I On Politics – Western Queens Gazette

Thursday, July 13, 2023

LOCAL SHARK SIGHTINGS PROMPT DRONE MONITORING: Governor Kathy Hochul announced new shark-monitoring drones will be deployed to local beach communities on Long Island and New York City, building on the State’s previous actions taken to address and enhance beachgoers’ safety at State beaches. Governor Hochul also announced that the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Department of Environmental Conservation have increased surveillance over the waters in response to shark sightings over the Fourth of July holiday, following new shark safety protocols established this year.
“New York has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and I’ve directed State personnel to do everything possible to keep beachgoers safe this summer,” Governor Hochul said. “Ahead of the busy summer season, we developed new tools and strategies to monitor marine wildlife and protect the health and safety of New Yorkers. These new drones will increase the shark monitoring capacity of local governments across Long Island and New York City, ensuring local beaches are safe for all beachgoers.”
The new drones will be distributed to all downstate municipalities by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks). It also provides funding to cover the cost of training local personnel to operate the drones. As most of those municipalities do not have drone surveillance capability, this investment will assist localities and agencies along the entire Long Island coastline and in New York City enhance their shark monitoring efforts.
When situations arise of shark sightings and/or interactions with swimmers occur in State Parks beaches, swimming is suspended and all bathers are cleared from the water. Swimming is allowed to resume at least one hour after the last sighting. State Park lifeguards, Park Police and park staff continuously scan and patrol the waters for shark activity.
To minimize the risk of shark interactions, the Department of Environmental Conservation advises the following shark safety guidance:
o   Avoid areas with seals
o   Avoid areas with schools of fish, splashing fish, or diving seabirds
o   Avoid swimming at dusk, night and dawn
o   Avoid murky water
o   Swim, paddle, and surf in groups
o   Stay close to shore, where your feet can touch the bottom
o   Always follow the instructions of lifeguards and Parks’ staff
Humans assume risk whenever they enter any wild environment, whether on land or in the water. Although it is impossible to eliminate risk altogether, ocean users can modify their behavior to minimize potential interactions with sharks and reduce overall risk. When in the ocean, follow DEC’s shark safety guidelines to minimize the potential for negative interactions with sharks.
SCOTUS 2023:
Gov. Hochul: Supreme Court Strikes Down Biden’s Student Debt Plan – Governor Kathy Hochul released the following statement on the Supreme Court decision striking down President Biden’s Student Debt Plan: ”Student loan debt has devastated generations of students who worked hard to earn a college education. This Supreme Court decision puts that weight back on the shoulders of students and graduates across America, especially people of color and women who disproportionately carry higher levels of student loan debt. Across New York’s SUNY and CUNY systems, nearly 60 percent of full-time resident undergraduate students attend school tuition free and we will continue doing everything we can to make higher education more inclusive, accessible, and affordable for everyone.”
 Mayor Adams: Blows To LGBTQ+ community; millions of students – New York City Mayor Eric Adams released the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions in the cases 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis; and Department of Education et al v. Brown et al: “Today, the Supreme Court again released two more decisions that take our country backwards and that prioritize politics over people.
“On the last day of Pride Month, the Supreme Court’s decision undercuts decades of progress by weakening anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community. As the city of Stonewall, with the nation’s strongest human rights laws, New York City will always stand with our LGBTQ+ community and be a safe haven to all.
“Additionally, the decision on student loans abandons student loan borrowers and only puts vulnerable students into further debt. One in six New Yorkers have outstanding student loan debt, and this decision will exacerbate economic inequities for our most vulnerable communities, including our veterans, Black and Brown communities, and low-income families. New York City remains committed to providing free services to advance the financial needs for all seeking help.”
Adams advised that the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection has Financial Empowerment Centers around New York City that provide free financial counseling services, including managing student loan debt. New Yorkers can learn more online. And also that the New York City Commission on Human Rights enforces and educates on the New York City Human Rights Law, one of the most robust civil rights laws in the nation. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, it is illegal to discriminate based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender. Learn more online.
Supreme Court To Review DV Abusers’ Access To Guns – Governor Hochul released the following statement: “After a devastating string of opinions this week, we learned today that the U.S. Supreme Court will now consider overturning a law that keeps firearms out of the hands of domestic violence abusers and protects survivors. This comes one year after the Court recklessly overturned a century-old law that established common-sense gun safety regulations in New York. I am sickened that the U.S. Supreme Court is once again poised to dismantle the right of a Governor to protect her State’s most vulnerable residents and survivors of domestic abuse from gun violence.
“We will be watching closely as the U.S. Supreme Court reviews this case, but our commitment remains the same: we will continue taking bold action to protect victims of gender-based violence and end the gun violence epidemic.”
8 YEARS FOR ROBBERY IN WHICH 3 WERE STABBED: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Supreme Gooding was sentenced to eight years in prison in connection with purse snatchings targeting older women in March 2022. One of the incidents led to the stabbing of two Good Samaritans who intervened to help a victim.
District Attorney Katz said: “We will not tolerate our neighbors being targeted by ruthless predators. The defendant will now have to pay for what he did to these women.”
Gooding, 19, of West 41st Street in Manhattan, pleaded guilty on June 21 to robbery in the first degree for one incident and admitted his involvement in a second. He was sentenced by Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder to eight years in prison.
Gooding’s co-defendant and brother-in-law, Robert Whack, 32, of St. John’s Place in Brooklyn, awaits trial on charges of attempted murder in the second degree, assault in the first and second degrees; robbery in the first and second degrees; criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree; grand larceny in the fourth degree; criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree; and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree.
According to the charges:
o On March 16, 2022, at approximately 5:35 p.m., Whack grabbed the purse and knocked the cane from the hands of a 75-year-old woman entering her apartment building on 64th Street in Woodside. Video surveillance footage showed Whack and Gooding running down the street with the victim’s purse immediately after the robbery.
o On March 26, 2022, at approximately 8:45 p.m., Whack snatched the purse of a 61-year-old woman as she walked near Baxter Avenue and Judge Street in Elmhurst. Gooding knocked her to the ground and the woman called out for help. A 68-year-old pizzeria owner and his 38-year-old son ran to assist the victim. The defendants, who had the victim’s purse, attacked the good samaritans. Gooding punched the younger man while Whack stabbed both men and the woman. Whack and Gooding then fled.
o The three victims were taken to a Queens hospital. The pizzeria owner sustained a stab wound to the back, a collapsed lung and a fractured rib. His son also sustained life-threatening injuries, including multiple stab wounds to the chest and back and a collapsed lung. The 61-year-old woman sustained a single stab wound to the back.
5-11 YEARS FOR 3-MAN CRIME SPREE: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Reginald Williams was sentenced to 11 years in prison for a robbery spree that hit 10 locations, including gas stations and convenience stores — with 15 people held up at gunpoint — in November 2022. His two co-defendants have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced next month.
District Attorney Katz said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. We will prosecute anyone trying to take advantage of their hard-working proprietors and employees, or their customers. We can never lose sight of the fact that communities thrive when local businesses thrive.”
Williams, 23, of Boerum Street, Brooklyn, pleaded guilty on June 9 to two counts of robbery in the first degree before Justice Gia Morris, who sentenced the defendant to 11 years in prison and five years of post-release supervision.
When sentenced July 10, co-defendant Calvin Scantlebury, 39, faces up to six years in prison and co-defendant Dewkwan Cooper, 23, is expected to receive five years’ probation.
The three men were charged with taking part in the following robberies from Nov. 8, 2022, through Nov. 20, 2022. The dates, locations and items taken are as follows:
 November 8, between 12:48 a.m. and 12:50 a.m., at 135-28 Rockaway Blvd., approximately $900-$1,000.
 November 8, between 10:53 p.m. and 10:56 p.m., at 79-09 Rockaway Blvd., approximately $600 and a quantity of checks.
 November 9, between 1:30 a.m. and 1:55 a.m., at 66-10 Grand Avenue, approximately $3,900.
 November 11, between 1:10 a.m. and 1:15 a.m., at 87-74 168th Street, approximately $2,000 and a chain from a victim’s neck.
 November 11, between 1:45 a.m. and 1:55 a.m., at 793 Wyckoff Avenue, approximately $2,000, the cell phone of a security guard, a sum of money from the wallet of one employee, lottery tickets and 10 packs of Newport cigarettes.
 November 15, between 1:55 a.m. and 2:00 a.m., at 66-20 Fresh Pond Road, approximately $1,000 from the cash register, multiple cigarette packs and a customer’s cellphone.
 November 16, between 11:53 p.m. and 11:55 p.m., at 44-33 Kissena Boulevard. The defendants fled empty handed.
 November 17, between 12:50 a.m. and 12:55 a.m., at 17-55 Francis Lewis Blvd, approximately $2,400 and eight Metro cards.
 On November 20, 2022, between 12:20 a.m. and 12:30 a.m., at 92-22 Astoria Boulevard, approximately $3,000 and rolling papers.
 On November 20, between 12:57 a.m. and 1:00 a.m., at 39-04 Skillman Avenue, approximately $1,700 and multiple packs of Newport cigarettes.
The defendants were arrested after the robberies on November 20, when police received a description of the trio fleeing in a Nissan Maxima. An officer who saw the car and suspects, pulled them over for a traffic violation and observed multiple packs of Newport cigarettes in the vehicle. The defendants were identified by the victims in both November 20 incidents. A search warrant was executed on the vehicle and a loaded .40 caliber pistol was recovered from the trunk.
Each incident was captured on video surveillance and showed the three perpetrators wearing distinctive clothing and face masks. Williams was arrested wearing clothing from some of the robberies.
PLEADS GUILTY TO KIDNAPPING IN HOME INVASION: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Tex Ortiz pleaded guilty to a kidnapping in which five people – including a 9-month-old – were held at gunpoint during a botched home invasion that turned into a hostage standoff in Richmond Hill in December 2020. The case against his co-defendant is pending.
District Attorney Katz said: “Fortunately, a highly volatile and dangerous standoff ended safely. For his role in terrorizing and threatening a defenseless family in their own home, a very dangerous man is going to prison for a long time.”
Ortiz, 38, of First Avenue in Manhattan, pleaded guilty to kidnapping in the second degree. Justice Gia Morris indicated she will sentence Ortiz to a determinate term of 13 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for July 31.
The case against co-defendant Wilbert Wilson, 53, of Valentine Avenue in the Bronx, is pending.
According to the charges:
 On November 17, 2020, at approximately 8:40 p.m., Ortiz and Wilson used a crowbar to enter through a back door of a home on 125th Street in Richmond Hill. Inside the residence were four women and a baby.
 The defendants demanded money from one of the victims, while three other hostages were ziptied and held at gunpoint. Another woman was pistol-whipped on the head causing her to fall into furniture while holding her infant daughter.
 One of the victims managed to call 911 and when police arrived on the scene the young mother ran from the home clutching her baby daughter in her arms.
 The other victims were threatened by the defendants at gunpoint. The defendants at one point used a victim as a human shield. The last hostage was forced to walk in front of them at gunpoint and yell to the police not to shoot.
 The defendants surrendered to police after releasing the last hostage.
ACTING NYPD COMMISSIONER ANNOUNCED: New York City Mayor Eric Adams released the following statement on the status of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner:
“First, I want to thank Commissioner Sewell for her year and a half of service to the greatest city in the world. Commissioner Sewell not only led the NYPD with distinction and honor every day, but she inspired millions of young girls and boys in her role. When we came into office, crime was on an upward trend, with murders, shootings, and many of the most dangerous crimes up. But, today, we are safer than we were on January 1, 2022, with most major crimes down, and that is thanks, in large part, to Commissioner Sewell taking a leading role in this Administration’s tireless work to make New York City safer. All New Yorkers owe her a debt of gratitude, and we wish her the best as she embarks on the next chapter.
“Until we name a permanent replacement, Eddie Caban has taken the helm as Acting Police Commissioner. Commissioner Caban is a consummate professional with over three decades of service in the NYPD. I know the hard-working men and women of our City’s police department have a strong leader in place until a more formal announcement is made in the coming weeks.”
‘RENEW YOUR HEALTH COVERAGE – DEADLINES APPROACH’: Governor Kathy Hochul encouraged eligible New Yorkers to renew their health insurance coverage as insurance renewal deadlines rapidly approach. The Governor also issued a public service announcement to get the message out to New Yorkers.
“A variety of free and low-cost health insurance options are available for New Yorkers across our state,” said Governor Hochul. “If you are eligible or have been notified about an expiring policy, please take action as soon as possible. New York will continue to do everything in our power to ensure all eligible New Yorkers can access affordable, high-quality health care.”
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said: “Maintaining continuous health insurance coverage for those eligible through the NYS of Health Marketplace options is a top priority. I want to thank Governor Hochul for lending her voice to the effort to remind New Yorkers to renew their public health insurance, as automatic renewals during the public health emergency have ended. The State Health Department remains committed to ensuring a smooth transition and continued access during this process.”
Over 9 million New York State residents are currently enrolled in public health insurance programs Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan. Enrollees have not had to renew their health insurance since early 2020 due to COVID-19 continuous coverage provisions; however, those provisions have ended, and the State is required to begin renewals again. Renewal notices are being mailed based on individual enrollment end dates. The first redeterminations, or renewals, for public program enrollees are for individuals with coverage ending on June 30, 2023.
Beginning in March 2023, current New York State enrollees began receiving renewal notices in advance of their coverage end dates with detailed instructions of how to stay covered and their deadline to take action. Enrollees are encouraged to make sure their address, phone number and other contact information is up to date with their local Department of Social Services, HRA or NY State of Health.
All redeterminations are required to be completed by May 2024. The New York State Department of Health will continue to promote the public health enrollment unwind through targeted outreach activities, including a robust public education campaign and close partnership with healthcare providers to ensure they are equipped to help consumers through the process.
Local Departments of Social Services statewide have educational materials, videos, and digital assets to support districts in their efforts to keep consumers covered. Please see more about the return of renewals for New Yorkers enrolled in Medicaid, Essential Plan, or Child Health Plus through NY State of Health at
You can find more info on the NYS Medicaid website The NY State of Health Marketplace is assisting consumers through their website and at 855-355-5777. New Yorkers may also sign up to receive SMS/MMS text alerts from NY State of Health to stay aware of important health insurance updates, including when it’s time to renew coverage. To subscribe, text START to 1-866-988-0327.
RESTRAINING ORDER ON SWITCH TO MED ADVANTAGE: City Council Common Sense Caucus released the following statement on Judge Lyle Frank’s issuing of a temporary restraining order to enjoin the city from switching retirees to Medicare Advantage: “We applaud Judge Lyle Frank for his order today enjoining the City from removing municipal retirees’ Medicare supplemental insurance and switching them to a lesser Medicare Advantage plan.
“While this is not a final victory, Judge Frank’s strongly worded motion made it clear that the law, specifically New York City Administrative Code 12-126, is ‘unambiguous’ in protecting the essential, cost-free healthcare that retirees have been promised, and that switching them to Medicare Advantage would cause ‘irreparable harm.’ This is why we fought to prevent the administrative code from being changed and were compelled to file an amicus brief in support of this lawsuit.
“We urge the administration and union leaders to get back to the negotiating table to find health insurance savings without diminishing the benefits our retirees have earned.”
$5.5M TO SUPPORT ADDICTION OUTREACH: Governor Kathy Hochul announced more than $5.5 million to support addiction outreach and engagement services designed to reach underserved populations across New York State. Overseen by the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, this funding, distributed through New York State’s Opioid Settlement Fund, will help connect high-need individuals to a variety of services they may not have access to otherwise.
“My administration remains committed to implementing a multi-faceted strategy to address the opioid and overdose epidemic across New York,” Governor Hochul said. “Through this more than $5.5 million award, we can help connect high-need individuals to the care they need to improve their health and well-being.”
These services are being delivered under two models – the Clinic Model and the Street Outreach model. The Clinic Model will be delivered by an OASAS, Office of Mental Health, or Department of Health certified program, while services under the Street Outreach Model will also be delivered by harm reduction providers.
Both models support street outreach teams, who will visit areas where high-risk populations tend to congregate to offer overdose prevention education, naloxone, and other harm reduction supplies, and also work to connect individuals to treatment and other support services. The Clinic Model treatment teams will deliver clinical treatment services like medication to treat addiction, and will also include peers who will deliver harm reduction services.
Street Outreach Model
12 Providers across New York State are receiving a total of $3,584,083 through the Street Outreach initiative.
In the City, the following grants go to:
o   Center for Community Alternatives – $250,000
o   Federation of Organizations Queens – $250,000
OASAS currently funds 20 providers offering these services in New York, Bronx, Richmond, Erie, Monroe, Sullivan, Tompkins and Albany counties, bringing the total number of providers offering this model to 32.
OASAS currently funds 18 Outreach and Engagement Service providers to deliver the clinic model, and with this funding that number will increase to 23. From June 1st, 2022, through May 31st, 2023, these existing providers reached 7,027 unique individuals with these services.
New York State is receiving more than $2 billion through various settlement agreements with opioid manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies that were secured by Attorney General Letitia James. A portion of the funding from these settlements will go directly to municipalities, with the remainder deposited into a dedicated fund to support prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery efforts to address the ongoing opioid epidemic.
Governor Hochul was a member of the NYS Heroin and Opioid Task Force, which in 2016, recommended new, non-traditional services, including recovery centers, youth clubhouses, expanded peer services, and open access centers, which provide immediate assessments and referrals to care. These services have since been established in numerous communities around the state and have helped people in need access care closer to where they live.
New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state’s toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).
Available addiction treatment including crisis/detox, inpatient, residential, or outpatient care can be found using the NYS OASAS Treatment Availability Dashboard at or through the NYS OASAS website.
If you, or a loved one, have experienced insurance obstacles related to treatment or need help filing an appeal for a denied claim, contact the CHAMP helpline by phone at 888-614-5400 or email at [email protected].
BILL TO STRENGTHEN 9/11 VICTIMS LAW: U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced her support for the Ensuring Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, bipartisan legislation that would close loopholes in the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The bill would make technical corrections to JASTA that would enable families of victims of terrorism to sue foreign state actors for aiding and abetting terrorism.
“9/11 was one of the darkest days in U.S. history and it is essential that the victims’ families can seek justice against those who enabled these horrific attacks,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The bipartisan Ensuring Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act will make important changes to existing law to ensure the families of U.S. victims of terrorism can bring legal action against foreign sponsors of terrorism. I am grateful this bill has strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and I will work with my colleagues to get it swiftly passed and signed into law.”
The Ensuring Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act makes technical corrections to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) that would:
The bill is led by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). In addition to Senator Gillibrand, this bill is cosponsored by Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mike Lee (R-UT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), and Ed Markey (D-MA).
JASTA was enacted by Congress in 2016. The bill amended the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act so that foreign sponsors of terrorism cannot invoke “sovereign immunity” in cases arising from a terrorist attack that kills an American on American soil. JASTA also amended the Anti-Terrorism Act so that civil suits against foreign sponsors of terrorism can be heard in U.S. courts when their conduct contributes to an attack that kills an American.
NYS CIVIL SERVICE EXAM FEES WAIVED: Governor Kathy Hochul announced that civil service exam application fees are now waived for all New York State civil service exams, beginning on July 1, 2023 through December 2025. The removal of fees for all State exams was one of several actions included in the FY 2024 Budget to help modernize New York’s public workforce.
“As our state continues to grapple with an affordability crisis, civil service exam fees place yet another burden on New Yorkers – particularly the passionate New Yorkers seeking meaningful careers in state service,” Governor Hochul said. “By waiving these fees, my administration is standing by its commitment to modernizing New York’s workforce and lowering barriers to ensure that our civil servants reflect the rich diversity of our state.”
Civil service exam fees can serve as a substantial barrier to entering public service, particularly for candidates from traditionally marginalized communities. While fee waivers previously existed for veterans, as well as individuals that are unemployed or receiving public assistance, the majority of test-takers were required to pay an exam fee.
The removal of exam application fees for state civil service exams is one of several actions taken as part of the FY 2024 Budget to modernize New York’s public workforce and streamline government operations. Additional actions include offering civil service exams on an ongoing basis at 12 state-operated testing centers to be established across the state and expanding the state’s existing 55-B hiring program to increase job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Together, these actions reaffirm the Governor’s commitment to making government work better for New Yorkers.
The FY 2024 Budget builds on several initiatives announced in Governor Hochul’s 2023 State of the State address to strengthen the public workforce and government operations. The Governor previously announced the creation of Civil Service Specialist positions at Department of Labor Career Centers to serve as liaisons between jobseekers and the Department of Civil Service, as well as other state agencies, to help candidates better navigate the Civil Service Merit System and provide them with greater support in navigating available job opportunities across state government. The Governor also announced a multi-faceted marketing campaign to raise awareness of the many diverse career paths available across public service and the unique benefits of employment with New York State.
The Governor also recently announced ( thousands of state jobs are open and available for immediate hiring in the health and human services fields across ten state agencies as part of the Hiring for Emergency Limited Placement Program to help address the statewide workforce shortage in critical health and safety titles across state government.
To learn more about working for the State of New York and how to take the next step in pursuing a rewarding career in public service, please visit the Department of Civil Service website: and follow the Department on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
SAME-SEX COUPLES UNEQUALLY TAXED: U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined 47 of her Senate colleagues to reintroduce the bipartisan Refund Equality Act. The bill would allow legally married same-sex couples who were barred from filing federal taxes jointly until 2013 to file amended returns back to the date of their marriage. The bill will help same-sex couples secure an estimated $55 million in refunds.
“For too long, same-sex couples were denied the same rights and benefits as their heterosexual counterparts, including the ability to maximize tax benefits by filing jointly,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This bill would right that wrong and provide millions in refunds to couples that should have received them in the first place. I’m proud to be introducing this bipartisan legislation and look forward to getting it passed.”
Specifically, the Refund Equality Act would:
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Equality California, Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research (CLEAR), Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), and Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE) have endorsed the bill.
FIVE TOP LGBTQ+ DOCTORS IN CITY HOSPITALS: NYC Health + Hospitals announced that five of its physicians were among 64 providers across 22 states and 34 specialties named to Castle Connolly’s inaugural list of ‘Top LGBTQ+ Doctors‘ for their outstanding expertise, patient care, and contributions to the field of health care. The physicians who made the list were all nominated by their peers and then evaluated for criteria including professional reputation, hospital appointments, and education. Castle Connolly is a health care directory that helps patients find providers. Their ‘Top LGBTQ+ Doctor’ distinction, in partnership with GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ+ Equality, is part of their efforts to make it easier for people to find providers who have shared backgrounds and experiences. The five honorees from NYC Health + Hospitals are:
Dr. Kemeny has been the Director of the Queens Cancer Center at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens since 2001. She’s also one of the first female surgical oncologists in the U.S. Her career is distinguished by years of innovative clinical and laboratory research and by a technique she developed for treating patients with metastatic cancer in the liver, involving administering chemotherapy to patients through a pump delivered into the main artery of the organ.
“I am deeply honored to be recognized as a top LGBTQ+ physician by Castle Connolly,” said Dr. Kemeny. “The fact is that we are now living through exceedingly difficult times for many in the LGBTQ+ community, and quality, compassionate healthcare is something every human being is entitled to. The Queens Cancer Center sees an enormously diverse patient population, and it is a place where we make everyone feel welcome and valued. I appreciate Castle Connolly’s acknowledgment of the important work I and many other physicians are doing for members of this community.”
FREE SUMMER LUNCHES FOR KIDS AND TEENS: In partnership with the New York City Department of Education, Queens Public Library is serving free lunches to kids and teens (ages 18 and under) all summer long!
“Meals are free and registration is not required–just show up to one of our participating locations between 1-2pm, Monday through Friday, and inquire about the Summer Meal program. While you are visiting us, attend any of these in-person events (!”
Most participating locations started providing meals on Wednesday, July 5 and will continue through Friday, September 1.
RAINBOW EARLY CHILDHOOD CONTRACTS RESTORED: State Senator John Liu proclaimed victory in the battle over the future of the Rainbow Child Development Center in Queens after it was threatened with closure by the Department of Education. The reversal follows weeks of discussions with the DOE and advocacy from families, educators and elected officials who held that the DOE was wrong to close the school and reassign families to other schools they never applied to, often to schools outside the borough.
After meeting with the DOE this week, Rainbow informed parents that enrollment for the 2023-2024 school year at the Rainbow Child Development Center has been restored. Parents are now beginning the enrollment process.
Rainbow has had its Pre-K and 3-K contracts with the Department of Education since 2010 and has rapidly become an early childhood learning center of choice serving bilingual and low-income Chinese/English-speaking families through its four schools in Flushing, Little Neck, Fresh Meadows and Long Island City.
After a payment dispute between a handful of parents and Rainbow at the start of the pandemic, the Special Commissioner of Investigation opened an investigation into Rainbow that concluded in May 2023. For the last three years, Rainbow continued operations as usual without updates or the $2 million in reimbursements it was owed by the DOE for those operations. Instead, Rainbow’s operators were forced to use personal funds to stay afloat. It was only when Rainbow approached the City Comptroller to inquire about its lack of payments that the school suddenly learned it would be shut down for the next school year and parents were promptly reassigned to other schools.
When approached by Rainbow in early June, Senator Liu rallied with Rainbow families and sent a letter to Chancellor Banks rebuking the DOE for false public statements regarding outstanding payments and demanding the DOE not close this desperately needed community school that serves about 400 children throughout Queens.
This week, Rainbow at long last received an update from the DOE on enrollment indicating that it may continue to offer free Pre-K and 3-K for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year.
State Senator John Liu stated, “The DOE has made the right decision and we thank the Chancellor for recognizing the importance of this early childhood learning center that serves hundreds of families throughout Queens with bilingual English/Chinese competency. The battle to keep the school open is won, but we will stay vigilant to make sure all reimbursements are forthcoming and that any future actions are conducted with fairness and transparency and in a manner that will not adversely impact the livelihoods of this important community school or the hundreds of families who are part of the Rainbow family.”
Christine Ye, Owner of Rainbow Child Development Center stated, “We have always maintained that the accusations against our school were false and unfair and that we never even had a chance to respond before the DOE notified parents that our programs were closed. Rainbow has been long renowned for our commitment to providing a nurturing and inclusive environment for our youngest learners in the communities where they live.”
7 YEARS FOR FATAL DRAG-RACING CRASH: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that Alamin Ahmed was sentenced to seven years in prison in connection with the drag-racing crash in Kew Gardens Hills that killed a hospital worker in November 2020. Co-defendant Mir Fahmid is awaiting sentencing.
District Attorney Katz said: “These men used the streets of Queens as a racetrack with tragic consequences: A healthcare worker going in to start his shift in the midst of the pandemic lost his life. These two men are being held accountable for their deadly recklessness.”
Ahmed, 25, of Central Avenue, Albany, pleaded guilty in May to manslaughter in the second degree and assault in the second degree. Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise imposed the sentence of seven years in prison on the assault charge and two to six years in prison on the manslaughter charge to be followed by two years post-release supervision. The sentences are to be served concurrently.
Fahmid, 25, of 168th Place, Jamaica, who also pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the second degree and assault in the second degree, is scheduled to be sentenced on August 22.
According to the charges:
 In the early morning hours of November 20, 2020, the defendants attended a party in Brooklyn to celebrate Fahmid’s birthday. Afterward, they each drove their cars to a gas station on Main Street and Union Turnpike in Kew Gardens Hills to get gas. The two were seen on surveillance video footage lining their cars up side by side at a red light and then racing down Union Turnpike when the signal turned to green.
 Ahmed and Fahmid sped through two solid red lights. Daniel Crawford, 52, was driving southbound on Parsons Blvd. heading to work at nearby Queens Hospital Center when his Toyota was T-boned at the intersection of Parsons Boulevard and Union Turnpike by the silver Mercedes-Benz driven by Ahmed and the red Honda Accord driven by Fahmid, both of which were traveling at more than 90 miles per hour.
 Crawford, who suffered an internal decapitation, was rushed to the hospital where he worked and was pronounced dead.
 Ahmed’s vehicle was disabled in the crash and he was taken into custody by police at the scene. He showed signs of intoxication and was administered a test at the crash site which revealed his blood alcohol level was .094 percent—above the DWI threshold of .08 percent. Fahmid fled the scene and was arrested two years later.
ADAMS ON PASSAGE OF FY24 ADOPTED BUDGET: New York City Mayor Eric Adams released the following statement after the New York City Council voted to pass the Fiscal Year 2024 budget: “We are proud to have reached a budget that makes strategic investments to keep our city safe and clean, and ensures working families have the services they need, while simultaneously maintaining strong reserves that will allow our city to be prepared for the future. Despite myriad challenges and unexpected crises we have faced, I am proud to say we have successfully navigated these cross currents to arrive at a strong and fiscally responsible budget that will continue to ‘Get Stuff Done’ for New Yorkers. I thank OMB Director Jiha, Council Speaker Adams, Finance Chair Brannan, and the entire Council for their efforts on behalf of our city.”
AG James: Decision Limiting LGBTQ+ Protections – New York Attorney General Letitia James released the following statement in response to the 6-3 decision by the United States Supreme Court to allow a wedding web designer to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals by refusing to provide services for same-sex weddings:
“On this final day of Pride Month, the Supreme Court reminded all Americans that the fight for LGBTQ+ equality and dignity is very much ongoing. This disappointing decision to allow some businesses to ignore laws protecting LGBTQ+ couples from discrimination will have chilling effects. Once again, we have seen this court roll back the progress of the past and strip away rights and protections. I will always stand up and fight for the rights of all New Yorkers, because in our state we know that love is love.”
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in 303 Creative LLC, et al. v. Elenis et al. ruled in favor of a Colorado web designer opposed to same-sex marriage. The web designer claimed a First Amendment right to an exemption from a Colorado state law that bars businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the web designer, allowing the business to refuse to provide web design services to same-sex couples for their weddings.
Governor Hochul: Supreme Court Rolls Back LGBTQ+ Rights – Governor Kathy Hochul stated: “I am disgusted that the assault on human rights by the Supreme Court continues. This decision – released on the final day of Pride Month – to roll back the rights of LGBTQ+ couples will be devastating to people across the country who are simply looking to love the person they choose. Here in New York, the birthplace of the modern movement for LGBTQ+ equality, we remain committed to implementing laws and policies that protect this community. We will never stop fighting for equality.”
QBP Richards: ‘Horrific Supreme Court Decisions’ – Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. stated the following in response to a trio of shameful Supreme Court decisions issued late this week “that saw the extremist bench strike down affirmative action in college admissions, give way for businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples and prevent the Biden Administration from enacting its student loan debt cancellation plan.”
“There is truly no low this Supreme Court and its extremist conservative majority will not sink to and no demographic it won’t even further marginalize,” said Borough President Richards. “Our already broken higher education system has long been inhospitable for people of color – both in terms of the admissions process that prioritizes legacy acceptances and the often crippling debt that students are forced to bear in order to attain a degree – and these decisions to wipe out the progress we have made in these areas will only significantly worsen our nation’s extreme education, economic and wealth gaps. Meanwhile, in the Court spending the final day of Pride Month by giving a green light to blatant discrimination against LGBTQIA+ Americans trying to marry the loves of their lives, it is clear that the cruelty is the point.
“This Supreme Court will stop at nothing to tilt our society in favor of the wealthy and well-connected, all while systematically stripping away the rights of Americans of color, LGBTQIA+ Americans, lower-income Americans, Native Americans, women and more. As that assault continues, we cannot afford for the federal administration to simply be a bystander to that betrayal of our democracy,” added Borough President Richards. “President Biden and Congressional Democrats must leave no stone unturned in pushing back against these unelected extremists – starting with an expansion of the Supreme Court. We must move with the urgency of now to protect our democracy or risk its ultimate destruction at the hands of those who care only about their own power and privilege.”
AALDEF: ‘SCOTUS Undermining Affirmative Action’: The United States Supreme Court issued a decision on two cases challenging race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, ruling that the schools’ programs were unconstitutional. Chief Justice Roberts cited the Equal Protection Clause in his opinion for the conservative majority. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) issued the following statement in response:
“The Supreme Court has rolled back progress in the fight for racial justice by undermining affirmative action programs at Harvard and UNC. By pitting communities of color against each other, the Court’s decision discounts broad Asian American support for race-conscious admissions and the importance of ensuring diversity in our classrooms. Together with other communities of color, we will continue to ensure that the pathways to opportunity and leadership are open to all,” said Margaret Fung, Executive Director of AALDEF.
“It makes me angry to see the Supreme Court wield the Equal Protection Clause and the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education in a way that is antithetical to their purpose. Brown helped desegregate our schools and give students of color a fighting chance at a good education. The decision today uses the false myth of color blindness to undermine an important tool for correcting these disparities. When you purport to be color blind, you’re saying you don’t see race. But if you don’t see race, you don’t see the disparities in education, in health, in jobs, and in society at large that racial minorities including Asian Americans have historically faced and continue to face today,” said Bethany Li, Legal Director of AALDEF.
Last year, AALDEF and co-counsel Foley Hoag submitted an amicus brief on behalf of 121 Asian American legal scholars and groups in support of race-conscious admissions programs at colleges and universities.
FAR ROCKAWAY IMPROVEMENT OPEN CALL: Following Governor Hochul’s February 2023 announcement that Far Rockaway would receive a $4.5 million grant through New York State’s NY Forward program, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. and the Queens Chamber of Commerce announced an open call for proposals from Far Rockaway residents to help determine how that funding should be allocated.
“From historic investments in healthcare, libraries and affordable housing, Far Rockaway is in the midst of a true renaissance. With this important investment through Governor Hochul’s NY Forward plan, we will make this tight-knit community an even stronger place to live, work and play,” said Borough President Richards. “Together with all our community leaders and residents across Far Rockaway, I know we will jointly put forth a number of impactful proposals that will benefit all our families who proudly call this community home.”
“The NY Forward Program will help kick start our economic recovery, ensuring that downtowns throughout the state have the resources they need to create jobs and opportunities for New Yorkers, and we are delighted that Governor Hochul has awarded $4.5 million to Far Rockaway through this initiative,” said Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech. “I look forward to working with Borough President Donovan Richards and all stakeholders in the area to ensure that this money funds projects that further enhance Far Rockaway’s vibrant small business community.”
The open call for project proposals is open to any organization or individual with ideas for capital improvements within the Far Rockaway – NY Forward study area, which includes commercial sections of Mott Avenue, Central Avenue, Cornaga Avenue, Beach Channel Drive and Beach 19th, 20th and 21st Streets.
To be eligible for consideration, projects must:
To submit a proposal or learn more about project eligibility, visit
Project submissions will be evaluated by NY Forward’s Far Rockaway Local Planning Committee (LPC), a group of community leaders appointed by Governor Hochul and co-chaired by Borough President Richards and Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech.
In addition to the open call for proposals, there will be several public engagement sessions where Far Rockaway residents can provide input on the NY Forward planning process. The first public engagement session will take place on Monday, July 17 at 6:30 pm at a location to be determined, with additional sessions being announced in the weeks ahead.
Meetings of the Far Rockaway LPC are also open to the public. Visit for a full list of upcoming events.
PALADINO’S VETS RESOURCE CENTER REOPENING: Council Member Vickie Paladino made the following announcements:
Paladino’s Veterans’ Resource Center: the Resource Center will be back on Wednesday, July 19th from 10 am to 4 pm. “Every other Wednesday, my office hosts a representative from the Department of Veterans Services’ to assist with determining what benefits you’re entitled to, receiving those benefits, and much more. We hope to see you there!”
Rain Barrel Giveaway: Registration for the Rain Barrel Giveaway on July 22nd is now closed. If you would like to sign up for the wait list to be notified if there are unclaimed rain barrels and when their next giveaway will be, contact Paladino’s office.
Working to combat Local Law 97: “I have introduced Intro 913 to delay Local Law 97 by seven years. Please contact my office at (718) 619-8611 or at [email protected] to learn more and get involved. Have a wonderful week!”
Press conference for the New York City Municipal Retirees: Paladino said, “I have fought long and hard to protect their retirement plan. I’m proud to be a co-sponsor on the legislation that does that and I was proud to stand with them as they celebrated the introduction of this legislation and called on the Council to sponsor and pass it. I also sat in on the Committee on Public Safety’s Hearing on the proliferation of defaced, fraudulent, and expired license plates in New York City. We discussed three bills aimed at combatting the use of illegal license plates in the city. This legislation is necessary to help decrease crime across the entire city. I was proud to sit on the committee and hear this legislation.
On Rising Crime: “On Thursday afternoon I sat down with Chief Bastedenbeck, the Chief of Patrol Borough Queens North and Lieutenant Kevin Donnelly to discuss rising crime in District 19 and ways to combat it. It was a productive conversation that I believe will lead to more solutions for the community. Everyone has felt the rise in crime and I am doing everything in my power to combat it. I am in constant contact with Patrol Borough Queens North as well as the Commanding Officers of both the 109th and 111th Precincts. That will not stop and I will not rest until District 19 can rest easy.
Fourth of July in Fort Totten: “Tuesday night (July 4th) the Fireworks lit up the sky at Fort Totten again after four long years! I’m so proud to sponsor this event for my constituents. My top priority when I took office was to bring back the Fort Totten fireworks. Although it didn’t happen my first year, my staff worked diligently and we were able to deliver them this year. I’m also proud to say that the fireworks will be back every year from now on. Thank you to the Queens Chamber of Commerce, especially Theresa Lenz and Tom Grech, Bayside Historical Society, especially Paul DiBenedetto, the NYC Parks Department, the NYPD, the FDNY, the US Army, Fireworks by Grucci, and so many other stakeholders who made this night a success. I’m already looking forward to next year and thinking of ways we can out do ourselves. Huge thank you also to everyone who came out! The Parks Department told me that it was the largest crowd they’ve ever seen (over 10,000 people)! It was the perfect kick off to summer and I look forward to many more nights with District 19.”
Free Info For Elders: “On Tuesday, July 11th my office hosted a Free Informational Elder Resource Center with Esther Schwartz Zelmanovitz. “This information is crucial to care for your loved ones and prepare for yourself….As a disclaimer, this is not my endorsement of the group providing this information. This is simply me offering the information and the resource to you should you choose to use it.”
GIANARIS CONGRATULATES CLASS OF 2023: Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris congratulated graduates from schools across western Queens this graduation season by attending many of the schools’ ceremonies and giving congratulatory certificates to more than 2,000 students. Additionally, he presented 34 of his annual Community Service Awards, recognizing students who excelled beyond the classroom supporting their schools and communities.
“Graduations are a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our children, families, and school communities and I am pleased to have the opportunity to attend these events,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. “I congratulate our students on their accomplishments and thank our teachers, administrators, and families for their hard work.”
—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts.
This column was originated by John A. Toscano
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