New York’s Attorney General Holds Forum in Western Queens

LONG ISLAND CITY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and senior officials of the Attorney General’s Office held a public forum in western Queens on December 2. The event, which was co-sponsored by local elected officials including New York State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, addressed issues of special concern to the community, including environmental protection, labor and civil rights, health care, and consumer fraud and protection.

In addition to providing information about the work of the office of the Attorney General, the purpose of the forum was to demonstrate the accessibility of the office to citizens, a Schneiderman priority.

Although the Q & A period was brief, the attendees were impressed with the promise that every one of the people who submitted questions would receive a response.

The Little Theater of LaGuardia Community College was the venue and its President, Dr. Gail Mellow, welcomed the guests.

When Gianaris introduced the Attorney General, he fist thanked him for encouraging him to run for the State Senate. He then noted that not only is Schneiderman making a national impact, his work has greatly benefited New Yorkers.

Schneiderman was basking in the glow of the record $13 billion settlement state and federal authorities reached with JP Morgan Chase for the bank’s contribution to the housing meltdown by knowingly bundling toxic loans and selling them to unsuspecting investors, in the words of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, with whom Schneiderman co-chaired of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS) Working Group.

A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, Schneiderman served as a New York State Senator until Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed him Attorney General in 2010. He worked as a sheriff in Western Massachusetts and as a corporate lawyer. When he was made partner in charge of pro bono work, he developed a passion for public interest law.

His values and experience contribute to his commitment both to social justice and uprooting criminal business practices and to helping businesses in his state complete in the global marketplace.

He is pleased with the progress shepherded making his office more efficient and effective, but he is most proud of maximizing New York State’s benefits from the J.P. Morgan Chase settlement after examining and fighting against the initial deal.

The government finally obtained $9 billion in cash and $4billion in mortgage relief homeowners, 10 percent of which was secured for New York.

Personable and articulate, the attorney general also impressed with the genuine respect and pride he took in his team working in 30 bureaus and 13 offices throughout the state. He said it is important to have the wisdom to admit when one does not know something, and to surround oneself with a talented and experienced staff.

Present with him onstage were Alvin Bragg, the Exec. A.G. for Social Justice, Marty Mack, the Exec. Deputy A.G. for Regional Affairs, Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke, Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel Srolovic, Terry Gerstein, the Labor Bureau Chief and Lisa Landau, the Health Care Bureau Chief, who spoke about healthcare reform in New York.

Clarke spoke at length about the stop frisk issue. She said deep and careful examination of the data indicates the program is not as effective as its proponents suggest. Among the 2.4 million people stopped from 2009-2012, only six percent were arrested, and only 1 out of 50 of those arrests led to convictions for either violent crimes or gun possession, Clarke said.

She believes those studies have produced very valuable information that will help police develop more effective law enforcement strategies.

Schneiderman concluded by saying “we understand we cannot do it without you. We do better through coalitions and rely on community organizations and businesses. If you can work with us, please do, if you have questions, please ask.”

Simotas told TNH “I am proud that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman chose our community to host his first New York City forum. It is important that folks in Western Queens are aware of the resources and services the Attorney General’s office provides.”

The visit to Western Queens “illustrates the growing importance of our community to all of New York State,” Gianaris said, adding, “I thank AG Schneiderman for hosting this forum and I will continue to work with him and everyone in our community to improve the quality of life for western Queens residents.”

Also present were Queens Borough President-elect Melanie Katz and City Councilman-elect Costas Constantinides.

Constantinides called Schneiderman “an amazing Attorney General and has worked hard and has been a strong progressive leader for the people of the state…I was excited to hear the things that he was talking about,” and said he looks forward to working with him.

Citizen Nancy Silverman told TNH she tries to attend as many community forums as possible. “I try to get to know what our elected and appointed officials are doing for us and to be educated about the issues.”

Juliana is a young five-year resident of Astoria who grew up in Eastern Queens. She said “I wanted to learn more about the Attorney General’s initiatives and the resources that are available. I learned a lot but now I want to go home and learn more about what they are doing.”

Jessica Jewat and her friend Kirsten Abe are high school student who found the event interesting. Jessica said “It was cool to learn  about that the Attorney General actually does. Kirsten was also happy to be there and believes it’s important to children their age to attend events like the forum and to be better informed about the issues.