NEWS AND ISSUES


May 2007 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Advocating Community-Friendly Development on Pier 40:

Thank you to the more than 1,000 community members who turned out for this month's public hearing on the proposed development of Pier 40. Your presence and your words made a strong impression on the prospective developers as well as the members of the Hudson River Park Trust, who will ultimately decide which plan to pursue. I believe that there is room for both prospective projects to be substantially modified. Still, should both plans ultimately fail to meet community needs, I reserve the right to withhold my support from either of them. I continue to place the highest value on maximal free, public space-as befits a park- such as dog runs, sports fields, and unprogrammed fields, as well as the parking upon which the community relies.

Enforcing Restrictions on the Unfortunate Trump SoHo Development:

I was saddened-but not surprised-when the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) recently approved building permits for the Trump SoHo condo hotel at 246 Spring Street. As everyone on Community Board 2 knows, this is not the kind of development we like to see in our neighborhood. That said, I am proud of the continuing efforts of my office and my fellow local elected officials to limit the impact of the building to the greatest extent legally possible. As you know, I worked with NY City Council Speaker Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Stringer, Congressmember Nadler, and NY State Assemblymember Glick to facilitate a voluntary "restrictive declaration" between the developer and DOB that, among other restrictions, mandates that occupants may only stay in the condo hotel for a limited period of time. Further, I have arranged a meeting for our offices with the New York State Attorney General's office, to ensure that this restrictive declaration is incorporated in the building's upcoming condo conversion plan so that the usage restrictions are abundantly clear to prospective buyers. Moreover, my office continues to advocate City zoning changes to protect our and other vulnerable communities from similar developments in the future.

Fighting an Undeserved Variance for Notoriously Bad Landlords:

As I reported in my February report, the notorious Shalom family landlords have once again applied for a zoning variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for the cellar of their property at 8 St. Marks Place. This is the Shaloms' third attempt in four years to convert the cellar, which is currently zoned for office use, into a restaurant. On May 15th, at the BSA hearing regarding this matter, I submitted the attached testimony urging the Board not to grant the Shaloms this undeserved variance. A final determination by the BSA is expected in late June and I promise to keep you posted.

Seeking Restoration of the Fifth Avenue Stop on the M23:

If the calls my office has received are any indication, many of you noticed when MTA New York City Transit (NYC Transit) removed the Fifth Avenue stop on the 23rd Street Crosstown bus route. While I appreciate NYC Transit's efforts to expedite bus service, the elimination of the M23's Fifth Avenue stop forces those who want to get off in the vicinity to travel a great distance or traverse a wide, complicated, double intersection at the Broadway "bowtie." This is particularly difficult for the many elderly and disabled residents who live along and/or use this route. I recently sent a letter to NYC Transit President Howard Roberts calling for the stop to be restored and I will keep you posted on his reply.

Welcoming The Science Barge to the 29th Senate District:

On Friday morning, May 4th, I was pleased to speak at the public launch of the Science Barge, a sustainable urban farm powered by solar, wind and biofuels, and irrigated by rainwater and purified river water, that was brought to Manhattan by the environmental non-profit New York Sun Works. It is now moored at Pier 84 in the Hudson River Park (West 44th Street) and will move to two other locations in the 29th Senate District - including Stuyvesant Cove Park - over the next six months.

The Science Barge demonstrates how to grow food sustainably in cities and its greenhouse produces "CO2-free" tomatoes, peppers, lettuces and edible flowers using recirculating hydroponics. While it is open to the general public, the heart of the Science Barge is an outdoor classroom, where school groups can learn hands-on about sustainable technology in a curriculum integrated with City and State Department of Education science standards.

From now until the end of June, the Science Barge will remain at Hudson River Park's Pier 84. It will then move to Riverside Park at West 72nd Street from July 4th to September 2nd and it will finish its visit to Manhattan at CB6's own Stuyvesant Cove Park at East 23rd Street from September 6th to October 31st.

Please visit New York Sun Works online at http://nysunworks.org for more information about the Science Barge and its public tour schedule.

Fighting Republican Efforts to Reinstate the Death Penalty:

In the wake of last month's line-of-duty killings of Utica Police Officer Thomas Lindsey and New York State Trooper David Brinkerhoff, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and many of his Republican colleagues have introduced a bill to reinstate the death penalty for those convicted of killing members of law enforcement. A vote on this measure was expected the week of May 7th, but was deferred, most likely until the following week.

I am 100% opposed to the death penalty under any circumstances, and will vote against any measure to reinstate it whenever it comes to the Senate floor. Please see my statement, which outlines some of the many reasons for my opposition.

Applauding Governor Spitzer's Same-Sex Civil Marriage Bill:

April 27th was a historic day, as Governor Spitzer became the first governor in the nation to introduce a Program Bill to grant the right of same-sex couples to civil marriage. Please see my statement applauding the Governor. I look forward to carrying this bill in the State Senate and to working with the Governor, my colleagues, advocates and constituents to ensure that same sex civil marriage becomes a reality in New York State.

Rallying at Stuyvesant Town to Save Affordable Housing:

Please join me and thousands of other tenants, tenant advocates, union members and elected officials from New York City and suburban counties as we rally for affordable housing on Wednesday, May 23rd from 5:30-7:00pm. We will meet at Stuyvesant Town on the First Avenue side and then march to Union Square in support of the "New York is Our Home" platform, which seeks to preserve rent regulated, Mitchell-Lama, Section 8, public housing, and housing for people with HIV/AIDS. Please visit http://newyorkisourhome.blogspot.com for more information.

Making it Easier for Tenants to Participate in New York City Rent Guideline Board Meetings:

Every year, the New York City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) holds a series of meetings allowing New Yorkers to offer input on its proposed changes to rents subject to the New York City Rent Stabilization Law. Last month, I was dismayed to hear that the RGB scheduled its preliminary and final votes from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M, rather than the traditional early evening hours. This new time frame would have made it inconvenient for the majority of renters, who work during the day, to attend, and I was concerned over a potential lack of input from the public. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Dan Garodnick organized a sign-on letter, which I readily joined, asking the RGB to move the meetings to more suitable times.

I am pleased that the RGB replied with a letter agreeing to our request, and that the May 7th public meeting for the preliminary vote was held from 5:30-9:30pm at Cooper Union's Great Hall. Regrettably, the RGB voted preliminarily to raise the rent for one-year leases between 2 and 4.5 percent, and for two-year leases between 4 and 7.5 percent.

While these proposed increase ranges are lower than last year's, it is outrageous that the RGB is considering rent increases at all, given studies showing landlords continue to make profits while tenant incomes remain static at best. I urge you to join me in testifying against these increases at the RGB's public meeting for the final vote, which will be on Tuesday, June 26th, also from 5:30-9:30pm at Cooper Union's Great Hall.

Fighting Excessive Construction at The Sheffield:

Many of you will remember The Sheffield, a building on West 57th Street, that has generated a lot of media and community attention for operating an extensive illegal hotel, which, besides being a use contrary to the Certificate of Occupancy, my office believed violated the building's non-eviction condominium conversion plan. I was grateful when the illegal hotel operation in the building ceased last year and when Manhattan Housing Court Judge David Cohen ruled in March to dismiss eviction proceedings against current residents.

Unfortunately, I recently received numerous reports of clearly excessive and dangerous construction occurring while residents are living in the building. I joined other local elected officials in writing to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) asking for a Building Department Project Audit of the approved permits and construction underway in the building - a request DOB has granted. Further, I was dismayed to hear that the construction had uncovered asbestos in tenants' apartments and other parts of the building. Thankfully, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection recently halted all construction in the building due to this disturbing discovery.

Regrettably, many former Sheffield tenants have fled the building in the past couple years. I pledge to continue working for those who remain so that they may live in their apartments in peace and safety.

A Great Resource for Help on Medicare:

Are you or someone you know having trouble with Medicare? Please contact the Medicare Rights Center, a non-profit consumer service organization that helps senior citizens and people with disabilities navigate the Medicare system and get the good, affordable healthcare that they deserve. And, as always, you are welcome to contact my office at (212) 633-8052 and speak to my staff with any Medicare problems that you might be experiencing.


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