Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal Assemblymember
Linda B.

Neighborhood Report
Winter 2006

DISTRICT OFFICE: 230 West 72nd Street, Suite 2F, New York, NY 10023
212-873-6368 •

Dear Neighbor,

I am writing to update you on some of the issues and projects I have been working on in the district, and some important changes that will affect West Siders. With the new legislative session beginning in January, I am invigorated to return to Albany with the positive election results of November. I am excited and hopeful for the changes that we will see in Albany and across the country. With new leadership in place, we can finally end the gridlock that has been devastating the legislative process for too many years.

However, change will not take place in one day; it will take hard work and perseverance to reverse the direction of the last twelve years and move New York back on the right path. I am committed to seizing this window of opportunity to push reforms that have gone unaddressed for too long. I will press for an increase in the stock of affordable housing and for better access to healthcare and prescription drugs for all New Yorkers. I will work to resolve the long-standing quest for adequate education funding by getting the state monies to make sure New York City schools have smaller class sizes, universal pre-K, and all the tools they need to succeed. And I am dedicated to improving the air and water quality in New York by encouraging growth in the alternative energy sector and creating incentives for green buildings.

And perhaps most of all, I am hopeful that our new Governor will lead the way in changing Albany’s pay-to-play culture and instituting real government reform. Although the Legislature passed some reforms in 2005 and in this last legislative session, we still have a long way to go. Albany continues to have more lobbyists per legislator than any other state in the country, and their overreaching influence on the legislative process must be curbed. New York also has startlingly lenient limits on campaign contributions. Limiting campaign contributions and imposing stricter rules for personal uses of campaign funds, as well as instituting a public financing program for candidates, would have an enormous impact on cleaning up Albany. I believe the Assembly can reform the way it does business in-house, including giving more power to rank-and-file members and allowing controversial legislation like the same-sex marriage bill to reach the floor for a vote.

I hope you will find this information useful, and please feel free to fill out the coupon enclosed and send it to my office to let me know what issues you care about. And, as always, contact my office anytime at 212-873-6368 with questions or concerns. My staff and I are always happy to help. I wish you and your family a happy and safe holiday season.

Linda B. Rosenthal

Pedestrian Safety
Join my effort to make Streets Senior-Friendly!

I am delighted to inform you of the Safe Streets for Seniors effort I am organizing here on the Upper West Side with Transportation Alternatives (TA). Whether at the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center or at the 20th Precinct Community Council, or just in my daily conversations with constituents, it has become far too clear to me that the streets are no longer safe enough for pedestrians. With the unbridled construction going on in the area and the accompanying scaffolding and bus stop changes, the safety of pedestrians, especially seniors, has been greatly compromised. Just a few months ago, we had two fatal accidents here on the Upper West Side; this situation is simply unacceptable.

We will be studying some of the dangerous intersections in the area and suggesting simple and cost-effective ways to improve safety. But we need your help! My office will be holding public meetings with TA and the Council Senior Center to solicit valuable input from interested community members, to identify problem areas and to suggest ways to improve street conditions such as increasing crossing times, establishing exclusive walk signals for pedestrians, and improving infrastructure. Please contact my office at 212-873-6368 or email us at to sign up to be a part of this campaign.

photo Assemblymember Rosenthal and Congressman Jerrold Nadler celebrate the completion of the newly restored front yard at Yeshiva Ketana on 89th Street and Riverside Drive.

Housing Highlights

photo Assemblymember Rosenthal with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Sarah Desmond, Executive Director of Housing Conservation Coordinators, at the 2nd Annual West Side Tenants’ Conference.
West Side Tenants’ Conference

The 2nd Annual West Side Tenants’ Conference held at Fordham Law School on October 14 was a resounding success. More than 240 tenants from the West Side attended, and took part in workshops on issues ranging from tenants’ rights to housing court to illegal hotels. I spoke to conference attendees about how I became involved in tenant issues 25 years ago when facing eviction, and also about the need to organize and fight for tenants’ rights. A packed room of seniors attended our workshop on benefits for senior housing, and heard from Jack Kupferman from the New York City Department for the Aging, Laura Jervis from the West side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, and Michael Velez from West Side One Stop Senior Services, as well as members of my staff. Please feel free to call my office at 212-873-6368 if you missed the conference and want more information about any of these issues.

Reforming the 421-a Tax Abatement Program

The 421-a Property Tax Abatement Program, which was created in 1971 to spur new housing construction in areas where development was not occurring, is set to expire in December 2007. This program is badly in need of reform; 421-a has enabled developers of high-end luxury housing to receive huge tax breaks in neighborhoods that are no longer starving for development. These tax breaks cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in property tax exemptions while creating very little affordable housing. The program currently costs the city $400 million a year, yet in 2003, for example, only 7% of units built under 421-a were affordable to low- and moderate- income families.

The City Administration has proposed changes to 421-a that I believe do not go far enough in reforming the program. The program currently only requires developers receiving the tax abatement within the “Manhattan exclusion zone” (stretching from approximately 14th to 96th streets) to build affordable housing in return for receiving the exemption. The City’s plan would extend this exclusion zone to just a few other neighborhoods in the city, leaving out many areas where million-dollar condos are being built. The City’s plan would also maintain the affordability requirements of the current 421-a program, which mandate that 20% of units must be affordable to families earning up to 80% of the Average Median Income (AMI).

The City’s proposal falls short of what can and must be done to provide affordable housing in New York City. I have co-sponsored a bill in the Assembly that more thoroughly addresses the shortcomings of the current 421-a program. The Assembly proposal extends the exclusion zone city-wide, rather than just adding a few neighborhoods, and it requires that affordable housing be built on site. In addition, the Assembly bill increases affordability requirements; 30% of the units would be made affordable to individuals making 60% of the AMI. Another concern addressed in the state legislation but not in the City proposal is requiring developers of 421-a buildings to pay prevailing wages. Currently as many as 50% of large buildings built with the tax exemption do not pay building service employees prevailing wages and benefits. With the sunset of this program in 2007, we have an opportunity to create real reform, and I will fight to make sure that the chance to build more affordable housing in New York City does not pass us by.

Victory for now—
Rent Hike Averted for City Housing Residents with AIDS

In October, the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) announced a change in how rent is calculated for New York City residents living with HIV/AIDS in publicly supported housing. OTDA’s decision would require New York City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) clients to hand over all but $330 of their income—a budget of $11 per day—which would have to cover all living costs besides rent, including food, transportation, and other items. This change targets some of the City’s poorest individuals living with HIV/AIDS and would force them to pay more than half their income on rent. The amount of $330 is an unacceptable monthly budget for anyone living in New York City, and is an atrocious legacy for Governor Pataki to leave in the final stretch of his administration.

I stood with the residents, advocates, and other elected officials in opposing this cruel and unnecessary policy. The increased revenue to be gained from the 2,200 affected individuals represents a small fraction of the state budget, but the added burden on these people could have dire consequences. Furthermore, advocates were given less than a month’s notice of this change in policy, and affected tenants even less notice, despite the fact that negotiations have been ongoing for approximately 2 years.

I was relieved when at the last minute, a federal judge in Brooklyn granted a temporary injunction halting the rent increases. This will delay any action on the increases until the court’s investigation reveals whether or not the City is using federal funding for the 2,200 units. HASA had previously been following federal guidelines, which dictate that tenants spend 30% of their income on rent. If federal monies are being allocated to these units, the federal guidelines, and not OTDA’s new policy, will prevail. The Assembly will hold a hearing to investigate OTDA’s position in December.

Residents Create Vision of Neighborhood at
P.S. 51 Community Design Session

I was pleased to join community members at the Community Design Session held at P.S. 51 in Hell’s Kitchen in September. The site faces major redevelopment following the Hudson Yards Rezoning, and this meeting was just the first step in creating a community vision for that redevelopment. Neighbors convened in small groups to discuss the community’s vision of the P.S. 51 site, which spans from 44th to 45th Streets between 10th and 11th Avenues, excepting the gas station located at the corner of 45th Street and 10th Avenue. One of the key points discussed was ensuring that the community receive the 600 units of affordable housing that were promised as part of the Hudson Yards Rezoning, but with a reasonably restricted density. The rezoning also included money to expand the extremely overcrowded P.S. 51, but many of us believe that the situation requires a new school altogether. This project is just one of the areas that the newly formed West Side Neighborhood Alliance is spearheading, and I am proud to be a part of this active group of West Siders.

Community Notes

Update on the City’s Solid Waste Management Plan

At a joint hearing of Community Boards 2, 4, and 7 on September 13, I spoke out against the City’s plan to illegally site new waste export facilities in Hudson River Park at Gansevoort Peninsula in Greenwich Village and Pier 99 at West 59th Street. The City’s Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) would route all of Manhattan’s commercial garbage, including putrescible waste, to 59th Street. Since that hearing, I have reached out to my colleagues in the state legislature to ask them to join me in opposing an amendment to the Hudson River Park Act that the City must obtain in order to alienate parkland. Additionally, I helped convene the Coalition to Protect Our Parks, which is working to identify viable alternatives to parts of the City’s SWMP. We believe that the City did not do its homework in exploring other possibilities on the West Side, including possible rail transport of waste out of Manhattan. I will continue to work on this issue and involve the community in resisting the City’s misguided plan.

photo Assemblymember Rosenthal joins thousands of New Yorkers at the American Jewish World Service rally on September 17 in calling for U.N. intervention and a peaceful resolution to the genocidal campaign against African communities in Darfur, Sudan. Rosenthal is a co-sponsor of legislation in the Assembly to prohibit the investment of public employee pension funds in companies doing business in or with Sudan.

Concerns about Department of Buildings

The Upper West Side has for many years been a hotbed of new construction. Construction and development are important for the city’s economy, but cannot come at the cost of public safety. The City’s Building Code and Zoning Resolution are supposed to protect our neighborhoods from the unsafe practices of unscrupulous developers and landlords, but the Department of Building’s (DOB) perilous lack of enforcement has left us all at risk. I can think of countless ways the DOB could be reformed, but I have detailed for you below some of the areas that I believe are taking a serious toll on the safety of our community.

First, I believe DOB’s practice of allowing architects and licensed professional engineers to self-certify their plans is a clear invitation for abuse. The Department’s policy is to audit only 20% of filed plans. The old system required an examiner to look over every plan, raise objections that had to be addressed and only then issue a permit. The new system was implemented in order to increase efficiency, and most professionals do not abuse self-certification. unfortunately, however, the few who do have flouted the system so flagrantly that we have learned we cannot afford to loosen oversight of this process.

Another area where DOB’s enforcement has been alarmingly lax is in scaffolding permits. A recent report from the City Comptroller’s office revealed that the DOB does not have the proper systems in place to track and inspect the removal or permit renewal of scaffolding and sidewalk sheds in the city. These sheds are crucial to ensuring pedestrian safety, and the DOB should not be cutting corners when it comes to safety.

I am also concerned about the Department’s failure to collect on many of the violations it issues, amounting to untold sums of lost revenue to the City. At a hearing of the Assembly Housing Committee held last month, I questioned Buildings Commissioner Lancaster about the DOB’s record of collecting fines on violations issued by the agency. Using the DOB’s own data, available on its website, I was able to calculate a total of nearly $150,000 in outstanding violations due to the city by developers on just two square city blocks in our neighborhood. Surely it is in the department’s interest to follow up on the violations it issues so that agency penalties serve as deterrents to illegal actions and are taken seriously. I have joined with other city elected officials in requesting that the Comptroller perform an audit of the process by which the Environmental Control Board places, adjudicates, and resolves building code violations.

Many of the problems addressed above are exacerbated by DOB’s lack of communication with other city agencies. The Department needs to coordinate much more closely with agencies such as Department of Environmental Protection, Department of City Planning, and Landmarks Preservation Commission, for example. Although a thorough reform of the DOB will not happen overnight, I am exploring legislation to address some of these problems.

photo Assemblymember Rosenthal speaks out for full education funding for New York City public schools at a Campaign for Fiscal Equity press conference with Billy Easton, Executive Director of Alliance for Quality Education, and Geri Palast, Executive Director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

Opposing Off-Track Betting Facility at
143 West 72nd Street

Off-Track Betting (OTB), which was located on 72nd Street and Broadway, has closed and is looking for a new location. OTB has expressed interest in a site at 143 West 72nd Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. The proposed site is on a residential street within the Upper West Side/Central Park West historic district, and I do not believe it is an appropriate home for OTB. The location is a mid-block storefront on a street that has substantial pedestrian traffic, including many children. The previous facility at 72nd Street and Broadway was beset with problems related to outdoor loitering and smoking. I recently hosted a meeting with Borough President Scott Stringer for concerned residents and business owners to discuss the status of the 143 West 72nd Street site and efforts to oppose an OTB facility at that location. While it is unclear when and if the five-member City OTB Site Selection Board composed of the Manhattan Borough President, City Comptroller, Mayor’s Office of Citywide Services, Office of Management and Budget, and Department of City Planning, will vote on the proposed site, we are organizing opposition to the new location. I will keep you informed of any updates on the OTB siting process and how you can help with our efforts to oppose the new location. Please feel free to contact my office at 212-873-6368 with any questions or concerns on this matter.

Am I Eligible for SCRIE or DRIE?

Many constituents have come to my office seeking help with applications for SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) and DRIE (Disabled Rent Increase Exemption). These programs are crucial in helping seniors on limited incomes and the disabled stay in their homes. Many people are unclear about the income eligibility requirements, so below I have listed the current income limits for both SCRIE and DRIE. For more information about both of these programs, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My staff is more than happy to help you navigate the application process.

Income Limits for DRIE
Household Size Income Limit
1 $17,580
2 $25,212

Income Limits for SCRIE
Year Income Limit
2006 $26,000
2007 $27,000
2008 $28,000
2009 $29,000

photo Assemblymember Rosenthal honors John Simpson for his years of dedicated public service. John was former Assemblymember Scott Stringer’s Director of Constituent Services for many years and helped hundreds of Upper West Siders with problems ranging from affordable housing to healthcare needs. He recently retired and is enjoying himself around the neighborhood.

Heat and Hot Water Regulations

Brrr! It’s getting cold out there. Know your regulations about heat and hot water. By law, landlords are required to provide hot water and heat for all areas in your building used for living purposes from October 1 through May 31.

During the day from 6 AM to 10 PM, when the outside temperature is 55 degrees or lower, landlords must ensure that apartments are heated at a minimum temperature of 68 degrees.

At night, from the hours of 10 PM to 6 AM, when the outside temperature is 40 degrees or lower, landlords must ensure that apartments are heated at a minimum temperature of 55 degrees.

If you are not getting heat or hot water in your apartment, you should first attempt to notify the building owner, managing agent or superintendent. If service is not restored, you should call 311 and report lack of heat and hot water and get a complaint number from the operator. Please also feel free to contact my office and we will help you remedy the situation.

Protect Your Credit and Freeze Out Identity Theft

I am pleased to announce that New York’s security freeze law, which will prohibit credit from being issued in your name without your permission, was passed in May by the Legislature and went into effect on November 1, 2006. I have heard from many constituents who have either experienced identity theft or are worried it could happen to them, and rightly so—nearly 10 million Americans fall victim each year. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name or your personal information to open a new bank or credit account or to borrow money. Security freezes prohibit most lenders and others from accessing a consumer’s credit file (also called your “credit history”) unless the consumer expressly consents to it. If there is a freeze on your credit file, the lender will not be able to get a copy of your credit history without your permission, and as a result, will not be willing to lend money or open a new account. This blocks the majority of identity thieves from using your name and personal information to apply for credit cards or to borrow money. Consumer experts have cited security freezes as one of the most effective protections against identity theft.

How do I request a Security Freeze?

Consumers who choose to place a freeze are required to contact each of the three major consumer credit reporting companies, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, and make a request in writing by certified mail. For sample letters to the credit reporting agencies, please contact my district office. The credit reporting agency, upon receipt of your request, will mail you a letter confirming that the freeze is in place and will include a password or PIN (personal identification number). The PIN will allow you to temporarily or permanently remove the security freeze, in the event that you want a lender, a credit card agency, an employer or others to access your credit history. In addition, you can still obtain your own credit report if your account is frozen, and the security freeze does not lower your credit score. Free credit reports from each of the three credit reporting agencies are available once a year at, or call toll free at 1-877-322-8228.


As the upcoming session approaches, I am interested to hear from you about what state issues concern you. Please feel free to check as many of the issues as you wish that are listed below or write in your own.

box Albany Reform
box Education

box Seniors

box Healthcare

box Housing

box Environment

box Taxes

box Crime

box Traffic

box Women's Rights

box LGBT Rights

box Other:

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Please print out the form
and mail to:

Linda B. Rosenthal

230 West 72nd Street, Suite 2F
New York, NY 10023