Universal Health Care for All
All New York residents would receive comprehensive health coverage under "New York Health," a universal health care bill introduced by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Senate Health Committee Ranking Member Thomas K. Duane earlier this week.
Under the plan, publicly-sponsored coverage would replace insurance company coverage, and premiums would be replaced by broad-based public financing based on ability to pay. The bill, A.7860/S.5425, is co-sponsored by 62 other legislators.
Health care is a right, not a privilege. We can get better coverage, get all of us covered, and save billions by having New York provide publicly-sponsored, single-payer health coverage, like Medicare or Child Health Plus but for everyone. A single-payer system is not only cost-efficient, but the fair and moral choice for New York.
On June 6, the City presented its plan for the pavilion at Union Square Park for approval to the City's Franchise and Concession Review Committee. I, along with State Senator Tom Duane and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, presented testimony opposing the plan, restating what we, Community Board 5, and other community organizations have said for six years. Putting a restaurant in this space takes away the use of the building for year round community use and use of the area north of the pavilion as well. It will undermine the area's historic role as a gathering place for rallies, protests, and other forms of public assembly. Click here to read our testimony.
Natural gas drilling companies are eager to begin horizontal hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") operations in many upstate New York areas, including areas that provide the drinking water for New York City. Fracking injects huge amounts of water laced with toxic chemicals, under high pressure, to break up the rock and release natural gas. There is danger that the toxic fluids may migrate for miles underground and pollute the environment, especially our water supply. There have been numerous cases of water supplies being contaminated by fracking around the country.
In May, the Assembly Committee on Health, which I chair, co-sponsored a hearing with the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation to study the effects of fracking on public health. I believe the scientific testimony we received makes a compelling case against allowing fracking - especially horizontal fracking - in New York State.
On June 6, the Assembly passed a bill that I co-sponsored, A. 7400 (Sweeney), which would impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in New York State until June 1, 2012. The moratorium will give the Legislature and the State Department of Environmental Conservation time to examine the risks and benefits associated with fracking and take further action. The bill had strong support from a broad range of environmental groups. I believe that if this type of drilling cannot be conducted safely, it should not be done at all.
Don't Let The Rent Laws Expire - Take Action Now
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. While 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.
In April, the Assembly passed its omnibus housing bill (A. 2674-A), by a vote of 92-54. The bill, of which I am a co-sponsor, incorporates many long-time priorities into one piece of legislation. These include:
- extending Rent Stabilization and Rent Control for five more years;
- repealing vacancy decontrol (destabilization)
- repealing the Urstadt law, which currently 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 phone (518) 474-8390 or by email: http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php
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: 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.
Rent Guidelines Board: Speak out for Affordable Housing!
The Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) has begun meeting to determine increases for 2011. In a preliminary vote, the Board determined that it would raise rents between 3 and 5.75 percent for one-year apartment leases, and between 6 and 9 percent for two-year leases. This amount is excessive and unjustifiable. New Yorkers already pay an excessive and growing percentage of their income for rent, much more than in the rest of the country. It hurts tenants and the city.
In past years, the RGB gave landlords rent increases in years when there were no cost increases. So current rents are already above landlord costs. If costs are rising, they are only now catching up to the unwarranted increases of the past.
It is important for tenants to attend the RGB meetings and let the Board know that they cannot afford any more unfair increases.
See below for more information on RGB meeting times and locations in Manhattan. For all the meetings, visit www.housingnyc.com. You can also contact Eliyanna Kaiser in my community office if you need additional information. She can be reached at (212) 807-7900 or by e-mail at KaiserE@nysa.us.
Monday, June 20, 2011 10:00 A.M. - 6:00 P.M.
Public Hearing (Public Testimony)
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street at corner of 3rd Ave. (Basement)
Monday, June 27, 2011, 5:30 P.M.
5:30 P.M. - 9:30 P.M.
Public Meeting (Final Vote)
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street at corner of 3rd Ave. (Basement)
Illegal Hotel Update
Illegal hotels are units that are supposed to be apartments but are illegally used as transient hotel rooms. Illegal hotels take available apartments from an already tight housing market, and disrupt the lives of the residents who still live in the building.
New York City agencies have worked to crack down on illegal hotels. But a 2009 Appellate Division court decision said that under the Multiple Dwelling Law, transient use of a residential building is not illegal if it is less than half the units in the building.
Last year State Senator Liz Krueger and I won an important victory for tenants when we passed the new Illegal Hotel Law, proposed by the New York City administration. It makes the law clear that residential units are for residential, not transient use, period. Governor Paterson signed the bill into law, and it went into effect on May 1 of this year.
As soon as the law went into effect, the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement began using the new law to crack down in earnest on illegal operators. The Office vacated and issued violations to 15 buildings.
If there is an illegal hotel problem in your building, contact Eliyanna Kaiser in my community office at 212-807-7900, or GottfriedR@nysa.us.
Landmark Building Update
After the Department of Buildings (DOB) took strong action to protect the landmarked and endangered Hopper-Gibbons House, 339 W. 29th Street, the owner has notified the DOB of its intent to appeal to the City's Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). Recently, the DOB and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) met to plan action to prevent further construction, and possibly force the owner to remove the illegal fifth floor.
In a stunning and welcomed move, the DOB has revoked the building permit altogether - preventing any further construction. If the owner intends to proceed with construction, it will have to re-apply, and will have to go through LPC for approval first. Since LPC designated the property an historic landmark, it will be nearly impossible to proceed with the current plans. Furthermore, DOB has submitted the case for review to its Legal Department for a potential Nuisance Abatement order, which would give DOB legal recourse to have the fifth floor removed. Legal review will likely take a few weeks.
This is great news! We will not give up until the fifth floor is removed! Thank you to the professionals at the Dept. of Buildings, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and to the advocates and Friends of the Hopper-Gibbons Underground Railroad team for their persistence, skill, and dedication to this issue.
It has been a long struggle to protect this historic Underground Railroad site in Chelsea. Several years ago, community preservation advocates identified 11 19th Century Greek Revival row houses on W. 29th St. (originally "Lamartine Place") between Eighth and Ninth Avenues worthy of historic preservation. The LPC voted to create the "Lamartine Place Historic District," which would preserve this block, and specifically designated #339 as an historic property.
The owner illegally constructed an additional floor and misled DOB about its floor plans. The Buildings Department issued a partial stop-work order on the property (allowing only fire safety work) and has issued a violation declaring the construction illegal. In January, I met with the DOB to find out what course of action can be taken against the building owner. It is great to see the Buildings Department carrying this fight forward.
June is LGBT Pride Month
It has been over 40 years since the Stonewall riot ignited the LGBT rights movement. Hate crimes against LGBT people continue, and while the fight for equal justice continues, the community is still facing difficulties at every turn.
Nevertheless, I believe that we are seeing great change in our state on the path to equality. The State Legislature is making progress toward passing same-sex marriage legislation and GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (the transgender rights bill sponsored by State Senator Tom Duane and me). Under the leadership of President Obama, the military's discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which barred openly gay men and women from serving in the military, is being overturned. And the Obama administration has declined to continue defending the "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) in court. DOMA prevents the Federal Government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states where it is legal. The administration rightly believes that this is unconstitutional. There is no place in American society for people to be segregated and treated as second-class citizens.
June is an exciting month for members of the LGBT community and its supporters. LGBT Pride events will take place in all five boroughs, and the Heritage of Pride Parade down Fifth Avenue will be held on Sunday, June 26, ending on Christopher Street by the Stonewall Inn. I expect to be marching with members of my staff and friends. To join me, please call my office , 212-807-7900 or email GottfriedR@nysa.us. To find out more about Pride events, visit the NYC Pride Web site or http://www.gaycenter.org/community/pride/events.
The marriage equality bill has been introduced in the Assembly again this year, and I expect our house will pass it for the fourth time.
When both houses of the legislature finally pass marriage equality, and the Governor signs the bill into law, the Governor will be following through on his promise to fight for the right to marry. Governor Cuomo has been working with the five leading marriage equality groups, which have banded together to create "New Yorkers United for Marriage Equality." The coalition has put together a strong campaign to educate more people about why equality matters, and how a substantial majority of New Yorkers now fully supports marriage equality.
Here's what you can do to get involved:
1. New Yorkers Unite for Marriage Phone banking - Mondays and Thursdays
Phone banking started Mon., May 2nd at the SEIU 1199 offices at 330 West 43rd St., 7th floor, to call other New Yorkers across the State asking them to urge their legislators to support marriage equality. It will continue every Monday & Thursday through June. For more information, contact the Human Rights Campaign.
2. Urge your friends to Call their State Senator / Sign a Petition - Now
We don't need to lobby our State Senators, Tom Duane and Liz Krueger, because they support Marriage (Tom was the first introducer of the marriage bill ten years ago), but Marriage Equality NY's petition (found at the Marriage Equality NY's Web site) makes it really easy for others to reach out to their State Senators to tell them to support marriage.
Every time the marriage issue is on the front page, more New Yorkers and more legislators think about it and realize that marriage equality represents justice and common sense.
I am proud to have been the original sponsor of the same-sex marriage bill in the Assembly. I believe the legal institution of marriage works for society as a whole. If same-sex couples want to join that institution, we should welcome them. We should not segregate them into some other arrangement.
With your help, along with New Yorkers United for Marriage Equality, we will have marriage equality in New York this year!
Madison Square Garden Construction Update
Madison Square Garden (MSG), New York City's premier event space and home to the New York Knicks, Rangers and Liberty, has been showing its age for some time now. MSG, over the next three years, will be gutting and re-modeling its interior spaces, updating the facility, and making its entrances more accessible for people with disabilities.
The Garden will close for construction work in the summers starting this summer, for the next three summers, and be open the rest of the year for the Knicks, Rangers, and other events in order to complete the work in phases. Construction will take place 24-hours a day, seven days a week. To moderate the noise, the construction fence has been lined with noise panels, which are supposed to act as sponges to absorb the sound from machinery and equipment.
Madison Square Garden will be meeting with Community Board 5 on June 29th, and will also be meeting with Community Board 4 in the near future to discuss the construction impact on the neighborhood. I have urged MSG to install street plantings, as well as decorative embellishments to the construction fence to enliven an otherwise dreary and, at times, dangerous seeming block.
If you have concerns about the construction please contact my community office at 212-807-7900., or email Madison Square Garden.
Thank you John Weis!
For the past two years, Chelsea resident and nine-year Community Board 4 member John Weis has served admirably as Chair of the Board. John, whose day job is Director of Development of the internationally renowned Committee to Protect Journalists, oversaw the finalization of the Hudson Yards and Eleventh Avenue re-zonings, managed an ever-changing board, and confronted issues of quality of life, transportation, and affordable housing development.
Under John's leadership, Board 4 has continued to gain respect for its expertise and diligence on ULURP applications; its ability to win constructive compromises where community interests would otherwise have been lost; and its ability to hold bar and restaurant owners to their word for their operations in our neighborhoods.
The neighborhoods of Community Board 4 are unique, much like the ties John wears for meetings and events, their striking patterns and colors as diverse as the district.
I commend Chair Weis for his dedication and commitment to our community, and thank his partner, Larry, for his patience and willingness to share John for the improvement of the community. Thank you, John!
Madelyn Wils to Be New Hudson River Park Trust President
Madelyn Wils, a former Chair of Community Board 1, member of the Hudson River Park Board of Trustees and HRPT Advisory Council member was unanimously approved by the Trust's Board to be its new President and Chief Executive Officer effective June 20, 2011.
The Hudson River Park Trust is a joint city-state agency charged with designing, building, operating and maintaining the five-mile, 550-acre Hudson River Park , most of which is in my district.
As the author of the legislation that created the Park and the Trust, I am delighted to welcome Madelyn.
She is a true park advocate who can hit the ground running. Since 2007, Wils has served as the Executive Vice President of the Planning, Development and Maritime Division of the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC), where her portfolio included over 100 complex projects, such as the redevelopment of Willlets Point and Coney Island. Prior to joining EDC, she served as the President of the Tribeca Film Institute, managing the expansion of the organization from a 10-day festival into a diverse institution offering year-round cultural programming. Wils succeeds Connie Fishman who left the Trust in February after serving as the Trust's President for seven years.
Traffic accidents are a common problem in New York City.
That's why the New York City administration is seeking state legislation to increase the number of "red-light cameras" in the City from 150 to 225, and to create a demonstration program allowing the installation of up to 40 cameras that would keep track of speeding motorists, and allow the City to issue a summons to violators. I strongly support this effort. (The City and I would prefer it if Albany did not limit the number of cameras at all.)
Ordinarily, by law a police officer must be on the scene to issue a speeding violation. It took a change in the law to let a violation be issued based on an automated camera photo. Installing cameras on dangerous stretches of roads and highways provides drivers with a strong incentive to slow down and drive safely.
The Aladdin Hotel, on West 45th Street, is a "Next Step" Family Homeless Shelter that has been operating for about 10 years. For years, a Community Advisory Board (CAB) has been meeting to discuss the issues that arise at the facility, including security, client behavior, and community safety concerns.
Two months ago, Volunteers of America (VoA) took over the facility. Last month, the CAB met with VoA and the building owner to further discuss community concerns and receive an update. DHS, NYPD, VoA, several members of the community, and elected officials' staff were present at the meeting.
Once a contract is signed between DHS and VoA, security will be taken over by VoA. The Volunteers of America operates four transition shelters for families in NYC, and its management has been successful in its facilities on the Upper West Side, as well as the Bronx. The community has asked VoA to work with its clients on respect for the neighborhood.
The owner of the building has committed to installing screens in the windows to prevent items from being dropped out the windows. He also agreed to have his maintenance staff help clean the block - especially the tree pits - of trash and debris from clients and residents.
Bring Back the Commuter Tax
In 1999, the state law that allowed New York City to collect the "Commuter Tax" was repealed. I voted against the repeal. I believe it is basic fairness that commuters who earn their living here should contribute to support the city services that make that possible - such as police, fire, sanitation, streets, City-educated workers and customers. (If a city resident owns property or buys something outside the city, you certainly pay full local taxes!)
Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Assembly, A. 6764 (Weprin), which would institute a 1% commuter tax, with the revenue to be split equally between the City and the MTA. I am a co-sponsor.
This legislation would help New York City address its traffic congestion problems and upgrade its transportation infrastructure by raising badly needed revenue for both the City and the MTA. The revenues from such a tax could range between $1 billion and $1.4 billion. The tax rate would be only a quarter of what those who reside in New York City pay in New York City income taxes.
I also support reviving the congestion pricing concept, which would raise revenue and also reduce traffic congestion by charging drivers entering Manhattan at particular entry points.
Energy Efficiency Programs for Summer
Con Edison is again offering summer rebates for the purchase of energy-efficient air conditioners. New York City residents are eligible to collect $30 reimbursements for the purchase of new Energy Star room air conditioners. Rebate applications are available at www.coned.com/roomacrebates/.
Con Edison is also offering free energy efficiency surveys and incentives for lighting, appliance and equipment upgrades for homeowners - including coop and condo owners - and small businesses. Information about these programs is available at www.coned.com/greenteam.
Summer Reading Goes 2.0
This summer, that last day of school doesn't have to mean the end of reading for New York students, and it shouldn't. Students who continue to read during the summer perform better in school in the fall.
To give reading a trendy edge, the New York Public Library has launched the website www.summerreading.org, which takes advantage of social networking platforms to create a hip, familiar way for students to tackle their reading lists by creating avatars, rating and reviewing books, and adding media - music, DVDs, and video games- to their book queue. The website is interactive, allowing kids to read and "like" other kids' reviews and earn Summer Reading Badges by logging their reading hours and completing books. Try it out at: http://www.summerreading.org.
The NYPL has designed this with internet safety in mind. While it has the interactivity that makes social networking fun, the site actively discourages posting or revealing identifying information (such as kids' names, age, or saying what school they attend). Library staff, while unable to monitor each and every post, will make an effort to remove inappropriate content and delete those users who don't follow the rules. For more information on the safety rules, parents and guardians can visit the site at www.summerreading.org/safety.
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