NEWS AND ISSUES


October 2011 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Receiving a Top Score for Protecting Our Environment

In October, the EPL/Environmental Advocates, the lobbying arm of Environmental Advocates of New York, issued its annual scorecard grading members of the New York State Legislature on their positions and votes on key legislation affecting New York's air, land, water, wildlife and public health. I am pleased to have received a 99, tied with Senators Bill Perkins, Gustavo Rivera and Jose Serrano for the highest score among members of the Legislature's upper house. By contrast, the average score for New York State Senators was a 70.

I will continue my work to pass legislation that will have a positive impact on our environment and it is my sincere hope that when next year's scorecard is issued, every one of my Senate colleagues will receive a similarly high mark. For more information about the EPL/Environmental Advocates scorecard or to read the entire report please visit www.eplvotersguide.org.

Marching November 7 in Solidarity with Occupy Wall Street

I encourage you to consider participating in END TO END FOR THE 99%, a November 7 solidarity march from Uptown Manhattan along Broadway to Zucotti Park, where we will join the Occupy Wall Street protest. The march is leaving 181st Street and St. Nicholas at 10:30 A.M. and is expected to pass through Verdi Square at 72nd Street and Broadway at approximately 1:30 P.M and Union Square at 14th Street and Broadway at approximately 3:30 P.M. People who live or work in those areas are encouraged to meet up and join the march there. Participants should feel free to march part of the way and take a bus or subway down to Zucotti Park at any point. The march has been organized by the Working Families Party, SEIU Local 32BJ, TWU Local 100, CWA, La Fuente NYCPP, United NY, local elected officials and more.

Opposing the FAA's Elimination of Airspace Safety Rules

I was outraged to read in the October 10, 2011 New York Post that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had eliminated important safety rules regarding airspace for helicopters and private planes without any public notification. That same day, I joined New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York State Assemblymember Dick Gottfried in submitting a letter to the FAA expressing our dismay over this backroom decision.

The rules that the FAA rolled back were put in place after a tragic accident in 2009 when a midair collision between a plane and a tourist helicopter cost nine people their lives. In the past, I have repeatedly called for a ban on all non-essential aircraft flights over New York City, particularly those operated by the tourist industry.

In our letter, we urged the FAA to immediately suspend its decision to allow helicopters and private planes to share airspace over the Hudson River and open the matter for public comment and input. Of course, the tourist industry is important to New York City, but the FAA must not endanger tourists' or residents' lives.

Ensuring Oversight of NS-LIJ's Proposed Freestanding Emergency Department

In October, I spearheaded a letter signed by New York State Assembly Members Deborah Glick and Dick Gottfried, U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to New York State Department of Health ("DOH") Commissioner Nirav Shah regarding North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System's ("NS-LIJ") proposed Center for Comprehensive Care ("The Center"), which is to be located at the former St. Vincent's O'Toole Pavilion.

We expressed our appreciation to DOH's Public Health and Health Planning Council for the careful consideration it gave to our September 22, 2011 testimony regarding the facility's Certificate of Need ("CON") application and requested that, as a condition of the CON, The Center's freestanding Emergency Department be evaluated on a routine basis to ensure that its patients' short- and long-term health outcomes are equal to, or better than, those at full service general hospital Emergency Departments. We also urged DOH to monitor the provision of services at The Center to ensure that NS-LIJ, in the tradition of St. Vincent's before it, is indeed accepting all patients and providing a single standard of care, regardless of ability to pay.

While I will continue to strongly advocate for the reestablishment of a full service hospital on Manhattan's Lower West Side, I look forward to working with NS-LIJ, DOH, my colleagues in government and other stakeholders to ensure that The Center is a valuable addition to the Lower West Side's health care infrastructure.

Continuing to Seek Improvements on the M15 Select Bus Service

My office continues to follow up with MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) and the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to address ongoing concerns about implementation of the M15 Select Bus Service (SBS), which runs along First and Second Avenues. As you may recall, in July, my office conducted a study of the M15 SBS that found peeling, obstructed or missing instructional signage at many SBS stops. Such instructions are vitally important, since riders who do not purchase a ticket before boarding are subject to a $100 fine. Last month I released a follow-up analysis demonstrating that this problem had only worsened in recent months. I am pleased to report that the agencies have pledged to install new signage made of a more durable material with stronger adhesive on the kiosks on the M15 as well as on other SBS routes – including the forthcoming M34 and M34A SBS. I will continue to monitor their efforts.

Please continue to report your concerns about the M15 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.

Welcoming the Port Authority's New Executive Director

On October 31, I wrote to Pat Foye, who was recently named Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority), to congratulate him on his appointment and brief him on several local issues within the Port Authority's purview that I believe are particularly important.

At the top of my list of priorities is the construction of a bus parking and storage facility in Clinton/Hell's Kitchen. I was dismayed by recent news stories which stated the Port Authority does not have sufficient funding for such a bus garage. While I am very aware of the tight budgets and deficits faced by all agencies at every level of government, I stressed to Mr. Foye the urgent need for such a facility, which would improve public health, pedestrian safety, business efficiency and profitability, and resident and bus driver quality-of life.

I also brought to Mr. Foye's attention two unused Port Authority-owned lots that I have been working to make publicly accessible. One lot is a prospective play space next to the Clinton School for Writers and Artists on West 33rd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, which has no outdoor recreational space. The other is a prospective community garden, known by neighbors as Alice's Garden, between 33rd and 34th Streets, and 9th and 10th Avenues. In both cases, I have helped facilitate productive negotiations with the Port Authority but formal agreements are still pending.

Finally, I acknowledged that the Moynihan Station Development Corporation will most likely be placed under the direction of the Port Authority and urged Mr. Foye to continue to strongly advocate for this project so that its potential is realized.

I worked very productively with Mr. Foye when he was downstate chair of the Empire State Development Corporation and look forward to continuing to work with him in his new capacity.

Hailing a Victory for Accountability and Transparency in Public Housing

As a founding member of the New York City Alliance to Preserve Public Housing (NYCAPPH), a coalition of public housing residents, advocates and elected officials, I am very pleased that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued a directive to public housing authorities establishing standards of public engagement and transparency for certain major land use actions. Specifically, the directive requires all demolition and disposition proposals authorized under Section 18 of the Housing Act of 1937 that are not presented in housing authorities' Annual Plans to be designated as Significant Amendments and therefore subject to a robust public review process. Up until now, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has exercised total discretion with respect to the criteria and definition of Significant Amendments and made enormously consequential decisions about the sale or demolition of NYCHA properties without a formal stakeholder input process. I along with the other members of NYCAPPH have fought for such actions to be considered Significant Amendments for many years and I applaud HUD for heeding our call.

Addressing Air Quality Conditions on West 45th Street

After receiving complaints for several years from residents on West 45th Street regarding an intermittent, horrible odor they believed emanated from a nearby building, I coordinated a multi-agency inspection in an effort to determine the odor's cause. Previous inspections of the suspect building by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had failed to identify a problem, but neighbors had compiled considerable evidence that the boiler was to blame. At the site visit that I coordinated, DEP was joined by representatives from the New York City Department of Buildings, the New York City Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement, the Fire Department of New York, Consolidated Edison and community-based tenant advocacy organization Housing Conservation Coordinators. I am happy to report that by working together, the inspectors did indeed pinpoint a problem with the building's boiler, which the landlord has sought to remedy. I am grateful for the assistance of all of the agencies and am pleased that the residents of West 45th Street are now breathing healthier, cleaner air.

Assisting Seniors With Medicare Open Enrollment

If you are a senior citizen or recipient of Social Security Disability eligible for Medicare, you should know that the Open Enrollment Period for switching from Medicare Advantage to traditional Medicare, switching to or changing a Medicare Advantage plan, and/or joining or changing a Prescription Drug (Part D) plan began on October 15 and will end on December 7. It is particularly important that those who participate in New York State's Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) explore their options, as they will likely be affected by recent changes in the program. As of January 2012, EPIC requires enrollment in a Part D plan and only covers prescription costs once participants have reached their Part D coverage gap (donut hole). Fortunately, members of my staff have been trained to assist seniors during the Medicare open enrollment period and can help you choose the plan that is best and most cost-efficient for you. If you need assistance in switching or choosing a Medicare plan, I encourage you to contact Stanley Panesoff in my office at (212) 633-8052.


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