Community Board Six Report - April 2008
Update on the New York State Budget: After a few hectic months, the New York State Assembly finished voting on the Fiscal Year 2008-2009 budget today. The budget is nine days late and the process this year lacked transparency and put off addressing certain critical issues until a later date - some of these deficiencies may be attributable to the unexpected change of leadership in the executive branch. Assemblymember Kavanagh is committed to fighting for a more transparent and accountable budget process going forward. Notwithstanding these concerns there is some good news to report.
The Assembly secured $300 million in capital funding for affordable housing in the final budget. This funding, which is not contingent on the sale of the property near the Javits Center as the executive budget had proposed, will be used to provide more affordable, supportive, and workforce housing. Kavanagh has made it a top priority to expand the State's financial support for affordable housing and voted against the housing portion of last year's budget because it failed to meet this goal. He is pleased that this year's housing budget represents a significant step forward in addressing the affordable housing crisis.
The budget also restores many of the health cuts proposed in the initial executive budget, reaffirming our commitment to providing quality healthcare to all New Yorkers. Specifically cuts to Medicaid ($403 million), hospital reform initiatives ($129 million) and home care ($62 million) have all been restored in the final budget. The Assembly was successful in advocating against the Governor's proposed Child Health Plus premium increase, saving families $24 million.
It also keeps the commitment to New York City public schools, increasing funding by $533 million dollars. The Assembly rejected many of the cuts proposed in the executive budget and successfully pushed for the State to fully fund its commitment to the 4-year Campaign for Fiscal Equality plan.
In addition to record increased aid to public schools, the allocation for Universal Pre-K totals $450 million, an increase of $96 million over 2007-08. This expands the number of 4 year-old children attending pre-K from 93,000 up to 121,000, bringing New York even closer to achieving Universal Pre-K.
The budget restores $164 million for a total of $328 in local aid to New York City. Kavanagh and his Assembly colleagues lobbied for the restoration after the Governor omitted the funding from his executive budget - reneging on a promise made during the 2007 budget.
Congestion Pricing: The state legislature declined to take up a bill authorizing the Mayor's proposed congestion pricing plan. While recognizing that there were many legitimate concerns with the Mayor's proposal, Assemblymember Kavanagh believes that congestion pricing is an important tool to address the environmental and traffic issues our community faces, and to generate much needed funding for our public transportation system. He is disappointed that the legislature did not craft a congestion pricing plan that would help meet these needs in an equitable way but looks forward to working with advocates from both sides to find solutions to these pressing issues. Of particular concern is the substantial deficit facing the MTA's capital plan.
Kavanagh Introduces Legislation to Address Non-Primary Residence Challenges: Assemblymember Kavanagh introduced legislation in the Assembly that would allow tenants to recover attorneys' fees and damages in cases where landlords act in bad faith to bring eviction proceedings against tenants on the basis of non-primary residence. In many cases throughout the 74th Assembly District, landlords have brought court actions as a way of forcing tenants to vacate their apartments - even ignoring proof submitted by tenants establishing primary residence. This bill seeks to discourage this practice by giving landlords a strong disincentive to bring frivolous non-primary residence challenges. The bill is sponsored in the State Senate by Liz Krueger.
Kavanagh Pitches in to Help Clean Up Stuyvesant Cove Park: On Saturday March 29th, Assemblymember Kavanagh joined 20 volunteers, known as Park Angels, and community members to clean up the green spaces as part of Solar One's Stuyvesant Cove Park Volunteer Day. Volunteers enjoyed a workshop about Permaculture with Claudia Joseph and then set about weeding and removing last year's grasses so the park's perennial native plants could sprout up this year. Anyone who would like to volunteer at Stuyvesant Cove Park should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-505-6050.
Household Scalding Safety Act: Recently, Assemblymember Kavanagh introduced The Household Scalding Safety Act, A10292, which seeks to prevent burn injuries that occur when individuals are scalded by excessively hot tap water coming from their faucets. The bill designates 120 degrees Fahrenheit as the maximum permissible temperature for tap water in multiple dwellings in New York State. Water at 160 degrees Fahrenheit causes a third-degree burn in only one second, yet temperatures in excess of that have been measured in New York homes. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a majority of scalding burns involve children under five and the elderly. The bill will impose fines on non-compliant building owners, establish standards for anti-scald devices, and ensure that the cost of compliance is not a basis for rent increases in rent regulated housing.
Animals Confined in Vehicles in Extreme Temperatures: Assemblymember Kavanagh recently introduced bill A.10343 in the Assembly. This bill, which has 48 cosponsors so far, would prohibit animal owners from leaving their companion animals in a vehicle for long periods without the proper ventilation to prevent animal injury on very hot or cold days. The bill would also authorize police officers to take action to remove the animal from such a dangerous and life threatening situation.
Kavanagh Fights for Humane Education in Schools: Throughout the United States, there has been a growing movement to incorporate humane education into school curricula as a way of teaching tolerance and responsibility, and helping students develop critical thinking and decision-making skills. Assemblymember Kavanagh introduced legislation to address this issue by requiring the Education Department to formally notify school districts of the State's existing mandate to provide humane education for elementary school students, and by providing for teacher training on methods of teaching humane treatment in various curricular areas.
Assembly Approves Bills to Improve Government Openness and Freedom Of Information Law: The Assembly passed legislation to increase government transparency and ensure compliance with the state Freedom of Information Laws. This legislative package includes bills that would require the state to provide guidance to its agencies as to the development and maintenance of up-to-date, FOIL-able information (A.3403); establish the posting of public meeting notices with time and location information on a public body's website (A.4053); permit all meetings of a public body to be recorded so long as it is not disruptive to the proceedings (A.1111); and allow for the costs and reasonable attorney's fees to be awarded to those who successfully challenge an open meetings law violation (A.1033).