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Community News for the Upper East Side, Yorkville & Roosevelt Island
April 2013 Issue
Fighting to Clean Up State & City Government with the Public Corruption Prevention and Enforcement Act
I’ve been outraged by the recent spate of scandals involving allegations of bribery and graft by several elected officials in State and City government. The ensuing criminal indictments, the latest in a seemingly unending torrent of criminal behavior by public officials in New York, undermine the public trust, reinforce the misconception that lawmakers are either crooks or clowns, and serve as urgent reminders of the need to maintain the highest ethical standards at all levels of government in New York. I’ve long been an outspoken advocate in the Assembly for overdue reforms. That’s why three years ago I joined with then-Senator Eric Schneiderman, worked in consultation with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance three years ago to introduce a bill called the Public Corruption Prevention and Enforcement Act (PCPEA). It will make it clear that public servants have a duty to provide faithful and honest public service; punish corrupt schemes to defraud the government; reform criminal bribery statutes and the “member item” appropriation process; enhance financial disclosure required of State officials; and strengthen campaign finance regulations. After the recent criminal cases were reported, New York Daily News columnist Bill Hammond urged Governor Cuomo to “push through tighter restrictions on how candidates raise and spend campaign funds — with maximum disclosure — and create a new enforcement body with the independence and the juice to hold the pols accountable. He should get behind a proposal from Manhattan Assemblyman Micah Kellner, which would give local prosecutors the same anticorruption tools being put to such good use” by federal prosecutors. Now the Governor has done exactly that. He’s introduced the Public Trust Act, which incorporates many of the provisions from the legislation I introduced, like enhanced penalties for public servants who participate in acts of bribery and increased disclosure and transparency in government, making it easier to stop future lawbreaking by lawmakers in its tracks. I will continue to work to rebuild the public’s faith in State government by doing everything that I can to help the Public Trust Act pass in the Assembly. Elected officials hold positions of public trust, and they have a duty to serve honestly the people they represent. The Public Trust Act will help create measures that help to keep that promise
Want more updates? Visit Assembly Member Kellner’s blog at www.micahkellner.com for community news, legislative updates, and information about events. Follow him on Twitter @micahkellner or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/micahzkellner
intact. Every honest legislator should welcome the Public Trust Act!
Envisioning Better Alternatives for the Marine Transfer Station Site
I recently finished reviewing the City’s contract to build a Marine Transfer Station (MTS) at E. 91 st Street, and I remain confident that our community will not see the MTS fully constructed and operating at any time in the near future. The projected timetable for work on the MTS is marked by three phases. During the initial phase, the existing structure is being demolished and a new foundation and pier platform will be completed, a stage anticipated to last well into 2014. During that time, a new City administration will be assuming office and confronting painful fiscal realities that may force a reassessment of the project, which is already grossly over budget on its original construction costs; and the State Department of Environmental Conservation will have to renew an operating permit needed to complete the proposed project. This confluence of events will give our community the opportunity to comment on the City’s permit renewal request, providing additional chances to convince government opinion-makers to abandon this ill-conceived, environmentally and fiscally unsound boondoggle. Even once the first phase is well under way, it’s creating opportunities to re-imagine the possibilities for the East Side waterfront. The new platform being constructed over the East River could be transformed into an amenity rather than a blight for the neighborhood, creating the possibilities to create new parkland, a “mini-highline” to complement the East Side Esplanade, or a “walkway to the water.” Together, we will continue to fight against the MTS tooth and nail – but the crisis anticipated for our local quality of life in Yorkville by the MTS proposal could be transformed into a golden opportunity.
Marine Transfer Station Lawsuits Update
I continue the fight against the E. 91st Street Marine Transfer Station (MTS) through State and federal legal action in the form of lawsuits filed with other community members. In our lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court, the oral argument for the appeal of the Decision and Order of the Court has been moved to the June calendar in the Appellate Division. This will give us another opportunity to argue our case and keep fighting to stop the MTS plan in its tracks. In the Federal lawsuit that other community leaders and I filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of New York have answered our amended complaint. We are reviewing their response to determine if other information can be obtained to support our claims.
Taxis for All Finally Get A Hearing in the City Council
The Big Apple continues to lag behind other world-class cities like London and San Francisco when it comes to providing taxicab service for everyone including wheelchair users. I was gratified that, after years of stalling, the City Council’s leadership finally consented to hold a hearing on legislation introduced by Bronx Councilman Oliver Koppell to transition the Big Apple’s taxicab fleet to full wheelchair accessibility. The measure has enough votes to pass – if it is allowed onto the Council floor for a vote. I recently wrote an op-ed that appeared in the New York Daily News supporting Councilman Koppell’s bill and arguing that the City’s failure to require the new Nissan van taxicabs to be accessible will only invite costly federal lawsuits while failing to meet the very real needs of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Now is the time for New York City to provide taxicab service to all!
A New SBS Bus Stop for 72nd / 73rd Street and First Avenue
In my continued efforts to improve the quality of life for residents of our community, I have urged the President of MTA New York City Transit to place M15 Select Bus Service (SBS) stops on First Avenues between 72nd and 73rd
Streets, and on Second Avenue at 72nd Street once construction conditions on the Second Avenue Subway project allow it. While SBS is highly effective in reducing bus travel time, the lack of these convenient stops has forced SBS riders in our community to walk greater distances to arrive at their destinations. The extra walking distances often negate bus travel time saved by SBS riders, in addition to making connections to the M72 crosstown bus – the only Manhattan crosstown bus line that lacks a direct connection to the SBS – significantly more difficult, particularly for seniors and those with impaired mobility. I will continue to press the case with NYC Transit to make sure that residents of the Upper East Side and Yorkville are not shortchanged when it comes to convenient and rider-friendly bus service.
The Return of X90 Express Bus Service to Yorkville
Ever since the X90 Express Bus connecting Yorkville to Lower Manhattan during rush hours was discontinued by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) almost three years ago, I have been urging the restoration of this badly needed service. Riders of the previous X90 bus continue to express concerns about the undue burden placed on them since its elimination. No reasonable convenient alternative exists, but now that the MTA’s revenue projections indicate that it will be collecting $40 million more than anticipated, this is a timely opportunity to reinstate X90 service. Transportation options for riders displaced by the elimination of the X90 - the Select Bus Service (SBS) on First and Second Avenues and the near-capacity Lexington Avenue subway line – remain inconvenient or impractical. For former X90 riders in Yorkville and the far East Side, both of these alternatives entail either walking long distances or spending needless extra travel time. Just as significant, since the X90 was a rush hour-only service, New Yorkers who relied on this express bus for their daily commutes have been forced onto the SBS and the Lexington Avenue subway line at peak hours, when they are already most congested. These alternatives simply have not worked. The enduring effect of this service reduction is continuing to pose a significant hardship on our community, where residents experience some of the most overcrowded conditions of any commuters in the five boroughs.
Welcoming a New President to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation
Earlier this month, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation Board of Directors voted to confirm Charlene Indelicato as its new President. While she is well-qualified for the position and has promised to work in a collegial and transparent manner with Island residents, community leaders and I were outraged at the lack of transparency and consultation in the appointment process. I share the concern expressed by several Board members about the lack of a competitive search process, and understand well why some chose to abstain from the confirmation vote. Nonetheless, all have expressed confidence that Ms. Indelicato’s previous record as the City Manager in New Rochelle, New York, has provided her with valuable and relevant experience. I am hopeful that her confirmation will ultimately signal a new and successful chapter in the history of Roosevelt Island’s governance.
Curbing Policing Abuses on Roosevelt Island
After a rash of incidents involving overly aggressive and abusive tactics on the part of the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Division (PSD), I am leading a call to replace PSD’s Director and reform its practices. Islanders’ public trust in the PSD has eroded and a change in leadership and return to best practices is warranted immediately at the PSD.
Education Funding Gets Boost from New Budget
There are few bright spots in this year’s New York State budget. One of them is the increased funding for the largest and most important public expenditure in New York State: education. In this year’s budget, the legislature was able to help increase public school funding throughout New York—especially right here on the Upper East Side and Yorkville, where the additional funds will help ensure that the three new elementary schools and the new middle school that I’ve helped bring into the district will receive adequate resources. The City will be receiving about $8.3
billion in total funding from the State under the new budget, an increase of $364 million. Schools are the key to the New York’s future. Without a proper education, our children will be unable to access the resources they need to pursue fulfilling careers and keep New York competitive economically. Thankfully, with the increase in school aid in New York City and throughout the state, we’re continuing to make New York a national leader in education.
Albany Recognizes Increased Funding Needs of Library and Education Technology in New Budget
As Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Libraries and Education Technology, I am proud to announce that this year’s State budget will see the largest increase in aid to the State library systems in five years. I’ve worked hard to increase the funding over last year’s level, and helped lead the Legislature in passing more than $4 million in muchneeded additional funding, marking a 5% increase. This is a positive step towards restoring the funding levels that New York’s top-notch public library systems deserve, and which until this year had not recovered from the drastic funding reductions implemented in the 2007-8 State budget. The resources that libraries provide are invaluable, and more than half of New Yorkers have library cards. The Empire State’s library system helps keep New York City an educational and creative capital of the world. I am thrilled by the increase in library funding in New York, and hope that these efforts serve to keep New York at the forefront of intellectual, artistic, cultural and technological advances around the world.
As East Side Prepares to Welcome New Middle School, District 2 Community Education Council Hosts Information Session & Community Hearing
After many years of leading the fight for a new middle school on the Upper East Side, I was gratified two months ago when the NYC Department of Education finally agreed to open a new middle school in September 2014 in the PS 158 annex on York Avenue between 77th and 78th Streets. As we look forward to the next school year, the District 2 Community Education Council will host an information session and community input hearing on Monday, April 29th at 6:30 pm. The meeting will take place at MS 167 (the Robert Wagner Junior High School) at 220 East 76th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.
NYC Department of Education Acknowledges Errors on the Scoring of Most Recent Exams for Students Seeking to Enroll in Gifted & Talented Programs
The New York City Department of Education has reported that the scoring of the most recent exams for City students seeking to enroll in Gifted & Talented (G&T) programs was subject to significant and widespread errors. The Department is undertaking to notify all families of students affected by the scoring errors via email and automated calls, and deadlines for reconsidering application decisions are being extended to May 10 th. If you think you or your family should have been notified about a faulty G&T exam but has not been contacted by the Department of Education, please consult the Gifted & Talented section on its website or call its G&T help line at 888-705-9417. For general G&T questions, please call 718-935-2009.
Standing Up for People with Developmental Disabilities
I am outraged by the Governor’s failure to devote adequate resources to caring for people with developmental disabilities who count on the State for assistance. The New York State Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) was subject to a draconian cut of $90 million in the recent budget. Coupled with the resulting loss of federal matching funds, this constitutes an overall cut of $180 million – a cruel blow to some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. The Legislature must move immediately to restore this mean-spirited funding cut. The original proposed cut to OPWDD in the State budget was $120 million, which when combined with the resulting cuts in federal support would have resulted in a total loss of $240 million to the agency. Fortunately I and like-minded legislators were able to reduce the amount of cuts being proposed. As an outspoken advocate for the disabled community, I will do everything in my power to reverse this deplorable trend in the future.
New Low-Cost Housing in Manhattan
Applications for 30 affordable one and two bedroom apartments are now available. These accommodations are currently under construction, and will be located at the St. Nicholas Park Apartments at 306 West 128th Street in central Harlem. Rent levels will be established according to residents’ income, with and monthly rents ranging from $533 to $1,022. In order to qualify, your total income must be between $20,253 and $51,540 dollars per year, depending on the size of your family. Preference will be granted to residents of Manhattan’s Community Board 10, to persons with mobility or hearing impairment, and to New York City municipal employees. Half of the units will be reserved for Community Board 10 residents, 5% each to mobility-impaired individuals and City employees, and 2% individuals with hearing impairment. In addition, 25% of the apartments will be filled by individuals displaced by Hurricane Sandy or a related storm who can provide documentation of their losses. Current New York City residents will receive preference over those living outside the five boroughs. Applications can be downloaded here, and you submit an application by mail order to: St. Nicholas Park Apartments LP, 2214 Frederick Douglas Blvd., #386, New York, NY 10026. Finished applications need to be returned by mail to the post office box that will be listed on the application, and all applications must be postmarked by May 20th, 2013. Duplicate submissions are not permitted and will result in applicant disqualification.
Public Forum on Parkland on the Upper East Side
On April 25th, there will be a Public Forum on “The Need for Public Open Space on Manhattan’s Upper East Side”. The Forum will take place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 6:30 P.M. and is being sponsored by Manhattan Community Board 8 and New Yorkers for Parks. Interested residents can attend the forum at the Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Avenue. The Lecture Hall is located on the Ground Level of the Uris Center, which has an entrance at Fifth Avenue and East 81st Street. Any additional questions can be directed to Community Board 8 at (212) 758-4340.
Free Mammography Screening: The Scan Van is Coming to the UES on Thursday, May 2nd
My office, in partnership with Project Renewal’s Scan Van program, is coordinating a free mammography screening program on Thursday, May 2nd, 2013. Screenings start at 8:30 a.m. at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, located at 331 East 70th Street just west of First Avenue. The mobile mammography van will be parked on First Avenue between 70th and 71st Streets. Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute, it is estimated that 226,870 women were diagnosed with and 39,510 women died of breast cancer in 2012. Early detection of breast cancer is the best way to prevent its worst consequences. I hope that the women of our community will take advantage of this service, specifically those who may not have been able to get a mammogram in the past. It’s a vital step to protecting your health. This service is available to any woman over 40 years of age who has not had a mammogram in the past 12 months, regardless of insurance coverage. Space is limited and appointments are necessary, so women who are interested should schedule their appointments as soon as possible by calling Project Renewal at 1-800-564-6868. All appointments must be made by May 1st. If you schedule an appointment, it is recommended that, on the day of your visit, you wear a two-piece outfit, and refrain from using any oil, powder, deodorant, or perfume. If you have Medicare, Medicaid or other health insurance, you must bring your card with you, though you will not be charged any co-payment. If you do not have health
insurance, your services will be paid for by the New York State Cancer Services Program. The results of your mammogram will be sent to you within 10 business days. These professional medical services will be provided by the Project Renewal Scan Van.
Free Monthly Legal Clinic for Tenants
My office continues to work with Eviction Intervention Services to offer a free monthly legal clinic for tenants. If the owner of your building is harassing you, threatening you with eviction, or refusing to make necessary repairs, and you can not afford to hire a lawyer, please come consult one of our volunteer attorneys. The clinic is held the first Monday of every month at 1233 Second Avenue (between East 64th and 65th Streets) with appointments from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The next clinic will be on Monday, May 6. The clinic is by appointment only. Please call (212) 860-4906 to schedule an appointment.
Free Head and Neck Cancer Screenings Available
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center will be offering free head and neck cancer screenings at the Enid A. Haupt Pavilion at 425 East 67th Street between First and York Avenues, 4th floor, Suite 5, on Thursday, April 25th from 9:00 am – 12:00 noon. All screenings will combine a ten-minute exam for head and neck cancer with counseling on quitting smoking and nutritional advice on diets which lower cancer risk. It is not necessary to schedule an appointment to attend the screening. To learn more, please call 646-497-9161.
Stay Safe in the Summer Heat
Spring is here and the summer heat is approaching. So don’t forget to follow these tips to stay cool and healthy as the temperature rises: 1. Drink enough liquids and eat cool foods with high water content to increase your ability to deal with stifling weather. 2. Friends and family members should check in on elderly neighbors, especially those who live in apartments without air-conditioning. 3. Pay attention to signs of heat stroke or sickness including: temperature over 103 degrees, red skin, throbbing headache, rapid pulse, nausea and confusion. For more tips about avoiding heat exhaustion, visit AARP’s website.
City Health Department Recommending Sexually Active HIV-Positive Gay and Bisexual Men Obtain Meningitis Vaccine
Several cases of meningitis have been reported among gay and bisexual men in New York and in other cities in North America. The New York City Department of Health is recommending that men who are sexually active with men consult health care providers about getting vaccinated, and that all HIV-positive gay and bisexual men and HIVnegative men who regularly have close or intimate contact with other men met either through an online website, digital app, or at a bar or party should be vaccinated. If you don’t feel sick but think you may be at risk, you should talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated. If your provider doesn’t have the vaccine, you can visit one of the City’s immunization or STD clinics. To learn about where to get vaccinated at a City clinic go to the Health Department’s website or call 311 for more information.
Contact My Office
District Office of Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner 1365 First Avenue New York, NY 10065 T: (212) 860-4906 F: (917) 432-2983 Email me: KellnerM@assembly.state.ny.us Visit my website: www.MicahKellner.net
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