NEWS AND ISSUES


October 2008 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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

Advancing the Real Rent Reform Campaign

On October 1, the effective date of the exorbitant rent increases approved this past June by the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), I joined John Raskin of Housing Conservation Coordinators, other elected officials, tenants and their advocates in a press conference to denounce the increases and to promote my Rent Board Reform Bill. As you may recall, that bill, which Assemblymember George Latimer (D-Mamaroneck) and I introduced in the New York State Legislature last Spring, would restructure the RGB to eliminate its anti-tenant bias and introduce fairness to the system.

Later that day, I joined many of the same people from the press conference and hundreds of other members of the R3 Campaign at a rally in the Harlem State Office Building Plaza to protest the rent hikes and call for real reform that protects New York's tenants. I hope I can count on my constituents' support for the Rent Board Reform Bill as well as the R3 Campaign's other priority legislation that would repeal of Vacancy Decontrol, protect Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 buildings, and restore home rule over rents and evictions to the New York City Council.

Proposing Legislation to Aid Wrongly Accused Tenants

On October 19, New York State Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and I were joined by Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, New York City Councilmember Dan Garodnick, tenants and advocates at a press conference announcing legislation we will introduce requiring landlords to pay attorney's fees and/or expenses incurred by tenants wrongly accused of breaking rent-stabilization regulations.

Applauding DOE's New Bullying Regulations

On September 3, I joined New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and a diverse group of advocates at a press conference announcing Chancellor's Regulation A-832, which addresses student-to-student bias-based harassment, intimidation and bullying in New York Cityfs Public schools. Please see my statement applauding the Chancellor's new regulation and emphasizing the continued need for my Statewide Dignity for All Students Act.

Seeking to Ensure All Registered Voters are Enfranchised

Please see the letter I recently sent to the New York State Board of Elections and New York State Department of Motor Vehicles urging them to work together closely to ensure that State residents who registered to vote under the Motor Voter Act have their votes counted in this November's historic election.

Please also see a letter I sent to the New York City Board of Elections (NYCBOE) after I received notification from the Center for Independence of the Disabled (CIDNY) that eleven of twelve polling sites CIDNY surveyed in my Senate District during the September 9, 2008 primary had significant deficiencies in terms of disability access. I have implored NYCBOE to resolve these impediments before the November 4, 2008 General Election.

Participating in the West Side Tenantsf Conference

I was proud to co-sponsor and attend the Fourth Annual West Side Tenants Conference on September 27 at Fordham University Law School. The event, which was co-sponsored by Housing Conservation Coordinators and many other tenant advocates and elected officials, featured workshops on a wide range of important topics, including a panel moderated by Jared Chausow and Colin Casey from my staff on "Navigating DHCR." During the closing ceremonies, I was pleased to have an opportunity to address the participants and rally support for the Real Rent Reform (R3) Campaign, a working group composed of all the umbrella tenant organizations and many local groups in New York City and the suburbs.

Supporting the Landmarking of Baumann Brothers Furniture Store

On September 16, I had the pleasure of submitting testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in support the landmark designation of Baumann Brothers Furniture Store on 14th Street west of Union Square. This is a designation for which I, my colleagues, CB2 and the community have been advocating since well before the first hearing on this building took place in 2002, and I am grateful to LPC for moving forward with this designation.

Continuing to Support the Designation of the South Village Historic District

Although the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has begun the process of designating the proposed South Village Historic District, this areafs rich architectural, cultural and historic resources remain under constant threat from developers. Please see my letter urging LPC to act quickly with a historic district designation to save the areafs many remaining historic buildings from demolition.

Seeking Creative, Community-Friendly Solutions for Pier 40

As a supporter of the community-friendly development plan the Peoplefs Pier team proposed for Pier 40, I, like many others in the community, was saddened to learn that the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) found the plan financially infeasible and officially closed its Pier 40 RFP process. Although the failure of this most recent RFP is disappointing, I believe that tremendous progress has been made in the past year. The Pier 40 Partnership helped us think about the pier in a different light and has led us to explore alternatives such as tax-exempt financing and releasing smaller RFPs. The Peoplefs Pier team also helped foster a relationship between HRPT and the New York City School Construction Authority, and community support persists for one or more public schools on the pier. It is clear that we must continue to work together to come up with creative solutions during these financially difficult times, and I believe we are up to the task. I will continue to work with my colleagues, community leaders and HRPT to ensure that development on this pier materializes in a low-impact yet financially-responsible way.

Demanding A Better Capital Plan for School Construction

Along with many other elected officials, I joined Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Randi Weingarten, parents, teachers, and school advocates in demanding a better Capital Plan from the NYC Department of Education (DOE) – one that meets the needs of our cityfs growing population. I signed onto The Campaign for A Better Capital Planfs letter to Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, which calls for addressing existing overcrowding, planning at the neighborhood level, and reevaluating capacity estimates in order to create new public school space that is essential for our students to receive a quality education today and in the future.

Promoting a Better Men's Homeless Intake Shelter

Please see the testimony I submitted to the September 19th New York State Assembly hearing regarding the New York City Department of Homeless Servicesf (DHS) plan to relocate the Bellevue menfs homeless intake center. I am most disappointed that DHS has failed to reach out to CB6, Brooklyn Community Board 8, experts in the field, elected officials and other stakeholders in the affected areas to produce a better and more comprehensive plan.

Celebrating Met Foodfs Lease Renewal

As you have no doubt heard, Michael and Steven Schumacher, who own and operate the Met Food at 107 Second Avenue, and New York University, which owns the building, have signed a new long-term lease that will keep the market in our community for years to come. Please see the letter New York City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, New York State Assemblymember Deborah Glick and I had published in the most recent Villager praising not only the Schumachers and NYU for their good faith participation in the negotiations, but also the community "for trusting us to help bring this matter to a happy resolution."

Urging the Federal Government to Withdraw Proposed Restrictions on Patients' Rights

On September 21, I joined State Senator Liz Krueger and many other Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Michael O. Leavitt, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), expressing grave concerns about proposed regulations that would explicitly enable employees of institutions that receive federal funding to withhold the provision of reproductive health care. Health care providers would also be allowed to withhold basic information regarding available treatment. As the letter noted, legal and ethical principles of informed consent require health care providers to inform patients about all treatment options, including those to which the provider objects or those which he or she does not provide. If implemented, the proposed regulations would deny patients who are limited both by geography and health insurance access to safe and legal health care and would undermine – or even directly challenge – existing New York State law. For these and other reasons, we urged HSS to abandon its proposal.

Support the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund

Due to hurricanes Gustav and Ike along with other major disasters throughout this year, the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund is depleted. Over the past two months, the Red Cross has opened more than 900 shelters, served more than 8 million meals and snacks, deployed more than 18,000 volunteers and provided health and mental health services to more than 80,000 people. To help replenish the Disaster Relief Fund, please call 1-800-REDCROSS or visit http://www.nyredcross.org.


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