|Sheldon Silver, Speaker Scott Stringer, Chair August 2004|
As Chairperson of the Assembly Committee on Cities, I am pleased to update you on our many activities. Over the past year, the Committee has been working diligently to enact legislation to assist the sixty-two cities in our state.
At the same time, the Committee has undertaken the responsibility of crafting a statewide urban agenda, after our City Summit tour last year. Our committee also joined with other Assembly Committees to hold hearings to determine the impact of cultural institutions on cities and to investigate the closure of firehouses in New York City.
The Cities Committee continues to assist cities through our budget and legislative agenda all over New York State. As the backbone of our state, our cities need help to succeed. By enacting programs and laws to fit the needs of individual cities, the committee is accomplishing this goal.
I look forward to working together with you in the future. Please feel free to share your opinions and ideas with me.
KEY LEGISLATION TO ASSIST CITIES
High Risk Terrorism Dollars.
The UASI grants are specifically allocated for cities designated by the Department for Homeland Security to be at high risk for terrorism. In New York State the designated cities are Albany, Buffalo and New York City. Under Federal Guidelines, the Governor is authorized to take as much as 20% of this UASI funding. In 2003, the Governor took $25 million out of the $125 Million allocated to New York City to spend at his discretion. In 2004, he could potentially reroute $13 million out of the total $64 million allocated to Albany, Buffalo and New York City to other areas across the state. This year, New York City alone may lose as much as $9.3 million from the Governor’s skimming.
West Nile Pesticide Protection.
LED Screens Blight Residential Neighborhoods.
Emergency Assistance for “Big Five” Cities.
Keeping Business in New York City.
Heliport Construction Oversight.
CITY SUMMITS WRAP-UP
Last year, the Committee on Cities began the first ever City Summits tour. Its first two hearings were held in May 2003 in Albany and New York City. This past fall, the Committee traveled to Buffalo and Syracuse to hold the last of the hearings. The committee heard from elected officials and advocates on how the State can help our urban areas. Though different in many ways, the cities of New York are in need of solutions to many common problems such as lack of affordable housing, depleted property tax bases, and urban sprawl.
After compiling testimony from across the state, the Committee is at work to construct an urban agenda for the cities of New York, and looks forward to sharing its report with you in the near future.
FIREHOUSE CLOSURE HEARINGS
To investigate the rationale and effects of the firehouse closings the Assembly Committee on Cities joined Jeffrey Klein, Chair of the Committee on Oversight, Analysis, and Investigation, and Joseph Lentol, Chair of the Committee on Codes to conduct hearings this past April. The hearings were held in two parts: the first hearing heard from community and fire service union advocates from across New York City explaining the effect of closed firehouses on their neighborhoods. The hearing revealed that response times have risen over twelve seconds citywide. Fire Department officials expected the rise in response times due to the closures would only be a quarter of a second. No representative from New York City was present to explain the rationale for the closures or how the year-long closures affected NYC.
NYC Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta testified at the second hearing. At this hearing the administration had to answer tough questions from the Committee Chairs. Commissioner Scoppetta admitted that response times may have increased more than expected because the City did not shift engines from the closed fire houses to other houses. The committees also learned that the Mayor had no intention of reopening these six firehouses even if the NYC Council or the State Legislature gave the city the money to do so.
With higher response times, there exists a public safety hazard as a result of the closures. The committees will continue to work in order to reopen all six fire houses closed in New York City.
HEARING ON JAVITS EXPANSION
In June, the Committee on Cities co-convened a legislative hearing with Richard Brodsky, Chair of the Committee on Corporations, to examine the Governor’s proposed legislation to expand the Javits Center. While Mayor Bloomberg and the Governor’s intention to develop the Hudson Yards presents an incredible opportunity for New York’s growth, we must ensure that the process is conducted at a pace that allows for thorough review and comment. The hearing analyzed the Governor’s proposed legislation and, as a result, the Assembly has introduced legislation that substantially changes his bill. Unlike the Governor’s plan, the Assembly legislation deals only with the expansion of the Javits Center and does not in any way authorize the construction of a sports stadium.
It was a priority of the Committee to maximize the opportunity for community input and review, and accordingly, the Assembly bill puts back the provision to create a Community Advisory Council that the Governor had sought to delete. In addition, the Assembly bill requires that the development undertake a Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) review, giving the community ample opportunity to comment on the project.
A project of this size and scope that uses public dollars calls for thoughtful discussion and analysis.
GREEN BUILDING EXPO SUCCESS
In the wake of a blackout affecting nearly every major city in the Northeast, the Assembly Committee on Cities organized a “Green Building Expo” in October 2003. Over 150 people joined Committee Chair Scott Stringer at the New York Historical Society to learn about cutting edge ‘green’ technology. The interactive presentation included information on sub-metering, solar and wind energy, and other technologies which can reduce apartment buildings’ energy costs, as well as promote energy conservation. The Cities Committee is committed to advancing information and legislation to reduce New Yorkers’ dependence on costly electricity.
HEARING ON CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS’ IMPACT
The Committee on Cities and the Committee on Tourism, Arts & Sports Development held a hearing to examine the contributions made by cultural organizations to the economies of New York’s cities. Tourism agencies, theaters, and museums from across the state provided testimony. The hearing explored the important economic impact of cultural institutions on cities. The testimony stressed the importance of strengthening government partnerships to support cultural initiatives, a suggestion which will guide the committees in shaping future legislation.
Assemblymember Stringer is compiling a list of e-savvy New Yorkers who would like to receive updates via e-mail.
To sign up, e-mail Assemblymember Stringer at
Assemblymember Scott Stringer
Chair, NYS Assembly Committee on Cities
Room 842 LOB Albany, NY 12248 518.455.5802
New York State Assembly
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