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I On Politics – Queens Gazette



MAJOR FLOODING: NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams released the following state­ment on Dec. 27: “Yet again, Southeast Queens, the Rockaways and surrounding areas have undergone horrible yet entirely foreseeable mass flooding. Six­teen months after Hurricane Ida struck our shores and killed thirteen fellow New Yorkers, our govern­ment has not made the changes, improvements, and recoveries necessary to protect and shelter its citi­zens.

“These residents don’t just need our words of hope; the people deserve real plans, commitments, and genuine change. The city, state, and federal government must accomplish the difficult but vital steps to both prevent and mitigate future disasters. Specifically,

“Mayor Adams should immediately expedite the capital project process and increase funding to these low lying disaster prone areas. Governor Hochul must amend the State of Emergency to in­clude a request for direct, seamless, and expeditious federal funding for homeowners in Southeast Queens, the Rockaways and surrounding areas.

“Our governments must begin today to re-de­velop our street and sewage infrastructure, and the Army Corps of Engineers should be immediately deployed to expedite the Bay Protection Project and on-the-ground resiliency efforts.

“As we pivot from fossil fuels towards green energy, we should redirect fossil fuel subsidies to sources that bolster public renewable energy. These critical reforms require urgent action. Changes today will help mitigate catastrophe from a future of more frequent severe storms.”

RAN OVER, STABBED WIFE IN FRONT OF CHILDREN; FACES 25: Queens District At­torney Melinda Katz announced that Stephen Gi­raldo was charged with attempted murder, assault and other crimes for allegedly hitting his wife with his SUV and then stabbing her with a knife. The couple’s three children were in the vehicle at the time of the incident in front of her Flushing resi­dence.

District Attorney Katz said: “The brutality of the attack, and the fact that it was committed in full view of the victim’s three young children, stirs heartbreak and outrage in all of us. My thoughts are with the children.”

Giraldo, 36, of 144th Street in Jamaica, Queens, was arraigned on a complaint charging him with at­tempted murder in the second degree, assault in the first and second degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. Judge Scott Dunn remanded the de­fendant and ordered him to return to court on Jan­uary 12. If convicted, Giraldo faces up to 25 years in prison.

According to the complaint, on December 27, at approximately 5:20 a.m., video surveillance footage shows the defendant enter the driver’s seat of a white Ford Explorer parked near the intersec­tion of Parsons Boulevard and Sanford Avenue. The defendant’s three children ages 11, 9 and 6, were seated in the car. The defendant’s 41-year-old wife Sophia Giraldo walked in front of the vehicle. The defendant allegedly told the children to “keep your seat belt on” and accelerated, barreling the car di­rectly into the victim. After colliding with the vic­tim, the car turned onto its side. The defendant al­legedly crawled out the passenger side window of the vehicle and stabbed his wife three times with a knife. The defendant was at the scene when police arrived.

The victim was taken to a local hospital for treatment of her injuries, including severe neuro­logical damage, broken bones in her leg and a stab wound that punctured her liver.

EXPANDED FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR CRIME VICTIMS: Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Dec. 27 that three laws ex­panding financial assistance and protections for vic­tims and survivors of crime who have not been physically injured are now effective. Individuals who are victims of unlawful dissemination or pub­lication of an intimate image, commonly referred to as “revenge porn,” and first- and second-degree reckless endangerment, whose claims are filed with the state Office of Victim Services on or after De­cember 27, 2022, may now seek compensation from Office of Victim Services for certain crime-related costs. In addition, victims and survivors of interpersonal violence may now use additional doc­uments and information to prove identity theft be­fore debt collection can occur.

“Here in New York, we support victims in every way possible and we will continue to adapt our laws in order to keep New Yorkers safe,” Gov­ernor Hochul said. ”I am proud to have been able to work with my partners in the legislature to enact this legislative package to help victims seek the jus­tice they deserve and make New York a safer state for all.”

Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Executive Director Kelli Owens said, ”Over 99% of domestic violence victims experience financial abuse, including forced debt and identity theft. These new laws increase access to critical financial resources for survivors of gender-based violence so that they can heal and regain economic stability.”

The Office of Victim Services provides a critical financial safety net for victims and survivors of crime who have no other resources to pay for crime-related expenses. While many of those expenses stem from individuals being injured during the crime, state law allows certain non-physically in­jured victims and survivors of intimate partner vio­lence, hate and other crimes, to seek compensation from the agency for certain costs they have in­curred.

Individuals who are victims of revenge porn (Penal Law Section 245.15) are now eligible to seek compensation for counseling and moving expenses, reimbursement for loss of earnings, and the repair or replacement of essential personal property from the agency. Individuals who are victims of first- and second-degree reckless endangerment (Penal Law Sections 120.20 and 120.25) are now eligible to seek compensation for expense related to counsel­ing, the unreimbursed costs of securing a crime scene and crime scene cleanup, and reimbursement for loss of earnings.

In addition, the state’s General Business Law has been amended to provide individuals who are victims of identity theft alternate ways to report the crime and allow them to provide additional docu­mentation that must be considered by creditors, which must stop any debt collection activities until they have completed a review of that documenta­tion. Individuals now have the option of reporting the identity theft to law enforcement or through a filing to the Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Victim’s reporting process. Creditors must now also consider statements by the victim of coercion, and/or criminal or fam­ily court documents before pursuing collection.

Financial assistance administered by OVS also helps victims, survivors and family members with medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, loss of support, in addition to other assistance. New York is the only state in the nation with no cap on medical or counseling costs, which means individuals can receive assistance as long as they need it. The Office of Victim Services also funds and supports 239 vic­tim assistance programs across the state that provide crisis counseling, therapy, emergency shelter, civil legal assistance, case management and advocacy, among other services, across the state.

While eligibility for compensation or reim­bursement is determined by an individual’s income and access to other resources, such as health insur­ance, victim assistance programs provide services and support at no cost to anyone who needs them. Visit the Office of Victim Services’ website for more information and follow the agency on Twitter and Facebook.

New York State also provides 24/7 support for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual vio­lence. Call 800-942-6906; text 844-997-2121; or chat at

REPORT ON FDA’S QUICK APPROVAL OF ALZHEIMER’S DRUG: On Dec. 29, Over­sight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) re­leased a staff report following an 18-month inves­tigation into the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory review and approval process of Biogen’s Alzheimer’s disease drug Aduhelm, and Biogen’s pricing of Aduhelm.

“One of my top priorities as Chair of the Com­mittee on Oversight and Reform is ensuring that the American people have access to effective and af­fordable medications,” Chairwoman Maloney said. “The number of patients and families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease will continue to increase, and it is crucial that FDA and drug companies adhere to established procedures and conduct themselves with the transparency necessary to earn public trust. I am hopeful these findings are a wake-up call for FDA to reform its practices and a call to action to my Congressional colleagues to continue oversight of the pharmaceutical industry to ensure they don’t put profits over patients.”

“This report documents the atypical FDA re­view process and corporate greed that preceded FDA’s controversial decision to grant accelerated approval to Aduhelm.” Chairman Pallone said. “While we all support the search for new cures and treatments to address devastating diseases like Alzheimer’s, we must ensure that expediency does not take precedence over protocols that ensure the independence and scientific rigor of FDA. Patient safety and drug efficacy must remain at the core of our nation’s pharmaceutical regulatory review process. FDA must continue to take corrective ac­tions to re-earn the trust of the American people, and Biogen and other pharmaceutical manufactur­ers must also learn from the issues outlined in this report and implement our recommendations to place the well-being of patients over profits.”

The report details how, leading up to November 2020, FDA and Biogen prepared and presented a joint briefing document on Aduhelm to a key FDA advisory committee. Following the presentation, none of the committee members voted to recom­mend traditional approval for Aduhelm. After the advisory committee meeting, Public Citizen, a non-profit consumer rights advocacy group, wrote to FDA expressing concern over alleged close collab­oration between the agency and Biogen. In re­sponse, FDA conducted an internal review of the agency and Biogen’s interactions prior to the No­vember 2020 advisory committee meeting. The pre­viously unreleased internal FDA review, which was completed in May 2021, was released that day with the Committees’ report.

Despite the advisory committee’s lack of rec­ommendation for approval, as well as internal con­cerns raised by experts about the inconsistency of the drug’s clinical data, FDA granted accelerated approval to Aduhelm on June 7, 2021, based on Aduhelm’s effect on a proxy for clinical benefit. Following the drug’s approval, several members of the FDA advisory committee publicly resigned in protest. Later that month, Chairs Maloney and Pal­lone announced the Committees’ investigation into FDA’s decision to grant accelerated approval to Aduhelm.

Based on the investigation’s findings, the Com­mittees’ report makes several recommendations to FDA intended to help restore the American people’s trust in the agency’s processes and assurances of drug safety and efficacy. The report also recom­mends actions that Biogen and other drug sponsors take in the future to fulfill their responsibility to the patients and families who rely on their treatments.


Bill Protecting Seniors’ Prescription Drug Benefits – Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D/WF-44) announced that Governor Hochul signed his bill, A928-A/S3483, which ensures that seniors who receive benefits helping to cover the cost of prescription drugs through the State’s EPIC program, won’t lose these benefits in the coming year because their income exceeds the eligibility threshold as a result of cost of living adjustments to their social security or public or private pensions.

“With expenses for basic needs going higher and higher, we need to do everything we can to pro­tect seniors on fixed incomes,” said Assemblymem­ber Carroll. “No seniors should have to pay more out of pocket for prescription drugs because of in­creases in social security or their pensions to which they are entitled. Social security payments are set to increase in 2023 by 8.7% – the highest adjustment in forty years – so this legislation is particularly timely.”

EPIC (Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Cov­erage) helps more than 330,000 income-eligible New Yorkers aged 65 and older supplement their out-of-pocket Medicare Part D drug plan.

New York State Living Donor Support Act – Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation (S.1594/A.146A) into law, enacting the New York State Living Donors Support Act, the first state pro­gram in the nation allowing individuals to be reim­bursed for the costs of kidney and liver donations.

“There is no greater gift a New Yorker can give than the gift of saving a life,” Governor Hochul said. “Living organ donors are true heroes, and with this legislation, we are taking meaningful steps to support their sacrifice and save lives.”

Legislation (S.1594/A.146A) amends the public health, tax, and social services laws to enact the “New York State Living Donor Support Act,” which would establish a program to cover extra costs associated with organ donation for New York residents who donate to a fellow New Yorker. It works to eliminate financial barriers to organ dona­tion to reduce wait times for organ transplants and address the organ shortage in New York.

This legislation is in­tended to help eliminate barriers to organ dona­tion, in order to bring New York up from its low rank in organ donation among states. There are cur­rently 8,569 people on transplant wait lists, 7,234 of whom are awaiting a kidney.

State Senator Gustavo Rivera said, “I want to thank Governor Hochul for signing my bill, The New York State Living Donor Support Act, into law. By removing financial barriers and educating New Yorkers about living organ donation, this im­portant effort will help reverse New York’s low organ donor registration rates, where we rank al­most last at the national level. With expanded as­sistance for those inspired to become organ donors, I am confident this new law will help more New Yorkers give and receive the gift of life.”

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried said, “Liv­ing donors, such as people who donate one kidney, deserve our gratitude and support. We should pro­tect them by making sure they are covered for med­ical expenses and lost income. I thank Governor Hochul for signing this bill into law and the organ donation advocates, Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Senate sponsor Gus­tavo Rivera for their efforts moving it forward.”

Bill To Prohibit Citizenship, Immigration Status Discrimination – NYS Senator John Liu, NYS Assemblymember Catalina Cruz and advo­cates applauded Governor Kathy Hochul’s signing of the bill (S6586A/A6328A) to prohibit discrimi­nation based on citizenship or immigration status. This bill, signed on December 23, amends the human rights law to make explicit that discrimina­tion on the basis of citizenship and immigration sta­tus is unlawful in New York State.

The State of New York and its citizens have long held the belief that there are no tolerable forms of discrimination within our state and communities. The NYS Division of Human Rights currently in­vestigates cases in which individuals have been po­tentially discriminated against due to their national origin. This proposal however would expand these protections, and make clear to employers, housing providers, places of public accommodation, and other relevant entities that discrimination because of citizenship and immigration status is also unlaw­ful in New York State.

Senator Liu said, “We appreciate Governor Hochul for signing this legislation in recognition that our state is made greater by the vast contribu­tions of talented and aspiring people from every­where in the world who adopt New York as their new home. Unfortunately, even as they pursue the American Dream, they are stymied by obsolete fed­eral laws and byzantine bureaucracies that prolong their path to citizenship and subject them to bias and discrimination. This bill will help provide equal op­portunity in employment, housing, and other needs that all New Yorkers should have access to.”

Assembly Member Cruz said, “Our Great State has served as a beacon of hope for immigrants from around the world since its creation. The passing and signing of this bill reflects our most important val­ues and principles and sends a clear message- there is no room for discrimination of any kind in New York. Sadly, we have seen a dramatic uptick in hate crimes and attacks on immigrants statewide, and our communities deserve this protected status. I want to thank the Governor for signing this bill into law and the advocates for their hard work and sup­port on these critical issues.”

“All New Yorkers should be treated with dig­nity, respect, and fairness, regardless of their citi­zenship and immigration status,” said Wayne Ho, President and CEO of the Chinese-American Plan­ning Council.

“This legislation will help ensure that our hard-working immigrant community members are safe from discrimination regardless of their immigration status and can continue providing for their families and contributing to the strength and vitality of New York State,” said Thomas Yu, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE).

Diana Park, Immigration Justice Organizer at the MinKwon Center for Community Action, said, “This is an important victory for our community to be seen and heard and in the fight for a pathway to citizenship. One in seven Asian American immi­grants in New York State are undocumented. As a DACA recipient, I have this platform to speak and be heard but for too long, undocumented commu­nity members have lived in their shadows. …[T]his law that would make it unlawful in the state of New York to discriminate on the basis of citizenship or immigration status in housing, employment, credit, and places of public accommodation.”

Diana Moreno, Deputy Director of New Immi­grant Community Empowerment (NICE), said, “This is a foundational step towards guaranteeing our members can live and work with dignity as we continue to pursue federal changes to our broken immigration system.”

COUNCIL CONDEMNS HOMOPHOBIC, TRANSPHOBIC ACTIONS: In response to con­tinued anti-LGBTQIA+ actions targeted at Council members and Drag Story Hour events, including one recently at the Queens Public Library in Jack­son Heights, Speaker Adrienne Adams and Council Members Shekar Krishnan, Erik Bottcher, and Crystal Hudson released the following joint state­ment:

“Drag Story Hour organizes free events, acces­sible to families, that engage children in arts & crafts and imaginative storytelling.

“In recent months, anti-LGBTQIA+ protesters have descended on these family events, attempting to get into our libraries to disrupt them while shout­ing homophobic and transphobic slurs at perform­ers and attendees. They have also vandalized the homes of three members of this City Council who support Drag Story Hour. It is particularly disturb­ing that these anti-LGBTQIA+ protesters have fo­cused their harassment in Jackson Heights and Chelsea, two neighborhoods with historical impor­tance as safe communities and centers of organizing for the LGBTQIA+ movement in New York City.

“Hate in all its pernicious forms, including at­tacks on our LGBTQIA+ communities, have no place in our city and must be unequivocally con­demned. We stand with New Yorkers gathering today (Dec. 29) in Jackson Heights to confront hate and defend families reading with their children.

“The harmful, homophobic, and transphobic ex­tremism targeting Drag Story Hour events and the New Yorkers who support them, including Council members, is vile and dangerous. We will not stay silent or accept these shameful attempts to intimi­date and spread hate, especially after recent inci­dents that have devolved into violence and put New Yorkers in harm’s way. This City Council is proud to support children’s programs that promote inclu­sivity, literacy, and joy.”

—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts

This column was originated by John A. Toscano

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