February 2008 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

State Budget Update:

On January 21, 2008 Governor Spitzer released his 2008 Executive Budget. I believe it is a sensible budget during the economic downturn New York and the rest of the United States are facing. Major highlights of this year's budget proposal include:

* Fully funding the expansion of Child Health Plus;

* An increase of school aid to $1.46 billion;

* A $1 billion Upstate revitalization fund;

* A new Housing Opportunity Fund totaling $400 million;

* Transit Assistant increases totaling $173 million;

It is now up to the Legislature to negotiate the budget before the April 1 deadline. I will be working in Albany to insure that the final budget addresses the needs of our community. I will continue to update you as the budget process continues.

Visiting P.S. 212 with Chancellor Klein and Speaker Quinn:

As part of my ongoing effort to ensure quality public education, I met with administrators, faculty, staff and students at the Midtown West School (P.S. 212) on January 25. I was joined by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel I. Klein. I have been proud to support this highly successful and special school for many years and wanted to be sure that Chancellor Klein had the opportunity to see all the things that this school is doing right. Making school visits is far and away one of my favorite activities as an elected representative and I want to thank Principal Dean Ketchum and Assistant Principal Jodi Samson for taking the time to provide a tour and answer my questions, as well as all of the educators and students who shared their classrooms.

Joining My Colleagues in Supporting a Community-Friendly Pier 40:

On January 30, I joined Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Martin Connor, Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick and Assemblymember Richard N. Gottfried in sending a letter to Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) Chair Diana Taylor, and copied to the other Board members, in advance of the January 31 HRPT Board meeting. Among other points, the letter emphasized our adamant opposition to opening the Hudson River Park Act to permit an extension of the 30 year lease provision for either the Related or Camp Group proposal; our belief that a non-profit structure, such as the conservancy concept proposed in the Pier 40 Partnership's study, can allow for appropriate development of the Pier; and our belief that repair and development under the Partnership's framework is an important public purpose which would be an appropriate use of IDA funds. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues, HRPT, and the community to find a way forward that balances the needs of the community with the revenue needs of the park as we approach the new HRPT deadline.

Continuing the Fight Against Harassment by Shalom Slumlords:

On February 7, State Senator Eric Schneiderman and I co-hosted 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. 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, the New York City Department of Housing, the New York City Police and Fire departments, and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office as well as tenant advocates and legal service providers, offered advice to and answered questions from the crowd of concerned tenants, who face a seeming pattern of harassment from their landlords and often find their homes uninhabitable.

The meeting came just days after New York State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and I held a press conference to decry the particularly egregious, illegal eviction of a tenant of a Shalom building at 244 West 72nd Street. The tenant shared his story of coming home, one week before the expiration of his lease, and finding that management had tossed out all of his possessions as well as his four cats, which he later found at the City pound. A few days after the press conference, another tenant from the same address was pushed into the elevator by the building superintendent for calling 311 to report the lack of heat. In part as a result of our advocacy, the Manhattan District Attorney has assigned a detective from his office to the case, and I will be closely following the investigation. To learn more about the Shalom Tenants Alliance, visit:

Opposing Congregation Shearith Israel's Zoning Variances:

On February 12, I submitted testimony to the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) opposing Congregation Shearith Israel's second application for seven zoning variances for its proposed building at 6-10 West 70th Street within the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District.

Visiting the Julia Richmond Educational Complex:

On Friday, February 1, I had the opportunity to tour the Julia Richmond Education Complex, which is located at 17 East 67th Street. The complex consists of six independent schools: Urban Academy, the Ella Baker School, Manhattan International High School, Vanguard High School, Talented Unlimited High School, and 226 School for Autistic Children, as well as a swimming pool, Mt. Sinai Medical Center, a library and child care among other facilities. I met with representatives from each of the schools as part of my tour to understand the dynamic character of the complex. As many of you know, Hunter College plans to take over the Complex, tear it down and build a health science facility, while moving the six schools to the Hunter Collegefs Brookdale Campus, located in CB6 at 425 East 25th Street. I intend to work with all parties involved in this matter, including the community boards and my fellow elected officials, to find a reasonable outcome that satisfies the needs of both the Julia Richmond Educational Complex and Hunter College.

Expanding the Boundaries of the Proposed West Chelsea Historic District:

As you know, CB4, with admirable leadership by longtime landmarks advocate Ed Kirkland, has long pushed for the establishment of a West Chelsea Historic District to celebrate the area's industrial and rail legacy. During the West Chelsea rezoning process, CB4 secured a commitment from the City that the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) would study designation of this District. In October of last year, after my office was privy to a very preliminary outline of the proposed District, I wrote to LPC Chairman Robert Tierney asking for the inclusion of four additional buildings in the proposed District . I am pleased to report that last week, when (LPC) met with the owners of buildings within the proposed West Chelsea Historic District, we saw that two of the buildings I suggested are now included within the District's borders! I thank LPC for this, and for heeding CB4's request for the establishment of a West Chelsea Historic District. I look forward to working with CB4, LPC, and the owners of the buildings proposed for inclusion to see that the new, larger District goes forward expeditiously in the designation process.

Working with Tenants at the Chelsea Riverside Hotel:

On January 17, 2008, my office joined Assembly Member Dick Gottfried, CB4 Chair Jean-Daniel Nolan and representatives from the offices of Speaker Christine Quinn, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), and the SRO Law Project in meeting with several of the SRO tenants living at the Chelsea Riverside Hotel. Concerns were raised about illegal construction work despite a DOB Stop Work Order, the proposed expansion of an adult-use nightlife establishment to the once-residential second floor of the building, and landlord harassment. During that meeting, a plan to address these concerns was established, including increased communication with the New York City Police Department's Tenth Precinct, DOB, and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). That night, DOB inspected the building and found that, indeed, work was illegally being done, and appropriate penalties have been assessed. My office will continue to work with the other local elected officials, CB4, DOB, HPD, and the Tenth Precinct to ensure that our laws are enforced and tenants' rights are protected.

Setting Guidelines for a Path Forward with NYU:

On January 30, I attended a press conference hosted by NYU to announce the Community Task Force on New York University Development's planning principles, which will serve as a roadmap for future NYU development. Thanks to Borough President Stringer's leadership in creating the Task Force and the University's open and honest participation, we are at a point few in the community could have imagined even a year ago. I and my office have been working with the Task Force from its inception and I want to congratulate all its members for sticking with the process to hammer out planning principles that will be a guide for future discussions and decisions. Despite past landlord-tenant, labor and land use disputes, I am more optimistic and encouraged by the ongoing dialogue between NYU and the community and will continue to work with NYU, my colleagues and the community to ensure these guidelines are followed.

Addressing the Concerns at Stuyvesant Town Peter Cooper Village:

On Thursday, January 24, I met with members of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenant Association (STPCVTA) to discuss many of the issues facing tenants living in the complex. Among the issues we covered were the influx of non-renewal lease notices, Tishman Speyer's rental advertising, the need for legislation regulating the use of electronic key cards, and concerns that security and maintenance vehicles on the property are not properly abiding by rules. I assured the STPCVTA that they have my continued support and I will be working with them to tackle their concerns.

Seeking the Best Alternative for the Proposed Mulry Square Fan Plant:

As many of you know, the MTA NYC Transit is planning to construct an emergency ventilation plant, which it says is necessary for safety reasons, in the Mulry Square area (Greenwich Ave. and Seventh Ave. South). Of the nine alternative sites that were initially identified in the Draft Scoping Document released last summer, three have been selected for detailed evaluation in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which was released at the end of last month. Subsequent to a Public Hearing and comment period, one of these three alternatives will be selected by MTA NYCT for this project, and this selection will be identified in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. The locations currently under consideration are:

* The streetbed of Greenwich Ave between 7th Ave and Perry St.

* The streetbed of Perry St between Greenwich and 7th Aves.

* The existing MTA NYCT property at 61 Greenwich Ave at the intersection of Greenwich Ave and 7th Ave.

In an effort to explore the possibility of MTA NYCT expanding upon those three alternatives, I recently convened a meeting with Assemblymember Deborah Glick, the offices of Congressmember Jerrold Nadler and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and several Community Board 2 members to discuss with the agency options which depend upon, but are not exactly the same as, the three options currently under consideration. While MTA NYCT representatives seemed to indicate these options are unlikely, they expressed willingness to investigate.

Supporting CB2's Resolution on 145 Perry Street:

On February 12, I submitted testimony at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission's Public Hearing regarding the development plans to build a hotel at 145 Perry Street. Please see my testimony, in which I second many of the same points made in CB2fs excellent resolution.

Informational Meeting for Gottlieb Residential Tenants:

On February 21, Met Council on Housing and I sponsored an informational meeting at the Judson Memorial Church Assembly Hall for tenants of the more than 100 New York City apartment buildings owned by the estate of William Gottlieb to inform them of their rights, how to organize to protect these rights, and how to address any lack of services in their buildings. If you live in one of these buildings and are looking for assistance, you may contact my office at (212) 633-8052.

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