Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh Report from Assemblymember
Brian Kavanagh

Representing: The Lower East Side • Union Square • Gramercy • Stuyvesant Town • Peter Cooper Village • Waterside Plaza • Kips Bay • Murray Hill • Tudor City

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237 First Avenue, Suite 407, New York, NY 10003 • (212) 979-9696
kavanaghb@assembly.state.ny.us • www.assembly.state.ny.us

SPECIAL EDITION: Protecting Our Environment
This newsletter is in English, but. . .
Este noticiario esta disponible en español. La oficina del asambleísta Kavanagh tiene empleados que hablan español. Para obtener una copia de este noticiario o para ayuda en español, favor de llamar al (212) 979-9696. ¡Gracias!

Dear Neighbor,

Since I began representing our community in the State Assembly in January 2007, I’ve worked hard to be an independent, progressive voice and to take action on many issues that affect our daily lives. This edition of my community newsletter highlights my work in one area I have made a priority: protecting our environment. Other editions address my work on housing, reform of our State government, and other issues.

As a member of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, I recognize that the State has an important role to play in conserving our environment. This year, I’ve introduced 15 environmental bills and co-sponsored dozens of others. In addition, I’ve been a big supporter of effective, affordable public transportation and efforts to reduce traffic congestion. I’ve also stood up against environmentally destructive overdevelopment—particularly at the former Con Edison Waterside site on First Avenue—and supported local initiatives to clean up our environment and raise awareness of these issues right here in our community.

As you’ll see in the pages that follow, some of the bills mentioned have been enacted into law, some have passed the Assembly but not the Senate, and some have only just started the legislative process. Whatever their current status, I will continue to work hard to advocate for these measures and others that will protect our environment–for the sake of our community today and for generations of New Yorkers to come.

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any others, or if we can assist you in any way, please contact us at 212-979-9696 or kavanaghb@assembly.state.ny.us.

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Increasing Funds for
Environmental Protection

We achieved a real victory this year toward protecting our environment by passing the Environmental Protection Fund Enhancement Act. The act increases state funding for environmental conservation and related programs by about $75 million, to $300 million in 2009.

I was a co-prime sponsor of the bill, which was signed into law by Governor Spitzer. Previously, the percent of state revenues dedicated to the environment was at its lowest rate in ten years and well below the national average. This Act is an important step toward ensuring that we provide sufficient resources to meet critical environmental priorities.

The Fund supports capital projects that protect New York’s water, air and land, including parks, environmental education, local recycling programs, historic preservation, and public health initiatives.


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I scored 102 out of apossible 103 on Environmental Advocates of New York’s legislator ratings.

I was recognized as a leader on environmental issues by Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY), as a co-prime sponsor of all four environmental “Super Bills” identified by the state’s leading environmental organizations. I also scored 102 out of a possible 103 on EANY’s legislator ratings.

One Super Bill, the Community Preservation Act, was enacted in a limited form. The original bill would have enabled localities statewide to create Community Preservation Funds to improve and protect their local environment. The version enacted applies only to Westchester and Putnam counties, but could be expanded to other areas.

The other three Super Bills passed the Assembly but not the Senate. The Climate Change Solutions Act would dedicate funds from the auction of carbon dioxide emissions credits to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The Wetlands Protection Bill would protect freshwater wetlands of an acre or more. The Bigger Better Bottle Bill would expand the deposit law and allocate unclaimed deposits to the Environmental Protection Fund.




Conserving Electricity

photo Assemblymember Kavanagh, NYSERDA President Tonko, and Borough President Stringer launch “Be Cool New York.”
Conserving electricity is an important way to protect our environment and decrease the likelihood of brownouts and blackouts like those we’ve experienced in recent years. I co-sponsored two bills that represent modest but meaningful steps in this area.

One such bill will provide financing through the State Power Authority to enable landlords to replace outmoded refrigerators in large multiple dwellings. Landlords will then repay the funds through energy cost savings. Another bill aims to make solar energy viable for co-ops and condominiums by granting tax credits equal to 25% of the cost of installing solar electric-generating systems. Both bills were signed into law by Governor Spitzer.

I also joined Paul Tonko, President of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer this past summer to announce NYSERDA’s “Be Cool New York” initiative to encourage replacement of old air conditioners with more energy efficient models.


‘99 Balloons’
Are Too Many

While there are laws against dropping litter on the ground, there is no law that prevents commercial ventures from releasing thousands of balloons into the air to fall where they may. Balloon releases are a major source of litter, particularly on beaches, and the Ocean Conservancy considers balloons, which can fall far out at sea, to be a hazard to marine animals that ingest them. I introduced a bill that would control the problem by prohibiting commercial enterprises from releasing more than 25 balloons into the air at an outdoor event. The bill passed the Assembly but not the Senate.


Putting Teeth into Environmental
Audits of State Agencies

One of our biggest polluters is the state government itself, partly because of the enormous activity of state agencies in their normal course of business. Unfortunately, although they are required by law to audit their environmental impact and mitigate any excessive pollution, agencies often fail to complete the audits or follow through on mitigation.

In response, I introduced a bill that would enable the DEC Commissioner to hold hearings when agencies fail to take steps to clean up their operations and to impose penalties when necessary. The bill passed the Assembly but not the Senate.


Greening the Neighborhood

The City Parks Department is responsible for making our streets greener by planting trees in sidewalk “tree pits.” If you see a tree pit that has a missing or dead tree that you would like to see replaced, please let us know and we will work with the Parks Department to plant a new tree.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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I recently introduced a bill to prohibit the use of styrofoam by food service providers including state agencies and contractors, restaurants and retail food vendors. The bill, introduced in partnership with Senator Liz Krueger, would require alternate products that are compostable or recyclable, unless no affordable alternative exists. Every day, Americans generate thousands of tons of styrofoam waste. Styrofoam is a petroleum-based product that is difficult to recycle, takes hundreds of years to decompose, and has been found to negatively impact human and animal health.

I also co-sponsored bills passed by the Assembly that would require the DEC to develop standard guidelines for the recycling, reusing, and remanufacturing of electronic equipment and enhance statewide recycling efforts by prohibiting the transport of certain recyclable materials to landfills or incinerators.

Photo at right: Assemblymember Kavanagh joined Christine Datz-Romero and Tara DePorte of the Lower East Side Ecology Center at the Center’s community garden on 7th Street between Avenues B and C at an event to raise awareness of composting as a way of reducing solid waste.


Reducing Traffic Congestion

Traffic congestion pollutes our environment, puts a drag on our economy, and diminishes our health and our quality of life–especially in communities like ours that experience bumper-to-bumper traffic every day. The Mayor has proposed charging drivers a “congestion fee” to travel in Manhattan’s central business district during the busiest hours.

I sit on two of the committees that held hearings on the Mayor’s plan. After much negotiation, the legislature and the Governor created a commission to study the issue in depth, gather public input, and propose an approach that will reduce congestion at least as well as the Mayor’s plan. The City Council will then vote whether to approve the commission’s proposal and send it to Albany for enactment. The legislature will act on the proposal by March 31, 2008, and the federal government has promised $354 million for related mass transit improvements.

There are real questions about how congestion pricing would work, and I look forward to reviewing the commission’s findings. Of course, I am focused particularly on how the proposal will affect our community. However, I join many transportation experts and environmental advocates in believing that congestion pricing is part of the solution for fighting congestion in New York.

I have also introduced legislation that would dramatically expand enforcement of laws against blocking intersections and bus lanes, and supported projects that will make mass transit a more viable option, through improved bus service in the short run, and major projects like the Second Avenue Subway in the longer run.


photo Assemblymember Kavanagh at the 1st Annual Kids Art Bike Ride with Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, and former Councilmember Margarita López. More than 100 children decorated and rode bikes at the event, aimed at raising awareness of bicycling and safe riding. Sponsors included the East Village Community Coalition. Kavanagh was inspired to bring his own bicycle out of storage and have it repaired by another event sponsor, Recycle-A-Bicycle, located at Avenue C between 5th and 6th Streets.

Opposing the MTA Fare Increase

I have joined many of my colleagues to call upon the MTA not to raise subway and bus fares, as proposed recently, and to instead work with the legislature to increase public funding. I’ve co-sponsored a bill to reverse the long-term decline in city and state support by restoring approximately $305 million in operating support for subway and bus service in the city and $32 million for the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North. As of this writing, the Governor and the MTA have agreed to use a temporary surplus to postpone any increase in the $2 base fare, but we need to work toward a longer term approach to keep mass transit both reliable and affordable.


Fighting for Sensible Development Here in Our Community

On several sites on First Avenue between 35th and 41st Streets, including the site of Con Ed’s now demolished Waterside plant, developer Sheldon Solow’s East River Realty Company has proposed a massive project that would profoundly affect our community. Because the project cannot go forward without major zoning changes, there has been substantial opportunity for public input–and a full-fledged alternative plan from Community Board 6.

I have pushed for city officials to disapprove the project unless the developer makes substantial changes. There has been progress on some issues, including recognition that there needs to be affordable housing on the site and a new school to handle the enormous increase in students in the area. However, fundamental issues remain unaddressed, and some of the biggest outstanding concerns relate to the project’s impact on our environment.

I believe that the city should reject zoning changes that would allow towers ranging from 47 to 69 stories on these sites. Such heights are inappropriate for our neighborhood and would have a terrible effect on our very limited park space – particularly by casting dark shadows on Tudor City Greens and St. Vartan Park.

I have also encouraged city officials to reject the proposed inclusion of 1.1 million square feet of office space in the project–unless the developer can offer ways to mitigate the huge impact that workers filling an enormous new office tower will have on our already congested streets and transit system. With proper planning, adding new housing to the East Side could actually relieve congestion by reducing the need for people to drive into Manhattan for jobs here. But new office space on this site could have the opposite effect – negating any effort we might make to reduce traffic congestion for years to come.

I will continue to fight to ensure that the project that is ultimately built on these sites respects our community and satisfies the need for sustainability that our forward-looking city demands.


Ensuring Effectiveness of the
Department of Environmental Conservation

photo Assemblymember Kavanagh asks a question at an Environmental Conservation Committee hearing as Committee Chair Bob Sweeney looks on.
In the fall I joined my colleagues on the Environmental Conservation Committee for several hearings with Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis and environmental advocates and experts regarding DEC’s programs. This year’s budget includes funding for 109 new staff positions for important programs like the new Climate Change Office, increased funding for the Environmental Protection Fund, and more than $15 million in grants to investigate and clean up contaminated sites throughout the state.

Still, the hearings highlighted several issues requiring further attention, including significant problems with the state’s tax credit program for brownfields, and very substantial funding needs for environmentally critical capital projects around the state, particularly for wastewater treatment. During the next legislative session, I will work to ensure that these issues are addressed.


Promoting Sustainable Development

A bill that I introduced this year would create an unprecedented statewide sustainable development task force to ensure a competitive and balanced economy, a healthy environment, and communities that provide a good quality of life for current and future generations of New Yorkers. The bill passed the Assembly but not the Senate.


Monitoring Soil Contamination in Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village

Con Ed has been conducting tests, under the supervision of the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the City Health Department, to determine what needs to be done about soil contamination from prior manufacturing gas plants under Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.

I have joined other elected officials and community members in reviewing the findings. Preliminary results indicate no contamination in the air in buildings or in surface soil. However, more tests still need to be conducted and I will continue to monitor the situation and keep local residents informed.


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