member photo
Richard N. Gottfried
Assembly District 75
February 2016
Community Update

'Clean Conscience' Pledge

In January, the good-government organizations Common Cause, Citizens Union, and the NY Public Interest Research Group circulated a 'Clean Conscience Pledge'to State legislators. The Pledge commits lawmakers to supporting:

  • limits on outside income for legislators;
  • restrictions on the ability of special interests to contribute unlimited amounts of money to all candidates for State office by closing the 'LLC loophole' and
  • greater transparency as to the purpose for, and recipients of, all State funds being spent at the discretion of legislators and the governor, in order to eliminate the potential for conflicts of interest.

I became one of the first members of the Assembly to sign the Pledge. I have served as a full-time elected official for decades. I believe that serving as a State legislator should be a full-time job, and I support eliminating outside employment for legislators. I have also worked for many years to enact a broad range of campaign finance reforms to curb the influence of big donors, including eliminating the LLC loophole. And I have always supported reforms to make our government spending more open and accessible.

For me, being able to serve our community and help shape public policy by advancing progressive values is a cherished privilege and public trust.

Illegal Demolition of Protected Hell's Kitchen Buildings Halted After Developer Caught Falsifying Permits

After a developer was caught trying to illegally demolish three residential buildings at 319-321 W. 38th Street in the Garment Center Special District, I joined with other elected officials, leaders of Community Board 4, and other local residents to demand that the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) revoke his permits.

The developer, who was planning to build a 22-story hotel, had submitted fraudulent permit applications to DOB, falsely claiming that the buildings were single-room-occupancy hotels.

While I am glad that DOB revoked the permits, I remain outraged that it is failing to impose any meaningful punishment. No fine has been imposed on the developer, nor has any referral of the case been made to the District Attorney. Coddling economic criminals encourages crime, and in cases like these, tenants and the community are the victims.

A New, Refurbished Penn Station?

In January, I joined Governor Cuomo and scores of elected officials, business and labor leaders, and executives from Amtrak, the MT A, and Madison Square Garden as he presented his proposal for a new Penn Station and the nearby James A. Farley Post Office/Moynihan Station. He announced that the State would help underwrite a major overhaul of the station and presented several options for achieving this goal.

The most ambitious proposal he outlined envisions involves large projects on both sides of Eighth Avenue between 31st and 33rd Streets; erecting a giant glass façade on the east side outside the current Penn Station site; and converting the Farley Post Office into a waiting hall, ticketing area, and retail center. One of the options entailed the demolition of the 5,600-seat Theater at Madison Square Garden to make way for a new entrance to the station. Other options are adding new entrances on Seventh Avenue or 33rd Street.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has convened a task force of the local elected officials and community boards in the area. We are working to develop concerns and proposals and make sure that the City government and the community are involved in planning and decision-making.

Penn Station is the busiest transportation hub in the Western Hemisphere, serving over 600,000 people, and sorely in need of a redesign and refurbishing. I look forward to working with the community and all levels of government to make sure our concerns are reflected as the redevelopment plans move forward.

Javits Center Expansion

In January, Governor Cuomo proposed a $1 billion expansion of the Javits Convention Center on Eleventh Avenue between 34th and 40th Streets. It would increase the Center's size by more than 50%, to 3.3 million square feet, and entail the construction of New York City's largest ballroom and a glass addition at the Center's northern end near 40th Street. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, it would move the truck marshalling from the streets and create a safer and cleaner environment.

The Javits Center is one of the busiest convention centers in America, with attendance at trade shows, conventions, with events there attracting more than 2 million visitors in 2014, the last full year for which such statistics are currently available.

With the possibility of the State selling two nearby parcels of land to help finance the Center's expansion, I look forward to working with ESDC, the Javits Center, the City and community stakeholders to plan and build a bigger and better Javits Convention Center and to ensure that the community is consulted and has input into the Center's expansion and its impact on the surrounding area.

New Protected Bike Lane on Sixth Avenue

The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) will be building a protected bicycle lane on Sixth Avenue (the Avenue of the Americas) between 14th and 33rd Streets. I joined Community Board 4 and other elected officials in writing to DOT (see copy of letter, attached) to request that the agency implement certain changes to its plan in order to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety. We asked that pedestrian "refuge" areas be widened and raised or landscaped; that more 'split-phase' traffic turn signals be installed at left-turn intersections; and for separated bicycle lanes rather than 'mixing zones' at left turn corners.

We were gratified when DOT agreed to most of the changes to its plan that we had requested, and specifically that it will add 33 pedestrian refuges as it implements the new bike lane. These refuges will reduce the width of the roadway that pedestrians will need to traverse to cross the Avenue, which will increase safety for all pedestrians, and in particular for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and young children.

Assembly Bill for Tax Fairness and Middle Class Tax Relief

A bill to provide much needed tax relief for middle class and lower income New Yorkers and generate over $1 billion annually by taxing millionaires at a higher rate was introduced in the Assembly on February 2.

The legislation (A.9179) would revise the State tax code to apply the current top personal income tax rate to all taxpayers earning $1 million for more annually, while also raise the rates for those earning between $5 million and $10 million, and a higher rate for those earning more than $10 million annually. The additional revenue raised would ensure essential State funding for public schools, infrastructure, and other essential public priorities. The bill was introduced by Speaker Carl Heastie and Ways and Means Committee Chair Herman D. Farrell, Jr., and I am a cosponsor.

Under the plan, more than five million middle class workers will see their personal State income tax rates reduced. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) will be increased 5% over two years, thereby boosting the average credit for more than 1.6 million New Yorkers. The legislation will also permanently extend recent tax reforms that have created the lowest tax rates for middle-income New Yorkers in decades.

The NY Health Act Will Help Small Businesses

In January, I was the featured speaker at the West Manhattan Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Atlantic Grill in Lincoln Square. I talked about my work as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health and about the New York Health Act, the legislation that Senator Bill Perkins (D/WFP-Manhattan) and I have introduced that would establish publicly funded universal health care in New York State.

Taking insurance companies out of the picture would bring New Yorkers net savings of $45 billion a year, by eliminating insurance industry administrative costs and profit and the administrative costs health care providers incur to fight with insurance companies. New York Health would also be able to negotiate much lower prices with drug companies.

While a single-payer system would entail premium paid by employers and employees, it would be significantly less than their current costs on health insurance, which entail a median 12.8% of payroll costs. Because health insurance costs incurred by businesses can fluctuate wildly - upward - a single-payer system would also guarantee greater cost predictability. It would also eliminate the more than $2 billion that New York employers spend reviewing and administering health plans.

The New York Health Act passed the Assembly last year by a 92-52 vote. We will vote on it again this year, and keep pressure on to pass it in the State Senate. We're changing the conversation about single-payer from "a great idea, but too bad it could never happen" to making it truly achievable.

photoIn January, I spoke and took questions about the NY Health Act at a West Manhattan Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Office Addresses
District Office
214 West 29th Street
Suite 1002
New York, NY 10001
Fax: 212-243-2035
Albany Office
LOB 822
Albany, NY 12248
Fax: 518-455-5939