Community Newsletter - February 2011

February 11, 2011

Kavanagh and Housing Committee Advance Bill to Renew Tenant Protection Laws

On January 25th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and his colleagues on the Assembly Housing Committee, approved bill A.02674, which would renew New York’s rent regulation laws and make them more protective of tenants.

Currently, New York’s system of rent regulation is set to expire on June 15, 2011. Under the existing system, landlords have been able to eliminate tenant protections in thousands of units each year by various methods permitted by loopholes in the law. The bill advanced by the Committee would extend the law until June 15, 2016 and close many of the loopholes. It would repeal provisions that permit deregulation of vacant units that would rent for over $2,000, restrict deregulation currently permitted when tenants’ household income exceeds $175,000 per year, prevent landlords from overcharging tenants for major capital improvements made while apartments are occupied or increasing rents dramatically when apartments are vacant between tenancies, and limit landlords’ ability to evict tenants ostensibly for the personal use of an apartment by the landlord or a relative.

Earlier in January, Kavanagh and his colleagues, held a public hearing in Manhattan to examine existing rent regulation laws and proposals to extend and strengthen them, in light of the current laws’ scheduled expiration on June 15, 2011. The Assembly is currently considering an omnibus bill that would fortify tenants’ rights, which includes provisions previously proposed by Kavanagh in separate bills.

The Committee heard testimony from the State Office of Housing Preservation outlining various concerns about the current rent regulation system as well as from numerous tenants’ rights organizations, who emphasized the crucial role that rent regulation plays in providing housing for working and middle class New Yorkers. Many of those testifying, while noting the benefits of the current system, also stressed that these programs must be strengthened to prevent landlords from exploiting loopholes in the system, improperly deregulating apartments, and abusing the rights of tenants.

Kavanagh Speaks at Real Rent Reform Town Hall Meeting

On February 3, 2011, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh spoke before a large crowd of tenants, community and tenant organizers, and fellow elected officials who gathered to discuss strategies for renewing and strengthening the State’s rent and tenant protection laws before they expire on June 15, 2011. The town hall style meeting was sponsored by the Real Rent Reform campaign and was also attended by Assemblymembers Deborah Glick, Dick Gottfried, Micah Kellner, Guillermo Linares, Danny O’Donnell, Linda Rosenthal, and Keith Wright.

In his remarks, Kavanagh emphasized the need to educate and mobilize the millions of tenants who would be adversely affected if the laws are not strengthened or are allowed to expire, and the need to enlist the support of not only the Assembly, but also the Governor and the Mayor.

Kavanagh Joins Bike, Pedestrian, and Bus Advocates Unveiling Safer Streets Plan

On January 27th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh spoke before local residents at a community meeting called by Transportation Alternatives, the East Village Community Coalition, and other community and transportation advocates to release the East Side Action Plan, which is the result of extensive research and community input intended to address the need for better and safer transportation and streetscapes for communities on Manhattan’s East Side.

Kavanagh was honored to share the stage with Enrique Peñalosa, the former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, who pioneered Bus Rapid Transit in that city and has since become a renowned international expert on transportation and urban development.

Elected Reps Convene Stanton Street Management and Tenants to Resolve Complaints

On January 20th, Senator Daniel Squadron, Leslie Pena, representing Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, and representatives of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Councilmember Margaret Chin brought together the management and tenants of 210 Stanton Street and 10 Stanton Street to discuss concerns and complaints of the residents, including issues with recycling and hot water – as well as lapses in communication between the management and tenants. There was an agreement to work to resolve the issues and hold a follow-up meeting in March 2011.

Kavanagh to State: Include Community Reps in Review of Methadone Siting

On January 19th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and many East Side elected officials voiced their ongoing concerns regarding the process undertaken by the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services in reviewing potential sites for relocation of the Gramercy Park Services Clinic. This is the second time the agency has proposed a new location for the clinic without seeking input from the elected representatives of the community.

Kavanagh Addresses Citizens Union on Election Reform

On February 9th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh addressed the State Affairs Committee of Citizens Union, an independent, nonpartisan, civic organization dedicated to the promotion of good government and political reform in the city and state of New York, about election reform issues.

During his remarks and the ensuing discussion at the Committee’s monthly meeting, Kavanagh, who chairs the Assembly Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement, identified modernizing the voter registration system as a critical goal to be accomplished this year along with other major reform objectives, such as ethics reform, campaign finance reform and public campaign finance, and districting reform.

Kavanagh considers modernization and reform of the voter registration system to be a key priority because problems with registration and changes of address are an enormous barrier to voter participation and smooth administration of elections. In many instances, voters are denied the right to vote although they are eligible and have submitted the required registration forms, because registration forms are lost or delivered late, because their names are not properly entered on the roles, or because current law imposes arbitrary deadlines and restrictions that are not necessary for fair administration of elections. The current system, which relies heavily on paper forms filled out by hand and delivered to boards of elections for data entry, is also extremely inefficient and costly.

To address these problems, Kavanagh has introduced several bills that would facilitate registration. He is working with Senator Michael Gianaris to advance the Automatic Voter Registration Act, which would require the State Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Taxation and Finance, and other agencies to make voter registration a standard part of their interactions with citizens and to enable voters to register or change their registration and have the information forwarded directly to the board of elections electronically for inclusion on the voter roles. Kavanagh is also pressing for legislation to allow voters to register until 10 days before an election, as permitted by the State constitution, rather than the current 25-day statutory deadline, and to eliminate restrictions on voters enrolling in a party or changing their party, which currently may require voters to wait more than a year before they can be a member of the party of their choice.

Two Kavanagh Bills Are Reported Out of Committee

On February 8th, just a few weeks into the new legislative session, two bills introduced by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh were reported out of the respective committees considering them. Both bills will now be referred to the floor for consideration by the full Assembly.

The Assembly Correction Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, approved bill A.02161, which would help ensure that those released from prison get access to appropriate medical, educational, alcohol and substance abuse services to assist them in making the transition back to their communities and protect public health. The bill would establish a process including a formal exit interview to inform inmates of programs that exist in their communities and to assist them in making arrangements to enter these programs. Many prisoners are infected with tuberculosis, HIV, and other disease-causing agents, and this makes the smooth transition to proper community-based care and services especially critical.

A second bill introduced by Kavanagh, bill A.03692, that would revamp the process by which local laws throughout the state are published and disseminated, was approved by the Local Governments Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Sam Hoyt. Residents, businesses, visitors, and many others have an interest in knowing what laws might apply in different parts of the state. However, currently counties submit their laws to the Secretary of State for publication in a bound volume that only presents the new laws and is only distributed once a year. This legislation, which has been supported by the New York State Association of Counties, would adapt the publication requirements to increase access to these laws and to take advantage of the ease and efficiency of the internet by requiring the Secretary of State to maintain a complete codified version of each county’s laws.

Assembly Committee Takes Step Toward Electing US President by Popular Vote

On January 19th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and his colleagues on the Assembly Election Law Committee approved bill A.00489, which would provide for New York State to award its electoral votes in presidential elections to the candidate who wins the most votes nationwide. Currently, the outcome of presidential elections is determined by a complex process that allocates votes through the Electoral College, awarding candidates a set number of votes per state based on the number of members of Congress and Senators each state has. As a result, in close elections, there is a strong chance that the candidate that fewer voters support nationwide will nonetheless be elected President. The bill, which the Committee voted to send to the floor for consideration by the full Assembly, would have New York join a national compact among states that would go into effect when states representing a majority of electoral votes have adopted it.

Con Edison to Conduct Air Sampling at Jacob Riis Houses

From Tuesday, February 22 through Friday, February 25, 2011, Con Edison will be holding an indoor air sampling test at the Jacob Riis Houses. The sampling will take place between 8:00am and 5:00pm and is part of an investigation to determine any impact from the former East 11th Street Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) site. During this time, air samples will be taken from the basement of the following buildings: 170 Avenue D; 178 Avenue D; 1223 FDR Drive; 1141 FDR Drive; 1115 FDR Drive.

Any questions regarding the sampling or the program to address issues at former MGP sites should be directed to Con Edison at 877-602-6633 or Leslie Pena in Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh’s office at 212-979-9696.