Protection of Transgender Rights: "GENDA" Passes Assembly
The bill to protect transgender people under the State Human Rights Law was approved by the Assembly with bi-partisan support. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) which I have been sponsoring since 2003 will now be referred to the State Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee.
Transgender people - whose gender identity, appearance, behavior or expression differs from their genetic sex at birth - face discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and other areas of life, and they are particularly vulnerable to hate crimes. The transgender community is not protected under current state law.
The passage of GENDA is an important and overdue protection of human rights. The experience of transgender individuals, and the discrimination they face, are unique, and should be specifically identified and unambiguously rejected in our State's civil rights laws, just like discrimination based on age, sex, sexual orientation, religion, race, disability, or ethnicity.
Sixteen states, Washington, D.C. and over 140 other localities across the country including Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, and the counties of Suffolk and Tompkins have already enacted local GENDA laws. The bill has passed the Assembly four times.
The Assembly bill has 54 sponsors, including members of both political parties representing urban, suburban, upstate, and rural New York. State Senator Daniel Squadron sponsors the Senate bill, S6394.
For a full text of the bill, visit: http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&bn=A05039&term=2011&Summary=Y&Text=Y
LPC Approves Alteration and Expansion of Hotel Chelsea
The sale of the Chelsea Hotel in 2011 has presented the tenants of the building with many issues. The new owners, the Chetrit Group, have begun a full interior renovation and will add an additional story to the roof. It is unclear what Chetrit intents to use the additional story for at this time.
In April, the Chetrit Group applied before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to make alterations on the building.
At the LPC hearing, I presented testimony on behalf of US Rep. Nadler, City Council Speaker Quinn, State Senate Duane, and myself imploring the commission to reject the application, which includes a rooftop addition that will be visible from other streets and adversely affect the quality of life for tenants of the Hotel. At the hearing, the commission did not vote and asked the applicant for additional information. The applicant complied quickly and without additional public comment, at its April 24 meeting, the commission voted to approve the expansion and changes to the Hotel.
This is a terribly unfortunate situation. In my statement to Chelsea Now, I called on the Commission to rescind its decision and to hold another proper hearing.
GMHC Launches 27th Annual AIDS Walk New York
The Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) was founded in 1981 in New York City as a response to the growing threat of HIV/AIDS. GMHC has grown into a nationally recognized organization that provides resources to people with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Providing these resources is expensive, and GMHC has fought hard to secure funding from the City, State, and Federal governments, but it doesn't end there.
Assembly Hearing on Illegal Hotels Sheds Light on Enforcement Problems
In 2010, my bill (A.10008/S.6873 (Krueger) of 2009) to protect tenants and tourists against illegal hotels was enacted. Since then, the law has been clear: operating a residential apartment as a transient hotel is illegal in New York City. Unfortunately, while clarifying state law has improved the ability of city enforcement agencies, like the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement (OSE), to issue violations against some offenders, it has not put an end to the rampant spread of illegal hotels.
On April 27th, the Assembly Housing Committee, chaired by Vito Lopez, held a hearing to shed light on ongoing enforcement issues. Tenants and advocates raised a number of them.
Important issues raised include:
- More OSE inspectors are needed to investigate the many illegal hotels. This need was reiterated by OSE in its testimony. Another issue raised is that the penalty for operating an illegal hotel is much too low.
- Fines need to be greatly increased. When an owner is found guilty of operating an illegal hotel, the resulting fine is about $800, no matter how many units have been used improperly or how many times. These fines are so low they are easily incorporated into the cost of doing business model. (Councilmember Gale Brewer's "Illegal Hotels Fines Bill" would rectify this by increasing fines to as much as $25,000.)
- Creating a mechanism so that DHCR can return a previously deregulated unit back to being regulated when illegal hotel use is found.
I am grateful to the many tenants and advocates from Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen, and other areas who took the time out to testify.
Hudson River Park Taskforce
The Hudson River Park is well established and well run by the Hudson River Park Trust. As the author of the legislation that created the Park and the Trust, I am gratified by its success and its value to the community. However, there has not been the necessary steady financial commitment from the state and city to maintain and complete it.
The Park is unfinished and many millions of dollars away from completion. Pier 40 is in serious disrepair and as a result is not collecting as much revenue as expected and needed. The repairs needed would cost about $100 million. This and other capital and maintenance needs make it necessary to revisit the park legislation in order to advance our vision for the park.
The Hudson River Park Trust has established a Task Force to study various scenarios to increase revenue for the park and amend the park legislation. Some of the possible amendments include lengthening the permitted lease term for operations in the park and allowing the Trust to issue bonds for projects as well as allowing for new uses. I believe it is necessary for us to explore these options to increase revenue for the park so that it is properly maintained and completed.
Unite for Women in NY
Across the country, reproductive rights and programs important to women are under attack. This is part of a coordinated attack on education, access to health care, public services, social justice, human rights, workers rights, and other progressive concerns.
Bills have been introduced at the federal level that would strip important organizations like Planned Parenthood of funding for family planning, sex education, and cancer screenings, because anti-choice legislators believe in imposing their beliefs on the rest of us.
I was proud to join the rally to Unite against the War on Women on April 28 at Foley Square and stand with others to speak out for women's health and their right to chose.
Government has a number of roles in society; telling a woman what to do with her body is not one of them. I am a sponsor of New York State's Reproductive Health Act, a bill which would update New York State's reproductive health laws and strengthen access to the full range of reproductive services.
"Citizens United" Resolution Introduced in Assembly
In 2010, the United States Supreme Court issued a devastating decision when it stated that under the First Amendment, the government may not restrict independent political expenditures by corporations or unions. In its decision in the case, Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission (http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/citizens-united-v-federal-election-commission/), the court showed an unprecedented disregard of precedent and reality by equating corporations to human beings and ignoring the real consequences of unlimited campaign spending by enormously wealthy individuals and organizations.
We have begun to see the detrimental effects unlimited spending by corporations will have on our democracy.
I am supporting Assembly Member Jim Brennan's resolution, which calls on Congress to amend the Constitution to provide that corporations shall not be entitled to the same protections or rights afforded to natural persons.
DOT releases UWS Traffic Study
The New York City Department of Transportation has completed a multi-year transportation study of the Upper West Side. Last Wednesday, April 25, DOT walked local residents, businesses and elected officials through the proposed changes. The suggestions for the area between 55th and 86th Streets, west of Central Park, include a number of valuable intersection-level improvements to pedestrian safety.
For the complete report visit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2012-04_westside_meeting-presentation.pdf.
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