Community Newsletter - January 2010
Happy New Year from Team Kavanagh!!
Kavanagh's Housing Hotline: 646-459-3023
Assemblymember Kavanagh sponsors a 74th Assembly District Housing Hotline. Legal advice is provided by the Urban Justice Center. The service is easy to use and free for district residents. Simply call and leave a message, and an attorney will return your call within 48 hours.
Kavanagh and Stringer Announce Substantial Grant for East Side Waterfront: On January 8th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer announced receipt of a $650,000 grant for Manhattan's East Side through the New York State Environmental Protection Fund's Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. The State Department of State (DOS) awarded the funding to support a community process to plan for greater access to the waterfront along the East River from East 38th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge. The goal of the process is to create a veritable "water trail" - sometimes known as a "blueway" - with various access points and recreational and educational opportunities up and down the three-mile stretch of the river.

Kavanagh and Stringer, in conjunction with other elected officials and community leaders including Councilmember Dan Garodnick, Community Board 6, Friends of the Pier at Stuyvesant Cove, and the Lower East Side Ecology Center, worked collaboratively on the application for the funding.

"This is a victory for our community and a significant opportunity to take full advantage of our waterfront, which has long lacked the attention it deserves. The communities that stretch from East Midtown to the Lower East Side are among those with the least green space in this city and this lack of open space is exacerbated by the limited access to the river that forms the eastern boundary of our neighborhoods," said Kavanagh. "We are determined to bring together the resources needed to change this, and the EPF grant we're announcing today is a huge step in the right direction."

The grant is part of a total of $23.8 million in EPF funding awarded for a variety of planning, design, and construction projects across New York State that focus on economic, community, environmental, and recreational improvements.

Kavanagh Joins Public Advocate Bill de Blasio To Call for Enhanced Voter Education in New York City: On January 5th, just hours before the New York City Board of Elections (NYCBOE) approved a new system that will use paper ballots and optical scanners to tally votes for the 2010 elections, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined Public Advocate Bill de Blasio to call upon the NYCBOE to begin a proactive voter education program. The initiative, dubbed the "Voter Information Plan," would seek to provide every voter with information on using the new machines in advance of election days through traditional and newer media.

Also in attendance were Senator Joseph Addabbo, the chair of the Senate Elections Committee, and Councilmember Dan Garodnick, as well as several voting rights groups, including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, NYPIRG, and the Center for the Independence of the Disabled New York.

"As we move to adopt a modern system for casting and counting votes, it is critical that we give voters every opportunity to understand the new machines and to have confidence in the system," Kavanagh said. "This past Election Day, my staff and I visited poll sites in ten counties to the north that piloted machines like the ones New York City will now use. We found that the experience of voters varied widely, in part depending on the level of preparation and public outreach conducted by election officials in advance of the election. I applaud Public Advocate de Blasio for putting together excellent suggestions for maximizing effective outreach here in the city."

Tishman Speyer Defaults on Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village: On January 8th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh released the following statement:

"Though we've long expected that Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty, the owners of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, would default on their property loans, the news that they failed to make a $16 million mortgage payment due today is nonetheless disconcerting to many residents of our community. But it is important for everyone to know that the rights of tenants under state law will not change as the landlords' and investors' financial problems worsen, or as a result of any change in ownership. I will continue to work with my fellow elected officials, city, state, and federal agencies, the Tenants Association, and every Stuy Town and Peter Cooper resident to do everything we can to protect those rights.

In the long term, we may come to see this day as the beginning of the end of a very destructive and acrimonious period in the life of this community. I am hopeful that, with hard work, vigilant advocacy, and unity among the thousands of people who live here, we will be able to preserve the quality of life, the stability, and the affordability of this community."

Kavanagh, Garodnick, Duane, and ST/PCV-TA Meet with DHCR Commissioner: On December 18th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Council Member Dan Garodnick, State Senator Tom Duane, staff members from U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's offices, and Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association (ST/PCV-TA) President Al Doyle and Vice President John Marsh sat down with the Commissioner of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) Deborah VanAmerongen and two members of her staff. The meeting was the result of a series of letters that the elected officials had sent to the DHCR Commissioner on the subject of the Major Capital Improvement (MCI) rent increase process, particularly as it pertains to ST/PCV.

Kavanagh, his elected official colleagues, and ST/PCV-TA had requested the meeting with DHCR in order to receive answers on past and pending applications, the approval, notification, and review process, and measures that can be taken by tenants and the TA to substantiate their claims when they determine that MCI rent increases are unwarranted.

VanAmerongen agreed to begin a practice whereby DHCR will send copies of the materials it receives from ST/PCV's landlord in support of a particular MCI application directly to the TA on a regular basis so that tenants are kept apprised of developments and have the opportunity to review the materials and weigh in regarding the substance and validity of the applications. This is a large step forward, as one of the greatest obstacles to effective tenant input in the MCI process has been the difficulty involved in obtaining information about the applications under consideration. Kavanagh and the other elected officials also urged the agency to modernize its technology so that owners can submit their applications electronically, which would facilitate access to and distribution of the applications and supporting materials.

Though DHCR asserted that it was not legally permitted to discuss pending applications, the attendees did achieve a greater understanding of how applications and appeals are considered. Though they appreciated this progress, Kavanagh and his colleagues will continue their attempts in 2010 to work with DHCR to improve the transparency, fairness, and convenience of its processes.

Kavanagh, Squadron, and GOLES Meet with NYCHA Officials: On December 22nd, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Executive Director of GOLES Damaris Reyes, and GOLES Director of Organizing Lisa Burriss met with New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chairman John Rhea and NYCHA General Manager Michael Kelly. The meeting was held to discuss NYCHA's mixed-finance proposal to federalize its twenty-one City and State public housing developments through an opportunity provided by the Federal Government's economic stimulus program. Under the plan, the federalization of State and City developments can occur if certain conditions are met:

Kavanagh, Squadron, GOLES, and many other elected officials and community leaders are working to ensure that all City and State units are preserved as public housing and that residents' tenancy is protected and preserved.

Kavanagh, Squadron, Community Council and Department of Ed Announce New Admissions Process: On December 9th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Daniel Squadron, and the Community Education Council (CEC) for District 1 joined the Department of Education (DOE) for an announcement of major changes in the admissions process for District 1 schools. Parents, community residents, and CEC members and allies were in attendance for a presentation by DOE followed by a discussion of the changes at a special CEC District 1 meeting.

A key aspect of the new process is that District 1 parents whose children are enrolled in pre-kindergarten will be able to reenroll their children in kindergarten at the same school without reapplying. The changes come after intensive efforts by Kavanagh, Squadron, CEC President Lisa Donlan, and many parents - as well as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Scott Stringer, and Councilmember Rosie Mendez - who have advocated for a policy that reduces inconvenience and uncertainty for parents and children, increases continuity in students' education, and promotes diversity in schools and equal opportunity for all students. The presentation included information on priorities for admissions, timelines, and recruitment efforts.

Kavanagh Submits Formal Comments to State on Gas Drilling Process: On December 31st, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh submitted formal comments to the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regarding its Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) on natural gas drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale formation.

In a comprehensive 4,000-word document, Kavanagh detailed nine specific objections to the current draft of the environmental impact statement, which Kavanagh asserts should be fully addressed before the document is finalized and before any of the proposed drilling is permitted. Among these points, Kavanagh called on the DEC to review incidents of spills and contamination in other states more thoroughly to ensure that serious dangers are not repeated here, ban drilling in the New York City Watershed and other environmentally sensitive areas, ban certain toxic chemicals from being pumped into the ground, mandate full public disclosure of all chemicals used by drilling companies, explore additional wastewater and disposal options, consider ways to require the drilling industry to fund the costs of permitting and oversight, and ensure that all required components of the environmental review are thoroughly examined, including the requirement that the cumulative impact of the drilling and related activities be fully assessed. Kavanagh also reiterated his request that the period for public comment on the dSGEIS be extended through at least the end of January 2010. Read Kavanagh's comments at his Web site.

Kavanagh Honored as "Streetsie" Runner-Up Legislator of the Year: On December 31st, named Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh Runner-Up in the 2009 Streetsie Awards' Best Legislator category. Kavanagh was honored for playing "the leading role in rallying 18 other local electeds to support physically separated bus and bike lanes on First and Second Avenues." The letter that Kavanagh and his elected colleagues directed to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan urged the agency to embrace a true Bus Rapid Transit system for the East Side corridor, and can be accessed in the December Community Newsletter or on Brian Kavanagh's Web site.

Kavanagh and Duane Request Meeting With SHPO Regarding Bellevue Landmarking: In a letter dated December 22nd, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and State Senator Tom Duane addressed State Historic and Preservation Organization (SHPO) Director Ruth Pierpont about the potential eligibility of the former Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital Building to attain National and State Historic Landmark status. Nine other elected officials whose districts include or are in close proximity to the building's location on 1st Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets also signed onto the letter.

As the State officials representing the facility, Kavanagh and Duane highlighted the current efforts of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) to comply with the 197-a plan of Community Board 6, approved by the City in 2008, and to cooperate with community advocates and elected officials in their aim to incorporate community service providers into future plans for the building. In meeting with SHPO, the officials will seek to discuss the framework in which reconstruction of the building can occur while retaining its eligibility for landmark status and the resultant tax breaks.

Kavanagh Calls on State to Fund Section 8 Vouchers: In response to the New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) announcement that 3,018 previously issued Section 8 vouchers will be eliminated due to budget shortfalls, Assemblymember Kavanagh wrote a letter to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) calling on OTDA to approve the NYC Department of Homeless Services' request to fund the vouchers. The vouchers would be funded for 18 months through an extension of the Advantage Program.

Kavanagh called on the State to act as soon as possible stating that "investing millions of dollars now to save tens of millions later makes economic sense...and would avert the incalculable human cost of revoking the promise of permanent housing for thousands of the most vulnerable New Yorkers."

Housing Committee Holds Hearing on Budgetary Influences on New York's Housing Programs: Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined his colleagues on the Assembly Housing Committee, including Committee Chair Vito Lopez, for a public hearing in Manhattan on December 14th to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of current housing programs in New York State and state-authorized programs in New York City.

The Housing Committee's hearing was charged with reviewing New York State's housing programs to ensure that they are continuing to meet the needs of New York's residents. While the recent downturn in the economy has reduced the availability of funding, Kavanagh believes that it is important for residents to continue to have access to safe, clean and affordable housing.

Kavanagh, Garodnick, Maloney, and ST-PCV Attorney Address Tenant Concerns During Teleconference: On December 18th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, and Councilmember Dan Garodnick joined Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association (ST/PCV-TA) Vice President John Marsh as co-hosts of a J-51 teleconference, which was also sponsored by State Senator Tom Duane. Attorney Alex Schmidt, of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP, the firm that has represented the ST/PCV tenants in Roberts v. Tishman Speyer and subsequent negotiations, also participated in the teleconference, the second such forum that ST/PCV-TA has organized.

The teleconference addressed the interim agreement reached with Tishman Speyer to adjust rents in each market-rate apartment affected by the recent Court of Appeals decision to an estimated rent-stabilized level for January and February 2010. The rent adjustment is to be reflected in the January invoices that were sent to residents in late December and early January. During the interim agreement, each previously market-rate tenant will also be afforded certain rights available under the Rent Stabilization Law, including the rights of renewal and succession.

Schmidt explained that counsel had also reached an agreement with Tishman Speyer and BlackRock on a more inclusive, six-month agreement covering a broader spectrum of unresolved issues. The longer agreement, which will hopefully achieve an expedited resolution to the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer case, will require the consent of CW Capital, the special servicer acting on behalf of the property's senior mortgage lenders.

The teleconference was structured to enable the elected officials, TA Vice President, and plaintiffs' attorney to respond to tenants' questions submitted both prior to and during the teleconference. Kavanagh addressed the issue of the extension of the Rent Stabilization Law beyond its 2011 expiration as well as the rights afforded by rent stabilization and other concerns. Other topics discussed included the future negotiations that will be needed to determine possible rent overcharges and class definitions as well as the status of the nation's two largest mortgage finance lenders and senior investors in Tishman Speyer's securitized mortgage for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A transcript of the teleconference should soon be available on the ST/PCV-TA Web site.

Kavanagh Introduces Legislation To Mandate More Energy Efficient Televisions: On December 23rd, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh introduced legislation that would mandate new, robust standards of energy efficiency for televisions manufactured on or after January 1, 2011, and sold in New York State. The new standards mirror those recently adopted by California. The growth of television use, as well as high-definition, plasma, liquid crystal display, and other technological innovations, has rapidly increased the number of large televisions on the market. On average, energy consumption resulting from television use has increased from 3% to 10% of home energy use.

"New Yorkers deserve technology that will enable them to enjoy the most innovative products while also keeping their energy costs down and contributing less to carbon emissions and the burden placed on the power grid," said Kavanagh. "If California can do it, New York certainly can. There's no reason why New York State should not be at the forefront of the energy efficiency movement in the United States."

Under the new law, an initial set of standards ("tier 1") would apply to televisions manufactured in 2011 and beyond; even more stringent standards ("tier 2") would go into effect in 2013. Currently, more than 1,000 television models on the market meet the proposed tier 1 standards and more than 300 models already meet the proposed tier 2 levels. Studies have found that these more efficient technologies are generally not more expensive for the manufacturer or the consumer than the less efficient ones. Kavanagh's win-win bill would help save consumers money on their electricity bills, conserve energy, protect the environment, and take advantage of technology currently available.