-insured plan, you are NOT eligible for external review. Federal law prohibits states from regulating self-insured plans. If you are unsure whether your coverage is self-insured, check with your employer.