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Steve Otis Statements at Storm Recovery Meeting on the Hurricane Ida Action Plan

Statement of Assemblyman Steve Otis, Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery Meeting on the Hurricane Ida Action Plan, September 8, 2022, New Rochelle City Hall

Welcome to New Rochelle and to the Sound Shore of Westchester County. Thank you for your Hurricane Ida Action Plan and Program Design proposal.

And thank you for coming here to share your plan and solicit further comments. Westchester County communities suffered severe damage from Hurricane Ida, some of the worst flood loss challenges in the region. The events of last year do not stand in isolation. Prior storms have also reminded Sound Shore residents of our continued vulnerability to storm events and the importance of implementing resilience and mitigation projects on an expedited basis.

I have worked on these issues for many years going back to FEMA’s Project Impact when I was mayor of the City of Rye. Over a decade ago, I served on the Westchester County Flood Action Task Force. I also have worked with the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery since it was created after Superstorm Sandy in 2013.

The recurring challenge for residents and local governments has been to keep the focus on implementing resiliency projects when the sky is blue and memories of storm damage fade with time.

We need to double our efforts at implementing resiliency projects and that is the message we have heard consistently from Governor Hochul, from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery and the many other state agencies that have been very active in Westchester since Hurricane Ida last September.

The Hurricane Ida Action Plan and Program Design is an important part of the state government response because of its focus on assessing and responding to unmet needs, especially related to housing. GOSR reviewed what other federal and state programs were able to accomplish to date. This review was a very important part of the GOSR plan for the use of over $41 million in federal funds.

In developing the plan, GOSR met with local officials, the vital not-for-profit community, state legislators and numerous state agencies involved in the Ida response. The programs in the plan are designed to address unmet needs related to housing consistent with the federal framework covering these CDBG funds.

I would like to highlight a few of the components of the plan that I believe are valuable towards improving our resilience in the future.

I am very pleased to see that the plan includes funding of tasks that may not have been readily available in other programs such as repairs to owner occupied residences, relocation of tenants, and support for housing authorities and not-for-profits that provide housing.

The plan underscores the importance of reducing natural disaster risk, the importance of reducing exposure and, where appropriate, removing people from harm’s way.

The plan also reinforces the importance of building code compliance and sustainable rebuilding. The current theme of “build back better” has a longer history when it comes to rebuilding after a storm. Hurricane Ida Action Plan projects will include building code compliance and improvements to make housing more resilient.

This legislative session Senator Mayer and I passed legislation in both houses to require flood mitigation considerations be reviewed for elevated consideration in the state building code. The NYS Building Code Council would then examine how to better incorporate these issues as part of the state standards. It is great to see building code compliance included as a principle in the GOSR plan.

As was the case with GOSR’s New York Rising program, the Hurricane Action Plan encourages matching the funds provided through this program with other funding sources. This will be especially important with municipal projects where more funding is needed from all sources to implement flood mitigation and resiliency projects, many of which have already been studied but not yet funded or implemented.

One area where I think the plan can be modified would be to include cooperatives and condominiums in the Affordable Housing Resiliency Initiative eligibility criteria. If the resident economic qualifications criteria are met, those complexes should not be excluded just because they are constituted as a cooperative or a condominium.

Another area in which we need to find additional resources is to help fund mitigation projects affecting small businesses in high-risk flood areas. Fitting these projects with the HUD funding parameters may not be feasible. I suggest that GOSR look for outside funding or partnerships with other state agencies such as the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Empire State Development or the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES).

In every community I represent, we have businesses that continue to be vulnerable to major storm events. We need to give local governments additional tools to fund the flood mitigation projects necessary to better protect these businesses. GOSR can play a role in supporting these efforts.

Hurricane Ida also highlighted the weakness of our municipal stormwater systems across the state. Failing or inadequately sized stormwater systems resulted in damage to residential and commercial properties.

I want to make a pitch today for voter approval of the Environmental Bond Act on the ballot this November. The bond act includes a proposal I have championed to create a new stormwater grant program. The bond act, if approved by the voters, will provide at least $250 million for these needed grants. Our municipalities and local property taxpayers need state assistance to help pay for these needed upgrades.

I look forward to hearing other comments on the Hurricane Ida Action Plan and know the GOSR will make adjustments. I want to again thank Governor Hochul, my colleagues in both houses of the legislature, Katie Brennan, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery and the entire GOSR team for securing these federal funds and making a commitment to addressing the housing and infrastructure needs that continue to require our attention and commitment.

Assemblyman Otis Announces Passage of Criminal Justice Accountability Reforms To Combat Racial Bias

Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye), announced passage of a bill package in the Assembly and Senate this week aimed at bringing greater transparency and accountability to the criminal justice system and creating new protections to reduce racial bias and unfair treatment. Four bills were signed by the Governor on Friday.

In signing the bills, the Governor also announced an executive order tasking all municipalities and police departments in the to state to “develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs.”

In supporting the package on the Assembly floor Assemblyman Otis, stated:

“We are at a serious moment in our history. We have a long history of inequality in our country and while we’ve made some gains over the years, we’ve also lost some ground in recent years. We need to do something about it.

“I was at a rally yesterday in one of the communities I represent, the Village of Port Chester. I think we had 2000 people there. It was a rally and march of love. It was a rally and march of people who want to make this a more just, more caring society. There was unity. There was a heartfelt desire of the community to make life better, not just on criminal justice issues, but on broader issues of equality in our society.

“We have an opportunity today to address some criminal justice issues that are very important but it is bigger than that. We have an opportunity and the right moment to make this a more caring, gentle society.

I want to leave you with the words of Barbara Jordan, they mean a lot to me today, ‘What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise’. That is what we are doing here today. We have a lot of work to do to make America live up to its promise.”

Assemblyman Otis co-sponsored the package of bills in the Assembly. The measures that passed the Assembly include:

  • The Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, which would criminalize the harmful use of a chokehold by a police officer (6144-B).
  • Repeal of section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law to provide much-needed transparency on police misconduct and discipline (10611).
  • The New York State Body-Worn Cameras Program to increase accountability and evidence for law enforcement and the residents of the state by providing body-worn cameras to all state police officers while on patrol (8674-A).
  • The Police Statistic and Transparency (STAT) Act, to Bring Transparency to Policing Data by providing for collection of data concerning police and court activities, in order to promote transparency and help researchers and the public evaluate the effectiveness of criminal justice policies (10609).
  • Requiring law enforcement officers that discharge their weapon in circumstances where a person could be struck by a bullet to promptly report the incident (10608).
  • Creating a civil penalty for the biased misuse of emergency services, such as 911, when there is no reason to believe a crime or offense, or imminent threat to person or property, is occurring (1531-B).
  • The Right to Monitor Act, which confirms the public’s right to record public law enforcement activity (1360-A).
  • Creating the Office of Special Investigation that would investigate and, when warranted, prosecute when a person dies in law enforcement custody or after an encounter with a police officer or certain peace officers (1601-C).
  • Affirming that police and correctional agencies must provide attention to the medical and mental health needs of individuals in their custody (8226-B).
  • Creating the law enforcement misconduct investigative office (10002).

Sierra Club of New York Announces “Early Endorsement” of Assemblyman Steve Otis

Rye, N.Y. – The Sierra Club of New York has announced their “Early Endorsement” of Assemblyman Steve Otis (D–WFP–IND – Rye) in his 2020 re-election campaign in recognition of his many years of service as an environmental advocate statewide.

Ed Berry, Political Director for the Sierra Club said, “Steve Otis, back in 2015 exhibited the vision to propose the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act. Its purpose was to help local governments pay for necessary clean water projects. He had the strength to get it passed into Law. Not an easy process in our contentious state legislature. Today it has grown to benefit all of the Westchester communities along Long Island Sound. This vision and strength is just one example of why the Sierra Club is proud to give an early endorsement to Steve Otis in his campaign for re-election to the State Assembly.”

Assemblyman Otis, in accepting the Sierra Club’s endorsement said, “I have worked with the Sierra Club for many years on environmental issues in Westchester and Albany. We will continue to work together on clean water, air quality, renewable energy and climate change. Their early endorsement is a significant statement of support for our shared commitment to a clean and healthy environment.”

Assemblyman Otis brings a long history of environmental leadership in Westchester and New York State. His most notable recent success centers on the passage New York’s clean water grant program, the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015. Started as a plan to award $200 million over three years, the WIIA program has grown dramatically and is the largest part of Governor Cuomo’s $5 billion comprehensive clean water program announced in 2017 and 2019. WIIA is administered by the NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation in coordination with the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health.

In the first five years of the WIIA program, almost $1.2 billion in state grants have been awarded statewide to local governments to help pay for almost 700 needed clean water infrastructure projects. The grants have saved local governments over $2.5 billion in reduced property taxes and created 67,000 new jobs. Westchester projects have been awarded $45.5 in grants including every Westchester coastal community on Long Island Sound.

The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest environmental organization in the United States with 3.8 million members. It has been fighting to protect the planet since John Muir (Sierra Club founder in 1892) took Teddy Roosevelt to camp in the California mountains at Yosemite National Park. The Sierra Club works with other partner organizations, nonprofits and campaigns to build a diverse and inclusive movement that represents today’s American public. Understanding that environmental issues can’t be separated from social justice- because we all breathe the same air and share the same land, its motto is to ‘explore, enjoy and protect’.

In addition to this endorsement from the Sierra Club Assemblyman Otis has also received the endorsement of the NY League of Conservation Voters and has a 100% scorecard rating form the Environmental Advocates of NY.

Hudson Valley Stonewall Democrats Endorse Assemblyman Steve Otis

The Hudson Valley Stonewall Democrats have announced their endorsement of Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-WFP-IND- Rye) for re-election for the 91st Assembly District.

Assemblyman Otis said, “I am honored to have the endorsement of the Hudson Valley Stonewall Democrats in this election. I have been a long-time supporter of the human rights agenda that protects the dignity, civil, workplace and legal rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers. In a time when hate crimes and hate-based violence are on the rise, it is especially important that we defend the right of individuals to be who they are without fear of harm or discrimination.”

Anthony Nicodemo, President of the Hudson Valley Stonewall Democrats, said, “Steve has always been a champion of LGBTQ rights. His voting record speaks volumes and the Hudson Valley Stonewall Democrats are proud to endorse him!”

Assemblyman Otis was a co-sponsor of the key human rights legislation signed into law in 2019 including the GENDA legislation, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, the ban on conversion therapy, the ban on the “gay panic” defense, and New York’s new comprehensive workplace harassment bill. The Assemblyman has supported these issues for
years and including long-time support for the marriage equality legislation, which was finally enacted in 2011.

Steve Otis is running for re-election as Assemblyman for the 91st District in the June 23rd Democratic primary, which includes Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye and Rye Brook.

The Hudson Valley Stonewall Democrats mission is to work to elect pro-LGBTQ Democrats in Federal, State and Local elections throughout Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange and Dutchess counties while addressing LGBT governmental issues and increasing the number of LGBTQ voters at the polls.

Statement of Assemblyman Steve Otis

It has been six years since Eric Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe.” traveled the world in what should have been a message to everyone about police procedures, race and the unnecessary use of force. Why was that lesson not learned by everyone, everywhere?

The pain our nation faces is compounded by the double standard carried out in this country today. Peaceful protesters were assaulted and tear-gassed this week. A few weeks ago openly armed protesters in Michigan were treated with respect.

It has been 29 years since Rodney King was beaten in Los Angeles.  I do believe many in law enforcement did learn from that lesson, but the difference between many and all is the difference between appropriate law enforcement and tragedy after tragedy across this country.

This moment in time cannot pass without action, not only to correct practices in law enforcement but also to respond to the unequal treatment based upon race that exists in education, health care, housing and our economy. In New York, state government will respond.

What we lack today is presidential leadership to calm and heal a nation in need of such a voice. Practically any president in any of our lifetimes would have risen to the occasion. At this time in history, it is up to each of us.

Hispanic Democrats of Westchester Endorse Assemblyman Steve Otis

Chairs Ximena Francella and Robin Bikkal Share Their Experience Working With Otis

The Hispanic Democrats of Westchester have announced their endorsement of Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-WFP-IND- Rye) for re-election for the 91st Assembly District. The Executive Committee was unanimous in their endorsement of Assemblyman Otis for re-election.

Ximena Francella and Robin Bikkal, Chairs the Hispanic Democrats of Westchester stated, “We’ve had the opportunity to work with Steve on various occasions and discussed issues that are vital to our community. We have always found him to be accessible and responsive to our community’s needs and at this difficult time, we believe he is the best candidate for the Assembly’s 91st District. Steve’s extensive experience in Albany will continue to benefit all the residents of Westchester.”

Assemblyman Otis, upon news of the HDW endorsement commented, “I am thrilled to have the support of the Hispanic Democrats of Westchester because our bonds are not new. We have worked  together on the Dream Act, the Green Light bill and in opposing unjust Trump policies for years. The HDW are playing a key role in advocating for better services during the Covid-19 crisis.”

Assemblyman Otis has been active on a variety of issues including his support for funding for ELL programs in schools, legal services, the Dream Act, the Green Light bill and policies that support the rights and opportunities of all New Yorkers. Otis is a member of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force and works closely with area not-for-profits serving immigrant communities.

In addition to the support from the HDW Assemblyman Otis has already been endorsed by the New York Immigration Coalition Action (NYIC) for his support of these issues.

Steve Otis is running for re-election as Assemblyman for the 91st District in the June 23rd Democratic primary, which includes Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye and Rye Brook.

The Hispanic Democrats of Westchester was organized to empower the Hispanic community of Westchester County, New York, by educating the electorate, developing leadership skills, conducting voter registration, cultivating and supporting qualified Hispanic candidates, and electing Hispanic and other candidates who are supportive of the issues confronting the Hispanic community.

New York League of Conservation Voters Endorses Assemblyman Steve Otis

NYLCV President Julie Tighe Joins Otis at a Socially Distant Press Event at Rye Playland Boardwalk Rye, N.Y. -- Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters joined Assemblyman Steve Otis (D–WFP–IND - Rye) at Rye Playland’s Boardwalk to announce the League’s endorsement of Assemblyman Otis in his re-election effort. The event was scheduled as a “Socially Distant Press Conference” in recognition of the need for everyone to practice safe distancing
during the current Covid-19 health crisis.

Julie Tighe said, “Assemblyman Steve Otis is committed to protecting our environment and public health. Not only does he have a lifetime perfect score of 100% on our State Environmental Scorecard, he also helped create the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act to make sure that localities have the funding they need to provide access to safe and clean water to New Yorkers every day. Clean water is one of NYLCV’s top priorities and that’s why we are proud to stand with Assemblyman Otis in his reelection. We urge voters in Assembly District 91 to cast their ballot for him on Election Day.”

Assemblyman Otis, in accepting the League’s endorsement noted his long partnership with the group, “I have worked with the NYLCV for decades. They are a key part of the coalition of groups that advocate on environmental issues in New York State and a key player in the success we have had in leadership on important issues across the country. I really appreciate the League’s support and Julie Tighe joining us in Westchester today.”

Assemblyman Otis brings a long history of environmental leadership in Westchester and New York State. His most notable recent success centers on the passage New York’s clean water grant program, the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015. Started as a plan to award $200 million over three years, the WIIA program has grown dramatically and is the largest part of Governor Cuomo’s $5 billion comprehensive clean water program announced in 2017 and 2019. WIIA is administered by the NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation in coordination with the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health.

In the first five years of the WIIA program, almost $1.2 billion in state grants have been awardedstatewide to local governments to help pay for almost 700 needed clean water infrastructure projects. The grants have saved local governments over $2.5 billion in reduced property taxes and created 67,000 new jobs. Westchester projects have been awarded $45.5 in grants including every Westchester coastal community on Long Island Sound.

Environmental Bio:

Assemblyman Steve Otis has played a leadership role on environmental issues for decades through a variety of positions going back to the 1980’s. The Assemblyman helped create the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015, New York’s primary clean water infrastructure grant program. WIIA has grown from a plan to spend $200 million over three years, when it was enacted in 2015, to $416 million in grants awarded by the state in 2019, eclipsing the $300 million NYS Environmental Protection Fund appropriation for the first time. The WIIA program is the largest portion of Governor Cuomo’s 2017 and 2019 $5 billion comprehensive array of clean water programs. Since 2015 WIIA grants have totaled almost $1.2 billion in direct assistance to local governments. With the strong support of the Governor, the Legislature and a coalition of environmental, local government, labor and construction industry groups, the growth in the program has been steady: 2015-$75 million, 2016-$175m, 2017-$255m, 2018-$270m and 2019-$416m. It is especially significant that this environmental spending occurs outside of and in addition to EPF funding.

Assemblyman Otis is involved in a wide variety of environmental and conservation issues in the Assembly. He serves on the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, Assembly Climate Change Work Group, as well as the committee with jurisdiction over state parks. He also has served as Chair of the Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management. The Assemblyman is a member of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Commissions and Authorities, which works on legislation relating to the PSC, MTA and other transportation authorities.

Awards:

  • 2016 Audubon New York’s William Hoyt Environmental Excellence Award.
  • 2018 Nelson A. Rockefeller Award from the New York Water Environment Association.

As Mayor of the City of Rye (1998-2009) Otis implemented numerous environmental projects and initiatives, including four open space acquisitions, wetland protection, park improvements and other policies that enhance the environment.

As Counsel and Chief of Staff to State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer for over twenty-five years, he worked on numerous statewide and local environmental issues.

Assemblyman Otis is a past Chair of the City of Rye Conservation Commission and has been a member of the Board of Directors of the NYS Association of Conservation Commissions for over twenty-five years. Other past environmental panels and activities include: Westchester County Flood Action Task Force, Vice Chair of the Long Island Sound Watershed Intermunicipal Council, Vice Chair of the Westchester County Environmental Management Council, and Co-Chair of the City of Rye’s Project Impact FEMA program. He has also served on the Stewardship Committee of Audubon NY. Otis helped write the City of Rye’s local wetlands law and wireless equipment siting law. He began his local service on the City of Rye’s Recycling Committee and the Rye Conservation Committee in the late 1980’s.

New York Immigration Coalition Action Endorses Steve Otis for Re-Election to the NY State Assembly

Steve Otis Supports Justice, Opportunity and Fairness for ALL New Yorkers

The New York Immigration Coalition Action (NYIC Action) today announced its endorsement of Steve Otis (D, WFP, IND – Rye) for re-election to the New York State Assembly (91st District).

Steve K. Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition Action said, “The global pandemic has made one thing clear -the health and well-being of every New Yorker is closely tied to that of our neighbors, including the immigrants who are on the front lines of this pandemic and bearing the brunt of it. Now more than ever, we must ensure that our elected leaders are fighting for all of us, committed to fairness, justice and opportunity for all regardless of immigration status. We are proud to endorse Assemblyman Steve Otis (91st AD) who has worked with our Westchester partners on education, legal and human service issues for many years. We look forward to working with him in the next session to protect and provide relief – for immigrant and all New Yorkers.”

In commenting on the endorsement Assemblyman Otis stated, “I appreciate the endorsement of NYIC Action and their advocacy on issues of importance to Westchester families. I am proud of my work with Westchester not-for-profits and school officials to support funding for ELL programs in schools, legal services, the Dream Act and the Green Light bill, policies that support the rights and opportunities of all New Yorkers.”

Steve Otis is running for re-election as Assemblyman for the 91st District which includes Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye and Rye Brook. Otis is a member of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force and works closely with area not-for-profits serving immigrant communities.

NYIC Action (nyicaction.org) was originally formed in 2010 as a sister organization to the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), a 501(c)(3) coalition with 200 member organizations across New York State. In order to increase the political potency of the immigrant vote, Immigrant Action endorses candidates and elected officials who stand up for immigrant communities and against anti-immigrant opponents. Immigrant Action engages in targeted advocacy on specific immigrant-related issues such as legislative scorecards, pointed advocacy flyers highlighting individual elected officials’ stances, and intensive grassroots and direct lobbying of elected officials. Issues include in candidate evaluation included expanding our democracy, racial justice, health and welfare, education, and immigrant justice.”

Steve Otis Endorsed by Planned Parenthood Empire State Votes

 

Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-WFP-IND-Rye) has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Empire State Votes for re-election to the State Assembly for the 91st Assembly District.

“Planned Parenthood Empire State Votes is proud to endorse Steve Otis, who is a long-time champion for reproductive health and rights in both Westchester and Albany. Assemblymember Otis was a co-sponsor of the Reproductive Health Act, the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, and the Boss Bill – all of which work to prioritize reproductive health care and access for New Yorkers.” – Robin Chappelle Golston, Chair, Planned Parenthood Empire State Votes PAC

Assemblyman Otis stated, “The important work of protecting the health care needs of women, reproductive rights and personal freedom continues as new threats come from Washington and the federal courts. I have worked on these issues for decades and thank Planned Parenthood Empire State Votes for their endorsement in this this year’s election.”

In addition to key bill sponsorships the Assemblyman is an advocate for family planning funding in the state budget and is a member of the NYS Bipartisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus (BPCLC).

The Assemblyman has been an active supporter of these issues for many years. Before election to the Assembly Otis served as Counsel and Chief of Staff for State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer and worked closely with the Senator on issues relating to reproductive freedom, state funding for women’s health services and on women’s issues generally through the NYS Senate Democratic Task Force on Women’s Issues. He has marched and demonstrated for women’s issues in Westchester, New York City and Washington D.C. Steve works closely with the pro-choice community in Westchester County.

Assemblyman Otis is running for re-election as Assemblyman for the 91st District which Includes Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye and Rye Brook.

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