NEWS AND ISSUES
April 2012 Community Report
The following is a summary of some of my office's activities since my last community report:
Urging Action on the 2012 Campaign Finance Reform Act
On May 1, I joined my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Conference and good government groups at a press conference urging action on the 2012 Campaign Finance Reform Act (S.3584B), which would provide a comprehensive yet balanced approach to the public financing of political campaigns in New York State. Specifically, the bill would move to strike a balance that allows challengers and incumbents to compete fairly while capping the amount of public funds that will be expended.
It is very fashionable these days to claim Albany is no longer dysfunctional, but this could not be further from the truth. The pay to play culture in the State Legislature is rampant and ensures that well-financed special interests and high-paid lobbyists succeed in passing or killing legislation while the poor and disenfranchised cannot afford the tools to fight back. That is the epitome of dysfunction. Sadly, moral, decent, and ethical arguments are not enough to persuade legislators to stop injustice and do what is fair and righteous. Campaign Finance Reform would go a very long way towards leveling the playing field. This is democracy. I urge Governor Cuomo to make this legislation a priority and I urge both parties and both legislative bodies to pass it immediately. Please see NY1's coverage of the press conference here.
Continuing the Fight Against NYU 2031
On April 20, I joined New York State Assembly Member Deborah Glick, Manhattan Community Board 2, Community Action Alliance on NYU 2031, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, along with many other groups and hundreds of community members in another rally against NYU's 2031 plan which is still slated to add nearly two million square feet of campus space on its two superblocks south of Washington Square Park.
Five days later, I delivered strong testimony in opposition to the plan before the New York City Planning Commission. I was gratified by the tremendous turnout at the hearing by Greenwich Village residents and advocates who demonstrated for the Commissioners the depth of our community's opposition to this plan. Please see my testimony here.
Testifying in Support of UWS Enhanced Commercial Districts
On April 11, I submitted testimony to the New York City Planning Commission (CPC) in support of the special Upper West Side retail district CPC proposed to help preserve the neighborhood's retail diversity and to promote active streetscapes and retail character, as well as to support existing and future small businesses. As I stated in my testimony, I believe that this rezoning, which includes two new Enhanced Commercial Districts and a zoning map amendment, would preserve the many traditional multi-store blocks that remain in the neighborhood and discourage artificial vacancies without imposing an undue burden on property owners and large stores. This sensible proposal would provide measurable benefits for residents, workers and visitors on the Upper West Side. Please see my testimony here.
Opposing Co-location of Success Charter Network in District 2 Schools
On May 1, I sent a letter to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute and the New York State Board of Regents supporting the District 2 Community Education Council (CEC2) resolution urging them to reject Success Charter Network's application to operate two new charter schools in existing public school buildings in Community School District (D2). The letter was also read into the record at a hearing on the application held last night by the New York City Department of Education. As I wrote, I strongly believe that any available space in the district should be used to combat overcrowding and high class sizes or to accommodate the growth of existing high-performing public schools. I will continue to fight alongside CEC2 and the wider D2 community to ensure that charter schools do not take precedence over – or resources from – our traditional public schools.
Ensuring that Pub Crawls Comply with State Liquor Laws
Just ahead of St. Patrick's Day, Manhattan Community Board 6 (CB6) Chair Mark Thompson made my office aware of a three-day, holiday-themed pub crawl being promoted by the website www.pubcrawls.com. He raised concerns that the event, through which more than a dozen bars offered participants reduced-price drinks, would promote unsafe drinking and encourage drunken crowds to traverse our streets. He also sent me a copy of CB6's recently-passed resolution on pub crawls asking appropriate City and State agencies and elected officials to help put an end to these disruptive events.
I immediately faxed a letter to the chair of the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA), requesting an advisory opinion on any rules, regulations and laws that apply to the St. Patrick's Day pub crawl as well as the offers that appear on the www.pubcrawls.com website in general. Following my inquiry, the SLA reported that it sent investigators to each of the licensed premises advertising specials for the St. Patrick's Day pub crawl. According to the SLA, its investigators reminded licensees of their obligations under the law, including prohibiting sales to minors, sales to intoxicated people, and offering drinks for less than half their usual price. The SLA said several of the restaurants and bars withdrew their participation entirely, while others revised their specials to conform with the law. In addition, the SLA reported that the www.pubcrawls.com website removed the prices on all of its advertisements.This was another example of my office working with the SLA to proactively protect the public's health, safety and quality of life. I wish to offer special thanks to SLA Chair Dennis Rosen and Deputy Chief Executive Officer Michael Jones for their swift and effective action and to express my appreciation for the work the SLA does every day to serve our state, its residents and its businesses. And I especially wish to commend Mark Thompson and CB6 for directing attention to the pub crawl problem.
Honoring Earth Day with Future Green Leaders
On April 23, I joined Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, the United Federation of Teachers, the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, GrowNYC and the Green Schools Alliance in honoring Earth Day in a ceremony at Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day school, located in my district on Second Avenue and 14 Street. In addition to highlighting the general message of Earth Day, the event marked the accomplishments of the winners of two innovative green initiatives: the Green Cup Challenge – a competition between 102 schools to reduce electricity usage – and Recycling Champions – a competition to maximize recycling of total school wastes. The leading schools in the Green Cup Challenge reduced an average of 34% of their electricity usage; the Recycling Champions recycled 47% of their wastes. As interactive learning experiences, these efforts to reduce school-wide electricity usage and augment schools' recycling programs will yield lasting results for the future custodianship of the Earth. I encourage all schools – public, private and parochial – to study the successes of the winning schools and strive to emulate them. Our precious natural resources depend on it.
Compelling Megabus to Engage in Better Practices and Provide a Dedicated Complaint Line
On April 23, I met with representatives from Megabus to discuss the various quality of life issues caused by the low-cost, inter-city bus service that I have been observing personally and hearing about from constituents for years. I relayed my concerns regarding bus idling, problems with loading and unloading on residential streets, and sidewalk obstruction. I urged Megabus to create flyers with information both for drivers and for the queue directors to instruct them on best practices. I also requested that Megabus provide a specific complaint phone number so that individuals can report grievances directly to the company. The Megabus complaint-line number is 888-970-7233. In addition, I encourage constituents to report complaints to 311 and my office after they have lodged them with the company so that we may follow up. If you have any questions or further concerns, please call Sarah Meier-Zimbler in my office at 212-633-8052.