Relief from the Storm
About two thirds of the people in our Assembly District lost electric power as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Many commercial and residential buildings, including the Fulton Houses development in Chelsea, also lost heat and hot water because they are served by Con Ed's steam system, which went down. London Terrace in Chelsea lost heat and hot water because its below-basement boiler room was flooded.
This created difficulty and discomfort, and in some cases real hardship. However, we are all mindful that millions in the storm's path suffered serious destruction to homes and livelihood, and some lost lives.
I deeply appreciate the work of community volunteers, neighborhood organizations, federal, state and city agencies and public servants, and utilities that have been doing extraordinary work in response to the storm.
If you, your apartment or your business was impacted by the storm, and have not done so already, you should formally register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. You can do so by visiting www.DisasterAssistance.gov; by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362); or apply on your smart phone by visiting m.fema.gov.
If you have additional questions or need further help, please call my community office at 212-807-7900.
Chelsea Market Expansion
The owner of Chelsea Market 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.
The zoning change application made its way through the City's Uniform Land Use Review process and was approved with modifications by the City Planning Commission and the City Council. The Council voted to approve zoning change.
Together with many individuals and organizations in the community, I oppose the project and testified at the City Council's public hearing in October. Among other things, it will significantly interfere with enjoyment of the High Line, and I believe the plan is too large. The negatives strongly outweigh any gains the community might receive from this expansion.
Landmark Building Update
It has been a long struggle to protect the Hopper-Gibbons House, 339 West 20th St., as a historic Underground Railroad site in Chelsea. Several years ago, community preservation advocates identified a row of 19th Century Greek Revival houses on W. 29th St. (originally "Lamartine Place"), 333-359 between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, worthy of historic preservation. The Landmarks Preservation Commission created the "Lamartine Place Historic District" in 2009, which would preserve this block, and specifically designated #339 as an historic property.
The owner illegally constructed an additional floor and misled DOB about its floor plans. The Buildings Department issued a partial stop-work order on the property (allowing only fire safety work) and has issued a violation declaring the construction illegal.
The owner of the building filed a formal appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeal to permit the illegal addition to stay. I testified against the owner's appeal at a second public hearing last month on behalf of State Senator Tom Duane, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Borough President Scott Stringer, and myself. The vote to approve or reject the owner's appeal will be taken by the BSA in January.
Hudson River Park Neighborhood Improvement District
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 extraordinary success and value to the community. However, the Park faces urgent major capital maintenance needs and no way to pay for them. Friends of Hudson River Park, established in 1999, is working to create additional revenue for the park to ensure its continued success.
FOHRP has proposed a "Neighborhood Improvement District," much like a Business Improvement District, to support the park and secure a steady source of financing for the long-term maintenance of the Park. Money raised from assessments on property owners, both commercial and residential, would be used to provide capital maintenance and operations; improve park access, including possible additions of pedestrian bridges; clean and landscape highway medians and adjacent areas; and advocate for public safety, transit access, and overall quality of life for the community that uses the park.
Business Improvement Districts have been successful across the city. It is important that Hudson River Park receive support from the community it serves. I support the exploration of creating this Neighborhood Improvement District.
FOPHRP is in the early stages of the proposal and has held a series of public meetings to garner input from the community; additional public meetings will be held in January and February of 2013. If you would like to read more about the plan or provide input, visit http://www.hudsonriverpark.org.
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.
I am the sponsor of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) in the Assembly, which would add gender identity and expression to the Human Rights Law in New York. State Senator Daniel Squadron, the Senate sponsor, and I held a joint forum in October where transgender New Yorkers, advocates, social service agencies, legal professionals, and families were asked to testify about the importance of adding gender identity and expression to the State Human Rights Law.
The passage of GENDA is a critical 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.
I am confident the Assembly will pass GENDA again in 2013 and optimistic that as more people become familiar with the issue, the bill will pass the Senate.
Each year, the Citizens Committee for New York City awards grants to neighborhoods and community groups for community improvement initiatives across the city. They are also offering Hurricane Relief Grants this year.
The Community Grants, from $500-$3,000, are for community improvement projects ranging from community gardening and arts initiatives to tenant organizing and school recycling drives. Applications are due by Jan. 31, 2013. There are also grants up to $5,000 for volunteer-led groups providing relief to areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy; applications accepted on a rolling basis.
There is a Grant Information Session being held on Dec. 18 from 6-8pm at the office of Borough President Stringer, 1 Centre Street, 19th Floor Conference Room; RSVP by calling 212-822-9568. For questions or to apply for grants, visit www.citizensnyc.org/programs/grants or call.
Free Transportation Program for the Disabled and Seniors
The New York Foundation for Seniors is an organization dedicated to helping New York's seniors enjoy healthier, safer, more productive and dignified lives in their own homes and communities. The Foundation recently announced its new Freedom Van Program.
This new program is FREE for senior citizens (60 and over) and the disabled. The van operates in Manhattan, and will transport passengers to and from medical appointments, hospitals, shopping centers, and recreation activities.
For more information and to find out about eligibility, please call 212-956-0840.
Housing Conservation Coordinators Celebrates 40 Years!
Since 1972, Housing Conservation Coordinators has been working to preserve safe, decent, and affordable housing on the West Side of Manhattan. Based in Hell's Kitchen, each year HCC helps thousands of neighborhood residents keep their homes, improve their living conditions, and fight for the changes that will keep the West Side affordable and diverse for years to come.
I was delighted to attend the 40th Anniversary Gala, along with my fellow elected officials who represent the West Side of Manhattan, in October. It was a celebratory evening that honored the work of HCC's founder, the late Gloria Milliken, its executive director Sarah Desmond, former NYS Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman, tenant organizer Bob Kalin, and long time West Side activist Gloria Sukenik. Their work to protect our community from the onslaught of development and market rate housing is commendable and I was happy to join in honoring them.
Here's to another 40 years of HCC helping our community!
Year's End Message
Despite the efforts of right wing forces to turn back the clock, December has arrived. It has been a long and difficult year for our country and our state. No matter what you celebrate (or not), it is important to think of those who are less fortunate. Sometimes all it takes is a smile to brighten a day, and it is the easiest gift to give.
Our City was ravaged by super-storm Sandy this year. But New Yorkers stand together when something confronts us. Communities are still working to put their lives back together in all five boroughs. To find out how you can lend a hand this holiday season visit New York Cares Web site or www.nycservice.org. We must also work to be prepared for whatever the future brings.
On Christmas Eve day, I will be volunteering at God's Love We Deliver, packaging meals for deliveries. I urge you to find some volunteer work to do also. It is a present we give ourselves as well as the recipients of our labor and good spirits.
I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season with health and good fortune in the New Year.
Doing Our Part for the Environment during the Holidays
With packaging, wrapping paper, food, and decorations, we produce a huge amount of trash during the holiday season. Here are guidelines from the Department of Sanitation on how to cut down on waste during the holidays.
The Top 10 Ways to Give More and Waste Less:
- Give homemade gifts, such as cookies, handicrafts, framed photos.
- Give entertainment, such as a museum membership, tickets to the movies, the theater, concerts, or sporting events.
- Give the gift of learning, such as language or music lessons, classes in cooking, photography, or other hobbies.
- Give your time or talent, such as baby-sitting, pet-sitting, computer help, or home repairs.
- Give fitness, such as gym memberships, personal training sessions, or dance, yoga, or exercise/fitness classes.
- Give pampering, such as a massage, facial, or manicure and pedicure.
- Give Internet service connection to a loved one.
- Give nature, such as flower seeds to plant next spring.
- Give that which you no longer need, such as electronics, furniture, clothes in good condition, etc. to organizations that will distribute them among those in need
And the top way to give more and waste less is…
- Wrap your gifts in recycled paper, including newspaper comic or advertising sections. Better yet, reuse gift wrap or create your own using old calendars, comics, children's art work, etc.
You could even use old newsletters from your local elected officials! (That's my suggestion, not from the Department of Sanitation. : )
For more information on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle, please visit: www.nyc.gov/sanitation.
New York, NY 10001
Albany, NY 12248