Lowey, Pelosi, Pro-Choice Caucus Call on President Trump to Reverse Birth Control Access Rollback
October 26, 2017
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester), Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, today joined Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and fellow members of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus on Capitol Hill to call on President Trump to reverse his recent moves to limit women’s access to birth control.
”Republicans are taking aim at the most basic aspect of women’s health care,” said Congresswoman Lowey. “Since the enactment of contraceptive coverage, more than 62 million American women have saved more than $1 billion each year. It has given women access to contraception regardless of their economic status, as well as the power to determine when to start a family and how best to space pregnancies. By not standing up against this mean-spirited and dangerous rule, Congressional Republicans are complicit in denying contraceptive coverage for millions of women throughout the country.”
On October 6, the Trump Administration announced two interim final rules that would grant broad exemptions on the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraception mandate to employers who oppose providing contraceptive coverage on religious or self-defined moral grounds. If implemented, the rules could rip away contraception coverage from millions of women who have access to birth control without out-of-pocket costs under the ACA, forcing women to pay the full cost of their birth control or go without it.
Congresswoman Lowey has been a leader in the U.S. House on protecting women’s health services and access to contraception.
Lowey is a cosponsor of the recently-introduced Protect Access to Birth Control Act, which would void the president’s recent rules, thereby securing the right to birth control coverage as guaranteed by the ACA.
This morning, Congresswoman Lowey co-led a letter signed by 189 Members of Congress to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, and Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan calling on the Administration to rescind the rules and restore policies that facilitate access to affordable contraception for millions of women.
Contraception has been proven to improve women’s health and save women’s lives while reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions. In addition to helping women with safe family planning, contraception is also used to treat conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Lowey, Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Members Request Meeting with President
October 4, 2017 WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester), Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, today joined her Gun Violence Prevention Task Force colleagues in a letter to President Trump requesting that he meet with the task force to discuss commonsense gun reform. The letter comes on the heels of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history in Las Vegas.
“For years, we have extended our hand and asked the Republican Leadership to come to the table to work with us to find a solution. At every turn, they have refused,” the lawmakers wrote. “They rejected a bipartisan commonsense reform of our background check system. They refused to establish a Select Committee on Gun Violence. They have refused to even hold a hearing. Meanwhile, Americans are dying.”
“That’s why we are asking you to meet with members of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force,” the lawmakers added. “You have the power to make real change in America and protect our communities from the senseless gun violence like we saw in Las Vegas. Together, we can find common ground that respects and supports the 2nd Amendment while keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them – criminals and the dangerously mentally ill. We are reaching out to you, please: join us in the fight to end gun violence.”
Congresswoman Lowey has been a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force since it was established following the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in 2012. Over 1,500 mass shootings have happened since the Sandy Hook tragedy.
In 2015, Congresswoman Lowey introduced the National Instant Criminal Background Check System Community Protection Act (H.R. 3375) to increase the three-day waiting period for background checks to 14 business days in order for federal examiners to have more time to perform thorough background checks. She has also cosponsored legislation to close the “terror gap,” which allows individuals on terror watch lists to legally purchase guns; worked to add a similar measure to the annual Department of Justice spending bill; and supports bills to close the gun show loophole and to limit assault weapons and large capacity magazines.
Today, Congresswoman Lowey joined her House Democratic colleagues, including Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congressman John Lewis, along with former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, at a press event on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to honor the victims of the Las Vegas shooting and to call for commonsense gun reform legislation.
Lowey Hosts Roundtable Discussion on Teen E-Cigarette Use
Estimated 3 Million Teens Use Dangerous E-cigs
August 3, 2017 White Plains, NY – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester) today brought together local superintendents, medical experts, substance abuse prevention workers and advocates, and students for a roundtable discussion on e-cigarette use among teens. The discussion, which Congresswoman Lowey convened in her White Plains office, focused on the alarming increase in e-cigarette use among teens, the dangers of youth smoking, and how parents and community leaders can work to reduce youth use of e-cigarettes and tobacco products.
“Vaping is a threat to the health of our children,” said Congresswoman Lowey. “Today’s meeting was an excellent opportunity to discuss serious concerns about teenage e-cigarette use and to gain important insights that will help us combat youth smoking. Five years ago, parents would have worried about their kids taking in too much sugar from a steady diet of Fruit Loops, Gummy Bears, and Swedish Fish. Today, we’re worried that vaping products with those flavors will expose them to dangerous, addictive chemicals. We can’t afford to lose another generation to the harms of nicotine addiction.”
While federal law prohibits children under the age of 18 from purchasing tobacco products, the numbers show that children are easily able to acquire e-cigarettes and vaping chemicals. E-cigarette use among teens has risen tenfold in the past decade to 16 percent, or an estimated 3 million American teens, in 2015. Additionally, many tobacco companies and vape shops actively market their products toward children, with more than 7,000 flavors of e-cigarettes, including common candies and treats.
The dangers of teens using e-cigarettes are well documented. In testimony before the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stated unequivocally that “Teenagers that otherwise would have no transition into smoking combustible tobacco are doing so after they get first exposed to electronic cigarettes, so we are concerned that all of the advances we’ve done on prevention of smoking may be lost by the accessibility of these electronic cigarette devices.”
“The rapid increase in use of e-cigarettes by our youth is a serious health concern,” said Dr. Richard Stumacher, a pulmonary disease specialist at Northern Westchester Hospital. “Nicotine is an incredibly addictive substance, and it remains to be seen what diseases will be caused by vaping and how serious those diseases will be.”
“While e-cigarettes may be a safer alternative for those already addicted to cigarettes, they are a major threat to the 96 percent of high school youth in New York State who do not smoke,” said Ellen Morehouse, Executive Director of Student Assistance Services Corporation. “Teen e-cigarette users are over eight times more likely to become regular cigarette users after one year than teens who do not use e-cigarettes, and e-cigarette using teens often use other drugs such as concentrated THC oil in their e-cigarette devices.”
In Congress, Congresswoman Lowey is leading the fight to regulate e-cigarettes. In July, Congresswoman Lowey offered an amendment in the House Appropriations Committee to protect the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s ability to regulate the chemicals and batteries used in e-cigarettes. In 2015, Congresswoman Lowey also sent a letter to Stephen Ostroff, then-Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Sylvia Matthews Burwell, then-Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), urging finalization of regulations on new tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, flavored hookahs, and flavored cigars.
Participants in today’s roundtable discussion included:
· Mary Fox-Alter, Superintendent, Pleasantville School District
· Carol Conklin-Spillane, Superintendent, Pocantico Hills Central School District
· Marco Pochintesta, Superintendent, Pearl River School District
· Frank Williams, Executive Director, White Plains Youth Bureau
· Ellen Morehouse, Executive Director, Student Assistance Services Corp.
· Colleen Anderson, Coordinator, Cortlandt Community Coalition
· Dr. Richard Stumacher, Northern Westchester Hospital (pulmonary disease specialist)
· Makeda James, Program Manager, Reality Check/POW’R Against Tobacco
· Dr. Bhavana Pahwa, Deputy Director, City of White Plains Youth Bureau
Water Quality is Top Priority
August 30, 2016 A grant of $870,000 is being provided to the Town of North Castle to improve the drinking water system in North White Plains by upgrading their UV filtration system. In addition, North Castle will receive a $580,000 Clean Water State Revolving Fund low-interest loan for the balance of the project cost.
"I thank Governor Cuomo and the Environmental Facilities Corporation for providing this valuable grant that will improve drinking water for the people of North White Plains and help fund this upgrade through the Town of North Castle," said Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains).
“Ensuring clean drinking water is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of government, and this grant greatly furthers that goal. The Water and Sewer Department in North Castle, the Town Board and the Town Administration should all be commended for working cooperatively to put forward the application for these funds,” he added.
Buchwald also thanked his colleagues Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye) and Assemblyman John McDonald (D-Cohoes) for their leadership in pushing the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act.
“I have been proud to support this act, as this award is part of the New York State Water Grants that were established through that legislation,” added Buchwald, who for the fourth consecutive year received a perfect legislative score from the Environmental Advocates of New York, a leading environmental watch group.
“Being recognized for four straight years as having a perfect environmental voting record means a lot to me,” said Assemblyman Buchwald. “Westchester residents sent me to the State Assembly to deliver the message that we have to protect clean air and water, keep toxic chemicals away from our children and emergency responders, and take on the challenges of climate change. I fight for those principles and at the same time seek to grow our economy through environmental innovation and energy efficiency.”
“Providing safe drinking water to our residents is of the utmost importance and the funding of the UV filtration system in North White Plains should provide that,” said State Senator George Latimer (D-Rye).
Assemblyman Buchwald Announces Summer 2016 District Office Internship Program
March 16, 2016 Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains) is inviting high school and college students to apply for his Summer 2016 internship program in his Mount Kisco district office. Students with an interest in government or public policy are strongly encouraged to apply. Interns are expected to work approximately twenty hours per week for at least eight weeks. Although the internship is unpaid, high school or college credits may be available through an applicant’s school. Students also have an opportunity to present policy proposals driven by their own interests to the Assemblyman at the end of their internship.
“It will be an absolute pleasure to have young minds joining us this summer,” said Assemblyman Buchwald. “Students will have meaningful opportunities to make a difference in the community while being part of an inclusive, civic-minded team. Interns get an in-depth experience that provides an understanding of how New York State and local government works. This is a wonderful program for all high school and college students who are looking to gain an understanding of how government operates all while learning in a professional setting.”
“If an exclusive look into the inner workings of state and local government interests you, then Assemblyman Buchwald’s office is the place to be,” said Scott Trivella, a senior at Pace University in Pleasantville who interned for Buchwald in the summer of 2015. “Whether it was meeting with town boards, viewing and analyzing actual legislation, working on cooperative projects or speaking to constituents, the experience gained at Assemblyman Buchwald’s office is undeniably valuable for anyone no matter what their future may hold.”
Byram Hills Varity Baseball and Football Coach Scott Saunders Named National Finalist
February 26, 2016 Byram Hills Varsity Baseball and Football Head Coach, Scott Saunders was named one of 134 national finalists for the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) Double–Goal Coach® Award.
PCA annually honors youth and high school sports coaches throughout the U.S. who embody the ideals of the Double-Goal Coach® who strives to win, while also pursuing the even more important goal of teaching life lessons through sports.
Saunders was one of 2,400 coaches nation-wide nominated for the prestigious award. Based on the strength of nominations and reference letters, he was named a New York metro area winner, earlier this week which qualified him as a national finalist. 50 National Double-Goal Coach® Award winners will be announced March 11, 2016.
“It's an honor to be awarded and recognized by such a great organization and to be considered as a national finalist is a testament to the great coaches, players, and parents who have helped build our program,” said Saunders. “This truly is a program-wide award which represents all of the support our school and community has given us through the years. We've been blessed to have the opportunity to work with some really great coaches and student-athletes. We talk about being selfless and relentless in all walks of life and our program really buys in to these two words. It's the bedrock of who we are and what we do!”
Byram Hills Baseball team won the 2015 Class A State Championship, which was the first time the baseball team brought home a state title in school history. Led by Coach Saunders and assistant coaches Ted Huffman and Mike Huffman, the team amassed a 22-5 season record, including a perfect 7-0 record in the post-season. The post season accolades Saunders received include, League Coach of the Year, USA Today NY Coach of the Year, Journal News Coach of the Year and MSG Varsity Tri-State Coach of the Year.
Since its 1998 launch at Stanford University by founder and CEO Jim Thompson, PCA has impacted more than 5 million youth athletes. PCA reaches youth and high school sport leaders, coaches, athletes, parents, and officials through partnerships with schools and youth sports organizations, nationwide.
Lowey, Maloney, and FRA Administrator Mark Anniversary of Tragic Metro-North Crash in Valhalla and Highlight Actions to Improve Grade Crossing Safety
Lowey and Maloney Measures Supporting Crossing Safety: Additional Resources to States, a National High-Visibility Paid Media Campaign
Anniversary of Metro-North Valhalla Accident is Wednesday, February 3, 2016
February 1, 2016
WHITE PLAINS, NY – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (Westchester/Rockland), the Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Sarah Feinberg today highlighted actions at the federal level to improve grade crossing safety issues affecting the Hudson Valley as well as communities nationwide. The anniversary of the Metro-North crash in Valhalla is Wednesday, February 3, 2016.
“One year ago, the Metro-North crash in Valhalla shocked our entire region,” said Lowey. “Most troubling is that the people involved could have been anyone’s family member or loved one, commuting back from work and looking forward to getting home. That’s why I have been working extremely hard at the federal level to enable upgrades and improvements that make rail crossings safer. As Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, I was successful in passing additional resources for states to improve safety and for the federal government to conduct a public awareness campaign to help avoid another unspeakable rail crossing tragedy. Officials at all levels of government will continue working together to ensure our communities are safe and secure.”
“Accidents like last year’s horrific Metro-North accident are all too common in New York – that’s why I immediately introduced legislation to invest in positive train control and improve safety at grade crossings. Installing positive train control systems on commuter rail systems like Metro-North is the single most important step we can take to reduce human error and save lives,” said Maloney. “Working together with folks like Congresswoman Lowey, Administrator Feinberg, state, and local officials, we were able to pass critical provisions in the Highway bill that will not only prevent accidents, but will improve safety for the millions of New Yorkers traveling by rail every day.”
· Lowey’s amendment to increase to $350 million the set-aside for grade crossing improvements in the Highway Safety Improvement Program, giving state highway departments additional resources to make upgrades and safety improvements at dangerous crossings.
· Lowey’s provision to set aside $6.5 million for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop a high-visibility enforcement paid-media campaign that supports highway-rail grade crossing safety. Lowey had called on the federal government shortly following the crash to bolster education and enforcement campaigns.
· New railroad safety grants funded at $50 million: $25 million of which available for Positive Train Control (PTC) and $25 million for rail infrastructure.
Immediately following the Metro-North accident, Maloney introduced the Rail Crossings Safety Improvement Act, which would invest in state and local governments' efforts to build bridges, tunnels, or otherwise relocate roads in order to improve the safety of grade crossings for passengers, motorists, and pedestrians. Lowey is a co-sponsor of this measure. This legislation was passed by the House of Representatives on March 4, 2015, as part of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act (PRRIA).
In addition, Maloney wrote several key measures to improve rail safety, which were included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, also known as the Highway Transportation bill and signed into law. The Passenger Train Derailment Prevention Act, which would require passenger railroads and freight lines on which passenger rail travels to identify curves with a speed reduction of 20 mph or greater, and take actions to enhance safety, including: modifying existing ATC or other signal systems, increasing crew size, installing signage, installing alert systems in cabs, and increasing crew communication. This legislation also gives railroads an incentive to implement positive train control (PTC).
“Railroad crossing safety is a top priority of mine and Representatives Lowey and Maloney because we know that, working together, we can save lives,” said Administrator Sarah Feinberg, Federal Railroad Administration. “To get to a point where we have zero railroad crossing deaths means everyone has to do their part – the FRA, the railroads, states, law enforcement, and even motorists who drive over the more than 200,000 railroad crossing across the country every day.”
After asking Feinberg about effective approaches to increasing safety at crossings during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on March 25, 2015, Lowey then hosted Feinberg and local officials for a visit to the Metro-North crossing at Roaring Brook Road in Chappaqua, which has faced great safety challenges, to demonstrate the danger posed by grade crossings.
Three Westchester Students are Among 40 of Nation’s Brightest High School Seniors Named Intel Science Talent Search 2016
SANTA CLARA, Calif. and WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 20, 2016 – Intel Corporation and the Society for Science & the Public recognized 40 U.S. high school seniors as finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search (STS), the nation’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college science and math competition. Three Westchester high school students were chosen among the nation’s top 40 high school researchers.
Andrew Ethridge Amini of Yorktown High School research is the Automatic Seizure Onset and Severity Prediction with a Single, Strategically-placed, Bipolar Electroencephalogram.
Katharine Barr Berman of Hastings High School research is titled the Effects of Calreticulin Mutations on Pathogenesis of Myeloproliferative Neoplasms.
Soon il Junko Higashino of Ossining High School research is of the Species Richness of Cutaneous Bacteria Varies with Urbanization: Implications of the Effects of Habitat Conditions on Defense Mechanisms of Plethodon cinereus.
The 40 finalists receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. from March 10 - 16 to compete for more than $1 million in awards provided by the Intel Foundation. This includes three first-place Medal of Distinction awards of $150,000 each that will be presented to students who show exceptional scientific potential in three areas: basic research, global good and innovation. Additionally, three second-place awards of $75,000, and three third-place awards of $35,000 will be presented. Finalists receive at least $7,500 for being selected as part of this prestigious group.
“Finalists of the Intel Science Talent Search are the innovators of the future,” said Maya Ajmera, the president and CEO of Society for Science & the Public, publisher of Science News and alumna of the Science Talent Search. “Their research projects range from highly theoretical basic research to innovative practical applications aimed at solving the most vexing problems. But it’s not just their research that makes them stand out – finalists are also selected based on their leadership capacity and initiative. We congratulate these talented students and look forward to learning more about their research and aspirations as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Science Talent Search this March.”
“Congratulations to the Intel Science Talent Search finalists who will be participating in the competition’s 75th anniversary event this March,” said Rosalind Hudnell, vice president in Human Resources and director of Corporate Affairs at Intel Corporation, and president of the Intel Foundation. “Intel has a strong legacy of supporting and nurturing America’s brightest young minds, and we look forward to the competition in March and to sharing their creativity with the world.”
Governor Cuomo’s Proposed Budget Leaves Many Westchester School Districts with Huge Gaps
January 19, 2016 Staking out its position that the “Gap Elimination Adjustment” (GEA) should be terminated this year, the New York State Senate passed legislation on its first full day session that would completely rescind the GEA. Passing the Senate with a bi-partisan vote of 53-9, the bill moves to restore millions of dollars in lost funds from public school districts. In the past two budget sessions, the GEA has been reduced by more than 60%. However, the remaining balance from GEA is still in excess of $425 million statewide.
“Throughout my tenure in the Senate, I have fought to end the GEA. It is an undue burden unfairly imposed on our schools. It shortchanges our students, limits our teachers, and hampers education,” said Senator George Latimer, (D- Westchester).
The bill passed last week in the State Senate draws a distinction from Governor Cuomo’s proposed 2016-2017 proposed Executive Budget, which would restore 50% of the remaining withheld funds across the entire state. “In our senate district, the total restoration is only 42%, and in several of our school districts the restoration is only about a third. The financial crisis has passed, and it is well past time to make our schools whole,” said Senator Latimer.
For school districts in Senator Latimer’s 37th district, full restoration of GEA funding would amount to more than eleven million dollars in state aid. A chart of the GEA amounts outstanding and the governor’s proposed restoration for the coming fiscal year by school district in the 37th S.D. follows:
Green Acres Garden Club Spreads Holiday Cheer By Connie Quarrie
December 9, 2015 On December 2 and 3, members of the Town of North Castle’s Green Acre Garden Club gathered to make some holiday magic. For over 10 years garden club members have come together to create (Christmas holiday centerpieces for homebound town residents, as well as beautiful wreaths to decorate Town office buildings, libraries, the historical society and senior centers.
This year, the group created fifty evergreen table arrangements, thirty of which were personally delivered by garden club members to the town’s homebound residents. They also assembled 15 large wreaths which grace buildings throughout the town.
In addition, the garden club once again sponsored their annual Holiday Arrangement Workshop for resident senior citizens who attend the Town’s senior centers. This year’s event was held on December 3 at the Hergenhan Recreation Center where garden club members assisted 18 senior citizens in making their own centerpieces to grace their holiday table.
NatureScapes, a garden center in Armonk, provided the beautiful variety of greens and holly that were used in the decorations.
SYLVIE BINDER SUCCESSFULLY DEFENDS HER GOLD MEDAL IN GERMANY
First U.S. Fencer in History to Win Cup in Back-to-Back Years
December 9, 2015 Team USA won three out of four medals at the 2015 Tauberbischofsheim Women’s Foil Cadet European Cup in Germany with an American taking gold for the third straight year at the tournament as 2015 Cadet World medalist Sylvie Binder (Armonk, N.Y.) successfully defended her 2014 title.
Binder was joined on the podium by two-time Cadet World Team member Stefani Deschner (Mechanicsville, Va.) who won gold at this event in 2013 and Natalie Minarik (Glen Oak, N.Y.) who made her Cadet European Cup debut earlier this year.
Binder outscored Minarik, 15-6, in the semifinals and Deschner won her semi with a 15-14 win against Leonie Ebert (GER), the 2015 Cadet World Champion and Junior World bronze medalist.
Binder defeated Deschner, 15-10, in the gold medal final to become the first U.S. fencer to win the Tauberbischofsheim Cadet European Cup in back-to-back years.
The win allowed Binder, who took silver at the Budapest Cadet European Cup in September, to move up to the No. 2 position in the Cadet European Standings while Deschner remains fourth.
Binder and Deschner are currently ranked No. 1 and 2 in the USA Fencing Cadet National Team Point Standings.
Post Office Dilemmas
September 14, 2017 WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17) and Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY16) met with United States Postal Service Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman in Congressman Engel’s Washington office to discuss the systemic issues plaguing the post office branches in Westchester, Rockland, and Bronx Counties.
The Congress Members presented Deputy Postmaster Stroman with a list of complaints they had received from constituents, including reports of late or missing deliveries; inconsistent or false information from postal officials; post offices not open during the listed opening hours; and phone calls that are routinely unanswered or ignored throughout the day in the post office. The Congress Members made clear that this type of service is unacceptable and the response from postal officials has been inadequate. They were told by Mr. Stroman that steps are being taken to improve service and that additional resources have been allocated to the area.
“We have been reassured by Mr. Stroman that he will return in 30 days to assess the progress that has been made. We hope for positive improvement, but our offices will continue to work with constituents to resolve their complaints. The system is broken, and we were very clear with Mr. Stroman that it needs to be quickly fixed. We remain cautiously optimistic, but will also continue to hold postal officials accountable at the highest level to ensure improved service for our constituents,” Engel and Lowey said.
Assemblyman Buchwald on Railroad Crossing Safety Legislation Agreement
June 13, 2016 “As the representative of a State Assembly district that unfortunately knows the pain that too often comes from accidents at railroad crossings, I welcome the agreement on legislation that will help protect both Metro-North riders and motorists,” said Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester), who sponsored Governor Andrew Cuomo’s original program bill on railroad crossing inspections (Assembly bill A.10550), after a number of his constituents were killed in the February 2015 Valhalla train crash. “The New York State Department of Transportation and municipal governments must work together to identify potential problems at grade-level highway crossings, and this legislation furthers that goal.”
GOVERNOR CUOMO AND LEGISLATIVE LEADERS ANNOUNCE AGREEMENT TO IMPROVE RAIL SAFETY MEASURES ACROSS NEW YORK STATE
Agreement Requires Coordinated Frequent Inspections of Traffic Control Devices at Grade Crossings by State and Local Officials
Legislation Also Increases Penalties for Railroad Companies, Repeat Offender Drivers Who Fail to Comply with Laws
June 13, 2016 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein today announced an agreement on legislation to improve rail safety measures across New York State. The agreement includes a series of initiatives that will reduce the risk of train-motor vehicle collisions at grade crossings across the State. The new initiatives will require coordinated, frequent inspections of traffic control devices at highway-rail crossings and impose penalties on railroad companies and repeat offender drivers who continue to disobey the law and ignore important safety requirements. These laws will ensure New York State law conforms to federal safety requirements, and will align state law with federal requirements for railroad bridge inspections.
“New York’s railways are critical to this state’s transportation network and we must ensure they meet the highest possible safety standards,” Governor Cuomo said. “By requiring frequent inspections at grade crossings and increasing penalties for those who continue to violate the law and ignore important safety requirements, this agreement will help to reduce the amount of preventable tragedies that have occurred at these crossings over the years. I thank my partners in the Legislature for reaching this agreement and their commitment to ensuring a safer rail system for all.”
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said, "While aligning New York State law with existing federal law, this agreement establishes a program of joint safety inspections of traffic signals at railroad grade crossings, gets tough on railroad companies that violate the law and increases penalties for motorists who repeatedly ignore safety signals and put others at risk. When it comes to railroad grade crossings, New York is ensuring safety first and keeping motorists and others out of harm's way. I thank the Governor and my colleagues in both the Senate and Assembly for highlighting this critical public safety issue and working with us to get a meaningful result."
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “This agreement represents a statewide effort to coordinate public safety standards for both railroad operators and motorists to help prevent avoidable crashes and fatalities. By holding both railroad companies and drivers in New York to the highest safety standards, we can help prevent these senseless tragedies that have already taken too many lives. Verifying railroad bridge inspections, ensuring that traffic lights and railroad grade crossing warning systems work in coordination, and increasing fines for those who fail to comply with safety standards will make New York a safer place to travel.”
Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein said, "New York State's rail road crossings are now on track for a much-needed safety upgrade thanks to this agreement. I want to thank Senator David Carlucci for bringing this important issue to the forefront after a tragic incident took the life of a woman in Valhalla when a Metro-North train struck her car. New Yorkers deserve upgraded signage, signals and safety inspections to make sure no family has to go through this anguish again."
The new legislative agreement will:
Require Frequent Coordinated Inspections by State and Local Officials – Require every railroad corporation, municipality or state agency having jurisdiction of a highway on which there is an at grade crossing to conduct, at a minimum, biennial inspections of traffic control devices. This agreement will authorize the NYS Department of Transportation to establish, implement, and exercise oversight over a program to coordinate the joint inspection of traffic-control signals interconnected with highway-rail grade crossing warning systems. This will ensure all interconnected crossing signals – regardless of ownership – are functioning as intended.
Align state law with federal reporting requirements – Require private railroad companies to submit railroad bridge inspection reports to the NYS Department of Transportation on the same schedule as required by the federal government. Currently, federal law requires railroad track owners to implement railroad bridge management programs that, at a minimum, provide for annual inspection of bridges by the Federal Railroad Administration, inventory of all railroad bridges and audits of the bridge management programs. It also requires railroads to document all repairs, modifications, and inspections of each bridge subject to FRA review. This legislation conforms state law to such federal requirements.
Increase Penalties for Violations by Railroads – Impose monetary penalties, up to $5,000, against railroad companies for each violation, such as a failure to immediately notify the State of an accident, to submit required reports, or to comply with orders of the Commissioner of Transportation. Railroad companies that carry hazardous materials can face up to $15,000 in penalties for similar violations.
Increase Penalties for Repeat Offenders – Increase penalties for repeat offenders who fail to comply with safety regulations. Under this new agreement, repeat offender drivers convicted of gate running will face up $750 for a second offense and $1,000 for the third offense. Under current law, the period during which a repeat offender can be prosecuted for the same violation is 18 months. This agreement will extend that period to 30 months. Similarly, repeat offender drivers convicted of disobeying traffic signals will face up to up to $500 for a second offense, and up to $750 for a third or subsequent offense. Finally, repeat offender drivers operating buses, vehicles carrying hazardous materials, and vehicles with a gross vehicle rating of more than 10,000 pound, convicted of failing to stop at highway-rail grade crossings will now face up to $500 for the second offense, and up to $750 for a third or subsequent offense, with an expanded lookback of thirty months.
In addition to today’s agreement, the Governor will also launch a pilot program to improve driver awareness and behavior at railroad grade crossings.
In 2014, there were over 250 crossing-collision deaths in the United States. Grade crossing accidents frequently occur at local grade crossings in the community of a driver. According to data from the Federal Railroad Administration, 50-percent of train-motor vehicle collisions are reported to occur within five miles of the motorist’s home; 75-percent of such collisions occur within 25 miles of a person’s home.
Existing provisions of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law require motorists to observe safe driving behaviors at grade crossings, but law enforcement reports that many motorists fail to follow these critical safety requirements, risking their own safety as well as those of others.
In February 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration asked state departments of transportation to verify that railroad crossing warning systems interconnected to traffic lights function properly. According to the FRA, there are about 5,000 such interconnections nationwide, 117 of which are in New York. As a result, a statewide effort in New York has been underway to improve the coordinated operation of traffic and railroad signal systems that are in close proximity to where vehicles may queue up over the railroad tracks. As part of the 2008 Capital Program update, the Grade Crossing Safety program identified priority categories of work to focus scarce resources on improving safety in the most critical areas; interconnected signals was one of those identified.
Children’s Non-Profit Gets Ready for Back to School July 7, 2016 It may be your summer holiday, but at Friends of Karen, a non-profit that helps children battling cancer and their families, it’s Back to School time! Boxes filled with new backpacks, notebooks, markers, pencils, erasers, gift cards, etc. are being packed up and sent out to more than 850 Friends of Karen children so they can begin the new year happily and successfully.
“When we received the school supplies today the look on the kids’ faces…the excitement, it brought a little ‘normal’ back to us and for that we will forever be grateful,” says one mom.
Friends of Karen supports families who are struggling to stay afloat financially and emotionally while caring for their child with a life-threatening illness. Parents say how shattering it is to go into a store and see healthy children, so excited about the new year, choosing their school supplies while their own child is in the hospital, uncertain about what the next day will bring. Parents often agonize between buying new school supplies for their “well” child or paying their ill child’s mounting medical expenses. Imagine being faced with that decision.
You can help by participating in the Friends of Karen Back to School Program. You can give these parents peace of mind that their children will be prepared for school and provide the children with that good feeling of heading back to school wearing a new outfit and carrying crisp notebooks and sharpened pencils.
And it’s so easy. Here’s how you can help:
· Drop off or send new backpacks (for all ages), $25 gift cards (to Staples, Target, Old Navy, Macy’s), 3 ring binders, filler paper, composition books, washable thin markers to Friends of Karen, 118 Titicus Road, North Salem, NY 10560. · Call or email Denise Tredwell at 914-617-4052 or DeniseTredwell@FriendsofKaren.org for more info. · Visit www.FriendsofKaren.org/gifts-for-children for more details.
Free Emergency Preparedness Training at Armonk Recreational Center on Tuesday, March 22
March 16, 2016 New York National Guard troops, in conjunction with the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, will be presenting a free disaster preparedness class at the Hergenhan Recreational Center on Tuesday, March 22.
The two-hour program begins at 7 p.m. at the Recreation Center which is located at 40 Maple Ave. in Armonk.
The event is opened to any interested citizen and no sign-up in advance is required.
The event is part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's continuing Citizen Preparedness Corps Training Program, which provides citizens with the knowledge and tools to prepare for emergencies and disasters, respond accordingly, and recover as quickly as possible to pre-disaster conditions.
Working with the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) and local emergency management personnel, troops are conducting these training events across the state.
Since the program's launch in early February 2014, troops have held more than 675events statewide, and taught over 57,800 citizens how to be better prepared for emergencies and disasters.
The program, designed by DHSES, covers a broad range of emergency-preparedness topics, like developing a family emergency plan, stocking up on emergency supplies, and registering for NY-Alert, the free statewide emergency alert system.
The Citizen Preparedness Corps has equipped thousands of New Yorkers to respond better to emergencies and disasters, he stressed.
Emergency preparedness is part and parcel of the New York National Guard's mission and experience, according to New York State Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Patrick A. Murphy.
"The men and women of the New York Army and Air National Guard, who have responded to help their fellow New Yorkers during floods, hurricanes, and snow storms, know first-hand the value of being prepared for emergencies," Murphy said.
"Our Soldiers and Airmen are proud to be part of Governor Cuomo's effort to help our fellow citizens prepare to cope with disasters and emergencies."
New Scholarship Program Provides Five Full Scholarships to SUNY Colleges for Outstanding Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds
January 19, 2016
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the State University of New York is now accepting applications for the Carey Gabay Scholarship Program. This scholarship was announced by Governor Cuomo last year in honor of Carey Gabay, an attorney and public servant, who was tragically killed as an innocent victim of gun violence in October at the age of 43. This program will provide full-ride scholarships to five incoming SUNY students who exemplify Carey’s commitment to social justice, leadership, and mentoring, as well as his personal story of succeeding academically despite having an economically disadvantaged background.
“Carey was the perfect example of how hard work and service to others can make a difference in life. He could have done anything and yet, and chose to take his success and use it to give back to his community,” said Governor Cuomo. “We remember Carey in the work that we do every day to improve the lives of New Yorkers, and we hope that these scholarships will help other young people change the world through public service. Carey proved that, when given the opportunity to succeed, anything is possible, so I encourage eligible students to apply for these scholarships and help us continue to build a better state for all.”
Carey grew up living in public housing and attending public school in the Bronx. After a successful high school career, he went on to graduate from Harvard University and Harvard Law School. He had a longstanding commitment to public service and giving back those around him, and while at Harvard University, he ran to become the president of his undergraduate student body. More recently, he worked tirelessly in public service, first as an Assistant Counsel to Governor Cuomo and later as First Deputy Counsel for the Empire State Development Corporation.
The Carey Gabay Scholarship Program will annually award full-ride scholarships to five students to attend four-year SUNY colleges beginning in the 2016-17 school year. These scholarships will cover all costs of attendance, including tuition, room and board, college fees, books and supplies, and transportation and personal expenses. Applications are available here, and are due on March 15, 2016.
GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES FIRST MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE FOR FAST FOOD WORKERS AS RESULT OF WAGE BOARD'S RECOMMENDATION
State’s Minimum Wage also Increases to $9, Tipped Workers Get a Boost in Pay
December 30, 2015 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that three increases in the minimum wage in New York will take effect tomorrow. Workers in the fast food industry, tipped positions, and all other industries will each receive a higher wage beginning December 31 as the Governor continues to push for a $15 statewide minimum wage.
“No one who works full time should ever be condemned to a life of poverty,” said Governor Cuomo. “As we prepare to ring in the New Year, we are making a fundamental difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers across this state. I am proud to mark these milestones in the fight for fair pay for workers in fast food, tipped industries, and others – but too many home health care workers, airport workers and so many others continue to be left behind. That’s why we will continue fighting for a $15 minimum wage so that all workers can afford a decent life and a decent opportunity in New York State.”
Minimum Wage Increases
The following minimum wage increases will take effect December 31, 2015:
Overall Minimum Wage: In the third of three annual changes secured by Governor Cuomo in 2013, New York State's minimum wage will be $9.00 per hour.
Tipped Hospitality Workers: All tipped workers in the hospitality industry (food service workers, service employees and service employees in resort hotels) will be moved to the same category and rate for tipped cash wage. Effective December 31, 2015, the tipped cash wage amounts will increase from their current rates of $4.90, $5.00 and $5.65 to $7.50 per hour.
Fast Food Workers in fast food chains: In New York City, the minimum wage for workers in fast food chains (30 or more locations nationally) will be increased to $10.50 on December 31, 2015. For fast food chain workers in the rest of the State, the minimum wage will be increased to $9.75.
Minimum Wage Enforcement
Failure to comply with increased minimum wages can result in fines, charges and civil or even criminal punishment.
The Department of Labor, which enforces the minimum wage law, has fact sheets, frequently asked questions and additional resources for all employers and employees on its website: www.labor.ny.gov/minimumwage.
“The Department of Labor works with employees to help them understand their rights and also works with businesses to ensure they know their responsibilities,” said Acting State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “I strongly encourage anyone with questions to use our Department’s resources to make sure they’re being paid the right wage, or paying workers properly and won’t be penalized.”
The Department will also provide one-on-one support and a streamlined reporting process to help businesses understand and come into compliance with the new rate.
A business in need of assistance or a worker with questions or who is looking to file a complaint should call: (888) 469-7365.
CNN Anchor John Berman Victory on “Celebrity Jeopardy” Nets $50,000 for Local Children’s Charity
Armonk Resident Wins Big for Friends of Karen
May 16, 2015 “Who is James Cameron?” That was the answer that made John Berman the winner of the May 13 episode of “Celebrity Jeopardy!” As the champion, Berman claimed $50,000 for children’s charity Friends of Karen.
“What a thrilling finish to this day! John really went the distance to help our families who have a child with cancer," said Judith Factor, Friends of Karen's Executive Director. "They so desperately need the support that Friends of Karen provides to stay stable and functioning. John’s commitment to our children and their families is inspiring!"
Berman is co-anchor of CNN’s “Early Start with John Berman & Christine Romans” and of “@THISHOUR”. In his two decades of television news reporting, he has covered stories ranging from the milestone 2008 Presidential election to the war in Iraq, from the steroids scandal in American sports to the best way to catch catfish barehanded. He has won the Edward R. Murrow Award for best broadcast and the James Beard Award for best television segment.
“Friends of Karen started with one child, named Karen, in 1978 and since then has touched the lives of almost 14,000 children,” says Ms. Factor. “We are so lucky to have John as a friend, spreading the word about the lifeline we offer to families dealing with a situation that’s impossible to imagine.”
Friends of Karen is the only organization in the New York Tri-State area that provides vital and comprehensive support, at no cost, to families caring for a child battling cancer or another life-threatening illness. They carefully match each family with one of their social workers who serves as a personal advocate, ensuring that they get the emotional, financial and practical support they need to remain stable and functioning during a crisis that affects every member of the family. Friends of Karen helps free them of everyday needs and concerns, so they have more time for what’s most important: each other.
Friends of Karen serves all qualified families without regard to race, religion, national origin or cultural background. For more information, visit www.FriendsOfKaren.org or call (914) 617-4042.
Assemblyman Buchwald Passes Bill to Eliminate Loophole for Repeat Drunk Driving Offenders
Buchwald Also Announces “Arrive Alive” Program to Help Keep High School Students from Drinking and Driving on Prom Night
May 13, 2015 In an effort to save lives and curb incidents of drunk driving, Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) announced that the State Assembly has passed his legislation (bill number A.6222) to close a loophole that allows repeat DWI offenders currently under probation to potentially operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated despite the mandated use of an ignition interlock device. An ignition interlock device (IID) is an apparatus that is similar to a breathalyzer and often attached to the ignition system of a motor vehicle as a condition of probation. The vehicle can only be started if the driver blows into the ignition interlock and his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) is below the legal limit of .08 BAC. Assemblyman Buchwald’s legislation strengthens part of Leandra’s Law, which was signed in 2009 and named after 11-year old Leandra Rosado, who was killed in a motor vehicle operated by a drunk driver.
“Leandra Rosado’s story continues to be a cautionary tale of the dangers of drunk driving, and I am pleased that the State Assembly has taken steps to prevent new tragic stories from being written,” said Assemblyman Buchwald. “Ignition interlock devices save lives, and by granting our courts the ability to extend the period of mandated time these devices are required for repeat offenders, we will prevent further tragedies like Leandra’s.”
The legislation grants the courts the ability to extend the sentence of mandated use of an ignition interlock device if a DWI offender violated his or her probation or conditional discharge. Under the existing law, if an offender is accused of and subsequently found to have violated their probation or conditional discharge, and is therefore issued a declaration of delinquency, the original sentence is not extended once the delinquency is issued. During the delinquency period, which is the time between the filing of the probation violation and the court hearing to address that infraction, a repeat offender could thus inappropriately benefit from the current law. Buchwald’s bill, which was recommended by New York’s Office of Court Administration, provides judges the ability to extend the period in which the use of an IID is mandated in the vehicle of a DWI offender who violates his or her probation.
“MADD wholeheartedly supports Assemblyman Buchwald's bill,” said Carole Sears, President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Westchester. “Maintaining the ignition interlock device in the cars of drunk driving offenders for their full sentences, without removal for any reason, is of great importance. It will ultimately prevent deaths and injuries and promote MADD's mission to eradicate drunk driving.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, twenty percent of children who are killed in traffic-related accidents perish as the direct result of a drunk driver,1 and over twenty-two thousand DWI offenders in New York State are repeat violators, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.2 Assemblyman Buchwald’s legislation could help prevent unnecessary losses of life by requiring that probationary terms remain in effect after a declaration of delinquency, and allowing the court the ability to extend the end date of the oversight and utilization of the IID.
The passage of Assemblyman Buchwald’s drunk driving prevention legislation coincides with the announcement of his “Arrive Alive” program, which provides local high school students who attend prom with pledges to not drink and drive. In all, five high schools that serve the district are participating in the Arrive Alive program: Byram Hills High School, Fox Lane High School, John Jay High School, Westlake High School, and White Plains High School.
“We are happy to partner with the community to ensure that our students are safe, well informed, and well cared for,” said White Plains High School Principal Ellen Doherty. “We know prom is an exciting and wonderful time of year, and we want all students to arrive at prom, and home from prom, safe and sound.”
“I am so pleased that students from across the district are taking my pledge to not drink and drive on prom night,” said Assemblyman Buchwald. “Our young people need to be aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, because prom night should be filled with happy memories, and not tragedies. I would like to thank each of the high schools that participated in this important program.”
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; “Injury Prevention and Control: Motor Vehicle Safety: Impaired Driving” January, 2015.
2 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; “DWI Recidivism in the United States: An Examination of State-Level Driver Data and the Effect of Look-Back Periods on Recidivism Prevalence.” Nathan Warren-Kigenyi and Heidi Coleman. March 2014.