Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh
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Report from Assemblymember
Brian Kavanagh
Representing: The Lower East Side • Union Square • Stuyvesant Town • Peter Cooper Village • Gramercy • East Midtown Plaza • Waterside Plaza • Kips Bay • Murray Hill • Tudor City

YEAR IN REVIEW: COMMUNITY EDITION

Dear Neighbor,

Despite some challenging circumstances in state government, my office was able to accomplish a great deal in 2008. In this edition of my newsletter you will find highlights of the work we did here in our community throughout the year. Another edition of the newsletter that you should receive separately reviews the legislative and budgetary issues we worked on.

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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Supporting and Working with Tenant Associations
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I am pleased to work closely with our local tenant associations to support resident initiatives throughout our community. My staff and I frequently attend association meetings and forums to converse with tenants and their representatives, whether they be the huge meetings of the Stuyvesant Town - Peter Cooper Village Tenant Association or more intimate gatherings in the community rooms of smaller housing complexes. This year we saw new leadership in several of our tenant associations. Congratulations to new tenant presidents Geraldine Rosa at Straus Houses, Dominga Lanzo at 344 East 28th Street, Janet Handal at Waterside Plaza, and DeReese Huff at Campos Plaza—as well as all the board members of these and other associations who represent tenants in our community. Recognizing the value of strong tenant associations, we have taken steps to strengthen existing tenant associations and to reinitiate them in areas where they had lapsed. We worked with the Waterside Tenants Association to support and promote elections that were held in January; and we worked closely with the Housing Authority, the community organization Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), and residents of Campos Plaza to ensure that elections were held to select tenant leaders for their association, which had not been officially recognized by the Authority for eight years. This collaborative process culminated in election of a new president and officers in October. We are currently taking a similar approach in Bracetti Plaza, working with the Authority and GOLES to assist residents to organize a new association. For more information on getting involved in your tenant association—or starting a new one—please contact Paula Castro at our office.




HOUSING LEGAL HOTLINE
646-459-3023

Have a legal question about your housing?
Call our housing legal hotline to speak
with a housing lawyer for free.

Many residents of our community find themselves confronted with legal issues related to their housing. Because it is critical to have the right information at such times, I am proud to sponsor the 74th Assembly District Housing Hotline. Using the hotline is simple and free to any resident of the district. Just dial 646-459-3023 and leave a message, and a lawyer from the Urban Justice Center will return your call within 48 hours. You can, of course, always contact our community office directly at 212-979-9696 regarding housing or any other issues!


Fighting for Sensible Development

In March, the City Council voted to approve the rezoning application for the former Con Edison First Avenue properties along First Avenue between 35th and 41st Streets. During this process, I testified repeatedly before the City bodies with jurisdiction over the application, raising serious concerns about the proposed plan. I emphasized that the buildings were too tall and dense; the proposed school was not big enough to accommodate the expected growth in our community; there was no plan to sufficiently mitigate the traffic the development would create, especially the office tower; and there was insufficient affordable housing. While I still believe that this development presents serious problems for our community, I was pleased that many of my concerns were substantially reflected in the final approved plan. I would like to thank Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilmember Dan Garodnick, and Community Board 6 for their leadership throughout the process.




Every Breath You Take

Improving air quality is not only an environmental concern, it is also a health issue. Poor air quality is known to be a trigger of asthma attacks and can possibly lead to other severe respiratory illnesses, especially in children. With that in mind, I have taken several steps to address our city’s air quality—many of which you can read about in my legislative newsletter. On a local level, I joined other elected officials and community organizations in requesting that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hold a hearing to discuss Con Edison’s Title V permit renewal application for their East River Plant. Specifically, I called for the hearing to explore the possibility of switching the plant exclusively to natural gas, which creates less air pollution than fuel oil. While Con Edison contends that they do not have the capacity to burn natural gas year round, I fear that without restrictions, the decision of which fuel to burn will be determined solely by cost and availability, essentially tying our community’s air quality to fluctuating energy prices. I submitted testimony requesting that as a condition of permit renewal DEC require Con Edison to use natural gas to the maximum extent their infrastructure and supply allow them to. As of this writing DEC has not come to a decision on the application.



Soil Monitoring in Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village

I have attended several briefings to discuss the testing by Con Edison, the City Department of Health, and the State Department of Environmental Conservation of the soil in and around Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village to monitor contamination from prior industrial use of the property. While there have been concerns that the contamination might pose a health threat, the tests indicated that the soil does not need to be removed. I continue to closely monitor the testing, and the precautions being taken to protect our community. We expect more finalized results this January.



The Lower East Side Goes Green!

In October, I joined Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator-elect Daniel Squadron, the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, Community Board 3, and a broad coalition of elected officials and community organizations to launch the Go Green Lower East Side Initiative and to celebrate New York City Apple Day. The dual event was held on Orchard Street between Grand and Broome Streets. At the event, local residents enjoyed dishes made from apples, heard live music, and learned ways to live the “green way.” Attendees participated in activities that taught them to improve their health and their environment.


Preserving the Lower East Side

In November, I joined elected officials and community members to testify at the City Council regarding the proposed East Village/Lower East Side Rezoning. The rezoning, covering 111 blocks—including 40 in the 74th Assembly District, subsequently passed the Council. While I was disappointed that the final plan did not include additional affordable housing and stronger tenant protections as advocated by Community Board 3 and others, the approved plan offers substantial benefits, including height caps and other measures intended to protect our community’s character. I thank Community Board 3’s members and staff and Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Alan Gerson for their leadership throughout the process.



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Greening Murray Hill
In May, I joined dozens of volunteers participating in the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association’s “Celebrate Spring on Third” event. It’s amazing the impact a small group of people can make in our community on just one Saturday morning. New York thrives thanks to the countless people who donate their time to care for the neighborhoods we all live in and I am always pleased to join in the effort. Volunteers worked in the Third Avenue Shopping District—Third Avenue between East 32nd and 40th Street—planting ivy in tree beds, removing graffiti, and doing general clean up.


Save Our Buses!

In November, the MTA proposed fare increases and service reductions that would take effect in the Spring of 2009. Several of the proposed reductions would have a serious impact on the ability of people living, working, and going to school in our community to get around. Included in the proposal are service cuts on the Lexington Avenue subway, and the M42, M23, M21, M16, M15, and M8 buses—with the M8 proposed to be eliminated entirely! I recognize that the financial and economic crises that have hit the New York economy have exacerbated the MTA’s already significant fiscal problems, and we are still gathering additional information and community input on the proposals. However, I believe that serious cuts in vital transit service—and particularly the complete elimination of a bus line—should not be implemented until we have done everything we can to secure funds to support our transit system and to minimize the impact on the riding public, especially people whose mobility is impaired by the effects of age or disabilities. While the MTA board formally approved the plan in December, I believe that there is still time to ensure that subway and bus services in our community continue to meet our needs, and I will work with other elected officials, concerned community members, and the MTA toward this goal.




Safety First (Avenue)

Following a tragic traffic collision at the corner of First Avenue and 14th Street, I joined Senator Tom Duane, and Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez to discuss traffic safety with the City Department of Transportation. The meeting focused on solutions to regulate the flow of traffic at the intersection and enhance pedestrian safety at crosswalks. The Department of Transportation pledged to review the concerns raised at the meeting, and evaluate the various options for improving safety.


Food and Nutrition Program Returns to Wald Houses

In September, after a four month hiatus, seniors who take part in the State Department of Health’s Commodities Supplemental Food Program at Lillian Wald Houses were once again able to receive monthly food packages. My office negotiated with the staff of the program and the management of the Wald site to re-instate the program, which had come to a stop due to miscommunication between the parties regarding the paperwork and other program guidelines.


Police Community Relations

Throughout the year, we work with local police to ensure the security of community residents and to address community concerns. My staff and I attend precinct community council meetings and maintain regular contact with the officers who serve and protect our community. In August, we participated in annual Night Out Against Crime events hosted by the precincts, the community councils, and other neighborhood organizations. In November, I joined police officers, community council members, and other elected officials and community representatives at the annual Police Service Area 4 Community Fellowship Breakfast to celebrate good relations and foster cooperation between local residents and the officers of PSA 4. If you are interested in or concerned about issues related to policing in our community, I urge you to consider attending and participating in your local community council meetings. For more information, call our community office at 212-979-9696.



A New Clubhouse for Lower East Side Girls

In May, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and I announced $500,000 in capital funding for the Lower Eastside Girls Club. The funding was included in the 2008 State Budget for the construction of a new community center on Avenue D between 7th and 8th Streets. With the opening of the new facility in 2010, the Lower Eastside Girls Club expects to triple the number of girls and young women served—increasing from 500 to 1,500.



Campaigning for a New Park

In February, I joined local elected officials, members of Community Board 6, and a coalition of civic and advocacy organizations to announce a park plan that would provide four acres of open space along the East River just north of East 35th Street. City parks are vital to our community’s quality of life. They provide space for recreation and contribute to our overall health. I will continue to look for opportunities to expand and protect green spaces in our community, which has the least per-capita open space in Manhattan.


Elevator Safety

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In September, I joined Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and other elected officials to call on the New York City Housing Authority to increase safety in over 3,000 elevators in Authority buildings. The event highlighted a report released by the Borough President’s office, which revealed that over the last 5 years 75 percent of inspected elevators in public housing had been rated “unsatisfactory.” In a tragic recent example, a child was killed in Brooklyn when he fell down the shaft of an elevator that was stuck between floors with the doors open. It is critical that we find a way to make sure these elevators are properly inspected and that unsafe conditions are promptly and effectively addressed. I am currently working on legislation to address some of the issues raised in the report.



Standing Up For Schools

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While we succeeded last year in securing more equitable State funding for our city’s schools, many students continue to face difficult conditions, which vary from one school to the next: some with severe overcrowding, others with facilities that are inadequate or in disrepair, still others with deficiencies in the educational program—and some with all of the above. Throughout the year, my staff and I have worked with parents, teachers, principals, and Department of Education (DOE) officials toward solving the problems of today while preparing our schools to serve our growing community in the future. I have personally visited dozens of schools in the district to see and hear first-hand about the challenges. In October, I joined parents, students, teachers, and activists at City Hall to testify before the City Council about school overcrowding at several schools serving students from the district—PS 116 in Murray Hill, and PS 361, PS 315, and PS 110 on the Lower East Side. I emphasized the need for DOE to consider how new housing development in a community will affect school capacity, to do a better job of involving parents, teachers, and students in school planning, and to ensure that all schools include adequate space for the arts, science labs, physical education, and other essential components of a well-rounded education.


Saint Brigid Church Is Saved

Earlier this year, I was surprised and pleased to hear that an anonymous benefactor donated $20 million to save Saint Brigid Church from demolition. I have been a long-time supporter of the Committee to Save St. Brigid, working with organizers on events and outreach to the Archdiocese. The credit for saving the church goes to the many members and supporters of the Committee to Save St. Brigid. Without their tireless work and unwavering faith, St. Brigid would not be here today. The church, located at the corner of 7th Street and Avenue B, has been a cornerstone of this neighborhood for over 150 years and is a significant part of New York City’s history. When fully restored it will stand as a monument to the power of community, faith, and generosity in our city.




Catching the Reading Bug!

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On September 7th, I joined residents for a Hawaiian themed luau at the Nathan Straus Houses Annual Family Day. At the event, I handed out Excellence in Reading Certificates to the children from Straus who had completed the New York State Assembly’s Summer Reading Challenge. Students from all over the district, ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade, participated in the challenge. Each participant who successfully read at least 15 minutes a day on 40 days in July and August received an Excellence in Reading Certificate from the New York State Assembly.




Giving Back!

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I have always believed that it is important for all of us to do what we can to strengthen our community and help those in need. When I have the chance, I like to take advantage of the many volunteer opportunities in our community. This year I was delighted to take part in It’s My Park Day in Union Square Park and NY Cares Day in Tompkins Square Park, to garden with the Park Angels in Stuyvesant Cove Park, to clean up 3rd Avenue with the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association and to serve food at the Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Parish’s soup kitchen. I encourage you all to take advantage of the countless opportunities to volunteer around the neighborhood and feel free to call us if you would like some more ideas about how to get involved.




Pedal Power!

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In October, I participated in the 2nd Annual Lower East Side Kids’ Art Bike Parade, sponsored by the East Village Community Coalition, Recycle-A-Bicycle, the Lower East Side People’s Mutual Housing Association, and other community organizations. The parade is a culmination of weeks of work for the participating children, in which they decorate their bikes and learn about bike safety. I was proud to join Councilmember Rosie Mendez as an Honorary Marshal of the parade as we led community members—children and adults alike—who proudly rode their decorated bikes along the parade route.




Speaking Out!

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Every week my office has the opportunity to participate in a number of community meetings and forums. Some large, some small, these meetings give us the chance to talk about the work we are doing and hear back from you. Some examples of the forums I attended this year included: a discussion of issues affecting seniors at Stein Senior Center, monthly meetings of Community Boards 3, 5 and 6, the annual meeting of the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association, three community meetings with the tenants of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, and the Community Advisory Board of Bellevue Hospital. For me to be effective as your representative, it is important that we are able to engage in an ongoing, active dialogue. I thank everyone who took the time to come to a community meeting in 2008 and I look forward to continuing the conversation with you in 2009.



Want to Intern or Volunteer in our Community Office?
To apply, please contact us at (212) 979-9696 or kavanaghb@assembly.state.ny.us

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