Report to Community Board 3

January 27, 2009
Session Starts in Albany: On January 7th the New York State Assembly opened its 232nd legislative session. There are many challenges to be addressed in the new session, none more important than the growing budget crisis. As previously reported, the Governor released his preliminary budget last month, in the hopes of stimulating budget negotiations. As we await word on the federal stimulus package, the Assembly has already begun holding hearings to review the Governor’s budget proposals. This first round of hearings will be completed by February 4th and will be the basis for the Assembly’s formal response to the Governor’s budget.

In addition to addressing the budget crisis, the Assembly will also consider some critical legislation this year. After passing 18 of his bills through the Assembly in 2008 – of which 9 were also passed in the Senate and 7 were signed into law by Governor Paterson – Kavanagh has already introduced 103 bills on housing, the environment, political and governmental reform, gun safety, and other issues for the 2009 session. We will provide additional details as bills work their way through the legislative process.

Local Initiative Grant Applications Available

In most years, the legislature is able to distribute funding to local organizations that serve our community as part of the New York State budget process. Last year this funding supported 52 initiatives in our district including services for seniors, support of tenants, and cultural programs in our schools. These grants generally ranged from $1,000 to $10,000 per year.

Given the severe financial crisis, it is unclear how many of these grants, if any, will be allocated this year. However, groups interested in being considered for whatever funds do become available should obtain a short application from our office by calling Patrick van Keerbergen at (212) 979-9696. Completed applications will be due by February 9, 2009.

Mulch Ado About Christmas Trees: On Saturday, January 10th Assemblymember Kavanagh joined New York City Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe and other elected officials for the 13th annual MulchFest, a citywide event where New Yorkers recycle their Christmas trees by converting them into wood chips. Kavanagh attended events at Tompkins Square Park and Stuyvesant Town. MulchFest 2009 converted 17,083 trees into woodchips – a 30 percent increase from last year, with 5,820 trees coming from Manhattan. Woodchip mulch moderates soil temperatures, helps retain soil moisture and deters weed growth while slowly adding nutrients to the soil. The mulch will be used to line street tree pits and flowerbeds in parks. Wood chips may also be used in homes and gardens to enrich soil and control weeds and participants were given biodegradable bags to carry home some of their own mulch. In total, as part of the event, Parks & Recreation designated 89 recycling sites to accept trees throughout the five boroughs. At many of the tree drop-off locations, chippers were on hand and residents could take home mulch for their own gardens and plants. Last year, more than 173,000 Christmas trees were collected and recycled by the City – more than 13,000 through MulchFest.

Assemblymember Kavanagh Fights To Protect Public Transportation: In response to their own fiscal crisis, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) recently approved a budget which includes severe service cuts and across-the-board fare increases. If implemented, the service cuts will affect several bus and subway lines in our community – including the elimination of the M8 crosstown bus line, which connects the Lower East Side with major subway lines and the communities on the West Side. Assemblymember Kavanagh strongly opposes cuts to public transportation at a time of economic and environmental crisis. While he is working with a grassroots coalition of community advocates and elected officials to protest the cuts locally, he continues to work in Albany to find the funding the MTA desperately needs to balance its operating and capital budgets. As mandated, the MTA is currently holding hearings throughout the city on the service changes and fare increases. Assemblymember Kavanagh attended the Manhattan hearing on January 14th and encourages anyone interested in testifying to mail testimony to Douglas Sussman, the MTA’s Director of Community Affairs, at 347 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017 by the February 24th deadline.

Kavanagh and the Assembly Move on Housing Laws: With a change of leadership in the State Senate, the Assembly is moving quickly this year to pass significant housing legislation – the full Assembly is expected to vote on some key housing bills as early as the first week of February. On Friday, January 16th, Assemblymember Kavanagh and his colleagues on the Assembly’s Housing Committee held a public hearing to examine what actions can be taken to preserve the existing supply of rent regulated housing in New York and to encourage the development of new units. Last year the Assembly passed bills to eliminate vacancy decontrol, increase penalties for tenant harassment and limit the length of time over which a landlord can recoup the costs of major capital improvements (MCIs). Kavanagh is a prime sponsor of each of these bills and is fighting to ensure that they pass both houses of the legislature this year. In addition, one of Kavanagh’s bills (A514), which would prohibit landlords from employing key-card systems that track personal information without tenants’ consent, passed the Assembly’s Cities Committee on Tuesday, January 13th and will be voted on in the Assembly floor soon. The bill would ban electronic key card systems that collect personal data, including photographs, names, addresses, and the dates and times tenants or their guests enter and exit their apartments and will now go before the Assembly’s Codes committee.

Update On Bracetti Plaza Tenant Association: As previously reported, Assemblymember Kavanagh is working with Councilmember Rosie Mendez and GOLES to reorganize Bracetti Plaza tenant’s association. Unfortunately, the January 21st meeting had to be rescheduled do to a scheduling issue within the office of NYCHA Community Operations. The new date for the nomination meeting has been set for February 25th. If elections are needed to choose among multiple candidates for the same position, they will be held on March 31st.

Assemblymember Kavanagh Visits the Angel Orensanz Center: On Friday, January 23, Assemblymember Kavanagh visited the Angel Orensanz Center in Norfolk Street to learn more about their work and their future plans. Specifically the meeting focused on the center’s plans to become more energy efficient in the coming years. The Angel Orensanz Center has been an anchor of the visual and performing arts in the Lower East Side for over a decade.

Kavanagh Welcomes Senator Squadron: On January 25, Assemblymember Kavanagh had the pleasure of being the Master of Ceremonies for newly elected State Senator Daniel Squadron’s swearing in ceremony. The event was held at the Saint Francis College in Brooklyn and was followed by a reception at the National Museum of the American Indian in downtown Manhattan. Kavanagh looks forward to working with Senator Squadron to address the issues facing our community.

Senior Housing Opportunities: Met Council announced that applications are available for senior citizens apartments under construction at 332 East 22nd Street in the Gramercy section of Manhattan. There are 14 units available. Applicants must be at least 62 years old, with any co-applicant at least 55 years old at the time of application. The annual income range starts from $36,920 and applications can be requested by mail from Met Council/East 22nd Street Senior Residence, 80 Maiden Lane, 21st Floor, New York, NY 10038. For more information, please contact Paula Castro in Kavanagh’s District Office at (212) 979-9696.