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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Tenants Association hosts housing forum

Tim Collins, an attorney for the Tenants Association, at the housing forum last month (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association held a forum on Saturday, October 19 for residents to have their specific housing-related questions addressed by experts, local elected officials and representatives from the Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

Attorney Tim Collins, who represents the ST-PCV Tenants Association, said that tenants should be moderately concerned about the lawsuit landlords have filed to challenge the rent laws that passed over the summer.

As the New York Times reported in July, the lawsuit filed by landlords intended to completely dismantle the rent regulation system, claiming that the new laws would cripple the industry and that they violate the 14th Amendment’s due process clause, as well as the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment, which says that private property can’t be taken for public use without proper compensation.

“I am actually less concerned about the legal challenge than I am about the public relations challenge,” Collins said of the lawsuit. “I want you to understand the stakes are a very high and go way to the top, not only for New York City or the State of New York but potentially to the US Supreme Court. The real estate industry’s lawsuit says, [State Senator] Brad [Hoylman], [Councilmember] Keith [Powers], [Assemblymember] Harvey [Epstein]: You don’t matter. You don’t matter because baked within the Constitution is a trump card, which is actually two words: due process.”

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Week In Review: October 24

Andres Pazmino from Chelsea/Greenwich Village Chamber of Commerce, Anwar Khoder from Li-Lac Chocolates, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick and Christopher Taylor from Li-Lac Chocolates at the award ceremony over the weekend.

State Senator Brad Hoylman celebrated the opening of Li-Lac Chocolate’s sixth location at Greenwich Avenue and Seventh Avenue on Saturday. At a weekend ceremony, Hoylman presented Li-Lac Chocolates with the New York Senate Empire Award to honor this local small business. The Empire Award is the New York State Senate’s highest award for local businesses, honoring them for excellence and community involvement. Li-Lac Chocolates was given this award in recognition as Manhattan’s oldest chocolate house, and for making their community a sweeter place to live. At the award presentation on Saturday, October 19, Hoylman was joined by Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick; Erik Bottcher, Chief of Staff to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson; Anthony Cirone, Anwar Khoder and Christopher Taylor.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our neighborhoods,” Hoylman said. “At a time when multinational corporations and big landlords are making it difficult for small businesses to survive, it’s wonderful to see this local Greenwich Village small business thriving. I’m proud to present Li-Lac Chocolates with the New York Senate Empire Business Award to honor their years of success and sixth location. What could be sweeter than that?”

In response to the increased use of “smart key” systems in residential buildings throughout New York City, City Councilmember Mark Levine introduced legislation in the City Council last Thursday to prevent landlords from improperly using personal data collected by these systems to harass or evict tenants or to monitor their individual apartments. In recent years residential landlords in the city have increasingly been replacing traditional key locks with new keyless access to buildings – often referred to as “smart access systems.” These new entry systems replace physical keys with several new technological components like biometrics identifiers (i.e. fingerprints, eye scans, facial recognition technology), smartphone apps, and personalized key fobs. The ability of “smart access systems” to collect a broad range of personal data on tenants and their apartments has created serious concerns over where these systems can be used, what data can be collected, and who has access to that data.

“With the rapid conversion to electronic access in residential buildings across New York City, we have to make sure tenants are safeguarded from landlords who may try to use the information collected by these systems to harass or evict tenants from their homes,” Levine said. “Most renters in the city are probably unaware that every time they use a keyless access system in their building or in their apartment that information is electronically logged and can be seen by their landlords. We need to have strong regulations in place to protect tenants from the misuse of this data by their landlords. Every tenant has the right to know what data is being collected by their landlords and should feel secure that that data cannot be used against them.”

The de Blasio Administration launched a campaign on Monday to educate tenants on their new rights under the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. The ads, designed by The Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, give New York City renters the information they need to hold their landlords accountable. The ads will run from October 21 to December 15 and will be displayed in subways, bus shelters, small businesses, Staten Island ferry terminals, community newspapers, Link kiosks and online. The city’s Public Engagement Unit will be going door to door to make sure tenants know about the new protections and how to advocate for themselves.

Tenants across New York City won new protections this summer due to new State legislation. The new laws make it harder for landlords to evict tenants and strengthened protections for New Yorkers living in rent regulated apartments. These laws are enforced by the State’s Division of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR). These protections include protection from large security deposits, onerous application fees, limits on how rent can increase, and limits how much landlords can charge regulated tenants for building improvements. Anyone with questions about their rights or concerns that they are being illegally harassed can find more information at the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants’ new website or by calling 311.

“The State Legislature passed some of the most progressive rent reforms we’ve seen in decades, but if New Yorkers don’t know their rights, it will all be for nothing,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “This campaign will arm New Yorkers with the knowledge to fight harassment and stay in their homes.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman praised Governor Cuomo last Thursday for signing legislation to end the double jeopardy loophole and enable requesting Congressional committees to obtain a President’s state tax information. As President Trump continues his abuses of power and conflicts of interest, Senator Hoylman and the New York State Senate are taking action to protect our democracy and constitution against abuses by this and future presidential administrations. Hoylman’s TRUST Act, which allows New York State to share tax return information with Congressional investigations, was passed by the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Cuomo earlier this year. Governor Cuomo signed additional legislation last Wednesday to close the ‘double jeopardy’ loophole and reduce Trump’s power to pardon his corrupt associates; this legislation was advanced by Attorney General Letitia James, sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky and co-sponsored by Senator Hoylman.

“Combined with our new law to require Trump hand over his state tax returns to Congress, the new law closing double jeopardy loophole is New York’s ‘one-two punch’ against the lawlessness perpetrated by Donald Trump,” Hoylman said. “While the Trump Administration tramples on the constitution and the rule of law, New York is acting responsibly to hold the president accountable. I’m grateful to Governor Cuomo for signing these important bills into law and to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senator Todd Kaminsky for passing this legislation.”

The City Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings and Dispositions and the Committee on Land Use voted last Wednesday to approve the plan to close the jails on Rikers Island and build four new borough-based facilities, and the plan passed at a full vote in City Council last Thursday, culminating a years-long effort propelled by the strong advocacy of the formerly incarcerated to shutter Rikers Island. The vote occurred as Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Johnson and Council leadership agree to a wide-range of investments tied to the closure of Rikers totaling $391 million dollars, including $126 million in previously planned investments and $265 million in new programming that will address the root causes of incarceration and help fundamentally reshape New York City’s criminal justice system going forward. These investments are being announced in detail for the first time today.

“Throughout this process I have stressed the importance of investing in communities most impacted by the criminal justice system,” said City Councilmember Keith Powers, chair of the Criminal Justice Committee. “These targeted, citywide investments further indicate that closing Rikers Island is not only a land-use action, but an urgent moment to overhaul the criminal justice system.”

MTA New York City Transit announced last Thursday that more than 1,500 vehicles have been captured blocking bus lanes on the M15 Select Bus Service route since a new bus-mounted camera enforcement began on Oct. 7. The MTA’s newly implemented forward-facing mobile camera system is part of a multi-agency approach to keep bus lanes clear, speed up rides and prioritize transit on high-volume corridors throughout the city. NYC Transit is using an Automated Bus Lane Enforcement (ABLE) system on 51 buses that travel on the M15 Select Bus Service route, which uses dedicated bus lanes implemented by the New York City Department of Transportation. ABLE camera systems capture evidence such as license plate information, photos and videos, as well location and timestamp information, of vehicles obstructing bus lanes to document clear cases of bus lane violation. The system collects multiple pieces of evidence from multiples buses traveling in the bus lanes to ensure that vehicles making permitted turns from bus lanes are not ticketed. The package of evidence is transmitted to NYCDOT for review and processing, and the program is administered in partnership with NYCDOT and the NYC Department of Finance.

“Under Mayor de Blasio’s Better Buses Action Plan, we have committed to increase citywide bus speeds 25 percent by the end of 2020, and to get there, we will need to step up enforcement to keep vehicles out of the more than 100 miles of dedicated bus lanes we have built around the city,” Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “For years, we had overhead cameras along routes like the M15, but adding enforcement cameras to the buses themselves will help us further keep bus lanes clear, allowing tens of thousands of commuters to keep moving.  And we know that improvement in bus travel times consistently lead to increased ridership. We thank our state elected officials in Albany who successfully pushed for this change as well as NYCT President Andy Byford and the team at the MTA for their partnership as we strengthen this essential enforcement program, serving the New Yorkers who take more than 2 million daily bus trips.”

Maloney named interim chair of House Oversight and Reform Committee

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, seen here celebrating the passage of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund earlier this year with US Senator Charles Schumer (left) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (right), has been named interim chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Democrats have named Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney as the interim chair for the House Oversight and Reform Committee last Thursday following the death of Representative Elijah Cummings, who played an active role in the impeachment inquiry as the committee’s chair.

Maloney is a senior Democrat on the panel and the New York Times noted last week that her appointment as acting chairwoman is in line with House rules. A permanent leader of the committee is expected to be elected at a later time, a senior Democratic leadership aide said.

Local elected officials lauded the news of Maloney’s appointment while paying tribute to Cummings.

“While we all mourn the loss of Congressmember Cummings, I am reassured by Congressmember Maloney’s appointment as interim Chair,” Assemblymember Harvey Epstein said. “Congresswoman Maloney is dedicated to protecting our democracy and I am confident that she will carry out what is necessary to move forward with impeachment inquiries.”

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Opinion: Science-based policy gets a booster shot

By State Senator Brad Hoylman

With the new school year, there’s a new law going into effect, too. This year, faced with a statewide measles outbreak of historic proportions, I sponsored legislation that ends all non-medical exemptions to New York’s vaccination requirements for school attendance.

For some people who’ve been misled by the so-called anti-vaxx movement, vaccines are part of a widespread conspiracy between government and drug companies to harm our children.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As your State Senator, it’s my job to base public policy on evidence to make our constituents’ lives better. Strong vaccine laws do just that. When California passed a law similar to ours four years ago, their immunization rates for kindergartners rose nearly five percentage points.

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Floating billboards officially banned in New York

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Floating billboards are officially banned in New York waterways, thanks to a court order by Judge Louis L. Stanton on Tuesday, reinforcing a new state law originally introduced by State Senator Brad Hoylman and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo at the end of August.

The New York Law Department announced the settlement of a lawsuit against Ballyhoo Media, which has repeatedly displayed large floating LED billboards on a barge that traveled daily along the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts, despite the law that prohibits them.

Under the law, which was originally introduced in the Senate by Hoylman and in the Assembly by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, boats are not allowed to operate digital billboards or other billboards that use flashing or moving lights. The bill also empowers local governments to restrict or ban the use of outdoor advertising signage on vessels within 1,500 feet from shore.

Violations of the law are subject to a $1,000 civil penalty for the first violation and $5,000 for subsequent violations.

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Hoylman combatting robocalls with legislation

State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou with representatives from AARP (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman urged the passage of legislation to curb robocalls on Friday, September 6 along with Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou and representatives from AARP and Consumer Reports, prior to an Assembly hearing on how to combat the pervasive calls. The Robocall Prevention Act, sponsored by Hoylman in the Senate and Niou in the Assembly, would effectively ban unwanted robocalls in the state of New York and the hearing examined actions to fight robocalls in addition to nuisance phone calls and spoofing.

The bill passed in the State Senate unanimously on June 14 but has not yet passed in the Assembly.

“This legislation that passed in the Senate passed with both Republican and Democratic support, which shows how widespread this issue is, how it’s impacting the constituents, how it’s hurting our seniors, how it’s defrauding our citizenry and something has to be done about it,” Hoylman said.

According to the YouMail Robocall Index, which estimates monthly robocall volume in the United States, almost 50 billion robocalls were placed to consumers in 2018, which is an all-time record. As of September 1, there have already been more than 38 billion robocalls this year. New York City ranks third out of all cities in the country in 2019, according to the index, with more than 1.3 billion robocalls, which is roughly 79 calls per person.

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