November-December 2010 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

The following is a summary of some of my office's activities since my last community report:

Raising Awareness on World AIDS Day

Every December 1 since 1988, World AIDS Day has been observed around the globe. As New York Statefs only openly-HIV-positive State legislator, and as the representative of a district that has one of the highest rates of known HIV infections in the country, HIV/AIDS is, for me, a daily concern. However, I recognize the importance of World AIDS Day in helping to bring the HIV/AIDS pandemic – and what each individual can do to bring an end to it – into focus for the wider public.

To mark World AIDS Day 2010, I participated in a number of events. I helped ring the NASDAQ opening bell in honor of my recently enacted HIV testing legislation and one of its key proponents, the late Latino Commission on AIDS founder Dennis deLeon. Later I participated in the launch of a new global initiative, "Hairdressers Against AIDS," which encourages hairdressers to make HIV/AIDS a topic of conversation with clients. And I joined the former St. Vincent's HIV/AIDS Center physicians, who have been absorbed by Mount Sinai Medical Center, at their World AIDS Day observation at the OfToole Building on Seventh Avenue and 12th Street.

World AIDS Day events like these play an important role in raising awareness, but the work that must be done and the resources that are needed to stem the pandemic remain staggering. The fight against HIV/AIDS is one to which I remain committed on World AIDS Day and every day.

Co-Hosting an Informational Session for Senior Citizens On First and Second Avenue Select Bus Service and Bicycle Lane Implementation

On December 21, I co-hosted a NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) informational session at the Stein Senior Center about navigating the First and Second Avenue Select Bus Service (SBS) and the new pedestrian and bicycle-friendly configuration implemented along those avenues. I requested that DOT convene this event in response to a number of recent complaints and questions my office has received from constituents. In the future, I will continue to work closely with the community, DOT, and other elected officials to ensure the safety of senior citizens and all pedestrians affected by the new street configurations. Please contact Belinda Cape in my office at (212) 633-8052 for more information.

Ensuring Public Input in the Design of NYCT's Proposed Mulry Square Fan Plant

On December 7, my office, along with representatives of other local elected officials and CB2, met with MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) to discuss a new design for the proposed Emergency Ventilation Facility (Fan Plant) at Mulry Square (61 Greenwich Avenue at Seventh Avenue South). As you know, last May, NYCT presented to CB2 what it billed as its final design for the Fan Plant; however, the design was not contextual to the Greenwich Village Historic District in which it is to be located. CB2 swiftly passed a resolution detailing objections and recommendations and I spearheaded a letter from the Village's local elected officials urging NYCT to heed CB2's well-reasoned request for design changes.

While the design NYCT presented on December 7 did not incorporate many of CB2's recommendations, and most disappointingly retains the Fan Plantfs gfaux facade,h NYCT has made some concessions, including lowering the street wall, allowing for a rotating exhibit of the 9/11 memorial tiles at the site and agreeing to partner with an entity, such as the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, to maintain the landscaping of the open space. Perhaps most significantly, NYCT has agreed to honor CB2 and the local elected officialsf request that it present the Fan Plant design at a New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) public hearing. While LPC does not have authority over NYCT since it is a state agency, this hearing will allow for the rigorous review and expert advice of LPCfs commissioners to help ensure a contextually appropriate design that befits this historically significant neighborhood. A CB2 Landmarks Committee hearing will likely be scheduled in advance of the LPC hearing and I will work with CB2 to inform the community about both events so that all of our voices may be heard.

Opposing DOE Proposal to Open a Charter Elementary School on Brandeis Campus

On November 19, I released a statement in opposition to the New York City Department of Educationfs (DOE) proposal to co-locate a Success Network charter elementary school with the five high schools currently occupying the Louis D. Brandeis High School campus (145 West 84th Street). Please see my statement here.

Working to Ensure Transparency and Community Input in the Health Needs Assessment

On December 6, I attended part of CB2 and CB4's first joint public meeting to report on the Lower West Side Health Needs Assessment Steering Committeefs work and to gather feedback. The Steering Committee, consisting of the local elected officials, representatives of CB2 and CB4, community-based organizations, health care and social service providers, and labor and advocacy organizations, has agreed that the assessment process must be transparent and take into account significant community input. This meeting was one of many opportunities for the public to weigh in on this process. I am especially grateful to Jo Hamilton and Brad Hoylman for the leadership role they and CB2 have played in this effort. I encourage all who are interested in following and contributing to the Health Needs Assessment process to visit CB2's website where all of the Steering Committee's work is being published as it becomes available.

Submitting Testimony to Protect New York City's Vulnerable Waterfronts

The New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force (gthe Task Forceh), created by an act of the New York State Legislature in 2007, recently released its draft report assessing impacts to the statefs coastlines from rising seas and recommending protective and adaptive measures. While the report contained many worthy, common-sense solutions for ameliorating and/or preventing the effects of flooding from sea level rise and storm surges in most of the state, it omitted specific recommendations to prevent flooding in New York City. On December 12, I and New York State Assembly Member Dick Gottfried submitted joint testimony to the Task Force noting that New York City, and Manhattan and waterfront Brooklyn and Queens in particular, not only face a different and more severe set of effects from rising sea levels than the state as a whole, but also have established human and infrastructure density and hard shorelines that require unique preventive solutions. We urged the Task Force to clearly state in its Final Report, due to the Legislature by January 1, 2011, the need for immediate, extensive study of the benefits and drawbacks of storm-surge barriers to protect New York City. Please see our testimony here.

Opposing New York University's (NYU) Request to Acquire Public Spaces

On December 5, I joined CB2, the Community Action Alliance on NYU Plan 2031 (CAAN), other elected officials and hundreds of Greenwich Village residents in a rally calling on NYU to withdraw its request to acquire more than two acres of City-owned land along Mercer, LaGuardia, Bleecker and West 3rd Streets between Washington Square South and Houston Street.

These strips of land, which are the property of the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), contain rare open space in our park-starved community – and they rightfully belong to the people of New York City. Not only do they contain a community garden, dog run, plaza and playground, but, as we made clear by assembling there in protest on a very chilly Sunday afternoon, they provide a public gathering place for demonstrations, which are a cornerstone of our democracy.

In order to ensure that these spaces remain truly public and open in perpetuity, DOT should transfer them to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, as CB2 recommended in its resolution strongly opposing NYU's bid to annex the land.

I have long opposed relinquishing public spaces to private entities and I will continue to stand with my colleagues in government, CB2, CAAN and many other concerned constituents to oppose NYU's effort to remove this open space from the public domain.

Working to Alleviate Truck Nuisances at Fairway Market

In late October, my office began receiving complaints regarding large delivery trucks idling, loading and unloading beside Fairway Market on West 74 Street during all hours of the day and night. Neighbors reported loud honking, fumes, blocked sidewalks and other disruptive conditions, which they suspected was attributable to the retailerfs use of its Broadway location as a cross-docking location to receive and distribute shipments from around the country. My office along with CB7 reached out to Fairway to relay these concerns and to explore solutions. It must be noted that Fairway has opened a produce warehouse in Upper Manhattan to handle all cross-docking operations and this should dramatically reduce the presence of delivery trucks in the area surrounding the Broadway store. Already, constituents have reported major improvements in their quality of life. Fairway deserves praise for hearing the communityfs concerns and acting as a responsible neighbor. CB7 District Manager Penny Ryan also deserves praise for her persistent efforts to resolve this long-standing problem.

Advocating for Community Stewardship of Green Spaces Bordering Bike Lanes

After hearing reports that a small vegetable garden planted by a Chelsea resident in a Ninth Avenue bike lane median was removed by a landscaper commissioned by the New York City Parks Department, I and my staff took immediate action to ensure that such plantings not be removed again. We have had continued dialogue and correspondence with the Parks Department seeking written affirmation of the constituentfs right to plant in that public space. I am also in the process of organizing a meeting to discuss how the small but much-needed plots of green space created by protected bike lanes can be planted and maintained by community members across the city. Please see the Chelsea Now story on the issue here.

Celebrating Victories and Engaging in Civil Disobedience for New Yorkfs Disadvantaged

On November 11, at Voices of Community Advocates and Leaders New Yorkfs (VOCAL NY) 10th Anniversary Gala, I was honored to receive the inaugural Bob Kohler Award in recognition of my work on behalf of people who are living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, homelessness or incarceration. This award is especially meaningful not only because of my close partnership with VOCAL NY in securing significant legislative victories but also because the award was named for my friend, the late Bob Kohler, who was a legendary progressive activist and champion for New Yorkfs least advantaged.

Tragically, the gala was not entirely celebratory because at the urging of Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson vetoed my and Assembly Member Deborah Glickfs legislation that would have capped – at 30% of income – the rent contribution of people living with HIV/AIDS who receive rental assistance from the New York City HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA).

Two days before the gala, I joined VOCAL NY and hundreds of other advocates at a City Hall Park rally to protest the Governorfs unconscionable veto that has forced thousands of low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS to continue to live on $11 and change a day because the remainder of their monthly income must go towards paying rent. After the rally, I, along with 17 other activists, was arrested for blocking Broadway in an act of civil disobedience. I will continue to fight on all fronts until we eliminate this dreadful and mean-spirited policy.

Moderating a Panel on Reducing Speeding

On November 19, I moderated a panel entitled "Slower Vehicle Speeds: Healthier New Yorkers" as part of Transportation Alternativefs Stop Speeding Summit, hosted at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. The summit brought together elected officials and leaders in the fields of transportation policy, public health, medicine, traffic safety and enforcement to discuss innovative traffic safety measures. The panel that I moderated focused on the use of hospital and 911 call center data to identify streets and intersections that are most dangerous to pedestrians, as well as efforts to synchronize healthy eating and fitness by providing Summer Play Streets near farmers' markets. I look forward to continuing to work closely with other elected officials and transportation safety advocates and experts on how best to reduce speeding and improve our transportation infrastructure for the health and safety of all New Yorkers.

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