August-September 2010 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Albany Update:

State Budget Report:

On August 3, the 2010-2011 New York State budget was finally completed when the State Legislature returned to Albany to vote on a revenue package. The rest of the State Budget, including substantial across-the-board cuts, had been finalized on June 28.

I am pleased that the revenue bill included language which will end prison-based gerrymandering in New York State. In 2011, when New Yorkfs state and local legislative districts are redrawn, incarcerated New Yorkers will be counted as residents of their home communities. Up until this time, inmates have been counted as a part of the communities in which they were imprisoned. The new law will empower communities which have for years been underfunded and underrepresented due to an immoderate amount of its residents being sent to prison.

I am disappointed that a revenue proposal for which I advocated, an excise tax on manufacturers of sugar-sweetened beverages, was not enacted. As the Chair of the Senate Health Committee, I strongly supported this proposal. Not only would it have produced millions of dollars for the State, but more importantly it would also have provided an incentive for New Yorkers to choose healthier drinks.

In addition to approving the revenue plan, the Legislature also voted on a contingency plan, including further harsh across-the-board cuts in anticipation of not receiving over $1 billion in promised Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) funding from the Federal government. Fortunately, Congress ultimately approved the FMAP appropriations. New York is now expected to receive over $800 million this fiscal year with more to follow in the next fiscal year, reducing the severity of the cuts enacted in the contingency plan.

Complete details of New York Statefs Fiscal Year 2010-2011 Enacted Budget are available at

Making a Step Forward in the Fight Against Fracking

Also on August 3, the New York State Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation which I co-sponsored (S8129B) that provides for a suspension until May 15, 2011 of the issuance of new permits for hydraulic fracturing, or ghydrofracking.h For more than two years, I have worked with environmental and community advocates and other elected officials to raise awareness about the dangers of high-volume hydraulic fracturing and the environmental catastrophes that have been associated with it throughout the nation. By passing this legislation, we have sent a message that New York must not allow the short-sighted pursuit of financial gains at the expense of our clean water and safe communities. However, I will continue the fight to prohibit hydrofracking throughout the State until and unless the technology improves to a point that it no longer poses a threat to our health and natural resources.

Celebrating the Enactment of the Dignity for All Students Act

On September 8, Governor David A. Paterson signed into law my bill, the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), to protect the entire school family in every public school across the state. The legislation also specifically protects all students, including those of transgendered experience, from being bulled in schools. DASA was one of the first bills I introduced in the State Senate and I am thrilled that for the first time protections for New Yorkfs transgendered community are enshrined in State law. Please see Chelsea Now's coverage of the bill signing at

Groundbreaking Palliative Care Bill Signed into Law

Please see New York Times Personal Health columnist Jane E. Brody's August 24, 2010 column entitled "Frank Talk About Care at Life's End." It addresses the imperative for health care professionals to discuss end of life care options with terminally ill patients, and cites my and New York State Assembly Member Dick Gottfried's Palliative Care Information Act, which was signed into law by Governor Paterson. This new law, which requires physicians and nurse practitioners to offer information and counseling on what options exist for treatment, the risks and benefits of those treatments, and information about pain management, will help ensure that patients with terminal conditions understand and control their care decisions and do not suffer pain needlessly.

Holding a Public Hearing on Tobacco-Related Policy Issues

The New York State Senate Standing Committee on Health, which I Chair, will hold a public hearing concerning the ban on indoor smoking and other tobacco-related policy issues on Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 10:00 A.M. in the Senate Hearing Room on the 19th floor of 250 Broadway in Manhattan.

Numerous bills before the Senate Standing Committee on Health seek to expand the ban on smoking in regard to secondhand smoke as well as to regulate the access to and types of tobacco products available in the State. The Senate did not conduct a public hearing prior to voting on the 2003 amendments to New York Statefs Clean Indoor Air Act and before we consider additional legislation, or encourage changes in current regulation, it is important to hear from all stakeholders. This hearing will consider bills before the Health Committee and examine how current smoking laws at the State and local levels have been implemented and enforced.

While the public is invited to attend the hearing, testimony is by invitation only. Please see the hearing notice and/or view the hearing via live-streamhere.

Echoing Community Concerns Regarding the Proposed Riverside Center

On September 15, I submitted testimony at the New York City Planning Commissionfs (CPC) hearing on the proposed Riverside Center development, which will occupy Riverside Southfs final parcels from West 59th to West 61st Streets between West End Avenue and Riverside Boulevard. Manhattan Community Board 7 (CB7) had previously issued thoughtful and persuasive formal comments—the result of countless public meetings and Board members' meticulous review of the proposal's impacts as well as potential mitigations and community needs. I echoed many of CB7 and the wider Upper West Side community's concerns in my testimony, which concluded that while Riverside Center has the potential to be a great asset to the Upper West Side and to benefit to the entire community, the current proposal fails to meet this potential.

Supporting the Rezoning of the East Village's Third Avenue Corridor

On August 25, I was pleased to submit testimony in support of the New York City Planning Commissionfs (CPC) proposed Third Avenue Corridor rezoning. I, as well as many stakeholders and other elected officials, had called for the Third Avenue Corridor's inclusion in the East Village/Lower East Side rezoning enacted in 2008, and have continued to advocate for its independent consideration. The plan, which covers approximately four blocks generally bounded by East 9th and 13th Streets and Third and Fourth Avenues, as well as the east side of Third Avenue between 9th and 13th Streets, is designed protect this area from rampant and inappropriate overdevelopment and to foster the creation of affordable housing.

Seeking a More Appropriate Development at 31-35 West 15th Street

Over the past several years I and my office have been closely monitoring plans to redevelop 31-35 West 15th Street. I worked with many area residents when a hotel was proposed for this site in 2008 and am similarly engaged now that an expansion of Xavier High School with a 30 story residential tower has raised new concerns. My office has been working closely with affected residents and has been participating in meetings with them as well as representatives of Xavier High School, the property's developer, CB5 and other local elected officials, especially at the city level.

Monitoring Conditions at the Bellevue Homeless Shelter

My office reached out to the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) this summer to underscore community concerns regarding the DHS intake center and single men's shelter at the former Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital. I am pleased that DHS and CB6 have convened a Community Advisory Board, of which my office is a part, to address safety and security issues, sanitation and general upkeep of the shelter and the surrounding area, as well as the welfare of shelter residents. It is my hope that this Advisory Board will improve both communication between DHS and the community as well as improve conditions in and around the shelter.

Co-hosting a Seminar to Help Caregivers Prevent Burnout

New York State Assembly Member Gottfried and I invite caregivers to participate in a free Caregiver Support Workshop intended to help those who are caring for an elderly or disabled family member or friend to cope with the pressure and stress involved. Presented by experts from the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the seminar will provide advice on proper caregiving and techniques for reducing the stress and strain of caring for loved ones at home. The seminar will take place on Sunday, September 26, 12:00-4:00 pm, at Beth Israel Medical Center, 10 Union Square East. Please download the a .pdf of the flyer here for details.

Sponsoring the West Side Tenants' Conference

I am proud to be a sponsor of the Sixth Annual West Side Tenantsf Conference, to be held on Saturday, September 25 from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. at Fordham Law School (140 West 62nd Street). All tenants and their advocates are welcome and breakfast and lunch will be provided. Workshops will include: How to Find Affordable Housing, How to Lobby Effectively for Change, Avoiding/Dealing with Bedbugs, and many more! Please click here for more information.

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