Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright Reports to the People - Summer 2010

NYS Seal

Dear Neighbor:

As your elected representative to the New York State Assembly, I am your voice in State Government. I have a responsibility to represent my constituents to the best of my ability and feel confident that I have done so for the last eighteen years. That being said, 2010 has been another tough year for our community and I am working hard to see that the most vulnerable in our neighborhoods remain insulated from the effects of our downtrodden economy. However, there is a major obstacle in getting this done and that is the lack of an agreement on the 2010-2011 Fiscal Year State Budget, which as I write this, is over two months late.

Both the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate passed budget resolutions which protect healthcare, education, housing, employment programs and State Parks. Unfortunately, we are still a ways off from an agreement on the “austerity budget” proposed by Governor Paterson. To prevent the State from being shut down due to a lack of allocated funding, the Assembly and Senate have been passing budget extenders to keep our State functioning. While these have been serving as temporary substitutes for the State budget, it is an untenable strategy which has and will continue to result in major cuts to many of the programs that our community relies upon.

I, along with my colleagues in the State Assembly, have been working hard towards an agreement on the State budget. The longer it takes to pass this budget, the harder things will become for the residents of Harlem. Already we have seen delays in payments to school districts and not-for-profit organizations. To put it simply, in any budget or budget extender that we are likely to pass, there will be cuts and the cuts will be deep and painful, but these are cuts that must be made to keep our State afloat. As I have stated in the past and continue to assert, I would rather pass a difficult budget than no budget at all.

Not all is doom and gloom in New York State, nevertheless we in Harlem need to be prepared for serious cutbacks on many of the State funded programs on which we rely. Our community not-for-profits will likely bear the brunt of the cuts and they need to take steps to rein in their already stretched budgets in anticipation of the impending cutbacks. This is not the message I want to deliver at a time when most Harlem residents are feeling the pinch of this recession, but in my role as your representative, I must convey the reality which is faced by our State and by my constituency.

As always, I look forward to your input on this and every issue important to our community. I anxiously await the day when I can deliver some genuinely good news about the State budgetary process and I am working day-in and day-out to ensure that positive outcome.

Sincerely,
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Assemblyman Keith Wright


NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY SAVES
RIVERBANK STATE PARK

“Riverbank State Park was an appeasement to the Harlem community, at the cost of a sewage treatment plant in a neighborhood already beset with environmental health concerns. It has become a tremendous asset to the people of Harlem.”
Assemblyman Keith Wright
During an all-night legislative session, the New York State Assembly voted to restore funding for New York State Parks throughout the 2010-2011 Fiscal Year. The next day, the bill was passed by the State Senate and signed by the Governor thereby ensuring that Riverbank State Park will avoid any further service reductions and/or closure during the upcoming Summer and Fall seasons. Assemblyman Wright, along with Assemblyman Herman “Denny” Farrell, Jr. and Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, joined the majority of New York State Assemblymembers who voted to ensure that our Park remains a vital resource to the Harlem community and the Greater New York Metropolitan area. By a vote of 86-47 the New York State Assembly affirmed our continued commitment to Riverbank State Park and the constituencies that rely upon this bastion of peace, tranquility, open space and recreation.

When the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation created their budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, a proposal was made to close forty-one state parks and reduce services at twenty-three more. Riverbank State Park was among those slated for a reduction of hours and programmatic funding, but we took steps to mitigate this reduction. Apart from submitting budgetary requests to the leadership of the State legislature asking for the restoration of this funding to the State budget, both the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate have passed annual budget resolutions which exclude park closures and service reductions. Unfortunately, the Governor rejected our resolutions, which is why we saw the service reductions occurring at Riverbank and 54 other State Parks throughout New York.

“As we all know, the construction of Riverbank State Park was an appeasement to the Harlem community, at the cost of a sewage treatment plant in a neighborhood already beset with environmental health concerns. It has become a tremendous asset to the people of Harlem, both as a health resource and as a community destination, an asset I helped bring to the community in my freshman legislative year

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and one which I have continually supported with over $1 million in State funding. Riverbank remains the only State Park on the island of Manhattan and I am proud to have ensured that it remains open and fully operational throughout this fiscal crisis,” said Assemblyman Keith Wright.
Assemblyman Wright with Mr. Oscar Smith- Deputy Director of Riverbank State Park, at the reopening of the early morning swim hours at Riverbank State Park.


Assemblyman Wright and students from Democracy Prep Charter School on their yearly visit to the State Capitol.
Assemblyman Wright with Dr. Edgar Mandeville and Ms. Shana Melius, who are spearheading an umbilical cord blood donation drive at Harlem Hospital. For more information, please visit http://www.jadenswalk.com/


ASSEMBLYMAN WRIGHT ENGINEERS AGREEMENT PREVENTING THE CHARGING OF RENT TO HOMELESS

“Being from Harlem, I know that the problem of homelessness in New York City is one that needs to be addressed with compassion rather than contradiction and this legislation is a step in the right direction.”
Assemblyman Keith Wright

After a long battle with Mayor Bloomberg’s office, Assemblyman Keith Wright announced that the Assembly, Senate, Governor and the Mayor had reached agreement on the language of a bill (A.8353) to prevent New York City from charging employed but homeless individuals rent to stay in New York City homeless shelters. The previous provision, which allowed municipalities such as New York City to garnish up to 50% of shelter resident’s wages, led to a furious outcry from legislators and advocates once it was slated to be implemented by New York City in early 2009. The proposed legislation will require that working individuals staying in temporary housing must set aside available income which will later be used to help them secure permanent housing.

This bill will amend the Social Services Law of New York State by first requiring New York City to run a trial program and report to the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) and Division of the Budget on the success and viability of a larger implementation of the savings program. After implementation, the City will require all working residents of NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and NYC Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) to deposit a portion of their income into a savings plan approved by OTDA. These savings plans shall be pooled, individually tracked and maintained in either a savings or money market account with interest rates set by the banking institution. Upon the individual’s discharge from the shelter, the accrued savings will be payable to the individual for transition to permanent housing.

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Assemblyman Wright, Mayor Bloomberg and Public Advocate DeBlasio announce agreement on legislation prohibiting the charging of rent to the homeless.

“The goal is to help homeless families move out of homelessness, and the savings plan will do just that. It’s a rare agreement that everyone can get behind. I am pleased that Assembly Member Keith Wright and I, along with Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, Deputy Secretary Kristin Proud, Commissioner Seth Diamond, Coalition for the Homeless, the Legal Aid Society, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio have worked together to create this plan,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron.

After urging from Assemblyman Wright and advocates, a few safeguards were inserted into the legislation, aimed at further protection of this vulnerable population. At no point will failure to comply with this savings requirement be used to exclude individuals from utilizing the shelter system. This will safeguard the rights outlined in State Constitution, Article 17, Section 1, which State that “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions, and in such manner and by such means, as the legislature may time to time determine.” Additionally, to prevent the savings from being a hindrance to individuals who rely upon other funding and assistance, it will be considered as exempt income for a full year after their discharge from temporary housing.

“Being from Harlem, I know that the problem of homelessness in New York City is one that needs to be addressed with compassion rather than contradiction and this legislation is a step in the right direction. Now people who rely on temporary housing will not be forced to pay rent and extend their reliance upon the safety net, but put away meaningful savings bringing them closer to financial independence. For too long we have penalized the most vulnerable in our State and this bill will help change that equation,&rdquot; said Assemblyman Wright, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Social Services.


NEW YORK STATE GETS ONE STEP CLOSER TO THE PASSAGE OF THE DOMESTIC WORKERS BILL OF RIGHTS

After the New York State Assembly passed Assemblyman Wright’s version of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2009, the New York State Senate was unable to do the same as that house dealt with infighting and a damaging leadership transfer. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was among many valuable pieces of legislation lost in the shuffle. However, due to hard work by the Senate sponsor of the bill, Senator Diane Savino, The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights recently had its day in the sun and was passed by the State Senate on June 1st, 2010.

The initiative, which was originally drafted and sponsored by Assemblyman Wright in 2004, brings much needed protections to what may be the most vulnerable workforce in New York State. Approximately 200,000 domestic employees work in New York, taking care of children and the infirmed, working to make the later years of the elderly more pleasurable, maintaining households and serving as surrogates to many a busy family. This legislation would extend to them rights guaranteed to every other employee in New York State, save farm workers.

In the Assembly version, the bill removes exemptions from the minimum wage law, which now means that all domestic workers will be paid at least the State minimum wage, with the associated overtime. The bill also calls for a day of rest each week, something never before given to hard working domestic employees. Additionally, this bill offers basic labor protections, such as disability insurance to part-time workers, protection under the anti-discrimination law, protection under the labor law for wage and hour abuses and very importantly, allows domestic workers to collectively bargain.

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Assemblyman Wright, Senator Savino and Domestic Workers hold press conference announcing the Senate passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

The Senate version includes the same provisions, but also calls for paid vacation and sick days. “While my original bill included additional rights for domestic workers and even a provision for a ‘living wage’, I faced the difficult task of actually getting the bill passed in the State Assembly after five years of it dying in committee. As the grandson of domestic workers, I know firsthand the difficult and sometimes abusive working conditions of this employment, and I stand by this legislation to give these hard working men and women the same protections offered to the majority of other workforces across the State. I look forward to the reconciliation process with the State Senate and the ultimate signing of this legislation by the Governor,” said Assemblyman Keith Wright.

In 2009, Governor Paterson indicated that he would sign the bill if it was delivered to his desk.


ASSEMBLYMAN WRIGHT CREATES OPPORTUNITIES FOR SMALL BUSINESS WITH PASSAGE OF MTA MENTORING PROGRAM BILL

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Assemblyman Wright and Mr. Shamsuddin Riza, a local small business owner whose company would be eligible for mentoring under the MTA Small Business Mentoring Bill.
A bill (A. 8681) providing mentoring opportunities for small businesses in New York City was passed by a seldom seen unanimous vote in the New York State Assembly. The initiative, drafted last year by Assemblyman Wright, is centered around the development of business capabilities for small construction firms. In essence, what this bill does is link current Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) approved construction firms with smaller construction firms wanting to do business with the MTA.

These mentor firms will provide business training to small businesses and instruct them on how to compete for and perform a public work contract. After this initiation period, the mentor firm will assist the protégé firm in attaining public contracts and help them execute any awarded contracts. This bill will also waive many requirements set out by the MTA in their awarding and judging of bids on contracts for these small businesses. Currently, there is a conspicuous absence of small construction firms from many MTA project and this bill hopes to remedy that disparity.

“For too long small business, particularly minority-owned small businesses, have been unable to compete for lucrative MTA contracts. With this program we hope to change that history and give small construction firms the same ability to compete as their larger and well-connected counterparts. By linking small businesses with big businesses, we close a gaping hole in our public works contraction process and bring State and City dollars closer to the businesses which need them, especially in this time of fiscal unease. If successful, I hope to see this program replicated within many authorities and government run corporations throughout New York State,” said Assemblyman Keith Wright.

This bill has already passed the State Senate and will soon be forwarded to the Governor for his signature.


Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright
ALBANY OFFICE: Room 844, Legislative Office Building • Albany, NY 12248 • 518-455-4793
DISTRICT OFFICE: Harlem State Office Building, 163 West 125th Street, Suite 911 • New York, NY 10027 • 212-866-5809
E-MAIL: wrightk@assembly.state.ny.us

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