Representing: The Lower East Side • Union Square • Stuyvesant Town • Peter Cooper Village •
Gramercy • East Midtown Plaza • Waterside Plaza • Kips Bay • Murray Hill • Tudor City
YEAR IN REVIEW: COMMUNITY EDITION
Despite some challenging circumstances in state government, my office was able to accomplish a great
deal in 2008. In this edition of my newsletter you will find highlights of the work we did here in our community
throughout the year. Another edition of the newsletter that you should receive separately reviews the legislative
and budgetary issues we worked on.
If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any others, or if we can assist you in any way,
please contact us at 212-979-9696 or
Supporting and Working with Tenant Associations
I am pleased to work closely with our local tenant associations to support resident initiatives throughout
our community. My staff and I frequently attend association meetings and forums to converse with tenants
and their representatives, whether they be the huge meetings of the Stuyvesant Town - Peter Cooper Village
Tenant Association or more intimate gatherings in the community rooms of smaller housing complexes.
This year we saw new leadership in several of our tenant associations. Congratulations to new tenant
presidents Geraldine Rosa at Straus Houses, Dominga Lanzo at 344 East 28th Street, Janet Handal
at Waterside Plaza, and DeReese Huff at Campos Plaza—as well as all the board members of these
and other associations who represent tenants in our community. Recognizing the value of strong tenant
associations, we have taken steps to strengthen existing tenant associations and to reinitiate them in
areas where they had lapsed. We worked with the Waterside Tenants Association to support and
promote elections that were held in January; and we worked closely with the Housing Authority, the
community organization Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), and residents of Campos Plaza to ensure
that elections were held to select tenant leaders for their association, which had not been officially
recognized by the Authority for eight years. This collaborative process culminated in election of a new
president and officers in October. We are currently taking a similar approach in Bracetti Plaza, working
with the Authority and GOLES to assist residents to organize a new association. For more information
on getting involved in your tenant association—or starting a new one—please contact Paula Castro at
HOUSING LEGAL HOTLINE
Have a legal question about your housing?
Call our housing legal hotline to speak
with a housing lawyer for free.
Many residents of our community find themselves confronted with legal issues
related to their housing. Because it is critical to have the right information at such
times, I am proud to sponsor the 74th Assembly District Housing Hotline. Using the
hotline is simple and free to any resident of the district. Just dial 646-459-3023 and
leave a message, and a lawyer from the Urban Justice Center will return your call within
48 hours. You can, of course, always contact our community office directly at 212-979-9696
regarding housing or any other issues!
Fighting for Sensible Development
In March, the City Council voted to approve the rezoning application for the former Con Edison
First Avenue properties along First Avenue between 35th and 41st Streets. During this process,
I testified repeatedly before the City bodies with jurisdiction over the application, raising serious
concerns about the proposed plan. I emphasized that the buildings were too tall and dense; the
proposed school was not big enough to accommodate the expected growth in our community;
there was no plan to sufficiently mitigate the traffic the development would create, especially
the office tower; and there was insufficient affordable housing. While I still believe that this
development presents serious problems for our community, I was pleased that many of my
concerns were substantially reflected in the final approved plan. I would like to thank
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilmember Dan Garodnick, and
Community Board 6 for their leadership throughout the process.
Every Breath You Take
Improving air quality is not only an environmental concern, it is also a health issue. Poor air
quality is known to be a trigger of asthma attacks and can possibly lead to other severe
respiratory illnesses, especially in children. With that in mind, I have taken several steps
to address our city’s air quality—many of which you can read about in my legislative newsletter.
On a local level, I joined other elected officials and community organizations in requesting that the
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hold a hearing to discuss Con Edison’s Title V
permit renewal application for their East River Plant. Specifically, I called for the hearing to explore
the possibility of switching the plant exclusively to natural gas, which creates less air pollution than
fuel oil. While Con Edison contends that they do not have the capacity to burn natural gas year round,
I fear that without restrictions, the decision of which fuel to burn will be determined solely by cost and
availability, essentially tying our community’s air quality to fluctuating energy prices. I submitted
testimony requesting that as a condition of permit renewal DEC require Con Edison to use natural
gas to the maximum extent their infrastructure and supply allow them to. As of this writing DEC has
not come to a decision on the application.
Soil Monitoring in Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village
I have attended several briefings to discuss the testing by Con Edison, the City Department of Health,
and the State Department of Environmental Conservation of the soil in and around Stuyvesant Town
and Peter Cooper Village to monitor contamination from prior industrial use of the property. While
there have been concerns that the contamination might pose a health threat, the tests indicated that
the soil does not need to be removed. I continue to closely monitor the testing, and the precautions
being taken to protect our community. We expect more finalized results this January.
The Lower East Side Goes Green!
In October, I joined Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator-elect Daniel Squadron,
the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, Community Board 3, and a broad coalition of
elected officials and community organizations to launch the Go Green Lower East Side Initiative
and to celebrate New York City Apple Day. The dual event was held on Orchard Street between
Grand and Broome Streets. At the event, local residents enjoyed dishes made from apples, heard live music,
and learned ways to live the “green way.” Attendees participated in activities that taught them to improve their
health and their environment.
Preserving the Lower East Side
In November, I joined elected officials and community members to testify at the City Council regarding the
proposed East Village/Lower East Side Rezoning. The rezoning, covering 111 blocks—including 40 in the
74th Assembly District, subsequently passed the Council. While I was disappointed that the final plan did
not include additional affordable housing and stronger tenant protections as advocated by Community
Board 3 and others, the approved plan offers substantial benefits, including height caps and other measures
intended to protect our community’s character. I thank Community Board 3’s members and staff and
Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Alan Gerson for their leadership throughout the process.
Greening Murray Hill
In May, I joined dozens of volunteers participating in the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association’s
“Celebrate Spring on Third” event. It’s amazing the impact a small group of people can make in
our community on just one Saturday morning. New York thrives thanks to the countless people
who donate their time to care for the neighborhoods we all live in and I am always pleased to join
in the effort. Volunteers worked in the Third Avenue Shopping District—Third Avenue between
East 32nd and 40th Street—planting ivy in tree beds, removing graffiti, and doing general clean up.
Save Our Buses!
In November, the MTA proposed fare increases and service reductions that would take effect in the
Spring of 2009. Several of the proposed reductions would have a serious impact on the ability of
people living, working, and going to school in our community to get around. Included in the proposal
are service cuts on the Lexington Avenue subway, and the M42, M23, M21, M16, M15, and M8
buses—with the M8 proposed to be eliminated entirely! I recognize that the financial and economic
crises that have hit the New York economy have exacerbated the MTA’s already significant fiscal
problems, and we are still gathering additional information and community input on the proposals.
However, I believe that serious cuts in vital transit service—and particularly the complete elimination
of a bus line—should not be implemented until we have done everything we can to secure funds to
support our transit system and to minimize the impact on the riding public, especially people whose
mobility is impaired by the effects of age or disabilities. While the MTA board formally approved the
plan in December, I believe that there is still time to ensure that subway and bus services in our
community continue to meet our needs, and I will work with other elected officials, concerned
community members, and the MTA toward this goal.
Safety First (Avenue)
Following a tragic traffic collision at the corner of First Avenue and 14th Street, I joined Senator
Tom Duane, and Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez to discuss traffic safety
with the City Department of Transportation. The meeting focused on solutions to regulate the
flow of traffic at the intersection and enhance pedestrian safety at crosswalks. The Department
of Transportation pledged to review the concerns raised at the meeting, and evaluate the various
options for improving safety.
Food and Nutrition Program Returns to Wald Houses
In September, after a four month hiatus, seniors who take part in the State Department of Health’s
Commodities Supplemental Food Program at Lillian Wald Houses were once again able to receive
monthly food packages. My office negotiated with the staff of the program and the management of
the Wald site to re-instate the program, which had come to a stop due to miscommunication
between the parties regarding the paperwork and other program guidelines.
Police Community Relations
Throughout the year, we work with local police to ensure the security of community residents
and to address community concerns. My staff and I attend precinct community council meetings
and maintain regular contact with the officers who serve and protect our community. In August,
we participated in annual Night Out Against Crime events hosted by the precincts, the community
councils, and other neighborhood organizations. In November, I joined police officers, community
council members, and other elected officials and community representatives at the annual Police
Service Area 4 Community Fellowship Breakfast to celebrate good relations and foster cooperation
between local residents and the officers of PSA 4. If you are interested in or concerned about issues
related to policing in our community, I urge you to consider attending and participating in your local
community council meetings. For more information, call our community office at 212-979-9696.
A New Clubhouse for Lower East Side Girls
In May, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and I announced $500,000 in capital funding for the Lower
Eastside Girls Club. The funding was included in the 2008 State Budget for the construction of a new
community center on Avenue D between 7th and 8th Streets. With the opening of the new facility in
2010, the Lower Eastside Girls Club expects to triple the number of girls and young women
served—increasing from 500 to 1,500.
Campaigning for a New Park
In February, I joined local elected officials, members of Community Board 6, and a coalition
of civic and advocacy organizations to announce a park plan that would provide four acres of
open space along the East River just north of East 35th Street. City parks are vital to our
community’s quality of life. They provide space for recreation and contribute to our overall health.
I will continue to look for opportunities to expand and protect green spaces in our community,
which has the least per-capita open space in Manhattan.
In September, I joined Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and other elected officials
to call on the New York City Housing Authority to increase safety in over 3,000 elevators in
Authority buildings. The event highlighted a report released by the Borough President’s office,
which revealed that over the last 5 years 75 percent of inspected elevators in public housing
had been rated “unsatisfactory.” In a tragic recent example, a child was killed in Brooklyn
when he fell down the shaft of an elevator that was stuck between floors with the doors open.
It is critical that we find a way to make sure these elevators are properly inspected and that
unsafe conditions are promptly and effectively addressed. I am currently working on legislation
to address some of the issues raised in the report.
Standing Up For Schools
While we succeeded last year in securing more equitable State funding for our city’s schools,
many students continue to face difficult conditions, which vary from one school to the next:
some with severe overcrowding, others with facilities that are inadequate or in disrepair, still
others with deficiencies in the educational program—and some with all of the above.
Throughout the year, my staff and I have worked with parents, teachers, principals, and
Department of Education (DOE) officials toward solving the problems of today while preparing
our schools to serve our growing community in the future. I have personally visited dozens of
schools in the district to see and hear first-hand about the challenges. In October, I joined
parents, students, teachers, and activists at City Hall to testify before the City Council about
school overcrowding at several schools serving students from the district—PS 116 in Murray
Hill, and PS 361, PS 315, and PS 110 on the Lower East Side. I emphasized the need for
DOE to consider how new housing development in a community will affect school capacity,
to do a better job of involving parents, teachers, and students in school planning, and to
ensure that all schools include adequate space for the arts, science labs, physical education,
and other essential components of a well-rounded education.
Saint Brigid Church Is Saved
Earlier this year, I was surprised and pleased to hear that an anonymous benefactor donated
$20 million to save Saint Brigid Church from demolition. I have been a long-time supporter
of the Committee to Save St. Brigid, working with organizers on events and outreach to the
Archdiocese. The credit for saving the church goes to the many members and supporters
of the Committee to Save St. Brigid. Without their tireless work and unwavering faith, St. Brigid
would not be here today. The church, located at the corner of 7th Street and Avenue B, has
been a cornerstone of this neighborhood for over 150 years and is a significant part of New
York City’s history. When fully restored it will stand as a monument to the power of community,
faith, and generosity in our city.
Catching the Reading Bug!
On September 7th, I joined residents for a Hawaiian themed luau at the Nathan Straus Houses
Annual Family Day. At the event, I handed out Excellence in Reading Certificates to the children
from Straus who had completed the New York State Assembly’s Summer Reading Challenge.
Students from all over the district, ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade, participated in the
challenge. Each participant who successfully read at least 15 minutes a day on 40 days in July
and August received an Excellence in Reading Certificate from the New York State Assembly.
I have always believed that it is important for all of us to do what we can to strengthen our
community and help those in need. When I have the chance, I like to take advantage of the
many volunteer opportunities in our community. This year I was delighted to take part in It’s
My Park Day in Union Square Park and NY Cares Day in Tompkins Square Park, to garden
with the Park Angels in Stuyvesant Cove Park, to clean up 3rd Avenue with the Murray Hill
Neighborhood Association and to serve food at the Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Parish’s
soup kitchen. I encourage you all to take advantage of the countless opportunities to volunteer
around the neighborhood and feel free to call us if you would like some more ideas about how
to get involved.
In October, I participated in the 2nd Annual Lower East Side Kids’ Art Bike Parade,
sponsored by the East Village Community Coalition, Recycle-A-Bicycle, the Lower East
Side People’s Mutual Housing Association, and other community organizations. The
parade is a culmination of weeks of work for the participating children, in which they
decorate their bikes and learn about bike safety. I was proud to join Councilmember
Rosie Mendez as an Honorary Marshal of the parade as we led community
members—children and adults alike—who proudly rode their decorated bikes
along the parade route.
Every week my office has the opportunity to participate in a number of community
meetings and forums. Some large, some small, these meetings give us the chance
to talk about the work we are doing and hear back from you. Some examples of the
forums I attended this year included: a discussion of issues affecting seniors at Stein
Senior Center, monthly meetings of Community Boards 3, 5 and 6, the annual meeting
of the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association, three community meetings with the tenants
of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, and the Community Advisory Board of
Bellevue Hospital. For me to be effective as your representative, it is important that we
are able to engage in an ongoing, active dialogue. I thank everyone who took the time to
come to a community meeting in 2008 and I look forward to continuing the conversation
with you in 2009.