As we close this year, I want to thank all my constituents for the confidence you have had in my work. I look forward to a new term in office ever mindful of the great honor I have of representing you and a district committed to active civic involvement.
Throughout the world, Lower Manhattan is known as a distinct destination, steeped in history and abounding in opportunities to experience a full range of cultural activities. We also have a history of fighting hard to ensure that government is responsive to the needs of its citizens. All too frequently, we see circumstances in which government agencies make decisions absent public input. We are on the verge of many changes in our City and it is crucial that the voice of the people be heard before these critical decisions are made.
In this newsletter, I address some of the major challenges we face in the near term. With the need for dramatic changes in school funding, and other growing needs, we must confront the attempts to speculate with public dollars. In the end, the public’s wisdom, as well as its money, must be part of the equation.
I wish you, your family and friends, a Happy and Healthy New Year.
Landmarking is often the best and most appropriate avenue for preserving a neighborhood's physical character. The landmarking process affords necessary protections to historical structures that the community values while announcing the importance of certain structures or landmarked districts. These structures are important in telling the history of our neighborhoods. I have worked to see individual buildings afforded necessary landmark protections and have been fortunate that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has recognized the historic value of some of the 19th Century houses in Greenwich Village and the East Village and preserved them for the community and future generations.
Creating entire landmark districts is another important tool in protecting neighborhood character. Though recently landmarked, the Gansevoort Market Historic District has seen an explosion of interest, resulting in creative reuses of old warehouse buildings. I also support new landmark districts in areas such as NoHo and the Far West Village and have been working with the community and City Planning to see these districts become a reality. In addition, we are working with Tribeca residents to ensure that City Planning responds to the need to protect Tribeca North from inappropriate rezoning plans that would disrupt the aesthetics and composition of the neighborhood. These unique communities contain some the few surviving pieces of New York City's industrial and maritime history. It was in the docks and factories of Lower Manhattan that New York City emerged as a great city and we should do all we can to preserve this vital part of our heritage.
But even in landmarked districts, we need an active community to preserve our neighborhoods. On 9th Street, I am working with a small army of community activists to protect an already-landmarked historic district from the unnecessary and possibly dangerous construction of a new entrance for the 9th Street PATH Train Station. This large-scale project threatens to damage historic buildings and alter the streetscape in one of our City's most historic locations, the site of the Stonewall Uprising, where the Gay Rights movement began.
Preserving our communities also means making sure that the people who live in the neighborhoods can afford to stay in their homes. For this reason, I strongly support the loft law, rent stabilization and rent control. I am proud to work with tenant groups throughout my district to fight unwarranted evictions and make sure that high real estate prices do not cause our neighborhoods to lose the very people who are responsible for making them strong.
One of the truly rewarding parts of my job is the opportunity to represent such unique and active neighborhoods. We are achieving great things by acting on our passionate belief that the unique character of our neighborhoods must be maintained. I expect we will achieve much more by continuing to work together to protect our communities.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WEST SIDE STADIUM
AND NYC 2012 OLYMPIC BID
Perhaps most disturbing about both proposals is that the City has been secretive and disingenuous in its presentations to the public. Among many other misrepresentations regarding the proposed West Side stadium, which would serve as the home of the New York Jets and the centerpiece of the city’s Olympic bid, is the statement that the stadium will pay for itself. In reality, the city and state will each give the New York Jets $300 million in taxpayer monies to build the stadium. Developers of skyscrapers surrounding the stadium would then pay property taxes to an authority which would direct the monies toward repayment of the city and state’s stadium debt. In this way, millions of dollars of property taxes that would have otherwise gone into the city coffers from this valuable real estate will be diverted to repay the $600 million contributed to the stadium. This financing scheme would force the city to forego millions of dollars in tax revenues at a time when we are sorely in need of increased revenues.
In addition, while proponents of the stadium claim that it will be an economic engine for the city, generating funds to pay for services for New York City residents, this money could be spent more wisely and efficiently for a variety of purposes that will not, like the stadium, decrease residents’ quality of life. For example, the Arts have long been the single biggest tourist attraction for New York City, and money spent supporting the Arts will have long-lasting positive returns in the form of new jobs, increased tourism and improved quality of life for New York City residents. Instead of decreasing support for the Arts, causing entrance fees at city museums to increase to prices that are unaffordable to many residents and tourists, the city government could increase its support to these institutions.
Like the city’s plans to build a West Side stadium, despite the opposition of a majority of the public, the city is inordinately committed to hosting the 2012 Olympics. New York City is now one of five finalists from which the International Olympic Committee will choose a host city. While many people are unwilling to publicly state their opposition to bringing the Olympics to New York City, many have told me privately that they are opposed. I, too, am opposed for many reasons.
Most notably, the city and state continue to recover from the 9/11 attacks and the economic downturn of the past few years. In the face of great deficits, the city and state still struggle to balance their budgets and have increased transit fares, decreased library hours and eliminated weekend meals for needy seniors. Amidst this backdrop, it would be foolish to gamble public money on a risky venture. Yet this is exactly what New York City has proposed to do in pouring resources into its Olympic bid.
There are many examples of cities that hosted the Olympics believing they would provide a great economic and tourism boost to their city and country. The reality is that many were greatly disappointed in the end when the projected revenues and post-games boost in tourism never materialized. Some former hosts even continue to pay off their Olympic debt to this day.
Rosy projections and Harsh Realities of NYC's Olympic Bid
Rosy projection: NYC's bid will cost only $2.4 billion but will yield $12 billion in revenue to the tristate area.
Harsh reality: NYC2012 now estimates the cost of hosting the games to be $7.2 billion and is likely to further revise its estimates. However, this figure doesn't include the $1.4 billion stadium, which would be the most expensive Olympic stadium ever built, or the $1.5 billion extension of the number 7 subway line. Experts have estimated the actual cost of a 2012 Olympics in New York City to be $12 billion, which would make it the most costly Olympics in the history of the games. As past host cities have learned, actual financial gains from the Olympics often fall far short of what is predicted and many cities have been left holding the bag after enormous cost overruns. For this reason, the IOC is forcing New York City to sign an agreement to pay up to $25 billion for any cost overruns from hosting the games.
Rosy projection: Hosting the Olympics will help NYC to increase its tourism.
Harsh reality: Tourism during the Olympics could mirror what happened during the Republican National Convention- many New Yorkers left town and instead of being a boon to businesses, the convention was a bust. There is also no guarantee that tourism would increase to the city after the Olympics, as some former host cities have realized. Hotels in Greece, for example, are still at only 50% capacity.
Rosy projection: After the Olympics, New York City residents will benefit from new housing, improved transportation and new athletic facilities.
Harsh reality: The proposed Olympic village will be built by a private developer and located on the Western Queens waterfront, affording views of and easy access to Manhattan. After the Olympics, it is highly unlikely that housing located in such a prime location will be affordable. New Yorkers may not benefit from improved transportation either, as the IOC has found the city's Olympic transportation plan to be too complex, pushing NYC2012 to consider implementing a temporary shuttle-bus system for athletes during the games. Not only would this temporary plan provide no benefits to New Yorkers, it would also clog city streets during the games, as lanes of traffic would be open to these shuttle-buses only. Last, while the city does badly need improved recreation facilities, investments in these facilities can and should happen outside of the Olympics and well before 2012. Certainly the Mayor and Governor's desire and commitment to hurriedly build the West Side stadium for the benefit of the New York Jets demonstrates their ability to quickly construct new recreation facilities in the city.
Rosy projections: Hosting the Olympics will be a great sense of pride for New York City and the United States and will demonstrate our strength following the events of September 11th.
Harsh realities: The best way to demonstrate our strength is to rebuild Lower Manhattan. Yet the highrise office towers in midtown that will be used to finance the stadium will be in direct competition with new office space being developed in Lower Manhattan. In addition, many New Yorkers remain traumatized from September 11th and are afraid that an event as large and public as the Olympics could increase the likelihood of a major terrorist attack on the city.
With these proposed changes, the MTA is failing its mandate to serve the public. Even worse, these changes may constitute a public hazard. Reducing the number of employees working in the subway, whether as token booth clerks or conductors, deprives riders of one of the key deterrents against accidents and crimes. If there are no clerks in token booths, who will be vigilant of and help deter possible robberies and assaults? If there is no conductor on a train, who will make sure that all passengers have safely entered each car before the train leaves the station? Such actions also fail to recognize the importance of security on trains and subway platforms in this post-September 11th environment. The MTA repeatedly instructs riders that if we see something, we should say something. Who should we tell when token booths are empty and there is no conductor on the train?
Most disturbing is that, amidst these major proposed cuts to service and safety in mass transit, the MTA has proposed another fare hike to begin to address its halfbillion dollar deficit. This budget shortfall is being fuelled by a draconian debt service that is projected to grow to over a billion dollars in the next three years. The public simply cannot afford to resolve the MTA's poor budgeting through the farebox alone. Yet, the proposed fare hike, which comes on the heels of the largest fare hike in the MTA's history, asks them to do just that.
Inexplicably, at the same time the MTA board reports that they are forced to decrease services and increase fares in order to balance its books, it is planning to sell its most valuable asset- the air rights over the West Side rail yards, which have been valued at $1 billion- for a bargain price so that a West Side stadium can be built. In times of financial difficulty, the MTA should be looking at ways to maximize its assets, not ways to subsidize a new stadium for a wealthy sports team.
Minimum Wage Increase
During the recent December special session of the NYS Legislature, the Senate followed the path already traveled by the Assembly, and overrode Governor Pataki's veto of the minimum wage bill. This long overdue wage hike will increase the minimum wage to $6.00 per hour on January 1, 2005; $6.75 per hour on January 1, 2006; and $7.15 per hour on January 1, 2007. Food service workers receiving tips will also see yearly wage increases under the plan. The tip minimum wage will climb from $3.30 to $3.85 per hour on January 1, 2005; $4.35 on January 1, 2006; and $4.60 on January 1, 2007.
This increase in our state's woefully inadequate minimum wage will improve the standard of living for the working poor. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that 68 percent of the workers who will directly benefit from the increase are adults. In addition, women account for 60 percent of those earning less than $7.25 per hour, and of those, almost half have children to clothe and feed. Young students struggling to pay for college in the face of rising tuition costs will also benefit. I believe that we should reward people who work hard every day to support their family, but struggle to survive. Increasing the minimum wage is one important way of doing so.
Rockefeller Drug Law Reform First Steps
For more than five years, the Assembly has passed legislation with meaningful drug law reforms. Now the entire Legislature has finally taken the first steps toward this reform. While I believe that we have much more work to do, this legislation provides for lower sentences for non-violent drug offenders and other important changes, including:
The agreement also provides for possible retroactive sentencing relief for roughly 400 inmates. Under the bill, A-1 felony offenders serving sentences of 15-25 years to life would be eligible to apply to their sentencing courts for a conversion of their sentences to a new term consistent with these reforms. Another major reform under the measure would provide offenders easier access to the state's Comprehensive Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Program (CASAT). Under the bill, CASAT would now be available to offenders earlier in their sentence and judges would also be given the discretion to make such placements. The cost of incarceration, in dollars and human lives, needlessly derailed, can be much better spent in addressing the underlying addiction problems, which frequently result in criminal activity. While this legislation does not go all the way towards restoring full judicial discretion and treatment as an alternative to prison, it represents substantial progress. I look forward to continuing the push towards these goals in the next legislative session.
Javits Center Expansion
There is little debate about the need to expand the Javits Convention Center and its potential to increase New York City's share of convention and trade show business. Regrettably, the City Administration's insistence on linking that expansion with the construction of the highly controversial West Side stadium has stalled this project. Recently, the Legislature passed a measure that purported to allow for the expansion project without authorizing the construction of the stadium or the platform upon which it would be built.
While the legislation restricted usage of the $1.2 billion it authorized to the Convention Center Development Corporation (CCDC) so that funds could not be used for either the stadium or its platform, the legislation was silent as to the inclusion of the proposed stadium within the boundaries of the convention site. However, given that the CCDC is an authority and history demonstrates that many limitations placed on authorities that appear to be outright prohibitions frequently end up being only minor obstacles for them, I am concerned that the CCDC may find a way around the prohibition in the Javits legislation.
But far more concerning, and the primary reason I opposed this legislation, is the inclusion of the right to utilize the attendant funds for the purpose of building one or more hotels as part of this expansion. It may stand to reason that an expanded Convention Center could benefit from hotels on adjacent properties; it is not so clear that public funds are necessary to ensure their construction and financing. The expenditure of $1.2 billion should not be embraced so easily without greater clarity regarding how many hotels will be built, the process that will be used to determine who will run these enterprises, or what portion of the funding for the entire project will be allocated specifically to expanding the Convention Center's exhibition and meeting spaces versus funding hotel construction and other projects.
The media's focus on the heated debate regarding the stadium has unfortunately diverted attention from the details of the Convention Center expansion. The public has a right to know more about how this $1.2 billion will be allocated and for precisely what purposes than has been the case up to this point. Unfortunately, in order to avoid being portrayed as too slow to act, the Legislature has passed legislation that leaves too much discretion in the hands of the CCDC to make these crucial decisions.
Just as the majority of the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is appointed by the Governor, so too, is the board of the CCDC. As we have seen, the MTA routinely ignores the needs and interests of the public without the Governor being held accountable for the actions of his appointees. It is not a great leap to imagine the same situation developing in regard to the Convention Center expansion. Therefore, it will be essential for all citizens to remain informed about the progress of this expansion and to ensure that the committed public funds are properly used for creating a more competitive convention environment.
|Assemblymember Glick at the opening of the Gay Men's Health Crisis computer lab.|
Parking Calendars Available
The 2005 New York City parking calendar will soon be available. The calendar is very handy in understanding what days of the year certain parking regulations, such as alternate side of the street parking, are suspended. To receive a calendar by mail, contact my office at (212) 674-5153.
Caring Neighbors Wanted
Many of our frail, partially or entirely homebound neighbors could use your help doing errands, getting to the doctor, or just being a weekly friendly visitor. Caring Community is one organization through which you can offer your much-needed services. Founded 31 years ago, Caring Community maintains four senior centers (Center on the Square, 20 Washington Square North; First Presbyterian Church, 12 West 12th Street; Our Lady of Pompeii, 25 Carmine Street and Independence Plaza, 310 Greenwich Street) which provide lowcost lunches and activities for adults age 60+. The organization is now in need of volunteers to teach classes on a wide variety of topics, like exercise for seniors, bridge, art history, computers, music, or Shakespeare. Volunteers are also needed to deliver Saturday morning meals to seniors or help them run errands. Whether you assist an artist in Westbeth or a retired seamstress in a walk-up, these are the people who helped to shape our neighborhood and help keep it unique. They now need the support of their neighbors. To volunteer or find out about Caring Community services for yourself or a neighbor, call (212) 777-3555 or email Paul O'Brien at email@example.com.
|***Click Here for a Printable Form***|