It's hard to believe that almost a year and a half has passed since I was sworn in as your new Member of Congress. But since day one, I've been working nonstop in our nation's capital, and constantly crisscrossing every part of this great district including Middle Village.
Despite this Congress being the most partisan in recent memory, I've managed to reach across the aisle to work with the Republican majority, and the bipartisanship has paid off. Even though I am a new Member of Congress, and in the minority party, I've managed to pass three pieces of legislation in the House, two of which directly impact Queens. They include:
Help for Houses of Worship
A bill to allow houses of worship to receive federal disaster funds for damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Presently, houses of worship are barred from receiving such federal assistance due to concerns over the separation of church and state. This, despite the fact that facilities such as zoos, museums and performing arts centers are permitted to collect relief money. Many of the more than 200 churches, temples and synagogues damaged or destroyed by the storm are located in Queens.
Veterans & Disability Claims
Legislation that seeks to eliminate the massive backlog of disability claims that forces veterans in Queens and the rest of New York to wait a staggering average of nearly 361.8 days ‒ nearly a whole year ‒ to receive their benefits, one of the longest wait times in the entire country.
Legislation that in the wake of the deadly terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, aims to better protect the lives of American diplomats serving overseas. The measure increases accountability of State Department employees by providing the Secretary of State with more power to discipline personnel who put diplomats in danger. I introduced the bill after then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requested the measure when she testified at my first Congressional hearing as a new Member of Congress.
I'm also pushing several other pieces of legislation that are awaiting votes in the House, two of which have picked up some steam:
The Infant Formula Protection Act which would require stores to stop selling expired baby formula, a shockingly legal and widespread practice that puts infants at risk.
The Anti-Spoofing Act that would crack down on a practice known as spoofing in which scammers and unscrupulous telemarketers use technology to display fake names and phone numbers on recipients' caller IDs in order to trick them into picking up the phone or replying to text messages. The scheme defrauds thousands of individuals in Queens, New York State and across the country.
I've also joined the new United Solutions Caucus where freshmen Democrats and Republicans work to reach bipartisan solutions to the nation's most pressing problems, and I helped launch and serve as Co-Chair of the Kids Safety Caucus, the first bipartisan coalition in the House that promotes child-safety issues.
Airplane Noise & Train Emissions
In addition, I'm pleased to report progress on important initiatives. After calling for the establishment of an airplane noise community roundtable, the governor recently directed the Port Authority to form such a panel. The group, which just held its first meeting, will address the ongoing and future concerns that residents of Queens and the New York area have about noise and other airport issues that negatively affect their quality of life. The governor's directive also includes my request for additional noise monitors.
I also helped secure $20 million for Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) grants to replace or retrofit old diesel engines, such as those in locomotives that run through Middle Village, in order to reduce the harmful diesel emissions that they generate. I'm also continuing to push New York and Atlantic Railway to address operational issues that affect the quality of life of local homeowners.
Further, I've been an active member of the House Foreign Affairs and Small Business Committees, and recently helped organize a rare field hearing at Queens College to probe the Small Business Administration's (SBA) lack of outreach to small businesses owners in the borough.
There are many more initiatives that I am proud to be working on, and I look forward to updating you as they progress.
As always, I encourage and welcome your feedback and suggestions, and my staff and I stand ready to help you with any assistance you may require with the federal government or any of its agencies. Please call or visit my Forest Hills office. The address is 118-35 Queens Boulevard and the phone number is 718-445-7861.Best wishes for a safe and enjoyable summer.