Hydrofracking, gun laws discussed at UCCA breakfast

Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

The environment, gun control and education dominated the conversation at the United Communities Civic Association’s annual legislative breakfast last Friday.

Run by UCCA President Rosemarie Poveromo and member Maureen Allen, the breakfast at the LaGuardia Marriott Hotel’s Grand Ballroom, at 102-05 Ditmars Blvd. in East Elmhurst, brought together elected officials on the city, state and federal levels to talk about their initiatives and to answer questions from the community.

The breakfast’s headcount included about 40 people from local civic associations, community boards, employees of government agencies, hospitals and area power companies.

Appropriate for a group long-dedicated to fighting air pollution in Queens from Astoria’s power plants, many criticized hydraulic fracking, a method of drilling for natural gas that proponents say could create jobs upstate and that opponents contend could hurt the city’s water supply.

“The trade-off is too great a price to pay,” Poveromo said.

Some discussion also centered around air quality in the five boroughs. State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) touted a coalition formed in western Queens to encourage power companies to invest in upgrading their systems to be less polluting and more efficient. She praised NRG Energy and US Powergen for being willing to do so.

“It is an incredible investment in the community that they are willing to make,” she said.

Many officials praised the recent package of laws passed in the state Legislature making New York’s gun laws the toughest in the United States, but U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) and others said more needs to be done at the federal level.

She said some bills introduced in Congress would make trafficking in illegal gun sales a felony and would ban high capacity magazines for assault weapons.

“They’re not used for gun safety. They’re not used to go hunting. They’re just used to kill people,” she said.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) also advocated for universal gun background checks. He defended the increased restrictions on assault weapons in New York, saying the state already had a ban and there was a federal ban on the weapon when President Bill Clinton was in office.

“There are some people who are getting a little hysterical about what we’ve done and I think they’re overreacting,” he said.

Maloney and Gianaris both spoke of trying to get more funding for education. Maloney said she had created a task force on schools to put more federal dollars into early childhood education, while Gianaris said he was fighting in the Legislature to get more education money for the city, which is an issue after the city lost money after Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers failed to come to an agreement over teacher evaluations.

“We need to get back in the room and get it done,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said regarding the issue.

Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), a former teacher, was more critical.

“This is not going to be the cure-all for the public education system,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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