Report to Community Board 3

September 22, 2009

Kavanagh Examines Accessible Voting Devices: On September 11th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, who chairs the Assembly’s Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement, visited the New York City Board of Elections for a demonstration of the ballot marking devices (BMDs) that the Board was deploying to improve access to the polls for voters with disabilities. The deployment of BMDs is part of a larger effort to bring New York into compliance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). The devices feature a wide variety of accessibility options intended to maximize the number of voters who will be able to vote in privacy and with confidence. Voters with disabilities can review the ballot on a video screen or by audio via headphones, and can cast their votes using buttons to scroll through the choices, a single toggle switch, or a breath control device, ultimately producing a paper ballot just as if it had been read and marked by hand. Over the next year, HAVA implementation is expected to be completed statewide, as election administrators replace old lever machines currently in use at most poll sites with optical scanning machines to electronically tabulate election results (paper ballots will be retained to verify the results when necessary).

For more information on voting in New York City, call 866-VOTE-NYC or TTY 212-487-5496. Elsewhere in the State, contact your local board of elections or the State Board at 800-367-8683.If you have ideas or concerns about election day operations or voting rights issues, please contact Ames Grawert in Kavanagh’s district office at 212-979-9696 or

New York Times Cites Kavanagh Bill in Editorial Spelling Out Election Reform Agenda: In an August 8th editorial entitled “To Reform Albany: Start Here,” The New York Times laid out a broad agenda for making New York’s elections fairer and more competitive. The editorial includes praise for bill A.657/S.5288, introduced by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and State Senator Daniel Squadron. As the Times states, “Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh has offered a constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to set real qualifications for members of the elections boards.”

Borough President Calls for Passage of Kavanagh Legislation to Clear Bus Lanes: In an August 5th report issued by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer regarding the frequent delays in bus service caused by drivers of other vehicles that block bus lanes, Stringer called for passage of A.417. This bill, introduced by Assemblymember Kavanagh, would allow for cameras to be used to enforce existing laws against blocking the lanes. As Stringer’s report details, “Enforcement cameras already have proven to be effective in New York City to prevent violation of traffic signals, and in other municipalities (such as London) to improve the flow of traffic in bus lanes…Expansion of the legislation is critical for Manhattan bus lanes such as the ones examined in our survey that do not have the [Bus Rapid Transit] designation, but nonetheless are essential mass transit thoroughfares damaged by unpunished violations. AM Kavanagh’s legislation, bill number A.417, already embraces this wider scope.”

Villager Op-Ed Cites Kavanagh/Krueger Bike Bill: In an opinion piece published in the September 9-15, 2009 issue of The Villager newspaper, activist Jack Brown cites a bill introduced by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and State Senator Liz Krueger that aims to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety by holding businesses responsible for certain infractions committed by bicyclists they employ to make deliveries or perform other services. The piece touches on a wide range of issues, some beyond the scope of the bill, and it is enclosed at the end of this report.

Kavanagh Calls for Close “Personal Use” Loophole in Rent Laws: Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined State Senators Daniel Squadron and Tom Duane, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, tenants, and housing advocates on September 9th to call for the Senate to pass a bill that would close a major loophole in the State’s rent regulation laws. The bill, A.1685A/S.2642A, would limit a landlord’s ability to evict tenants for the purpose of using multiple tenants’ apartments to create a residence for the landlord. Specifically, the bill would limit such evictions to cases of immediate and compelling necessity, permit the landlord to take only one apartment, and restrict evictions if the tenant has occupied the apartment for twenty years or more.

Kavanagh is a prime sponsor of the bill, introduced in the Assembly by Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez and co-sponsored by Assemblymember Glick. The bill passed the Assembly on June 17, 2009. Among the tenants joining in calling for passage of the bill were residents of 12 apartments at 19-21 Barrow Street, who are facing eviction by an owner who recently purchased the building and seeks to create a large personal residence, and former tenants of 47 East 3rd Street, who were the targets of a similar effort in a prior case. In cases like there, purchasers are often able to obtain buildings at significant discounts because they were occupied by rent regulated tenants.

“There are many loopholes that weaken our laws protecting tenants, but the one that allows so-called ‘personal use’ evictions is among the most egregious,” said Kavanagh. “Wealthy people should not be permitted to create mansions on the cheap by displacing numerous families from their homes. Current law not only allows this pernicious practice, but in some ways encourages it. It’s high time we end it.”

Kavanagh Celebrates Labor: On September 12th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined thousands of working men and women for the Labor Day Parade. This year’s Grand Marshal was Lillian Roberts, Executive Director of District Council 37, and Gary La Barbera, President of New York Building & Construction Trades of Greater New York, served as Parade Chairman. The events were organized by the New York City Central Labor Council. Kavanagh began the day with the New York Catholic Archdiocese’s annual Labor Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Dolan at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and attended by numerous labor leaders, rank and file workers, and elected officials including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Comptroller Bill Thompson, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The march up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 72nd Street featured over 50,000 proud union card-carrying working men and women from 400 local unions, leading dignitaries and elected leaders, spirited marching bands, and patriotic floats. A moment of silence was observed to honor those killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks, from the parade grandstand at 69th Street and 5th Avenue.

Night Out Against Crime a Success: Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh celebrated National Night Out Against Crime on August 4th with police officers and community residents in six different neighborhoods throughout the 74th Assembly District, including the 7th, 9th, 13th, and 17th Precincts, Police Service Area 4, which serves and protects public housing residents, and Transit Bureau District 4, which polices the subways and buses in much of Manhattan’s East Side and held its event in Union Square. The night was a resounding success. The precincts’ commanding officers and rank and file members, precinct community council members, community leaders, and neighborhood residents of all ages enjoyed the festivities, and communities acknowledged the importance of uniting to combat crime, keep residents safe, and support the efforts of local precincts – and celebrated our continued success in these efforts. At many of the events, Kavanagh presented an official Assembly proclamation to the precinct and the community council in honor of National Night Out and in recognition of their work throughout the year.

Kavanagh Celebrates NYCHA’s 75th Anniversary at Gracie Mansion: On August 3rd, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chair John Rhea, NYCHA board members and staff, about a dozen elected officials from throughout the city, hundreds of NYCHA residents and tenant leaders, and other special guests for a barbecue celebration at Gracie Mansion to commemorate the 75th anniversary of New York City’s first public housing. It was a joyful event where attendees enjoyed good music, great food, and the pleasant views up and down the East River from Gracie Mansion’s backyard.

Kavanagh Joins Gillibrand, Quinn, Stringer, and Duane to Call for Improved Child Nutrition Act: On August 12th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senate Health Committee Chair Tom Duane, Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, City Harvest Executive Director Jilly Stephens, and other officials and advocates to call for legislative and policy initiatives to improve child nutrition and combat obesity. The officials gathered in support of a five-point plan developed by Gillibrand and Quinn that would overhaul the Federal Child Nutrition Act, increase Federal funding for school meals, improve nutrition programs for infants and pregnant mothers, and help schools provide more nutritious meals through procurement of local food and other means. The Child Nutrition Act is due to be reauthorized in Washington this fall.

“As so many New York City children face the threats of both hunger and obesity, strong efforts must be made to improve the Child Nutrition Act,” Kavanagh said. He stressed the importance of ensuring that children who live in areas like Manhattan are not denied access to needed child nutrition programs because of one-size-fits-all eligibility criteria. “By increasing access to low-cost and free meals for children who live in high-cost areas, we can help all of our children stay healthy and increase their opportunity for success in school and in life.”

Kavanagh Attends 50-State Legislative Conference, Accepts Appointment to National Committee on Elections: Assemblymember Kavanagh joined legislators from every State at the annual Legislative Summit of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) held on July 21st through 23rd in Philadelphia. Kavanagh has been appointed to the NCSL’s Redistricting and Elections Committee, where he hopes to build on his work as a member of the State Assembly’s Election Law Committee and his recent appointment as chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement. During the conference, Kavanagh participated in various voting sessions, panels, issue forums, and discussions held by the various bodies of the NCSL, and also attended meetings of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, of which he is also a member.

Both Houses Pass Bill to Improve Energy Efficiency and Create Green Jobs: In a significant victory for New York State residents, small business owners, and non-profit organizations – and everyone who cares about conserving energy and protecting our environment – the State Senate joined the Assembly in passing the Green Jobs/Green New York Act of 2009. Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh supported the measure when it passed the Assembly in mid-June, and applauds the Senate’s decision to approve the bill during its September 10, 2009 special session.

The bill is intended to promote widespread dissemination of energy conservation and clean energy technologies as a cost-effective way for communities to curtail emissions of greenhouse gases and harmful air contaminants, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, lower housing costs, support community development, and create green jobs to sustain and enhance our economy. Installation of energy efficiency improvements to reduce energy waste and loss is a proven method that can pay for itself over reasonable time periods. However, lack of affordable and accessible financing for many property owners has hindered progress in fully realizing the promise of these technologies.

With the Governor’s approval, this bill will authorize energy-efficient retrofits at no initial cost to property owners, with the capital cost to be repaid over time through the resulting energy savings, with an ultimate goal of improving at least one million residential units over the next five years.

Governor Signs Texting While Driving Ban Into Law: On August 27th, Governor David Paterson signed new legislation that will ban text-messaging while driving in New York. Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh supported the measure in the Assembly, which approved it back on June 17, 2009. The bill then passed the Senate on July 16th and was delivered to the Governor on August 14th. The new law, bill A.8568B/S.3619A, will reduce driver distraction and inattention, which threaten public safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 25 percent of all police-reported crashes involve some form of driver inattention. Under the new law, those using a handheld device or laptop to send or read text messages or images while driving a vehicle will be subject to a fine of up to $150. Talking on a handheld mobile phone while driving is already illegal in New York.

Public Authorities Reform Bill Passes Both Houses: While the agenda of the Legislature has been thrown into disarray by recent political instability in the State Senate, on July 16th, the Senate took a major step toward substantial reform of the State’s public authorities by joining the Assembly in passing the Public Authority Accountability Act of 2009. The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Richard Brodsky and State Senator Bill Perkins, had already passed the Assembly on June 17th. As a member of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions and an advocate for greater accountability in State government, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh has been a strong supporter of the bill, helping to vote it out of committee and voting for it on the Assembly floor.

Billions of dollars are expended each year by hundreds of public authorities throughout the State, with little effective oversight. This bill would:

  • Create an independent Authorities Budget Office with the staff and budget to provide financial review and oversight of all public authorities;
  • Close loopholes that allow public authorities to dispose of public property without proper consideration;
  • Strengthen provisions governing public authorities’ boards of directors, for example by ensuring that they have a legal fiduciary duty to the public purpose of the organization and a qualified audit committee;
  • Give the State Comptroller the power to approve or disapprove public authority contracts over $1 million;
  • Create strict new rules to control public authority debt;
  • Limit the ability of public authorities to create new subsidiaries or affiliates;
  • Protect whistleblowers who report wrongdoing at public authorities; and
  • Make public authorities subject to the same requirements regarding minority and women’s business enterprises that other State entities follow.

Now that both houses have approved the bill, Assemblymember Kavanagh hopes that Governor David Paterson will sign it into law promptly.

Amidst Summer Heat, Tenants and Advocates Rally for Affordable Housing on City Hall Steps: On August 19th, several elected officials, led by Housing Committee Chair Assemblymember Vito Lopez, housing and tenant advocates, and tenants themselves gathered in the sweltering heat of midsummer on the steps of City Hall to rally for affordable housing in New York. Alongside Assemblymember Lopez, Assemblymember Jonathan Bing, City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Public Advocate Candidate Norman Siegel, City Council Candidate Yetta Kurland, organizers and advocates from Housing Here and Now, Habitat for Humanity, and the Empire State Housing Alliance, Cameron Peterson, representing Assemblymember Kavanagh who was on vacation, and many others joined to highlight the continuing fight for and importance of affordable housing. Lopez and other speakers referenced legislative initiatives, such as those that would provide $500 million in 2010-2011 capital funding for affordable housing programs and create an Empire State Housing Investment Fund, as well as city directives and the struggles of both tenants and the homeless.