Supporting the Occupy Wall Street Movement
Part of my job is defending free speech and advancing social justice. In October, I joined thousands of others to protest the City's decision to oust the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park.
A lot of people are asking: What's this protest all about? I think we have a fundamental choice: (1) We can keep undermining the American dream by cutting education for our children, undermining health care, and increasing unemployment by laying off workers who do all sorts of public service work. (2) Or we can ask the top 1% wealthiest among us to pay a slightly larger slice of their extraordinary wealth to benefit the whole community. I favor the second option.
I agree with billionaire Warren Buffett: "Our leaders have asked for 'shared sacrifice.' But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched. I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn't mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering."
I think John F. Kennedy had it right: "Of those to whom much is given, much is required." And his brother Robert said, "The future is not a gift; it is an achievement."
Let's keep fighting for the 99%.
BRC Now Open on 25th Street
In mid-August, the Bowery Residents Committee (BRC) moved its administrative office and opened its doors as a homeless shelter and drug detox/rehabilitation center at 127 West 25th Street. It had been on the Lower East Side for nearly three decades. It has been considered a model operator, and its management and programs have proven very successful. Already BRC has been able to place people into permanent housing. I am concerned about the size of the facility; it should be smaller. However, the Chelsea community has long been a welcoming place for those seeking a fresh start, and I believe that the BRC will assimilate into our community. While there have been various concerns, it is an as of right facility and the court continues to rule in favor of the legality of BRC's facility.
BRC is sweeping the entire north side of the block from Sixth Avenue to Seventh Ave. twice daily.
BRC continues to hold monthly meetings of the community advisory committee (CAC), of which I am a member (and have one of my staff attend), where community members are welcome to get updates, voice concerns, and ask questions about the facility. Also, in BRC's first month of operation, the 13th Police Precinct saw crime levels in the area go down in every category, and both the 10th and 13th precincts work with BRC to address concerns as they arise.
While the largest portion of this facility is a homeless shelter, it is also home to a Detox/Drug Rehabilitation facility that can be used by anyone in the community. I believe it is important to have resources like this.
If you have questions about the BRC or would like more information about the CAC meetings, call 212-803-5700 or email email@example.com. To read more about the 25tht Street facility, read the Briefing Book at http://www.brc.org/pdf/briefing_book.pdf To report a homeless person in need, call BRC's 24-hour hotline at 212-533-5151.
Jeffrey LeFrancois is my representative on the BRC Community Advisory Committee. He can be contacted at LeFrancoisJ@nysa.us or 212-807-7900.
Hell's Kitchen DOT Traffic Study
The traffic on the West Side, created in large part by the Lincoln Tunnel and Port Authority Bus Terminal, is a danger to the community in many ways. Increased traffic congestion adds to our already polluted air and the growth in population and business on the West Side has added more foot traffic, requiring additional safety improvements. After nearly four years of studying traffic in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, he NYC Dept. of Transportation has released its findings, including safety improvements made thus far in the neighborhood, and outlined steps for the future of the federally funded Clinton/Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Traffic Study.
Two major goals of the City's study were to improve pedestrian safety and reduce traffic and congestion.
The study area encompassed West 34th Street to 55th Street, Eighth Ave. to the Hudson River. Here are a few of the safety improvements recently put into place by DOT, largely in response to community activism:
A 25% increase in crossing time for pedestrians at all intersections.
Several new bus layover spaces west of Eleventh Ave., to keep idling away from residents.
"Don't Block the Box" signs installed on 42nd, 43rd, and 44th Streets to discourage gridlock.
Going forward, I will continue to advocate for: a greening of the "Canoe" at 36th Street between Ninth and Dyer Aves., the implementation of specific safety measures as bike paths make their way north, and review of all requests made by the community to determine viability. This project has been a long time coming. I am pleased with the outcome so far, and it is important that we continue to work towards making Hell's Kitchen a safer and more liveable place.
Working to Alleviate Overcrowded Schools
Overcrowding in our schools continues to be a problem. The Department of Education is taking steps to mitigate this across the city, but we are seeing it increase at alarming levels in Manhattan. On the East Side, the proposed PS 281 would be a help to alleviate overcrowding, but the school is not slated to open until 2013; that is two years away, and overcrowding is an issue today.
Last month, I joined City Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez, Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Liz Krueger, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh urging DOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott to proceed with a process known as "incubation," which would permit two Kindergarten classes to begin before the school's official opening. Community Board 5 and 6 both support this plan, as it will surely help to ease overcrowding.
Survey of Senior Needs in CD4 Area
A "Senior Needs Survey" to gauge how the needs of the community have changed to support long-term residents was launched on Oct. 15th. Initiated by the Actors Fund in partnership with the Visiting Nurse Service of NY, it has the support of me and the rest of our local elected officials.
The survey will be available through Dec. 31. It is anonymous and intended for residents over 60 years old in zip codes 10019, 10036, 10018, 10001, and 10011. The more people who take the survey, the more accurate it will be. Information from this survey will be used to help us to better prepare our neighborhood.
The survey can be taken online or in person given by a member of the survey team. Visit http://www.SeniorsCommunitySurvey.org or call 212-221-7301, ext. 277. You can also stop by my community office at 242 West 27th Street to take the survey in person! If you have further questions, please contact Jeffrey LeFrancois in my community office at LeFrancoisJ@assembly.state.ny.us or 212-807-7900.
I support an open, independent, and transparent process for redistricting that keeps communities - whether ethnic, racial, or geographic - together to ensure their representation.
I have signed on to legislation introduced by Governor Cuomo, Senator Gianaris and Assembly Speaker Silver (A.5388) , which would create an independent redistricting commission, with a open public process and fair districting criteria, for determining New York State Assembly, Senate and Congressional districts. The proposed five-member commission would have a multi-layered appointment process intended to promote independence and geographical and ethnic diversity of the members. The bill defines a series of criteria that must be followed when drawing the districts.
New York State law now requires that we count prison inmates as being from their home district, not where they are in prison. That makes sense. They do not vote when in prison, but will be voters when released. The State Senate is pushing to repeal that law before the new districts are drawn.
Open Enrollment for Medicare Part D Plans
People receiving Medicare face many important decisions. The process you must go through to determine the best plan for your needs requires attention and review on a regular basis. I'm pleased that this year, the Fall Open Enrollment period for choosing a prescription drug plan under Medicare Part D is four weeks earlier than in previous years. This gives you more time to review a plan's cost, coverage, and convenience.
The Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, the agency in the Dept. of Health & Human Services that runs Medicare, has officially announced the Medicare open enrollment period for 2012. From October 15th, 2011 through December 7th, 2011. Recipients are encouraged to review and make a ny changes to their plan during this time.
The Medicare Rights Center is a great source for help to determine which plan might be right for you. Call the helpline at 800-333-4114 (9 a.m. - 5 p.m.) to set up a phone appointment with a counselor.
For more information, and for help choosing a plan using Medicare's new rating system, please visit Medicare.gov or contact 1-800-Medicare.
NYS Bipartisan Pro-Choice Caucus
The right to free choice and access in reproductive health care is under attack across the country. Several state legislatures have passed laws restricting access to family planning, reproductive health services, and abortion. In Washington, President Obama and the U.S. Senate majority prevented the Congressional majority from making significant federal cuts to these programs earlier this year.
In New York State, a coalition of over 50 legislators from both parties have formed the Bipartisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus (BPCLC) to work on preserving our strong commitment to preserving a woman's right to choose. I am a member of the caucus.
As chair of the Assembly Health Committee, one of my main roles is to staunchly protect choice and access in reproductive care, as I have since before I was elected.
In October, the BPCLC sent a letter to U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The letter encouraged the swift implementation of the Affordable Care Act in a way that meets the needs of the people of New York. The ACA includes a specific program to ensure that health plans sold through state-based health insurance exchanges include "essential community providers" in their networks and we believe that Exchange health plans must contract with all women's health centers and family planning clinics in their region, according to the intent of the ACA.
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 consists of injecting huge amounts of high-pressured water with highly toxic chemicals far underground in order to break up rock and release natural gas. These toxic fluids may migrate for miles underground and can pollute the environment, especially our water supply.
I believe that if this type of drilling cannot be conducted safely, it should not be done at all. If the state is now going to consider permit applications, they should be rejected.
The State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the agency that regulates fracking in NY, has extended the public comment period for the draft environmental impact statement until Dec. 12, 2011. Written comments can be submitted online at http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/76838.html; or by mail: dSGEIS Comments, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-6510.
DEC will also be hosting four public hearings, one of which is in Manhattan on Wed., Nov. 30 at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street. There will be an afternoon and evening hearing. The doors will open 30 minutes early for each hearing, and people can sign-up to speak.
In October, I spoke on a panel with other elected officials at the LGBT Center about the concerns we share about what fracking will do to our water supply. We also spoke of the many anti-fracking bills the Assembly has passed and others it hopefully will pass.
Tenants and Neighbors Launches Rent Control Tenant Leadership Committee
Rent controlled tenants are often the first targets of unscrupulous landlords. Most are senior citizens with apartments whose legal rents may be far less than what a landlord would prefer to earn in rent for the unit. Tenant harassment, coupled with the often hard-to-understand regulatory system that administers Rent Control, can be a double problem for older, low-income tenants just trying to get by.
Any tenant can find help with housing issues by calling or stopping by my community office. And I'm pleased to let you know, that now, next door to my office on West 27th Street, Tenants and Neighbors has now launched a Rent Control Tenant Leadership Committee, which meets monthly to develop outreach and education, media work, and campaign planning. Tenant-led leadership committees, like this one, are critical resources for tenants to exchange information, find community with those who have similar experiences and problems, and to organize their peers, who might otherwise be isolated, to work together and improve their collective situation.
If you are a rent controlled tenant and interested in joining Tenants and Neighbors' Rent Control Tenant Leadership Committee, you can call coordinator Katie Goldstein at 212-608-4320 ext. 400, or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free Memory Screenings
Over 320,000 New Yorkers suffer from Alzheimer's disease or a related illness, and the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) is marking National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month with by offering free memory screenings.
The free confidential memory screenings will be provided by qualified healthcare professionals at three locations in my district on Tues., Nov. 15th:
AFA offices, 322 Eighth Ave., 7th Floor, 8:00AM - 2:00PM
Kmart Pharmacy's Health and Wellness in-store event, 1 Penn Plaza, 250 West 34th Street, 9:00AM - 1:00PM
Senior Helpers and Penn South Program for Seniors, 290 Ninth Avenue, 10:00AM - 3:00PM
I hope you and your loved ones take advantage of this opportunity.
Visit the National Memory Screening Web site or call toll-free 1-866-AFA-8484 for more information about the AFA's initiative.
Rubin Museum Offers Monthly Free Senior Day!
The Rubin Museum, located in Chelsea on 17th Street, is a cultural and educational institution dedicated to the art of Tibet and the Himalayas. It hosts various programs and exhibitions throughout the year for people of all ages.
Museums may be difficult to visit for those on a fixed income, which is why I wanted to let you know that the Rubin Museum has a Free Seniors Day the first Monday of the month. Visit the Rubin Museum Web site or call 212-620-5000 for more information.
The Free Fashion Museum and Programs at FIT
The Museum at FIT is the only museum in New York City dedicated solely to the art of fashion. Well known for its innovative and award-winning exhibitions, the Museum has a permanent collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present. Like other fashion museums (such as the Musée de la Mode, the Mode Museum, and the Museo de la Moda), the Museum at FIT collects, conserves, documents, exhibits, and interprets fashion. The Museum has exhibitions, publications, and public programs, all free. It is open Tues. through Sat. Call 212 217.4558 or visit fitnyc.edu/museum for hours and more information.
Free Fashion Culture programs are organized by The Museum at FIT to provide new perspectives on the culture of fashion. For program information or to register for a program, call 212 217.4585 or email email@example.com.
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