Protection of Transgender Rights:
"GENDA" Passes Assembly
My bill to protect transgender people under the State Human Rights Law was approved by the Assembly on April 30. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which I have been sponsoring since 2003, is now in committee in the State Senate.
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 150 other localities across the country including Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, and the counties of Suffolk and Tompkins have already enacted local GENDA laws. The bill has now passed the Assembly six times.
The Assembly bill has 60 sponsors, including members of both political parties representing urban, suburban, upstate, and rural New York. State Senator Daniel Squadron sponsors the Senate bill, S.195.
Illegal Hotels Fines Bill
In 2010, my bill 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 improved the ability of city enforcement agencies, like the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement (OSE), to issue violations against some offenders, enforcement is still difficult.
To combat these abuses, Councilmember Gale Brewer's new legislation on illegal hotel fines went into effect last month. Previously, when an owner was found guilty of operating an illegal hotel, the fine was about $800, no matter how many units had been used improperly, or how many times. This sum was so minimal it was often still profitable to operate illegal hotels. Now, however, fines can be as much as $25,000, and violators can be punished for posting an ad for illegal short-term hotel use, as well as for operating it.
With these new fines in effect, the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement has reported a decline in complaints; proof that the new legislation has deterred illegal hotel operators from violating the law. If you believe someone is operating an illegal hotel in your building, call 311.
Thousands of New Yorkers have severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions that would benefit from the medical use of marijuana. I believe it is cruel to deny treatment to these people or to turn them into criminals. To correct this injustice, I introduced bill A.6357/S.4406, which would allow patients with cancer and other severe debilitating conditions to use marijuana medicinally under a doctor's supervision.
Under my bill, a practitioner who is licensed to prescribe controlled substances would certify that a patient has a severe condition that should be treated with the medical use of marijuana. The Health Department would license and regulate "registered organizations" to produce and dispense medical marijuana for these certified patients. These organizations could be hospitals, for-profit businesses, or not-for-profit corporations that are required to comply with detailed "seed to sale" security controls. A clinical advisory committee made up predominately of health care professionals would advise the Health Commissioner on clinical matters.
The bill was recently reported from the Assembly Health Committee by a 21-4 vote, with bi-partisan support. Additionally, the bill has substantial support among health care professionals, patient groups, and religious organizations. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia already have laws that allow medical use of marijuana, with Connecticut being the most recent. State Senator Diane Savino sponsors the Senate bill.
NYC Recycling to Include All Rigid Plastics
Every year, New Yorkers throw out 50,000 tons of rigid plastic. In April, Mayor Bloomberg announced the largest expansion of the city's recycling program in 25 years. For the first time, all rigid plastics, including toys, hangers, yogurt cups and take out containers will be included as recyclables in the City's comprehensive 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan. This expansion will result in diverting more than the annual 50,000 additional tons of waste from landfills, an accomplishment that will save City taxpayers almost $600,000 each year in export costs. Recycling plastic, a petroleum product, also takes 70% less energy than it does to create new material, which is a highly polluting process.
Although the new program has already started, the City will not begin enforcement until rules are adopted in July. In the coming weeks, New Yorkers will receive mailers describing the expansion of recycling that feature easy-to-understand illustrations of what they can recycle and how. Landlords and homeowners will receive decals to replace the current labels on their recycling bins.
Ninth Avenue International Food Festival: 5/18 & 5/19
The Ninth Avenue Food Festival is the oldest and largest continuous food festival in New York City. This year, the event will feature dozens of different New York restaurants and cuisines, over 60 art booths, and many small, independent food and beverage purveyors. An entire block will also be reserved for children's rides and games, along with two stages for live entertainment and international music.
One exciting new addition to this year's Festival is a specially curated section called "Food Truck Park." Food Truck Park will contain the best and brightest of New York City's food trucks all in one city block with café tables and chairs.
The Festival is on Saturday, May 18th, and Sunday, May 19th from 11:00 AM until 5:00 PM, on Ninth Avenue from 42nd to 57th Streets. It begins with an Opening Ceremony to celebrate the Festival's 40th-Year Anniversary. For more information, contact the Ninth Avenue Association at 212-581-7217 on Tuesdays or Thursdays from 5:00PM until 8:00PM.
New York, NY 10001
Albany, NY 12248