NEWS AND ISSUES


January 2011 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Serving on Governor Cuomo's Medicaid Redesign Task Force

On January 5, 2011, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order creating the Medicaid Redesign Team. New York's Medicaid program provides health insurance coverage to almost one in four New Yorkers, and costs over $52 billion per year. The Medicaid Redesign Team is charged with conducting a comprehensive review of the State's Medicaid program; making recommendations to the Governor by March 1, 2011 on potential Medicaid spending reductions in the State's Fiscal Year 2011-12 budget; and issuing a final report at the end of Fiscal Year 2011-2012 on additional short-term reforms and systemic changes to improve quality of care at lower cost.

While this will be incredibly difficult work, I was pleased to be named one of the team's 27 members, along with New York State Assembly Member Dick Gottfried and two Republican legislators, relevant experts from various state agencies, health care and insurance industry stakeholders, as well as one representative of Medicaid consumers. I would have hoped for more consumer representation; as always, I will speak out to ensure that the concerns New York's least powerful constituencies – which certainly include Medicaid consumers – are addressed.

Key areas on which I am focusing include:

  • Continuing the reform of Medicaid payment mechanisms to better reimburse primary and preventive care services, thus encouraging better management of health problems and reducing the chance they will develop into catastrophic illnesses.
  • Reducing health disparities among New York State's poor and minority populations by improving quality and performance of health care providers.
  • Expanding and strengthening "Medical Homes" to improve coordination among health professionals involved in a patient's care to achieve better health outcomes.
  • Maximizing federal funding provided by the new healthcare law (the Affordable Care Act of 2010) to support innovative ways to care for persons suffering with multiple illnesses, including those with behavioral health problems in addition to chronic physical health problems.

The Medicaid Redesign Team has been meeting regularly and has conducted regional public hearings across the State, including one in Manhattan on February 4, to solicit ideas from the public on ways to reduce costs and improve the quality of the Medicaid program. If you would like more information about the Governor's Medicaid Redesign Team or would like to share your suggestions, please visit http://governor.ny.gov/medicaidredesign. Of course you may also contact my office directly at (212) 633-8052.

Reiterating the Need for a Hospital on the Lower West Side of Manhattan

In light of the recent decision by the judge handling the St. Vincent's Hospital bankruptcy case to approve St. Vincent's retention of a real estate advisor, I joined New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and our other local elected officials in sending a strongly-worded letter to St. Vincent's Chief Restructuring Officer Mark Toney regarding the disposition of the properties. Since, regrettably, we have not heard from Mr. Toney, our primary contact with St. Vincent's, in quite some time, we reached out to him to reiterate the necessity of restoring a full acute care hospital and a 24-hour emergency room on Manhattan's Lower West Side.

Seeking Cost-Efficient Solutions to School Overcrowding

When the Archdiocese of New York announced on January 11 that 13 parish and archdiocesan schools in New York City will be closed at the end of the school year, I immediately sent a letter to New York City Department of Education Chancellor Cathie Black and School Construction Authority President Lorraine Grillo urging their agencies to assess whether any of those campuses could be used for public schools instead. Overcrowding has plagued many of our City's public schools for years, and leasing or purchasing buildings vacated by phased-out parochial schools could be a relatively cost-effective means to meet current space needs and accommodate our growing public school population. Please see my letter here.

Testifying in Support of the Clinton Commons Development at 533-543 West 52nd Street

On January 26, 2011, I submitted testimony to the New York City Planning Commission in support of the proposed Clinton Commons development on West 52nd Street. I applaud CB4's strong advocacy during the review process that compelled the developers to identify and adopt a mechanism that will preserve the development's affordability in the long-term. Clinton Commons' progressive cooperative housing structure will open the door to home ownership for countless generations of moderate and middle-income New Yorkers for whom there are currently few adequate housing options, and will help keep Clinton/Hell's Kitchen a diverse, dynamic and vibrant neighborhood. Please see my testimony here.

Opposing the Co-Location of a Charter Elementary School in Brandeis Campus

On January 25, I submitted testimony at a joint hearing of the New York City Department of Education (DOE), the Community School District 3 (D3) Community Education Council (CEC3) and school leadership teams strongly opposing the DOE's proposal to co-locate a new Success Academy Charter School (SACS) with five existing high schools within the Brandeis Campus (145 West 84 Street). I echoed the concerns of the D3 community that SACS would preclude the campus from accommodating much-needed additional high school seats; prove extremely disruptive to the building's existing schools; place elementary students at risk among older students; require costly retrofitting of the building for younger students and reduce individual schools' flexibility in moving, exchanging and sharing classrooms and cluster rooms – all while doing little or nothing to address elementary school overcrowding in the area. Please see my testimony here.

Urging the Port Authority to Reallocate ARC Funds Toward a New Bus Garage

Like Manhattan Community Board 4 (CB4), I have long advocated for a bus garage on Manhattan's West Side to house not only New Jersey Transit buses that use the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority Bus Terminal but also other commuter and charter vehicles that currently clog our streets. Similarly, I joined CB4 in strongly supporting the proposed Access to the Region's Core (ARC) Project, which would have provided new rail capacity to meet growing demand and encouraged more people to use commuter rail to cross the Hudson. Both of these projects would improve our environment, reduce congestion caused by excessive traffic, and increase our community's overall quality of life.

While I was disheartened by the recent demise of the ARC project, I recognize that there is still an opportunity to enhance public transportation between New Jersey and New York and lessen private automobile traffic on New York City streets if a portion of the funds dedicated to ARC could be reallocated to the much-needed and long-delayed bus garage project. On January 20, 2011, I wrote to Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) Executive Director Christopher Ward to urge him to promote this critical project as the Port Authority deliberates how ARC funds will be redistributed. Please see my letter here.

Making Progress in the Fight Against Truck Nuisances at Fairway Market

Since October 2010, my office has been aggressively addressing complaints regarding large delivery trucks idling, loading and unloading beside Fairway Market on West 74 Street during all hours of the day and night. Last month, my CB7 liaison Jared Chausow along with CB7 District Manager Penny Ryan organized a meeting between Fairway's management, the New York City Police Department's 20th Precinct and local elected officials to discuss neighbors' concerns and to negotiate mitigations. Fairway agreed to prohibit deliveries between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m., and to post notices and signs informing truck drivers of this rule. In addition, Fairway is diverting all cross-docking operations to the company's new warehouse in Harlem. The 20th Precinct pledged to more closely monitor delivery vehicles in the area and issue citations for parking and idling violations. I am optimistic that these mitigations will significantly improve neighbors' quality of life and I will continue to monitor Fairway and work with other community stakeholders to put an end to undue truck nuisances.

Addressing Business Owners' Concerns About the Columbus Avenue Redesign

In response to concerns expressed by a number of Columbus Avenue business owners about the New York City Department of Transportation's (DOT) Columbus Avenue street redesign, CB7, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and other local elected officials created the Columbus Avenue Working Group (CAWG) to advocate for modifications that would mitigate the redesign's unintended negative impacts on businesses. CAWG has surveyed affected businesses and met with DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione to discuss the survey's findings, and will be making formal recommendations and advocating for their implementation in the coming weeks. As you may recall, I supported the street redesign with the proviso that DOT pursue community consultation at the earliest stages of planning and consider the needs of all those potentially affected, including businesses, as well as residents, senior centers, non-profit organizations, uniformed services and others. Working with CAWG, I will help ensure that DOT honors its commitments. Traffic infrastructure improvements for pedestrians and cyclists should be designed to complement and not obstruct local businesses.

Ensuring Responsible Construction at 65 Fifth Avenue

The New School (TNS) recently finished the nearly year-long demolition of its Albert List Academic Center at 65 Fifth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets and has started construction of its new building at the site, on which it plans to conduct Saturday construction. Unfortunately, towards the end of the demolition process, area residents reported noisy weekend work, despite the fact that TNS representatives had previously stated they did not expect to conduct such work on Saturdays. Given the university's recent poor construction management and disregard for local residents' quality of life concerns, I joined New York City Councilmember Rosie Mendez and our other local elected officials in sending a letter to the New York City Department of Buildings requesting that TNS not be granted After Hours Work Permits for Saturday work more frequently than biweekly. We also requested that any weekend work be limited to less noisy and vibration-inducing activities such as cleaning or staging. While I understand that any construction will include some unavoidable nuisances, ensuring weekend work is as infrequent and unintrusive as possible should help make this project more manageable for the community.

Celebrating a Victory in the Effort to Protect New York City's Vulnerable Waterfronts

As you may recall, in late 2010, I was joined by New York State Assembly Member Dick Gottfried in submitting testimony to the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force ("the Task Force"), which had issued a draft report assessing impacts of impending sea level rise on the state's coastlines and recommending protective and adaptive measures. We expressed concern that the draft omitted specific recommendations to prevent flooding in New York City, much of which differs significantly from other parts of the state. We urged the Task Force to clearly state in its final report the need for immediate, extensive study of the benefits and drawbacks of storm-surge barriers to protect those parts of the City where established human and infrastructure density and hard shorelines require unique preventive solutions.

I am pleased that the Task Force's final report (which can be found here) was amended to recognize the exceptional measures that may be necessary to protect New York City's coastal infrastructure and communities. I thank Manhattan Community Board Four member Robert Trentlyon for his steadfast attention to this crucial threat and will continue to work with him and other stakeholders to ensure that New York protects our vulnerable waterfronts.


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