June 14, 2023
John A. Toscano
Queens Gazette

I On Politics

SENATE PASSES VOTE EARLY BY MAIL ACT: Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris announced the State Senate passed his new legislation (S.7394/A.7632) to expand early voting options to include an Early Vote by Mail choice for all New Yorkers. The legislation is sponsored in the State Assembly by Assembly Member Karines Reyes, RN of the Bronx.

“Voting is a fundamental right and the easier we make it to vote, the healthier our democracy will be,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. “I am proud the State Senate passed this bill and continues to build on its important work of expanding access to the ballot box for all New Yorkers.”

The bill would give all New Yorkers the option of Early Voting by mail. While the state constitution requires a prescribed excuse for Election Day absentee voting, it does not constrain the Legislature from enacting a unique process for Early Voting. Similar proposals have been enacted and survived challenges in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

New Yorkers would request an Early Voting ballot from their local Board of Elections and it would need to be returned before the close of polls on Election Day.

The legislation is supported by groups including the Leadership Now Project, Institute for Responsive Government, Actors’ Equity Association, Make the Road New York, StandUp America, and Tech:NYC.

ADDABBO REMEMBERS D-DAY: NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. said: “Today marks the 79th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy (June 6, 1944). It is a time when we remember the brave service members who answered the call of duty to protect our freedom. Thousands lost their lives or were wounded and missing in the largest air, land and sea invasion ever executed. We are forever indebted to the ‘Greatest Generation,’ for their bravery and patriotism.”

$104.6M IN HUMANITARIAN AID HEADED TO CITY: On June 7, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that FEMA will provide $104.6 million in additional grant funding via the NEW Shelter Services Program for the care and assistance of asylum seekers in New York City:

“When we negotiated these funds into the budget for the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program and the new Shelter Services Program, it was with New York City’s needs front and center – and the share of funding of this tranche reflects that intent. Today’s $104.6 million in funds is the largest share of the federal dollars released via the new Shelter Services Program we created and will defray a critical portion of the City’s asylee-related costs. New York City continues to be disproportionally challenged by an influx of asylum seekers and it will take an all-hands-on-deck, every-level-of-government approach to solve, including getting more funds and establishing quicker administrative pathways to work authorization and broadening the eligibility for Temporary Protective Status, particularly for Venezuela, which we are strongly urging the Biden administration to implement. Prior to this allotment from FEMA, we worked with the Biden administration to provide $38.4 million of funding to help the City aid those seeking refuge. Today’s funds represent a strong step in the right direction – which better recognizes and rewards New York City’s unique challenge. There is more work ahead between both Houses of Congress that requires cooperation from and partnership with the GOP to produce the resources and policies our localities and state need to deal with this national issue,” said Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

WORST AIR QUALITY IN RECORDED HISTORY’, GUIDANCE: With New York experiencing its worst air quality in recorded history, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a video press conference to share guidance to help New Yorkers protect themselves from dangerous levels of air pollution caused by wildfire smoke.

Gillibrand has taken action to help stop wildfires at their source. Recently she called on the U.S. Forest Service to stand ready to support any request from Canada for American support in suppressing the spread of wildfires in Quebec. And earlier this year, Gillibrand also pressed Congress to deliver $5 million to modernize the Clean Air Status and Trends Network air quality monitoring stations in 5 northeastern states, including New York.

“New Yorkers should take the threat posed by severe air pollution seriously,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I encourage everyone in affected areas to stay indoors as much as possible and follow the most recent health guidance to protect themselves, their families, and their pets. Furthermore, we must take action to stop these wildfires at their source, which is why I called on the U.S. Forest Service to support any request from Canada for help in suppressing these wildfires.”

New Yorkers should:

  1. Wear an N-95 or respirator mask outdoors. Avoid paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores. These masks are designed to trap large particles and will generally not protect your lungs from the fine particles in smoke.
  2. Avoid strenuous activities and exercise outdoors and activities that create more fine particles indoors, including smoking cigarettes, spraying aerosol products, and burning candles or incense.
  3. Keep windows and doors closed and use fans and air conditioners to stay cool.
  4. Protect pets by keeping them indoors as much as possible, limiting strenuous activities, providing plenty of fresh water, and calling a veterinarian if your pet is coughing, gagging, or having trouble breathing.
  5. Track air quality in your area using the U.S. Air Quality Index. Those in areas with “Hazardous” air quality should avoid all outdoor activity. Those in areas with “Very Unhealthy” air quality should avoid long or intense activities outside.

LANDER DECLINES TO REGISTER MEDICARE ADVANTAGE: The Comptroller’s Office declined to register the City’s contract with Aetna to transfer City retirees to a Medicare Advantage program for their health care coverage. A pending lawsuit, brought on behalf of retirees, questions the City’s authority to enter into such an agreement.

Comptroller Brad Lander issued the following statement:

“The Comptroller’s Bureau of Contract Administration carefully reviewed the City’s contract with Aetna and returned the contract to the Office of Labor Relations without registering it. Pending litigation calls into question the legality of this procurement and constrains us from fulfilling our Charter mandated responsibility to confirm that procurement rules were followed, sufficient funds are available, and the City has the necessary authority to enter into the contract.

“As a matter of public policy, beyond the scope of our office’s specific Charter responsibility for contract registration, I am seriously concerned about the privatization of Medicare plans, overbilling by insurance companies, and barriers to care under Medicare Advantage.

“I appreciate the work of the Municipal Labor Council and the Office of Labor Relations to negotiate improvements to the Aetna contract to address some of the concerns raised by retirees. However, the broader Medicare Advantage trends are worrisome. Recent investigations identified extensive allegations of fraud, abuse, overbilling, and denials of medically necessary care at 9 of the top 10 Medicare Advantage plans, including CVS Health, which owns Aetna.

“As health care activist Ady Barkan wrote last month, noting that half of Medicare enrollees nationwide have been transferred from traditional Medicare to private Medicare Advantage plans: ‘Once corporations privatize every inch of the public provision of health care, we may never get Medicare back.’”

NYS HEALTH INSURANCE AUTO-RENEWALS HALTED: Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz released the following notice: “Our office is writing to you with an important update on your health insurance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, New York State halted eligibility reviews for those enrolled in Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan and started automatically renewing those already enrolled. Starting this Spring, these automatic renewals have stopped.

“This means that you may need to take action to renew your or your family’s health insurance. To ensure your information is up to date, please call: 1-855-355-5777. You can also sign up for SMS text alerts from NY State of Health by texting START to 1-866-988-0327. If you need to renew your insurance, you will receive a letter or a packet in the mail with the instructions and deadlines to renew. For more information visit info.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/COVID-19-Changes?emci=527b8237-1606-ee11-907c-00224832eb73&emdi=4d2d2c5a-1e06-ee11-907c-00224832eb73&ceid=41686320.

“If you have any questions or would like more information, please call our office at 718-458-5367 or email saavedrahilarios@nyassembly.gov. We are here to help you through this process and ensure your coverage remains unaffected.”

REEXAMINE HOMICIDES WITH LGBTQIA+ VICTIMS: New York City Mayor Eric Adams, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Community Affairs Bureau, the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC), and the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit announced a new process for New Yorkers to contact the NYPD to re-examine cases involving LGBTQIA+ victims. Cases eligible for reexamination include unsolved cold cases that may have happened decades ago, and homicide cases, such as the fatal drugging cases that took place in Hell’s Kitchen last year.

The NYPD’s Detective Bureau will facilitate these requests and provide information on the status of cases, as well as review the overall facts to determine whether a case should be reexamined. All investigations remain “open” until either an arrest is made, or the suspect is identified but inaccessible due to death. Some cases may be referred to the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force to determine if any possible bias motivation exists.

This program responds, in part, to the murders of Julio Ramirez and John Umberger, who were fatally drugged and robbed in Hell’s Kitchen in 2022. Following an investigation by the NYPD and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, five men were indicted as part of an alleged conspiracy to drug and rob individuals in at least 17 separate incidents, including in the deaths of Ramirez and Umberger, between March 2021 and July 2022. Two of the suspects were charged with murder in connection with their deaths.

“Every New Yorker should be able to go out at night, enjoy New York City’s renowned nightlife, and come home safely to their families and community,” said Mayor Adams. “We miss Julio and John, and all the LGBTQIA+ victims of crime. LGBTQIA+ New Yorkers and visitors must be safe and feel safe, especially during Pride Month, and we are hopeful this new process will help solve more cases and answer more questions for communities.”

New Yorkers can access the request form online to request the NYPD re-examines cases involving LGBTQIA+ victims. The NYPD will respond to all inquiries.

PRIDE PROM: NYS Assembly Member Catalina Cruz sent out the following announcement: “Our office would like to invite our young neighbors to Pride Prom! This year it will take place on Friday, June 16th, 5-8 pm, at the New York Hall of Science. We are proud to co-host this fantastic event with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, the LGBT Network, Queens Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Federation, Delmont Medical Care and NHS of Queens.

Pride Prom serves as a joyous occasion that provides our LGBTQ+ youth with a safe and fun community gathering! This inclusive space helps us celebrate the spirit of love, acceptance, and unity. This is a free event for young people ages 14-20, please RSVP at www.prideprom23.eventbrite.com. We will provide a free shuttle bus from the 7 train at 111th Street Station starting at 4:30 PM to the Hall of Science! There will be a Live DJ, Photo Booth, Food and Drink, Performances, Health and Education Resources, and of course Dancing!

“We hope you join us to celebrate the rich diversity of our LGBTQ+ neighbors. You can also reach out to our office at 718-458-5367 if you have any questions!”

WOMAN CHARGED WITH SHOVING TEEN INTO TRACKS FACES 25: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Shemecca Wise was arraigned on charges of attempted murder and attempted assault for allegedly shoving a commuter onto the tracks Monday at a Woodhaven subway station.

District Attorney Katz said: “New Yorkers depend on public transportation to get safely to and from work and school. We cannot allow our subway stations to become places to fear.”

Wise, 26, of Elderts Lane, Brooklyn, was arraigned yesterday on a charge of attempted murder in the second degree and attempted assault in the first degree. Queens Criminal Court Judge Wanda Licitra ordered Wise to return to court on June 8.

If convicted of the attempted murder charge, Wise faces up to 25 years in prison.

According to the charges, on June 5, between approximately 10:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Wise pushed an 18-year-old woman onto the tracks at the 75th Street-Elderts Lane J train station. The victim was able to get off the tracks but suffered a laceration and substantial knee pain.

PRISON SENTENCE FOR POSSESSING CHILD SEX ABUSE VIDEOS: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Andre Hyman was sentenced to one to three years in prison for possessing child sexual abuse photos and videos on his personal computer between May 2021 and November 2022, illegal activity traced through transactions Hyman made using cryptocurrency.

District Attorney Katz said: “To those trying to hide their sexual exploitation of children behind a cover of cryptocurrency: We will track you down. We will use every tool available, as we did in this case, and we will find you. This was a genuine team effort and I am grateful for the work done on this case by District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General. Thank you for your commitment to protecting our most vulnerable.”

Hyman, 29, of 112th Avenue in Jamaica, pleaded guilty last month to possessing a sexual performance by a child and was sentenced by Queens Supreme Court Justice Jerry Iannece to an indeterminate sentence of one to three years in prison. As part of the plea, Hyman permanently surrendered eight electronic devices – three cell phones, two laptops and three flash drives – and will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release.

According to the charges:

Hyman’s activities were discovered as part of an international investigation into the proliferation of online child sexual abuse materials. Local law enforcement partners at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau were alerted to several websites selling child sexual abuse material using Bitcoin addresses. One website in particular advertised access to criminal content in exchange for payment via cryptocurrency.

Investigators tracked the movement of funds from the website to determine the buyers of the illicit images and videos, pointing them to transactions made via Square, Inc., a mobile payment company now called Block Inc. Subpoenaed records from Square, Inc. indicated Hyman purchased sexually explicit materials involving prepubescent girls.

Prosecutors from the Cybercrime Unit of the Queens DA’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau launched a further investigation into Hyman’s bank accounts, strengthening the case, and secured a search warrant for his residence.

The search conducted by the Queens DA Detective Bureau, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General resulted in the recovery of child sexual abuse material.

(For more DA Katz announcements, scroll down.)

EXPANDING RECOGNITION OF ARABS IN STATE DATA: Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris announced the State Senate unanimously passed his legislation (S.6584-A) to disaggregate data for Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) New Yorkers, giving these communities a stronger voice in state-collected data. Companion legislation is carried by Assembly Member Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas in the State Assembly. A coalition advocating for the legislation was led by MALIKAH, NY Muslim Organizing Collective, Street Vendor Project, Armenian American Action Network, CACF, CAIR-NY, Women’s Empowerment Coalition of NYC, YAMA Action, Engage Action, and others.

“Miscategorizing a New Yorker’s race is not only offensive but has real-world impacts on services and resources particular communities receive,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. “It should be obvious that people from the Middle East or North Africa are not white, yet that is how our laws define them. I am proud we are passing this legislation because it will give stronger representation and a more powerful voice to so many.”

“It’s past time that state agencies that collect certain demographic data make new categories for Middle Eastern and North African groups,” said Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas. “It’s unconscionable that Middle Eastern and North African New Yorkers are still counted as ‘White’ in most demographic data. With this bill, New York could finally have a more accurate representation of Arab Americans, and subsequently better serve the Arab American community. Thank you to all of the advocates and Deputy Majority Leader Gianaris for your leadership on getting this important bill passed in the Senate. I’m proud to sponsor this bill in the Assembly and call on my colleagues on the Assembly side to follow the Senate’s lead so the Governor can sign the bill into law.”

Individuals of MENA descent are aggregated into the collective term “White” or “Caucasian” along with people of European descent for purposes of demographic data collection in New York. MENA communities across New York State remain underserved, exhibiting higher rates of language access needs, housing insecurity, poverty, domestic abuse, and health disparities. Businesses and organizations that primarily serve these communities struggle to receive equity-based aid because those they serve are classified as white. MENA individuals are historically undercounted in the U.S. Census for this reason, with the federal government projecting about 280,000 MENA New Yorkers – but community leaders and demographic experts projecting more than 500,000.

This can have a direct impact on New Yorkers – such as when a small business is applying for MWBE contactor status, they can be denied because they would be demographically included as “White.”

President Obama took similar measures federally in 2015, only to have them rescinded by subsequent administrations. This bill also follows in the footsteps of legislation disaggregating the Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander demographic that was signed into New York law in 2021.

Rana Abdelhamid, Executive Director of MALIKAH and Astoria local/resident said, “Growing up and organizing in NY as a North African person, I have seen first-hand the negative impact of lack of data on our communities’ health, education and small businesses, especially during crises like the pandemic. North African and Middle Eastern people have been invisible in data at the federal, state and local levels.”

Suzie Abajian, Co-Director, Armenian-American Action Network said, “For too long, MENA populations, like Armenian Americans, have been invisible within federal, state and local data. This lack of visibility has had direct and material consequences on people’s lives including their healthcare, education, employment and anti-discrimination efforts. When there is no data, there is no way of tracking opportunity gaps and remedying inequities.”

MORE THAN 600 SMALL BUSINESSES SERVED: New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Kevin D. Kim announced that more than 600 small businesses have been served by the landmark NYC Small Business Opportunity Fund —the largest public-private loan fund directed at small businesses in the city’s history — so far this year. Since its launch in January, the Opportunity Fund has awarded 601 businesses a total of $50.5 million in capital, 75 percent of which went to minority or women-owned business enterprises. Additionally, more than half of the funds awarded went to businesses in low-to-moderate income (LMI) communities. The fund — made possible by a public-private partnership between the city, Goldman Sachs, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, and local community development financial institutions (CDFIs) — fulfills a goal set forth in Mayor Adams’ “Renew, Rebuild, Reinvent: A Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery” plan.

“New York City is where dreams are made and nothing personifies that dream more than being able to open a small business, and watch it grow and expand,” said Mayor Adams. “Our small businesses are driving our economic comeback; they are the backbone of our city, and we must stop breaking their backs so they can flourish and grow in our city. That is exactly what this administration is doing through the Small Business Opportunity Fund, and I am incredibly proud to share that we have helped more than 600 small businesses through the largest public-private loan fund directed to small business in our city’s history. This is what public-private partnership looks like, coming together to invest in our people, especially minority-and-women-owned businesses — many of which did not close during the pandemic’s peak. We are removing red tape and barriers so our small business owners can pursue the American dream, get their businesses up and running, and keep their doors open.”

The NYC Small Business Opportunity Fund launched on January 23, 2023. The fund offers loans of up to $250,000 to eligible small businesses with a market-leading interest rate of four percent. Applications for the Opportunity Fund closed on February 13, 2023.

The Opportunity Fund is designed with flexible terms, including low barriers to application, such as no credit score requirement or application fee, provisions to enable businesses to use loans to pay off high-interest debt accumulated during the pandemic, and no required years-in-business — enabling the fund to serve start-up and growth-stage businesses that otherwise face high obstacles to financing. Moreover, the fund is powered by an innovative partnership with eight CDFIs, leveraging the deep roots of local organizations to reach businesses in Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and immigrant communities.

New York City continues to experience a massive economic boomerang, with the city having recovered 99 percent of pre-pandemic private sector jobs — a comeback once predicted to take until 2025 or later — according to the New York State Department of Labor. A 100 percent recovery will mark a record for the highest number of private sector jobs across the five boroughs in New York City’s history.

From corner retail stores to professional consulting firms, small businesses help power New York City’s economy and have been a major driver of the city’s recent recovery. They contribute to the city’s dynamism — making neighborhoods unique and providing income to New Yorkers across the five boroughs. According to a recent report from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees accounted for 45 percent of New York City’s overall employment growth from the first quarter of 2021 to the second quarter of 2022, contributing $3.2 billion in direct economic output to the city.

“I commend Mayor Adams and Commissioner Kim for launching the largest public-private loan fund in our city’s history,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “Small businesses give our neighborhoods their character and employ half the city’s workforce. In under six months, the Small Business Opportunity Fund has invested $50 million in 601 of our small businesses. The user-friendly application allowed the fund to uplift many M/WBEs, immigrant-owned businesses, and businesses in low-to-moderate income communities. These businesses can be a path to the American dream, and the Small Business Opportunity Fund may have been their only way to access capital. It has bolstered economic health, vibrancy, and equality in our city.”

ASSEMBLY PASSES GRIEVING FAMILIES ACT: Assemblyman Ron Kim issued the following statement on the Assembly’s passage of the Grieving Families Act (A.6698)

Assemblyman Kim said: ”For the second year in a row, my colleagues and I passed the Grieving Families Act. The purpose of this bill is to permit the families of wrongful death victims to recover compensation for their emotional anguish, which is presently unavailable under New York State law.

“Our current law, passed in 1847, only allows for compensation for pecuniary loss and negates the potential damages suffered by children, seniors and others who have no income or less income. There is a blanket disregard for family members who should be compensated for emotional loss, but are left out because their relevance is measured solely by their income levels and/or ability to be a wage earner.

“This matter is particularly prescient for the nursing home families I continue to speak out for, whose cries often fall on deaf ears or are impolitely ignored. This bill will help them seek retroactive justice for the losses they endured during our state’s failed Covid response. I implore my Senate colleagues and our Governor to show some moral courage and help turn this bill into law.”

AGREE NOT TO RUN AS INDIES: City Council District 19 Democratic Candidates Tony Avella and Paul Graziano released the following joint statement:

Tony Avella and Paul Graziano are running for City Council in District 19 on the Democratic line and both, respectively, on separate independent ballot lines.

Both candidates have agreed that they will honor the Democratic primary. Whichever candidate loses the primary will withdraw their nomination from their respective independent ballot line, while the victor will retain their independent ballot line.

Both Graziano and Avella have come to this agreement to give the Democratic nominee, whomever it may be, the best chance to compete in the November 7th, 2023 General Election.

GIANARIS SUPPORTS LUNAR NEW YEAR, DIWALI BILLS: The bills add Lunar New Year and Diwali to the state’s School Holiday Calendar, alongside Christmas, Passover, and other holidays, recognizing growing communities in New York State

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris announced his support for legislation making Lunar New Year (S.2351-A) a holiday for New York schools.

“New York’s growing Asian American communities enrich our state and contribute greatly to the strength of our diversity,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. ”As the child of immigrants, I know how important it is to have special cultural occasions observed by the state we call home. I am eager to make Lunar New Year part of the school calendar so even more families can have their important holidays recognized.”

Lunar New Year celebrates the beginning of the Lunar calendar and is celebrated among Asian communities.

“I am proud to champion school holidays for Lunar New Year and Diwali,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens). “I led the Lunar New Year bill when I served in the State Legislature and worked to establish a school holiday for Lunar New Year in New York City, and for years, I have pushed for schools to be closed for Diwali as well. In Congress, I am leading legislation to make Lunar New Year and Diwali federal holidays. I thank Deputy Leader Gianaris for announcing his support for the State Senate bills, and I look forward to their passage.”

New York City Council Member Shekar Krishnan, 25th District said, ”Lunar New Year is a joyous time with family and friends for so many Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other Asian New Yorkers. I’m proud to support Senator Gianaris’ efforts to establish Lunar New Year as a school holiday, and I’m excited that Asian children across the city will soon be able to officially enjoy this annual celebration without having to miss class.”

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris announced his support for legislation making Diwali (S.7552) a holiday for New York City schools.

“The growing New York communities who observe Diwali enrich our city and contribute greatly to the strength of our diversity,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. ”As the child of immigrants, I know how important it is to have special cultural occasions observed by the city we call home. I am eager to make Diwali part of the school calendar so even more families can have their important holidays recognized.”

Diwali is a celebration of light overcoming darkness that is common in several Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism.

New York City Council Member Shekar Krishnan, 25th District said, “Diwali is a special holiday for so many South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities. As the first Indian American ever elected to New York City government, I’m proud to support Senator Gianaris’ efforts to establish Diwali as a school holiday, and I’m excited that children like my own will soon be able to celebrate our holidays with their families, in a way that I was not able to growing up.”

KATZ NAMED GUN SENSE CANDIDATE: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz was named the Gun Sense Candidate by Moms Demand Action, becoming the sole candidate in the race to receive this important recognition.

“Moms Demand Action is a national organization that grew from tragedy no parent should ever face into a powerful force for common sense laws to reduce gun violence. Gun violence is a public health crisis that affects every part of our country. Since taking office as the Queens District Attorney, I have made taking guns off the streets my top priority. The fact remains that the more we limit access to firearms, the more lives are saved. That is why I have led the effort in taking illegal weapons, including ghost guns, off the streets of Queens, and will continue to dedicate all resources at my disposal to ensure a safe borough. I am honored by this recognition from Moms Demand Action,” said District Attorney Katz.

WILLIAMS’ BILLS TO REFORM CITY JAILS: New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams introduced a slate of legislation aimed at changing systems in city jails, including a resolution formally calling for the President to place the Department of Correction under federal receivership. He first called for receivership following the federal monitor’s report last month.

“It is clear that after over a year of purported reforms, the city has shown itself to be unable to meet the needs of those under its custody, care, and control at this time. The issues on Rikers are longstanding, and predate this administration, but despite any efforts by the city, patterns of abuse, neglect, secrecy and misinformation have continued,” said Public Advocate Williams in introducing the resolution.

“If the administration could show me a more swift, effective, fully functioning plan than is currently in place, that would be welcome – but we can’t wait to see if conditions worsen and harm compounds,” Williams continued. “I do not take this step lightly, and know that receivership comes with its own challenges – at the same time, we need rapid reform. Right now, I urge my colleagues on the Council to support this resolution and call for intervention to protect people on both sides of the bars.”

The receivership resolution details the recent history of the crisis on Rikers and the push for receivership in the courts, and argues that “Federal receivership is a designation that would give sweeping powers to an independent authority tasked with finally ending violence on Rikers Island as it has helped remedy entrenched problems at other lockups nationwide.”

In light of the court’s current position that the Department of Correction’s action plan is sufficient and the reality that “only a non-partisan receiver appointed by the Federal Court can suspend laws, regulations, and contracts, including a collective bargaining agreement, that interfere with the implementation of the consent decree, and in correcting the things that the court determined are in need of correction,” the resolution calls on “the President of the United States to immediately place New York City jails in federal receivership.”

After his inspection of Rikers alongside Comptroller Brad Lander recently, the Public Advocate repeated his assessment that, at this time, receivership is the best available path to most quickly address the myriad of changes needed and challenges faced at Rikers Island. In addition to the dangerous conditions for people on both sides of the bars, he cited the Department of Correction’s resistance to transparency about deaths and harm in city jails, efforts by the Department to reduce or impede oversight, and budget cuts to restorative programming.

He further noted transition to receivership “must be guided by people currently and locally involved in reform and oversight work, rather than those committed to a failing status quo. And must not be up to solely one person.”

Public Advocate Williams also introduced legislation to protect the rights of detainees on Rikers Island.

First, with Council Member Keith Powers, he introduced Intro 1093, a bill to require the city to report on voter registration in city jails, alongside a companion resolution calling for state action to help ensure this right and facilitate registration and voting among incarcerated people.

Second, the Public Advocate introduced a bill with Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, Intro 1092, to provide opportunity and access for eligible incarcerated people to apply for and obtain IDNYC cards while detained, an important access point for other services and resources.

As the Public Advocate has maintained, systemic change at Rikers must include passage of legislation that will improve services, culture, and safety for all on the island. It must also include a commitment to decarcerate and follow through on the legally and morally mandated timeline to close Rikers for good.

MAYOR ADAMS ENDORSES KATZ: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz demonstrated the powerful momentum of her re-election campaign with a new endorsement from the top New York City official, Mayor Eric Adams. The Mayor emphasized DA Katz’ work making Queens safer while also addressing wrongful convictions and making the criminal justice system stronger. He also cited her ongoing partnership with the NYPD on numerous successful investigations, resulting in the prosecution of thousands of illegal gun cases, record-setting gang takedowns, and the seizure of large quantities of illicit drugs from Queens neighborhoods.

“Of course I am endorsing Melinda Katz for re-election. She understands that while we can always make policing better, we still need our police, we need to work with them, and we need them to be able to do their jobs. At the same time, she is working to make our system stronger, vacating wrongful convictions, helping our youth get on the right path, engaging our community and showing up where we need her. She is a real partner in making our city safer, and I’m proud to support her for re-election,” said Mayor Eric Adams.

“Mayor Adams knows the importance of public safety. From his childhood experience with police brutality to a career dedicated to reforming police practices while protecting and serving the people of this City, he understands the challenges we face and the need for a multi-tiered response to crime. Mayor Adams is a great partner in our efforts to interrupt the drivers of violence, seize deadly weapons, and protect Queens families from harm. I am honored to receive his endorsement,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

HEART ACT TO MAKE AEDS MORE ACCESSIBLE, PASSES: On June 8, the New York City Council passed the Harihareswara Expand Access to Rapid Treatment Act – or “HEART Act” – with the support of an overwhelming 50 out of 51 Council Members. The bill, introduced by Council Member Shekar Krishnan, will require the City’s Department of Health to publish data on the locations and quantities of all publicly-available automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in New York City, making the life-saving devices more accessible to any member of the public. Council Member Krishnan first introduced the bill after hearing the story of a constituent, Sumana Harihareswara, whose father died of a heart attack in 2010. The bill – now law – is named in his honor.

“As we mark the end of National CPR and AED Awareness week, I’m proud to have led passage of the HEART Act, which will help more New Yorkers find AEDs to save the lives of their friends, family, and neighbors,” said Council Member Shekar Krishnan. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in New York City, claiming hundreds of our loved ones every year. By making AEDs easily accessible across the city, we can and will prevent countless deaths from cardiac arrest.”

“My father, S.K. Harihareswara, died of a heart attack in 2010,” said Sumana Harihareswara. “He was a community organizer, a priest, an independent publisher, and one of my inspirations. And then his heart stopped. Lots of us, especially people of South Asian heritage, have cardiac health issues. And COVID has weakened many people’s cardiovascular systems and led to more heart attacks. So it’s crucial for New Yorkers to know where our nearest AEDs are, and this bill gets that information where more people can get it. Too many people die when nearby AEDs could have saved them, and I’m so grateful to help us stop wasting that chance.”

“The American Heart Association supports efforts designed to raise awareness about the importance of knowing how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). When a person experiences a sudden cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately receiving CPR from someone nearby. More than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital each year, and quickly performing CPR can double or triple the chance of survival for a person in cardiac arrest,” said Lawrence Phillips, MD, Immediate Past President of the New York City American Heart Association Board of Directors and Medical Director, Outpatient Clinical Cardiology, NYU Langone Health. “We applaud Council Member Krishnan and the rest of the NYC Council for their support of CPR and AED awareness and making sure New Yorkers are able to locate an AED when they need one.”

“Automated external defibrillators save lives, and in a cardiac emergency, every precious second matters,” said Council Member Linda Lee, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addictions. “As the City Council continues to advocate for the cardiovascular health of New Yorkers, I am proud to cosponsor the HEART Act to require DOHMH to report on the availability of defibrillators across our city to create better health outcomes. I applaud Council Member Krishnan for his leadership in passing this legislation that will save the lives of countless residents who may experience a health crisis.”

“Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any moment, and having access to an automatic external defibrillator is critical in saving lives. Int 814-A provides transparency and accessibility of AEDs in public while highlighting the importance of cardiovascular health,” said Council Member Marjorie Velázquez. “I’m proud to be a part of a movement that will save countless lives, especially when waiting for hospital transport is not an option.”

1199SEIU ENDORSES SCHULMAN: New York City Council Member Lynn Schulman announced the endorsement of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, New York’s largest union and the nation’s largest healthcare worker union. Schulman, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Health, is seeking re-election in the 29th District.

“1199SEIU’s endorsement is personal to me,” said Council Member Schulman. “I have devoted my personal and professional life to healthcare advocacy, and I worked in our city’s public healthcare system. I know firsthand that to ensure New Yorkers receive quality healthcare, we must provide our healthcare workers with fair pay and benefits. New York City simply cannot afford to treat our healthcare heroes with anything but dignity and respect. I will continue to stand in solidarity with 1199SEIU workers and fight side-by-side with them to ensure our communities have access to the medical care we need and deserve.”

“At every step of the way as Council Health Committee chair and during her long career in healthcare advocacy, Lynn Schulman has been a true champion for healthcare workers and the people they serve,” said Dell Smitherman, 1199SEIU Downstate Political Director. “Because of Council Member Schulman’s unwavering commitment to caregivers and patients, 1199SEIU proudly endorses her for re-election. We look forward to actively supporting Council Member Schulman’s campaign efforts through Primary Day because our community depends on her thoughtful leadership in the Council.”

1199SEIU represents over 200,000 nurses and healthcare workers in New York City, more than 300,000 members in New York State, and over 400,000 total members along the East Coast. The union joins a broad coalition of elected leaders, community organizations, and other powerful labor unions supporting Schulman for re-election.

LI TEEN INDICTED IN CRASH KILLING 16-Y.O.; FACES 5-15: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Yaser Ibrahim was indicted by a Queens grand jury and arraigned on manslaughter and other charges in connection with a car crash in Astoria that left a 16-year-old bicyclist dead.

DA Katz said: “The rules of the road and licensing requirements exist to prevent tragedies like this one. We will hold the defendant accountable and seek justice for the young victim and his loved ones.”

Ibrahim, 18, of Levittown, was arraigned in Queens Supreme Court on an 11-count indictment charging him with manslaughter in the second degree; criminally negligent homicide; assault in the second degree; leaving the scene of an incident without reporting; failing to stop at a steady red signal; operating a vehicle at unreasonable speed; driving in excess of the maximum speed limit; operating a motor vehicle or permitting it to be operated in this state without having in full force financial security; two counts of operating a motor vehicle with a tinted window; and operating or driving a motor vehicle without a license. Justice XX set a return date of June x. If convicted, Ibrahim faces up to 5 to 15 years in prison.

According to the charges:

On April 10, at approximately 9:45 p.m., Jaydan McLaurin of Long Island City was riding an electric Citi Bike through the intersection of 21st Street and 21st Avenue in Astoria. He was struck by a 2022 BMW X7 going south.

The BMW was located several blocks away from the collision scene with significant damage to the bumper and windshield.

Ibrahim admitted he was driving the SUV at about twice the unposted 25-mile-per-hour speed limit and hit the cyclist. He told police he stopped, saw people running to the street, got nervous and left the scene.

Ibrahim could not produce a valid driver’s license or insurance and had only a learner’s permit. The car’s windows were heavily tinted.

The victim was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead from severe head and body trauma.

VEHICULAR HOMICIDE, DWI CHARGES, 22-Y.O. FACES 25 YRS: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Tamir Khan was arraigned today on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, driving under the influence and other crimes for a collision Monday morning in Richmond Hill that left two men dead.

DA Katz said: “This was a horrific collision that we allege was caused by the defendant’s complete disregard for the rules of the road and for the lives of other motorists and pedestrians. We will seek justice for the victims and their loved ones.”

Khan, 22, of 117th Street in Richmond Hill, was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on a complaint charging him with aggravated vehicular homicide; aggravated vehicular assault; manslaughter in the second degree; vehicular assault in the first degree; assault in the second degree; vehicular manslaughter in the second degree; vehicular assault in the second degree;, criminally negligent homicide; operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol; failure to stop at a stop sign; and having tinted windows. Judge Scott Dunn set a return date of June 9. If convicted, Khan faces up to 25 years in prison.

According to the charges:

On June 5, at approximately 4:24 a.m., Khan was driving a gray Audi A4 northbound on 117th Street at a high rate of speed and failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection with 111th Avenue.

Khan struck a silver 2001 Toyota Camry heading westbound on 111th Avenue and continued driving. The Camry was propelled into a spin and collided with a utility pole. Khan returned to the crash location approximately 30 minutes after the collision.

The driver of the Camry, Inderdeo John, 64, of Richmond Hill, was pronounced dead at a local hospital later that morning. A second victim, a 71-year-old passenger in the Camry, died today from head and chest injuries sustained in the collision.

Khan had a blood alcohol content of .09 percent (the DWI standard is .08 percent and above).

—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts.

This column was originated by John A. Toscano.