State Legislative Forum: Queens

May 11, 2021  
5:30PM - 6:30PM
Sponsored By AARP New York
Event Description

With the state budget behind us, lawmakers are set to act on their remaining priorities for the legislative session. These regional forums offer a chance to hear from legislators on their top policy priorities. We’ll touch on topics such as the ongoing response to COVID-19, curbing high prescription drug costs, retirement security, long term care reform, ways to make housing more affordable for an older population, and other pressing topics.

Joseph P. Addabbo Jr.
New York State Senator, 15th District
Elected to the New York State Senate in 2008 after serving seven years in the New York City Council, State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. continues to proudly carry on the public service tradition of his father, Congressman Joseph P. Addabbo, Sr., who served 13 terms in the United States House of Representatives from 1960 to 1986. A lifelong resident of Queens, Senator Joe Addabbo represents the 15th Senatorial District encompassing the communities – in whole or in part – of Broad Channel, Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Glendale, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach, Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, South Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Woodside and most of the Rockaways. In the State Senate, Joe has continued to make constituent service a priority, just as he did as a representative of the 32nd New York City Council District, where he secured millions of dollars for infrastructure improvements, school technology, and senior and youth services. Through his Senate offices, Joe and his staff have assisted thousands of constituents with problems involving housing, health, transportation, taxes, public safety and many other issues, including efforts to aid local residents whose lives were so deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy in late October of 2012. As a member of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy, Joe worked to help his community recover and rebuild from the devastating storm. As a member of the Senate, Joe is deeply concerned with the welfare of New Yorkers in all stages and walks of life. His legislative record, which includes bills he has introduced and supported, reflects Joe’s commitment to fighting on behalf of children, the elderly, families, working people, consumers and veterans. He has also devoted himself to efforts to protect the environment, create new jobs and economic opportunities for small businesses, provide tax relief for state residents, and improve transparency and accountability in New York’s government. As a State Senator, Joe is well known for organizing and sponsoring dozens of community events for his constituents each year, including job fairs for local residents and veterans, comprehensive recycling events, informational sessions for seniors and consumers, health screenings, MetroCard van visits, and many other free programs. In addition to other legislative responsibilities, Joe serves as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering. Through the committee, Joe and his staff are responsible for improving the revenue potential, increased educational funding and job creation connected to gaming operations throughout the state, while addressing the issue of gambling addiction. Joe is also a member of the Senate Committees on Aging, Civil Service and Pensions, Children and Families, Education, and Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. As a past Chairman of the Senate Elections Committee, Joe worked to pass ethics reforms and led the fight to force large corporations to disclose information about money they spend to influence the outcome of elections. Joe has proven himself in the political and civic world. He is a multi-term New York State Democratic Committee member and a ranking member of the South Queens Regular Democratic Club. His community service can be seen in his work on behalf of the Ozone Park Kiwanis, as the former president of the Ozone Tudor Civic Association, and his past tenure as Executive Secretary of Community Board #10Q. Born in 1964, the youngest child of Joseph and Grace Addabbo, Joe attended Nativity BVM School in Ozone Park (Class of 1978), Archbishop Molloy High School (Class of 1982), and St. John’s University (Class of 1986), before graduating from Touro Law School (Class of 1992.) Prior to his election to the City Council in 2001, Joe practiced law for 10 years.
Leroy Comrie.
Leroy G. Comrie Jr.
New York State Senator, 14th District
New York State Senator Leroy Comrie was elected to represent the 14th Senatorial District of Queens (encompassing portions of Jamaica, Cambria Heights, Queens Village, Hollis, St. Albans, Laurelton, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Hillcrest and Kew Gardens) in November 2014, officially taking office January 1, 2015. He grew up in the South Queens communities that he now represents, attending P.S. 116, I.S. 8, Jamaica High School and the University of Bridgeport, where he developed his passion for politics and government. He is a lifelong member of Saint Albans the Martyr Episcopal Church and before he was a public official, he was elected to serve as President of his local Community School Board. Since the beginning of the 2019-2020 legislative term, his committee assignments have included Cities, Consumer Protection; Finance, Racing, Gaming & Wagering; and Rules. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, which gives him oversight over the state’s 150+ public authorities such as the MTA, Port Authority, and NYCHA. Senator Comrie believes that government must be responsive to the needs of all people. His office is the conduit through which access to quality education, healthcare, and services for seniors; programs and resources for youth; avenues to enhance small business growth; increased public safety measures; and smart sustainable economic development that provides living wage jobs in the community are provided. Senator Comrie served twelve years as the Deputy Majority Leader of the New York City Council, as well as the Chairman of the Queens Delegation; while holding many distinguished and critical leadership roles. He served as Chair of the Committees on Rules, Consumer Affairs and Land Use during his Council tenure. In those roles, he had broad oversight and direct access over the city’s budget process and legislative agenda often negotiating major concessions between the City Council and the Mayor. Senator Comrie’s positive impact in government is evident with his long track record of legislative accomplishments such as increasing tax exemptions for seniors, instituting the city’s first foreclosure prevention program, curtailing “pay-day” loans, improving the criteria for safety on construction sites, reducing truck traffic emissions, improving electrical and building codes, advocating for the containment of waste transfer stations, and increasing job opportunities by establishing direct-to-work training programs for residents across the city. For the past five years, Senator Comrie has taken his decades of experience to Albany, where he continues to serve the public and work tirelessly with his colleagues to ensure that residents of the 14th Senatorial District and all across New York State have the very best possible opportunities and quality of life. In 2019, Senator Comrie was appointed to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), the oversight body originally that reviews the financial soundness of plans and approves the project-based spending of a number of the state’s largest authorities. Leroy Comrie, Jr. is the son of the late Ruby Frith-Comrie and the late Leroy Comrie Sr., both of whom immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. He is the brother of Ronald E. Comrie, and has been married to Marcia Moxam since 1990. They are the proud parents of two delightful young adults.
John Liu
New York State Senator, 11th District
John C. Liu is a New York State Senator representing a broad area of northeast Queens. He is chairperson of the Senate’s committee on New York City Education and also serves on the committees of Finance, Education, Transportation, Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and Rules. John was Comptroller of the City of New York (2010-2013) and a New York City Councilmember (2002-2009). In 2013, John was a candidate for Mayor of New York City, in lieu of running for re-election as Comptroller. Currently, John teaches municipal finance and public policy in Masters programs at the City University of New York (CUNY) and Columbia University. The 43rd Comptroller of New York City, John Liu established an impressive record as the chief financial officer for 8.4 million residents and overseeing municipal government with an annual budget of $70 billion. John saved taxpayers $5 billion through rigorous audits of City agencies, detailed scrutiny of contracts with private companies, and refinancing of $20 billion of outstanding City bond debt. During his four-year term of office, he achieved an enviable total investment return, increasing the City’s pension asset portfolio to $150 billion. John created the nationally acclaimed online application “” providing unprecedented transparency in government spending. He facilitated economic development and new job creation with acceleration of City capital projects, capturing low interest rates in the bond markets. Always emphasizing that “it’s not just about numbers, it’s about people,” John Liu championed fairness and equality. An early and staunch opponent of stop-and-frisk tactics, John highlighted the risks to communities and taxpayers alike due to damaged police-community relations. John presented daily-updated M/WBE Report Cards for City agencies to monitor and encourage greater government contracting opportunities for minority entrepreneurs. John also proposed sound economic policies to create real economic growth and narrow the ever-widening wealth gap, protected wage standards and recouped back wages and fines on behalf of cheated workers from contractors who just don’t want to play by the rules, and exposed the billions of dollars in publicly-subsidized corporate welfare doled out by the City that failed to deliver on promised new jobs and fair housing. He published numerous reports analyzing and issuing recommendations on a wide range of public priorities, including education and the need to take students beyond high school, affordable housing and family support, retirement security and protection of pension benefits, and the fiscal and social benefits of legalizing marijuana. As a member of the New York City Council, John Liu represented his hometown of Flushing and northeast Queens. He secured millions of dollars in additional funding for schools, libraries, parks, senior citizen centers, and youth programs. John served as chairperson of the Council’s Transportation Committee overseeing operations of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Department of Transportation, and Taxi and Limousine Commission, and enacted legislation boosting efficiency and efficacy of key City agencies. John also served on the committees on Education, Consumer Affairs, Contracts, Oversight & Investigation, Land Use, Lower Manhattan Redevelopment and Health. John’s significant accomplishments as a legislator included exposing financial irregularities at the MTA, enacting legislation like the Equal Access Bill mandating on-demand language services in health and human services agencies, the School Zone Engine Idling Bill limiting engine idling near schools, and the Dignity for All Schools Act requiring the Department of Education to track bullying and harassment in schools. John used his office to fight hate and bigotry, and in too many instances denounced violence against immigrant workers such as restaurant delivery workers. John’s battles with radio shock-jocks and their corporate sponsors successfully brought an end to extreme racist and misogynist broadcasts in the New York market. Hailed as a “Trailblazer” and “Pioneer," John Liu’s historic elections – as the first Asian American to win legislative office in New York and then the first to win citywide office – were milestones for Asian Americans in New York and across the nation. Although he wishes Asian Americans had been elected long before, John is honored to be the first and embraces the opportunity to broaden representation and public service. Prior to being elected to office, John worked in the private sector for 14 years as a professional actuary, most recently as a manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers. John has drawn upon his real world fiscal expertise to root out waste and mismanagement in government. John Liu immigrated from Taiwan at the age of five. He was educated in New York public schools, including Hunter College High School, Bronx High School of Science, and Binghamton University, attaining his degree in Mathematical Physics. John lives in Flushing with his wife Jenny and their son Joey.
Catalina Cruz - Assembly Member
Catalina Cruz
New York State Assembly Member, 39th District
Catalina Cruz has the privilege of representing New York State Assembly District 39, the most diverse district in the nation, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights. Catalina was born in Colombia and came to Queens at the age of 9. Catalina grew up as a DREAMer; she lived in the United States for more than 10 years as an undocumented American. Catalina was raised by a single mother who, like many immigrants, had to work multiple and menial jobs to support her family. As a single mother of four children, she worked long hours during the week as a nanny, cleaned offices at night, and sold tamales and empanadas at the soccer fields on the weekends. Inspired by her mother’s perseverance, Catalina has committed her career to fighting for our community and to ensure our workers, neighbors and families not only survive, but thrive. Catalina is an experienced attorney and a leader for tenant protections, immigration reform and workers’ rights. Prior to becoming the Assemblywoman for the 39th District, she most recently served as the Chief of Staff to the New York City Council Finance Chair, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. Catalina worked to help pass key legislation protecting workers, women and small-business owners. She previously served as the Director of the Governor’s Exploited Workers Task Force, helping New York become a national leader in the fight against worker exploitation and human trafficking. This first-of-its-kind task force conducted statewide outreach and enforcement within key low-wage industries, including car washes, restaurants and nail salons, where workers are often victims of wage theft and subject to unsafe working conditions, but do not come forward for fear of retaliation. Catalina also served as Counsel to the New York City Council’s Immigration Committee, where she helped write and implement legislation that led to New York City becoming a Sanctuary City. She also worked on projects such as the Detainer Law and IDNYC (municipal identification). Additionally, Catalina served as Counsel to the New York State Department of Labor’s Division of Immigrant Policies and Affairs, where she helped this agency become a leader in combating labor trafficking. Catalina began her career as a Staff Attorney, representing low-income, rent-stabilized tenants in New York City housing court, ensuring that they received the full protection of the law under their leases. Catalina lives in Jackson Heights, Queens. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a Juris Doctorate from the City University of New York School of Law. She is admitted to practice law in the State of New York.
Jessica Ramos
New York State Senator, 13th District
Jessica Ramos has spent her life fighting for working families, advocating for labor, and organizing her local community. Born in Elmhurst to an undocumented seamstress and a printing pressman, Jessica was raised in Astoria, attended Queens public schools, and now lives in Jackson Heights with her two sons. A strong union advocate, Ramos worked with Build Up NYC to fight for construction, building and hotel maintenance workers in New York City. Ramos also worked with SSEU Local 371 and 32BJ SEIU, where she helped building maintenance workers, office cleaners and public schools cleaners win contracts that protected their rights, wages, and benefits. Jessica was a member of Queens Community Board 3 and served as Democratic District Leader in the 39th Assembly District. Jessica sat on the boards of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group and Farmspot, Jackson Heights’ community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. She has received awards for her work with the LGBTQ community and her advocacy on behalf of Women and Minority-Owned Businesses. As the first American-born in her family, Jessica feels a deep sense of responsibility in bridging the gap between immigrant and non-immigrant communities. Jessica credits her love for activism and public service to her parents, Colombian immigrants who fought for and won the right to dual citizenship for Colombian-Americans and founded Siempre Colombia, a not-for-profit organization in Jackson Heights. Jessica does not have a driver’s license—she rides the subway every day.
Brian Barnwell
New York State Assembly Member, 30th District
Brian Barnwell was born in New York City in 1986 and is a longtime Woodside resident. He comes from a middle-class family of law enforcement officers, nurses and teachers. He earned his bachelor’s in political science, cum laude, from Arizona State University and his law degree from Albany Law School. During his time in law school, Barnwell worked for two judges, the Albany County District Attorney’s Office and the Albany Law School Civil Rights and Disabilities Law Clinic. After law school, Barnwell went into private practice before working for New York City Councilman Costa Constantinides. During his time with Councilman Constantinides, Barnwell helped organize various community volunteer operations and helped countless constituents in local community matters. Barnwell also currently organizes volunteer groups that work with local churches and City Harvest to feed the needy. Barnwell’s legislative priorities include strengthening the middle class and helping those who are striving to get into the middle class, as well as helping seniors and veterans.
Jeffrion L. Aubry
New York State Assembly Member, Speaker Pro Tempore, District 35
Jeffrion L. Aubry for the 35th A.D. of Queens County was elected to the New York State Assembly in a Special Election on January 3, 1992. Assemblyman Aubry presently is the New York State Speaker Pro Tempore and member of the following committees: Ways and Means, Rules, Social Services and Governmental Employees. Assemblyman Aubry is a member of the Council of State Governments and is a “Toll Fellow,” a distinguished association of state legislators from across the country. Mr. Aubry has served as a chairman of the Board of Justice Center, a national organization which provides technical assistance to states to develop data driven consensus supported criminal justice policies to reduce crime and decrease the cost of incarceration nationwide. He has also been a past Chair of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. He is a member of the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Inc., and a member of the New York State Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. As a former Chairman of the Committee on Correction, Assemblyman Aubry successfully championed legislation enacted in 2009 that significantly reformed the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York State by returning discretion to judges to sentence drug addicted offenders to treatment as an alternative to prison, and led the fight to ensure that prisoners suffering from serious mental illness receive needed treatment and are not confined under inhumane conditions through the enactment of the Special Housing Unit Exclusion Law. He has developed a series of efforts to advance several national and statewide issues. He has also raised money to advance the cause of bone marrow donor identification in the state of New York and passed legislation to allow employees to receive sick time if they choose to become a donor. Assemblyman Aubry was the former Director of Economic Development for the Borough President’s Office of Queens. Mr. Aubry was the Queens representative to the Economic Development Corporation of the City of New York, Chairman of the Small Business Development Center’s Advisory Board at York College and has served on the District Management Association for all business improvement districts in Queens. Assemblyman Aubry was formerly employed by Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities, a not-for-profit multi-service corporation, for sixteen years, and held various positions, including Executive Director. While at Elmcor, Mr. Aubry initiated new economic development, housing, and capital development programs. He also worked as a teacher in the New Mexico State Penitentiary for Eastern New Mexico University, as a consultant for Massand Associates, an engineering firm, and as the Director of the North Shore Fair Housing Center. Assemblyman Aubry attended P.S. 92, Saint Gabriel School, Monsignor McClancy High School, Saint Augustines High School and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts from the College of Santa Fe in 1969. He was inducted into the Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities Hall of Fame and received a Community Service Award from New York State Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus, Inc. He has also been honored with the East Elmhurst/Corona Civic Association Award, the Key Women Award, the Concerned Citizens Award, the Unit Citation from the LaGuardia Redevelopment Program of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Man of the Year Award from The Wheelchair Classic, the Congressional Award for Outstanding Leadership from the National Marrow Donor Program, the Martin Luther King Drum Major Justice Award, the Advocate for Justice Award, and was selected as the Toll Fellow from New York in 2000. He was also presented the Advocate for Justice Award, in recognition of his commitment to improving New York’s criminal justice system for women offenders in 2004. Mr. Aubry received the Outstanding Contribution to Legislation Award from the Criminal Justice Selection of the New York State Bar Association in 2005. In 2009, Assemblyman Aubry received The Justice Gerald Le Dain Award in the Field of Law at International Drug Policy Reform Conference in New Mexico, recognizing his leadership and tenacity in a successful effort to roll back draconian New York State drug laws. It is bestowed on those involved in the law who work within official institutions to challenge traditional drug war orthodoxy. He was also the recipient of The Award for Outstanding Legislative Leadership in the Cause for Justice from the Correctional Association of New York. In addition, Mr. Aubry received the Community Leadership Award from the Epilepsy Foundation and the National Alliance on Mental Illness/NYS Legislative Champion Award in 2013 as well as The John R. Dunne Champion of Justice Award from the Prisoner’s Legal Services in 2014. In his former capacity as Chairman of the Correction Committee, Assemblyman Aubry has sponsored and passed numerous pieces of legislation designed to improve the outcome of the criminal justice system.
Kevin Jones
Associate State Director, Advocacy, AARP New York
Kevin was born and raised in Austin and graduated with a B.A. from the University of Texas. He began his political career as a messenger for the Texas House of Representatives and worked his way up to become the Chief of Staff for a House member. Kevin’s intense interest in state and local government led him to Washington D.C where he worked on state policy and advocacy with various trade associations including; the American Bankers Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. In 2012 Kevin moved to NYC and began working for a government relations consulting firm where he developed and implemented government relations and public funding strategies for clients on diverse issues including: healthcare, social services, LGBT issues, transportation, land use, finance, tourism and public art. Kevin also worked on a variety of state and federal political campaigns over the years before joining AARP NY as their Associate State Director for Advocacy, covering New York City.

Welcome & Introduction By Zach Williams, City & State NY



State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., 15th District

State Senator Leroy G. Comrie, Jr., 14th District

State Senator John Liu, 11th District

State Senator Jessica Ramos, 13th District

Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, 39th District

Assembly Member Brian Barnwell, 30th District

Assembly Member Jeffrion L. Aubry,  District 35

Kevin Jones, Associate State Director, Advocacy, AARP New York


Session Concludes

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