New York Is Getting Closer to Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

Jamaica, NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo called upon the State Health Department to conduct a study on the pros and cons of legalizing recreational marijuana in New York.

Though the Governor has called marijuana a “gateway drug” which could lead to the use of other drugs, tax revenue earned from legalized marijuana could be the gateway to fixing the city’s infrastructure problems, like the crumbling subway system.

According to a report obtained by Fox5 NY, New York City’s Mass Transit Authority President Andy Byford says the agency needs $40 billion over a ten year span to modernize the subway system. The $200-700 million tax revenue earned from legalization of recreational marijuana could offset the current need for a subway fare hike. Tax revenue depends upon excise tax and varying price per ounce.

An April 2018 Quinnipiac University poll found that sixty-three percent of New Yorkers support the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana was legalized in New York state when Governor Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act in September 2014, which allows doctors to prescribe marijuana in a non-smokable form to patients with serious ailments that are recognized by the state on a predefined but flexible list of conditions.

According to Senator Leroy Comrie (D-NY), who is in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, the topic will be on the table for discussion in the next legislative session which begins in January 2019.

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New York City’s Most Diverse Borough

Flushing, NY – There’s no place quite like Flushing, Queens. You can dine on any type of cuisine, listen to any type of music, walk through the streets of any ethnic enclave of your choosing or visit a church, temple or mosque of any of the world’s religions.

Having grown up in The Bronx, New York, I was aware of Flushing since I was a young girl. I travelled by Q44 bus from the Bronx to Flushing with a few girlfriends when I was 14. We were on a mission to get our ears pierced, and we decided Flushing was the place for it. We stopped at Main Street, lined with clothing and jewelry boutiques – and oh, the bargains! Main Street is still lined with all sorts of boutiques and bargains, but is presently also dotted with every type of eatery imaginable from every corner of the world, and fresh produce, fruit and health markets, galore!

Nowadays, I appreciate Flushing’s varied residents’ ability to coexist peaceably together in a way I’ve never seen in any other community. Flushing is predominantly Asian, but there are pockets of Southeast Asian including Hindu and Sikh, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Caucasian and Muslims enjoying all the area has to offer, including cosmopolitan high-rise apartments and condominium housing or estate-like homes with front and backyards and quaint sitting porches.

Flushing has captured my heart. If you live in New York City and are looking for something to do, or you’re visiting from someplace else, try checking out Flushing. You’ll be glad you did. And it just might capture your heart, too.

By Patti Neda

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NY Sues Juul, Biggest Name in Vaping

The vaping problem is being attacked at both the legislative and retail levels.

New York is joining California and North Carolina in filing a lawsuit against E-Cigarette maker, Juul.

Additionally, the American Medical Association is calling for an immediate ban on all e-cigarettes and vaping products.

“Juul is putting countless New Yorkers at risk,” says New York Attorney General Letitia James. The NY AG says Juul has been marketing its vaping products to children, igniting a public health crisis that has caused dozens of deaths across the country.

“Juul basically took a page from big tobacco’s playbook by marketing its products in a manner that was appealing to underage youth. It misled consumers about the nicotine content of Juul’s products,” said James.

Juul denies it ever targeted minors and said it is, “…Working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials and other stake holders to combat underage use.”

While some believe vaping helps people quit smoking and is safer than tobacco, others believe users don’t fully understand how dangerous vaping is. Vaping doesn’t have an odor like cigarette smoke and users may mistakenly believe the absence of smoke makes it safer.

Juul controls seventy percent of the vaping market. According to the Center for Disease Control from 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use jumped almost eighty percent by high schoolers and almost fifty percent by middle schoolers.

A current study says that one in every four high school students use e-cigarettes on a semi-regular basis.

 

 

NYC Mayor turned presidential candidate appears in first 2020 Democratic debate with controversial comments about police

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio received blowback after his appearance on the first night of the Democratic presidential debates held in Miami.

The unapologetically progressive de Blasio was coincidentally standing on the left of the debate stage in the row of the first 10 Democratic candidates to bid for a 2020 White House win.

In one particular question regarding gun violence, De Blasio stated,  “For the last 21 years, I have been raising a black son in America. I have had to have very, very serious talks with my son, Dante, about how to protect himself on the streets of our city and all over our country, including how to deal with the fact that he has to take special caution because there have been too many tragedies between our young men and our police.”

De Blasio’s comment drew the ire of the largest police union in New York City.

The Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York (PBA) blasted the mayor for his comment about talking to his African American son and police-community relations.

PBA President Patrick Lynch tweeted a statement which read, “Mayor de Blasio has apparently learned nothing over the past six years about the extremely damaging impact of anti-police rhetoric on both cops and the communities we serve.”

The PBA is the largest labor union representing police officers of the New York City Police Department. It represents about 24,000 of the department’s 36,000 officers.

Lynch has frequently accused de Blasio of making anti-police statements, leading some police officers to turn their backs on the mayor during an officer’s funeral after two police officers were murdered in 2014.

The police union disagrees with de Blasio’s bid for the 2020 presidency, saying in May, “While the mayor of our nation’s largest city is busy running around Iowa and getting upstaged by the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, there are real problems here at home.”

An April Quinnipiac poll found that de Blasio had a 42 – 44 percent job approval rating.

The poll also found that 76 percent of New York City voters did not think de Blasio should run for president, with “every listed party, gender, racial, borough and age group” agreeing he should not attempt a run for the White House.

Queens DA Candidate Backed by Sanders, Warren & Ocasio-Cortez Claims Election Win

Corona, NY – Public Defender Tiffany Caban claimed victory Tuesday night in the primary for Queens district attorney.

Tiffany Caban’s candidacy for Queens DA became a top priority for liberal Democrats and drew endorsements from two 2020 presidential hopefuls – Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT.), as well as from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose district includes parts of Queens.

Caban stated, “This campaign started with just four women, sitting around a kitchen table, saying: we have to change the system.” In a tweet Tuesday night, Caban said, “So I did what many thought was unthinkable for a 31-year -old queer Latina public defender whose parents grew up in the Woodside Houses. I decided to run.”

During her Democratic primary campaign, Caban stated her intentions that if she prevailed, there would be no prosecution for people jumping subway turnstiles, using recreational drugs or for sex workers. She said the cash bail system would be dismantled as quickly as possible and that resources used to go after petty crime would be redirected toward abusive landlords.

As of Wednesday morning with 99 percent of precincts reporting votes, Caban had a lead of 1.3 percentage points over the closest contender, Melinda Katz. There are some 2.3 million residents of Queens. With absentee ballots still to be counted, Katz, the preferred candidate of the Democratic establishment, declined to concede.

Presidential 2020 contender Bernie Sanders tweeted, “This is a victory for working people everywhere who are fighting for real political change and demanding we end cash bail, mass incarceration and the failed war on drugs.”

Ocasio-Cortez wrote she was “incredibly proud” of Caban and those who voted for her. She tweeted, “No matter how this ends, you all have stunned NY politics tonight. When people come together, we can beat big money in elections. People power is no fluke.”

Caban is seeking to replace longtime Queens district attorney Richard Brown, who died in May.

The winner of the Democratic primary is favored to win the general election in November.

 

NY offers free health care with unveiling of ‘Care Card’ Aug 1 in The Bronx

Bronx, NY – Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today all New Yorkers will have “guaranteed healthcare” beginning August 1.

De Blasio introduced the New York Care Card to a cheering crowd and guaranteed that all uninsured New Yorkers will have free health care.

The mayor says some people are not visiting doctors when they should because “they think it is too expensive.” He stated, “Healthcare is a human right. You think about this country’s tens of millions of people, and how wrong that is, that health care is being decided by the zip code that people live in or how much money is in their wallet. Health care is a human right. It’s as simple as that. It’s a simple right. It’s a universal right.”

The mayor said the NY Care Card is about being “bold” and is a rejection of the “status quo.”

The card, to be distributed to New Yorkers who currently have no health insurance, will be handed out beginning August 1 in The Bronx. It will allow individuals and their family members to obtain a primary care doctor and be seen without walking into emergency rooms.

 

Governor Cuomo begins third term with vow for most progressive agenda in New York state history

Ellis Island, NY – Governor Cuomo (D-) began 2019 and his third term with an inaugural address on Ellis Island in which he stated that within the first 100 days of his new term, he will propose “the most progressive agenda this state has ever seen, period.”

Cuomo says, “America’s only threat is from within,” and listed legalizing recreational marijuana, codifying abortion rights and fixing New York City’s subways as priorities for 2019.

“We will make history and New York will move forward, not by building a wall, my friends, but buy building new bridges,” he said, making reference to President Donald J. Trump’s campaign promise and highly charged political fight to build a border wall along the U.S. – Mexican border.

With the partial government shutdown entering day 12 and hinging entirely on funding for a U.S. southern border wall, there seems to be no truce in sight between the Republican and Democratic parties, with President Trump stating he will keep the partial shut down “for as long as it takes.” President Trump insists a southern border wall is necessary for homeland security and to curtail drug and sex trafficking onto U.S. soil.

But Gov. Cuomo said some of the nation’s leaders have demonized diversity to “make our differences our greatest weakness instead of our greatest strength.”

Cuomo delivered the nearly 30-minute speech from the famous immigration landmark with the nearby Statue of Liberty in the distance. “They will never close our harbor. They will never close our hearts,” Cuomo said.

Ellis Island was once the nation’s busiest immigration gateway to the U.S., welcoming millions of immigrants from around the world. Cuomo called the island “an enduring symbol” of America’s core values of hope and opportunity.

The battle over legal vs. illegal immigration continues to rage nationwide, with President Trump insisting on abolishing ‘Catch & Release’ programs and enforcing standing immigration laws at proper ports of entry, while Democrats are in favor of an open border immigration policy.

Gov. Cuomo won re-election last fall.

 

 

NYC Bans Pharmacies From Selling Cigarettes & Tobacco Products

New York – Starting off the new year, cigarettes and other tobacco products will be banned from all New York City pharmacies, including supermarkets and big box stores with a pharmacy section.

The city estimates this will affect about 500 pharmacies.

The average price of a pack of cigarettes in New York is $13, the highest in the United States.

Legislators recently banned smoking in NYCHA housing. E-cigarette sales were banned in pharmacies last August.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Health Department are instilling the tobacco ban though there are still more than 873,000 smokers in New York City.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at http://www.cdc.gov., current smoking rates have declined from 20.9 percent (nearly 21 of every 100 adults) in 2005 to 15.5 percent (more than 15 of every 100 adults) in 2016.

The CDC states that, “Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the Unites States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths.”

“People trust pharmacies to help them stay well. They should be helping smokers quit, not the opposite,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, deputy mayor for Health and Human Services.

 

NYC allows gender ‘X’ on birth certificates

New York (AP) – A New York City law allows residents who don’t identify as male or female to change their birth certificates to “X.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bill which goes into effect January 1, 2019. The measure passed earlier this year.

The bill removes the requirement that residents need an affidavit from a doctor or mental health professional to change the gender on their birth certificates.

It also allows parents to choose the “X” designation for their newborns.

New York City joins California, Oregon and Washington state in allowing a third gender option on birth certificates. A similar provision takes effect in New Jersey in February. Washington, D.C. allows gender-neutral driver licenses.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, a Democrat, said New Yorkers should be free to tell their government who they are – and “not the other way around.”

Rikers Island Set To Close

Queens, NY – New York City is set to close the first of its notorious Rikers Island jails next year and redistribute inmates into the city’s boroughs, but not without opposition in Queens county.

Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to begin closing the entire jail complex over a ten year period in favor of opening borough-based community jails. The 10-year plan to shutter the scandal ridden jail complex includes proposals for community jails to be opened in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and The Bronx. The old Rikers complex would be used as a sewage treatment plant and energy facilities.

Rikers Island is a holding jail until arrestees go to trial and, if convicted and sentenced to longer terms, go upstate to one of New York state’s prisons. It became known for a “deep-seated culture of violence” as described by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says closing Rikers is a key piece of creating a smaller, safer and fairer criminal justice system in New York City, but “will take time, the effort of many and tough decisions along the way”.

The plan is controversial and has both proponents and those in opposition of the closing of the notorious jail complex.

A recent community meeting of the Flushing Civic Association had the majority of Queens borough attendees in opposition of the proposal to open a 30-story community jail building in Kew Gardens for current Rikers inmates. Of the 34 attendees, most expressed concerns about public safety.

Fielding questions from attendees, Queens Assistant District Attorney James Quinn said after the infamous jail’s closing, former Rikers inmates will be housed in the county in which their crime took place. He addressed concerns such as the new jails having less space than the sprawling Rikers complex and discussed if lack of space would cause bails to be lowered and serious offenders to be set free. He spoke of possible early parole and arrestees possibly being given desk appearance tickets when perhaps they should be held immediately, due to the nature of their crime. He also spoke of the possibility of shorter sentences and offenders never being transferred to state prisons.

Beverly McDermott, President of the Kissena Park Civic Association in Flushing, said, “I think it’s bad for every taxpayer. They’re spending money that is not theirs to spend. And when we have homeless, we have people who could use affordable housing and we have medical facilities bursting at the seams.”

Queens resident John Kelly said, “It’s not going to take ten years. It’s going to take 15 years. To me it’s a big smokescreen. They have said publicly that they want to extend the runway at LaGuardia Airport, which is right next to Rikers Island, and they want to increase the number of flights.”

Carsten Glaser, Vice President of the Kissena Park Civic Association said, “This idea of taking prisoners out and moving them out into the community is really an insane idea. We are a civilized society and this notion of bringing criminal element softens the idea that they’re not violent and not prone to recidivism, again, puts a lot of the public at risk. You have the detention center, it’s really not a good idea.”

Other concerns Quinn spoke of is the plan for holding juvenile offenders and if there are more inmates than Rikers is currently designed for. Another concern Quinn raised is if certain crimes would get no jail time. He put forth an example of auto theft convictions when the auto is insured. Quinn asked, “What are victimless crimes? What about prostitution and minor charges?”

The Queens Assistant D.A. said city crime has dropped astronomically in the last 25 years. He said murders are down 85 percent from 1993 to 2017, and last year he said there were less than 50 homicides. “In 1993, 50,000 cars were stolen and last year, that number is down to 1,200. Robberies are down 84 percent and burglaries and grand larcenies are also down,” he said. He acknowledged an “enormous decline in crime,” but posed questions about if there would still be jail sentences for minor charges.

Quinn says since 2013, 49 percent of inmates are re-arrested at an average of three times each.

Rikers Island currently can house 15,000 inmates. Quinn says New York City’s plan is to reduce the population of Rikers to 5,000 and that to do that, it must release everyone currently being held on bail. Rikers currently has 6,447 open cases and 320 inmates are being detained for offenses in other jurisdictions. He says it will be impossible to have a city of 9 million people with 5,000 jail beds. “Putting people in jail is the last resort,” he said.

Quinn says it’s a better idea to refurbish the old buildings at Rikers and continue to house inmates there, not in community-based jails in the individual boroughs. He said it’s easier to transport criminals in buildings that are low built, as opposed to the 30- and 40-story buildings proposed for each borough.

Quinn said it would cost $1.6 billion to refurbish and renovate Rikers Island and it would have to be financed over 30 years. He says building four new community-based jails that contain all of the amenities of Rikers Island could end up totaling $33 billion, “if it goes perfectly and on time.” He said in addition to the 30-some story buildings to house inmates, there will also have to be law libraries and fire departments in each new jail. Also included are kitchens, infirmaries and garages to repair vehicles. Currently Rikers has about 1,000 of its own vehicles for various operations including prisoner transport. Quinn says undertaking the replicating of Rikers Island into four new fully operating jails in each borough is an “astronomical venture”.

Queens Assistant D.A. Quinn says the city has no idea how much redistributing inmates across the boroughs will actually end up costing. He says many times construction workers can only work three to four hours per day. He says Rikers could be repaired, rebuilt and that can be done right now, not ten years from now.

As for inmates being relocated into 30 story buildings in largely residential areas of the boroughs, Quinn says, “People are incensed about it.”

According to Quinn, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown agrees the closing of Rikers is a bad idea and that this undertaking will be “a historic mistake.” He acknowledged that although it sounds like a great idea, it would be “a waste of time, energy and money”.

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