Kavanagh Named Legislator of the Year by Baruch College: On June 25th, Baruch College President Kathleen Waldron presented Assemblymember Kavanagh with the Legislator of the Year Award. He was grateful to accept this honor, especially alongside Community Board 6, which received a special commendation as an important Community Partner. Along with his Assembly colleagues, Baruch alumni Gary Pretlow and Carl Heastie, Kavanagh successfully advocated for the funding needed to renovate 17 Lexington Avenue. Others in attendance at the Baruch College Community Reception included Baruch administrators and representatives from the Flatiron Business Improvement District, Gramercy Neighborhood Associates, Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church, and Bellevue Hospital’s Community Advisory Board.
Assembly Passes School Governance Legislation: On June 17th, the Assembly passed a school governance measure, bill A08903A, on June 17th that would facilitate greater parental participation, transparency, and oversight in the ways our schools are run. Even though the Assembly measure does not address every concern, Assemblymember Kavanagh voted in favor of the bill since it makes some important changes to the school governance structure, including the reinstatement and expanded power of local school superintendents and increased parental involvement in decision-making. Though the Mayor would still have the power to appoint the majority of Board of Education members, this legislation would ensure that at least two parents of public school students are among the mayoral appointees to the Board. Moreover, School Leadership Teams in each school will be granted more authority in the development of their school’s Comprehensive Educational Plan. Unfortunately, this measure has yet to be voted on by the State Senate.
End of Session Recap: Between the June CB6 Full Board meeting and the close of the Assembly’s 2009 session, Assemblymember Kavanagh succeeded in passing nine additional bills in the Assembly, bringing the total number of bills passed to eighteen. Though the Senate has yet to reconvene after the June 8th leadership change, Kavanagh is hopeful and will continue to press for the passage of these bills into law. Below are some highlights:
- Election Reform: A04015A was part of an election reform package of Assembly bills that strives to include more voters in the democratic process. This bill would increase voter registration and reduce administrative difficulties at poll sites by providing that those who attempt to vote via affidavit ballot (but are not currently registered) would be enrolled for future elections.
- Environmental Protection: A00561A would enable the DEC Commissioner to ensure that State agencies take the necessary steps to clean up their operations and impose penalties when necessary. As the number one polluter in the State of New York is the State of New York itself, State law needs more teeth to ensure that State agencies maintain compliance. This bill would strengthen current laws through public accountability and fines.
- Personal Privacy: A08156A would create a State commission on protecting personal privacy. Technological advancements continue to heighten the capacity to collect, aggregate, and distribute information, threatening our privacy. This commission would help fill a void since no Federal or State agency is currently responsible for reviewing what steps might be necessary to offer protection, or even to understand personal privacy concerns.
- Government Transparency: A00441A would require the Secretary of State to post local laws and codes on the Department of State website for the public to view. This legislation would expand access to these laws, increase transparency, and heighten awareness of the laws that apply to different parts of the State. The bill was supported by the New York State Association of Counties.
- Tax-Delinquent Bidders: A06061 would prevent State agencies and public authorities from awarding contracts to bidders that are delinquent in their State taxes. This would both make the contracting process fairer and increase tax collections as potential bidders would be forced to satisfy outstanding tax warrants in order to maintain their eligibility to bid on State contracts. Two earlier versions of this bill were passed in both the Assembly and the Senate, but vetoed by the Governor.
Kavanagh’s Public Housing Elevator Safety Bill Passes the Assembly: On June 18th, the Assembly voted to pass Assemblymember Kavanagh’s NYCHA Elevator Safety bill A08154. This legislation would mandate the installation of door zone restrictors, which prevent elevator doors from opening between floors. The bill would also regulate elevator inspections—prohibiting the Department of Buildings’ previous practice of delegating such inspections to NYCHA—and mandate interagency coordination and information sharing among city agencies in regards to elevator hazards and rescue missions by the Fire Department. It would further require the disclosure of all inspection data to the public, including a detailed explanation of how and why elevators receive the grades they are given. The bill builds upon the work of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, addressing the concerns he raised in a September 2008 report on elevator safety. State Senator Jose Serrano introduced this bill in the Senate.
Next Steps in the Redevelopment of the Former Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital: Assemblymember Kavanagh, other elected officials, CB6 members and the Bellevue Hospital Community Advisory Board met with the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) on July 2nd to discuss the current status of the RFP process and community resolutions to include scientific, hospital and hospital related uses at the site. Kavanagh will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with CB6, HHC and EDC to ensure that the community proposals receive due consideration.
Final District Two CEC Meeting of the Term: Cameron Peterson attended the District Two Community Education Council’s last meeting of the term at Wagner Middle School on June 24th. On behalf of the Kavanagh office, she surveyed the information provided by the Department of Education’s Office of Portfolio Development’s Chief Operating Officer, John White, as well as the question and answer period that followed. Issues discussed with White included present and future overcrowding problems, kindergarten waitlists, gifted and talented acceptances, school governance and the need for a more productive dialogue between the Department of Education and CEC. In addition to the normal business of the CEC, newly elected CEC members were introduced and outgoing members thanked for their service. As this meeting occurred before the expiration of the current school governance statute on June 30th, the effect of the newly appointed Board of Education on the CEC could not be gauged.
Stein Senior Center Introduces SPA: The Stein Senior Center held an open house at 340 East 24th Street on June 19th to showcase its new day program for Alzheimer’s patients. The program is entitled SPA, which stands for Service Program for Adults. Executive Director Jane Barry gave Cameron Peterson a tour of the facilities and explained the program’s attributes, from providing participants with therapeutic sessions in creative writing and meditation to offering caregiver counseling. The daytime program, a collaboration with the International Center for the Disabled, will assemble in small groups three days a week from 1:30pm to 4:30pm starting in mid-July. For more information, contact Jane at 212-585-6292.