Bill will further protect tenants against eviction

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, along with State Senator Liz Krueger, introduced the NYS Tenant Safe Harbor Act on Tuesday in order to further protect tenants from eviction beyond Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 90-day eviction moratorium.

The new bill would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent that accrued during the State of Emergency and for six months after the State of Emergency’s eventual end. Cuomo’s executive order prevents landlords from evicting tenants for 90 days, which will be in effect until at least June 20, but tenants who can’t afford to pay all of the rent owed once the moratorium ends could face immediate eviction. The legislation, sponsored by Hoylman and Dinowitz and co-sponsored by Krueger, would protect these tenants from being evicted for non-payment of rent that accrued during the State of Emergency that started on March 7, through six months after the State of Emergency ends.

“The governor’s 90-day eviction moratorium was a good first step to protect tenants from losing their homes during the COVID-19 crisis. But it’s not enough,” Hoylman said. “Unless we act, we’ll see a tidal wave of evictions immediately after the moratorium ends when tenants who’ve lost income are suddenly forced to pay several months’ worth of rent. Our legislation prevents an impending eviction disaster by providing tenants who’ve lost their jobs a safe harbor to get healthy and back on their feet while our country recovers from this economic disaster.”

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New bill would give tax credit for plasma donation

State Senator Brad Hoylman

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman introduced legislation last Tuesday to create a COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Donation Credit, which would create a refundable New York State personal income tax credit of $1,000 for individuals who recovered from COVID-19 and donated their blood plasma for treatment and medical research of the disease. The bill would take effect immediately and apply to the taxable year that began this January 1.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the worst public health crisis to hit New York in more than a century—New Yorkers who survived the virus have a major role to play in our fight to find treatments and a cure. I’m proud to introduce this legislation, which would create first-of-its-kind benefits for New Yorkers who volunteer to donate blood plasma after recovering from this disease. As we race to conduct research and find a cure for COVID-19, New Yorkers who donate blood plasma deserve our thanks.”

The legislation would amend New York State’s tax law to create a new tax credit for those who have recovered from the illness and donate their blood plasma, either for the purposes of medical research or treatment of patients who are still suffering from COVID-19.

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Hoylman calls for Child Victims Act extension

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman is pushing to extend the revival window for the Child Victims Act (CVA) by another year because the pause on non-essential court filings cuts short the full 12-month period for survivors to file suit.

“Pausing all non-essential court filings is a difficult but necessary step to protect the health and well-being of our judicial system,” Hoylman said. “When we finally passed the Child Victims Act, we attempted to guarantee a full 12-month period for survivors to file suit. Yet because COVID-19 has indefinitely paused our judicial system, the CVA’s revival window has effectively closed as of today.”

The Office of Court Administration (OCA) last month announced an indefinite pause on non-essential filings and Hoylman argued that as a result, the CVA’s revival window is now effectively closed. The year-long lookback window opened last August when the law went into effect and it is unknown if survivors will be able to file claims again before the window was supposed to close this coming August.

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Mount Sinai Beth Israel offering space for COVID-19 patients

Mount Sinai Beth Israel (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mount Sinai Beth Israel will be making space available in the First Avenue hospital in order to provide additional capacity for New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital system confirmed this week. Governor Andrew Cuomo also signed an executive order on Monday requiring all hospitals in the state to increase their capacity by 50%, with the goal of increasing capacity by 100%.

Mount Sinai would not specify exactly how many beds can be made available because that determination is made by the state’s Department of Health, but the hospital system confirmed that it is making space available in the unused portions of Beth Israel on First Avenue and the new Rivington facility, which is a former nursing home that Mount Sinai intends to convert into a mental health facility that will include services currently available at the Bernstein Pavilion. The hospital system has been in contact with the state since the pandemic began and the Department of Health is in the process of evaluating all of the options for creating additional hospital beds.

“In the past few weeks and in the weeks ahead, our sole focus is helping the communities we serve prepare for and address the COVID-19 crisis,” a spokesperson for Mount Sinai said. “These are extremely unique and challenging times and we are doing everything in our power and utilizing every resource possible, including, but not limited to, offering the city and state usage of our Rivington facility and unused portions of Mount Sinai Beth Israel to help fight this growing crisis.”

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Tenants Association files lawsuit against Blackstone

Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg with local elected officials last Thursday (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association filed a lawsuit against property owner Blackstone last week in response to an attempt to deregulate more than 6,000 apartments.

Blackstone is attempting to deregulate units that are currently under the J-51 tax exemption, which expires at the end of June, and increase rents on those apartments for leases renewed or starting in July or later. The private equity firm is arguing that the regulatory agreement Blackstone signed with the city in 2015 supersedes the rent laws the state legislature passed last June, but tenant advocates and local elected officials argued at a press conference in Stuy Town last Thursday that the rent laws abolished deregulation all apartments, regardless of previous agreements.

“The new law is clear and unambiguous,” Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg said. “Blackstone Group is of the opinion that these pro-tenant reforms do not apply to them. We disagree. They cannot disregard state rent law and raise rents and deregulate units as if the law had never been changed.”

State elected officials at the press conference said that they were very specific when writing the rent laws that passed and that Blackstone was not interpreting the law as it was intended.

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Bill from Hoylman aims to protect consumers amid coronavirus fears

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman introduced legislation on Tuesday that would address price gouging of consumer medical supplies during a public health emergency in order to penalize retailers that take advantage of concerns about coronavirus and increase prices by more than 10% on products such as face masks and hand sanitizer.

“It’s said that after the storm come the vultures – and that’s exactly what could happen here if we don’t act now to stop price gouging in anticipation of the coronavirus outbreak here in New York,” Hoylman said. “Profiting off fear of disease is unconscionable. We can’t allow shady businesses to hike prices on the supplies New Yorkers need to stay safe and healthy, like hand sanitizer and face masks.”

Hoylman also noted that healthcare professionals have discouraged the use of face masks.

“The U.S. Surgeon General has made it clear that face masks won’t help healthy people avoid COVID-19: the best way to stay healthy is by washing hands regularly and getting the flu shot,” he added.

Under the new legislation, the New York State Attorney General could penalize retailers, manufactures and distributors who increase prices on these products. Prices on face masks and hand sanitizer have increased significantly in neighborhoods in Manhattan, including the Upper West Side and Chinatown.

The legislation would specifically amend the state’s price gouging statute in order to establish that an “unconscionable excessive price” is a price more than 10% higher than before the public health emergency began. The bill would ban stores from selling consumer medical supplies, including over-the-counter medications, hand sanitizer and face masks, at an unconscionably excessive price during a public health emergency.

The Attorney General would also be able to enforce a civil penalty of up to $25,000 against businesses that have been proven to have participated in price gouging.

In other countries where coronavirus is most prevalent, Amazon announced that third-party listings have unfairly charged customers for medical supplies, including in Italy and Australia.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced on Wednesday morning that three family members of the Westchester resident who was diagnosed with coronavirus earlier this week have also tested positive and two contacts have been transferred to Bellevue for testing. The three family members of the Westchester resident who tested positive include his two children and his wife, and all three remain in home isolation in Westchester.

The Westchester resident works at a law firm in Manhattan. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said on Tuesday that this is the first case of community spread of the disease in New York City, meaning that the source of the infection is unknown. The individual is currently hospitalized at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan and is in severe condition.

NYC Health+Hospitals is working closely with the Health Department, which has also conducted outreach and offered guidance to city hospitals and health providers about how to identify, isolate and inform the city about individuals who might need evaluation for COVID-19. The city’s Public Health Laboratory can now test for the infection, which allows for shorter turnaround time for test results compared to when samples had to be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s headquarters in Atlanta, and the Health Department this week will lower the threshold for people who get tested so that person-to-person transmission can be detected.

The infection can lead to fever, cough or shortness of breath and while come infections have resulted in severe illness or death, others have milder symptoms. The city is recommending that if individuals who have traveled to China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea are experiencing fever, coughing or shortness of breath, they should stay home and avoid contact with others, and contact a health provider and tell them about their travel history. All New Yorkers are encouraged to cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbows and now hands, wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available and avoid touching their face with unwashed hands.

What to know about the upcoming plastic bag ban

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

All plastic carryout bags will be banned in stores throughout New York State starting on March 1. Under the new law, which passed last March, plastic carryout bags will not be distributed to consumers at any businesses that collect New York State sales tax, and stores will be implementing a five-cent paper carry-out bag fee.

The five-cent fee on paper bags will not apply to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) recipients and all consumers are encouraged to bring their own bags to reduce waste. Film plastics will still be used on items such as bread bags, cases of water, paper towels and other similar items, and customers are encouraged to recycle those items at participating retailers.

There are still some bags that are exempt from the law and can still be distributed to customers under limited circumstances, including produce bags for fruits and vegetables and bags used by pharmacies for prescription drugs.

State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Harvey Epstein were both cosponsors of bills that passed in the state legislature last year banning single-use plastic bags, and the elected officials penned an op-ed for Town & Village last week, outlining the ban’s importance for the environment.

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Krueger introduces alternative bill to legalize surrogacy

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Liz Krueger, along with Assemblymembers Didi Barrett and Daniel O’Donnell, announced the introduction of legislation that would legalize and regulate surrogacy last Thursday. The legislation would legalize and regulate compensated gestational and genetic surrogacy, in addition to establishing protections for all parties involved in assisted reproductions and egg and sperm donations.

State Senator Brad Hoylman previously introduced legislation to legalize surrogacy that passed in the State Senate but died in the Assembly earlier this year. While Krueger and Hoylman have been in regular communication about the issue, Krueger felt that her bill provides more protections for individuals involved in assisted reproduction and surrogacy than Hoylman’s legislation, so she felt that it was necessary to introduce her own alternative.

“Surrogacy can be a satisfying and positive experience, but it is also a complex physical, emotional, and legal process with the potential for serious negative outcomes,” Krueger said. “That is why it is vital to have protections in place for everyone involved, especially low-income people. We need to clarify the law in this space in order to make an array of assisted reproduction options available to New Yorkers while also protecting the health, safety, interests and rights of all parties, including intended parents, people acting as surrogates, egg- and sperm donors and children.”

Gestational surrogacy is the process by which a fertilized embryo, created using the eggs and sperm of the intended parents, is implanted into the surrogate mother, meaning that the surrogate is not genetically related to the child. In genetic surrogacy, the surrogate uses their own egg and is artificially inseminated with the sperm of the male intended parent, and the surrogate is genetically connected to the baby.

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Opinion: New York’s new plastic bag ban

By State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein

We’ve all seen single-use plastic bags littered throughout New York City. They get stuck in trees, clutter up parks and sidewalks and wash up on the shores of the East River.

The Department of Environmental Conservation estimates New Yorkers use 23 billion plastic bags annually. Their usage is so widespread that EPA estimates there will be more plastic than fish in our planet’s oceans by the year 2050.

In fact, discarded single-use plastic bags are the main component of the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a free-floating island twice the size of Texas that is a proven hosts for microbes and toxic pesticides that often end up in our food.

Plastic bags pollute our waterways and oceans, causing harm to marine life by choking them or building up their stomachs. Producing plastic bags is a huge contributor to our current recycling crisis, and causes the release of harmful greenhouse gases, which drives the historic and dangerous warming of our planet.

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Letters to the editor, Feb. 6

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

The overwhelming climate crisis

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the climate change crisis? If so, you are not alone and have reasons to feel stressed. According to scientists, we are facing the sixth global extinction; but whereas the previous five extinctions happened over millions of years, this one is taking place within only 200 years and we are at the beginning of it. One psychological problem of the climate change crisis is the uncertainty of a fixed date of when it will hit you and your family catastrophically. This vagueness can lead in many to inaction and/or procrastination which in turn leads to more stress and feelings of hopelessness.

Are things hopeless? Not yet. If you live in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village you are blessed to have witnessed over recent years management’s deep commitment to promoting “green” actions, for instance the installation of almost 10 000 solar panels for renewable energy, and many other energy saving steps (for this they received the 2018 Platinum LEED Award) . You can personally assist their efforts by faithfully recycling, composting, saving water and electricity in your apartment and by generally avoiding waste.

The city and state of New York are heavily engaged in energy saving projects such as reducing car traffic, and banning plastic bags to name just two. Globally, at the recent Economic Forum in Davos alarm bells regarding climate change were sounding, a new development.

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Tenants rally to save Fifth Avenue building

Although the building is not in his district, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein spoke at the rally against the demolition of the Fifth Avenue building and the proposed development at the site. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Tenants, local elected officials and housing advocates last Friday rallied against a plan from Madison Realty Capital that would demolish a five-story, 20-unit apartment building on Fifth Avenue in a historic district and replace it with a building almost four times as tall as the existing structure but with fewer apartments.

The plan from the developer would replace the building at 14-16 Fifth Avenue, which was constructed in 1848, with a 244-foot, 21-story tower with 18 units of luxury housing.

Advocates at the rally last week condemned the project, arguing that the proposed building was an inappropriate size compared to other buildings in the neighborhood. The demolition of the building would also include the loss of at least 10 rent-stabilized units, which would then be replaced by fewer units, all of which would be unaffordable.

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Letters to the editor, Jan. 9

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Heat improvements in STPCV

I recently read a letter about the heat, or lack of heat, in PCVST.

Here’s my take. I’m a resident of the complex for 28 years. Over the years, I’ve had different devices that have told me the temperature in my apartment.

Up until there were sensors put in some apartments, the temperature in my apartment would hover around 80-83 degrees in the winter. That was with windows open.

I’m on the 10th of an 11-floor building, so I accepted that my apartment would be hotter than those below. But I always wondered, if my apartment was 80 degrees, was there really someone in my line on the first or second floor who was cold?

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NY Waterway cancels giant SantaCon boat party

SantaCon (seen here in 2016) has long faced ire from neighborhood residents because of the public drunkenness often displayed by the event’s participants. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Shortly after announcing last Friday that the infamous SantaCon bar crawl would be sponsoring a handful of party yachts in the East River as part of the event scheduled for this Saturday, the event was canceled on Tuesday.

Councilmember Keith Powers shared a letter to Donald Liloia, Senior Vice President of NY Waterway, on Twitter this Tuesday afternoon also signed by State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Harvey Epstein expressing a number of concerns about the event. Mere hours later, the Councilmember confirmed that NY Waterway, which operates the Skyport Marina where the boats would have docked, had canceled the event.

Gothamist reported on Tuesday that Liloia also confirmed the event’s cancellation, noting that the group organizing the event had only started planning recently and acknowledged that it was too complicated to pull off on such short notice.

The letter signed by Powers, Hoylman and Epstein (which can be read in full here) argued that a free event of that size, attracting people who are likely to be intoxicated, would cause substantial disturbance to tenants in the nearby residential developments of Waterside Plaza and Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village.

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Letters to the editor, Dec. 12

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Charged for new door

Recently I had to call 911 for a medical emergency. NYPD also came with them and proceeded to breakdown down my door, even after my telling them I could answer the door. Stuyvesant Town then made me pay $1,700 for the new door. That was my tuition money for Baruch College for a year. I am trying to finish my degree, even though I am elderly and disabled now. I couldn’t believe I had to pay for the door. Technically I didn’t break it. And you know Stuyvesant Town charges you for any damage you cause in the apartment. I did not cause this damage. I should have never been charged for this. Can anybody help?

Name withheld

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Hoylman introduces bill to allow adult victims of sex crimes to seek justice

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman introduced legislation at the end of October that would create a one-year window so that survivors of sex crimes who were 18 years or older can file lawsuits and seek justice.

Hoylman introduced the legislation, titled the Adult Survivor’s Act, after successfully passing the Child Victims Act through the state legislature earlier this year alongside Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal after the bill was stalled for years. Governor Andrew Cuomo finally signed the bill into law in February 2019.

“For too long, justice has been out of reach for adult survivors of sexual crimes,” Hoylman said. “Survivors have experienced horrific trauma and abuse, and many do not immediately come forward—they deserve our support whenever they decide they are ready to pursue justice. The New York State Legislature has already made historic strides to protect survivors by passing the Child Victims Act and prospectively extending the criminal and civil statute of limitations. Now, we must stand with survivors who have been failed in the past by our state’s insufficient laws, pass the Adult Survivors Act, and give these individuals their day in court.”

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