Legislature Passes Bill Reducing Deficit by $2.7 Billion: On December 2nd, the Assembly passed a deficit reduction measure that will shrink New York State’s budget deficit by $2.7 billion; the State Senate approved the bill later the same day and Governor David Paterson is expected to sign it, enabling the State to manage cash flow for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2010.
The deficit reduction measure includes the following savings:
- $431 million in agency reductions, an 11 percent reduction in each State agency’s non-personnel costs;
- $482 million in other across-the-board local assistance cuts, including a 12.5 percent cut to legislative member initiatives and an 11 percent cut in the legislative budget;
- $391 million in Federal stimulus to education that was supposed to be used in the 2010-11 fiscal year, but will be used now to prevent cuts to school districts in the middle of the school year;
- $250 million collected under a new tax amnesty program;
- $200 million from the Battery Park City Authority;
- $200 million from an anticipated Video Lottery Terminal franchise payment;
- $150 million in more aggressive Medicaid fraud recovery targets;
- $145 million in administrative actions;
- $121 million in health care;
- $90 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative fund;
- $49 million in workers’ compensation surplus recaptures;
- $26 million from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York;
- $10 million from the Environmental Protection Fund; and
- $155 million in other actions.
It was important to ensure that cuts did not affect programs that receive matching Federal dollars, as the bill successfully preserves $500 million in Federal health care reimbursements State taxpayers were entitled to, compared with the deficit reduction bill originally proposed by the Governor. The Assembly also rejected a number of other cuts proposed by the Governor, such as an $11.4 million cut to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a $26.2 million cut to the Tuition Assistance Program, a $1.6 million cut in the Regents Professional Opportunity Scholarship, and a $1.6 million cut to the school lunch and breakfast program.
Although it is never easy to make cuts to the State budget, the current budget deficit makes it necessary to make some difficult decisions regarding State programs. This measure was essential in ensuring that the State could pay its bills for the remainder of the fiscal year, and to keep New York on sound financial footing.
Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village Rally For Unity: On November 14th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined Councilmember Dan Garodnick, State Senator Tom Duane, Borough President Scott Stringer, Public Advocate-Elect Bill de Blasio, the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association (ST/PCV-TA), Alex Schmidt of Wolf Haldenstein (the law firm representing ST/PCV in the Roberts case), and other housing and tenant advocates for a ST/PCV-TA rally dubbed Unity Day.
Hundreds gathered at Stuyvesant Cove Park on a rainy Saturday for the only dry part of an otherwise soggy day. The rally was an opportunity for the community to voice the importance of preserving the affordability and unique character of the 62-year-old buildings that have historically served as a bastion of New York City’s middle class to Tishman Speyer, potential new landlords, creditors, and the general public.
In light of Tishman’s serious ongoing financial troubles brought on by their egregiously speculative investment in the property, the TA and elected officials have called for an active role for tenants and their representatives in any negotiations in order to preserve the development’s affordability, sense of community, and high standard of living.
“We are united in demanding that our voices be heard in any and all upcoming negotiations about the future of this property, especially in the case of foreclosure,” Kavanagh asserted at the rally. “Tishman Speyer and their many investors sought to profit from a faulty investment scheme premised on the notion that they could profit by buying the homes of people in this community and evicting them on a massive scale. As that scheme falls apart, we’re watching their maneuvering as closely as we can. And we are demanding to be consulted in regard to any restructuring, and we will not take no for an answer.”
Kavanagh and the other speakers also addressed how the Roberts decision may affect tenants’ rents, when the ruling may result in actual change, the interests and obligations of investors like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, how State government can protect tenants through legislation, and the importance of keeping ST/PCV-TA membership informed and united.
As Kavanagh put it, “Every resident of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village is a rent regulated tenant now, so welcome to the fight!”
Elected Officials, Tenants, and Advocates Organize to Resolve Public Housing Funding Crisis: On November 12th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Daniel Squadron, and the community organization Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) were joined by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, other elected officials, public housing residents, and housing advocates for a rally at City Hall to call on the State and City to do their part to resolve the financial crisis that is facing the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The Save Our Underfunded NYCHA Developments (SOUND) Housing Campaign, which Kavanagh and Squadron founded and now comprises over 100 elected officials and organizations, released a letter to Governor Paterson calling for restoration of State operating funds in the 2010-2011 State budget. The elimination of such funds in prior years is a major cause of NYCHA’s growing structural deficit.
Attending the rally and speaking in support of the SOUND Housing Campaign’s goals, in addition to Kavanagh, Squadron, and Silver, were GOLES Executive Director Damaris Reyes, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblymember Grace Meng, Councilmembers Letitia James and Al Vann, Council-member-Elect Margaret Chin, Roxanne Reid of Community Voices Heard and Castle Hill Houses, Cynthia Butts of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), Gregory Brender of United Neighborhood Houses, Luther Stubblefield of Baruch Houses, and many other organizations. Also represented were Congressmember Nydia Velasquez, City Council Public Housing Subcommittee Chair Rosie Mendez, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, State Senators Jose Serrano and Tom Duane, Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, Councilmembers Melissa Mark-Viverito and Dan Garodnick, and many others.
Assembly Passes Bill to Bring Oversight and Accountability to Public Authorities: On November 18th, the Assembly passed legislation, sponsored by Assemblymember Richard Brodsky and co-sponsored by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, to enact sweeping public authorities reform (A.40012). The legislation will step up accountability and shed new light on the more than 700 public authorities throughout New York.
Public authorities are quasi-governmental agencies created for a public purpose, such as the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and the Thruway Authority, that operate largely without government oversight–and with limited public scrutiny.
The legislation, which passed the Senate and was delivered to Governor David Paterson on December 2nd, reflects a widespread recognition of the need for comprehensive reform of New York’s public authorities. The new law will:
- Strengthen the Authority Budget Office by adding additional powers and responsibilities;
- Add to and strengthen provisions governing public authorities’ boards of directors, encouraging accountability and reform;
- Provide the Comptroller the power to pre-approve public authority contracts over $1 million that are not competitively bid;
- Strengthen rules and close loopholes regarding the sale of property by public authorities below fair market value;
- Create strict new rules to control public authority debt;
- Ensure that public authorities, including some subsidiaries, are subject to legislative and executive approval;
- Require that State authorities maintain a record of lobbying contacts made in an attempt to influence any rule, regulation, or ratemaking procedure of such authority;
- Provide whistle-blower protections for employees of public authorities;
- Require public confirmation of the CEO/Executive Director of the Dormitory Authority, Thruway Authority, Power Authority, and Long Island Power Authority; and
- Strengthen labor agreements for the development of hotels and convention centers in which a public authority has a proprietary interest.
Kavanagh Calls for True Bus Rapid Transit on East Side: On December 7th, Assembly-member Brian Kavanagh, joined by numerous other elected officials representing communities on the East Side of Manhattan, wrote to New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan calling for the implementation of a true Bus Rapid Transit System on First and Second Avenues.
The letter notes that New York City has the slowest bus service in the United States, averaging 7.5 miles per hour, while the M15 bus that serves First and Second Avenues is even slower, averaging only 5.6 miles per hour. Assemblymember Kavanagh is determined to fight for improved public transportation that will benefit local air quality and the global environment and will make life easier for all who live in, work in, visit, or just pass through the area.
The City has already proposed improved bus service in the area that has been dubbed “select bus service.” Kavanagh and his colleagues applaud that proposal as far as it goes, but call on the City to go further and implement a true “bus rapid transit” system. The full text of the letter, which can be found at www.briankavanagh.org, explains the differences between SBS and BRT and the benefits of the latter.
Kavanagh Attends Environmental Legislators Forum: On December 4th and 5th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh attended a legislative forum with fellow members of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL), held in Chicago, Illinois.
The group heard and discussed presentations from Ross Kanzleiter from Marine Environmental Associates on water treatment, Gary Belan of American Rivers on water pollution, Anne McKibbon of Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance on energy efficiency, Dave Kraft of Nuclear Energy Information Services and Frank Jablonski of Progressive Law & Nuclear Energy Institute on nuclear power, Jeremy Kalin of the Coalition of Legislators for Energy Action Now (CLEAN), Brad Crabtree of Great Plains Institute on climate change policy, Wisconsin State Senator Mark Miller and Mark McDermid of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on their state’s approach to environmental regulation of businesses, Margaret Guerriero of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on solid waste policies, Ontario Member of Parliament Phil McNeely on the province’s Green Energy Act, and Illinois Representative Karen May on her Green Schools legislation.
Kavanagh also had the opportunity to speak with colleagues about various bills pending in New York State and to compare notes on these initiatives and others with legislators from other states.
The NCEL was founded in 1996 to provide environmentally progressive lawmakers a forum to coordinate ideas and strategies for national environmental policy. The NCEL is a non-profit organization comprised of members of state legislatures who have been invited to join the Caucus based on their commitment to environmentally progressive legislation.
Kavanagh Attends Grand Opening of Grand Café at Grand Street Senior Center: On November 13th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh attended the ribbon cutting and renaming of a newly renovated cafeteria at Grand Street Settlement’s Grand Coalition of Seniors Center. Kavanagh, along with Councilmember Rosie Mendez and a representative of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, were on hand to view dance and musical performances and a poetry recitation by patrons of the senior center and participants in Grand Street Settlement’s youth programs. After the performances, Kavanagh assisted in the unveiling of the new name “Grand Café” as voted by its patrons. Kavanagh then offered a toast and thanked Grand Street Settlement and all the assembled guests for their efforts to strengthen the community.
The Grand Coalition provides over 500 seniors with nutritious meals that meet their multi-ethnic dietary preferences. It helps seniors obtain essential services such as Medicare, HEAP, SSI and Food Stamps, health and mental health care, and housing. The center also provides opportunities for seniors to participate in recreational, cultural, sports, and exercise activities to keep themselves engaged in the community and physically and mentally fit. For more information on programs, contact Grand Street Settlement at (212) 674-1740.
East Village Community Coalition “Get Local” Shopping Guide Is Out: On November 23rd, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh’s Community Liaison Izzy Murguia joined the East Village Community Coalition (EVCC) at a launch party for its new edition of the East Village “Get Local” Shopping Guide. EVCC unveiled its third edition of the guide at Sustainable NYC, located at 139 Avenue A. Community residents enjoyed complimentary organic finger food, wine, and music and received local shopping discounts.
Kurt Cavanaugh, Managing Director of EVCC, reminded the crowd that buying locally helps sustain the storefront shops and other small businesses that make up the rich diversity that is a part of the Lower East Side’s identity. To obtain a copy of the Get Local Shopping Guide, visit EVCC’s website. The third edition is available now through Summer 2010.