Update: East River Esplanade Sinkhole, Saving the USPS, & Climate Change Action
I am writing to you after another busy week both in Washington, DC and here at home in NYC. President Trump’s latest attacks on mail-in voting for November are blatantly undermining our democracy, and I am continuing to lead my colleagues in fighting to make sure this vital service has the resources and support needed to continue its operations effectively and efficiently. I announced that I will be chairing a Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on September 17 during which we will be able to hear directly from Postmaster General DeJoy. I also joined with colleagues in the House and Senate in demanding information from Mobilewalla about its data collection of Black Lives Matter protesters via their mobile devices. On Wednesday, I chaired a hearing with scientific experts who warned of the devastating health effects caused by climate change if we do not act quickly to limit global warming. And to kick off the week, on Monday, I worked with New York Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver to fix the sinkhole on the East River Esplanade that many of you first brought to my attention.
More on these and other updates below.
Seeking Urgent Repairs & Investigation of The East River Esplanade Sinkhole
After I heard from many of you and Community Board 8 leaders about a sinkhole at the East 76th Street section of the East River Esplanade, I requested that New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver open a full inspection of the pathway’s structural integrity. During our discussion on Monday, Commissioner Silver agreed to begin repairs on the 76th Street sinkhole within two weeks and complete them as quickly as possible.
During COVID-19, NYC parks and green spaces have been a much-needed respite for New Yorkers under lockdown. The sinkhole has prevented access to the Esplanade and has forced cyclists and pedestrians to share narrow patches of pavement — creating a dangerous bottleneck.
As the Founder and Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade Task Force, I remain committed to improving the esplanade and providing much-needed repairs. NYC Parks are integral to the well-being of our city, and we must ensure that they continue to be safe and accessible for all New Yorkers.
Examining New Information on the Health Effects of Climate Change
On Wednesday, I chaired an Oversight Committee hearing to examine the health and economic impacts of climate change over the next century if we do not act immediately to limit global warming.
The experts testified that climate change reform can save 4.5 million American lives in the next 50 years. Additionally, the costs of not addressing climate change are dramatically higher than previously estimated and our failure to act will harm the most vulnerable among us. We need to act now.
State Department Investigation
On Wednesday, State Department Acting Inspector General (IG) Stephen Akard resigned.
His selection as Acting IG created serious conflicts of interest by placing him in a position of reporting to the very people— including Under Secretary Brian Bulatao and Secretary Mike Pompeo— whom his office was responsible for overseeing and investigating. His resignation this week adds to Congress’s questions about the independence of the IG’s office following the firing of former IG Steve Linick in an apparent act of retaliation by Secretary Pompeo. Any effort by the Trump Administration to install another political loyalist would further undercut the ability of the Office to properly carry out its critical mission.
Upcoming Postmaster General Hearing & Working to Support USPS Operations
Postmaster General DeJoy will come before the Committee on Oversight and Reform on September 17 as the committee examines the operational changes within the U.S. Postal Service and effects they might have on mail delivery.
I am working every day to make sure that the USPS is able to continue the vital services it provides to communities across the country. Today, I joined with Senators Elizabeth Warren, Gary Peters, Tom Carper, Ron Wyden, and Tina Smith; and Representatives Stephen Lynch, Gerry Connolly, and Brenda Lawrence to request that the USPS Inspector General investigate all recent staffing and policy changes put into place under Postmaster General DeJoy, a former Trump megadonor.
Earlier this week, 84 of my colleagues joined me and Congressman Peter King in expressing our deep concerns to Postmaster General DeJoy about operational changes at the USPS. These changes could have negative impacts on service standards and cause significant delays in mail delivery. In a separate letter to House and Senate Leadership, Congresswoman Alma S. Adams, Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerald E. Connolly, and I led 127 of our colleagues in requesting strong support for the United States Postal Service in forthcoming COVID-19 relief legislation.
Updates to the Fair And Accurate Census Act
The Trump Administration’s decision to shorten the timeline for 2020 Census operations will almost certainly result in an undercount of our most hard-to-count and vulnerable communities. This week, in response to the Administration’s blatant attacks on the Census, I introduced legislation that updates the Fair and Accurate Census Act to protect the 2020 Census from unconstitutional, partisan interference. This legislation will prevent the Trump Administration from purposefully rushing to complete the 2020 Census and will ensure that the Census Bureau counts every person living in the United States by maintaining the Bureau’s previously released schedule for self-response and non-response follow up operations that was designed by Census Bureau career staff and professional statisticians.
We cannot and we will not allow Trump to illegally manipulate the Census for his own political and partisan gain. If you haven’t yet, please visit my2020census.gov, call 844-330-2020, or fill out the paper Census you received in the mail today!
Following a June 2020 report indicating that Mobilewalla was collecting information on Black Lives Matter protesters via their mobile devices, I joined with Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Ron Wyden, and Congressman Mark DeSaulnier in requesting information from CEO and Chairman Anindya Datta regarding the surveillance of Americans participating in First Amendment-protected activities. We have requested a response to the letter by August 17.
You can read the full letter here.
Protecting Federal Employee Whistleblowers
Whistleblowers risk their careers to expose wrongdoing and now, more than ever, it is important for Congress to strengthen the law to protect these heroes from retaliation. This past week, I joined with Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, as well as Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Whistleblower Protection Caucus Rep. Jackie Speier to introduce the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act. The bill will strengthen whistleblower protections for federal employees.
Chairman Connolly, Senator Patrick Leahy, and I also introduced the Federal Employee Access to Information Act to ensure that federal employees are able to use federal transparency laws without reprisal.
On Wednesday, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Rep. Maxine Waters, Chairwoman of the Committee on Financial Services, and I requested information and documents from James Continenza, Executive Chairman of the Eastman Kodak Company regarding a $765 million federal loan to support the production of ingredients for generic drugs, as well as trading activity by company executives before this loan was publicly announced.
We also joined with Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and Chairman Al Green of the Financial Services Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, in a letter to Adam Boehler, Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), seeking documents related to this loan.
Oversight of COVID Protections at Behavioral Health & Addiction Treatment Providers
Following our investigation into assisted living facility operators, Senator Elizabeth Warren and I joined with Congresswoman Katie Porter in requesting information from the nation's largest behavioral health and addiction treatment providers. We posed a series of questions about COVID-19 outbreaks at their facilities and the actions they are taking to mitigate outbreaks when they do occur. Letters were sent to American Addiction Centers, Acadia Healthcare, Universal Health Services, Alita Care, BayMark Health Services, Gaudenzia Inc., BayCare Health, Promises Behavioral Health, LifeStream Behavioral Center, and Pinnacle Treatment Centers, each of which operates at least ten inpatient treatment centers for behavioral health or substance use disorder nationwide.
We have requested responses to the letters no later than August 19, 2020.
You can read the full letters here.
COVID in NYC
New York State
New York City
Governor Cuomo announced today that all school districts across New York State are eligible to open for in-person instruction. Individual districts will determine the balance between virtual and in-person learning. All districts must submit operating plans to the Department of Health for approval. Districts must hold 3-5 public meetings with students’ parents before August 21. More information from the Governor’s office is available here.
As always, your concerns still and always remain my top priority. Please do not hesitate to email me through my website.
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Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress