Week In Review, Jan. 21

State Senator Brad Hoylman called on telecommunications giant Time Warner Cable on Monday to improve access for blind and visually impaired customers by voluntarily instituting basic product standards, including television guides and documents written in Braille, font size options for on-screen menus, as well as “talking menus” and “talking guides.” In a letter to Chairman and CEO Robert Marcus, Hoylman noted that while “Comcast has already set an example with its simple to use and accessible technology,” Time Warner has yet to implement similar programs for its share of New York’s 400,000 visually impaired residents.
Hoylman learned of the issue from a constituent while visiting VISIONS, a nonprofit that offers rehabilitation and social services to the visually impaired, in his senate district with NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Council Member Robert Cornegy (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Council Member Robert Cornegy (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The City Council voted unanimously in support of legislation to change the way that the city communicates with New Yorkers who qualify for the city’s Rent Freeze Program on Tuesday.
The legislation, sponsored by Council Member Robert Cornegy, requires the Department of Finance to include a notice regarding legal and preferential rents on certain documents related to the NYC Rent Freeze Program.
Specifically, the notice must include the rent amount on which the benefit calculation was based, an explanation of why that amount was used in the calculation, an explanation that the tenant may continue to pay a preferential rent even once enrolled in the program, A statement that the tenant can obtain a rent registration history and file a complaint with the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal and a telephone number and email address for that agency. In addition, by 2018, the legislation would require the Department of Finance to include both the preferential and legal regulated rents of applicants to the NYC Rent Freeze Program in its database and include the preferential rent amount in the notice described above.

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Week In Review, Aug. 13

Rev. Jacob Smith

Rev. Jacob Smith

Several members of the Cavalry-St. George’s parish, including Reverend Jacob Smith and Josh Encinias, were at the All Angels Episcopal Church in Twilight Park, Greene County over the weekend when a fire broke out. Everyone was able to escape the building and although several people were hospitalized, all are expected to make a full recovery. The building was destroyed in the fire, which is believed to be electrical in origin. Reverend Smith will be at Calvary-St. George’s next Sunday and available then to provide an update.

Stuyvesant Town resident and swimmer Simona Dwass completed a big race on the first Saturday in August. The recent high school graduate was attempting the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, taking a counterclockwise turn about the island, and she made it in eight hours and 20 minutes. She was initially worried that the water temperature might be an impediment to her finishing but managed to overcome the obstacle. “I was cold, but just kept going,” she said. “Overall it was a great adventure.”

Breastfeeding mothers and families, elected officials and advocates from throughout the city participated in the “NYC Breastfeeding Leadership Council’s Annual Breastfeeding Subway Caravan” on the steps of City Hall on Friday.
After the rally, the caravan traveled on the A train to Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Restoration Plaza for the Brooklyn Alliance for Breastfeeding Empowerment’s (B.A.B.E.) day-long breastfeeding celebration. The Breastfeeding Leadership Council seeks to draw attention to the fact that too many women are still being questioned or harassed for breastfeeding in public.
At the rally, Maloney was presented with the NYC Breastfeeding Leadership Council’s Breastfeeding Champion Award for her leadership in promoting breastfeeding as an option for working mothers. For many years, Maloney has introduced legislation to promote and protect a mother’s right to breastfeed. She partnered with Senator Jeff Merkley to include a provision in the Affordable Care Act stating that employers must provide breastfeeding employees with “reasonable break time” and a private, non-bathroom place to express breast milk during the workday, until the child’s first birthday.

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Oct. 24 Week In Review

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal introduced legislation last year that would protect rent-regulated tenants filing for bankruptcy protection and would prevent a landlord from buying a rent-regulated tenant’s lease at a discounted price to satisfy a portion of the tenant’s debt in bankruptcy. In a recent trend, bankruptcy courts have been allowing bankruptcy trustees to count the value of a rent-regulated lease as an asset when the tenant files for bankruptcy.
The state provides an exemption for homeowners filing for bankruptcy so that they will not lose their homes and the intent of bankruptcy is not to destabilize families by making them homeless and the same should be true for rent-regulated tenants, Rosenthal argued, because their apartments are just as much of a home as a house or other owned property.
“Filing for bankruptcy won’t land you in debtor’s prison anymore, but if you’re a rent-regulated tenant, it could make you homeless, and that’s simply unfair,” Rosenthal said. “That’s why I introduced legislation to ensure that rent-regulated tenants are afforded the same protections as homeowners when filing for bankruptcy.”

A flood wall will soon be built to protect the VA Medical Center from future storms. (Rendering courtesy of VA Medical Center)

A flood wall will soon be built to protect the VA Medical Center from future storms. (Rendering courtesy of VA Medical Center)

There will soon be a temporary flood wall around the VA’s Manhattan Campus on East 23rd Street, the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System announced on Tuesday. The temporary wall will extend from Asser Levy Place, partially up East 23rd Street and to East 25th Street. The eight-foot flood wall, made of cellular structures filled with sand, is expected to take about six weeks to complete construction. Construction of a higher, more permanent wall to protect from future storms potentially stronger than Hurricane Sandy will be built over an 18-month period. The VA was closed for many months following Hurricane Sandy, opening partially in March and then fully over the summer.

Asser Levy Place will also be closed to traffic beginning October 28 in anticipation of a new park that will be in its place. The expansion of the park is due to funding from City Councilmember Dan Garodnick and the United Nations Development Corporation. Work is expected to be completed on the project within a year.
“Open space is sorely needed on the East Side of Manhattan, and this expansion will ultimately mean more open space not only at Asser Levy, but also for the whole East Side waterfront,” Garodnick said. “This is the first step in a plan that will increase the amount of active space East Siders get, and at no cost to the City.”

With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy coming up next week, Con Edison has made numerous improvements to its energy-delivery systems as part of its plan to strengthen critical infrastructure and protect residents from major storms. The overhead equipment is now more resilient, substations have new walls and raised equipment and gas and steam infrastructure is protected with water-proofing measures. The next steps for post-Hurricane Sandy plans throughout the next few years include burying 30 miles of overhead lines, installing stronger aerial cable, redesigning lower Manhattan networks to de-energize customers in flood zones and replacing cast iron and steel gas pipes in flood-prone areas.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a number of New York chefs and restaurants have taken the “Pride of New York Pledge” to support New York State’s agricultural products and local foods, increasing their usage by 10 percent or more. The program is designed to encourage the local culinary industry to take advantage of the food and beverage products that the state has to offer. A number of local restaurants will be participating, including Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, Maialino and Blue Smoke.

The New York Daily News reported last Saturday that Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is a supporter of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on big sodas. “I’m not ever afraid to disagree with Mayor Bloomberg when I think he’s wrong. But I believe the mayor is right on this issue,” de Blasio said. “We are losing the war on obesity. It’s unacceptable. This is a case where we have to get aggressive.”

The Downtown Manhattan exit ramp will be closed for the weekend beginning on Friday at 7 p.m. Motorists are advised to use an alternate route into Manhattan and to expect delays. There will also be one tube closed for the weekend at the Queens Midtown Tunnel, beginning this Saturday at 1 a.m., through 5 a.m. next Monday, due to necessary construction.

Bill de Blasio failed to report the tens of thousands of dollars in income from renting out his second Brooklyn home in his Conflict of Interest Board filing, Crain’s New York Business reported on Monday. A campaign spokesperson told Crain’s that the rental proceeds didn’t need to be reported to the conflicts board because there was no net income, but the city’s administrative code says that lawmakers need to report any income of $1,000 or more from each source during the previous calendar year.

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, chair of the Commission on Government Administration, co-hosted a roundtable discussion on cloud computing in government last Tuesday. Cloud computing technology creates opportunities to improve coordination and efficiency of government resources, as well as reshape the state government’s interactions with the general public, such as how the public can access important information. Kavanagh will also be hosting a roundtable discussion on open data next Tuesday.