NEWS AND ISSUES


June 2007 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Albany Update:

As we enter the waning weeks of the 2007 Legislative Session, the Governor, the Senate and Assembly have been meeting in six-way (Governor, Lt. Governor, Senate Minority and Majority Leaders, Assembly Speaker and Assembly Minority Leader) negotiations on a host of issues.

In the past few weeks the Senate Republicans have passed a series of one-house bills with the intention of having conference committees with the Assembly to hammer out differences between the houses.

I am pleased to announce that there has been an agreement on human trafficking legislation. Under this legislation there will now be tougher criminal punishments to deter and punish individuals who engage in human trafficking, sex tourism, and those who knowingly patronize trafficking victims for prostitution. The bill also provides for necessary services to the victims of human trafficking. Many victims of human trafficking are forced to work for long hours, for virtually no pay and oftentimes are beaten and tortured.

I voted against a bill which would have restored the death penalty to those who kill police officers. While I believe those who kill police officers deserve harsh punishment, I am morally and ethically opposed to the death penalty and spoke out against the death penalty on the floor of the New York State Senate. While this bill passed the Senate, the Assembly has indicated that they will not pass the legislation.

I voted for the Senate version of the Healthy Schools Act -- which will ban unhealthy food from school property and replace it with nutritional and healthy substitutes. My only concern about the legislation is that it allows for charities to sell candy and other non-nutritional items on school property for fundraising purposes -- which I believe is counterproductive to the intent of the bill. I am confident that this problem will be hammered out in the Senate/Assembly Conference Committee.

I voted against the Senate version of the expansion of the DNA database. While DNA has proven to be an incredible tool for convicting and exonerating persons for crimes, I believe the DNA database expansion is expanding too quickly -- and that we need time to train and develop systems to keep track of the DNA we are collecting. DNA can be both a blessing and a curse. Attached is a letter I wrote to Governor Spitzer on the subject.

At the end of May, I introduced the same-sex civil marriage bill, S.5994, which will insure that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community has the right to civilly marry under the law. Last month, Governor Eliot Spitzer, in an act of political courage and integrity, kept his promise to the LGBT community by introducing a program bill which, if enacted, will grant the right of civil marriage to all New Yorkers. Please see attached my press release announcing my billfs introduction and its strong support from my Democratic colleagues.

The final weeks of Session will be the litmus test to determine whether or not many key issues facing the State of New York will be agreed upon, including campaign finance reform, public authority control reform, the siting of power plants under article 10, a rating system on the sale and distribution of violent video games to minors and a whole host of other issues. Next month, I will fill you in on what we accomplished.

Safeguarding Students and Families from Deceptive Student Lending Practices:

On Friday, June 8th, I joined New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and other State lawmakers in briefing graduating seniors at Stuyvesant High School about the gStudent Lending Accountability, Transparency, and Enforcement (SLATE) Act of 2007.h Signed into law on May 29th, the SLATE Act provides rights and protections to safeguard students and families from deceptive practices in the $85 billion college loan industry. Pocket-sized Student Bill of Rights and Smart Tip sheets including the top-ten questions to ask schools and student loan lenders before borrowing were distributed at the event.

As I said at the briefing, gAttorney General Cuomo has done an extraordinary service in exposing these disgraceful student lending practices and in spurring the Legislature to take up and unanimously pass the SLATE Act. Since our students and their families face a college loan industry fraught with deceptive practices and conflicts of interest, it is critically important that we are arming them with the information that they need to protect themselves.h

To download a copy of the Student Bill of Rights and smart tip sheet, please visit www.oag.state.ny.us or contact my office at (212) 633-8052 to request a hard copy.

Participating in The East River Charrette:

This past Sunday, June 10th, I joined many of you at a presentation that showcased a vision for the Midtown East Waterfront. The event was the culmination of a charrette, or collaborative design process, which involved six of the worldfs leading landscape architects and was based in part on input and ideas from the public. I want to congratulate Council Member Garodnick, Community Board 6, and the Municipal Arts Society for spearheading this effort to envision a continuous green space from 34th to 63rd Streets along the East River. With all the projects in this area that are currently underway, I encourage the City to embrace this model for comprehensive and cohesive planning, including input from community leaders, residents and elected officials.

Supporting CB6fs 197c Plan:

Each year, an allocation is set in the state budget for legislators to give money to non-profit organizations that they deem worthy of receiving specific gmember itemh money. I am very pleased that Community Board 6 was among the worthy groups for which I was able to provide funding this fiscal year. Although, as a member of the Senator's Minority conference, my allocation was modest, I was able to direct $1,000 through New York Statefs Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for CB6fs 197c zoning proposal for the former Con Edison Waterside Properties. I look forward to continuing to work with CB6 to see this plan become a reality.

Fifth Avenue Stop on the M23 Restored!:

Last month, I reported that I had asked MTA New York City Transit (NYC Transit) to reexamine its decision to remove the Fifth Avenue stops on the 23rd Street Crosstown (M23) bus route. Many of my constituents noted that eliminating the stops forced them to travel a great distance and often traverse a wide, complicated, double intersection at the Broadway gbowtieh to get from the more distant stops to their destinations. As a result of my efforts, as well as those of New York City Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez, NYC Transit agreed to restore the stops! I thank NYC Transit for its rapid response and for making the right decision for the users of the M23, most especially the disabled and the elderly.

Responding to the Cityfs Rejection of Heritage of Pridefs PRIDEfest in Chelsea:

As many of you are probably aware, the Mayorfs Street Activity Permit Office decided to consider Heritage of Pridefs (HOP) proposed PRIDEfest in Chelsea at the end of the month a new street fair, and has therefore denied its application, despite CB4fs unanimous support. I joined Congress Member Nadler and Assembly Member Gottfried in sending a letter to the Mayor asking him to reconsider the decision.

Updating Seniors on Changes to New York Statefs EPIC Drug Coverage Program:

If you are enrolled in New York Statefs Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) Program, you should have recently received a letter from EPICfs Director notifying you of some recent changes in the programfs rules. As mandated by the New York State budget passed in April, starting on July 1, 2007, most EPIC enrollees will be required to join a Medicare Part D drug plan. Fortunately, EPIC professionals and Medicare advocates are making this new requirement easy to comply with and advantageous for EPIC participants. Please go to www.medicarerights.org/EPIC_Part_D.pdf for more information from the Medicare Rights Center, and feel free to call EPIC at (800) 332-3742, the Medicare Rights Center at (800) 332-4114, or my office at (212) 633-8052.

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