Following the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I've joined with colleagues in the New York Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention - a coalition of New York lawmakers in the Assembly and the State Senate - to re-introduce legislation to curb gun violence in New York.
New York has been a national leader among the states in enacting some of the toughest, common-sense laws to combat gun violence, like the 2013 SAFE Act that I co-sponsored - but even though our state has the third lowest rate of gun-related deaths, about 900 New Yorkers tragically lost their lives to guns last year. As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health, I know that gun violence is a public health issue - and there is more we can and should do to keep New Yorkers safe.
Among the measures whose passage New York Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention are calling for are bills to:
- make background checks more effective by expanding the time to conduct a check from three days to ten days, requiring licensed firearms businesses to report attempts by prohibited individuals to purchase a weapon, and requiring background checks for employees who are authorized to possess or transfer fire-arms (A. 9068);
- ban "bump stocks," devices which allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles (A. 8913) and regulate the possession, sale, and manufacturing of bump stocks and "trigger cranks" that accelerate a gun's rate of fire (A. 8717);
- create extreme risk protection orders, establishing a new court-issued order of protection prohibiting anyone from purchasing, possessing or trying to purchase or possess a gun if he or she is judged likely to harm themselves or others (A. 8976);
- prohibit the possession of guns that are undetectable to x-rays, magnetometers, or metal detectors (A. 914);
- and prohibit possession of a firearm by anyone who commits a hate crime (A. 7547).
Recent data shows that states with stricter gun regulations, like New York, experience less gun-related violence than those that don't. But with more than one mass shooting per day in the United States, and with about 900 New Yorkers dying from gunshots last year, it's clear that we can and must do more. With majorities in both houses of congress in Washington seemingly paralyzed by the gun manufacturers' lobby, states like New York must take steps to protect our own citizens.
R.I.P., Lincoln Plaza Cinemas - For Now?
Like many New Yorkers, my family and I have been going to the movies at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas at Broadway and 63rd Street since it first opened in 1981. One of the great classic "art house" cinemas of New York City, it showed independent and foreign movies that were often unavailable or difficult to find else-where. It was a much-beloved cultural institution on the Upper West Side.
But Lincoln Plaza Cinemas lost its lease and closed its doors in January. The owners of 30 Lincoln Plaza (1886 Broadway), Milstein Properties, said the space needs extensive renovations and structural work is needed to repair and waterproof the plaza around the building, which could not be done while the theater remained open.
I have joined with City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and State Senator Brad Hoylman in writing to Milstein Properties asking to meet and urging them to renew Lincoln Plaza Cinemas' lease once the renovation work is completed.
Free Tax Preparation Assistance
IRS-trained volunteers are available to provide free tax preparation assistance throughout New York City.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is sponsoring a number of locations in New York City. There are no age or income restrictions to receive this assistance. Sites include:
- Muhlenberg Public Library, 209 W. 23rd St. between 7th & 8th Aves., 212-924-1585, Tuesdays & Fri-days 10:15 am-2:30 pm
- Penn South Senior Center, 290 9th Ave. @ 27th St., 212-243-3670, call first for hours of availability
- Community Church of New York, 40 E. 35th St. between Park & Madison Aves., 212-683-4988, Thurs-days 9:30am-1:00pm
- Science, Industry & Business Library (SIBL), 188 Madison Ave. @ 34th St., 917-275-6975, Mondays & Wednesdays 1:00pm-6:00pm, Fridays & Saturdays 1:00pm-5:00pm.
- Epiphany Library, 228 E. 23rd St. between 2nd & 3rd Aves., 212-679-2645, Thursdays 10:00am-2:00pm
- Project Find, Hamilton Senior Center, 141 W. 73rd St. between Columbus & Amsterdam Aves., 212-787-7710, Tuesdays 10:00am-2:00pm
- Grand Central Library, 135 E. 46th St. between Lexington & 3rd Aves., 212-621-0670, Saturdays 10:00am-2:00pm
New York City also offers free tax preparation either in person or online for individuals making $64,000 or less.
You can file in-person at a NYC Free Tax Prep site. Filing is completely free and includes e-filing and direct deposit of your refund. Some sites have income limits. For most NYC Free Tax Prep sites, you must have earned $54,000 or less in 2016 to use In Person service to qualify for help. Some NYC Free Tax Prep sites have special services if you are self-employed, are applying for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or if you are a senior over age 60 with pension or retirement-related question or you need to file or change your return from a previous tax year. At these sites, you will drop off your documents and pick up the completed return later.
You can also complete your tax return online at certain NYC Free Tax Prep sites with help from an IRS certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparer. You must have earned $64,000 or less in 2016 and have a valid email address to use the Assisted Self-Preparation service.
You can access a map of tax preparation sites at each site and find out which required tax documents you need at nyc.gov/taxprep. To learn more about the AARP's free tax preparation assistance programs, or to find another AARP tax prep center, please call 888-227-7669 toll-free, or check its online Tax Aide Site Locator at https://secure.aarp.org/applications/VMISLocator/searchTaxAideLocations.action.
Applications must be submitted online or postmarked by April 3, 2018. Applicants who submit more than one application may be disqualified.
Take Advantage of the EITC
Every year, low and moderate income workers benefit by claiming the federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). The EITC helps save money by lowering your tax bill.
Workers qualifying for the EITC and filing a federal tax return can get back some or all of the federal in-come tax subtracted from their pay during the previous year. Even those earning too little to require them to file a tax return can qualify for the EITC.
For Tax Year 2017 (filing this year) you are eligible for the EITC:
- If you are a worker with one qualifying child, your total earned income and your federal adjusted income must each be less than $39,617 (or $45,207 for married workers).
- If you are a worker with two children, your total earned income and your federal adjusted income must each be less than $45,007 (or $50,597 for married workers).
- If you are a worker with three or more children, your total earned income and your federal adjusted income must each be less than $48,340 (or $53,930 for married workers).
- If you are a worker without children, your total earned income and your federal adjusted gross income must each be less than $15,010 (or $20,600 for married workers).
Those who qualify for the federal EITC may also be eligible for the New York State EITC, which equals 30% of the federal credit for the previous tax year, minus any household credit. Residents of New York City qualify for an additional 5% of the federal credit.
For further information on the federal EITC, call the 24-hour Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Hotline at 1-800-TAX-1040. Information can also be accessed on the website of the Internal Revenue Service at www.irs.gov. Further information about the New York State EITC is available by calling the informational hotline of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance at (518) 457-5181, or by accessing their website at www.tax.ny.gov.
If your income in 2017 was $66,000 or less, you can visit one of the New York State Tax Department's Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) sites to prepare and electronically file your federal and state returns with assistance from Tax Department employees -for free! (See previous related article.)
ONE FAIR WAGE CAMPAIGN: In February, I joined actor Amy Poehler, workers, activists, and other legislators to support the One Fair Wage campaign to fight for economic security & justice for "tipped" workers like waiters, who are often subject to illegally low pay and hostile workplaces.
2018-19 Pre-K Enrollment Period
Through March 30th, all New York City families with children born in 2014 are eligible to apply to pre-Kindergarten for the 2018-2019 school year. This includes children with disabilities and children whose native language is not English. A list of programs is available in the Pre-K Directory, at schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment/PreK/Resources/default.htm.
Printed copies will be available at district schools, NYCDOE Pre-K Centers, NYCEECs, Family Welcome Centers, and other locations (e.g. libraries, city agencies, community centers, etc.).
Families can apply online at www.nyc.gov/prek, over the phone by calling 718-935-2067, or in person at a Family Welcome Center. The Family Welcome Center for District 2 is located at 333 Seventh Avenue, 12th Floor, Room 1211, New York, NY 10001. The Family Welcome Center for District 3 is located at 388 West 125th Street, 7th Floor, Room 713, New York, NY 10027. They are open 8am to 5pm, Monday through Thursday, and 8am-3pm on Fridays.
214 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Albany, NY 12248