March 2007 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Albany Update

New York State's 2007 Legislative Session is in full swing. Recently the State Senate passed three major pieces of legislation: a bill strengthening the State's ethics and lobbying laws (S2876); a bill reforming the State's Worker's Compensation system (S3322), and a bill authorizing the civil confinement of certain sexual offenders (S3318).

I was proud to vote in favor of the well considered legislative ethics reform bill and overhaul of the Worker's Compensation system; however, along with seven of my Democratic colleagues, I voted against the civil confinement legislation. I understand that the latter vote is politically unpopular, but there is no question in my mind that it was the right thing to do.

As the March 4, 2007 New York Times page one story entitled "Doubts Rise as States Hold Sex Offenders After Prison" began: "The decision by New York to confine sex offenders beyond their prison terms places the state at the forefront of a growing national movement that is popular with politicians and voters. But such programs have almost never met a stated purpose of treating the worst criminals until they no longer pose a threat."

Indeed, I believe S3322 is not the solution to handling the problem of sex offenders in our communities. Among its many shortcomings is the fact that there are not enough trained experts in the area of sex offenses - including lawyers, social workers and law enforcement professionals - to handle the workload this bill will create. The way the bill is drafted, deadlines for probable cause hearings and the like can be missed with no consequences, leaving the person facing civil confinement detained in the meantime. And the claim is that this bill is designed for mental health treatment, not punishment, yet it allows those civilly confined to be placed in New York State Department of Corrections Services facilities.

Moreover, as the March 13, 2007 New York Times editorial opposing this legislation says, the cost of civil confinement is about four times more than it costs to keep an inmate in prison. New York Tax dollars could be put to better use improving the investigation, prosecution and supervision of sex offenders, and implementing specialized treatment programs for sex offenders while they are incarcerated. However, even with the passage of this civil confinement bill, I will continue to fight for more effective management and treatment of New York Statefs sexual offenders.

Protecting Tenantsf Rights at ST/PCV and Across the City

As many of you know, since Tishman Speyer bought Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village (ST/PCV) late last year, it has taken aggressive actions to identify alleged illegal tenants and evict violators of the rent stabilization regulations from the development. I am very concerned about the extremity of managementfs tactics and how they lend themselves to the intimidation and eviction of non-violators as well. My office has assisted a number of legal ST/PCV tenants who have been threatened with non-renewal of their leases, and will continue to work with the ST/PCV Tenants Association, Councilmember Dan Garodnick, Assemblymember Brian Kavanaugh and other tenant advocates to help ensure that legal tenants are protected and respected by management.

Non-primary residency challenges are just one of the battles we must fight to protect rent regulated apartments, not only at ST/PCV, but also across the City. Earlier this year, I introduced a bill in the State Senate (S1809) that requires landlords to grant access to an engineer or architect hired by tenants to inspect major capital improvements in multiple dwellings of six units or more. My intention is to level the playing field for tenants and make it more difficult for landlords to pass off neglect, maintenance and unnecessary projects as rent-boosting major capital improvements.

Among other legislation I have introduced this Session are S2312, which that provides that a child, regardless of age, who has lived with a tenant parent for two years or more in a rent-regulated apartment shall be deemed a tenant, and S1806, which requires tenants in housing court to be given certain information pertaining to their rights in bold print at the end of any petition for eviction. I also stand with many of my Senate Democratic colleagues in pushing to raise the threshold for rent deregulation beyond the current $2,000 mark and to eliminate of vacancy decontrol.

If you are a legal tenant who has been threatened with non-renewal of your lease or if you have any concern regarding your apartment, please don't hesitate to contact my office at (212) 633-8052.

Victory in the Fight to Preserve Affordable Housing For People With HIV/AIDS

As you may recall, in the waning days of the Pataki administration, the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) announced that it would force some of our Cityfs poorest residents with HIV/AIDS to pay more than half their income for rent, leaving them only $330 a month for all other expenses. I spoke out forcefully against this change and introduced legislation that would cap at 30% of household income the amount that New York City HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) clients living in supportive housing could pay towards shelter costs. While a federal court injunction temporarily stopped this cruel and short-sighted edict from taking effect, last week, at a New York AIDS Coalition lunch where I was being honored as "Legislator of the Year," Governor Spitzerfs new OTDA Commissioner David Hansell announced that the State was permanently abandoning the Pataki policy. Please see my press release praising the Spitzer administration for preserving affordable housing for some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers.

Organizing Against the Gansevoort Marine Transfer Station in the State Senate

Last month Mayor Bloomberg made his annual trip up to Albany to to lobby the State Legislature on behalf of the City. Among his requests was a legislative change to the Hudson River Park Act that would allow the New York City Department of Sanitation to build a marine transfer station on the Gansevoort Peninsula. At the time that the City's Solid Waste Management Plan was released last year, I informed the City that I would oppose any amendment to the Hudson River Park Act that would result in the alienation of this hard-fought-for and much-needed parkland. In light of the Mayor's formal request to the State, I sent a letter to my colleagues in the Senate to apprise them of my strong opposition. I am also contacting members of the Executive branch to do the same.

Urging Thoughtful Consideration of Heritage of Pride's Street Fair Application

Last fall, Heritage of Pride (HOP), the volunteer-managed, not-for-profit corporation that organizes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride (LGBT) events in New York City, approached my office to present its plans for reinvigorating its yearly street festival, PRIDEfest, by changing the date and moving it from the West Village to Chelsea. Determined to make PRIDEfest more than a post-Pride Parade activity for those finishing the parade route, HOP wanted to enlarge the festivalfs scope, bring in community, youth, senior and family programming, and make it a separate event entirely from the parade.

Because I know that Community Board 4 has long been struggling with the issue of its numerous multi-block street fairs, I suggested that HOP solicit feedback on its proposal from an extensive list of neighborhood groups and block associations (provided by my office) and amend its application accordingly. I was impressed not only by the thoroughness of its outreach, but also by the degree to which HOP engaged the community and listened to its concerns.

Some of the steps HOP has taken include:

  • to reduce noise concentration, there will be only one music stand and its decibel levels will be limited;
  • to combat traffic flow problems and increased numbers of people, HOP has pledged to work with the local police precinct to control the crowd and facilitate vehicular traffic, and is collaborating with Officer Thomas Verni, Citywide GLBT Community Liaison, to make sure there are additional officers for the event;
  • to confront the smoke problem, the number of food vendors that produce smoke will be reduced and those left will be concentrated at one end;
  • to combat poor vendor quality, HOP has taken responsibility for choosing each vendor, and is soliciting a mix of interesting and dynamic sellers;
  • and to lessen the overall impact on the neighborhood, HOP has also eliminated from its original proposal the use of four side streets, in addition to Eighth Avenue, due to community concerns.

As a result of its outreach and responsiveness to community groups, neighborhood businesses, and cultural organizations, HOP has increased PRIDEfest's list of neighborhood supporters and contributors to the point where I believe it will truly become a Chelsea institution. I think HOP is exactly the type of organization, with a quality message and a dedication to its community and ours, that deserves to use our streets, and I hope the Community Board will be supportive of its street fair application.

Fighting to Save our Supermarket on First Avenue and 20th Street

In mid-March, it came to my attention that Red Apple Group, Inc. is considering closing the Gristedes store at 355 First Avenue at 20th Street. I called John Catsimatidis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Red Apple Group and sent him a letter urging him to keep open this store that is vital to thousands of my constituents.

Hosting a Meeting for Chelsea Houses Tenants on the Section 8 Transition Program

On Thursday, March 15th at the Hudson Guild Elliott Center on West 26th Street, I presented an informational meeting on the Section 8 Voluntary Transition Program that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is offering the residents of its 21 City and State developments, including Chelsea Houses. If you or someone you care about lives in a NYCHA City or State development, please come hear about tenant's rights under the voluntary program, the pros and cons of participating, and what factors to consider in deciding whether to participate.

Opposing an Illegal Trump Development in Soho

Our community is currently facing an uncomfortable predicament: A developer-with whom many of us have negative associations-is preparing to build one of the most unsightly structures imaginable, right in the middle of our neighborhood. The building will be a condo-hotel, and the developer, Donald Trump and partners, can construct it as-of-right, according to many experts and officials. I continue to support the restrictive declaration currently under negotiation between the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) and the developer, which would ensure that the building operates as a transient hotel, as mandated by the area's zoning, because I still believe that is the best way we can protect our community and city-wide manufacturing districts in the long term.

However, recent events have called into question the developer's intent to operate legally: Advertisements have appeared which describe the building as residential-a use that would unquestionably violate the zoning. Other elected officials and I have contacted DOB and the developers to voice our concerns about this blatant disrespect for the zoning regulations. We emphasized that the restrictive declaration must guarantee DOB enforcement to ensure that the hotel is truly transient in nature, since the hotel's "best efforts" to regulate its own ads have fallen short. I also urge the City to swiftly implement appropriate changes to the zoning resolution, to ensure that this is the last time our community or any other in the City is faced with such a difficult, uncomfortable predicament.

Objecting to the Off-Track Betting Site Selection Committee's Vote

On February 16th, I joined other elected officials, community activists and neighborhood residents in submitting testimony before the Off-Track Betting (OTB) Site Selection Committee opposing the siting of an OTB Facility at 143 West 72nd Street. Please see attached a copy of my testimony.

Although I and a number of my colleagues offered to assist OTB in finding a more appropriate alternative site, and implored the OTB Site Selection Committee to provide us the opportunity to do so , the Committee nonetheless voted to approve the 143 West 72nd Street location. Given this unfortunate result, my office will continue to meet with Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, area residents and business owners to strategize ways to ensure the responsible operations of the new OTB facility. I am optimistic that with our concerted and united efforts, we will be able to establish a dialog with the OTB operators and prevent or mitigate negative impacts on our quality of life.

Use Your Power to Choose

While in the past New Yorkers had to rely on their local utility company for their natural gas and electricity supply, recently New York State has worked hard to promote a more competitive energy industry where homeowners and businesses can shop for their energy providers just as they do for other products and services. As a result, companies other than the local utility, called Energy Service Companies (ESCOs), can compete to provide you with your energy supply.

According the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), competition between ESCOs gives customers greater choice and better value for their energy dollar. There are a number of pricing options available as well as value-added benefits, including energy products produced using clean, renewable energy sources, appliance repair and service contracts, and other options.

If you wish to use your Power to Choose, and switch to an ESCO or green power provider, please contact the PSC at 1-888-275-7721 or visit the Power to Choose Energy Supplier Comparison Chart at

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