NEWS AND ISSUES


December 2007 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Urging Harsher Penalties for Operators of "Illegal Hotels":

On December 3, I submitted testimony before the New York City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings urging the passage of Introduction 534, legislation that would boost fines for illegal conversions of apartments within residential buildings into transient hotel rooms. Please see my testimony on this much-needed bill sponsored by City Council Members Gale Brewer, Dan Gardonick, and Rosie Mendez.

Continuing the Fight for Sentencing Reform:

Please see the testimony I submitted on November 15 to the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform on the urgent need for sentencing reform, and especially the need to repeal the unfair and draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. From 2002-2006, I was the Ranking Minority Member of the New York State Senate Codes Committee, which deals directly with the issue of criminal sentencing reform, and this is an issue about which I have particularly strong views.

Working to Improve the Ninth Avenue Sheltered Bike Lane:

Since the implementation earlier this fall of the sheltered bike lane on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea, I, along with other local elected officials and CB4, have been working with the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to address serious concerns I have and that have been brought to our attention by local businesses, residents and the Council of Chelsea Block Associations. We have conducted a walk-through of the bike lane with DOT officials and suggested changes to help relieve traffic congestion, protect pedestrian and bicyclist safety, and address businesses' concerns. My office also compiled a list of businesses along Ninth Avenue, and CB4 invited them to a meeting on November 16 with DOT to discuss ways to lessen the negative impact the bike lane is having on them. CB4's Transportation Committee is researching creative parking regulation changes that will hopefully alleviate both business concerns and traffic congestion. I encourage residents and business owners to contact their elected officials, CB4, and DOT with specific concerns so that they may be addressed.

Commenting on the Draft Scope for the Expanded Moynihan Redevelopment Project:

Last fall, the draft scoping document for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement was released by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the State entity overseeing the project. ESDC has been working diligently with the New York City Department of City Planning and the project's developers, in creating a comprehensive, expanded Moynihan Station project. The scoping document outlines the project as well as details the work that will be done to study its proposed impacts on the surrounding neighborhood. This is necessary to identify mitigating measures to counterbalance any negative effects of the plan. The scoping document can be found online at www.empire.state.ny.us/default.asp.

Briefly, the project involves tearing down the existing Madison Square Garden and building its replacement in the Western end of the Farley Post Office. The Eastern end of Farley will have a new, grand train station called Moynihan Station West. Penn Station as we know it would be demolished and replaced with a new Moynihan Station East that would be larger, more accessible, and open to the sky. There is a significant amount of development rights associated with the project that would either be used to build three large towers over the new Moynihan Station East or would be used to spur development throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. In either case, there would be significant development on the block to the North of Penn Station on both sides of the existing 1 Penn Plaza.

On December 6, I submitted my comments on the Draft Scope at a public scoping meeting. This was only the first in a series of opportunities for public input, and I will be letting you know as further opportunities for public review present themselves. Also, you may wish to download the press release announcing the Friends of Moynihan Stationfs Statement of Principles for the development of Moynihan Station, which is available at www.moynihanstation.org/newsite. The Friends of Moynihan Station is a coalition I belong to that includes preservation, construction and public planning advocacy groups and is dedicated to making Moynihan Station a reality of which we can all be proud.

Addressing Concerns about the Former Red Cross Site at 150 Amsterdam Avenue:

On November 19, I co-hosted a town hall meeting with Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and Councilmember Gale Brewer to discuss the development at 150 Amsterdam Ave, the former Red Cross building site. Representatives from the developer, Kalimian Partners, and the construction company, Bovis Lend Lease, attended to present their plans for the development and to listen to community concerns about their construction activities. Over 300 residents of the surrounding neighborhood representing more than 15 buildings participated and provided strong input.

Responding to the numerous complaints that we heard from constituents at the meeting, my colleagues and I are sending letters to Kalimian Partners and to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection requesting that steps be taken to mitigate the negative impacts of construction on quality of life. We are also urging the developer to incorporate recommendations that would boost the neighborhood's ability to sustain the completed development, such as allocating space within the planned building for public school purposes and affordable housing.

I promise that I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure actions are taken to limit the negative impacts of the construction and the ultimate development on our community. I will be sure to update all of you on our progress. If you have any additional concerns or questions that you would like me to address, please call David Chang in my office at (212) 633-8052.

Opposing East River Realty Corporationfs Current Proposal:

As part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer held a public hearing on Thursday, November 15 on the proposed development plan by East River Realty Corporation (ERRC) for the former Con Edison First Avenue Properties. I submitted testimony urging ERRC to incorporate more of CB6fs 197c plan, as it provides for primarily residential use and public open space as well as affordable housing and community facilities in a density that is in scale with the neighborhood I applaud Borough President Stringer for issuing a statement after the hearing disapproving many aspects of the current proposal and recommending that ERRC amend its proposal.

On Wednesday, December 5, the New York City Planning Commission (CPC) held its hearing on the ERRC proposal as well as on CB6's 197-a Plan. I testified in full support of CB6's 197-a plan, while I opposed ERRC's plan in its current form. Please see the December 9 Associated Press story about the proposed development, which cites my CPC testimony as well as that of New York City Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Jessica Lappin. I hope that given the resounding message from CB6, our elected representatives and our neighbors CPC will both enact CB6's 197-a Plan, and recommend that ERRC modify its plan to fit into the 197-a Plan and incorporate more of CB6's 197-c Plan.

Collaborating on the Proposed Fan Plant Around Mulry Square:

As you may know, MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) has narrowed down the possible fan plant sites for the Seventh and Eighth Avenue subway lines to a few options around Mulry Square. My office along with New York City Council Speaker Quinn, New York State Assemblymember Glick, Manhattan Borough President Stringer and U.S. Congressman Nadlerfs offices wrote a letter to NYCT requesting a meeting, including CB2, to discuss options that will minimize the project's adverse impacts.

Opposing Congregation Shearith Israelfs Application for Variances:

On November 27, I submitted testimony before the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) opposing Congregation Shearith Israelfs (CSI) application for seven zoning variances for its proposed building at 6-10 West 70th Street. Please see my testimony.

Envisioning Hudson Square:

I was pleased to view the "Envision Hudson Square" design charrette hosted by the Friends of Hudson Square on November 16th. A panel of five project teams was invited to provide their design and aesthetic guidance to develop a vision for this distinctive and still emerging neighborhood. I hope the creative proposals to protect community character and build green space that the project teams envisioned will guide us throughout any future development or redevelopment of this area.

Supporting the South Village Historic District

On December 10th, I was also pleased to be able to speak briefly at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservationfs South Village Town Hall in support of the designation of a South Village Historic District. The South Village is an area rich in architectural, cultural, and historic resources and I continue to urge the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to act quickly with a historic district designation to save the South Village's many remaining historic buildings from demolition.

Honoring Veterans on Veterans Day:

On Veterans Day, November 12, I joined Governor Spitzer and other elected officials in honoring our veterans at the Manhattan VA Medical Center on First Avenue and 23rd Street, which we fought so hard in recent years to save from closure. During the visit, the Governor announced his appointment of Colonel (Retired) James D. McDonough, Jr. to serve as Director of the State Division of Veterans' Affairs (DVA). I congratulate Colonel McDonough and look forward to working with him in supporting our Veterans and increasing their awareness of available State benefits.

Supporting Our Unions:

There has been a recent flurry of activity by unions that are fighting to achieve fair and just contracts for their members, and I have been proud to stand with them. Unfortunately, many employers continue to ignore the needs of their workers, and some go so far as to engage in union-busting.

On several occasions during the recent Broadway stagehands strike, I joined members of Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees on the picket lines. I was pleased that on November 28, Local One and The League of American Theatres and Producers reached an agreement that included reasonable concessions by both sides and shows proper respect and compensation for the stagehands' contribution to Broadway theater. Please see my letter of support to Local One

I have also voiced my support for the striking members of the Writers Guild of America and rallied with SEIU 32BJ in its fight for better standards in the security industry, and for a fair contract for the 26,000 men and women who work in more than 2,000 commercial buildings in New York City. Attached also please find a letter I recently sent to Time Warner Inc. Chairman and CEO Richard Parsons urging that Time Warner Cable begin bargaining in good faith with Local 1126 of the Communications Workers of America, which represents cable technicians in Utica, who have been without a contract for more than a year.

It has always been my belief that a unionized workforce and a collective bargaining process are beneficial for both employers and employees. I will continue to work with my union brothers and sisters for safe conditions, fair compensation and benefits, job security and a stronger labor movement.


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