Capital NY – Bill sponsor calls for more transparency in marijuana licensing

By Josefa Velasquez, July 28

ALBANY—The state health department is scheduled to award licenses to grow and dispense medical marijuana by the end of the week, but one of the bill’s sponsors believes the process should be more transparent.

So far, the public knows the names of the 43 businesses that have submitted applications to manufacture and dispense medical marijuana in the state, but little else.

“I think the documents ought to be public so people can see who is applying and whether they are people with connections, et cetera,” said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the chair of the Assembly health committee and the bill’s sponsor. ”But what concerns me most about the process is whoever gets picked, or whoever doesn’t get picked, will not know why they didn’t win, and to me that is an open invitation to all sorts of allegations.”

Chelsea Now: Unveiling a Sure Sign of the Phyllis Gonzalez Legacy

By Yannick Rack, July 22

| It took years of effort by family, friends, elected officials and thousands of locals who singed the petition— but on July 18, the late Phyllis Gonzalez finally got her “Way.”

At the northwest corner of 25th St. and Ninth Ave. — on the same block where she lived for over 30 years — a street renaming ceremony paid tribute to one of Chelsea’s most dedicated housing activists, with the official unveiling of Phyllis Gonzalez Way.

“Phyllis worked on behalf of our neighborhood until the day she passed away, and she will be remembered for her unrelenting pursuit of better lives for people in the community that she loved,” said City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who led the ceremonial.

Chelsea Now – Momentum Building to Confront Construction Permit Fraud

By Eileen Stukane, July 15

New York state and city elected officials are responding to the activism of the newly-created Community & Residents Protection Working Group (CRP), which this year has been alerting Chelsea residents to widespread building fraud that has previously gone unnoticed.

At meetings with representatives of city agencies and Community Board 4 (CB4), the CRP began to flush out owners, landlords and developers who received NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) permits for construction by routinely lying on their DOB Form PW1, section 26 applications, stating that occupied buildings were unoccupied — a statement which freed them from instituting required Tenant Protection Plans, and making conditions unlivable in order to pressure occupants to leave.

The CRP revealed that 80 occupied buildings in Chelsea were construction sites permitted through falsified applications. Seeing legal permits posted, residents of those buildings did not think they had any recourse. As research deepened, it also became apparent that this fraudulent situation is a citywide concern. The CRP’s findings ignited a call for action, which shows strong signs of being heard — especially by the DOB, which is receiving word from community leaders, and has its own reforms in the works. Although no specific corrective measures are in place, the drive for change has begun.

On June 30, 2015 five elected officials — Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYC Councilmember Corey Johnson, NY State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, NY State Senator Brad Hoylman and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler — signed a letter addressed to DOB Commissioner Richard (Rick) Chandler, requesting a meeting with him and his appropriate staff to discuss the CRP’s findings and to “find a satisfactory way for the agencies to work together to stop the harassment and dangerous conditions facing many tenants today.”

Chelsea Now – Tenants Scrutinize NextGen NYCHA

By Zach Williams, July 15

BY ZACH WILLIAMS | New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents said they expect better communication and transparency in the months ahead from authority officials, as they continue to develop strategies to deal with the financial problems of public housing citywide.

About 100 people attended a town hall meeting held at Baruch College (Lexington Ave. & E. 25th St.), where NYCHA tenants asked questions of officials for about two hours on the night of July 14. A similar town hall was held on July 8 at Hunter College in East Harlem. Both events followed the unveiling of “NextGeneration NYCHA,” a plan to move the authority from the brink of fiscal catastrophe to a $230 million budgetary surplus over the next decade. Vital to the plan’s success, officials said, was the participation of residents in the process moving forward, including upcoming focus groups.

Video: City & State interview re Medical Marijuana


With Jon Lentz, City & State, July 10, 2015

With the winning medical marijuana bids expected to be announced soon, a state lawmaker who sponsored the legislation to create the program said it’s unclear how the best applicants will be identified.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who has championed medical marijuana for years, said that applicants for one of five licenses in New York do have to meet a number of requirements to qualify, such as the ability to produce enough treatments, an effective operating plan and a distribution system that ensures geographic diversity.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle: After 12 years, The Alliance is still fighting for LGBT rights in the courts

Rob Abruzzese, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 29, 2015

Growing up with two politically connected parents led Marc Levine to become an active member of society himself at a young age. He helped to create the Newkirk Area Neighborhood Association where he volunteered so much of his time that people thought it was his full-time job and they assumed that he would eventually run for office.

A sexual harassment complaint changed all of that and put Levine on a path which would eventually lead him to creating the Gay/Straight Alliance of the New York State Justice System.

“I was one of those crazy over-involved people,” Levine said. “Then all of a sudden, I was forced to come out because I had this crazy accusation against me and, quite frankly, it changed my life. It took me three years to regroup from that, but afterward it led me to create The Alliance.”

DNAInfo: City to Set Up Mobile Testing Site Outside Closed Chelsea STD Clinic

By Rosa Goldensohn

CHELSEA — City-backed HIV and syphilis testing will stay in Chelsea while the neighborhood’s public STD clinic closes for renovations, the health department announced Tuesday.

A mobile testing unit that offers syphilis and HIV tests will be stationed outside the clinic at 303 Ninth Ave. starting this summer, health department spokeswoman Veronica Lewin said.

The city will also send additional funding to clinics at Community Healthcare Network, Callen Lorde and Mt. Sinai Downtown to pay for extra testing and to add a nurse practitioner at each site, the department said.

VIDEOS: NY1 & Time Warner Cable News re: Medical Marijuana

The latest “City Health Beat” report on New York 1 News features my interview by reporter Erin Billups on the effort to expedite access to medical marijuana for patients in New York State who need it. The video package introducing the interview begins at the 10:35 mark, and the interview begins at the 12:45 mark here.

I also spoke to Time Warner Cable News’ Jon Dougherty at the Capital about the issue, and you can find that interview here.

Press Wrap-Up: Emergency Medical Marijuana Access

On Tuesday the Assembly passed my bill authorizing emergency access to medical marijuana for patients with the most urgent needs.  Here are some stories on the bill passage and press conference held by advocates before the vote:

Advocates Push for NY Emergency Medical Marijuana,” by Joe Spector, Gannett (via WGRZ), June 9.

“Assembly to Pass Emergency Medical Marijuana Bill” (includes video), by Joe Spector, Gannett (via Journal-News), June 9.

State Bill Would Allow Emergency Medical Marijuana,” by Rachel Shapiro, Staten Island Advance, June 10.

“Advocates Push for Emergency Access to Marijuana as Clock Ticks” (includes video) , by Matthew Hamilton, Albany Times-Union, June 9.

“Andrew Cuomo’s Pot Problem,” by Nick Pinto, Rolling Stone, June 9.

Press Release: Assembly Passes Emergency Access to Medical Marijuana

Assembly Passes Bill Giving Critically Ill Patients Expedited Access to Medical Marijuana

Families of Children with Severe Epilepsy Among Those Calling for Emergency Access Before More Loved Ones Die

The Assembly today passed legislation directing the state to establish a program for critically ill patients to obtain emergency access to medical marijuana as soon as possible. The bill, A. 7060/S. 5086, was introduced by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb. It has been 340 days since Governor Cuomo signed the medical marijuana bill into law on July 5, and ten months since the Governor urged the Health Commissioner to do everything in his power to get medical marijuana to children who could benefit from it.  To date, not one patient has received medical marijuana and at least four children who might have benefited from a well-known form of medical marijuana have died since the bill was signed.