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Assemblyman
Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
Assembly District 71
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Chair, Ways and Means Committee
…and this month in Albany
May 21, 2015

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 9

Wright and Farrell Fighting to Protect Affordable Housing
Assembly Passes Bill to Strengthen Rent Laws Which Protect 2.5 Million New Yorkers

On Tuesday, May 19 I voted with Assembly Housing Committee Chair Keith Wright and other members of the Majority Conference to pass a bill, A7526, which would continue and strengthen the Rent Laws which regulate over 1 million apartments in which 2.5 million hardworking New Yorkers live. Our bill, which was carried by Assembly Member Wright and sponsored by myself and many other members, seeks to expand tenant protections and close the loopholes that are exploited by bad landlords. Our new bill would renew the Rent Laws until June 15, 2019.

Assembly Bill Would Make Landlord Harassment a Crime

There are a number of important components to our bill. It would make tenant harassment by landlords a crime, which would be classified as a class A misdemeanor. This would apply to bad landlords who intentionally damage an apartment or building in order to clear tenants out and bring in new tenants from whom the landlord could collect higher rents. The State would have the ability to fine landlords who harass their tenants between $1,000 and $2,000 for a first offense and up to $4,000 for second offenses. Landlords who harass tenants to the point where the tenants move out could be subject to fines of up to $15,000 for repeat offenses.

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Assemblyman Farrell and Housing Committee Chair Keith Wright discuss the Rent Laws on the Assembly floor in the State Capitol in Albany.

New Protections for Rent Regulated Tenants

Bad landlords would also be prohibited from raising the preferential rent upon renewal of a lease; raise the threshold for rent stabilization from $2,500 per month to $3,500 and the tenants' maximum household income from $200,000 to $225,000; permit a landlord to take only one apartment in a building for their personal use or for a member of their immediate family to live in; to decrease the rent increase between tenants from 20 percent to 7.5 percent; plus more.

Assembly Legislation Would End Permanent Capital Improvement Surcharges

Under the law, landlords who make major improvements to their buildings are allowed to add a surcharge to the rent in order to recoup their investment in their building and the improvement they have made to their tenants' quality of life. That is fair. But bad landlords exploit this and collect the surcharge long after their investment has been recouped. Our bill would end this.

More Information for Tenants Moving in to a New Apartment

Our bill would also require that new tenants signing their first lease with a new landlord get four years' worth of rent records for that apartment, so tenants may know if the rent had jumped in the recent past, and to provide receipts to tenants who pay by means other than a personal check. There are more provisions, which you may read on the Housing page of my Web site.

Construction Contract for Pedestrian Footbridge Has Been Signed
Groundbreaking Ceremony Expected Soon

After many years of continuing work to bring a modern, safe and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant means of egress to Riverside Park at 151st Street, I am pleased to announce the City Department of Parks and Recreation and State Department of Transportation have signed a construction contract with the firm who will be building the bridge. I will also post this contract, which I first announced during your last meeting, on my Web site for you to read if you wish.

From what I am told, a groundbreaking event is in the process of being scheduled and will be announced soon. According to the contract, the job is to be completed no later than December 31, 2016. On Friday, May 15 I took part in a technical meeting with the Parks Department, DOT and the contractor to work out details of the project.

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Representatives of the Parts Department, Department of Transportation and contractor E.E. Cruz meet on Friday, May 15 2015 to discuss details of building the 151st Street pedestrian footbridge.

One of the details that we still have to work out is how to handle the traffic coming onto the West Side Highway during the later portions of the construction of the footbridge. At this time, the construction plan calls for the on- and off-ramps to the southbound lanes of the highway at West 158th Street to be temporarily closed, which could cause problems. The northbound ramps should not be affected. Discussions on how to avoid, or at least shorten, these ramp closings are underway. I will continue to update you as this important, exciting and long-awaited project continues to move forward.


Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.



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May 21, 2015
**Please click the above link to view the .pdf**


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…and this month in Albany
May 6, 2015

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 10

Assembly Passes Bill to Raise the Minimum wage

Earlier this week, the Assembly passed a bill which I co-sponsored that would increase the statewide minimum wage to $10.50 per hour by December 2016 and to $12.60 per hour by Dec. 31, 2018. Because of the higher cost of living in the New York City metropolitan area, our legislation calls for a wage differential to account for this fact. Under our proposal, after December 31, 2016 the minimum wage would be $12.50 per hour and $15 per hour after December 2018.

Tipped-wage workers would also benefit from the Assembly's legislation. Under our bill, the state tipped wage would rise to $8.75 per hour statewide and $10.40 per hour in the New York metropolitan area on December 31, 2016. It would increase again to $10.50 per hour statewide and $12.50 per hour in New York City at the end of 2018.

As you may know, well over half of minimum wage workers in New York State are women, and many of these workers are using these wages to support or help to support their families. As a result, almost 40 percent of families who have a female head of household live in poverty. This must end. It is simply unfair that hardworking New Yorkers who are doing their best to get ahead remain in poverty while economic benefits go mostly to those who are already at the top. I was proud to cast my vote for this important bill alongside my colleagues in the Assembly Majority.

Assembly Majority Working to Strengthen the Rent Laws

As we have discussed previously in these reports, a top priority for the Assembly Majority Conference including myself is extending and strengthening the rent laws that regulate one million apartments in the City of New York and help keep housing affordable for the tenants.

The 2015 Legislative Session is scheduled to end on June 17, two days after the rent laws sunset (Albany slang for expire) on June 15. My colleagues and I have long fought to fix problems in the system including vacancy decontrol that has led to tens of thousands of formerly rent-regulated apartments being taken out of the system once the rent rises above $2,500 per month.

Some of our efforts over the years have been blocked by the Senate, whose present leadership tends to lean in favor of the landlords. It's not yet clear how the Senate leadership's ongoing troubles will affect the debate in Albany over this critical issue that, quite literally, affects the everyday lives of millions of hardworking New Yorkers.

Groundbreaking for 151st Street Pedestrian Bridge is Coming Soon

A groundbreaking ceremony for the pedestrian footbridge at 151st Street over the Henry Hudson Parkway and into Riverside Park is in the works and should be announced soon. As you know, I have worked on this project for many years, and have long spoken out about the need for greater accessibility to our public parks. In 1996, I unveiled a plan to build a $10 million pedestrian footbridge into the Park at 165th Street and Riverside Drive, over the train tracks. This plan met with resistance from Amtrak and the Arts Council, who stopped the project at that time.

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Access to The Park for Our Community

Thought I lost that round, I fought and was able to get other Park accessibility projects done so that our community can enjoy our magnificent public spaces. A 2007 project made Riverside Park accessible at 158th Street via a handicapped-accessible ramp that has been used by pedestrians, bicyclists, families with baby carriages and people of limited mobility. As part of that project, a set of stairs at the bottom of 158th Street under the West Side Highway leading to the Park below was rebuilt, and ramps were added to these stairs, removing a major barrier at this location for people who had previously found it very hard to safely get down to the river. But more access to the Park was needed as you go further south, at the area where I intend to build this bridge, where steep stairs are now the only way for pedestrians to get into the Park. This bridge would eliminate the use of the steps and provide a ramp and bridge into the Park.

$20 Million in State Funds for Footbridge

In late 2013 I was notified by Governor Cuomo's office that the new State transportation capital plan included $20 million for the construction of this long-awaited and much-needed bridge. During the years leading up to this announcement, I continued to work on the bridge project which included moving the site from 165th Street to the new site at 151st Street and Riverside Drive.

More Accessibility, Improved Safety

Those of you who have lived here for many years, as I have, may remember that decades ago there was a wooden bridge that led into the Park at 151st Street and Riverside Drive. This bridge later burned, and its' metal skeleton remained in place for some time. At that time, there was no Amtrak train service passing this point, but the railways eventually started using those tracks again when train service was brought in so that the Albany line could go to Penn Station rather than Grand Central.

Farrell, DOT, Parks to Discuss Footbridge Project Status

On Friday, May 15 I will sit down for a meeting with representatives of the Department of Transportation, the Parks Department and E.E. Cruz, the contractor selected for the job, for a technical meeting at which details of the project will be discussed. At the present time, DOT and the Parks Department are working to schedule the groundbreaking. According to DOT, they are ready to begin construction later this spring, and the contractor selected for the job has performed similar tasks for the State and does good work. As time goes on, I will keep you informed.




…and this month in Albany
April 28, 2015

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 12

Farrell Meeting With Precinct Commanders to Discuss Quality of Life Concerns

As I have done for many years, with the Legislature on break from our work in Albany I have focused on issues of concern here in Northern Manhattan. During recent weeks I have been meeting with New York Police Department precinct commanders assigned to our community to offer my support for their work to improve the quality of life and control problems with noise in our public parks and illegal motorcycle racing in the streets. The photo at right shows my recent meeting with Capt. Wilson Aramboles of the 33rd Precinct, while below at left you may see a photo taken during an early April meeting with Capt. Michael P. Baker of the 30th Precinct.

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Groundbreaking for 151st Street Pedestrian Bridge is Coming Soon

A groundbreaking ceremony for the pedestrian footbridge at 151st Street over the Henry Hudson Parkway and into Riverside Park is in the works and should be announced soon. As you know, I have worked on this project for many years, and have long spoken out about the need for greater accessibility to our public parks. In 1996, I unveiled a plan to build a $10 million pedestrian footbridge into the Park at 165th Street and Riverside Drive, over the train tracks. My plan met with resistance from Amtrak and the Arts Council, who stopped the project at that time.

Access to The Park for Our Community

Thought I lost that round, I fought and was able to get other Park accessibility projects done so that our community can fully enjoy our magnificent public spaces. A 2007 project made Riverside Park accessible at 158th Street via a handicapped-accessible ramp that has been used by pedestrians, bicyclists, families with baby carriages and people of limited mobility. As part of that project, a set of stairs at the bottom of 158th Street under the West Side Highway leading to the Park below was refurbished, and ramps were added to these stairs, removing a major barrier for people who had previously found it very hard to safely get down to the river.

$20 Million in State Funds for Footbridge

I was pleased to announce in late 2013 that the new State transportation capital plan included $20 million for the construction of this long-awaited and much-needed accessibility project. As you know, it is now difficult or impossible for people whose mobility is impaired, parents pushing baby carriages and others who depend on wheels to get around to safely access the Park.

More Accessibility, Improved Safety

As you likely know, the steps which now bring you into the park are very steep and can be dangerous. Those of you who have lived here for many years, as I have, may remember that decades ago there was a wooden bridge that led into the Park. This bridge later burned, and its' metal skeleton remained in place for some time. At that time, there was no Amtrak train service passing this point, but the railways eventually started using those tracks again when train service was brought in so that the Albany line could go to Penn Station rather than Grand Central.

Farrell, DOT, Parks to Discuss Footbridge Project Status

On Friday, May 15 I will sit down for a meeting with representatives of the Department of Transportation, the Parks Department and E.E. Cruz, the contractor selected for the job for a technical meeting at which details of the project will be discussed. At the present time, DOT and the Parks Department are working to schedule the groundbreaking. According to DOT, they are ready to begin construction later this spring, and the contractor selected for the job has performed similar tasks for the City and does good work.

Education Funding Increases 6 Percent in This Year's Budget

The budget for State Fiscal Year 2015-2016 dramatically increased funding for education programs. The budget commits an additional $1.6 billion to education, bringing total education funding to $23.5 billion statewide and $9.2 billion for New York City schools. The budget also makes renewed commitments to higher education by greatly increasing opportunity programs for SUNY and CUNY students and making changes to financial aid rules that are intended to make it easier for students with disabilities to apply for Tuition Assistance Program financial aid.

Working to Help Undo Recession's Economic Damage to Education

In a major victory, the Senate and Governor Cuomo agreed with the Assembly's position that it is time for a serious effort to roll back the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which is a cut to school funding that we were forced to make after the financial crisis of late 2007/early 2008. This year's budget restores 50 percent of the GEA cuts, bringing State funding for public schools nearer where it should be and giving our students more of the resources they need to learn and succeed. We also succeeded in convincing the Senate and Governor to increase foundation aid to school districts and to make full reimbursement of expense-based aid.

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During early-morning hours Assemblyman Farrell enjoys a lighthearted moment on the floor while debating the budget bills.

More Support for Programs While Spending Responsibly

The budget calls for a State-funds-only spending increase of $1.8 billion, a 2 percent increase over 2014-2015, which falls within the voluntary spending cap that we imposed several years ago. The budget also includes $1.7 billion for Superstorm Sandy recovery and relief and $6.1 billion for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

Fighting for Affordable Housing and Homelessness Prevention

The budget also makes a $440 million commitment to homelessness services over the next few years, commits $14 million to additional child care slots to aid parents pursuing higher education so they can be sure their children are in safe and nurturing hands, makes key restorations to important human services programs and secures $1 billion for road and bridge projects including major restoration projects needed to rebuild or replace aging and crumbling infrastructure.

Budget Agreement Includes Student Debt Relief Plan

The budget agreement contains an important provision that has not received significant coverage in the press. As you may know, economists have warned for years that student loan debt could be the next "bubble" that damages our economy as did the housing market bubble that is blamed for causing the recession of late 2007/early 2008. Federal government action on this issue has not occurred, so State leaders stepped up to help New Yorkers who are completing their educations and taking the first steps into productive working lives.

The budget for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 includes a program that we believe will assist more than 7,000 recent graduates in its' first year and nearly 25,000 eligible participants by the time this program reaches full strength in 2019. Residents who graduate from college and continue to live in New York State will pay nothing against their student loan debt for the first two years they are out of school. For graduates earning less than $50,000 during their first years in the workforce, this new State program will dovetail with an existing Federal student loan program that allows low-income workers to make payments they can afford against their student loan debt. The amount each participant will benefit will be based on a calculation including their total student loan debt and their adjusted gross income at the time they participate in this program. For years, many young people have complained of the difficulty of making a strong start in life while carrying the debt accumulated as they earned a degree that allows these students to get a good-paying job. It was a pleasure to cast my vote in order to help these people.

The Legislature returned to session from our post-budget break last week, and work continues on our other priorities, the most important being renewing and strengthening the rent laws to protect hardworking tenants in our neighborhoods from bad landlords.


Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.



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…and this month in Albany
April 1, 2015

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 10

Assembly Passes Budget for State Fiscal Year 2015-2016
$150 Billion Budget Increases Funding for Education, Housing

Earlier today, the Assembly passed the final pieces of the budget for State Fiscal Year 2015-2016, which begins today. As you know, my role as Ways and Means Chairman required me to reprise the role I described in my last report to you, when we passed our "one-house" budget resolution. The budget now goes to Governor Cuomo for his consideration and signature.

Assembly and Senate Come to Agreement on Budget Plans

Since my last report to you, led by Speaker Heastie, who was negotiating his first budget, the Assembly and Senate concluded the conference committee process to reconcile differences in our "one-house" budgets. Legislative leadership also engaged with Governor Cuomo to reach three-way agreement on elements of a budget. The final product is a $150.3 billion spending plan that preserves important programs while at the same time expanding programs to help students and New Yorkers who are in need.

More Support for Programs While Spending Responsibly

Our plan, which we began passing several days ago, calls for a State-funds-only spending increase of $1.8 billion, a 2 percent increase over 2014-2015, which falls within the voluntary spending cap that we imposed several years ago. The budget also includes $1.7 billion for Superstorm Sandy recovery and relief and $6.1 billion for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

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Assemblyman Farrell enjoys a lighthearted moment on the Assembly floor while debating the State budget for Fiscal Year 2015-2016.

Education Funding Increases by Almost 6 Percent

The budget also commits an additional $1.6 billion to education, bringing total education funding to $23.5 billion statewide and $9.2 billion for New York City schools. Our budget also makes renewed commitments to higher education by greatly increasing opportunity programs for SUNY and CUNY students and making changes to financial aid rules that are intended to make it easier for students with disabilities to apply for Tuition Assistance Program financial aid.

Working to Undo Recession's Economic Damage to Education

I am happy to announce that the Senate and Governor Cuomo have agreed with the Assembly's position that it is time for a serious effort to roll back the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which is a cut to school funding that we were forced to make after the financial crisis of late 2007/early 2008. This year's budget restores a full 50 percent of the GEA cuts, bringing State funding for public schools nearer where it should be and giving our students more of the resources they need to learn and succeed. We have also succeeded in convincing the Senate and Governor to increase foundation aid to school districts and to make full reimbursement of expense-based aid.

Fighting for Affordable Housing and Homelessness Prevention

The budget also makes a $440 million commitment to homelessness services over the next few years, commits $14 million to additional child care slots to parents pursuing higher education so they can be sure their children are in safe and nurturing hands, makes key restorations to important human services programs and secured $1 billion for road and bridge projects including major restoration projects needed to rebuild or replace aging and crumbling infrastructure.

Budget Agreement Includes Student Debt Relief Plan

Our budget agreement contains an important provision that has not received significant coverage in the press. As you may know, economists have warned for years that student loan debt could be the next "bubble" that damages our economy as did the housing market bubble that is blamed for causing the recession of late 2007/early 2008. Federal government action on this issue has not occurred, so State leaders stepped up to help New Yorkers who are completing their educations and taking the first steps into productive working lives.

The budget for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 includes a program that we believe will assist more than 7,000 recent graduates in its' first year and nearly 25,000 eligible participants by the time this program reaches full strength in 2019. Residents who graduate from college and continue to live in New York State will pay nothing against their student loan debt for the first two years they are out of school. For graduates earning less than $50,000 during their first years in the workforce, this new State program will dovetail with an existing Federal student loan program that allows low-income workers to make payments they can afford against their student loan debt. The amount each participant will benefit will be based on a calculation including their total student loan debt and their adjusted gross income at the time they participate in this program.

For years, many young people have complained of the difficulty of making a strong start in life while carrying the debt accumulated while they earned a degree that allows these students to get a good-paying job. It was a pleasure to cast my vote in order to help these people.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.



Video Clips:

March 12, 2015
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Farrell addresses questions relating to changes in the Gap Elimination in the Assembly Budget Proposal. E.203
 
 




Photo Slide Show:



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