March 2008 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Fighting for Tenants Living in Buildings Accepting J-51 Tax Abatements:

As you may recall, I have been working for several months with tenants of One Bank Street, who face imminent evictions despite their apparent right under the law to lease renewals, since the building receives New York City J-51 tax abatements.

On January 18, I and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's office convened a meeting with representatives of the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), which is responsible for rent regulated housing and its inherent rights, and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which is responsible for administering the J-51 tax abatement. Also present were several One Bank Street tenants, their attorney and representatives of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Congressmember Jerry Nadler and New York State Assemblymember Deborah Glick. Regrettably, despite our requests for the agencies' intervention on behalf of the tenants, the DHCR and HPD representatives explained that conflicting court rulings regarding the law in question have left the law subject to interpretation.

In early February, DHCR responded to a One Bank Street tenant's request for assistance in the upcoming eviction proceedings by stating that DHCR not only has no jurisdiction to intervene in the eviction case, but also agrees with a court decision which found that participation in the J-51 program does not cause stabilization in most cases. Given the enormous consequences that such a position would have on the many thousands of tenants living in such buildings, I wrote a letter to DHCR Commissioner Deborah VanAmerongen, asking DHCR to reconsider both the One Bank Street tenants' request for help as well as its own interpretation of the law. I am also drafting legislation that would clarify the law's intent. I will keep you posted on my continuing efforts on this matter.

Urging DHCR to Adopt More Rigorous Demolition Standards and Stipend Methodology:

Please see my letter to the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) in response to its call for comments on its building demolition policies and stipend methodology for tenants displaced by a demolition.

Organizing and Aiding 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.

Expressing Concerns About NYC Department for the Aging's "Modernization":

Please see my letter to New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) Commissioner Edwin Mendez-Santiago expressing my reservations about the agency's proposed overhaul of DFTA's services for older New Yorkers.

Addressing Overcrowding at P.S. 116, P.S. 199, and all our Manhattan Schools:

On January 24, I joined Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and many other elected officials representing School District 2 in a meeting with representatives of the New York City Department of Education (DOE), the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) and parents, teachers and administrators of P.S. 116, located at 210 East 33rd Street. The purpose of the meeting was to address the pressing problem of overcrowding at P.S.116 and to discuss with DOE and SCA possible alternatives. Both agencies agreed to explore the suggestions presented to them at this meeting, and I and my colleagues will be following up to ensure that steps are being taken towards a viable solution.

On January 29, I attended a meeting between representatives of the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and parents, teachers and administrators of P.S. 199 and the Center School, which share a building at 270 West 70 Street. New York State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and New York City Councilmember Gale Brewer also attended the meeting, which addressed the pressing problem of overcrowding at P.S. 199. Please see the letter Assemblymember Rosenthal and I sent to DOE Chancellor Joel Klein, recapping the concerns expressed at the meeting and the commitments the DOE's representatives made to address them.

My office is also participating in a Task Force to Address Overcrowding in Manhattan Schools, convened by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. As I stated at January's Community Board 2 public hearing on overcrowding, public school overcrowding is a problem throughout my district, and indeed, much of the City, but the enormity of the problem is no excuse to dismiss the pressing need for additional classroom seats in our neighborhood. I appreciate this opportunity to engage in a frank dialogue with stakeholders from across the borough about how this problem can be addressed.

Uniting to "Keep the Promises" Made to NYC Schools:

Speaking of the current state of our schools, I was pleased to see such a great turnout at the February 10 press conference launching the "Keep the Promises" Coalition to protect New York Cityfs public schools from approximately $700 million in budget cuts. I joined members of more than 60 community groups, parent organizations and unions, as well as some 40 elected officials, in pledging to fight proposed City and State budget reductions in education for city schools. I look forward to working with the campaign to raise public awareness about this important issue and to working with my fellow elected officials to ensure City schools receive promised funding.

Campaigning for a Park on Manhattan's East Side:

On Thursday, February 21, I joined New York City Councilmember Dan Garodnick, the Municipal Art Society, CB6 and a coalition of civic organizations and local legislators to launch a campaign for a new four-acre park on the east side of Midtown Manhattan. I was pleased to stand with so many of my colleagues, neighborhood leaders, residents and advocates in calling on the City and the State to seize this opportunity to coordinate with all of the area's stakeholders to create an uninterrupted, user-friendly, truly accessible East Side waterfront park. With all the development projects currently underway in this area, including the redevelopment of the former Con Ed First Avenue Properties and the reconstruction of the Franklin D. Roosevelt highway, New Yorkers are in a unique position to get our planning priorities right and shape the future of the East Midtown waterfront. We must take advantage of it.

Supporting the Expansion of the NoHo Historic District:

On March 18, I submitted testimony at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission's Public Hearing supporting the proposed expansion of the NoHo Historic District and urging the inclusion of several additional properties of historical significance. Please see my testimony attached.

Echoing CB2's Concerns About NYCT's Proposed Fan Plant Around Mulry Square :

As you know, last month, MTA NYC Transit (NYCT) held a Public Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed emergency ventilation plant in the Mulry Square area (Greenwich Ave. and Seventh Ave. South), and followed that up with a comment period. Please see my written comments, submitted to NYCT on March 11, in which I echo many of the sentiments expressed in the testimony CB2 presented at the hearing.

Spreading the Word about Attempted Assaults:

On the morning of March 6, I joined City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, members of the Sixth Precinct and community activists at the Christopher Street -- Sheridan Square Subway Station to hand out flyers with the police sketch of a man who attempted to sexually assault two women in Greenwich Village on Sunday morning March 2. I was shocked and dismayed to hear of this crime, and although we have heard that a suspect was recently apprehended, I nonetheless encourage residents to remain vigilant.

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