Looking back on 2013
What a year 2013 has been! We overcame tough opposition to successfully secure funding for Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts and renew the Violence Against Women Act. Congress, at long last, passed a budget. The credit card reforms I authored are in full effect and are saving consumers more than $20 billion a year. Over 214,000 New Yorkers have already enrolled in Affordable Care Act health insurance plans at nystateofhealth.ny.gov, and applications continue to surge. We reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment and our long-standing effort to build a national women’s history museum is gaining steam in Congress.
We’ve got a great deal of work ahead of us in 2014. We must take action to extend unemployment insurance for 1.3 million Americans who are still struggling to find work. And we must move forward on important issues like Comprehensive Immigration Reform and gun violence prevention.
As I reflect on 2013, I am inspired by what we were able to achieve and sharpened in my resolve to complete our unfinished work. Read on to learn the details of my efforts in the House this year, and don’t hesitate to email any questions you may have
Happy New Year,
Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress
Saving consumers $21 Billion by Stopping Credit Card Industry Abuses
A team of researchers, including one from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, has found that the 2009 Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD) I authored and worked to pass is saving consumers $21 billion every year. Thanks to the CARD Act, consumers have saved billions of dollars, young people are better protected from predatory practices, and people all across the country are more satisfied with their credit cards than they’ve been in years.
Renewing the Violence Against Women Act
A renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was long delayed by conservatives in the House and Senate. n March, we finally passed an improved VAWA that includes the SAFER Act language I authored to reduce the nation’s untested DNA rape kit backlog. The legislation also included provisions of the Campus SaVE Act I authored to aid colleges in reducing sexual violence on campuses.
Providing Resources for Hurricane Sandy Recovery
After months of hard work, we secured $60 billion in federal funding that was desperately needed to help New Yorkers recover from Superstorm Sandy. The funds are being used to help people who lost their homes and assist business owners who suffered large losses. They will also help pay for repairing subway and commuter rail lines, fixing bridges and tunnels, and to undertake initiatives that will mitigate the effects of future natural disasters.
Monitoring Progress on the 2nd Avenue Subway
Building the Second Avenue Subway has been one of my top priorities since I was first elected to Congress. New York City’s subway system has not added capacity in over 60 years, and we need to expand. I secured $1.3 billion in federal funding for Phase I of this project, and all but $16.8 million has already been appropriated. We’re making progress—the MTA has completed all tunnel boring, awarded all ten of the project contracts, fulfilled three of the contracts, completed all blasting, and initiated dismantling of muck houses. The overall project has remained on time and on budget for four straight years.
Keeping Tabs on the East Side Access Project
Last year, I celebrated the news that tunnel-boring had been completed on the East Side Access project, which will connect Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to Grand Central Terminal. This is the largest mass transit initiative under construction anywhere in the United States. When it is finished the ESA will carry LIRR passengers directly to Grand Central Terminal in the core of Manhattan’s Central Business District. It will also create a new LIRR stop in Sunnyside, Queens, helping commuters reach the business district in Long Island City—the fourth largest business district in New York City and the largest in Queens. The federal government is providing $2.6 billion of the project’s cost, currently estimated at $7.3 billion.
Securing High Speed Rail Funding to Improve Harold Interlocking
After Florida declined Federal funds for high-speed rail as part of the Recovery Act, I urged President Obama to direct a portion of that funding to New York. The administration responded by directing $295 million of those funds to improve the “Harold Interlocking,” a century-old intersection of 14 tracks in the Sunnyside, Queens rail yards where hundreds of Northeast Corridor trains converge each day.
Fixing the Kosciuszko Bridge
In May, I released a report highlights new data on the Kosciuszko Bridge’s increasingly decaying conditions. The bridge is notorious for accidents and traffic delays and inspectors have flagged several problems that need to be addressed. That’s why it’s so important to move forward with the New York State Department of Transportation’s $800 million Kosciuszko Bridge Project. Roughly 85 percent of the funding, or $670 million, will be provided by the federal government. The project will create thousands of new jobs, including 1,000 to 1,200 full time construction jobs.
Reducing Overcrowding in our Schools
As more New York City families choose to raise their children in our communities, class sizes have risen resulting in the need for new public schools. The average elementary school classroom in America has about 20 students, but many of the classrooms in New York’s 12th Congressional District have more than 28 students. I have engaged in a multi-year effort to address this problem, and the task forces I initiated have led to the creation of more than half a dozen new schools, including the Eleanor Roosevelt High School, PS 151, PS 267 and PS 527. This year I was delighted to join Department of Education officials and many of my colleagues for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at PS 281, which opened in September at the old Con Ed Waterside site, the largest undeveloped site on the East Side of Manhattan. I was also pleased to join elected officials and residents of Western Queens for the PS 312/IS 404 ribbon-cutting ceremony at Hunters Point South this fall.
Expanding Senior Housing
Older New Yorkers should have the option of living in supportive housing that will be affordable and provide the services they need as they age, but the demand for such housing far exceeds the supply. This fall I was pleased to join HANAC to celebrate the opening of PCA Residence, a 66-unit affordable housing development for seniors. The $23 million development received $22 million in federal funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a loan through HUD’s HOME investment partnership program, low income housing tax credits and a grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank. In addition, residents will receive Section 8 subsidies. Since being elected to Congress, I have worked with local developers to obtain federal funding for six senior housing developments.
Stein Senior Center
One of New York City’s largest senior centers, Stein Senior Center, recently lost its space and urgently needed funding to renovate a new space at the Uniformed Firefighters Association headquarters building at 204 East 23rd Street in Manhattan. I worked to ensure that the NYC Department for the Aging would allocate more than $750,000 from the federal Community Development Block Grant to support the rehabilitation of the Center’s new home. This elegant new facility will allow Stein to serve a larger group of seniors, hold a greater variety of classes, and offer even better programs.
Opposing Garbage Dumps in Residential Communities
Since my early days in Congress, I have opposed garbage transfer stations in residential areas. Nonetheless, the city’s current solid waste transfer plan calls for the development of a transfer station at 91st Street on the East River (MTS). The site is adjacent to two public housing developments, three public parks, several schools and a senior center. This area flooded badly during Superstorm Sandy, raising concerns that a similar storm could result in trash running through local streets. In fact, new flood maps recently released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency show that the transfer station is located six feet below the flood plain. The mitigation called for by the Department of Sanitation is woefully inadequate. I have authored legislative language, testified at hearings and repeatedly written and spoken with representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) to express these concerns. This fall, I worked to attach an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act reauthorization bill on the House floor. My amendment would have required the ACE to review permits issued in areas devastated by Sandy to make sure flood risks were properly understood and evaluated. Unfortunately, the House Rules Committee rejected my amendment on a party line vote. I’ll continue working to resolve this issue in the coming year.
Fighting for Stronger Gun Safety Laws
A year after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School little has been done at the federal level to prevent gun crimes. I have supported several measures to stop the bloodshed on our streets, in our schools and other public spaces, including introducing the first bipartisan bill that would make firearms trafficking a federal crime and impose stronger penalties on those who buy guns for convicted felons or others who are prohibited from buying guns on their own. I also cosponsored a bipartisan bill to strengthen background checks. We owe it to the victims of Sandy Hook to take commonsense actions that will prevent future tragedies.
Standing Against Cuts to Food Assistance
We should focus on reducing poverty, not nutrition assistance, but the House majority has not relented in their effort to slash SNAP assistance for needy families. After their first attempt at cutting $20 billion in benefits failed, Republicans doubled down with a proposal to cut $40 billion. I’m working to make sure these reductions in food aid are rejected. These cuts are driven by an ideological agenda that benefits nobody and harms those struggling to put food on the table.
Leading a Bipartisan Effort to Bring a National Women’s History Museum to DC
I am working with Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, to bring a National Women’s National History Museum to Washington, DC. Our bill would form a commission to study the best way to move this project forward. We recognize money is tight, that’s why the entire project, the commission and the study would be funded through private contributions. Bipartisan support is growing in Congress and throughout the country for a museum that acknowledges and commemorates the deep and lasting contributions women have made throughout our history.
Reintroducing the Equal Rights Amendment
Many people today take for granted that equal rights between men and women are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution – and are shocked when they learn that they are not. To this day, the right to vote is the only constitutionally guaranteed right to the women who make up more than 50 percent of the population. That is why I have reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to give women the constitutional protection they need and deserve.
Promoting Women in STEM Careers
In February, I hosted a forum and career fair that promoted women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. The two-part event was held at the CUNY Graduate Center and was attended by about 400 high school and college-aged students. The forum featured six prominent female leaders from different STEM fields who shared their thoughts on the future of STEM, the importance of encouraging women to enter STEM fields, and how students can best prepare themselves for professional careers in STEM.
Protecting Access to Affordable Mortgages
As the senior Democrat on the House panel that oversees the housing market, I am working to ensure that middle-class families continue to have access to affordable ways to purchase a home. In November, I hosted roundtable discussions in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan to get feedback from real estate, mortgage and housing experts. I’m continuing to stand against proposals that would make it harder for New Yorkers to own their own homes.
Introducing the Overdraft Protection Act
To build on the success of the CARD Act, I’ve reintroduced the Overdraft Protection Act to stop banks from charging exorbitant overdraft fees. The bill would require fees to be reasonable and proportional to the amount of the overdraft, limit overdraft fees to one per month and six per year, require banks to get a consumer’s permission before opting them in to an overdraft protection program, and stop banks from manipulating the order of transactions to maximize overdraft fees. If you’ve been a victim of overdraft fee abuse, please contact my office today.