Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Councilmember Keith Powers, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, Cooper Square Committee director of organizing and policy Brandon Kielbasa, State Senator Liz Krueger and Legal Aid housing attorney Ellen Davidson at the forum last week. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Assemblymember Harvey Epstein’s office sponsored a forum on Thursday at the NYU Dental School on East 24th Street regarding the rent laws that passed in June to answer questions that tenants have about rent regulation and affordable housing protections.
State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, as well as Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Councilmembers Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera and Ben Kallos, were also in attendance, and Legal Aid housing attorney Ellen Davidson was available to answer questions about the complex aspects of the new laws.
“The MCI section [of the rent laws] is just like MCIs: very complicated,” Davidson said of one of the parts of the law most difficult to understand. “[The Division of Housing and Community Renewal] will have to set a schedule of reasonable costs of what can be recovered but they have to do it quickly because they can’t do any work until it’s approved.”
One of the victories that state legislators claimed in the passage of the rent laws was an annual cap on MCIs, or major capital improvements, at 2%. The previous cap was 6%. The new law also caps the amount that a landlord can pass on to tenants after a vacant apartment is renovated at $89, while also eliminating the previous 20% vacancy bonus that landlords could add after tenants moved out.
Anti-vax protesters attended the housing forum to voice their concerns to state legislators, primarily State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, as well as Assemblymember Deborah Glick, about a law that eliminated religious exemptions for vaccines. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Anti-vax protesters disrupted a housing forum held at the NYU Dental School last Thursday, frustrating tenants who wanted to learn details about the new rent laws.
State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger were two of the elected officials at the event and the two that received the most ire from the protesters, primarily because they were both sponsors legislation in the State Senate repealing religious exemptions for vaccinations.
The law requires that all students in public and private schools be vaccinated to attend, with no exceptions made for those with religious objections to vaccines, and many of the protesters at the event had signs arguing that thousands of children, including those with special needs, were being kicked out of their schools because of their parents’ religious beliefs.
The protest surprised elected officials attending, in part because local politicians who appear at community events in the neighborhood rarely have such vehement opposition to their policies, especially where the topic at hand is entirely unrelated to the subject being protested, but also because the legislation passed more than a month ago in mid-June.
Even as he was arriving at the event, Hoylman was challenged in the elevator by a man who argued that politicians shouldn’t be dictating how parents provide healthcare to their children, while Hoylman shot back, “You’re right, doctors should, and they have.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger attempted to tackle the city’s current transportation crisis with a panel of experts at CUNY’s Graduate Center last Thursday, discussing the need for improvements to bus service in the city, proposals for congestion pricing and holding the MTA accountable.
Nick Sifuentes, executive director for Tri-State Transportation Campaign and a member of the Bus Turnaround Coalition, advocated for improvements to bus service as a means of improving transit in the city.
“Bus improvements are faster and cheaper to implement than subway improvements,” he said, pointing to a plan known as Transit Signal Priority, which would signal traffic lights to stay green longer so buses can get through intersections and speed up their routes.
Last week, the Senate Democratic Conference announced a legislative package to combat gun violence and protect New Yorkers. I am proud to be part of a group of Senate leaders standing up to the corporate gun lobby, and we have offered a series of common sense bills to address the repeated tragedies caused by gun violence. We brought four of these bills to the floor of the Senate as “hostile amendments” – and every Republican Senator voted no on each proposal.
To quote leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, “The madness must stop. We need to get serious about gun safety and we need to take real action.”
Studies have proven that states with stronger firearm safety laws, like New York, have fewer gun-caused deaths. Unfortunately, NY Republicans are taking their lead from their extremist Washington allies and for years have refused to move any common sense gun laws.
State Senator Liz Krueger with representatives of the MTA’s Paratransit agency and disability advocates at a forum held last Thursday (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Access-A-Ride, the method of public transportation relied upon by many disabled New Yorkers, will finally be brought up to speed, thanks to a new app.
Representatives from Paratransit, the branch of the MTA that operates “demand-response” service for customers with disabilities, have announced that the agency will be launching a unified app by next June to improve transparency and provide flexibility in scheduling rides.
Paratransit said this will allow passengers to reserve trips in advance to areas of the city covered by the subway, even if it’s just one hour in advance. The current system, meanwhile, forces users to reserve rides at least 24 hours in advance and with little recourse if rides are delayed or don’t show at all.
New Yorkers will have to turn over their ballots on Election Day next Tuesday to vote on a question that only comes up once every 20 years: whether or not to hold a Constitutional Convention. If the measure passes, voters would elect three delegates for each of the 63 State Senate districts and 15 statewide, for a total of 204 representatives in all. The convention itself, or Con-Con as it is sometimes affectionately abbreviated, would open up the state constitution for amendments proposed by the delegates and voted on by New Yorkers.
The measure didn’t pass the last time the question came up in 1997, and the last time there was a convention was 1967. The question was also put on the ballots that year as well. According to the State Archives, Convention leadership had hoped that the popular proposals would carry the unpopular sections and put the changes on the ballot as a single package instead of by individual proposal, but the tactic failed, since the entire document was voted down that year.
Council Member Dan Garodnick speaks at a meeting aimed at coming up with ways to improve the men’s shelter. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)
By Sabina Mollot
The Department of Homeless Services is planning to make some upgrades to the dilapidated 30th Street men’s homeless shelter, possibly even turning an unused theater into a space for public use.
On Monday, July 17, representatives of the department met with a few representatives of Community Board 6 as well as a few elected officials to discuss ideas, including to create a co-working space where shelter residents can get job placement assistance and work on resumes. As for the theater, a possible plan would be to renovate it or even repurpose it and have it used by the shelter’s residents or the community. Outside the shelter, which is located inside the Bellevue Old Psych building on First Avenue, another idea was to create green spaces like a small park that could also be open to the public.
Following the brainstorming session, Council Member Dan Garodnick said ideas were based on what the shelter’s residents want as well as what the surrounding community wants.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with State Senator Liz Krueger (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Local elected officials are urging left-leaning New Yorkers to become political activists, saying there’s been a surge in citizen activism around the country since President Trump took office.
The push was made at an event last Wednesday evening, hosted by State Senator Liz Krueger and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with an introduction by City Councilmember Dan Garodnick. Garodnick has previously hosted other so-called “State of the Resistance” forums, which offer information about how to get involved in local politics and with non-profit organizations around the city. More than 300 residents attended last week’s event, hosted at the Porshansky Auditorium in the CUNY Graduate Center.
“The state of the resistance is really seen in the burst of local activism since the election,” Garodnick said. “New Yorkers are holding their elected officials accountable. (Constituents) are breaking the all-time record for the number of calls to elected representatives.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio with other elected officials and speakers at an announcement at the Alexandria Science Research Center in Kips Bay. (Pictured) Dr. Vicki Sato, Dr. Harold Varmus, President of the Economic Development Corporation Maria Torres-Springer, Teeba Jihad, Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Liz Krueger, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh (Photo by Michelle Deal Winfield)
By Michelle Deal Winfield
On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan that he says will create 16,000 new jobs in life sciences and bio-engineering in New York City.
He made the announcement at the Alexandria Science Research Center in Kips Bay, alongside local elected officials.
The mayor paid homage to former Mayor Bloomberg saying, “We are taking a page from the former mayor’s playbook. Mayor Bloomberg diversified investments to help set up the Cornell Tech Center on Roosevelt Island. It worked. The city will invest in emerging companies to create innovative approaches that will lead to improvements in the health industry. We decided to look for spaces on the East Side in Manhattan and in Long Island City.”
Maria Torres-Springer, president of NYC Economic Development Corporation said the project is expected to generate 9,000 jobs in the life sciences.
“Seven thousand new jobs will be created in related fields like marketing, advertising and training,” she said. “There will also be 7,500 jobs in construction to set up labs.”
Workers stand by a newly built bus stop for the M23, which now has Select Bus Service, at 23rd Street and Broadway. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
After months of planning — and a canceled plan to remove a Stuyvesant Town bus stop — Select Bus Service has come to 23rd Street.
SBS buses have sped up service by 10-30 percent, according to the mayor who made the announcement via a press release on Monday. The news was cheered by local elected officials, who pointed out that the M23 has been one of the city’s slowest buses, even twice winning the annual Straphangers Campaign’s Pokey Award for the slowest route.
“My constituents agree: the M23 is one of the slowest bus routes in the city and it’s often faster to walk than take the bus,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.
State Senator Liz Krueger said the SBS couldn’t come at a more needed time: ahead of the dreaded L-pocalypse.
Keith Powers, pictured petitioning, is a lobbyist and community activist. (Photos courtesy of Keith Powers)
By Sabina Mollot
A Peter Cooper Village resident and executive at a lobbying firm has become the most recent candidate to join the race for the City Council seat that’s now occupied by Dan Garodnick.
Keith Powers, 32, has already led a pretty politically active career, having previously worked for two Manhattan elected officials, and until recently served as president of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club.
Though he stepped down from that volunteer position earlier in the year, last month he took on a new role as one of three new board members of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association. He’s also been serving as chair of Community Board 6’s Business Affairs and Street Activities committee, which focuses heavily on nightlife and liquor licenses. He’s still involved with Eleanor Roosevelt, too, as the club’s district leader.
“I bring a certain amount of experience and I think it’s a great next step for me to be running to replace Dan,” said Powers. He added, “With term limits you don’t have a lot of time to play catch-up.”
Council Member Dan Garodnick with Anita Chanko, widow of Mark Chanko, a former Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper resident whose medical treatment and death was filmed for a reality show without permission, Mark’s daughter Pamela, his son Kenneth, Kenneth’s wife Barbara, State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Edward Braunstein of Queens (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Over 30 members of the City Council are calling on hospitals to respect patients’ privacy, in response to the stunning case of a man who was struck by a truck only to then have his medical treatment and death filmed for an ABC reality show, “NY Med.”
The man was Mark Chanko, at one time a resident of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. His family, who never authorized any filming of his treatment, has sued the hospital, New York Presbyterian, and ABC. Arguments for the case are expected to be heard in September at the Court of Appeals.
While there is currently legislation pending at the state level that would prohibit hospitals filming patients without obtaining prior consent, the Council said it was asking hospitals to take that step voluntarily. The Council members wrote a letter that was sent to all New York hospitals asking them not to film patients or allow third parties to film patients for entertainment purposes. Or, if they do, the Council members said hospitals should at least make sure they get prior permission to do so.
The letter was also written in response to news that a reality show similar to “NY Med” would soon begin filming at a Boston hospital.
Mark Chanko with son Ken on a family cruise in 2006
In the “NY Med” episode, Chanko’s face was blurred and his voice altered but those who knew him, including his widow Anita, recognized him immediately when she watched the show.
At a press conference at City Hall, she recalled how he’d asked, “Does my wife know I’m here?’ Whoever answered him said, ‘I don’t know.’” Since then, Anita said she’s had the segment featuring her husband pop up in her mind at unexpected moments. At these times, all of the evening’s events play out, starting from when her husband mentions wanting to run to the deli to pick up milk and bananas, to shortly afterwards, when the doorman at the couple’s building in Yorkville told Anita she needed to come downstairs, to then seeing Chanko lying in a gurney that she wasn’t allowed to get near.
“It’s a PTSD (experience),” Anita said. “It comes in unprompted. Watch a man die, now we’re going to sell you a car. Now we’re going to sell you some soap.”
When viewing the episode, which she said no one from the network or hospital warned her would be aired, she felt like she was reliving his death all over again. When the doctor told her and other family members that attempts to save Chanko were unsuccessful, he hadn’t told them he was wearing a microphone or that the conversation would be part of a show.
“We don’t want for this to happen to other people,” said Ken Chanko, Mark’s son, a teacher, who’s also a former film critic for Town & Village.
Council Member Dan Garodnick called shows like “NY Med” and its Boston spinoff, “Save My Life: Boston Trauma,” a “crude window into people’s medical care.
“Patients in our hospitals deserve to know that their sensitive moments will not be used for entertainment,” he said. “We deserve better from our medical institutions.”
Garodnick added that the Council will soon be issuing a report card for hospitals, “so you’ll know which hospitals will protect your privacy and which won’t.”
Last Thursday, Garodnick posted a petition on change.org calling on hospitals to not film patients. As of Monday it was signed over 500 times.
At the press conference, Council members also expressed their support for state legislation that would prevent future incidents like the one experienced by the Chankos.
Legislation that was authored by Assembly Member Edward Braunstein would create a private right of action for the unauthorized filming and broadcasting of hospital patients. It’s in the midst of some revising, though, with Braunstein explaining that the revisions were in response to broadcast associations’ concerns that some of the language was too vague. “But we’re confident we’ll be able to complete it next year,” said Braunstein, whose district is in Queens.
State Senator Liz Krueger, who’s co-sponsoring the bill in the Senate, said there’s no way the presence of a TV camera wouldn’t impact the quality of patient care.
“(If a doctor says) ‘we need to get over there,’ and the director says, ‘We need a better shot over there’ — we’re not supposed to have that situation,” she said.
State Senator Brad Hoylman, another bill co-sponsor, added, “Shame on Dr. Oz and others for violating their Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.” Dr. Mehmet Oz is featured on “NY Med.”
A spokesperson for New York Presbyterian previously declined to comment on the Chankos’ litigation. A request for comment on the Council’s letter was referred to the Greater New York Hospital Association, whose president, Kenneth E. Raske, issued a statement indicating his agreement with the Council’s suggestions.
“Greater New York Hospital Association and its member hospitals agree that hospitals should not allow patients to be filmed for entertainment purposes without their prior consent,” Raske said. “Further, all New York hospitals take their legal obligations concerning patient privacy very seriously. Both New York State and federal law prohibit the use or disclosure of identifiable patient information without the prior consent of the patient or a suitable patient representative. New York’s hospitals will continue to vigorously safeguard the privacy of patients and their families.”
Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh (pictured at a rally in May) is one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
On Tuesday, three Democratic state legislators filed a lawsuit against the Board of Elections aimed at closing the “LLC Loophole.”
The so-called loophole, created by the board in 1996, came under scrutiny this year due to all the campaign cash that had been legally funneled to legislators through limited liability companies. Many of the LLCs were controlled by real estate interests, most infamously Leonard Litwin of Glenwood Management. The loophole has allowed them to give nearly limitless contributions — up to $60,800 in a single election year by allowing them to be considered individuals.
“It’s not just (Litwin),” said Brent Ferguson, an attorney with New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, which helped prepare the lawsuit. “In the real estate industry, they can operate a separate LLC for every building they own.”
He added, “We think it’s an incorrect reading of the law.”
The Brennan Center got involved with a suit on the loophole, said Ferguson, because it’s “become very popular” in recent years. “The amount has skyrocketed.”
Since 2011, $54 million has been donated by LLCs through the loophole, and while those doing the giving are usually traceable, they aren’t always.
“We think it’s one of the biggest problems in New York’s campaign finance system and democracy in general,” said Ferguson.
The legislators who are plaintiffs in the suit include Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Senators Liz Krueger and Daniel Squadron who are all Democrats as well as
Republicans John R. Dunne, a former senator and former U.S. attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, and Maureen Koetz, who ran a campaign against Assembly Member Sheldon Silver last year.
Another plaintiff is SUNY New Paltz Professor Gerald Benjamin, an upstate Republican Party leader. The suit was filed with the Albany County Supreme Court with the help of the Brennan Center and the firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.
In April the Brennan Center and Emery Celli asked the BOE to close the loophole, but the board, after a 2-2 vote, didn’t reverse its decision.
Prior to the rent laws being renewed last month, Kavanagh had introduced legislation that would cap contributions from corporations at $5,000 per calendar year. The bill made it through the Assembly but not the Senate.
In an official statement, Kavanagh said, “The individuals and businesses who give large contributions through LLCs have much more power than those who have not contributed or have contributed under the lower limits that apply to other entities and individuals. The result is that government does not adequately represent those New Yorkers who do not have the ability or desire to exploit the LLC Loophole.”
Krueger said that she’s encountered would-be candidates for public office who got turned off from running because they didn’t think they’d be able to compete with candidates raising more money.
“The prominence of LLC contributions has a significant effect on the willingness and ability of people to run for office,” she said.
Ferguson said the plaintiffs are hoping the litigation will be resolved before the 2016 elections. The fight is not a new one though, he said, noting that in 2007, some good government groups raised some of the points to the BOE raised in the suit.
The lawsuit argues that an LLC is not individual because: “An LLC cannot vote. It holds no political view separate of its members.” It also noted how LLCs had been looked at by the governor’s now disbanded anti-corruption panel, who believed they contributed to Albany’s “pay-to-play culture.”
A spokesperson for the Board of Elections did not respond to a request for comment.
Several months ago during one of the late night pauses in the state budget deliberations, I had the occasion to have dinner in Albany with one of the rising stars of the New York State Senate, our own Brad Hoylman.
The meal itself was not all that memorable, although it did consist of my favorite Italian food and it was pretty darn good. But what I remember most about that evening was not the pasta or pastry for dessert but rather the intelligence, humility and the down to earth common sense of the fellow sitting across the table, Senator Brad Hoylman.
Unlike our mayor, Brad arrived pretty close to the scheduled time and without an entourage. But nonetheless he apologized for being just a few minutes late because work in the Senate was running a bit long that evening and he wasn’t exactly sure of the street that our bistro was located on.
I had actually known Brad a little bit prior to his 2012 election to the State Senate. Brad was a vice president of the prestigious New York City Partnership which is a progressive organization of business and civic leaders. I also knew of Brad’s work in local politics from the Lower West Side of Manhattan.
The reviews on Brad had always been good but I never really spent much time with him. We immediately launched into a multi-dimensional conversation involving the need for political reforms, tenant protections, education, health matters and family values. I was so impressed with Brad’s grasp and understanding of a wide range of important topics and his many good ideas about how to make government more accountable to voters and work better.Perhaps because he has only been in the State Senate for three years he has not had time to become jaded. But I suspect that if Brad serves in the Senate for 23 years, he will be the same positive thinking progressive elected official who cares more about good public policy than the personal enrichment either of money or power that some in politics seem to lust after. Brad seems to be cut from a different cloth. A fabric which is made of durable and sterner stuff.
The Baruch InvenTeam with their prototype (left to right) Ivan Chang, Carmen Li, Kevin Zhang, Long Wang Lin, Wendy Ni, Xiao Hui Zheng, Conan Lin, Sherry Ou Yang, William Chung and Queena Chiu (behind the prototype, left to right) Elton Zhang and Tony Long (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A group of college-bound seniors at Baruch College Campus High School will soon be heading to MIT to present a detachable rubbish vacuum that they designed and built for use in the subways.
What they came up with is an alternative that they hope the MTA will use to keep the subway tracks clear. The agency currently has entire work trains dedicated to vacuuming up garbage on the tracks, but the prototype that the students have created would instead attach onto the MTA’s existing work trains and, they say, would require less maintenance.
To create the prototype that they primarily worked on in the cramped back section of a classroom, they used motors and filters from actual vacuums, but added on features to make it semi-automatic. The device, which was built on a smaller scale than the real thing to cut down on expenses, has light sensors on the top so it kicks on when it pulls into the station and turns off when back inside the tunnel to conserve energy. Their version operated while plugged into the wall, but in practice the vacuum would draw energy from the third rail, which would also make it more powerful.