November Community Newsletter

November 17, 2009

Monumental Tenant Victory in Roberts v. Tishman Speyer Court Case: On October 22nd, New York State’s highest court ruled 4 to 2 against Tishman Speyer and Met Life, finding that they illegally removed apartments from rent stabilization while receiving a J-51 tax abatement from the City of New York. While the details have yet to be worked out by lower courts, the ruling could result in Tishman Speyer and Met Life paying an estimated $200 million in rent overcharges and damages to present and former tenants of approximately 4,000 units in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village (ST/PCV). Citywide, this decision could affect residents of up to 80,000 apartments since other landlords may also have improperly raised rents and deregulated apartments while receiving assistance from the J-51 program.

"This landmark victory represents more than simply a decisive court case. It symbolizes that the era of landlord favoritism is on its way out," said Kavanagh. "Residential building owners can no longer prioritize profit over tenant, manipulating City benefits to reap greater and greater sums of money at the cost of tenant rights, affordability, and property maintenance. No longer can giants like Tishman Speyer hope to harass tenants in an effort to flip apartments to market rate, as this ruling is a large step in the fight to protect the provisions and ethos of rent-stabilization and affordable housing in the City."

With a number of legal questions still outstanding, Kavanagh and his colleagues are committed to helping to get answers to residents' questions. They encourage tenants to call with any concerns and to visit the ST/PCV Tenants Association website where they can find answers to frequently asked questions and hear a recorded teleconference with Alex Schmidt, the attorney from Wolf Haldenstein who represented the tenants in the case, as well as Kavanagh and Councilmember Dan Garodnick, who co-sponsored the teleconference.

Kavanagh, Squadron, GOLES, and Residents Rally Around SOUND Housing Campaign for Public Housing Funding: On November 5th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Daniel Squadron, and Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) held a community forum to discuss government’s underfunding of NYCHA developments and the efforts of the SOUND Housing Campaign. Nearly 75 residents were present at the community meeting held at the Grand Street Settlement. Many of the SOUND Housing Campaign’s coalition partners were also on hand for the community meeting including representatives of Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Councilmember-elect Margaret Chin, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Launched this past summer, the SOUND Housing Campaign calls on the State and City to:

  • Fully fund $64 million for State-built developments
  • Fully fund $30 million for City-built developments
  • Stop requiring NYCHA to pay more than $70 million for police and sanitation services
  • Invest $100 million from the Federal stimulus package in weatherization of NYCHA developments

On November 12th, Kavanagh, Squadron, and GOLES, in conjunction with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Scott Stringer, and several other elected officials and community organizations, held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to bring special attention to the issue of public housing.

Kavanagh Co-Chairs Public Hearing on Implementation of New Voting Machines: On October 22nd, the Assembly Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement held a public hearing, in conjunction with the Assembly Committees on Election Law, Education, and Libraries and Education Technology. As Chair of the Subcommittee, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh co-chaired the hearing, the first such hearing since he was appointed to the chairmanship. The hearing addressed the impact of the enacted 2009-2010 State Budget on New York’s implementation of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, and its ramifications for the State Board of Elections, local boards of elections, and other public entities that conduct elections. Prime topics for discussion included New York’s new paper ballot and optical scanner voting systems, already in use in many counties upstate, and whether these technologies can be used efficiently in school board and fire district elections.

Kavanagh Calls for Ban on NYC Watershed Drilling and Use of Certain Chemicals at DEC Public Hearing on Hydraulic Fracturing: On November 10th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh submitted testimony to the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale formation. The only DEC hearing expected to be held in New York City on this topic drew hundreds of New Yorkers who wished to offer their primarily negative views on the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS). Attendees ranged from elected officials and their representatives, including Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, to advocacy groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, EarthJustice, and NYH20, and many other activists and City residents.

Legislative Aide Cameron Peterson delivered testimony on behalf of Kavanagh, who was unable to attend in person because he was in Albany for a legislative session. Kavanagh called for DEC to address many inadequacies within the dSGEIS and concerns of the community regarding hydraulic fracturing. He called for drilling in the Delaware/Catskill watershed and other environmentally sensitive areas to be banned. Kavanagh also called for certain toxic and carcinogenic chemicals to be banned statewide from use in the process. He also discussed the dangers of losing New York City’s filtration exemption from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the poor environmental record of drilling companies in other states, such as Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania; and the document’s allowance of gas companies to keep the specific mixture of chemicals they will use for drilling secret.

On October 19th, Kavanagh also formally called upon DEC to extend the period during which the agency will accept comments. In a letter to DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis, Kavanagh reiterated and specified the request he made during Grannis’s testimony at the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation’s October 15th hearing on the subject. Kavanagh requested that the period be extended an additional 60 days and that the extension be announced promptly, so that the additional time could be used most productively by those preparing comments. On November 4th, DEC decided to extend the comment period until December 31st. While Kavanagh is pleased to see this extension, he has reiterated his call for a full 60-day extension.

Kavanagh Protests Disturbing Inspection Practices at Stuy Town and Peter Cooper: On October 19th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Councilmember Dan Garodnick, and members of the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association (ST/PCV-TA) called for landlord Tishman Speyer to reform its faulty procedures for inspecting apartments, amid concerns that the inspections are little more than an effort to find ways to remove rent-stabilized tenants from their homes. "As with so many issues, we’re once again calling upon Tishman Speyer to respect the reasonable needs and expectations of residents and to fully disclose the purpose, extent, and ramifications of these inspections," said Kavanagh.

Kavanagh and Staff Observe New Voting Machines Upstate On Election Day: On November 3rd, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement, and his staff traveled upstate to counties participating in New York's electronic voting "pilot program" to observe the use of new paper ballot and optical scanner-based voting technology. Although many counties had deployed the voting system for September primaries, Tuesday was the first time it saw widespread usage in a general election and, in some counties, a closely-contested congressional race. Kavanagh and staff visited poll sites in ten counties, ranging from Oswego in the north to Orange County further south, where Kavanagh joined Assemblymember Joan Millman, the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Election Law, for a poll site tour and discussion with local elected officials. Kavanagh personally visited poll sites in Fulton, Orange, Albany, and Sullivan counties; his staff visited sites in Broome, Cortland, Dutchess, Madison, Oswego, and Putnam counties.

Kavanagh Briefed on Crime in PSA 4 by Commanding Officer: On October 27th, NYPD Police Service Area (PSA) 4 Commanding Officer Captain Tom Hogan briefed Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh on PSA 4’s approach to fighting crime in the community. Kavanagh expressed his continued commitment to try to identify ways to improve public safety and provide youth with a greater range of constructive activities, such as those promoted in the NYPD’s Explorer Program. This program is designed to educate young men and women ages 14-20 about law enforcement with a focus on career, service, leadership, social activities, fitness and the outdoors.

Kavanagh Visits Immigrant Social Services After-School Program at PS 34: On October 20th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh visited the after-school program at PS 34 on East 12th Street run by Immigrant Social Services (ISS), one of five ISS after-school programs. ISS specializes in providing after-school programs and summer camps for low-income families. Through its programs, ISS seeks to mitigate the lack of structured adult supervision and safe spaces for healthy social development that many children of low-income working parents face. ISS works to address the stresses many immigrant youth experience due to pressures to assimilate into a new country and culture.

At PS 34, Kavanagh met with ISS Site Director Janet Lo and PS 34 Principal Joyce Stallings Harte to discuss and tour the program and meet its staff and participants. He then spoke to the children about the importance of after-school programs. The children expressed their appreciation of both Kavanagh’s and ISS’s support through the gift of a homemade poster that all of the children had decorated with their painted handprints.

Kavanagh Sponsors 2009 Teen Read Week: Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh was proud to sponsor 2009 Teen Read Week, celebrated from October 18th through the 24th. The Week is an initiative of the Young Adult Library Association that encourages teens to read for enjoyment and enlightenment. This year’s theme was "Read Beyond Reality" and Kavanagh’s office distributed brochures with reading suggestions for science fiction and fantasy books to local schools throughout the 74th Assembly District. Kavanagh, a strong supporter of education and literacy efforts, congratulates all teens who took part in Teen Read Week 2009 and encourages them to read regularly throughout the year.

Kavanagh Attends Climate Change Forum: On October 23rd, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh attended the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) Northeastern States Climate Change Forum. The event was held in Boston, Massachusetts.

At the forum, Kavanagh joined roundtable discussions of greenhouse gas reduction initiatives – including efforts to cap emissions like the program created in New York by an executive order issued by Governor David Paterson earlier this year – and other topics in climate change policy and strategies for cooperation among the states. Kavanagh and the assembled state legislators also heard presentations by several conference participants: Jim O’Reilly of the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership on emissions in the building sector, Sue Reid of the Conservation Law Foundation and Conrad Schneider of the Clean Air Task Force on emissions and transportation, and State Senators Ginny Lyons of Vermont and Joshua Miller of Rhode Island on renewable energy.

The NCEL was founded in 1996 to provide environmentally progressive lawmakers a forum to coordinate ideas and strategies for national environmental policy. The NCEL is a non-profit organization that meets three times a year, and is comprised of members of state legislatures who have been invited to join the Caucus based on their commitment to environmentally progressive legislation.

Kavanagh Gobbles Up Early "ThanksLiving" Supper: On October 18th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh attended Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s fourth annual "ThanksLiving" festivities, which aim to increase awareness of vegan cuisine and to honor the Sanctuary’s efforts to protect animals from cruelty and neglect. Speakers included John Phillips, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the New York League of Humane Voters (and also a resident of Kavanagh’s Assembly district), Nathan Runkle, Executive Director of Mercy for Animals, and local Legislator Brian Shapiro, who presented a proclamation praising the Sanctuary’s work on behalf of the entire Ulster County Legislature. Kavanagh and the other attendees enjoyed tasty vegan fare prepared by local chefs. The farm’s turkeys, which might otherwise be slated for slaughter this time of year, were guests of honor at the event.