New State Budget
Following negotiations among the Governor, the Assembly, and the State Senate, the Legislature passed a new $168 billion State budget on March 31. Among the highlights of the new budget are:
- A new outlay of $836 million in additional funding for the State-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to help address the growing problems with the deteriorating mass transit system and implement its "Subway Action Plan"; the State and New York City will each pay half; the State portion will be funded by a $2.75 surcharge for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft and other services in Manhattan below 96th Street, and $2.50 on taxi rides in Manhattan below 96th Street;
- $250 million for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the creation of a new State oversight panel to monitor NYCHA's management and operations, as well as funding to create 100,000 new units of affordable housing and 6,000 units of supportive housing;
- Strong new provisions to combat sexual harassment in both the public and private sectors, including the establishment of a model anti-sexual harassment policy for all employers; extension of anti-harassment laws and regulations to private contractors, vendors, and consultants; and the banning of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases except when requested by the victim, among others.
- The continued phasing-in of a middle class tax cut, which will see the State tax rate for those earning between $40,000 and $150,000 annually reduced from 6.4% to 5.5% and the rate for those earning be-tween $150,000 and $300,000 lowered from 6.65% to 6 percent; and the creation of a voluntary savings program for private sector workers who don't have one;
- $27 billion in school aid and $1.5 billion for higher education aid; $30 million is provided to expand access to community schools; and new initiatives and funding to improve school nutrition and eliminate "meal shaming" for students from economically disadvantaged households;
- $50 million in State funding for the Hudson River Park, to be matched by an additional $50 million in City funding to help complete the construction of the Park;
- A ban on firearms possession or purchases by persons convicted of domestic violence;
- Under the new federal tax law, we will not be able to deduct the full amount of our State and local taxes (called SALT). In an effort to get around this, we created two options. The first would allow a business to choose a payroll tax system in which the employer would be subjected to a 5% tax on all annual payroll expenses in excess of $40,000 per employee, and a reimbursement to the employer through a State tax credit. Employees would then not pay State income tax on that portion of their income. The net effect will be to reduce workers' federal tax burden. The second allows local governments to create two new charitable foundations, for health care and for education. New Yorkers will be able to make a deductible charitable contribution to their local foundation and reduce their non-deductible local property tax. New York is the first state to try this. It is not clear whether the Internal Revenue Service will accept this.
Fighting for Transparency at the Landmarks Preservation Commission
The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has proposed a series of new rules and amendments to City regulations that would result in less transparency and public review of the designation of landmarks and historic districts. The proposed rules would greatly increase the number of applications that would be decided without a public hearing or meaningful public review and allow LPC staff to determine the outcome of many more applications without being subject to review by members of the LPC.
I submitted joint testimony along with State Senator Liz Krueger to express our strong opposition to the proposals. We said that if the new rules and amendments are adopted, "unscrupulous applicants, knowing that decisions on applications will be subject to little if any public oversight, will have even less incentive to provide accurate and truthful data to the Landmarks Preservation Commission."
We also opposed proposed rules to allow even more rooftop and rear yard additions to structures on historic blocks while limiting public review of the applications.
Many groups opposed the regulations, including Manhattan Community Boards 4 and 5, Save Chelsea, the Council of Chelsea Block Associations, the Historic Districts Council, and scores of New Yorkers. After hours of testimony against the proposed rules, the LPC deferred its final determination on the new rules and extended the public comment period until May 7.
Cuomo Land Grab at Penn Station
Just days before the new State budget was passed, a proposal surfaced out of Governor Cuomo's office that proposed to have the State and its powerful Empire State Development Corporation to "redevelop" not only Penn Station but also the "surrounding area." The initial version of the Cuomo bill would have also exempted all that from State and local environmental review laws.
After the Assembly leadership made clear to Governor Cuomo that we would not agree to his effort to take control of the area around Penn Station, the Governor put his Penn Station bill in the final giant budget bill he delivered to the Legislature on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, hours before the deadline for passing the budget. As a result, the Cuomo language became law.
It is wrong for the Governor to try to take over urban planning, traffic management and real estate development in New York City. That's what this law is aimed at. A project in the middle of midtown that is this large, complex, and important must be a collaborative effort and vision, including the Governor as well as the Mayor, along with area residents and businesses, the community board and the area's elected officials.
The closing hours of the State budget process is not the time to do this, and I thank Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for his strong support for my insistence on a full community input process on this issue. The area's elected officials -- City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Representative Jerry Nadler, State Senator Brad Hoylman and I - along with Mayor Bill de Blasio all opposed this last-minute power grab against the City's elected local government. None of this mattered to Governor Cuomo.
We must all fight to hem in the Governor's use of this power grab.
200 Amsterdam Avenue Update
On March 27, I submitted joint testimony along with State Senator Brad Hoylman at a hearing of the NYC Board of Standards & Appeals (BSA) urging it to revoke SJP Properties' permit to construct a 55-story megatower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue between 69th and 70th Streets. After hearing testimony for four hours, BSA deferred its decision until after a follow-up hearing is held on June 5.
I've joined hundreds of local residents, elected officials, and community organizations, including the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development and Landmark West, to challenge a permit that had been issued in error by the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), a mistake that DOB has since acknowledged, issuing a "stop work" order in July; unfortunately, DOB has since reinstated the permit.
As Senator Hoylman and I stated in our testimony, we are challenging the permit because "the project fails to comply with New York City's definition of a zoning lotů It gerrymanders portions of several different tax lots and it is not in compliance with the definitions of 'open space' and 'accessory use' of the Zoning Resolution and the permitted obstructions requirements of the Zoning Resolution. The zoning lot does not meet the requirements for open space: parking spaces and garages do not meet the definition of open space in the Zoning Resolution. These compliance failures are an abuse of zoning regulations, and render the development proposal contextually out of scale and would set a terrible precedent for future proposed developments."
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 will continue to work with the community and other elected officials representing the neighborhood in opposing this and other massive overdevelopment on the Upper West Side.
3 Upper West Side Subway Stations to be Closed for 6 Months
The MTA has announced that three Upper West Side subway stations will be closed for renovations for about six months, including the station at 72nd Street and Central Park West that serves many residents of our Assembly District, which will close on May 7.
As part of the MTA's Enhanced Station Initiative, a billion dollar program to upgrade 33 subway stations around the city, the 72nd Street, 86th Street and 110th Street stations on Central Park West that serve the B and C train trains will each close on a staggered schedule for construction work this spring. The first station to close will be the Cathedral Parkway-110th Street stop on April 9, followed by the 72nd Street station closure on May 7 and the 86th Street station closure on June 4. Each station is expected to reopen in less than six months.
The Enhanced Station Initiative will include better lighting, the installation of platform countdown clocks, new "wayfinder" electronic displays, revamped station entrances, and aesthetic improvements. It will also entail restoration of aging concrete ceilings and corroded steel columns, as well as repairs of leaks and water damage.
During the shutdown of the station at 72nd Street and Central Park West, my staff and I will be monitoring conditions at the subway station at 72nd Street and Broadway and on the M10 bus line on Central Park West, which are expected to assume more passengers as a result of the closure. I believe serious overcrowding is inevitable. The MTA should expand service on those lines or provide a shuttle bus on Central Park West between Columbus Circle and 110th Street, or both.
Free Tax Preparation Assistance
IRS-trained volunteers are available to provide free tax preparation assistance.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is sponsoring a number of locations. There are no age or income restrictions to receive this assistance.
- Muhlenberg Public Library, 209 W. 23rd St. between 7th & 8th Aves., 212-924-1585, Tuesdays & Fridays 10:15 am-2:30 pm
- Penn South Senior Center, 290 9th Ave. @ 27th St., 212-243-3670, call first for hours of availability
- Community Church of New York, 40 E. 35th St. between Park & Madison Aves., 212-683-4988, Thursdays 9:30am-1:00pm
- Science, Industry & Business Library (SIBL), 188 Madison Ave. @ 34th St., 917-275-6975, Mondays & Wednesdays 1:00pm-6:00pm, Fridays & Saturdays 1:00pm-5:00pm
- Epiphany Library, 228 E. 23rd St. between 2nd & 3rd Aves., 212-679-2645, Thursdays 10:00am-2:00pm
- Project Find, Hamilton Senior Center, 141 W. 73rd St. between Columbus & Amsterdam Aves., 212-787-7710, Tues-days 10:00am-2:00pm
- Grand Central Library, 135 E. 46th St. between Lexington & 3rd Aves., 212-621-0670, Saturdays 10:00am-2:00pm
New York City also offers free tax preparation either in person or online for individuals making $64,000 or less. Taxpayers who meet those criteria can enlist help at certain NYC Free Tax Prep sites with help from an IRS certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparer. You can access a map of tax preparation sites at each site and find out which required tax documents you need at nyc.gov/taxprep.
You can file in-person at a NYC Free Tax Prep site. Filing is completely free and includes e-filing and direct deposit of your refund. Some sites have income limits. For most NYC Free Tax Prep sites, you must have earned $54,000 or less in 2016 to use In Person service to qualify for help. Some NYC Free Tax Prep sites have special services if you are self-employed, are applying for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or if you are a senior over age 60 with pension or retirement-related question or you need to file or change your return from a previous tax year.
At these sites, you will drop off your documents and pick up the completed return later. Baruch College is offering free tax preparation services to those earning $54,000 or less and/or persons with disabilities on Thursdays and Saturdays through April 21 from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm and from 3:30 pm to 7:00 pm at 151 E. 25th Street between Lexington & Third Aves.; for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the AARP's free tax preparation assistance programs, or to find another AARP tax prep center, please call 888-227-7669 toll-free, or check its online Tax Aide Site Locator at: https://secure.aarp.org/applications/VMISLocator/searchTaxAideLocations.action.
Take Advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit
Every year, low and moderate income workers benefit by claiming the federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). The EITC helps save money by lowering your tax bill. Workers qualifying for the EITC and filing a federal tax return can get back some or all of the federal income tax subtracted from their pay during the previous year. Even those earning too little to require them to file a tax return can qualify for the EITC.
For Tax Year 2017 (filing this year) you are eligible for the EITC:
- If you are a worker with one qualifying child, your total earned income and your federal adjusted income must each be less than $39,617 (or $45,207 for married workers);
- If you are a worker with two children, your total earned income and your federal adjusted income must each be less than $45,007 (or $50,597 for married workers);
- If you are a worker with three or more children, your total earned income and your federal adjusted income must each be less than $48,340 (or $53,930 for married workers);
- If you are a worker without children, your total earned income and your federal adjusted gross income must each be less than $15,010 (or $20,600 for married workers).
Those who qualify for the federal EITC may also be eligible for the New York State EITC, which equals 30% of the federal credit for the previous tax year, minus any household credit. Residents of New York City qualify for an additional 5% of the federal credit.
For further information on the federal EITC, call the 24-hour Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Hotline at 1-800-TAX-1040. Information can also be accessed on the website of the Internal Revenue Service at www.irs.gov. Further in-formation about the New York State EITC is available by calling the informational hotline of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance at (518) 457-5181, or by accessing their website at www.tax.ny.gov.
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