February 2011 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Albany Update

The 2011 Legislative Session is underway and it promises to be very painful and difficult as New York State faces a projected $10 billion deficit. On February 2, Governor Cuomo presented his Executive Budget – which laid out a plan to cut the deficit without the creation of new taxes or borrowing.

The Legislature is now in the process of holding public hearings to determine the feasibility of the Governor's budget. While it is essential that New York State be fiscally responsible during these tough times, I will continue the fight to protect essential programs and services vital to our community. When we make cuts, we must do so wisely. Making generic, across-the-board cuts without determining the negative impact and consequences is penny-wise and pound foolish. I will continue to update you in detail as the budget process moves forward in Albany.

As a result of the 2010 elections, the Republicans now have a one-seat majority in the New York State Senate. While this is a discouraging setback in the advancement of our progressive priorities, it is not a death knell. I have served for over a decade in the State Senate and my experience has taught me that progressive legislation, with hard work and determination, can and will pass in a Republican controlled Senate – but we must never let up.

Sadly, in spite of the serious work that needs to happen in the State Senate, the Senate Republicans have spent the past few weeks laser-focused on gutting the Senate rules to remove openness and transparency – at one point attempting to force a vote on the new rules with only a few hours notice. Worse still, the Republicans enacted a rule which would strip the Lieutenant Governor, Robert Duffy, of the ability to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. It is very clear to me that this is unconstitutional and unenforceable. If this rule remains in place it will eventually lead to time-consuming and costly litigation.

The Senate does not have time to play petty partisan games. I will devote my time in the Senate to working on crucial issues including renewing rent regulations and strengthening tenant protections, extending marriage equality to all New Yorkers, safeguarding reproductive health rights, protecting transgender people from discrimination and expanding access to high-quality, affordable health care.

Seeking to Fix New Yorkfs Broken Juvenile Justice System

New Yorkfs juvenile justice system is broken and in urgent need of comprehensive reform. Our state has failed in its mission to protect its at-risk youth. Poor children who live in non-existent or dangerous living conditions more often than not find themselves trapped in a juvenile justice system that warehouses them with painful consequences. With poor mental health services, isolation, staff violence and geographic distance from loved ones, many youth leave the system deeply scared and likely to re-offend. Our children need help, not shackles.

On February 4, New York State Senate Democrats unveiled a series of juvenile justice reforms that build on sound proposals included in Governor Cuomofs Fiscal Year 2011-12 Executive Budget.

I have long been an outspoken advocate for our at-risk youth. It is crucially important that children in juvenile facilities are safe, receive the counseling and treatment they need and maintain contacts with their loved ones. I have once again introduced legislation which will insure that these youth will not be punished by depriving them of food, water, sleep, exercise, education, bedding, a daily shower, a toilet, medical services, reading material and contact with parents, guardians or attorneys.

Along with my legislation, the Senate Democratsf package includes:

  • Legislation to change the family court placement standard for residential placement to avoid unnecessary and costly placements of low-risk youth.
  • Increased staff and educational, mental health and substance abuse services at all juvenile justice facilities.
  • Increased staff training at all juvenile justice facilities.
  • Funding for privately-run residential placement outside of the foster care block grant.
  • A reduction in required notice prior to the closure of state-run juvenile justice facilities from 12 months to 90 days.
  • Independent juvenile justice oversight.

Although our work will never be finished, our juvenile justice package will go a long way toward creating a healthy, safe and just environment, making it possible for our children to receive the help they need, when they need it. The neglect and poor policies of the past can no longer be tolerated.

Continuing to Seek Improvements in the M15 Select Bus Service

Along with the East Sidefs other elected representatives, I continue to monitor and seek improvements in the M15 Select Bus Service (SBS) that debuted along First and Second Avenues last October.

Among the continuing problems that I have heard about following the informational session I hosted this past December is that ticket machines frequently jam or run out of paper and that these machines, which face the street, are too close to the curb. New York City Transit (NYCT) has assured me that it is taking steps to address these concerns. In particular, NYCT will be moving ticket machines on Second Avenue and 14th and 34th Streets, about which it has heard many complaints, slightly further from the curb. It is also developing software that will enable NYCT to track when machines have run low on paper so that agency crews may refill them as soon as they are empty. I will continue to follow up with NYCT on these commitments.

In the meantime, NYCT suggests that passengers notify the bus operator immediately if the ticket machine is out of order or out of paper. Passengers should also call NYCT at (718) 330-1234 and ask for a complaint number. If passengers board without a receipt because a machine is out of paper they do so at their own risk, but NYCT reports that members of the Eagle Team fare inspectors have been told they may use their discretion and let those passengers off to purchase a ticket at the next stop. If a fine is ultimately issued, the passenger may be able to have it reversed by referencing the complaint number given when he or she called NYCT to report the problem.

Please do continue to report your concerns about SBS to NYCT at (718) 330-1234 and pass along your complaint numbers to my office at (212) 633-8052 so that we may ensure that they are addressed.

Rallying to Save 35 Cooper Square

On January 28, I joined the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, the Historic Districts Council, as well as other preservation groups, community activists, and local elected officials in a rally next to 35 Cooper Square to protest the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission's (LPC) refusal to calendar this historic building for consideration as an individual landmark. I also sent a personal appeal to LPC Chair Robert Tierney urging the commission to reconsider its decision (please see my letter here). Tragically, the LPC declined to act and 35 Cooper Squarefs new owner has already begun demolition on the early 19th century Federal-style rowhouse.

In late February, I sent a letter to the propertyfs new owner echoing a recent request by the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors that he and his architects meet with representatives of the coalition of neighborhood and preservation advocates formed to save the building before he moves forward with further demolition.

Supporting Businesses Adversely Affected by the Closure of St. Vincentfs Hospital

On Saturday, February 12, I joined New York State Assembly Member Deborah Glick, U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler and the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce (GVCCC) in kicking off "Love the Village," a day-long shopping event that encouraged the public to shop and explore businesses hurt by the loss of St. Vincent's Hospital.

Participants were given a map of the area bounded by Greenwich Avenue and 14th Street from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue, with the names and addresses of small businesses. The first 100 shoppers who turned in receipts totaling at least $10 from three area businesses received a limited edition "Love the Village" t-shirt and all shoppers received one raffle ticket for every $10 worth of receipts presented. Multiple raffles were held throughout the day.

St. Vincent's hospital brought more than 3,500 employees and hundreds of visitors and ambulatory patients into the community every day, and its absence has left many local businesses struggling to survive. We must each do our part to keep our remaining small businesses as well as the character of our community alive. I applaud Assembly Member Glick and GVCCC for organizing the "Love the Village" event to remind us of our need to do so.

Helping Stein Senior Center Transition to a New Home

As you may be aware from accounts in our community newspapers, Stein Senior Centerfs lease at 340 East 24th Street is set to expire later this year. It is very important to me and your other local elected officials that the Center have a smooth and successful transition to a new home in the community. Toward that end, on February 4, I joined New York City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, representatives from the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA), and representatives of City Councilmember Dan Garodnick and New York State Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh in meeting with Steinfs leadership, its real estate consultants, attorney and architect to identify the challenges associated with the move and develop strategies for overcoming them. I pledge to continue to work with Stein, DFTA and my colleagues in government to ensure that our beloved senior center continues to serve our communityfs elderly for years to come.

valid xhtml1.0valid css