Statewide Public Hearings on "New York Health Act" Single-Payer Universal Coverage Bill
The New York Health Act, a bill I sponsor in the Assembly, would establish a universal, single-payer health care system in New York State.
Starting this month, I will be convening Assembly Health Committee public hearings around the state on the bill.
The hearings will be held in Syracuse on December 4; in Rochester on December 8; in Buffalo on December 10; in Manhattan on December 16; in Mineola on December 17; and in Albany on January 13, 2015. For a complete list of times and locations of the hearings, please go to: http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/Health/20141105/.
The hearing in Manhattan will be held on Tuesday, December 16, beginning at 10:00 a.m., at NYU's Grand Hall on the 5th Floor of the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life at 238 Thompson St. between Washington Square South and West 3rd St.
Those wishing to present testimony at any of the hearings should complete and submit the form available on the Assembly website at: http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/Health/20141105/.
Requesting Service Improvements on the M11 Bus Line
After hearing reports of unreliable and infrequent service on the M11 bus line that runs along Ninth and Tenth Avenues, I wrote to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to request remediation. The M11 travels crucial arteries on Manhattan's dense, growing West Side, serving residents of many large buildings that are home to low-income and senior New Yorkers. For many West Siders, the line is their best transportation option for north-south travel. Unreliable service is unacceptable.
In my letter, I asked the MTA to begin a feasibility study of a rapid transit lane, which Community Board 4 asked the New York City Department of Transportation to do in 2007. A dedicated bus lane would both improve M11 service and reduce traffic congestion. I was joined in the letter by my Assembly colleagues Deborah Glick and Linda Rosenthal, whose districts are also served by the M11 bus.
Housing Justice Forum on Tenants' Right to Counsel in Eviction Proceedings
On Friday, December 5, the Impact Center for Public Interest Law at New York Law School is hosting a public forum on New Yorkers' right to counsel in eviction proceedings. As the New York City Council considers legislation that would make New York City the first local government in America to establish a right to counsel in eviction proceedings, the day-long forum will feature panel discussions with judges, leading attorneys, housing activists and tenants and examine a wide range of topics including housing, homelessness, public welfare, and social justice.
To register for the forum, which will take place on December 5 between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. in the New York Law School at 185 West Broadway at the corner of Leonard Street in lower Manhattan, please go to https://nyls.wufoo.com/forms/housing-justice/.
Testifying on Changing Birth Certificate Regulations in NYC
Earlier this month I testified before both the New York City Council and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) supporting proposals to change the rules for New Yorkers to alter their sex designation on birth certificates issued by the City.
For transgender people, this can be crucial to obtaining appropriate health care, employment, and other benefits, as well as an accurate driver's license, passport, etc.
Both the Council and DOHMH proposals follow action by New York State earlier this year that allows a transgender New Yorkers to change a birth certificate gender marker without undergoing surgery. But New York City controls its own vital records and issues birth certificates for people born in the City, and the State-level change does not apply. These proposed changes will bring New York City in line with the explicit policy of the American Medical Association, which states that transgender people should not be required to have surgery in order to obtain corrected documents.
I applaud Mayor de Blasio, City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett and Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Council Health Committee, for their efforts to ensure that transgender people born in New York City will have greater opportunities to lead fuller and more dignified lives.
Save Café Edison
The Café Edison at 47th Street and 7th Avenue has been a midtown mainstay beloved by New Yorkers, Theater District visitors and workers, and tourists since 1980. Founded in 1980 by Frances and the late Harry Edelstein, it has been family-owned and operated for three generations, and was referred to by New York magazine as "a New York institution."
But the management of the Edison Hotel is now refusing to negotiate a viable new lease for the Café. Instead, it has announced its intention to close the Café by year's end and replace it with a more upscale restaurant.
The Café Edison should be protected and preserved. I am working with my colleagues in elected office, theater unions, and the community to save the Café. Mayor de Blasio is actively involved. I have written to the owners of the Edison Hotel asking them to work with the Café to sign a lease that allows it to remain in its long-term home. Last Sunday I joined with other elected officials, union members, Broadway actors and stagehands, and dozens of New Yorkers to rally support for the Café.
Grand Opening of SAGE's Day Program
Last month, I was honored to speak at the grand opening of the SAGE (Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders) Day Program at the SAGE Center, located at 305 7th Avenue. The result of a partnership between SAGE and The Hebrew Home at Riverdale, the SAGE Day Program is New York City's first Medicaid eligible, LGBT-centered adult day program.
For LGBT adults enrolled in or qualifying for Medicaid and also in need of assistance with mobility, eating or physical care, or for those who need supervision due to cognitive or psycho-social issues, the SAGE Day program will be open from 8:30am to 3:00pm from Monday to Friday. It will offer programs on health and wellness, legal and financial support services, and computer technology, as well as movie and discussion groups.
Older LGBT adults are often among the most vulnerable members of our community. For those struggling with mobility or cognitive issues, traditional senior citizen day programs may fail to meet their particular needs as members of the LGBT community, further compounding their sense of isolation. SAGE has long stood at the forefront of elder care and community services to LGBT seniors, and I'm proud to represent the Assembly district in which this worthwhile program is based.
Rally for Stronger Rent Regulations and Tenant Protections
Last month I joined tenants, housing activists, and elected officials at a City Hall rally organized by the Alliance for Tenant Power coalition to call upon the State Legislature to enact stronger protections for tenants in affordable housing and stronger rent regulations. Among our legislative priorities for tenants are eliminating vacancy decontrol, making Major Capital Improvement rent hikes temporary, and repealing the Urstadt Law that prevents New York City from regulating its affordable housing stock.
Apply for a Citizens Committee Neighborhood Grant
The Citizens Committee for New York City is awarding grants of up to $3,000 to neighborhood groups, public school-based groups, and NYCHA tenant associations working to improve the quality of life in New York. In the past, grants have gone to community groups, particularly in low-income areas, that carry out projects as varied as community gardening, theater and arts programming, and tenant organizing.
Grants are not available for organizations that employ paid staff members or are religiously-based, or for those with annual budgets of more than $40,000.
For more information about Neighborhood Grants, please visit www.citizensnyc.org/grants, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 212-822-9563. You can also attend an application information session in Manhattan on Wednesday, December 10 or a webinar on Monday, January 12. For more information on these info sessions, please call the phone number above or email email@example.com. The deadline for applications is January 26, 2015.
Legal Services NYC Launches Government Benefits Hotline
Legal Services NYC is launching a new citywide hotline to provide low-income New Yorkers with advice and referrals regarding a wide range of benefit issues. Anyone who is income eligible and requires more extensive assistance will be given a follow-up appointment at a neighborhood office with a Legal Services NYC advocate. The hotline can be reached by calling 917-661-4500 Monday through Friday between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Eventually, this hotline will include services relating to all areas covered by Legal Services NYC. In the meantime, please consider using the hotline as a resource if you require assistance on public assistance or food stamps budgeting, sanctions, emergency funds for rental arrears or the prevention of utility cut-offs, HRA grants and accommodations for work requirements, childcare benefits or Fair Hearing assistance.
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