Report to Community Board 3

February 24, 2009
Kavanagh and the Assembly Move on Housing Laws: With a change of leadership in the State Senate, the Assembly has moved quickly this year on significant housing legislation. On January 16th, Assemblymember Kavanagh and his colleagues on the Assembly’s Housing Committee held a public hearing to examine what actions can be taken to preserve the existing supply of rent regulated housing in New York and to encourage the development of new units. This hearing was followed by a vote on the Assembly’s ten-bill rent regulation package that passed the Assembly on February 2nd. The package includes bills to eliminate vacancy decontrol, increase penalties for tenant harassment, and limits the length of time over which a landlord can recoup the costs of major capital improvements (MCIs). Kavanagh is a prime sponsor of each of these bills and is fighting to ensure that they pass both houses of the legislature this year. The legislative package will now be referred to the Senate. In addition, as reported last month, one of Kavanagh’s bills (A514), which would prohibit landlords from employing key-card systems that track personal information without tenants’ consent, passed the Assembly’s Cities Committee and is expected to be voted on soon by the full Assembly.

The 10-bill package includes measures to:

  • Give New York City and other municipalities the power to provide tenant protections greater than those offered by State law, by repealing the “Urstadt law” (A1688).
  • Repeal “vacancy decontrol” provisions that allow landlords to take vacant units out of the rent-regulated system (A2005).
  • Increase the thresholds above which landlords can take apartments out of the system under “high income decontrol,” raising the household income threshold from $175,000 to $240,000 and the monthly rent threshold from $2,000 to $2,700 (A860).
  • Limit the length of time over which landlords may charge tenants for major capital improvement (MCI) expenses, requiring the rent surcharges for MCIs cease when the cost of the improvement has been recovered (A1928).
  • Increase civil penalties the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) can impose on landlords who harass tenants or who violate DHCR orders related to rent-regulated housing (A2002).
  • Reduce the allowable rent increase after a vacancy from 20 percent to 10 percent and limit the number of increases per year (A1686).
  • Limit a landlord’s ability to evict tenants to accommodate the landlord’s personal use of the apartment (A1685).
  • Ensure that tenants in housing stabilized by a federal Section 8 project-based assistance contract receive the benefits of rent stabilization when the federal subsidy runs out (A1687).
  • Require landlords who charge a rent lower than the maximum amount to offer that same base rent as long as the same tenant resides in the apartment (A465).
  • Protect tenants in Mitchell-Lama developments by prohibiting an owner from applying for a rent increase based on unique and peculiar circumstance when a project withdraws from the program (A857).

Kavanagh Reviews Mayoral Control of Schools: On February 6th, Assemblymember Kavanagh participated in a public hearing on school governance hosted by the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education. At the Manhattan hearing, Chancellor Joel Klein appeared on behalf of the Department of Education and made the case for renewing mayoral control in New York City. Others who testified included Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, Steven Sanders, the former chair of the Assembly Committee on Education which wrote mayoral control into state law (and, of course, our own former Assemblymember), as well as education advocacy groups such as Class Size Matters. Assemblymember Kavanagh questioned various witnesses and looks forward to participating in the ongoing discussion about school governance, ensuring any law that passes is in the best interest of our public school families. Similar hearings were also held in Queens and Staten Island, while hearings in the Bronx and Brooklyn will be held in March. These hearings aim to review the impact of the governance changes that granted mayoral control of the New York City school system. If you would like more information about upcoming hearings, please contact Caitlin Hannon at the district office.

Kavanagh Participates In The 38th Annual Black And Puerto Rican Legislative Conference: The weekend of February 13-15, 2009, Assemblymember Kavanagh joined the NYS Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators for their annual conference in Albany. The association works to protect the interests of minorities in New York State and was attended by a wide range of City and State elected officials.

Save The M8! On Saturday, February 21st, a representative of Assemblymember Kavanagh’s office participated in a rally at Astor Place, organized by the coalition to save the M8 bus route. Assemblymember Kavanagh is working in Albany to identify funding to help MTA avoid a dramatic series of service changes and fare increases – including the elimination of the M8 bus line.

Organizing Bracetti Plaza Residents: As previously reported, Assemblymember Kavanagh is working with GOLES, NYCHA Manhattan Community Operations, and Councilmember Rosie Mendez to encourage a reorganized Bracetti Plaza Tenant Association. Tenant Associations can be a powerful way for residents to be involved in their community and to organize to improve their living conditions. The next step in the process is the nomination meeting which will occur tomorrow, Wednesday February 25th. Assemblymember Kavanagh urges all Bracetti residents to participate and to take an active role in the process.

Lower East Side & Chinatown Emergency Preparedness Forum: The Free Lower East Side and Chinatown Emergency Prepareness Forum will be held here at P.S. 20 on Thursday, March 12, 2009, 6:30-9:00 p.m. Speakers include representatives from the Office of Emergency Management and the Department for the Aging, and major hospitals and health centers in our area. Topics include strategies for self-care and stress management and the role of community health centers and other community agencies in the Management of Emergency Events. There will be light refreshments, giveaways, and childcare available on site. Spanish and Chinese translation will be provided as well. This event has been coordinated by CB3 member Vaylateena Jones, the Indochina-Sino American Community Center, and 74th Assembly District Leader Anthony Feliciano, assisted by the planning committee with members from community organizations, health centers, and other elected officials. This will be a helpful event targeted to address the safety and health concerns of our community and Assemblymember Kavanagh encourages all Lower East Side and Chinatown residents to attend.

Baruch College Students Available to Help File Tax Returns: Tax time is once again looming on the horizons and Baruch College students are marshalling to help New York residents. More than 320 Baruch students have been tested and certified by the IRS as tax preparers, ready and able to help you file your federal and New York State tax returns. The service is free and open to the public. Through Wednesday, April 15, 2009, students will be available Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays 10am to 8pm and Fridays 12pm to 7pm on the first floor of 151 East 25th Street, home of Baruch’s Library and Technology Building. No appointment is necessary. Tax preparers work on a first come, first served basis. All volunteers are qualified to complete federal forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ and New York City and State forms IT 150 and IT 201 as well as all accompanying schedules. Reach the VITA Tax Help Line at (646) 312-4600. Please check the VITA web site at for answers about documents to bring with you and other pertinent information.