As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Cities it is my pleasure to update you on the issues the Committee has been working on to assist New York State’s 62 cities.
The Committee has reviewed legislation concerning the development of Lower Manhattan and Manhattan’s Far West Side, as well as reforming the City Charter revision process. After holding successful City Summits across the State, the Committee is pleased to announce the impending release of “The City Summits Report: Adopting an Urban Agenda for New York State.” The Committee stands ready to hold additional hearings regarding issues facing New York State cities.
I look forward to working with you in this legislative session to improve the quality of life in all 62 cities across our State. If I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
2004 Legislative Accomplishments
Since 1894, New York State Statute has provided disabled American veterans a blanket exemption from any municipal law limiting hawking or peddling. The objective of the law was to financially assist wounded war veterans.
During the 2004 Session, the Committee advanced legislation to amend, and make permanent, the provisions regulating disabled veteran vendors in New York City. The legislation authorized an additional forty-five disabled veterans to vend within the Midtown Manhattan core and increased, from one to two, the number of disabled veterans authorized to vend on a block where disabled veterans are exclusively authorized to vend. This law includes language to protect the rights of veterans and to appease public safety concerns due to overly crowded sidewalks. A one-time legacy transfer of a disabled veteran vending license to a spouse, adult child or to the guardian of a dependent child was included. It also included special provisions to ensure that if the City lifts current restrictions on general vending in certain parts of the City, disabled veteran vendors will no longer be restricted from vending in those areas. Out of respect for the lives lost on September 11, 2001, the legislation prohibits all sidewalk-vending on the streets surrounding and adjacent to the World Trade Center site. (Chapter 11 of 2004)
Coordinated Construction Act of Lower Manhattan
In recognition of the damage suffered by Lower Manhattan after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the concerted effort of the State and the City to see the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan completed, the Committee reported legislation that will assist both parties in the reconstruction effort. The legislation allows City agencies to compile a list of pre-qualified bidders; previously, this authority was held only by State agencies. Certain qualifying criteria to be met by qualified bidders are outlined in the bill, including the requirement that a bidder have a positive history of protecting the health and safety of workers, and that a bidder demonstrate a commitment to working with minority- and women-owned businesses. In addition, larger contracts may be awarded only to bidders who offer a skilled apprenticeship program.
In order to facilitate timely and cost effective redevelopment construction in Lower Manhattan, this act will allow City agencies to jointly bid with utility and telecommunication companies on infrastructure repair projects, and City agencies will be able to purchase supplies cooperatively. In an effort to cause the least environmental harm in the process, all non-road vehicles used on redevelopment projects will be required to use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. (Chapter 259 of 2004)
Building Code Enforcement
Last session, the Committee advanced legislation to strengthen building code enforcement in multiple dwellings in New York City. The bill would require inspectors of the Building Department to record all building violations and to notify the appropriate agencies regarding any hazardous conditions not within the inspector’s jurisdiction. The bill would enable tenants to petition the Department for an inspection and the inspector would be required to provide all tenants with a copy of the report of violations. The Department of Buildings also would be required to devise a system of random checks to determine if violations had been remedied. In addition, this bill would create the temporary New York City Housing Oversight Commission to oversee building code enforcement efforts. The Commission would make recommendations to the appropriate agencies and would report its activities and goals to the City Council and to the Mayor regularly. (A.8117 Stringer)
Empire Zone Program Reform
When first proposed by the Assembly, the Empire Zones Program represented an innovative economic development tool that provided tax incentives for job creation within specified distressed communities. Unfortunately, the implementation and management of this program has been woefully inadequate. Many eligible businesses have been left out of the program, while businesses that have failed to create jobs have continued to receive lucrative zone benefits.
It is past time that we reform a program exhibiting such potential to boost New York’s economy. Passage of the Assembly’s Empire Zones reform package would restore the integrity of this program and return the Empire Zones Program to its original intent of job creation in New York State.
2005 Executive Budget:
Once again, the Governor’s budget proposal shortchanges New York City. Despite the Governor’s proposal for an across-the-board increase in revenue sharing, it specifically excludes New York City (NYC) from enhanced funding. The following issues demonstrate the way in which NYC is disproportionately negatively affected by the Governor’s budget proposal:
Mayor Bloomberg testified before the January 24, 2005, Legislative Budget Hearing that State-mandated Medicaid expenses will cost the City approximately $4.9 billion in the coming fiscal year. While the Governor’s plan for the State to assume the total cost of Family Health Plus (FHP) by October 1, 2005 will provide relief to counties, NYC cost reduction will be delayed until January 1, 2006. It is unclear why NYC should be put at such a financial disadvantage.
An estimated $400 million in savings for New York City is derived from cost containment and Medicaid cap proposals in the Governor’s budget, proposals rejected by the Legislature in the past. Such a savings is offset by the negative impact the Executive’s proposals will have on the City’s public and private hospitals.
New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation anticipates a reduction of $275 million in State Medicaid support as well as increased hospital debt, due to the elimination of reimbursement for mental health services under FHP, and reduction in Graduate Medical Education payments. The cost of Medicaid must be contained without jeopardizing the quality of care provided to City residents.
The Governor’s budget proposal provides the MTA with $2 billion less than what it requested, further hampering completion of important projects including the Second Avenue Subway and the connection of the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal.
For the second year in a row, the Governor’s budget deliberately fails to address the court mandate directing the State to contribute its fair share toward the sound, basic education of New York’s future generations. Without adequate financial assistance from the State, the City will be unable to address concerns related to overcrowding, or the sacrificing of physical education and arts classes.
The Committee is working to create equity among cities in the areas of transportation, health care, and education. It is vital for the Governor to work with the Legislature to ensure New York City is treated equally.
The Governor’s budget proposal also includes a misguided proposal to authorize $300 million in bonding authority to pay for the Jets Stadium on the West Side. It is unacceptable for Governor Pataki to attempt to use back door borrowing of taxpayer money through unaccountable public authorities to pay for an ill conceived stadium deal. Furthermore, the MTA has wisely opened the bidding process to all interested developers in order to garner the best price for the West Side railyards. No guarantee exists that this land will be acquired by the Jets, therefore putting forward large scale bonding authority is not necessary at this time. No budget passed this session should include funding for a Jets stadium.
Manhattan’s Far West Side Development Update
In New York City last June, the Committee joined with the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, and the Committee on Tourism, Arts and Sports Development to hold a public hearing on the Governor’s proposed legislation to authorize the expansion of the Javits Center, which included language regarding the proposed Jets Stadium.
The Committee chairs sought better explanations regarding the legislation’s impact on the community, as well as the city planning measures, and the financing, the oversight and approval processes for the project.
Attendance at the hearing was overwhelming with representation by both proponents and opponents of the proposal. The findings from the hearing led to amendments to the legislation (A.11896) to protect community input on the project, and to separate the much needed expansion of the Javits Center and the more controversial proposal to build a Jets Stadium.
In December, the Assembly passed, with Chairman Stringer’s support, the bill to authorize expansion of the Javits Convention Center and was signed into law by the Governor. The building of a Jets Stadium, on the other hand, does not allow for the public’s need for mixed use commercial and residential development in the area.
Cell Phone Antenna Hearing
On February 25, 2005 the Committee held a hearing to investigate the placement and proliferation of cell phone antennas in New York City. Residents from throughout New York City testified before the Committee regarding their concerns over the safety of the placement of these antennas on residential buildings and near schools. The witnesses had both professional and personal experiences dealing with cell phone antennas on or near their apartments and houses.
Currently, the NYC Department of Buildings issues permits for cell phone antennas in the same manner they do for any other additional structure on a property. No records are kept to know where the cell phone antennas are placed, who operates the antennas or if inspections have been performed on these sites. The hearing revealed there is not even a solid count of how many cell phone antennas are operating in New York City.
While the federal 1996 Telecommunications Act prohibits the siting of cell phone antennas based on health concerns, it is essential we know where these antennas are and who operates them, in case of emergency. Building residents who live near these structures should also have knowledge such structure will be placed outside their window or in their backyard.
The Committee will review both the oral and written testimony in order to work to properly site and notify residents of new cell phone antennas being installed.
Home Rehab Tax Increase Hearing
Recent assessments on renovated and rehabilitated houses have gone up 1000 percent for some New York City residents in Brooklyn and upper Manhattan. After residents partnered with NYC housing programs to work to give vacant housing a face lift, the Department of Finance turned around and steeply increased the property tax assessments on these same properties. Many residents are going to be forced out of their newly renovated homes because they will not be able to bear the new higher tax rates.
The Committee on Cities will join the Assembly Committee on Real Property Tax, chaired by Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin and the Assembly Committee on Housing, chaired by Assemblymember Vito Lopez to hold a hearing on this topic. The Committees will look to further investigate the circumstances that lead to the NYC Department of Finance to levy such assessments and how local and State law can be changed to prevent such situations from happening in the future. Join us at the hearing on:
Thursday • April 7, 2005 • 12:30 PM
To testify at the hearing or receive further details, please contact:
Julia Donnaruma • Legislative Associate
The City Summits Report:
The Committee is pleased to announce that it will soon be releasing “The City Summits Report: Adopting an Urban Agenda.” The report is the product of a statewide tour initiated by the Committee to explore new ways to revitalize urban areas. Attendance and response at the hearings were tremendous and the Committee is grateful to all of those who testified on behalf of our future. The report will include the Committee’s urban agenda for the State, including policy recommendations for the growth and health of New York’s cities.
Assemblymember Stringer is compiling a list of e-savvy New Yorkers who would like to receive updates via e-mail.
To sign up, e-mail Assemblymember Stringer at
Assemblymember Scott Stringer
Chair, NYS Assembly Committee on Cities
Room 842 LOB • Albany, NY 12248
New York State Assembly
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