Archive for the tag 'legislation'

Source: Thomas Good via Wikimedia Commons

State Senator Diane Savino (Source: Thomas Good via Wikimedia Commons)

State Senator Diane Savino, who represents parts of Coney Island, Gravesend, Brighton Beach and Bensonhurst, thinks highly of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to get groovy with medical marijuana.

News came of Cuomo’s change of heart – he previously said “absolutely not” to medical marijuana advocates as recently as a year ago – on Saturday, when the New York Times reported the governor would announce an executive action allowing limited use of marijuana by those with serious illnesses.

The action is a much more modest step than other states that permit medical marijuana, limiting distribution to just 20 hospitals across a state of 19.5 million people. Prescriptions will only be given to patients with cancer, glaucoma and other diseases determined by the state Department of Health. The program is expected to be formally announced on Wednesday during Cuomo’s State of the State address.

For Savino, who has long been a proponent of medical marijuana and has repeatedly offered up legislation authorizing its distribution (to no avail), it’s a win for seriously ill patients.

“The most important thing is that it’s an acknowledgement that the benefits outweigh the risks,” told the Staten Island Advance. “Compared to where we were last year, when Cuomo said absolutely not, I’m very pleased … It’s a great first step.”

Details about the policy and program are still vague, and Savino hopes to work alongside Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who sponsored the medical marijuana bill in the Assembly, to flesh out details with the Cuomo administration.

Savino’s bill stalled in the Senate year after year due to Republican opposition. It passed the Assembly four times, and 82 percent of New York voters approve of medical marijuana. Cuomo’s action side steps the legislature altogether.

Source: Thomas Good via Wikimedia Commons

Back in June we covered State Senator Diane Savino’s effort - and the Senate’s failure – to legalize medical marijuana. At the time, she blamed the political system for stifling an issue that the public supported. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo were blamed for killing any political support for medical marijuana.

The New York State Assembly passed medical marijuana laws in the past, but the measures never pass the Senate when it was Republican led. Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Caucus that currently shares power with the Republicans, was optimistic when it was introduced last year. It still didn’t make it to the floor, but Savino wasn’t discouraged.

To help move the effort forward, she’s working with advocacy organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and their director Julie Netherland.

She’s also teamed up with Manhattan’s Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried. The Star-Gazette reported this morning that Gottfried held a hearing last Wednesday on Long Island to drum up support as Savino prepares to reintroduce legislation for medical marijuana.

“New York is a progressive state on a lot of issues, but drug policy is not one of them,” Savino told the paper. “We have some of the most draconian laws in the country.”

A truck wedged under the Sheepshead Bay Road overpass. Photo submitted by Craig S.

Neighborhoods along the elevated portion of the B/Q Brighton Line are no strangers to the thunderous crash of a truck whacking into the train line’s overpasses. South of Avenue J or so, the elevated line is relatively low to the ground, unlike the towering els of Brighton Beach Avenue or 86th Street, and many a trucker makes the misguided attempt to get by despite standard signs indicating clearance.

We’ve covered quite a number of such collisions here on Sheepshead Bites.

Now Councilman David Greenfield is requesting that the MTA install flashing yellow warning signals at all railroad underpasses in Midwood, Homecrest and Sheepshead Bay. The hope is to prevent the collisions, which cause traffic accidents and backups. In a letter to MTA Acting President Carmen Bianco and Brooklyn Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Palmieri, Councilman Greenfield asks that these signals be installed along avenues that cross beneath the railroad tracks, which run between East 15th Street and East 16th Street and serve the B and Q trains. Greenfield is calling for the lights at all underpasses from Avenue J south.

“This is a simple and inexpensive step that the MTA can take to improve safety and help prevent traffic jams throughout our community. Aside from causing headaches for other drivers, these incidents of drivers ignoring the existing signs and becoming stuck beneath the bridge can cause serious accidents or significant damage to the overpass. With that in mind, I hope the MTA will agree that it makes sense to install clearer, more visible flashing signals at those locations,” Greenfield said in a press release.

Source: formulanone/Flickr

The New York City Council is considering legislation that would cut the speed limit citywide from 30 mph to 25 mph, and the legislative body’s leadership is hoping to see it passed before the end of the year.

The new bill took shape last week, evolving from legislation originally proposed by Councilman David Greenfield that called for 20 mph limits “on all streets fewer than 60 feet wide in areas zoned for residential purposes.” It would only affect single lane, one-way streets.

A state law, though, interfered with the lower limit. Streetsblog writes:

DOT told the council in October that state law permits the city to set speeds at 15 to 24 miles per hour only if other physical traffic-calming treatments are also implemented, or if a street is within a quarter-mile of a school.

To set speed limits at 20 mph citywide, DOT suggested lobbying Albany to change the state law before passing a local law.

(WNYC created a map showing that most streets are close enough to a school. Still legislators sought to up the limit.)

In addition to slashing the speed limit, the bill will require the Department of Transportation to introduce at least seven new “slow zones” every year, each covering five blocks. Slow zones are areas of reduced speed limits to 20 mph on roadways selected for a history of accidents, proximity to schools and community concerns.

According to the New York Times, Council Speaker Christine Quinn is hoping to see the bill passed before the end of the year, when much of the Council’s members will be ousted by term limits. The paper also reports that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is supportive of the effort and waiting for the final bill. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is likely also in favor, given that he has called for an expansion of slow zones, but a spokeswoman said it is still being considered.

Some in the taxi industry are apparently opposed to the bill, reports the Daily News. One representative testified to the Council, saying that changing the speed limit would cause confusion for drivers and give the city an opportunity to dole out more revenue-generating tickets. (Updated)

UPDATE (December 4, 2013): A representative for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade e-mailed to say that not all in the taxi industry are opposed to the proposal. The MTBT is the largest taxi trade group in the city, and issued the following statement of support:

For over 60 years, MTBOT has made safety a priority for the thousands of drivers it represents and the millions of passengers they serve. That is why we strongly support Int. 535, a life-saving measure that would reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph exclusively on residential side streets, making the City safer for our drivers, passengers and neighbors.

This important bill should not be used as an excuse to target drivers for tickets, but rather it should bring all New Yorkers together for a common goal, to make our streets safer, especially for our children and elderly residents. Research shows that 20 mph residential speed limits work—including in London and Tokyo, where reduced speed limits have cut the number of fatal crashes on residential streets by as much as half.

It’s time New York joined other major cities in passing this sensible, life-saving legislation. MTBOT calls upon the Department of Transportation to support Int. 535 and make our streets safer for all New Yorkers.

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

The following is an unaltered press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chairman of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, commended Governor Cuomo for signing into law a bill he sponsored (A.2270A) requiring requires gaming venues to post information about compulsive gambling support services near every entrance and exit.

“With nearly one million compulsive gamblers throughout New York State, this legislation will help to raise awareness on how to access support and services for problem gambling,” said Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, whose committee has jurisdiction over compulsive gambling.

New York, along with most states that allow gambling, require that signage providing a 24-hour hotline number and other support services for problem gamblers be posted prominently in all gaming facilities. But the manner in which signs are posted is often inconsistent and arbitrary, according to the lawmaker.

“These signs are widely accepted as an appropriate tool to promote responsible gaming, yet the New York State Council on Problem Gambling says that in 2011 there were just 1,449 calls to the helpline. That means very few New Yorkers with compulsive gambling problems are receiving the help that’s available to them,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

“I am pleased that the Governor has signed this legislation. It is paramount that we consider the toll these new gaming facilities will take on New Yorkers with gambling addictions. Allocating money to problem gambling prevention and treatment programs is not an expense, but rather an investment in a better New York,” he said.

I like mass transit because it gets me home safely when I drink too much, (Source: Schumer’s office via Flickr)

If your accountant is worth what you pay him or her, chances are you benefit from a mass transit tax break that saves you and hundreds of thousands of other New Yorkers as much as $1,000 a year.

Well, that break could expire at the end of the year if Congress doesn’t act fast.

Fortunately, Senator Chuck Schumer is leading the charge to not only extend the break, but to make it permanent.

Crain’s New York explains:

The current benefit allows commuters to spend up to $245 per month of their pre-tax earnings on mass transit and commuter costs like parking. Over the last year, approximately 700,000 New York residents saved over $330 million through this benefit. More than 2.7 million commuters use the tax break nationwide.

“$330 million is a lot of money, any way you slice it,” Mr. Schumer said.

Until 2009, drivers received a greater tax break than those who took mass transit. That year, Mr. Schumer almost doubled the benefit to $230 per month. Without the extension, the benefit will drop back to the previous level of $125 per month.

Mr. Schumer is introducing the “Commuter Benefits Equity Act” that will seek to extend the program for another two years. Mr. Schumer said his ultimate goal was to make the tax benefit permanent, but for now he would be content for a simple extension.

The proposal is not without its opposition. Republicans in Congress are reluctant to support the bill, as well as any funding for mass transit.

Fortunately for Schumer, Republicans have their own list of interests they’d like to extend tax breaks for, and Schumer – a Senate agenda-setter – is threatening to withhold support on all tax extensions unless this goes through.

Source: SuperFantastic via Flickr

A new law raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old has been kicking around the City Council for more than three years, but most New York City residents didn’t hear about it until yesterday, when the legislative body gave its seal of approval.

If Mayor Michael Bloomberg signs the bill, as he’s expected to do, smokers younger than 21 years old will be banned from purchasing tobacco products in New York City. It’s among the highest age limits in the nation.

The bill passed 35-10, and includes e-cigarettes.

When the new law takes effect, shops found selling to people under age will face a $1,000 fine. On second offense, fines go up to $2,000, and the store may have its license revoked if additional offenses are committed within a three-year period.

Of the 10 Council members opposed to the new law, all were representatives from boroughs outside of Manhattan, and five were from Brooklyn.

With the exception of Charles Barron, who represents East New York, all of the Brooklyn opponents hailed from Southern Brooklyn.

Here’s how they voted:

  • Vincent Gentile (Bay Ridge – Bensonhurst): Against
  • David Greenfield (Bensonhurst – Borough Park): For
  • Jumaane Williams (Midwood – Flatbush): Against
  • Lew Fidler (Marine Park – Canarsie): Absent
  • Domenic Recchia (Coney Island – Gravesend): Against
  • Michael Nelson (Sheepshead Bay – Brighton Beach): Against

Although Fidler was absent for health reasons, we believe he would have voted against the age increase. Fidler previously opposed expanding the smoking ban to beaches and parks, as well as banning flavored tobacco products.

That means David Greenfield is the only Southern Brooklyn Council member to support the bill, and had Fidler voted (the way we think he would have), more than half the opposition would have hailed from our end of the borough.

Do Southern Brooklyn residents love smoking more than the rest of New York City? You tell us.

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

A new poll suggests that a majority of New York City residents support changing the amendment to add seven new casinos somewhere in New York State, but don’t want to see it in the five boroughs, the New York Times reports.

The poll, conducted by the New York Times/Siena College, found that six in 10 likely New York City voters said they would vote for the amendment, when asked using the rosy, skewed language that highlights unproven benefits of casino gambling, such as job growth and funding for education. But 50 percent were opposed to seeing a full-scale casino in New York City, with only 42 percent in favor.

The ballot measure that would amend the constitution will lead to three new Las Vegas-style casinos to be created upstate as part of “first phase.” The second phase, which will roll out seven years later, will see four more casinos – at unspecified locations. Most observers believe a New York City casino is likely.

The poll also found that voters are fairly well informed about both the positives and the drawbacks of expanded casino gambling:

In the new poll, New York City residents said they expected both positive and negative effects from expanded casino gambling.

Seven in 10 said they thought it was quite likely that the casinos would bring in significant new revenue for government.

“Just in my apartment building alone, twice a month they have buses come and take people to Atlantic City,” Albert Perrotto, 55, from Far Rockaway, Queens, said in a follow-up interview. “If they take them to upstate New York instead, it would be a shorter ride, and people would go upstate, and the revenue would come here instead. It makes a lot of sense to me.”

At the same time, six in 10 city residents said they thought it was most likely that new casinos would increase societal problems such as crime and compulsive gambling

Quin Stratton, 23, who works for a credit-card processing center and lives in the Bronx, said she supported the amendment but would not want to see a full-scale casino developed in New York City. “If it’s in the city, it will attract people who don’t have a lot of money, and they will blow their whole paycheck,” she said.

“If the casinos are upstate, or far away, it’s harder,” Ms. Stratton added. “They would have to actually get into a car and would have to make that decision. If it’s in the city, then someone who gets off work will walk by and say, ‘Hey it’s a casino!’ and blow everything they just made.”

Still, the numbers are a good sign for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is closely linked with the initiative. As much as 40 percent of the state’s voters live in New York City, and the five boroughs are expected to have higher turnout due to the mayoral elections.

Good government advocates, including the Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause NY, continue to oppose the language and politicking of the ballot measure, although a lawsuit to have it reworded has failed.

A Times Union report notes that PIRG is urging media to use neutral language when describing the proposal. Common Cause NY, meanwhile, has put out a bulletin pulling back the veil on the larged pro-casino PAC – NY Jobs Now – which is funded almost entirely by gambling companies.

Photo by Erica Sherman

Photo by Erica Sherman

The following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

The state’s leading health and environmental advocacy group has given Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) a perfect legislative rating.

On the annual scorecard released by Environmental Advocates of New York, the lawmaker, who is a member of both the Environmental Conservation and Health committees, earned 100 out of 100 points, placing him among the state’s greenest legislators.

The advocacy group grades lawmakers according to their votes on a wide variety of environmental and health issues and publishes the results in its Voters’ Guide, which has been distributed for roughly 40 years and is the only scorecard of its kind.

During the last legislative session, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz supported legislation that establishes a solar energy incentive and finance program to encourage the use of alternative and cleaner power; places a moratorium on the issuance of certain new natural gas drilling permits to allow for further research of potential risks; and puts limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

He also helped pass a budget that included $153 million for the Environmental Protection Fund, a $19 million increase from the previous year.

“I am honored to have this important recognition from Environmental Advocates for the work I’ve been doing to safeguard the environmental both in my own community and throughout New York State,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

“Legislatively, we will continue to confront issues that force us to take a long, hard look at the potential risks to our environment and residents and to examine how we will ensure that our planet lives on far longer than we do. Our work continues and I am pleased to take on this challenge,” he said.

taxis

So there are two amazing things in this photo.

The most important is the shiny green taxi, representing the first time in approximately two decades that metered fares can be regularly found in the area. We spotted this guy yesterday on Sheepshead Bay Road and East 16th Street. Two minutes later, we spotted another one on Avenue Z.

The new taxis have been rolling off the lines and into the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx and uptown Manhattan all month.

Their arrival received little to no fanfare. All we could find online was a New York Post article dated August 9, noting that the first three had hit the streets. The driver of the car photographed above said there was a big influx beginning late last week, the same time his hit the road.

The cabs came about after a long and somewhat bitter dispute between the mayor’s office, who attempted to push through legislation permitting the sale of medallions for the new cabs, and the City Council and industry lobbyists, who wanted to protect the yellow cab industry, for which this is competition. After a legal injunction blocking the sale of new medallions, the mayor’s office finally won out in June.

Of course, the drivers of the new green taxis still have a battle to face. All across the outerboroughs, at subway station and movie theaters and popular nightclubs, livery cabs have been illegally accepting street hails for years, and often dangerously jockeying for better positions on the road. When the taxi above arrived on Sheepshead Bay Road, it first chose a plum spot right in front of the station. But the livery cab drivers, stretching down the block to Citibank, began shouting until he moved to the “end of the line” – which is actually the front of the line, the farthest spot from the station.

When I asked the driver if it bothered him that he, along with 6,000 other cabbies this year, and 18,000 in three years, paid thousands of dollars to get a medallion and convert his vehicle while he still had to compete with illegal livery cab operations, he seemed unfazed.

“It’s something new. People are still used to the livery cabs. But there will be more of us and people will get used to us and it will change,” the driver said. He also noted that metered fares should be cheaper in most cases than the livery counterparts, saying it should be a dollar or two less to get from the station to the movie theater on Knapp Street.

Oh, the second amazing thing in that photo? Sheepshead Bay has a Zach Galifianakis lookalike.

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