On May 15, I joined State Senator Liz Krueger, other Democratic State Senators, State Assembly Members and City Councilmembers, and leaders of the Women’s Equality Coalition at a press conference restating our commitment to passage of Governor Cuomo’s full 10-point Women’s Equality Act in this year’s legislative session.
On May 15, I joined the SOCCC-64 coalition, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, members of CB3, and Lower East Side residents in marching and rallying to save the former CHARAS/El Bohio Community Center located at 605 East 9 Street from being converted into student dormitories. Together, we delivered the message loud and clear to Gregg Singer, the current owner of the building, and Jamshed Bharucha, the president of Cooper Union, that the community does not want dormitories in our former community center. For decades, CHARAS/El Bohio Community Center was a cherished public space for Lower East Side residents and I will continue to work with allies to return the building to community use.
On May 15, I joined City Councilmember Dan Garodnick, State Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, City Councilmember Jessica Lappin and the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village (ST/PCV) Tenants Association in denouncing the complex owners’ sudden decision to raise rents mid-lease on ST/PCV residents who were part of the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer class action. The rent increases, which are slated to go into effect on June 1 and reportedly range from $100 to more than $1,000 a month, are permitted by fine print in the Roberts settlement. Earlier this year, I joined many of my colleagues in government in writing to CWCapital Asset Management to urge the company not to take advantage of any such provision.
On May 13, I testified before the Multi-Board Task Force on East Midtown Rezoning (the Task Force) at its hearing on the New York City Planning Commission’s proposed rezoning of East Midtown. As I rule, I do not weigh in on rezoning proposals until the affected community boards have had their say but in this case I made an exception because the Task Force comprised of those boards asked me to do so. In my comments, I highlighted my belief that any plan to rezone East Midtown must include protections for the many historically and architecturally important buildings in the area as well as a concrete plan to finance the much-needed improvements to the area’s transportation infrastructure in a timely manner.
The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association (ST-PCV TA) recently announced that approximately 5,400 current or former tenants who were illegally charged market rate rents for their apartments have not filed the requisite claim forms, which must be postmarked by May 15, in order to be reimbursed from the J-51 Roberts case settlement.
Each year, the New York State Senate honors a select group of "Women of Distinction" – women from across New York who have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of others, enriching their communities and strengthening our state.
On May 2, I joined New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as he announced he is filing lawsuits against four service stations for charging consumers excessively high gas prices in the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy last November. Attorney General Schneiderman also announced he has reached monetary settlements with 25 other service stations and has investigations pending against dozens more.
On April 30, 2013, Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights and advocacy organization, held its Equality and Justice Day in Albany. This annual event, which features a rally at the Capitol, workshops, caucuses and visits with elected representatives, is an opportunity for the LGBT community to show its strength and depth of support. Following is a transcript of welcoming remarks I made to the event’s participants.
On Thursday, April 11th, I was proud to stand with local residents, other elected officials, and Chuck Zlatkin of the New York Metro Area Postal Workers Union at the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) public forum on its proposed closure and sale of Old Chelsea Station. At the meeting, which was sponsored by Community Board 4, I reiterated to Joseph Mulvey, USPS’s Real Estate Specialist, what I and my colleagues in government have been saying since we first learned of the proposed sale: that selling the facility and leasing new space elsewhere in the neighborhood simply does not make sense.
On April 25, I was pleased to co-sponsor and speak at a seminar hosted by VNSNY CHOICE SelectHealth and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt’s Center for Comprehensive Care on improving care for people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV). As the representative of a district with one of the state’s highest concentrations of PLHIV, I especially appreciated the focus on obstacles individuals face in getting the care they need, and solutions that are applicable in their neighborhoods and communities. Particular attention was paid to the challenges of AIDS and aging, medication adherence and the stigma that continues to surround HIV/AIDS more than 30 years after the start of the epidemic.
The Clinton School for Writers and Artists (the Clinton School), which is temporarily located at 425 West 33 Street, will be moving into 10 East 15 Street—a building currently being prepared to house a middle and high school—for the 2014-15 school year. On April 16, I sent a letter to Alex Shub, Executive Director of New School Development at the New York City Department of Education, supporting a Letter of Intent submitted by the Clinton School Principal to expand what is currently a middle school to a middle and high school in its new home. The proposal, which is backed by the school’s Parent Association, would ensure that the new building houses one unified school with a coherent curriculum, under the direction of one principal. Please see my letter below.
I marked Tax Day, April 15, by introducing legislation (S4570) directing the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance to create an online program to allow all New Yorkers to prepare and file their federal and state income tax returns free of charge. Currently, New York only has limited free online tax preparation services, all of which are provided by outside vendors with a profit motive. So-called “free file” programs are run by for-profit third parties, include hidden fees and are available only to taxpayers who meet income guidelines.
On April 10, I submitted testimony to the New York City Planning Commission (CPC) regarding the City Department of Cultural Affairs’ (DCA) proposed Culture Shed, an expandable structure intended to house a variety of public and private cultural uses at West 30th Street and 11th Avenue in the emerging Hudson Yards development. The innovative facility will feature retractable canopies which, when fully deployed, will completely enclose an adjacent 20,000 square foot plaza that was promised to the local community as open-to-the-sky, publicly accessible space after lengthy negotiations on the 2005 Hudson Yards rezoning. DCA’s dynamic project promises to bolster the city’s cultural landscape as a vibrant backdrop for events and exhibitions.
Earlier today, I submitted testimony to the New York City Planning Commission on Madison Square Garden’s (MSG) application for two special permits -- one to allow the operation in perpetuity of its 22,000 seat arena in area zoned to allow an arena of only 2,500 seats, and another to allow large LED advertising signs that exceed the surface area and use restrictions of the site’s existing zoning. As you may know, the original special permit expired on January 24, 2013 after a term of 50 years.
I’m proud to declare my solidarity with the hundreds of fast food workers who are returning to work after walking out yesterday to protest decades of exploitation and to demand better pay. Just as the growth of the national economy -- and the so-called recovery from the Great Recession -- has left behind average Americans, low-wage fast food workers have not seen any benefits from the record profits made by the large chains that employ them. Average hourly pay for fast food workers is the lowest of any occupation in the city, and even those who get full-time work earn less than federal poverty guidelines.
“The indictments of public officials from both parties over the last week underscore the rotten and pervasive ‘pay-to-play’ culture in Albany. We need to increase transparency dramatically and wean Albany off a system that rewards legislators with campaign contributions for supporting causes backed by special interests. I congratulate the U.S. Attorney for pursuing these cases and agree with him that they raise alarming questions about the pervasiveness of the corruption in New York State government. But with every crisis there is an opportunity. In addition to prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law those who have violated the voters’ trust, we should take this opportunity to promulgate steps to systematically reform campaign finance.
As you may know, the United States Postal Services (USPS) recently announced that it is seeking to relocate from the Peter Stuyvesant Post Office at 432 East 14th Street, where its lease is up for renewal. The agency would move the delivery carrier operation to its Madison Square facility at 149 East 23rd Street, and retail operations would be housed in another as-yet-unidentified local facility. There will be a Town Hall meeting about this proposed relocation at Campos Plaza (611 East 13th St.) on April 22 at 6:30pm. If you are concerned about this issue and would like to weigh in on USPS’ plans, I encourage to attend and let your voice be heard. Convenient access to postal services is a crucial issue for residents and small businesses.
On April 1, I sent a letter to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) echoing Community Board 5’s Request for Evaluation for the designation of The Deborah, Jonathan F. P., Samuel Priest, and Adam R. Rose Main Reading Room (Rose Reading Room), located at 476 Fifth Avenue, as an Interior Landmark. As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Libraries and the Senator whose district includes NYPL’s Central Building, I strongly believe that the Rose Reading Room merits favorable consideration for interior landmark designation. Please see my letter below.