State Senator Tom Duane to Retire
My friend and legislative colleague Tom Duane leaves very big shoes to fill. Tom has been an extraordinary legislator - smart, tireless, and fiercely dedicated to human rights and social justice. He has been extraordinarily effective in protecting tenants, preserving affordable housing, protecting the community from excessive development, strengthening LGBT rights, and ensuring access to health care for everyone.
Tom has been a great partner, and his staff has been wonderful to work with over the years. I will miss him as a legislative colleague, but continue to value him as a friend, a constituent, and a leader on issues that matter. Whatever he does next, I hope it's something where we continue to work together.
Hudson River Park Task Force
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, the Park faces urgent major capital maintenance needs and no way to pay for them.
The State and City have spent about $400 million to build 70% of the Park plan, and we are fighting for the $250 million to finish the rest. The capital maintenance needs are on top of that. Pier 40 is in serious disrepair and as a result is not collecting as much revenue as expected and needed. The repairs would cost about $100 million. This and other capital 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.
Please see my op-ed from The Villager/Chelsea Now: Hudson River Park 14 Years Later.
Patients suffering from serious debilitating or life-threatening conditions could be treated with medical marijuana under medical supervision through a bill I introduced along with State Senator Diane Savino. Under appropriate professional care like other drugs, marijuana has important therapeutic use for many seriously ill patients.
The bill has substantial support among the medical community, patient groups, and religious organizations. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow medical use of marijuana, with Connecticut being the most recent.
State Supreme Court Justice Reichbach's article in the May 17 New York Times is a compelling statement in support of why New York should allow the use of medical marijuana. Most New Yorkers agree with Justice Reichbach and I hope his courageous statement will help get Albany to act. In case you missed it, it can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/opinion/a-judges-plea-for-medical-marijuana.html?_r=1.
Rent Guidelines Board: Speak out for Affordable Housing!
The Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) has begun meeting to determine Rent Stabilization rent increases for 2012-13. In a preliminary vote, the Board determined that it would raise rents between 1.75% and 4.0% for one-year apartment leases, and between 3.5% 6.75% for two-year leases. This amount is excessive and unjustified. New Yorkers already pay an excessive and growing percentage of their income for rent, much more than in the rest of the country. It hurts tenants and the city.
In past years, the RGB gave landlords rent increases in years when there were no cost increases. So current rents are already above landlord costs. If costs are rising, they are only now catching up to the unwarranted increases of the past.
It is important for tenants to attend the RGB meetings and let the Board know that they cannot afford any more unfair increases.
See below for more information on RGB meeting times and locations in Manhattan. For all the meetings, visit www.housingnyc.com. You can also contact Eliyanna Kaiser in my community office if you need additional information. She can be reached at (212) 807-7900 or by e-mail at KaiserE@nysa.us.
Monday, June 18, 2012 10:00 A.M.
Public Hearing (Public Testimony)
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street at corner of 3rd Ave. (Basement)
Thursday, June 21, 2012, 5:30 P.M.
5:30 P.M. - 9:30 P.M.
Public Meeting (Final Vote)
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street at corner of 3rd Ave. (Basement)
Proposed Chelsea Market Expansion
Jamestown Properties, the owner of Chelsea Market, has proposed zoning changes that would allow additional development of the property. This would involve adding the site (the full block between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, from West 15th to 16th Streets) to the Special West Chelsea District.
I oppose the project. The negatives strongly outweigh any gains the community might receive from this expansion.
The West Chelsea zoning district was created in 2005. At the time, Chelsea Market asked to be excluded from the zoning increase. The new owners want to be included. I believe the plan is too large. This plan would dramatically alter an important historic building, with little guarantee of long-term job creation.
Hell's Kitchen Bus Stops
The proliferation of discount inter-city buses has added another traffic problem to our community. These buses are now legally allowed to stop in MTA bus stops to load and unload passengers, with the approval of City DOT and proper signage. Because there is no space inside the Port Authority for these buses, City DOT is charged with approving where discount carriers can load and unload.
There are many reasons to object to MegaBus's curbside operation. The current stop at 41st Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues has created many problems for the community and for other operators who pay to use the Port Authority. Last month, I sent a letter to the Dept. of Transportation asking that the permit to operate at that location not be renewed. As Community Board 4 has suggested in the past, the stop should be at 34th Street between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues.
Union Square Pavilion: No Bars Allowed!
The Pavilion in the northern part of Union Square has been under reconstruction for what feels like forever. Last year, despite significant community opposition, the City put out a Request for Proposals for a commercial establishment to take over the Pavilion at Union Square. That request has been filled by Chef Driven Market LLC, which intends to open a restaurant and bar and has now applied for a license to sell liquor in the public park.
I oppose this application. Last month, Borough President Scott Stringer and I sent a letter to the State Liquor Authority asking them to reject the application on grounds of the 500-foot rule and in the spirit of the 200-foot rule, considering the establishment will abut a child's playground.
June is LGBT Pride Month
It has been over 40 years since the Stonewall riot marked the rise of the LGBT rights movement. Hate crimes against LGBT people continue, and the fight for equal justice continues.
Last year, New York State enacted marriage equality. It was a victory for all same-sex couples and for those who advocate for civil rights. GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (the transgender rights bill sponsored by State Senator Daniel Squadron and me) has repeatedly passed the Assembly but has yet to pass the Senate. President Obama has declined to defend the anti-marriage "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) in court. DOMA prevents the Federal Government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states where it is legal and just last month, the Federal Appeals Court for the First Circuit ruled that DOMA does indeed discriminate against same-sex couples. The case could reach the Supreme Court as soon as next year. There is no place in American society for people to be treated as second-class citizens.
June is LGBT Pride Month, an exciting time for members of the LGBT community and its supporters. The Heritage of Pride Parade down Fifth Avenue is Sunday, June24, ending on Christopher Street by the Stonewall Inn. I expect to be marching. To join me, please call my office, 212-807-7900 or email GottfriedR@nysa.us. To find out more about Pride events, visit their Web site.
World No Tobacco Day Honoree
Millions of people are diagnosed with diseases related to tobacco and smoking every year; millions more die from them. In New York, we have enacted important laws to reduce the population of people who smoke as well as limit where people can smoke to protect others from the adverse effects of second hand smoke.
Last month, I was delighted to be honored by the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City and the Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership for my work and support for tobacco control efforts in New York State as chair of the Assembly Health Committee. While it is an individual's choice and right to smoke, the public health costs associated with tobacco are enormous. It is important that we work to make sure one of the world's biggest killers is kept in check with groups like those who honored me last month.
New York, NY 10001
Albany, NY 12248