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Community Newsletter - August/September 2010

Kavanagh Celebrates National Night Out Against Crime

On August 3rd, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh celebrated National Night Out Against Crime with police officers and community residents. Now in its 27th year, the nationwide event was observed in six different locations in the 74th Assembly District, including the 7th, 9th, 13th, and 17th Precincts, Police Service Area 4, which serves public housing residents, and Transit Bureau District 4, which polices the subways and buses in much of Manhattan's East Side and held its celebration in Union Square. The event is intended to foster a strong partnership between communities and the police and to raise awareness of ways that everyone can work together to keep communities safe and reduce crime.

After voting on the final bills of the 2010 budget in Albany and traveling back to Manhattan, Kavanagh attended events in the 13th and 17th Precincts. Addressing the crowd at the 17th, he stressed the great work the police and the local community council have done in the past year, the importance of continued vigilance and community participation, and recent efforts to focus on reducing gun violence and hate crimes and improve pedestrian safety. Leslie Pena of Kavanagh's office spoke with revelers at the 7th and 9th Precincts and PSA 4.

As diverse as the respective neighborhoods are, so too were the events and activities planned for National Night Out. Those at Union Square were treated to face paintings while at the 13th Precinct, community members enjoyed free food and an inflatable balloon castle. At the 9th Precinct the "Museum of Curious Things" set up an exhibit for kids alongside inflatable slides and other entertainment. At the 7th Precinct, Captain Nancy Barry greeted community residents individually as they arrived. There were amusement rides for kids and performances by a mariachi band and a Chinese dance group. The night was again a resounding success.

Governor Signs Kavanagh/Squadron Bill Protecting Condo and Co-Op Owners

On August 30, 2010, Governor David Paterson signed into law a bill authored by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and State Senator Daniel Squadron to ensure that owners of condominium and cooperative apartments are able to exercise their right to protect themselves from so-called "sweetheart" contracts made before residents gain a majority stake in a building. Under the federal Condominium and Cooperative Abuse Act, tenant shareholders and unit owners are entitled to terminate self-dealing "sweetheart" contracts, within two years after the sponsor loses "special developer control." However, often the time to void the contracts expires before members of a condo or co-op board know they have this right. The new law requires sponsors of condo or co-op conversations to notify tenant shareholders or unit owners in writing within 30 days of the date that the right commences and at least 60 days before the right expires.

Kavanagh Attends Mutual Housing Association Annual Meeting

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined Executive Director Mary Spink and the board and membership of the Lower East Side Peoples Mutual Housing Association (LESPMHA) for the organization's annual meeting on the evening of Friday, August 6, 2010. Elections to the board were held, Spink delivered her annual report to the membership, and awards were presented, including certificates of merit Kavanagh presented to high school students who were recognized for their achievements in the past year. The meeting was followed by a celebratory dinner reception and refreshments. Also in attendance were State Senator Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and a representative of US Congressmember Nydia M. Velazquez. LESPMHA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership organization created in 1987 to rehabilitate vacant multi-family buildings owned by the City and to construct new affordable housing on the Lower East Side. LESPHA owns and manages more than two dozen buildings, provides management and maintenance services for other private for-profit and not-for-profit housing units, and offers social services and job training to resident members.

Squadron/Kavanagh Bill Increasing Penalties Against Careless Drivers Signed Into Law

On August 13th, Governor David Paterson signed into law a bill introduced by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and Senator Daniel Squadron, which increases penalties for careless drivers who injure pedestrians, bicyclists, and other road users. Under the newly signed law, drivers whose failure to exercise due care results in an injury can face a fine of $750, suspension of the drivers license or registration, mandatory participation in a driving training course, or any combination of these penalties for a first offense. For a second offense, the driver could face a misdemeanor charge.

Kavanagh Attends Gramercy Neighborhood Associates Event

On September 12th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh stopped by Gramercy Park West for the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates' (GNA) annual Canine Comedy Parade. The light-hearted event, organized by GNA president Alan Krevis, pictured above with Kavanagh and GNA member Gary Horowitz, featured dogs of various sizes and breeds parading with their owners on a red carpet lined with plastic red fire hydrants. Several other dog-related activities were also available, including an artist drawing caricatures of some of the dogs. Proceeds of the event will support GNA's community activities.

Kavanagh Celebrates Family Day Events with Public Housing Residents

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, along with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Senator Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, joined public housing residents at Baruch Houses and Lower East Side Rehab V for their respective Family Day celebrations on August 7, 2010. Kavanagh and Squadron also had a mobile office present throughout the Baruch event, answering constituents' questions and offering assistance with government services and other issues. Elected officials spoke about their efforts to preserve and improve NYCHA by securing funding and pressing for adequate maintenance and security. Everyone enjoyed the live Latin music and dance performances by residents. Baruch residents were treated to a Puerto Rican lunch cooked by the Tenant Association President Roberto Napoleon and fellow residents, while Rehab V featured a hearty barbecue. And on August 19, 2010, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined Tenant Association President Odell Pamias and residents of Jacob Riis Houses and the surrounding neighborhood at Riis Family Day on the Lower East Side. The event featured dance music, barbecue, face paintings and even a clown, pictured here along with Senator Daniel Squadron, Kavanagh, Ms. Pamias, and another resident.

Kavanagh Attends Family Day at Solar One

On August 7th, Assemblymember Kavanagh dropped by Solar One's Family Day. Kavanagh joined community members in a much needed break from the city heat and enjoyed lemonade served by Solar One staff. Kids who attended were treated to face paintings and visited by a wide variety of creatures including a hermit crab, a giant tiger salamander, and a blue-tongued skink.

Kavanagh Visits Virginia Day Nursery Annual Barbecue and Picnic

On August 12th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh attended the Virginia Day Nursery's annual barbecue and picnic. Director Aurora Ceniza introduced Kavanagh and mentioned the quick work of Kavanagh's community liaison, Leslie Pena, in getting the Nursery's air conditioning fixed by the landlord, the New York City Housing Authority, in the midst of the recent heat wave. The Assemblymember greeted families, staff, program volunteers, and of course the children, and then joined everyone for a barbecue lunch. The Virginia Day Nursery is located at 464 East 10th Street, east of Avenue D, in Jacob Riis Houses.

Kavanagh Welcomes Charlie Parker Jazz Back to Lower East Side for its 18th Year

On August 29th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh was on hand, along with State Senator Daniel Squadron, to welcome a huge crowd to the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Tompkins Square Park, before the musicians took the stage. Kavanagh spoke briefly about the importance of public, accessible artistic and cultural events and the long history of the Lower East Side as a place that welcomes and fosters creativity and improvisation.

Part of the City Parks Foundation's Summer Stage program, the event celebrates the life and extraordinary music of Charlie Parker and takes place every August in honor of Parker's birthday.

Congratulations to Summer Readers!

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh attended two summer reading celebrations hosted by the New York Public Library. On August 27, 2010, Kavanagh stopped by the Epiphany branch on East 23rd Street while on August 31st, he joined families and library staff at the Kips Bay branch on Third Avenue and East 31st Street. At both events Kavanagh spoke to participants in the summer reading program about the importance and fun of reading.

Each event featured special guests to make the celebrations more festive and educational. At Epiphany, a live musical band got the summer readers singing and dancing, while the readers at Kips Bay were treated to a "Birds of Prey" exhibit, with live owls, hawks, and other birds that hunt for their food. Children who participated in the reading program received certificates from the Library.

Kavanagh Joins the Circus, East Village Style

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined the Lower East Side Girls Club for the East Village Earth Circus at the annual HOWL festival in Tompkins Square Park on September 11, 2010. Kavanagh spoke with fellow circus-goers and viewed some of the performances and activities, which included: Jumpers in Command Double Dutch, Rosie's Broadway Kids, the Girls Club Flamenco Dancers, a kids Yoga Tent sponsored by Bikram Yoga LES, and many more. One of the highlights was Girlzilla, a 14-foot tall robot designed and built by Girls Club members, which roved around the event throughout the day.

Kavanagh Joins Hispanic Federation to Promote Good Health

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined the Hispanic Federation and the National Alliance for Hispanic Health for their 4th Annual "ˇVive tu vida! Get Up! Get Moving!" Healthy Lifestyle Fair. The event, held on August 29, 2010 on the Lower East Side, promoted physical activity as a means to better health and wellness for people of all ages.

Under the theme "Dancing Towards Health," the event drew residents from all over the Lower East Side, including Riis Houses Tenant Association President Odell Pamias - who came ready to dance! - and other community leaders. Featured at the Fair were fun family-oriented dance classes and contests, a soccer clinic, exercise demonstrations, and a great deal of information about healthy and green living from the National Alliance, AARP, the City of New York, the American Heart Association, Betances Health Center, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Ryan-Nena Community Health Center, and other health-related organizations.

Kavanagh spoke briefly at the event, emphasizing the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle at every age and acknowledging the tremendous work of the Hispanic Federation, under the leadership of President Lillian Rodríguez López, in promoting not only good health, but also economic opportunity and justice for the Latino community, fair immigration policy, and so many other important causes.

Governor Signs Kavanagh/Parker Bill on Theft of Human Tissue

On August 13th, Governor David Paterson signed into law a bill authored by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and Senator Kevin Parker to clarify that criminal statutes prohibiting stealing and trafficking in human cadavers apply to individual organs and tissues. The new law also calls upon the State Health Commissioner to develop more robust regulations to increase monitoring and enforcement in this area.

In 2005, an investigation began in Brooklyn into the illegal harvesting of bones, tissues, and organs from more than 1,000 bodies, which were then sold by Biomedical Tissue Services to be used in transplants, therapies and research, earning this company roughly $4.6 million in revenue. No precautions were taken to ensure that transplants were free of disease, so numerous recipients of these donations were put at risk of contracting very serious health problems. Stealing bones, organs, and tissues also has an emotional impact on families and friends of the deceased and offends the conscience of civilized society.

Biomedical Tissue Services was shut down in Fall 2005 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the proprietors were prosecuted along with several employees of funeral parlors who were involved in the transactions. The new bill will clarify the law in future cases, facilitate prosecution, and also strengthen the State's regulatory approaches to detection and prevention of unlawful transactions, in a time when advances in science create greater financial incentives for engaging in this kind of criminal activity.

New Law Will Prevent Insurers from Improperly Cutting Off Disabled Worker Benefits

On August 13th, Governor David Paterson signed in to law a bill (A619/S5108) that protects disabled workers from having their benefits cut off improperly by insurers. The bill, which was introduced in the Assembly by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and in the Senate by Senator Diane Savino, address instances in which injured workers currently can lose benefits simply by failing to respond promptly to seemingly routine paperwork sent by their insurer. A619/S5108 changes the law to make sure workers receive adequate notice of what's at stake and have a reasonable time period to respond.

Kavanagh Proposes New Anti-Salmonella Bill in Wake of Huge Egg Recall in Recent History

In the wake of the largest recall of eggs in history after a nationwide salmonella outbreak, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and State Senator Daniel Squadron joined food safety advocates today to announce legislation that will require farmers to vaccinate hens against the dangerous bacteria.

Over half a billion eggs were recalled earlier this month after contaminated eggs led to a salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands of Americans. The FDA issued new safety rules for eggs that went into effect last month but did not require salmonella vaccination of hens, even though industry experts and food safety advocates recommend the measure to protect consumers against the health threat. Salmonella vaccination by British farmers has successfully reduced the number of salmonella cases by 96 percent in England and Wales over the past decade.

Assemblymember Kavanagh said, "The massive outbreaks of food-borne illness in recent months leave no doubt that our food safety system is failing us, threatening everyone's health and wellbeing, and sometimes costing people's lives," said Assemblymember Kavanagh. "Getting our regulatory system in order will involve a long, complex process of developing and enforcing stronger standards in the face of inevitable industry opposition. But with respect to salmonella in eggs, we're fortunate that there is a silver bullet that has been proven in other jurisdictions to virtually eliminate the threat, literally with a single shot. Vaccination to fight salmonella in eggs is long overdue, and we're going to make it happen in New York."

Kavanagh Helps Kick Off Baruch College's Voter Registration Drive

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Professor and School of Public Affairs Dean David Birdsell, Undergraduate Student Government Vice President Daniel Liong, and numerous student leaders and other interested students to kick off the Student Government's annual voter registration drive at Baruch College on August 30, 2010.

Kavanagh addressed the students about the importance of voting and the decisions legislators and other elected officials make in students' lives, the obstacles students often face when they try to register and vote, and some of his work as chair of the Assembly subcommittee that deals with election operations and voting rights.

Kavanagh Joins Local Voters for Demonstration of New Voting Machines at Stuyvesant Town

On September 7th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh joined State Senator Tom Duane, Councilmember Daniel Gardonick, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association (TA) President Al Doyle, and other TA members, for a demonstration of the new voting system that will be in use for both the primary election on September 14th and the general election on November 2nd.

At the demonstration, held at the community center in Stuyvesant Town, Kavanagh walked through the new voting process along with local voters, by filling out a sample ballot and feeding it into a scanning machine that counts the votes and retains the ballots so they can be audited and verified.

Representatives of the New York City Board of Elections were on hand to explain the process and demonstrate the machines. Kavanagh, who chairs the Assembly's Subcommittee on Election Operations and voting rights, also answered questions about the new system and the federal and state legislation behind it.

Kavanagh Attends 9/11 Memorial Ceremony and "Day of Service"

On the morning of September 11th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh attended the ceremony marking the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan. Family members of those killed on September 11, 2001 entered the World Trade Center site accompanied by honor guards from the City Police and Fire Departments and the Port Authority Police Department, and laid flowers at the future site of September 11th memorial and museum.

Kavanagh also stopped by to greet volunteers and express his support for a 9/11 Day of Service event organized by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger at Father Heart Ministry's food pantry and soup kitchen on the Lower East Side. The Coalition Against Hunger represents more than 1,200 not-for-profit soup kitchens and pantries throughout New York, as well as more than 1.3 million low income New Yorkers. Father Heart Ministry is a faith-based 501(c)3 not-for-profit ministry located at 545 East 11th Street.

Kavanagh Speaks at Screening of "Gasland"

On the evening of September 11th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh spoke before a screening of the film "Gasland," directed by Josh Fox, at Solar One. The film explores the use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), an industrial process that natural gas drillers have employed in many states, but which has not been approved for use in New York to date. The event, which was co-sponsored by the Stuyvesant Cove Park Association and Rooftop Films, also featured live musical performances, as well as a question and answer session with Fox after the film.

Kavanagh addressed the audience regarding testimony presented at extensive legislative hearings he and his colleagues on the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee have held raising serious concerns about the safety of HVHF and its impact on the environment and public health. He noted the apparent failure of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and governments in other states to properly regulate drilling and ensure its safety, the steps he and his colleagues and many concerned New Yorkers have taken to prevent approval of HVHF here without first ensuring its safety, and some encouraging signs that the EPA is now giving the process the scrutiny it warrants.

Kavanagh Appears at Solar One with Climate Activist Bill McKibben

On the evening of September 8th, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh addressed the crowd at an event at Solar One that also featured climate activist Bill McKibben. McKibben's stop at Solar One was part of a multi-city road trip, which will culminate at the White House, to return a set of solar panels that were originally installed on the building's roof during the Carter administration to promote solar energy and other alternative energy technologies. The panels were removed during the Reagan administration and have since been in use at Unity College in Maine. Kavanagh spoke about McKibben's tremendous leadership and foresight on energy and environmental issues, and about efforts in New York State to increase the use of renewable energy and to institute other sustainable environmental polices.

Kavanagh Joins City/State Town Hall Meeting on Gas Drilling

In an unusual joint public hearing hosted by City and State legislators, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and colleagues from the New York City Council and the State Senate heard testimony on the US Environmental Protection Agency's official study of the potential health and environmental impacts of the natural gas drilling process known as high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which has been proposed for wide use across much of New York State.

At the hearing held on August 24, 2010 in downtown Manhattan, chaired by Council Environmental Protection Committee Chair James Gennaro, Kavanagh and his colleagues heard from experts, advocates, and the general public about their concerns regarding the process as it has been practiced in other states, and its potential effects in New York State - as well as testimony from some New Yorkers who favor permitting the process here.

As a member of the State Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee, Kavanagh has been an active critic of this kind of drilling and of the State's proposals to permit it in New York without sufficient evidence that it can be done safely.