Community Groups File Appeal Challenging Upper West Side Tower
Developers are now trying to build "Supertall" luxury buildings on the Upper West Side.
The developer SJP Properties has assembled several properties at 200 Amsterdam Ave. between 69th and 70th Sts., intending to build a 668-foot-tall, 55-story luxury building. Local residents, elected officials, and community organizations, including the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and Landmark West, challenged permits for the site issued by the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB).
In July, DOB issued a "stop work" order for the site and approved a zoning challenge, agreeing that the proposed building's "open space" failed to meet a City zoning regulation governing land use and the size, height, shape, and setback of the building. The stop work order has since been lifted by DOB, without a public explanation. The Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and Landmarks West have filed an appeal to the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) to revoke the building permit.
With a height of 668 feet, the skyscraper at 200 Amsterdam Ave. would be more than twice as tall as any buildings in the vicinity, and would be the tallest building on the West Side north of 61st Street. I have joined other elected officials representing the neighborhood in opposing this and other massive over-development on the Upper West Side.
Extell Development has assembled several properties along the south side of West 66th St. between Central Park West and Columbus Ave.
Extell's current plans say the building will reach 25 stories - but the developer refuses to confirm whether those plans are final, or if the building is ultimately going to be much taller. I've joined other local elected officials in writing to Extell to urge it to "do the right thing and be open and honest with its neighbors, starting today."
Keeping Groceries Affordable for Low-Income Families
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is an important program in New York that assists low-income fami-lies in buying groceries. After learning several weeks ago that Gristedes supermarkets are no longer honoring WIC payments, I've been working with other elected officials, Governor Cuomo's office, the State Health Department (DOH), which runs WIC), Gristedes, and constituents regarding the WIC program.
In Chelsea, there are 3 Gristedes markets, making it an important source of groceries. We have urged Gristedes to resume taking WIC at its Chelsea supermarkets. At the same time, we are working to get DOH to resolve problems with WIC that discourage some stores from participating (see letter, attached). For exam-ple, WIC payments to stores are the same in Manhattan as in less expensive areas of the state. When stores don't accept WIC, it makes it very hard for low-income families to afford food.
New Open Enrollment Period to Apply for Health Coverage under the ACA
On November 1, the new open enrollment period to apply for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act began. New Yorkers have until January 31, 2018 to sign up for health insurance through "NY State of Health," the State's official health plan "marketplace." (The federal deadline is December 15, 2017, but New York extended the deadline for NY State of Health.)
Enrollment in an ACA health plan that you choose can only be done during the annual open enrollment period, with limited exceptions. Most Marketplace consumers qualify for financial assistance to pay for coverage. New York also has our Essential Plan, which offers free or very low-cost coverage for lower income individuals and families. Eligible people can enroll in the Essential Plan at any time. As chair of the Assembly Health Committee, I led the legislative effort that created the Essential Plan.
Eligible New Yorkers can enroll in Medicaid, Child Health Plus and the Essential Plan through the Market-place all year. For information on enrollment eligibility or to enroll in a health plan, visit www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov, call the Customer Service Center at 855-355-5777 (TTY 800-662-1220). The website and the service center can connect you with organizations that can help you navigate the system.
ACA OPEN ENROLLMENT: I joined Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, and health care ac-tivists at Bellevue Hospital Center to publicize the new open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act, which New York has extended to January 31, 2018.
New Gottfried Law Protects Patients from Being Price-Gouged for their Medical Records
After learning about a Manhattan pharmacy that was charging $150 to patients enrolled in the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund simply to print out their prescription records so they could apply for benefits, I introduced a bill (A. 7842/S. 6078, sponsored in the Senate by Senator David Valesky of Syracuse) to prohibit providers and facilities from charging fees for providing copies of records needed by a patient to apply for a government benefit or program. It passed both houses of the Legislature this spring and was recently signed into law by Governor Cuomo. It took effect immediately. It's a big win for New Yorkers seeking to access government benefits, like people with disabilities and veterans. New York State law requires doctors, hospitals, and other designated categories of health care providers to make copies of medical records available to patients for a limited cost. For paper copies, it can be as much as 75 cents a page, although most providers typically waive the fee.
However, the health records law does not apply to pharmacies. Another bill of mine would fix that, but it has not passed yet.
Stronger Action Needed from Department of Buildings
The Department of Buildings (DOB) needs to do more to protect housing from being illegally demolished or renovated; protect tenants from harassment by landlords; limit the rapid increase in new hotels; crack down on owners who rent to businesses in violation of zoning; and works with other agencies dealing with problem night clubs and bars.
On November 3rd, I hosted a meeting with the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), elected officials, and representatives from Community Board 4 (CB 4) to discuss DOB procedures, policies, and improvements to better serve our community.
The meeting with Commissioner Rick Chandler and other DOB officials included State Senator Brad Hoylman and representatives from the offices of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Corey Johnson, CB 4, the NYC Departments of Housing Preservation & Development and City Planning, and me.
Protecting Pedestrians & Cyclists from Charter Buses
Following the deaths this summer of a bicyclist and a pedestrian in Chelsea who were struck by charter buses, I joined Councilmember Corey Johnson, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and representatives from Com-munity Board 4 and several local residents in a meeting in October with officials from the Police Department (NYPD), the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), and representatives from several bus companies, to push for measures to increase pedestrian and cyclist safety in the area.
We pushed the bus companies to a better job in ensuring that their drivers use truck routes as legally required. I pressed the bus companies to use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that clearly show the truck routes they are required to use, as truck companies do. Bus companies need to improve the education and training of their drivers. We also called on DOT and the NYPD to join getting the companies to make these changes. We also raised concerns about buses idling with their motors running for an excessive amount of time, which is against the law and which creates air pollution.
In addition, several organizations, including the Hudson Yards/Hell's Kitchen Alliance, are requesting that protected bike lanes be installed on W. 37th and 38th Streets between Eighth and 11th Avenues - something Community Board 4 has asked for several times in order to avert more accidents.
New Action to Promote Organ Donations
New York State has shockingly low rates of organ donation and signing up for the state's organ donation registry, and many patients die on waiting lists as a result.
New York's "Donate Life Registry" allows people to sign up as a donor online, thanks to a law I wrote. Organ donor advocates felt strongly that the registry could be run better by an experienced non-profit organization, and a law I wrote authorized that change. This summer, that change was implemented.
"Lauren's Law," passed several years ago, changed the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles license renewal form to require people to choose whether or not to enroll in the NYS Donate Life Registry. It requires any New Yorker seeking to renew a driver's licenses to check one of two boxes related to organ donation in order for the renewal application to be processed. It was named for Lauren Shields, a Rockland County resident who received a life-saving heart transplant at age 9 and has since become a powerful champion of organ donation. But the law had a "sunset" clause: it would expire unless it is periodically renewed by the Legislature.
This year we passed a bill to make Lauren's Law permanent. It was approved by the Assembly Committee on Health, which I chair, passed the Assembly and the Senate, and was signed into law by Gov. Cuomo. Governor Cuomo also signed an Executive Order directing the Health Department to coordinate with other State agencies, the Transplant Council, the New York Alliance for Donation, health care providers, and hospital systems to provide more ways for New Yorkers to register.
New Yorkers can enroll in the NYS Donate Life Registry through the following online options:
- The NYS Department of Health website, health.ny.gov
- At the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles website, dmv.ny.gov
- At the NYS Board of Elections website, elections.ny.gov
- When applying for a New York City Identification Card, nyc.gov
Apply for a Reduced-Fare MetroCard
The MTA offers Reduced-Fare MetroCards to senior citizens and people with qualifying disabilities. (I love my senior citizen MetroCard!) Applications for reduced-fare MetroCards are accepted at MTA service buses and vans parked throughout the city. The buses offer a range of services, including applying for or refilling a Reduced-Fare MetroCard, buying or refilling a regular MetroCard, or getting answers to Met-roCard-related questions. Vans sell Unlimited Ride MetroCards and Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards, and they refill MetroCards and Reduced-Fare MetroCards. These special vehicles are stationed in or near our Assembly district on a regular schedule:
- Chelsea: MTA bus at W. 23rd St. & 9th Ave., 2nd & 4th Thurs. of month, 11:30 am - 1:30 pm;
- kips Bay: MTA van at E. 28th St. & 2nd Ave, 1st & 3rd Thurs. of month, 11:30 am - 2:30 pm;
- Union Square: MTA van between 14th & 15th Sts., 2nd Tues. of month, 8:00 am - 10:00 am;
- Hudson Guild Service Center, 119 9th Ave. at 18th St., 2nd Mon. of month, 9:30 am - 11:30 am (senior citizen MetroCards only)
Seniors and people with disabilities can also download Reduced-Fare MetroCard application forms on the MTA website at http://web.mta.info/nyct/fare/rfapply.htm#forms. If you have questions about Reduced-Fare MetroCards, call the MTA at (718) 330-1234.
Hurricane Recovery Efforts
A series of deadly hurricanes - Harvey, Irma, and Maria - have devastated parts of the United States and the Caribbean in recent months. The U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Is-lands, in particular, have been devastated, causing a humanitarian crisis and shortages of food, water, electricity, medical supplies, and other essential resources.
We should be proud that Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have organized massive efforts to help Puerto Rico by sending state and city first responders, National Guard soldiers, equipment and equipment operators, utility workers, etc., and raising money and shipments of supplies.
Many New Yorkers are seeking information on how they can help. Most relief organizations are asking for financial contributions, rather than supplies, so that they can more quickly direct assistance to where it's needed most. These are the websites of four major non-profits engaged in relief efforts, which have each earned the highest, four-star rating from Charity Navigator, an independent organization that assesses charities' effec-tiveness and best practices (there are many other reputable organizations also delivering relief aid to the region):
- Catholic Relief Services
- Convoy of Hope
- Direct Relief
In addition, the five living former presidents of the United States have joined to form the "One America Appeal" for hurricane relief. Its website says that "every cent donated through the One America Appeal will help the victims recover," and can be found online.
New Coalition Seeks to Improve Access-A-Ride Service
New Yorkers with disabilities who rely on the MTA's Access-A-Ride paratransit program deal with fre-quent delays, excessive trip times, and many problems with poor service. Several public interest organiza-tions have formed a new coalition - the Access-A-Ride Reform Group, or AARRG! - dedicated to advocating for New Yorkers with disabilities who use our paratransit system.
Access-A-Ride users are encouraged to take an online survey about the quality of service in the system by going to: http://bit.ly/2zetgNI.
New Yorkers who have had trouble applying for Access-A-Ride are encouraged to email Eman Rimawi with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friends of the High Line Reaching Out to the Community
The Friends of the High Line wants to make the High Line an even more welcoming space a true resource for the community. They're asking community members to fill out a quick survey, using this link: https://sloverlinett.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_56IsOfrVDiF3tUp
Survey responses will help guide Friends of the High Line on future programming and in launching initia-tives to better engage the community have a direct impact on shaping the future of our programming and community initiatives. For more information, please contact Maritza at email@example.com or via phone at 917-561-4668.
Take 5 Minutes to Help Fight Bias & Discrimination in NYC
The New York City Commission on Human Rights recently launched a survey project address bias-motivated harassment, discrimination, and violence experienced by Jewish, South Asian, Muslim, Arab, and Sikh communities across the five boroughs. The survey was launched after a significant increase in violence driven by hate and bias since July 2016, particularly against members of these communities.
Through the survey - prepared in close consultation with advocacy organizations, survey providers, community leaders, and faith institutions - the Commissions hopes to reach the full and diverse range of these communities and better understand the presence of discrimination and its impact.
The survey is entirely anonymous. New Yorkers have until late November to fill it out. It's accessible both electronically and on paper, with versions in English, Arabic, Bengali, French, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Rus-sian, and Yiddish. To find the survey online, please go to bit.ly/cchrsurvey.
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