The Legislature enacted the new state budget on March 30. It includes major cuts to a broad range of vital programs in health, education, human services, and almost every area of public services. However, it is about as good as could be done, considering the financial, political, and legal realities.
We faced a $10 billion deficit and a state constitution that empowers the governor to force the Legislature to either pass his budget bill as is or shut down state government. Yet we were able to restore funding in many critical areas. If there had been the political will to continue the income tax surcharge on people earning a million dollars or more, many cuts would have been avoided. The Assembly was over a barrel, attempting to limit cuts, while avoiding a government shut down, which would have had profoundly devastating effects on the most vulnerable New Yorkers.
Health As chair of the Assembly Health Committee, I am pleased that the health portion of the budget includes many important reforms that will protect and improve the quality and accessibility of health care while helping to control health care costs.
Building on the state's successful experience over the past decade with Medicaid managed care, savings will be realized by gradually moving the most high-cost patient groups from fee-for-service Medicaid into various forms of care management - groups such as the elderly receiving nursing home or home care services, and people with serious mental illness. The Assembly made sure important consumer protections in these and other areas were added.
Three pieces that were my initiatives are truly national landmark legislation: the accountable care organization demonstration program, the statewide medical homes program, and the all-payer claims database. For more information on these programs, please see my attached press release.
Additionally, the health budget includes:
$22 million (65%) restoration to EPIC with continued assistance to low-income enrollees with Medicare Part D premiums, and payment for medication when an enrollee has entered into the Medicare Part D coverage gap (the "donut hole");
Rejection of proposed increases in co-payments for Medicaid and Family Health Plus, and first-time ever co-payments for Child Health Plus;
Provisions to aid the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation by allowing Medicaid coverage of supplemental payments for services by physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants employed by the agency;
Living wage requirements for home health care workers;
Medicaid managed care plans will have to offer recipients the choice to fill prescriptions at a neighborhood pharmacy or through mail order;
Restoration of $5.5 million to Early Intervention programs;
Expansion of Medicaid Managed Care to include people who had been previously exempted;
Establishment of Behavioral Health Organizations to improve coordination and continuity of care for at risk or high need populations receiving behavioral health services;
Restoration of 21.7 million for school-based health centers
Providing $28.3 million to maintain the right of "spousal refusal" - to ensure people in need of long-term care are not unnecessarily institutionalized.
Renewing the Rent Laws
Why rent laws matter.
A tenant's apartment is the tenant's home. But if Rent Stabilization is taken away from an apartment, that means the tenant has no right to have the lease renewed when it expires, and the landlord can charge whatever rent he or she wants to. Tenants would have no protection.
Thanks to New York's rent protection laws, you can have a stable home even if you don't own a house or a co-op or condo. It means tenants can have real roots in the community. And neighborhoods like ours can have the exciting diversity that makes New York work.
The New York State Rent Stabilization law expires on June 15. The Governor and the State Assembly wanted to include the renewal of the rent laws as part of the state budget, the Senate leadership would not agree. The Governor's support will be crucial to help us meet our goals.
I am a cosponsor of the Assembly's omnibus housing bill (A. 2674), which passed the Assembly earlier this month by a vote of 92-54. It incorporates many long-time priorities into one bill. These include:
extending Rent Stabilization for five more years;
repealing vacancy decontrol (destabilization)
repealing the Urstadt law, which prohibits New York City from enacting its own rent laws;
requiring more disclosure to new tenants about improvements that increase rents;
allowing MCI increases to expire once improvements have been recouped;
reclaiming deregulated units under certain circumstances;
raising the threshold for "luxury decontrol" to a rent of $3,000, and raising the threshold for "high-income decontrol" to $300,000.
What you can do.
Write to Governor Cuomo and let him know that you are counting on him to preserve the Rent Laws and your home and your neighbor's home: Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York State, NYS State Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12224 or by email: http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php You may also contact the Governor's office by phone (518) 474-8390.
Write to the Senate Majority Leader, Dean Skelos, to let him know what the Rent Laws mean to you and your neighborhood at: Legislative Office Building, Room 909, Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the rent laws, or to learn how to get involved in the "Real Rent Reform" campaign, please call my community office at 212-807-7900.
Eleventh Avenue Re-Zoning
In the past decade, a tremendous amount of land has been rezoned throughout the city, especially in our area.
Our neighborhood has another re-zoning proposal coming that has been in the making for nearly 3 years. This time, City Planning has worked closely with Community Board 4, which is a co-applicant with City Planning to re-zone all or portions of 18 blocks, bounded by West 43rd Street, West 55th Street, Twelfth Avenue and a shifting line between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues.
I generally support the resolution adopted by the board in March, which includes: tops off residential development on the east side of Eleventh Ave at 120 feet; prevents further hotel proliferation in the area west of Eleventh Avenue and sets maximum building heights of 135 feet; and create an Inclusionary Housing Designated Area to facilitate the development of affordable housing. However, it would have been much better if two of the most important aspects of the Clinton Special District - the anti-harassment and no demolition provisions - had been included. These provisions would help preserve affordable housing and protect tenants.
I urge the board to address these issues with a new land use review.
The City Planning Commission will be taking this issue up on Wednesday, April 13. I plan to submit testimony.
34th Street Transitway
Thirty-Fourth Street is a crucial cross-town artery that is important to residents, commuters, and tourists; it is also Midtown's most congested through street. The street's two bus routes, the M16 and M34, crawl at an average speed of just 4.5 miles per hour. And, while NYC Dept. of Transportation has implemented dedicated bus lanes, this has only increased the speed by an average 0.5 MPH. With all the new development o n the West side, something must be done to relieve this clogged thoroughfare. However, what is done must not conflict with the needs of people who live and work along 34th Street.
Last year, DOT put out several proposals. For the past several months, it engaged the community through surveys, town halls, and a Community Advisory Committee.
As a result, a new plan for 34th Street has been significantly altered to meet the needs of the residents and businesses along the congested corridor. However, the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association has raised a number of questions that still need to be explored.
One of the best aspects of the new plan is the 18,000 square feet of additional sidewalk space that will be created through "bulb outs," where the sidewalk and curb will be extended to "meet" the bus and will also house the bus shelter, off-board fare collection machines, and signage.
The proposal is available online at:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/brt/html/next/34th_transit.shtml#design. Visuals can be downloaded through the "Preliminary Design" section. If you have questions about this proposal or would like to let me know what you think about it, please contact Jeffrey LeFrancois in my community office at 212-807-7900 or GottfriedR@assembly.state.ny.us.
A Major Success at London Terrace
In 1996, the co-op sponsor of London Terrace Towers filed a "hardship" application with DHCR (now called "NYS Homes and Community Renewal") to increase the rents on the buildings' remaining Rent Controlled tenants. After 10 years, DHCR approved the application, which not only granted the rent increase, but also required the tenants to pay thousands of dollars in back rent. For some of the mostly elderly tenants, this would have resulted in monthly increases of $500.
Over the past four years, I and the other local elected officials have been working with the tenants to convince the agency that it applied the wrong formula, and the rent increases s hould be much lower. Earlier this year, the agency ruled that the landlord was not entitled to any rent increases.
Unfortunately, the fight is not over. The landlord has filed an appeal in court.
Gottfried to Moderate Health Care Reform Panel
The New York Citizens Committee on Health Care Decisions promotes understanding of health care issues through public forums, community meetings, and public opinion and policy discussions.
On Friday evening, April 8, I will be the moderator of a panel hosted by NYCCHCD entitled "Health Care Reform: You Have the Questions - We Have the Answers." It will be at the New York Society for Ethical Culture 2 West 64th Street, from 6:00-8:30pm.
New York, NY 10001
Albany, NY 12248