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Gotham Gazette

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Citizens Union

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The State Assembly has again passed legislation that would protect transgender New Yorkers under the state's human rights law by a vote of 85-46.

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act expands the definition of hate crimes in the state to explicitly include transgender people. The Assembly has passed the bill annually since 2003 but the Senate has failed to do so.

Debate on the Assembly floor yesterday mostly focused on theoretical bathroom situations — something Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell of Manhattan was not amused by. "Spare me your arguments about godamned bathrooms!" he told the chamber. 

The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Richard Gottfrfied of Manhattan, read a statement from Albany Police Cheif Steven Krokoff to the chamber on how Albany's GENDA legislation has not caused any major problems in the city.

Krokoff addressed a group of GENDA lobbyists earlier in the day saying, "I'm proud to be here today! Thank you for allowing me to come here and champion this cause." Gender expression non-discrimination has been law in Albany since 2004. 

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The Joint Commission on Public Ethics released a statement threatening to make the findings of their investigation into disgraced Brooklyn powerbroker and Assemblyman Vito Lopez public. 

JCOPE has been looking into the scandal involving sexual harassment allegations against Lopez that led Speaker Sheldon Silver to pay out a settlement to Lopez's accusers and eventually strip Lopez of his legislative perks. JCOPE finished its investigation and forwarded it to the Legislative Ethics Commission according to the law so that they can measure punishment for Lopez and possibly Silver. 

But Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan requested earlier this year that the Legislative Ethics Commission refrain from releasing the report as he continues a criminal investigation into Lopez. But JCOPE isn't interested in waiting. JCOPE has been accused of being a toothless watchdog in the past weeks as legislative corruption scandals have bloomed.  

The ethics panel says it will go ahead and release its findings if the Legislative Ethics Commission doesn't.

Here is JCOPE's statement: 

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The state has reimbursed New York City $47 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency-approved funds for the costs of a program that helped homeowners recover from Hurricane Sandy. 

The Rapid Repairs program assessed damage to properties and provided eligible repairs such as restoring heat, hot water and electricity. 

"I am pleased to direct these funds back to the Department of Environment Protection for the work that was carried out under the Rapid Repair Program, which was then developed by the State and FEMA into the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) Pilot Program for similar needs beyond New York City," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg used his statement on the reimbursement to rebuff criticism that the city should have provided temporary housing for people whose homes were too devastated to live in or whose homes were infested with mold. Rapid Repairs did not deal with mold infestation

“Rapid Repairs – which restored heat, hot water and electricity free-of-charge – provided homeowners with an important head-start in the recovery process, which is still far from over," Bloomberg said in a statement. "As we continue the hard work of recovery and rebuilding, there is no doubt that helping people get back into their housing via Rapid Repairs was a better use of taxpayer money than a massive temporary housing program. I want to thank the entire team at FEMA who worked with us to make the program possible, and these reimbursements, along with the first round of Federal aid, will ensure the City can continue to address housing, business and infrastructure needs in the hardest hit communities.”

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State Sen. Joe Addabbo, who represents some of the hardest hit parts of Queens including Breezy Point and Howard Beach, saw his own office destroyed by flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy.

As the New York Daily news pointed out this morning, Breezy Point remains a ghost town after being ravaged by fire and flooding and the expedited help promised by officials has yet to appear.

Addabbo issued the following statement on the six-month anniversary of Hurricane Sandy this morning: 

As I reflect on the progress made six months after Sandy, I see it as a tale of two worlds. One world is just about back to normal. There are parts of my district where stores have returned, residents are back in their homes and back to work, while their children are back to their normal lives. Then there is the other world, which is far from being back to normal. In that world, the stores are still closed and possibly never coming back due to the damage from Sandy. Some of those residents who worked at those stores are out of work and some are out of their homes. I also know that there are children, and adults, who continue to have emotional issues caused by Sandy. Two totally different worlds, which six months after Sandy, still need a lot of attention, because while there has been much progress made, there is still so much work to do. As for working on Sandy-related issues, my work as an elected official will not be done until both of these worlds are one again. Over the coming months, I am hopeful that the federal funding filtering through our state and city will be able to help our neighbors, businesses and nonprofits. I continue to explore all possible means necessary to assist my residents in their time of difficulty. "My thoughts and prayers go out to all of my constituents in Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel, Rockaway and Breezy Point who continue to suffer through the ravages of Sandy."

Addabbo told the Gazette earlier this month that very few of his constituents are interested in home buyouts because of their deep roots in the community but that they need more support to reestablish businesses and return to a normal existence.

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The federal government has approved the state's plan for spending $1.7 billion in funds to help communities rebuild from Superstorm Sandy. 

New York City is covered by a separate plan that officials say was submitted this week and will be approved soon. 

Congress approved a plan setting aside $50.5 billion in Sandy relief for all impacted states. New York is expected to get around $30 billion of those funds eventually.  

The state's plan provides block grant funds that are designed to be more flexible than other FEMA loans and insurance plans. "We got to communities and we say, 'You tell us what you need to restore your community,'" Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference earlier today announcing the federal government's approval of the state plan. 

He was joined at the press conference by Shaun Donovan, the secretaroy of Housing and Urban Development, and Sen. Chuck Schumer.  

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