NEWS AND ISSUES


November 2007 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Introducing Bills to Appropriate Funds to MTA and Halt Fare Hike:

On Monday, November 5, I and New York State Assemblymember Jim Brennan (D-Brooklyn) held a press conference to introduce legislation that would increase State and City operating support for the MTA and thus render a fare hike unnecessary. We also urged the MTA to delay its vote on a fare hike until the Legislature has had a chance to act on these alternate funding options. Please see the press release for more information.

Organizing Tenants of Shalom-Owned Buildings:

On Monday, October 29, I held a tenant organizing meeting with the Shalom Tenant Alliance and other elected officials for the tenants of the more than 100 buildings in New York City owned by the notorious Shalom family as well as tenants of Granite- and Croman-managed buildings. I invited a panel of representatives from government agencies, including the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), New York City Department of Buildings and the New York City Department of Housing, as well as tenant advocates, to offer advice to and answer questions from the crowd of concerned tenants, who face harassment from their landlords and often find their homes uninhabitable. This was the third such meeting Ifve held for Shalom, Granite and Croman tenants with a goal of connecting them with each other and their allies and helping them fight their landlords' repeated harassment, violations, and other illegal tactics. Special thanks to Local 802 for providing its space for the meeting. To learn more about the Shalom Tenants Alliance, visit www.shalomtenants.org.

Fighting Crime and Improving Quality of Life in Amsterdam Houses:

On October 25, I held a town hall meeting to address the crime, safety, and quality of life concerns of residents of Amsterdam Houses, Amsterdam Addition and the surrounding neighborhood. Representatives from Community Board Seven, the New York City Housing Authority, Amsterdam Houses and Addition Management, the 20th Precinct, the District Attorneyfs office, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, tenant associations and neighborhood organizations, as well as other elected officials were present to address issues and answer questions. During this meeting, the members of the community were able to voice their opinions and air complaints so that all of us participating could identify problems and coordinate an effective means of dealing with them. I am thankful to the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center and its Executive Director, Stephanie Pinder, and to everyone who attended and confident that, together, we will make the Amsterdam neighborhood even safer and better maintained.

Supporting the Tenants of One Bank Street:

I recently sent a letter along with Congressmember Jerry Nadler, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Assemblymember Deborah Glick to the landlord of One Bank Street on behalf of our constituents who live there. The landlord, who has been converting vacant units into illegal hotel rooms, has indicated he will not offer renewal leases to many of his market rate tenants. We contend, however, that this is illegal because his building is currently receiving tax abatements through New York City's J-51 program. This is an important distinction that could have application for many other tenants throughout the City, and this past Monday I attended a meeting with the One Bank Street tenants to discuss strategy and next steps.

Hailing ERRC Concessions Despite Continued Concerns:

On Monday, November 5, I joined Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Councilmember Daniel Garodnick along with CB6 Chair Lyle Frank, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and other elected officials at a press conference to announce concessions made by East River Realty Corporation (ERRC) regarding its proposed development plan for the former Con Edison waterside properties. I am very pleased that ERRC has committed a space at the development for a new public school and agreed to set aside 20% of its floor area for permanently affordable housing, which ideally will include units for families, single individuals and people with special needs. While these are significant improvements to ERRC's initial plan, I remain concerned about the density, height, and urban design, which were not appropriate for this neighborhood and limit public access to the waterfront. I look forward to Borough President Stringer's November 15 hearing on the project and will continue to urge ERRC to make additional modifications to align with CB6fs 197c plan.

Monitoring Safety and Noise for John Jay College Expansion:

For the last two months, my office has been having ongoing conversations with representatives from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (JJC) to monitor construction of its new academic building on the square block bordered by West 58th and 59th Streets, and West End and 11th Avenues. I have appreciated JJC's willingness to work with me, other area elected officials, and the community to limit the amount of construction noise and obstruction to the surrounding neighborhood.

I was concerned to learn last Friday, however, that JJC now plans to seek construction permits for both Saturdays and Sundays from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. for the next twenty weeks. According to JJC, a section of railroad track that runs through the site must be closed in order to construct the new building's foundation. Amtrak, the operator of the track, has stated that weekend hours are the only feasible time to do this.

While I understand JJC's need for weekend work, I am more concerned about the quality of life for my constituents. So far, on the handful of occasions that JCC has used emergency weekend construction permits on this project, my office and other area elected officials have heard few complaints. Moving forward, if you or anyone you know is negatively impacted by this construction, on weekends or any other time, please call David Chang in my office at (212) 633-8052. I and my Upper West Side colleagues will work with the New York City Department of Buildings and JJC to take appropriate mitigating action.

Fighting Landlord Bias Against Section 8 Families:

Please see my letter to the editor of The New York Times, published on November 3, 2007 in response to the October 30, page one story, "Bias Is Seen as Landlords Bar Vouchers." While I acknowledge that there is currently no law in New York City prohibiting landlords in general from rejecting applicants because they rely on Section 8 vouchers or other forms of government assistance, I noted that a law that I authored and shepherded to passage as a member of the New York City Council in 1993 forbids landlords who receive J-51 tax abatements from New York City from discriminating in this matter.

Supporting Universal Healthcare Coverage in New York State:

As Governor Eliot Spitzer works to develop a plan for affordable, universal health insurance for all New Yorkers, his administration is holding a series of public hearings across New York State on gIncreasing Access to Health Insurance Coverage and Moving Toward Universal Healthcare Coverage: Defining the Goals and Identifying the Steps.h Please see the testimony I presented at the joint New York State Department of Health and Department of Insurance hearing held in Manhattan on November 2, 2007.

Applauding City Council Investigation and Recommendations on Manny's Law Compliance:

On October 30, I joined New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Council Investigations Committee Chair Eric Gioia as they released the results of an investigation on the compliance of hospitals throughout New York City with Mannyfs Law, a State law for which I was the primary advocate. Mannyfs Law requires New York State hospitals to develop comprehensive financial aid programs for uninsured and underinsured patients also requires them to post language-appropriate information about the State medical funds available to such patients in conspicuous areas throughout their facilities. Please see my quote in the press release (in Adobe Acrobat format) issued by the City Council.

Celebrating Victory Against Harmful Work Conditions at Nail Salons:

As I noted in my community report last month, I recently joined the Chinese Staff and Workers Association, 318 Restaurant Workers Union, and National Mobilization Against Sweatshops to protest the exploitative and harmful work conditions at the 167 Nail Plaza Salon on the Upper West Side and 68 other Nail Plaza salons across the City.

I am pleased to report that, on October 26, a Federal District Court jury ruled unanimously in favor of a former 167 Nail Plaza worker, who charged the owners with retaliatory firing and failure to pay overtime. She was awarded $182,000 in back pay and punitive damages, and two of her former colleagues, who made similar claims, received settlements totaling over $43,000. All three were also reinstated to their former positions. These workers are the first group of nail salon workers in the country to publicly stand up and expose what appears to be the beauty industry's rampant labor violations, or at least a pattern of labor violations among a segment of the industry, as well as the serious health effects to workers and customers of prolonged exposure to toxic nail chemicals. I am pleased to have supported their efforts and look forward to working with them further in ensuring worker justice and safety throughout the State.

Groundbreaking for Alexandria Center for Science and Technology:

On October 15, I joined Mayor Bloomberg, State Assembly Speaker Silver and other local elected officials at the groundbreaking for the Alexandria Center for Science and Technology at the East River Science Park. The Bioscience Park will include 1.1 million square feet for commercial bioscience as well as 1 acre of public open space. This is a welcome addition to the East Side, creating 1,800 construction jobs and ultimately housing more than 2,000 employees from the bioscience sector and it was accomplished through an excellent collaboration between the public and private sectors, elected officials, the community board, the local community and adjoining institutions.


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