Friday, April 15, 2011

News & Notes from NY Senator Joe Addabbo - 15th Senate District

NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach), a member of the Senate’s Education Committee, released the following statement:

The visit by Acting Chancellor Dennis Walcott to the NYS Senate Education Committee was both promising and encouraging for the Department of Education and the children in the school system. I stated at the meeting that I look forward to working with Mr. Walcott through the fiscal, policy and administrative challenges that face our public schools. I have known Mr. Walcott for over 15 years and have always found him to be professional and dedicated to public service.


NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) released the following statement on last week’s elimination of contestant and Howard Beach resident Pia Toscano from the popular TV show:

Pia’s elimination from American Idol was shocking and premature. If I had the chance to give Pia a message, it would be to express my appreciation for her God-given talent, for exciting a community and for touching the hearts of millions of people around the country. I am so proud to have Pia within my district.”

Senate Revisits Public Protection Concerns

NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens), who serves as ranking Minority member on the Senate’s Veterans, Homeland Security, & Military Affairs Committee, participated in this past Friday’s public hearing on Homeland Security 10 years later after September 11, 2001, to listen and respond to testimony on public protection since the terrorist attacks. Among the attending witnesses were Peter King, United States Congressman and Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security; Michael O’Meara, Executive Vice President of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Benevolent Association; Richard Daddario, NYPD Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Counter-terrorism; and Douglas Zeigler, Director of Security for the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

While the hearing became increasingly contentious when the topic of religious sects were being discussed, the first half of the hearing included testimony from the NYPD, MTA, the Port Authority and other public safety personnel. “The critical issues were the lack of funding allocations for improved security measures and the need for upgrading the communication systems between our safety-related agencies,” stated Senator Addabbo. It was mentioned at the hearing that some of the radios and means of communicating among the agencies were over 20 years old. Addabbo said that he intends to discuss with the Port Authority the issue of security at JFK Airport and on the Airtrain.

Congressman King spoke at great length as to how terrorist threat levels are as high as 9/11, and reiterated that these are very real threats as we approach the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Michael O’Meara gave insight as to the issue of communication between the Metropolitan Transit Authority Police and the ongoing discussions with the MTA to correct and improve radio frequency communications between MTA Police and the MTA. The radio system, according to Mr. O’Meara, has not worked since its implementation some 20 years ago.

The use and placement of security cameras on New York State tunnels, bridges and pedestrian areas was explained by Douglas Ziegler. Currently, almost 4,000 cameras have been placed within the MTA system, with the intention of more to come.

A future similar Senate hearing concerning the status of security measures since the 9/11 tragedy is being scheduled in Albany.

Together with above release, here are two complementary statements from the Senator:

Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., released the following statement on NYS Senate Homeland Security Hearing held on Friday, 8, 2011:
It was my intent to participate in a focused hearing which was to examine the security of the New York City residents, and surrounding areas, ten years after the tragedy of 9/11. Based on the testimony of witnesses and my questioning of those witnesses, my main concern continues to be the governmental funding and interaction of the entities involved in maintaining the safety of individuals, namely the NYPD, FDNY, MTA and Port Authority. I intend, as the ranking member of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, to continue my efforts in finding the means available to improve the safety and security of people locally and throughout the city and state.

Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., released the following statement on the witness list for the NYS Senate Homeland Security Hearing held on Friday, 8, 2011:

As I have previously stated, I intended to participate in a NYS Senate hearing focused on the public safety of individuals in New York City, ten years after the 9/11 tragedy. In my opinion, there should have been separate hearings with one having witnesses from governmental entities who would testify as to their plans to secure people and another, separate hearing with witnesses of all backgrounds giving testimony on their cultural and ideological theories toward their views on Americans. The global issue of terrorism as it pertains to our safety is so complex and intricate, that I believe separate Senate hearings were warranted.

Generally, I have a daily concern for security in and around the JFK Airport property, including the Airtrain. The gateway to millions of visitors to New York is right in our backyard and therefore, my interest in the airport’s safety measures, which are a high priority for me. I intend to continue my working relationship with the all aspects of the Port Authority to ensure the safety of my constituents. In a recent conversation with the Port Authority regarding the inoperable radio usage near the Jet Blue Terminal, they advised me that the situation is being addressed and should be resolved shortly. I plan on having advanced discussions and meetings with the Port Authority about their vision for improved security at JFK.

As new information continues to surface on the dangers of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, particularly in relation to the wastewater produced during the hydro-fracking process, Senators Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), Ranking Member of the Environmental Protection Committee Tony Avella (D-Queens) and Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens) have introduced a package of bills that aim to keep New York’s water clean against the effects of hydro-fracking. First and foremost, the package calls for a ban on hydro-fracking. While working towards this goal, the package installs a series of necessary, common sense measures that would implement stronger regulations and heightened scrutiny that will keep New Yorkers, and their water, safe.
A series of articles produced by the New York Times has revealed that studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency show that the wastewater produced in hydro-fracking is far more dangerous than previously reported. Even before it enters the ground, the frac fluid used in drilling poses serious threats to the environment and human health, as it is made of a combination of undisclosed chemicals that often contain carcinogenic materials. However, as reported by the New York Times, wastewater produced in hydro-fracking grows even more dangerous once it’s blasted through rock thousands of feet below ground. There, the frac fluid picks up salts and radioactive elements, like radium, that are naturally embedded in the Earth.
To address these issues, the first three bills in the Clean Water Package will implement tighter regulation and ensure transparency so the public can be assured that proper precautions are in place to monitor both frac fluid and the resulting wastewater. The bills providing for increased regulation are absolutely necessary to provide immediate and necessary oversight to keep the public and environment safe while ample political support is gathered to establish an all out ban, which has been proposed by Senator Avella. Senator Krueger’s bill (S.425) is currently on the agenda to be voted on in the Environmental Conservation Committee on Tuesday, the 12th.
The bills in the Clean Water Package are:
  • S.425 (Krueger) - Would provide greater regulation of the use of hydraulic fracturing fluids used for oil and gas drilling, including prohibiting the use of frac fluids containing chemicals that pose a risk to human health.
  • S.2697 (Avella) – Would provide for comprehensive regulation of oil and natural gas operations.
  • S. 4251 (Addabbo) – Would require treatment works to test waste from hydraulic fracturing operations for radioactivity.
  • S.4220 (Avella) – Would prohibit the use of hydraulic fracturing in the process of drilling for natural gas and/or oil.
Senator Liz Krueger said, “I don’t see it as that great of a request to require these gas companies to inform the public on what chemicals they’re blasting into the Earth. They want us to just fall into line and not ask any questions, to just ‘trust them.’ Well, we saw what they did with Pennsylvania’s trust, and I say no. Not here, not in New York. I tend to believe that if you guard a secret with your life it’s not because you’re hiding something good or harmless, it’s because you know that whatever you’re hiding will bring negative consequences for you if it comes to light.”
Senator Avella added, “Perhaps our greatest resource as New York City residents is the clean, unfiltered and refreshing water we receive every time we turn on our faucets. It is clear to me, that until we can be assured that the practice of hydro-fracking presents absolutely no threat to New York’s residents and their drinking water, we must completely ban fracking.”
Senator Addabbo said, “Today, I join my Senate colleagues, Tony Avella and Liz Krueger, to support their respective bills, which together with mine, would amend the environmental conservation law, requiring new regulations from the DEC. My new bill authorizes the DEC Commissioner, after hosting a public hearing, to force regulations requiring treatment facilities handling wastewater to test for radioactivity levels. The DEC will identify tests to be performed on the water, including ingredients found within the hydro-fracking fluids, and would prohibit the acceptance, treatment or discharge of hydro-fracking-produced waste. This was in response to EPA and drilling industry studies that concluded radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.”
There are many ways this wastewater puts human health and the environment in danger. In other states, wastewater is often stored in open pits until transported for ultimate disposal, but chemicals evaporate from these open pits, contributing to air pollution. Even prior to fracking, the trucks are carrying the fluids in high concentrations, and are subject to leaks and spills, causing contamination of surface waters. The fracturing fluid left underground can migrate or seep through fractures in underground formations, cracks in well-bore casings or through abandoned wells, polluting groundwater.
As has been made clear by a number of incidents related to natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, high-volume hydro-fracking continues to present unacceptable risks.
Extended Benefits Will Provide Relief for 166,000 New Yorkers
NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens), a member of the Senate’s Labor Committee who supported the measure, is pleased to report to his constituents that Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a measure that extends federally funded unemployment insurance benefits throughout 2011. This bill, S.3928, amends the Labor Law to allow New York to take advantage of provisions contained in the recently enacted Federal Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 by modifying provisions concerning unemployment insurance extended benefits.
The extension would have expired early this spring, giving people who lose their jobs up to 80 weeks of unemployment checks instead of up to 93, for people now on the unemployment rolls, said the Senator. Without this new law, the state would not be able to continue to pay a total of 93 weeks of benefits and would have forfeited $620 million in federal payments to the unemployed, negatively impacting approximately 166,000 New Yorkers.
Since 2009, New York State has participated in a two-year, federally funded unemployment insurance program. In December 2010, the U.S. Congress extended the federal program by an additional year. The governor’s legislation amends New York State law to allow the state to qualify for the additional third year of the program.
Under the program, benefits for all private sector and nonprofit employees are fully federally funded. This act is effective immediately and “shall be deemed to have been in full force and effect on and after February 1, 2011.”
Added Addabbo, “The unemployment rate in Queens is about 8.5 percent; it’s between 8.9-9.2 percent for New York City, and 8.7 percent for our state overall. While some reports have noted that the worst of the long recession has ended, many of my people have been seeking jobs for the past year, and for some, almost two years. The governor requested quick legislative action, which has allowed us to access federal funds to assist those on unemployment. This law will give them a safety net as they continue to pursue time-consuming and daunting efforts to re-enter the workforce.” The senator is hopeful that future extensions of unemployment benefits would be unnecessary due to an improving economy and new jobs in the city. “The main goal is to find people stable employment,” Addabbo concluded.