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 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, 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”.

Glendale Flower Shop Expands into CBD Enhanced Coffee Shop

Glendale, NY – The medicinal benefits of Cannabidiol, or CBD, is exploding on the medical scene as more people discover its healing powers. One Queens flower shop is now serving CBD-infused coffees, teas, lattes and other beverages with what it calls a ‘calming’ effect.

By Patti Neda




More than a dozen Queens public schools to expand bilingual education this fall

Queens, N.Y. – Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has announced that fourteen public schools across Queens will receive expanded bilingual education programs to help bridge the education gap for English language learners.

English language learners will receive instruction in both English and their native language. All but one of the schools will receive dual language programs for the first time.

Elmhurst’s P.S. 7 and P.S. 13 will have Chinese dual language programs. P.S. 7 will also have an English – Bengali dual language program.

Ridgewood’s I.S. 77 and P.S. 305, Flushing’s P.S. 22, Corona’s P.S. 92 and P.S. 330, Jamaica’s P.S./I.S. 268 and East Elmhurst’s P.S. 148 will each have Spanish dual language programs.

P.S. 71 in Ridgewood will have a Polish dual language program to accommodate its large number of Polish speaking students and I.S. 25 in Flushing will have a Korean dual language program for its Korean speaking population.

Additionally, William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City will have a Transition Bilingual Education (TBE) program in Spanish. Students in TBE classes receive home language instruction with intensive English language support. Students will receive more instruction in English until they reach proficiency.

Carranza said, “Everyone in our city, including immigrant families and undocumented students, deserves a high quality education and language should never be a barrier to equal access. When I started kindergarten, I only spoke Spanish, and my parents trusted public schools to teach me English. I want to make sure every English language learner in New York City has the same experience I did growing up.”

Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, said, “We see a huge need for more bilingual programs to serve the city’s diverse immigrant and English language learner students, including those with disabilities. It is good to see the city take steps to expand options for English language learners who continue to lag far behind their peers in academic achievement and graduation rates.”

Both the dual language and TBE programs aim to help students acquire a new language while simultaneously strengthening their native language skills and mastery of other subject areas.

Lawsuit filed against the city and state education departments to reduce Queens class sizes

Queens, N.Y. – An advocacy group and public school parents are suing the city and state education departments in an effort to reduce class sizes.

The lawsuit, filed last Thursday, alleges that the city Department of Education has not abided by a 2007 law that mandated smaller classes.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of advocacy group Class Size Matters, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said, “A lot of kids are in very overcrowded classrooms, especially in Queens.” Haimson and other plaintiffs filed a petition with state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in July, asking her to order the city to reduce class sizes in compliance with the 2007 Contract for Excellence Law, approved by the state Legislature after the Court of Appeals ruled “overcrowded classes in District schools contributed to inadequate student performance.” Under the law, K-3 classrooms should have no more than 23 students and high school core classes no more than 25 students by the end of the 2011-12 school year.

The average city class size in all grade levels has increased since 2007, and in the 2007-08 school year, the average class size in grades K-3 was 20.9 students and in 2014-15 was 24.6 students.

Elia sided with the city last December, leading the plaintiffs to file the April 12 lawsuit.

Three parents listed in the complaint are from Queens, Deborah Alexander, co-president of Community Education Council 30, JoAnn Schneider and Litza Stark. “The other day I encouraged my son to raise his hand during fifth grade math. He had just received a zero for participation,” Schneider said in a statement issued by Class Size Matters. “In a class of 32 kids, his chance to participate and his chance to learn has been squashed. He needs a smaller class size now.”

Councilman Danny Dromm (D- Jackson Heights), a former teacher and ex-chairman of the Council’s Education Committee, backs the lawsuit against the city and state. “It is unfortunate that it has come to the point where a lawsuit is needed to address the issue of reducing class size,” Dromm said. “Sadly, hundreds of thousands of our students are still crammed into classes of 30 or more and do not receive the attention they need to succeed. This situation is unacceptable and needs to be fixed immediately.”

A spokesman for the state Education Department declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Michael Aciman, a DOE spokesman, said, “We are committed to addressing overcrowding across this city, and have invested significant resources to increase seta capacity and reduce class size, including $6.5 billion in Capital Funding to create more than 46,600 seats in overcrowded areas. As a result of this work, average class size across the city has decreased from 26.4 students per class i the 2015-16 school year to 26.1 this year.”

The lawsuit asks the courts to order the DOE to “commence reducing class size averages” in accordance with the 2007 law by the 2018-19 school year, or submit a plan to shrink the sizes within a five-year timeline with annual targets.

Wendy Lecker, of the Education Law Center, is representing the plaintiffs. “The city cannot shirk its obligation to reduce class size under the C4E law and the State Constitution by taking no action for five years to let the statutory clock run out,” Lecker said in a statement.

Haimson backs the plan and says the city “needs to try to improve this process.” “It’s totally dysfunctional. Even when there’s money in the capital plan, they don’t build schools for many years.”

School District 24 in western and southwestern Queens is used as a case study in the Council’s plan. Part of the problem in SD 24, the members said, is that many schools were closed in the 1970s as enrollment dropped in that area.

As more people moved back into the neighborhoods, the city struggled to construct new schools.



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