August – September 2008 Community Report

Dear Neighbor:

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


On August 19th Governor David Paterson made the rare move of calling the State Legislature into Extraordinary Session to address the Statefs fiscal crisis. It was a difficult task to make cuts to this year's State Budget and I only hope that the crisis on Wall Street does not force Governor Paterson to call the Legislature back for further adjustments.

The Legislature trimmed $427 million in mid-year budget cuts. This was achieved by enacting legislation which will reduce local assistance spending by $97 million, new and enhanced executive programs by 50 percent, new legislative programs by 6 percent and member items by $50 million. The updated budget also transferred $40 million currently allocated to the Statewide Wireless Network back to the general fund, cut $51 million from the City University of New York and found $127 million in savings from Medicaid and other health care spending.

These legislative cuts, when combined with Governor Paterson's cuts to the Executive Budget, will total $1.5 billion in reductions from the 2008-2009 budget.

Please note that we did not cut education funding, Medicaid benefits, the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) or public benefits, including foster and child care.

Making these budget cuts was hard. Yet it was necessary due to the looming fiscal crisis. It is estimated that New York will face a potential $6.4 billion dollar deficit next year.

I will work with Governor Paterson to craft next year's budget responsibly, while at the same time insuring that New Yorkers receive the benefits and programs they need and deserve.

Introducing Legislation to Protect Journalist Bloggers:

On August 13, I introduced legislation in the New York State Senate (S8746) which would grant protections to journalist bloggers under New York's reporter's shield law. Currently, professional journalists involved with newspapers, magazines, news agencies, press associations, wire services, radio or television are protected from being charged with contempt of court for failing to disclose any news obtained in confidence or failing to provide the identity of a confidential source. I was shocked to discover that in 2008, our law does not provide similar protections to journalist bloggers, when blogs are one of the fastest growing mediums for disseminating news. I am pleased that Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal is sponsoring this legislation in the Assembly. Please see my press release.

Testifying on the NYCHA FY09 Draft Plan:

On August 13, I submitted testimony at the New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) public hearing on its draft 2009 annual plan. In the testimony I express my opposition to many of the proposed cost-saving measures and my suggestion that NYCHA work collaboratively with residents and other stakeholders to close its budget gap

Reiterating Community Board 4's Denial of Changes to Sheffield57 Plaza:

On August 27, I joined New York City Councilmember Gale Brewer and New York State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried in writing to New York City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden to oppose proposed changes to the public bonus plaza outside the Sheffield57. We agree with many of the concerns laid out by Community Board 4 in its recommended denial of the application and urged the CPC to deny this application on the grounds that it reduces public space and endangers future users of the plaza.

Calling on AT&T to Delay Construction of New Cell Phone Towers:

On July 18, I joined Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, representatives of Congressman Jerrold Nadler and State Senator Eric Schneiderman, Community Board 7 chair Helen Rosenthal, Coalition for a Livable West Side, parents and other concerned stakeholders in a press conference calling on AT&T to delay the construction of new cell phone towers at 585 West End Avenue until the community had an opportunity to weigh in on this decision. The building's landlord, who will receive a hefty fee from AT&T, neglected to consult the building's tenants when he decided to permit the tower on their roof. This building is in close proximity to three schools and other establishments that cater to young children. Current studies have not yielded conclusive results as to the effects of cell phone radiation on human health, especially with respect to children. I will continue to push for legislation in Albany that would require proof of need for new wireless facilities, mandate the notification of all owners and residents within 500 feet of a proposed cellular tower and/or related equipment prior to installation, and prohibit their construction within five hundred feet of a school building.

Testifying Against the Proposed Sanitation Garage at Spring Street:

On August 27, I submitted testimony before the New York City Planning Commission regarding the NYC Department of Sanitation's proposed Sanitation Garage and salt shed for Manhattan Districts One, Two and Five. My testimony echoes the joint resolution of CB2 and Manhattan Community Board One in calling for the elimination of the District Five garage from this location.

Supporting the Lower East Side/East Village Rezoning:

On August 13, I submitted testimony to the New York City Planning Commission in support of the New York City Department of City Planning's (DCP) proposed East Village/Lower East Side Rezoning. While DCP worked closely with CB3 to prepare this rezoning plan, and included many of the elements of CB3's 11 Point Plan for preservation, I urged DCP to incorporate the remaining points of CB3's plan and to continue working closely with CB3 to review the zoning of the areas, such as the Bowery, which are not included in this plan.

Facilitating Collaboration at Westbeth:

During the last few months, my office, along with the offices of U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York State Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer have been working with Westbeth Corp. and the Westbeth Artist Residents Council (WARC) to discuss how residents could be more involved in the decision-making process of this affordable housing complex for low- and middle-income artists. These meetings culminated in an agreement between Westbeth Corp. and WARC to create an Advisory Committee, which will include representatives of the Westbeth Board and representatives that are directly elected by the residents, to focus on the status of the buildingfs mortgage, any application for a new tax abatement, and financing sources to address the buildingfs capital needs. This committee, on which I and my colleagues will participate in an ex officio role, will allow residents and board members to work collaboratively on issues that will affect the future of this unique housing community.

Regretting the Failure to Secure a School at 75 Morton Street:

The tremendous efforts of the Public School Parent Advocacy Committee, CB2, and me and other local elected officials to promote the conversion of 75 Morton Street into a much needed public middle school have hit a snag. Despite a raucous rally at the site on August 6, numerous meetings with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and outreach to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) urging it to favor a bid from DOE, I was notified on Monday, September 15, that ESDC is no longer selling this property. Apparently, ESDC believed the cost of relocating the programs for the developmentally disabled that are currently located at the site would not be sufficiently offset by the profit that could be realized from the building's sale.

Although DOE's purchase of 75 Morton Street no longer seems a near-term possibility, it has been suggested that DOE might be able to lease space there, and in any case the fight for a new middle school in the Village is not over. It is clear that we must continue to work with DOE to identify new spaces to address the current overcrowding crisis. Furthermore, with new developments popping up everyday around the city, DOE must also plan ahead so this predicament does not repeatedly emerge. To drive this message home, on September 8, I joined Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, UFT President Randi Weingarten, New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, parents, teachers, and school advocates at a press conference demanding a better capital plan from the DOE. I will continue to work with my colleagues, parent advocates, community leaders and DOE to ensure that there is sufficient public school space to provide quality education to our students today and in the future.

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