October 2010 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Albany Update:

I had an extremely productive 2010 Legislative Session. Twenty bills I sponsored passed both the Senate and Assembly and Governor Paterson signed 17 into law. Below are descriptions of several of my bills which the Governor recently signed. I was also a co-sponsor of many other important bills that have been enacted into law – including ones extending protections to domestic workers, clamping down on illegal hotels and ensuring housing law protections for loft tenants.

Enhanced Assisted Living Legislation:

Thanks to a bill New York State Assembly Member Dick Gottfried and I led to passage and Governor Paterson recently signed into law, New Yorkers now have more options for care if they grow frail. Individuals who need more help than traditionally provided in an assisted living facility, but less than the level required for nursing home admission, may now be admitted from the community or other settings into what is known as an Enhanced Assisted Living Residence (EALR). EALRs are certified by the State Department of Health to meet the needs of residents who require assistance to walk, get out of bed, climb or descend stairs, or operate medical equipment but do not need twenty-four hour continual nursing care. As a result of this new law, more aging New Yorkers will be able to avoid unnecessary nursing home admission, retain a degree of independence for as long as possible, and receive the most appropriate care for their needs in the least restrictive setting.

Midwifery Modernization Act:

Both houses of the Legislature passed and Governor Paterson signed the Midwifery Modernization Act, legislation Assembly Member Chair Dick Gottfried and I introduced in our respective houses in order to expand access to licensed midwivesf services and give New York Statefs women more birthing options. The bill eliminates the requirement that licensed midwives secure a written practice agreement with a hospital or physician, which too often is an obstacle to midwifery care, not only in rural communities, where there may not be hospitals or physicians available and willing to sign such agreements, but in urban areas as well. When St. Vincentfs Hospital closed in April, midwives affiliated with the hospital or its physicians had to scramble for new arrangements, and many of the home-birth midwives were unable to negotiate new written practice agreements. As a result of our new law, licensed professional midwives may practice independently and deliver babies in home and hospital settings across New York State.

Sex Trafficking Victims Second Chance Act:

Governor Paterson signed into law my bill which would allow sex trafficking survivors to clear their records of prostitution-related crimes by vacating their convictions. Until the bill was enacted, victims of sex trafficking who had escaped coercive circumstances were saddled with criminal records that blocked them from securing decent jobs, housing and other prospects for rebuilding their lives. Victims of sex trafficking deserve to have a second chance at life without the stigma and barriers that come with a prostitution-related criminal record.

Clean Syringe Access Legislation:

Governor Paterson signed my bill adding language to the penal law to make it explicit that a person is not criminally liable for possessing syringes and drug residue in or on syringes and that the person has a right to possess such syringes based on his or her participation in New York's Expanded Syringe Access Program or Syringe Exchange Program. This bill will expand protections for users of these highly effective public health syringe access programs, prevent unlawful harassment and arrest of syringe exchange participants, and as a result, reduce transmission of HIV and other blood-borne pathogens.

Working to Increase Access to Health Care in Communities Formerly Served by St. Vincent's Hospital

In response to the loss of health services that resulted from the closing of Saint Vincent's Hospital, I and other local elected officials along with CB2 and CB4 engaged North Shore-LIJ Health System (NS-LIJ) to help our community conduct a health needs assessment. As was noted by many of the health policy experts at my May 21 educational panel on meeting our health care needs post-St.Vincent's, such an assessment of area residents' health status, health care utilization patterns, access to care, and service gaps is a necessary step in the fight to ensure that our health care needs are met.

NS-LIJ's professional data gathering and analysis is being guided by a steering committee that includes Lower West Side elected officials and representatives of CB2 and CB4, community-based organizations, health care providers, social service providers, labor and advocacy organizations. This steering committee has already met twice and begun defining the parameters of the study. As the process moves forward, the steering committee will also review and provide interpretations of the data and analyses prepared by NS-LIJ, and will ultimately develop recommendations about how to meet the health care needs of our community today and in the future.

As I have said before, while we all believe the community formerly served by St. Vincent's needs an acute care hospital and emergency room, only with such a credible and exhaustive analysis of the community's unmet needs will we be able to convince the New York State Department of Health (DOH), hospital executives and other health care providers of service gaps that must be filled.

I am also meeting and working with North Shore-LIJ Health System not only regarding its 24-hour urgent care center which is slated to open at 121A West 20th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues early next year, but also regarding a larger facility in the Village area that would include a full service Emergency Room in the long term.

Please also note that since this summer, my office has been compiling a guide to health care providers near the former St. Vincent's Hospital that have increased capacity to serve the hospital's former patients. This guide has been expanded to include those outpatient services formerly provided by St. Vincent's which have since been transferred to or absorbed by other health care providers. I have heard from a number of constituents that finding the new providers and locations for these ambulatory services has been a challenge and I hope this document will be of assistance. This list has evolved over time and will continue to evolve as more programs progress through bankruptcy court and DOH approvals. You can find a .pdf of the latest version of this list here.

Seeking the Closure of the Dangerous Nightclub Sin Sin and a More Responsive SLA

In the wake of August's shooting death in front of Sin Sin nightclub at 248 East Fifth Street, I joined Assemblymember Deborah Glick and other local elected officials in sending a letter to New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) Chair Dennis Rosen outlining our concerns not only about Sin Sin but also about the overall liquor license approval process. The current system – which allows bars and clubs like Sin Sin to open despite cogent objections from the local Community Board, elected officials and neighborhood residents and to remain open despite persistent adverse effects on the surrounding community – is clearly not working. Our letter called for the SLA to give more weight to community board recommendations, especially where issues of violence in or outside of a given establishment have resulted in police action.

Ongoing problems within the immediate vicinity of Sin Sin are unacceptable, and my staff is continuing to work with the community, CB3, the NYPD's 9th Precinct, the SLA, and other elected officials to bring a permanent end to the dangerous environment that Sin Sin has fostered in the neighborhood. Please see our letter here.

Addressing Alleged Gang Activity and Violence in Hell's Kitchen

Earlier this fall, a number of Hell's Kitchen residents notified my staff about suspected gang activity and violence, particularly around Matthews-Palmer Playground on West 45 Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. In response, my office reached out to the New York Police Department's (NYPD) Midtown North Precinct, which has since stationed a uniformed officer outside the playground, and continued to patrol other locations where incidents have been reported. I want to thank the Midtown North Precinct for its swift attention to this matter as well as its participation along with NYPD's 10th Precinct in a community meeting to address concerns regarding increased violence in Hell's Kitchen. I will continue to work with them, neighborhood residents and other stakeholders to ensure that our neighborhood remains a safe place to live and visit.

Cutting the Ribbon at VillageCare's New Rehabilitation and Nursing Center

On October 21, I had the privilege of giving remarks at the ribbon-cutting of VillageCare's new Rehabilitation and Nursing Center at 214 W. Houston Street, which succeeds the beloved but outdated Village Nursing Home on Abingdon Square. This state-of-the-art center builds upon progress that has been made in rehabilitative care, providing facilities for the growing number of people requiring short-stay intensive rehabilitative services so they can return home, rather than becoming permanent nursing home residents. I particularly appreciate VillageCare's consultation with and responsiveness to community concerns throughout the center's planning and construction processes.

Responding to Apparent Homophobic Attacks in Chelsea and Greenwich Village

October was marred by reports of three apparent hate crimes perpetuated in Greenwich Village and Chelsea in which the victims were perceived to be gay men. In response to each of the attacks, my office has been working with the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP), and NYPD Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender liaison Tim Duffy to ensure that those who are responsible are brought to justice.

Hate and prejudice of any kind are unacceptable in New York City or anywhere, but there is a heightened injustice that these apparently anti-gay attacks occurred in Chelsea and Greenwich Village, neighborhoods with their long-standing connections to the LGBT community.

On October 19, I participated in a roundtable discussion with New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York State Assemblymember Deborah Glick, New York City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, AVP, more than 15 LGBT bar and club owners and managers as well as the New York Nightlife Association, and representatives from the NYPD about how we can work together to ensure that New York City's LGBT nightlife remains the safest in the world.

The events in our community, as well as horrific homophobic episodes in the Bronx and on Long Island, underscore our continued need to reduce ignorance, hatred and bigotry in our society. Please click here for AVP's guide for LGBT survivors of violent crimes, that gives important safety information, tips and strategies for responding to attacks, and suggestions on what our community can do to combat hate and violence.

Welcoming the Debut of the M15 Select Bus Service

After several years of work and advocacy by the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Select Bus Service (SBS) on First and Second Avenues, East Side elected officials, Manhattan Community Board 6 (CB6), Transportation Alternatives, and other transportation and community stakeholders, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) debuted the M15 Select Bus Service (SBS) along First and Second Avenues on Sunday, October 10. While short of the true Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for which many of us had advocated, SBS has proven to increase bus speed and convenience. An SBS installed in the Bronx has resulted in 20% faster bus trips, and it is expected that we will see similar if not greater benefits along the underserved East Side of Manhattan. As with any new service, implementation has had its challenges as bus riders, drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and law enforcement law enforcement, along with residents and businesses along the routes adjust to the changes. However, I am confident that the end result will be drastically faster bus service. I thank DOT and all the members of the CAC for making the First and Second Avenues SBS a reality.

Working Together to Preserve and Expand Public Housing

As you may be aware, crucial repairs in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) apartments throughout the City have been delayed by a combination of funding shortages and bureaucratic errors. On September 20, the Alliance to Preserve Public Housing, a citywide coalition of residents, advocates and elected officials of which I am proud to be a member, met with NYCHA's executive board to secure commitments to overcome these obstacles and improve living conditions for public housing residents. We are also working to improve transparency within the authority and to increase resident participation in major decisions. I will continue to work with all stakeholders as we fight to preserve public housing as a safe, decent and affordable option for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.

Convening a Forum for Harassed Tenants of Shalom Buildings

On September 23, I along with other elected officials and tenants advocacy organizations co-sponsored the Shalom Tenants Alliancefs (STA) City-wide tenant organizing meeting for tenants of buildings owned and managed by the notorious Shalom family, as well as for tenants of other landlords known for buying rent-regulated buildings, systematically dismantling required building services, and forcing out legal residents through harassment, intimidation, negligence, and deception. This meeting, which STA convened in response to a recent spike in complaints by Shalom tenants, enabled tenants with common experiences to connect with one another; organize their buildings; share the tools they need to combat their landlords' malicious tactics; and access assistance from me, other elected officials, and relevant state and local agencies.

We were joined by representatives from MFY Legal Services, Housing Court Answers, National Association of HUD Tenants, Rent Controlled Tenants Alliance, the New York City Police, Fire, Buildings, Sanitation, and Housing Preservation and Development departments, and the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, who answered questions from the audience. The Shalom family owns more than 100 buildings in New York City and I encourage those tenants who are experiencing problems to get active and fight for their rights. Please contact Belinda Cape in my office at (212) 633-8052 or the Shalom Tenants Alliance at (646) 506-9664 or for more information.

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