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November Community Update

Assembly Health Committee Hearing on Youth Tackle Football

            Should children 12 and under be playing tackle football?  On October 29, the Assembly Health Committee, which I chair, held a hearing in Lower Manhattan on the health impacts of that.  There is a bill in the Assembly (A. 2692) to outlaw organized team tackle football for children 12 and under.  The bill is sponsored by Assembly Member Michael Benedetto of the Bronx, and I am a co-sponsor.

            Following many news media reports of cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) disproportionately affecting professional football players and former players, many families, physicians and researchers have been raising concerns regarding the health effects of tackle football on children.  Repeated concussions can cause serious lifelong brain damage.  The damage is greatest when players start when their young brains are developing, and even more when play continues for years.

Working Group Formed to Consider Plans for Fulton and Elliott-Chelsea Houses

            Like almost all New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments, Fulton and Elliott-Chelsea Houses urgently need extensive and expensive work.

            Because of concerns about the City’s proposal for responding to this need, all of Chelsea’s local elected officials, including me, called on Mayor de Blasio’s administration to put a hold on its plans and participate in a working group with the elected officials, tenant representatives, Community Board 4, and other advocates.  We want real input from the tenants and the community.  We also stated that we will not allow any plan that does not protect and preserve the Fulton Houses community, with no displacement of residents from Fulton Houses or any reduction of tenant rights or affordability.

            The City agreed to put a hold on its plans and join the working group, which is now looking at all the options for organizing and funding the needed work.

            Earlier this year, the City was developing a plan to generate badly needed revenue to repair these public housing developments in Chelsea.  At Fulton Houses, the City is proposing new construction, replacing some buildings, repairs, and installing new private-sector management, to raise the funds necessary to renovate, repair, and improve conditions at Fulton Houses and at the nearby Elliott-Chelsea Houses.  NYCHA estimates that meeting the combined capital needs of the two developments would cost approximately $344 million.

            NYCHA’s draft plan for Fulton entails constructing three new buildings in the complex, with tenants in two existing buildings then moving into the first of the new buildings.  The City would then replace two older, low-rise buildings with two big new buildings.  Those buildings would be a mix of market-rate and affordable apartments.  The new income generated would be dedicated to repairs and renovation of Fulton Houses and Elliott-Chelsea Houses.   

            Under the City’s proposal, Fulton and Chelsea-Elliott Houses would then enter the federal “Rental Assistance Demonstration” (RAD) program, which uses Section 8 vouchers instead of traditional public housing subsidies, and management of the complex would be turned over to a private sector entity.

            The working group held its first two meetings in October.  There will be more meetings and public forums.  We expect the Working Group to present its proposals by year’s end.

            I have serious concerns about the City’s proposal.  I am always wary of privatization.

            To raise critically needed funds for the MTA’s capital plan, NYCHA and other programs, I am co-sponsoring several proposals in Albany.  These include re-instating the stock transfer tax and raising the state income tax rate on tax brackets above $1 million a year.  I also support proposals to increase corporate income taxes and to enact a surcharge tax on so-called “pied-a-terre” luxury apartments that are not the owner’s primary residence.

Enforcing the New Law Against Floating Billboards

            This past legislative session, Senator Brad Hoylman and I sponsored legislation in Albany to prohibit boats with illuminated billboards from operating in the navigable waters of the State, such as the Hudson River.  Governor Cuomo signed our bill into law in August.  Despite the fact that it took effect immediately, Ballyhoo Media continued to operate its “floating billboards” in New York waterways in flagrant violation of the new law.

            In September, Senator Hoylman and I wrote to Mayor de Blasio asking that the City provide a detailed plan of how it would enforce the law.  Soon after, the City announced that it had reached an agreement with Ballyhoo that bans it from operating its floating billboards on any New York state waterway.  The company agreed to pay $100,000 to the City, and has since relocated its billboard boat to Florida.  Now President Trump can enjoy them.

Tues., Nov. 12: Upper Manhattan Town Hall on New York Health Act

            At 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 12, I will be speaking at a Town Hall hosted by NYS Senators Robert Jackson, on the New York Health Act, my bill that would provide universal health care coverage in New York state by establishing an “improved Medicare for all” single-payer health care program.  The Town Hall follows up on last month’s joint hearing on the NY Health Act, held in the Bronx by the Assembly and Senate Health Committees.

NEW YORK HEALTH ACT: I co-chaired a joint hearing of the Assembly and Senate Health Committee on the New York Health Act in the Bronx in October.

            The Town Hall, which is free and open to the public, will be at the YM/YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood at 54 Nagle Avenue (take the A train to 190th Street).  Please RSVP by going online to SenatorRJackson.eventbrite.com.

Wed., Nov. 20: NYCHA Town Hall Meeting

            On the evening of Wednesday, November 20, the Manhattan delegation of the New York State Assembly is hosting a Town Hall meeting on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) public housing.  It is free and open to the public.  People will have a chance to voice their concerns about NYCHA developments, hear from NYCHA officials on maintenance and re-pairs, and learn how to connect with tenant lawyers.

            The Town Hall meeting will be at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 20 at the Boys and Girls Republic at 888 East 6th Street between Avenue D and the FDR Drive service road.

Census Job Opportunities

            Every ten years the United States Census Bureau takes a count of every person living in the United States.  It’s required by the Constitution.   Getting accurate Census data in New York is vital for ensuring that we receive our fair share of $650 billion in federal funds for public education, public housing, infrastructure, and more — as well as the number of seats we have in the U.S. House of Representatives.  It also determines how much representation each community has in the State Legislature and the city council.

            It’s critical that every New Yorker be counted in the 2020 Census.  In the last Census in 2010, New York City’s self-response rate was less than 62%, significantly lower than the national 76% response rate.

            There are many jobs now available for workers to conduct the 2020 Census.  To inquire about Field Representative Testing in New York, please send an email with your name, zip code, and phone number(s) to new.york.recruit@census.gov, or call 212-584-3495.  For other questions or inquiries about Census opportunities outside New York City, please call the New York Regional Census Center at 212-882-7100.

Deadline to Register to Vote for Presidential Primary

            Under a new law passed by the Legislature, you can now change your party enrollment closer to next year’s New York presidential primary.  February 14 – Valentine’s Day – is the deadline to re-register to change which political party you are enrolled in, or to enroll with a party for the first time, in time to vote in New York’s April 28 presidential primary.  If you are already registered at your current address and enrolled with the party of your choice, you do not need to do anything.

            To make a change, send a Voter Registration Form with your new choice to the board of elections office for your borough or county.  You can learn more about registering or changing your party affiliation by going online: https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingRegister.html

            If you want to print out and mail your voter registration form, the address for the New York County (Manhattan & Roosevelt Island) Board of Elections is:

            New York County Board of Elections

            200 Varick Street – 10th Floor

            New York, NY 10014

EPL/Environmental Advocates Name Me an “Environmental Champion”

            In October, EPL/Environmental Advocates, the leading statewide organization that has advocated for stronger environmental protections since 1969, released its 2019 Environmental Scorecard, which grades all state legislators’ voting records on environmental legislation.

            I was proud to earn a 100% score this year, and EPL/Environmental Advocates named me an “Environmental Champion.”  I am honored by this recognition, and will continue working hard to earn the trust and support of New Yorkers who believe that helping to protect and preserve our environment remains one of government’s most critical functions.

            In its “Scorecard,” which you can find online at www.eplscorecard.org, EPL/Environmental Advocates rated legislators on their votes on several critical bills that have now been signed into law by Governor Cuomo.  These include the Climate Leadership and Protection Act; congestion pricing in Manhattan; allocating $500 million for water infra-structure; a ban on single-use plastic bags; and a bill to deny offshore drilling companies access to state marine and coastal district lands.             Other environmental legislation that has passed both houses of the Legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature include bill to ban the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos; bar the sale in New York of personal care products that contain the toxic chemical 1,4-dioxane; and The Child Safe Products Act, which requires manufacturers to list toxic chemicals that are present in their products, as well as begin the process of phasing them out.

Protecting New York State’s Water Supply

Yesterday in Albany I joined with environmental and health advocates and other legislators to urge the immediate passage of legislation I’m sponsoring in the Assembly to protect New York’s drinking water. My bill, (A.7839), would require testing drinking water all across New York State for a list of harmful chemicals, and establish a deadline for the New York Department of Health (DOH) to conduct such testing.

What the New Administration in Washington Means for  Health Policy in New York

By Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried

The election of Donald Trump and Republican control of Congress are a serious threat to programs and policies that protect our health.  Washington could make radical changes to Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, reproductive care, and other programs that could drastically undermine our right to health care, cost New York State billions of dollars a year in federal funds, and destabilize health care providers.

The first step in stopping or reversing these attacks is to clearly understand what’s at stake and spread the word.  There is hardly anything more rigged against working people than health care.  The Trump-Republican agenda will make it worse.  This is a time to redouble efforts in more progressive states like New York to create universal access to health care, with funding based fairly on ability to pay, through an “improved Medicare for all” system.

For years, congressional attacks on funding and programs have been defeated by the threat or use of presidential vetoes.  Now we will have a president who may be leading the charge.

Oneonta Daily Star: More testing looms in aftermath of tainted tap water

By Joe Mahoney, CNHI News Service (via Daily Star), 9/26/16

ALBANY — A string of water pollution incidents blamed on industrial chemicals is prompting calls for more money to detect whether New Yorkers are exposed to unregulated but “emerging” contaminants from their faucets.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, said in an interview he hopes there will be “more funding for expanded investigation of possible contamination” in next year’s budget.

The influential architect of much of the health-related programs advanced at the Capitol said money is needed because small communities often cannot afford testing.

 “And millions of New Yorkers get their water from either very small systems or from private wells,” he said.

Niagara Gazette: Hoosick Falls’ water woes lead to scrutiny for health officials

By Joe Mahoney,9/19

ALBANY — Residents of Hoosick Falls compare the water contamination in their village of 3,500 people with the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where lead-laced drinking water created a public health emergency.

State health officials say they’re doing all they can to help the village on the Vermont border deal with toxic chemicals in the groundwater. But residents and several state lawmakers are steamed, saying more people could have been sickened in the time it took the state to react.

“The lesson for all Americans here is that people need to know what’s in their drinking water, and know what state officials are doing to keep it safe,” said Michele Baker, an organizer of a grassroots group focused on the contamination. “New York state knew what was in our water and allowed us to keep drinking water with contaminants for months.”

 Baker said the pollution is the result of years of dumping harmful chemicals used in manufacturing — complicated by government inertia.

NY Post: State admits staff knew Hoosick Falls water was dangerous

By Kirstan Conley, September 7

ALBANY — Under intense grilling at a legislative hearing, state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker admitted Wednesday he and his staff knew for years that a chemical in the water in Hoosick Falls was a danger to residents, but didn’t sound the alarm.

“Yes,” Zucker relented when asked repeatedly by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) if his agency was aware of information “it took [resident] Mike Hickey five minutes on Google to find.”

Gottfried pointed to a fact sheet issued by the Health Department in December 2015 stating residents of the upstate village had nothing to fear.

Politico: Hoosick Falls hearing turns into 5-hour grilling for state officials

By Scott Waldman, September 7

ALBANY— Wednesday’s hearing on Hoosick Falls and water pollution issues turned into a five-hour grilling of state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and other officials who organized the state’s response to the crisis.

The hearings were intended to take a broad look at water quality issues across the state. And while they touched on Hudson River water quality, road salt runoff in waterways and fracking waste, they largely centered on the state’s response to Hoosick Falls, the Rensselaer County village where water was found to be contaminated by an industrial chemical, perflurooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

Wall St. Journal – Hoosick Falls Water Woes Draw Federal Scrutiny

By Mike Vilensky and Erica Orden, 7/7

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Thursday she would introduce federal legislation to fight the water-contamination crisis in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., shortly after a congressional committee launched a probe into the state’s handling of the issue.

The measures mark mounting federal scrutiny of how Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other public officials have addressed the matter in the upstate New York community, located about 35 miles from Albany.

“I’m grateful the governor has done a couple of things,” Ms. Gillibrand, a Democrat, said in an interview. “But we need to do a lot more.”

PRESS RELEASE: Assembly to Hold Water Quality Hearings

July 6, 2016

Speaker Carl Heastie, Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Steve Englebright and Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried today announced the Assembly will hold public hearings on water quality in New York State in early September.

“Recent reports of water contamination in municipalities across the state have highlighted the need for a thorough review of measures to ensure clean and healthy water in our communities,” said Heastie. “Ensuring a safe water supply for our children and families is a top priority for us.”

Englebright and Gottfried will take testimony at two public hearings in early September related to water contamination situations in various communities across New York State. The hearings will be held in Albany and Suffolk County. The Assembly will review the causes and response to the known contaminations as well as measures to prevent future occurrences.

“Recent events around the nation and here in New York have shown harmful contaminants in the water supply. Drinking water should be safe and clean. Disturbing discoveries of harmful contaminants highlight the need for preventative measures to be put in place to protect our water purity,” said Assemblyman Englebright.

“Ensuring the safety of drinking water in this state is paramount,” said Assemblyman Gottfried. “We’re going to examine the issue of water contamination and assess our current laws and public policies on these matters, and how they’re working, to protect public access to safe, clean water.”

Associated Press: State Assembly to hold hearings on drinking water contamination

By Mary Esch, 7/7/16

ALBANY — The state Assembly will hold hearings in the fall on water quality issues, including an examination of the Cuomo administration’s response to toxic chemical contamination of drinking water in the village of Hoosick Falls, officials announced Wednesday.

“Recent reports of water contamination in municipalities across the state have highlighted the need for a thorough review of measures to ensure clean and healthy water in our communities,” Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a news release.

Heastie spokesman Michael Whyland confirmed that the hearings would examine the state’s actions in Hoosick Falls as well as “anything related to water quality.”