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February Community Update

Introduction of “Vehicular Violence Accountability Act” To Crack Down on Dangerous Drivers

           With violent injuries to pedestrians and bi-cyclists at an all-time high in New York City, especially in Manhattan, I have joined with State Senator Tim Kennedy of Buffalo, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, to sponsor the Vehicular Violence Accountability Act (S. 7298/A. 9605).

            I introduced the legislation in the Assembly after consultation with the New York County District Attorney’s office, members of Manhattan Community Boards, and organizations promoting pedestrian safety like CHEKPEDS, the Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Chelsea Coalition for Pedestrian Safety.  They expressed concerns that current New York State law governing the “right of way” is limited to collisions in which a driver fails to yield to pedestrians or bicyclists with the right of way.  Current law fails to take into account other aspects of a driver’s behavior, such as whether the driver was speeding, texting while driving, or other engaging in other conduct that could cause injury to others.

            The bill that I’m sponsoring will provide law enforcement authorities with additional tools to address vehicular violence in New York, and al-low prosecutors to consider aggravating factors such as speeding, texting or phoning while driving, previous vehicular convictions, or incidents that entail more than one moving violation.

Board of Standards & Appeals’ Tie Vote on Upper West Side “Supertall” Sells Out Community

In an unusual 2-2 tie vote last Tuesday, the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) failed to approve a community effort to overturn the Department of Buildings (DOB) approval of Extell Development’s application to erect a 775-foot-high “supertall” building at 50 West 66th Street.  That means the DOB approval of the project stands.  I and the other elected officials representing the area will continue to fight alongside the community.  We have called on the DOB to justify its granting of the permit, including the developer’s “mechanical deductions” for four full floors.  (A “mechanical deduction” lets a developer deduct space for a building’s mechanical equipment from the height calculation for zoning purposes, letting the developer build a taller building.) 

            Landmark West!, the neighborhood preservation organization that had filed the appeal with BSA, and the elected officials say Extell has never shown how the horizontal void space will be utilized, other than to boost the height of the building.  Landmark West! is reviewing its options, which include filing a lawsuit to block the project in NYS Supreme Court.

            Although our BSA appeal failed to win a majority, the rare tie vote showed that half of the BSA members object to Extell’s attempt to boost the height of its building by several additional stories.  At the BSA meeting, its Chair, Margery Perlmutter, joined the two BSA members who voted in favor of the appeal to urge DOB to develop clearer and more transparent policies and procedures to ensure that mechanical floor spaces are appropriately sized to serve their stated purpose of housing mechanical equipment and infrastructure needed to operate the building and not for other accessory or ulterior uses.

            The 50 West 66th Street development is an abuse of zoning regulations, is out of scale with the area, and would set a terrible precedent for future proposed developments.  I stand with Landmark West! and local residents in urging the City to crack down on these and other developers’ abuses of the system.

‘No Hate, No Fear’ March Across the Brooklyn Bridge Against Antisemitism

           With incidents of antisemitism and brutal and often violent attacks against Jews on the rise around the country, I joined tens of thousands of New Yorkers on January 5 in a peaceful “No Hate, No Fear March” across the Brooklyn Bridge.

            It was inspiring to see New Yorkers from all communities unite to speak out against hatred, intolerance, and antisemitism!

NO HATE, NO FEAR: I joined Governor Cuomo, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Mayor de Blasio, dozens of elected officials, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers in marching across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest acts of antisemitism.

Assembly Passes Package of Bills for New Yorkers with Disabilities           

On January 29 – Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day in Albany – the New York State Assembly passed a package of bills aimed at improving the lives of people with disabilities.  I joined with Assembly Members from both par-ties to help them address the challenges they face.  The package included the following bills:

Disability Rights
            To establish the Office of Advocate for People with Disabilities (A. 9004, sponsored by Assembly Member Phil Steck), which I am co-sponsoring.  The office would advocate on behalf of people with disabilities and assure that they can exercise all of the rights and responsibilities accorded to all citizens of New York State, including the opportunity to live an in-dependent life in their local community.

            Also included is a bill that I am co-sponsoring that would allow the State to be sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 as they apply to the protection of state employees (A. 1092, sponsored by Assembly Member Barbara Lifton). 

            Additionally, we passed a measure that would require public officers and bodies to provide qualified interpreters and assistive learning devices for hearing impaired individuals upon request at public meetings and hearings at no charge (A. 3385, sponsored by Assembly Member Inez Dickens).

            Another measure would clarify that reason-able accommodation to enable a person with a disability to live in a dwelling includes the use of an animal to alleviate the symptoms or effects of a disability (A. 7331, sponsored by Assembly Member Erik Dilan).

Emergency Preparedness
            Another bill in the package would require counties with local emergency management plans to maintain a confidential registry of people of all ages with disabilities who may re-quire evacuation assistance and shelter during a disaster.  Inclusion in the registry would be optional (A. 3923, sponsored by Assembly Member David Weprin). 

Employment
            Another bill would establish a small business tax credit for the employment of people with disabilities to encourage the employment of capable individuals who are often overlooked (A. 8996, sponsored by Assembly Member Michael Cusick).

Health Care
            In the event that an individual applying for public assistance has work limitations, disabilities or health issues receives a diagnosis from a practitioner provided by the local social services district that is inconsistent with the applicant’s treating health care practitioner, a measure included in the Assembly’s package would require that the district’s practitioner provide explicit written determination and evidence to support their diagnosis (A. 8994, sponsored by Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi). 

Housing
            Another piece of the legislation would create a tax credit for new or retrofitted principal residences which are universally designed to be accessible and adaptable housing (A. 9005, sponsored by Assembly Member Charles Lavine).  Universal designs make residences accessible and user friendly for senior citizens and people with limited mobility.

Assembly Health Committee Advances Legislation

           The Assembly Committee on Health, which I chair, advanced several important pieces of legislation in January. 

            These included a bill (A. 6677) I have introduced that would better target funds in the “Indigent Care Pool,” or ICP – money meant to supplement payments to hospitals who serve high proportions of low-income, uninsured, and Medicaid patients.  ICP funds are currently distributed according to an old, outdated formula that actually gives disproportionate funding to hospitals that provide little to no actual care to low-income patients, including some of the highest-profit hospitals in the state.  My bill, drafted in consultation with New York City Health + Hospitals, rebalances the ICP to better target the facilities which actually provide the bulk of care to low-income patients, typically including both urban public hospitals and rural sole community hospitals.

            Another bill I’m sponsoring that we reported out of the Health Committee, A. 7839, would help maintain water quality in smaller municipalities around New York State.  The Legislature passed a law in 2017 that required the monitoring of “emerging contaminants” in small water systems that provide water to less than 10,000 people.  That law included a short list of just three emerging contaminants, while directing the NYS Health Commissioner to create a longer list.  Because the Commissioner has since failed to produce such a list, my bill adds a longer list of chemicals, largely reflecting federal standards.  I drafted it in consultation with Environmental Advocates, the New York Public Interest Research Group, and other environmental groups.

Deadline to Enroll for Health Care Insurance through NYS Health Exchange Extended to February 7

            The deadline to enroll in a health plan for 2020 through the New York State of Health ex-change has been extended to Tuesday, February 7th.

            Individuals and families living in New York City may compare health plan options, apply for assistance and enroll online at:

nyc.gov/GetCoveredNYC. 

            City residents can also get free enrollment assistance by texting ‘CoveredNYC’ to 877877, or by calling 311 to connect with a health care enrollment specialist.

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 Apply for Manhattan Community Board Membership is Extended to Fri., Feb. 14

            Interested in what gets built in the com-munity in which you live or work, and how government works to deliver services in the neighborhood?  Apply to join one of Manhattan’s 12 Community Boards!  The new deadline to submit your application is Friday, February 14 at 5:00 p.m.

            Every Community Board has 50 seats which are filled for two-year terms by volunteers, who are selected by the Borough President and local City Council members. Half the seats are up for appointment or reappointment every year.

            Community Boards get a seat at the table in high-stakes land use, real estate, and zoning negotiations, and they work directly with City agencies to influence how government services are delivered at the neighborhood level. 

            If you’d like to serve as a member of your Community Board, apply online at https://www.manhattanbp.nyc.gov/cbapplication/. You can also print the application and drop it off by mail or in-person at:

            Manhattan Borough President’s Office

            Attention: Rosie Mendez and Elka Morety

            1 Centre Street, 19th Floor

            New York, NY  10007

The deadline to apply for membership on a Manhattan community board is Friday, February 14 at 5:00 p.m.

Fri. Feb. 14 is the Deadline to Register to Vote for the 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

            To mail your voter registration form, send it to 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