member photo
Assemblymember
Richard N. Gottfried
April 2015
Assembly District 75
NYS Assembly Seal
Community Update

Proposed Rezoning Raises Concerns

In order to advance its important goal of adding 200,000 units to New York City's stock of affordable housing, the De Blasio administration recently proposed a "Zoning for Quality and Affordability" text amendment to the City's zoning regulations. The proposed rezoning would increase the allowable height of new development across the city, including in "contextual" zoning districts - areas where specific limits on building height, streetwalls, and setbacks help ensure that new buildings fit their context.

For many years, elected officials, community boards, and community activists have worked to protect the character, quality of life, and affordability of our neighborhoods. The City's proposed rezoning plan undermines these hard-won gains by lifting the height caps by as much as 20 to 30 percent. In communities like the Special West Chelsea District and the Clinton Special District in Hell's Kitchen, it would undo efforts to maintain the communities' residential, low-rise character and affordable rents. It undermines contextual zoning.

I joined Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and my colleagues in Manhattan in testimony to the City Planning Commission voicing these concerns.

Supporting the Expansion of the Madison Square North Historic District

At the Community Board 5 Landmarks Committee hearing on March 31, I submitted joint testimony along with NYS Senator Liz Krueger in support of a proposal to expand the Madison Square North Historic District.

The proposed expansion would extend the existing Historic District northeast, east, southwest and west, encompassing about 150 additional buildings.

In our testimony, Senator Krueger and I noted that the expansion would include historically significant buildings that complement the architecture currently included in the Historic District, and which are themselves eminently deserving of landmark designation. Adding them to the NoMad Historic District will help preserve the special character and rich history of the area.

I am pleased that the Committee approved the proposed expansion, and look forward to supporting it before the Landmarks Preservation Commission when it is calendared for a vote.

Union Square Pavilion Update

During the Bloomberg administration, against the community's wishes, the Parks Department chose to use the Union Square Park Pavilion and part of the Park's northern plaza part of the year for a restaurant. The community had been fighting for years to restore the Pavilion and the north plaza for public use. Community members and I took the Parks Department to court, arguing this was not an appropriate use of park space. The case went all the way to the State Court of Appeals, but sadly, we lost.

Then the de Blasio administration agreed to return the covered Pavilion to its original intended community use after only one season of restaurant use, starting last October. Unfortunately, I recently learned that the administration has reneged on its commitment to return the Pavilion to full time use, which means the restaurant will be allowed to operate from approximately April 15 - October 15 and the community is only allowed to use the Pavilion in the fall and winter (October 15- April 15).

I am angry about this, and, along with U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Brewer, State Senators Krueger and Hoylman, Assembly Member Glick, and Councilmember Johnson, I have written to the City urging it to abide by the promise previously made to free the Pavilion completely for the use and enjoyment of the public.

Assembly Passes Reproductive Health Act

Last week, the Assembly passed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA, A. 6221) the day after it was favorably reported by the Health Committee, which I chair. Sponsored by Manhattan Assembly Member Deborah Glick, the RHA would align State public health law with the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

In practice, Roe has guaranteed abortion rights in every state, including New York, since 1973. However, while New York's own pioneering 1970 abortion rights law contains many protections similar to those established by Roe, several protections in Roe would be lost in New York if that landmark Supreme Court decision were overturned. The RHA will permanently codify in State law the rights that Roe has guaranteed since 1973.

The ability of a woman to make her own decisions regarding her reproductive health is a fundamental right. New York State must strengthen reproductive health rights and respect women's decisions by enacting the RHA into law.

Fighting to Raise the Minimum Wage

On March 27, I joined fast food and airport workers, other elected officials, and advocates from organizations including the Working Families Party, 32BJ- SEIU, New York Communities for Change, and Make the Road New York in a rally at City Hall to call for raising New York's minimum wage to $15 an hour. It is now $8.75 and will go to $9.00 next year - still far too low to make ends meet for a family in New York.

Governor Cuomo proposed increasing the hourly minimum wage to $10.50, and establishing a higher minimum wage of $11.50 in New York City. I strongly support raising New York's minimum wage to $15.00. I also support Mayor de Blasio's call to allow New York City to establish its own higher minimum wage, as other cities around the country have done.

This is a critical step to reducing the widening income inequality in New York.

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Speaking out at City Hall for a livable minimum wage.

Family Leave Legislation Passes Assembly

In March, the Assembly passed the Paid Family Leave Act (A. 3870, introduced by Assembly Member Cathy Nolan), strong legislation that would ensure employees keep their jobs and still earn some income while taking time off from work to manage an unexpected medical emergency or care for a family member, including domestic partner, or a newborn, foster, or newly adopted child.

The federal Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides an employee with as much as 12 weeks of unpaid leave. But most workers cannot afford to go completely without income for long, if at all, and not all are covered by the federal law in the first place.

Under this bill, paid leave would be a new benefit under Workers Compensation, paid for by workers paying up to 45 cents per week. Employees would be entitled to up to 12 weeks of paid family leave, two-thirds of the worker's salary during the leave, and guaranteed job security during the absence.

Union Square Pavilion Update

During the Bloomberg administration, against the community's wishes, the Parks Department chose to use the Union Square Park Pavilion and part of the Park's northern plaza part of the year for a restaurant. The community had been fighting for years to restore the Pavilion and the north plaza for public use. Community members and I took the Parks Department to court, arguing this was not an appropriate use of park space. The case went all the way to the State Court of Appeals, but sadly, we lost.

Then the de Blasio administration agreed to return the covered Pavilion to its original intended community use after only one season of restaurant use, starting last October. Unfortunately, I recently learned that the administration has reneged on its commitment to re-turn the Pavilion to full time use, which means the restaurant will be allowed to operate from approximately April 15 - October 15 and the community is only al-lowed to use the Pavilion in the fall and winter (October 15- April 15).

I am angry about this, and, along with U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Brewer, State Senators Krueger and Hoylman, Assembly Member Glick, and Councilmember Johnson, I have written to the City urging it to abide by the promise previously made to free the Pavilion completely for the use and enjoyment of the public.

Legislation to Require Community Advisory Boards for Hospitals

Hospital community advisory boards provide a vital public service to New Yorkers. Last week, my bill that requires every hospital in New York to have a community advisory board was reported out by the Assembly Health Committee. The bill, A. 376, would mandate that every non-profit and public hospital in New York State have a community advisory board (CAB) that would advise the hospital and cooperate in issuing the hospital's organizational mission statement identifying the populations and communities it serves; stating its commitment to serving the health care needs of its catchment area, including undertaking charitable care; and soliciting the views of the communities it serves.

Last month, I spoke at the Bellevue Hospital CAB's Annual Legislative Breakfast, as I do every year. I talked about the New York Health Act, the bill I've introduced in the Assembly to establish publicly funded universal healthcare in New York; the proposed State budget and its impact on health care; and the critical role that public hospitals play in health care delivery.

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Speaking at the 2015 Bellevue Hospital Community Advisory Board Legislative Breakfast. (Photo credit: Bellevue Hospital)

Progress in Washington on Medical Marijuana

Our U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rand Paul of Kentucky to introduce the CARERS Act (S. 683, the "Compassion-ate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act"), a federal bill that would allow the use of medical marijuana without fear of federal prosecution in states where such use is legal under state law.

Twenty-three states plus the District of Columbia have already legalized medical marijuana, including New York, thanks to the 2014 Compassionate Care Act that Senator Diane Savino and I sponsored in the Legislature. New York's law includes provisions for the legal use of medical marijuana for patients with certain medical conditions, establishes a certification and registration process for patients registered with the New York State Department of Health (DOH), allows organizations registered with DOH to manufacture and dispense medical marijuana, and imposes an excise tax on medical marijuana.

The federal bill is an important step ahead for intelligent, science-based health policy. It would help us implement our medical marijuana law, by reducing doubts about what the federal government will or won't allow. Even more important, it would move marijuana from being a Schedule I drug to Schedule II, meaning a controlled substance with recognized medical use. New York then made the same change (we always keep our schedules in line with the federal classifications), medical marijuana would be available on the same basis as morphine, hydrocodone, and many other drugs. It continues to defy logic that New York's medical marijuana law remains much more restrictive than the laws governing drugs that are so much more dangerous.

I have strongly criticized the overly burdensome restrictions imposed by the executive branch on the production and dispensing of medical marijuana in New York under the new law. Because of changes insisted upon by the administration, the law only allows five licenses and 20 dispensaries in New York, a state whose population numbers nearly 20 million residents.

New York's law and the implementing regulations are far more restrictive than necessary and reflect an unjustified hostility to medical marijuana. I will continue to press DOH to amend the regulations to make New York's regulations of medical marijuana more workable and patient-friendly, so that New Yorkers suffering from serious medical conditions and who would benefit from medically prescribed marijuana can do so without unnecessary interference by the State.

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In March, I spoke about New York's overly restrictive medical marijuana regulations at a forum in Albany hosted by the media outlet Capital New York. (Photo credit: Capital New York)

State Budget Passed by Legislature

At the end of March, the Assembly and Senate passed the 2015-16 New York State budget. The $150.3 billion plan increased funding for our public schools, expands access to health and child care, supports new housing for the homeless, makes it easier for more New Yorkers go to college, and helps struggling families.

The budget also includes ethics reforms that require public officials to publicly disclose more details about outside income they receive from non-government employment, be required to list the names of any clients or customers from whom they receive more than $5,000 (with limited privacy exceptions) and describe the types of services provided to them, establish provisions for the forfeiture of the government pensions of any State or municipal officials convicted of criminal misconduct in their public office, reforms the system of per diems and travel reimbursements, and strengthens the ban on using campaign funds for "personal use."

By the way, I am a lawyer, but I do not have a law practice, or any outside income. I only work for you.

Unfortunately, the State Senate would not agree to reforms in the most important problem in public ethics - campaign financing - or to limit outside income of elected officials.

Key elements of the budget include:

Office Addresses:

District Address:
242 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
212-807-7900
Fax: 212-243-2035
Albany Address:
LOB 822
Albany, NY 12248
518-455-4941
Fax: 518-455-5939