Victory for Fair Taxation: Albany Special Legislative Session
The additional income tax paid by upper-bracket taxpayers is due to end on Dec. 31, giving them a $5 billion tax break. I and most of my Assembly colleagues have been fighting to continue a higher and fairer tax rate for the wealthiest New Yorkers - even before it became fashionable to call them "the 1%." We need the revenue to protect education, health care, public transportation, and a host of other essential services.
Governor Cuomo called the Legislature into special session this week to act on proposals to make state taxes fairer. The package that has been agreed to is a real victory for social justice.
City Council Holds Hearing on Resolution to Support My Medical Marijuana Bill
The New York City Council Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services, jointly with the Subcommittee on Drug Abuse held a hearing on November 18, 2011 to consider a resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to pass A.7347/S.2774, my bill, carried by Tom Duane in the Senate, that would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana under a physician's care. The bill would benefit thousands of New Yorkers who suffer from serious debilitating and life-threatening conditions. It would reduce their pain and other symptoms, enable them to tolerate their medication, and extend their lives.
Medical use of marijuana is legal in sixteen states.
Medical marijuana legislation is supported by a broad array of health organizations, including: Medical Society of the State of New York, New York State Nurses Association, Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State.
Fighting for Tenants at 221 W. 16 Street
In early November, my office was notified that tenants in five apartments at 221 W. 16 St. were being evicted from their long-time homes by the owner of the building under the "owner occupancy" loophole. My office quickly organized a press conference and rally to bring attention to the situation and appeal to the landlord to do the right thing and halt the eviction.
Despite many phone calls between the parties, including speaking with the landlord himself, a city marshal arrived on the Monday before election day and evicted all the residents of the five units.
This case had been in court for nearly six years. If the tenants had reached out to their local elected officials sooner, there may have been more that could have been done to protect them. For one thing, these tenants received no compensation for being forced from their homes.
There are bills pending in Albany that would limit or end the "owner occupancy" loophole. Bills sponsored by Assembly Housing Committee chair Vito Lopez and Senators Daniel Squadron and Adriano Espaillat would require a landlord to show that he or she has a compelling, immediate need for the housing, and limit the landlord to only one unit for personal use, among other restrictions. I am the author of a bill that would repeal "owner occupancy" entirely.
Outside of New York City, owners must relocate tenants who have lived in their home for more than 20 years, but this rule doesn't apply in New York City. It should. The tenants who were evicted from 221 West 16th Street lived in their homes for between 24 and 40 years.
If your landlord is creating problems for you, please do not hesitate to call my community office with questions at 212-807-7900, or e-mail us at GottfriedR@assembly.state.ny.us.
Thousands of Square Miles of Love Canal? Saying "No" to Fracking
In November, I testified at the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation public hearing on hydrofracking. I urged the DEC to live up to its name and protect the environment by not allowing hydrofracking anywhere in New York State. Natural gas drilling companies are eager to begin horizontal hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") operations in many upstate New York areas, including areas that provide the drinking water for New York City.
Fracking injects huge amounts of water laced with toxic chemicals under high pressure, underground to break up the rock to release natural gas. The danger is that the toxic fluids may migrate for miles underground and pollute the environment, including our water supply. There have been numerous cases around the country of this happening.
The environment and health and well-being of New Yorkers go hand in hand. Please see my testimony here.
Rally for Workers at HarperCollins Publishing
Across the state and country, organized labor is under attack. While statewide initiatives have passed to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights and pay more for their health care and pensions, here in New York, private companies are attempting to chip away at workers' rights.
Last month, State Senator Liz Krueger and I joined UAW Local 2110 at HarperCollins (a Rupert Murdoch NewsCorp subsidiary) to protest cuts in their health coverage, collective bargaining, and gutting of the seniority system. The publishing industry has taken a hit with the soured economy and the advent of e-books. But a reduction in profits should not be recouped from the backs of working class people, especially those who are a part of the billionaire-Murdoch empire.
Year's End Message
Despite the efforts of many conservatives 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.
On Christmas Eve I will be volunteering at God's Love We Deliver, packaging meals for Christmas 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.
For more information on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle, please visit: www.nyc.gov/sanitation.
214 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Albany, NY 12248