Assemblyman O'Donnell Community Newsletter
Manhattan Valley box Morningside Heights box Upper West Side
December 2005


Dear Neighbors,

The Fall Community Newsletter gives me the opportunity to talk about what is happening in the district and what lies ahead in the upcoming legislative session. There are many pressing community issues that range from development and housing to legislative issues such as human trafficking and criminal identification procedures.

Recently, as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I partnered with Assembly Member Naomi Rivera from the Bronx to coordinate an event called "Walk with Me." The rally took place on Columbia University’s campus to raise awareness about domestic violence on college campuses. The rally focused on the prevalence of domestic violence and what supportive services are available to victims.

Another issue that I feel very strongly about was the recent topic of a roundtable discussion on legislation to increase penalties for human trafficking in the State of New York. This issue is pertinent to my new Subcommittee on Criminal Trial Procedures under the Codes Committee. Also,in October I hosted my first roundtable discussion on the use of "double-blind" witness identification to improve the accuracy and reliability of eyewitness identification in criminal investigations.

Upcoming community office activities include a cell phone drive that I am putting together to benefit victims of domestic violence and protect our environment. The donated cell phones will be refurbished, recycled or resold. The proceeds will be donated to local nonprofit domestic violence organizations. We will also be hosting a coat drive for the month of December. At my community office, we will be collecting gently used coats to be donated to New York Cares for distribution.

Housing issues continued to dominate our community this year. Two main areas I am working on are maintaining and increasing affordable housing and dealing with the impact of major development projects in our community. As one of the featured speakers at a recent Affordable Housing Forum hosted by Riverside Church, I reiterated our need to address the issues of vacancy decontrol and our need to rezone the Upper West Side to combat over-development in our area. Concerning the Extell high rise developments on 100th Street, I have put together a team of lawyers to see what options are available to our community to stop this unwanted project.

Not all of our activities have been so serious. As the Mets season came to an end, my office coordinated a day at Shea Stadium with the West Side Little League, Morningside Gardens Community Relations Committee and Strycker’s Bay Neighborhood Council to take neighborhood kids to the final Mets game of the year. Over 250 parents and children came and enjoyed a perfect fall afternoon at the baseball game.

Just a reminder, my Community Office is located at 245 West 104th Street, west of Broadway. We encourage you to call, write, or visit us, Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. For those who have specific housing problems to discuss, we offer a free Tenant Clinic with a private attorney one evening a month to assist you.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call my office at (212) 866 3970. Happy Holidays!


photo O’Donnell with kids at Mets game

October 2nd was a perfect day for a baseball game and Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell spent the sunny afternoon at Shea Stadium with over 250 kids and their parents at the New York Mets game against the Colorado Rockies. O’Donnell and his staff provided tickets and t-shirts for the kids and their parents. The kids ranged in age from 7 to 18.

The large group was a combination of kids from the West Side Little League and Strycker’s Bay Neighborhood Council, and adults from Morningside Gardens Community Relations Committee. Entering its 20th season, the West Side Little League last year organized over 1,000 kids participating in 72 teams. The Strycker’s Bay Neighborhood Council assists low-income residents of the Upper West Side with housing, economic self-sufficiency and neighborhood revitalization. And the Morningside Gardens Community Relations Committee works with seniors living in the Morningside Gardens apartment complex.

The game was especially significant for the kids since they witnessed the last appearance, in a Mets uniform, of the team’s veteran catcher, Mike Piazza. It was an emotional farewell that made the Mets’ forgettable loss worthwhile. "It was wonderful seeing the kids’ faces. They were very excited about being there, and they witnessed a piece of baseball history as Piazza received a standing ovation from the crowd," said O’Donnell.


On October 27th, Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell partnered with Assembly Member Naomi Rivera from the Bronx to coordinate an event called "Walk with Me". The rally took place on Columbia University’s campus to raise awareness about domestic violence on college campuses. Assembly Member Rivera initiated the first "Walk With Me" event last year, and O’Donnell agreed to work with her to make it a state-wide effort.

After witnessing the horrific effects of domestic violence firsthand when he served as a defense attorney, Assembly Member O’Donnell readily accepted the chance to participate in this initiative. He addressed a group of students and community members on the steps of Low Library at Columbia University and spoke about why this issue is so important to him. "Domestic Violence is a very pressing concern in our society. I am very proud to participate in something that will shed light on this issue and continue a dialogue that takes away the secrecy and shame associated with it. This is an issue that affects every race, gender, and economic class."

Maura Bairley, the Director of Columbia’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Program, introduced Assembly Member O’Donnell. Student groups that participated in the event include Columbia Men Against Violence, Take Back the Night and V-Day. Assembly Member O’Donnell also invited several local organizations including: Crime Victims Treatment Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center represented by Susan Xenarios, the Nitestar Program and the Ryan Center. These organizations provided pamphlets and information for college students and community members on how to get involved, as well as resources available to victims.


Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Criminal Trial Procedures of the Codes Committee, recently headed a roundtable meeting regarding witness identification (ID) procedures. John Jay College generously hosted the event and President Jeremy Travis provided opening remarks. O’Donnell led a vigorous discussion on whether New York should change its ID procedures from simultaneous lineups to sequential photograph analysis. The panel of experts included prosecution and defense attorneys, law enforcement officials, and renowned research psychologists.

In a simultaneous lineup, a police officer shows the witness a lineup of six people, who fit the description of the suspect. A major drawback to this procedure is that witnesses often feel compelled to select someone from the lineup, whether the perpetrator is actually present or not. Studies show that simultaneous lineups lead to a high percentage of false identifications. False identifications doubly harm the public because they not only wrongfully accuse an innocent person, but also stop pursuit of the real perpetrator, who may continue to commit crimes. Researchers advised law enforcement that they would improve simultaneous lineup accuracy by stating to the witnesses, "The suspect may or may not be present in the lineup."

Sequential identification procedures involve a witness looking through a series of photographs one at a time and selecting the perpetrator. Studies show that this process leads to significantly fewer false IDs. However, prosecuting attorneys have problems with this procedure because it results in fewer positive IDs as well. Assembly Member O’Donnell asked the researchers to compare the sequential procedure’s ability to reduce false IDs against the fact that witnesses make fewer positive IDs. Researchers said that the sequential procedure’s ability to reduce false IDs was much more significant than the fact that it reduced positive IDs. They went on to note that positive IDs increased only because witnesses sometimes guessed correctly.

The panel also discussed using double-blind procedures for witness ID procedures. This process requires that the officer overseeing the lineup be unaware of which person is the suspect. This eliminates the possibility that the officer could subconsciously imply who is the suspect to the witness. Unfortunately, in many rural areas of the state this procedure would be difficult to conduct since there are smaller populations and fewer crimes, it would be more difficult to find an officer who was not aware of the suspect’s identity. All parties agree that whenever possible within reasonable cost, double blind procedures should be used. The witness identification roundtable has initiated an important dialogue that will continue as new research and data on the issues are released.


photo O’Donnell with speakers at an affordable housing forum.

Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell participated in a forum titled "Affordable Housing for All New Yorkers - A Right Not a Privilege: Hear Your Elected Officials’ Views" at Riverside Church on October 25th. Reverend James E. Fitzgerald, Minister for Mission and Social Justice, introduced the Assembly Member as well as other speakers including Marc Greenberg, Executive Director, Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing.

O’Donnell emphasized that two issues must be addressed to prevent the disappearance of affordable housing in our city: vacancy decontrol and overdevelopment. "Vacancy decontrol is the 2,000-pound gorilla in this room," O’Donnell said. "Since 1997, because of vacancy decontrol I have seen a huge increase in tenants getting evicted." He added that many tenants now being evicted have solid work histories and have a good record of paying their rent on time. He pointed out that with current vacancy decontrol laws, landlords have an incentive to be aggressive in getting rent-stabilized tenants out of their buildings.

Assembly Member O’Donnell also discussed several actions that the city and state governments can take to help prevent New Yorkers from becoming homeless. New York State should support Mitchell-Lama housing and provide funding for organizations that aid people in obtaining affordable housing. New York City also needs to assist homeless individuals in their transition from homelessness to stable housing.

O’Donnell also suggested alternative approaches to increasing affordable housing, such as government partnerships with nonprofit and private organizations. "We should find a variety of funding options for those nonprofit and private organizations that are already providing affordable housing," said O’Donnell. He suggested that matching funds, either through, for example, the Housing Trust Fund, or through other resources, should get money to organizations that raise money on their own. Direct grants, favorable lending rates, and, possibly, funds from the New York State Dormitory Authority should all be mechanisms to deliver funds to organizations that are helping supply affordable housing and preventing homelessness. O’Donnell cited the West Side Federation for Senior Housing as an example of the kind of local organization that has a record of success in making affordable housing available on an equitable basis. "These organizations care about the people who need their services," said O’Donnell, adding that local nonprofit and private organizations often have a knowledge advantage due to close ties to the community they serve.


On September 28th, Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell participated in a roundtable discussion in Albany to address the issue of human trafficking. Trafficking humans as sex slaves, domestic servants, and chattel farm workers has become a major international criminal industry. Criminals gain huge profits through trading disadvantaged people through slavery. Women and children comprise a large majority of the victims. Although there is not a specific estimate for the number of people trafficked into New York State each year, United States Ambassador John Miller, who also participated in the roundtable, stated that over 17,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year and that upwards of four million people are trafficked throughout the world.

The assembly is currently working on legislation to take an aggressive stance in fighting human trafficking. The bill broadens the definition of a human trafficking victim and increases the penalties for those who benefit from trafficking. The roundtable provided an opportunity to look closely at this legislation and review it carefully. "Hopefully the bill will soon be fine tuned and the Assembly will pass it, creating a precedent for the United States and the rest of the world that New York State will not tolerate human trafficking," said O’Donnell.


Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell has been heavily involved in the response to the developments on both sides of Broadway between 99th and 100th Streets. He has long demanded rezoning of the Upper West Side north of 96th Street, in order to preserve and protect its historic character. To this effect, he has written letters to the City Planning Commission, the Landmarks Preservation Committee, the Board of Standards and Appeals, and the Department of Buildings. These letters urge the expedition of the rezoning process for these neighborhoods and the designation of certain parts of the Upper West Side as Historic Districts, and call for the cessation of work due to permit violations.

O’Donnell has been working closely with Westsiders for Responsible Development (WRD), a citizen advocacy group attempting to block the construction. He formed and is a member of an advisory group of lawyers assisting WRD and local residents who are considering legal action against the city for failing to fulfill its obligation to New York City residents.

After the July 14th wall collapse at the Extell demolition site of the former Gristedes, O’Donnell called for a cessation of work at the site and a thorough investigation to determine why the collapse occurred and who was at fault. Since demolition has resumed at the sites, he has been a fierce advocate for the responsible removal of asbestos at both sites and has continued to closely monitor permits issued for site work.


photo Small businesses on Columbus Avenue facing eviction.

Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell has been working with local community leaders and residents to prevent the eviction of several businesses along Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue between 97th and 100th Streets. These businesses include Amster Furniture, Barcelona Bakery, West Side Tae Kwan Do, Broadway Carpet, AJO Lumber and Hardware, and My Home on Amsterdam Avenue as well as C-Town, Express Corner Deli, Covenant Discount, Tandoori North, and Central Park Café on Columbus Avenue.

O’Donnell and local residents continue to circulate petitions against the evictions although some of the businesses have already closed. "The community depends on these services. They are affordable and they reflect the character of the neighborhood," said O’Donnell. He met with the owners of the properties to find out their future plans for the site. In a letter sent to O’Donnell, they stated their plan to build an apartment building on the west side of Columbus Avenue between 97th and 100th Streets. According to the owners, the planned development consists of approximately 350,000 square feet of residential units and retail space. The owners contend that the proposed building is as-of-right and would comply with all applicable zoning and open space requirements. Due to O’Donnell’s persistence, the owners have agreed to allow the businesses to stay as long as possible before construction begins- if they agree to move promptly at the owner’s discretion. Currently, the owners were not sure what kind of businesses would be placed at these sites, but they did imply that some of the current businesses could move to alternate locations in the neighborhood. O’Donnell’s main objective was to begin a dialogue between the owners and the neighborhood, to which the owners have agreed. "It is very important for the community to have their say, and the owners need to work with them, taking into account their opinions regarding this project and any future developments," said O’Donnell.


During the month of January, Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell will be participating in a Hopeline phone recycling program in his community office. The Hopeline phone recycling program is a convenient way for the community to dispose of used cell phones in an environmentally-friendly way that will also help victims of domestic violence. Each phone collected will be sent to a recycling center to be recycled, refurbished or sold. Proceeds will be donated to non-profit domestic violence organizations or used to purchase wireless phones for domestic violence victims. "October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but it is important that we continue to address this issue year-round. Any way the community can do its part to assist victims of domestic violence is definitely worth it," said O’Donnell.

Not only will this program serve as a lifeline for victims of domestic violence during an emergency, it also disposes of wireless phones in an environmentally responsible way. Cell phones contain many hazardous materials, including mercury and lead, that if disposed of improperly can harm the environment. It is estimated that Americans replace their cell phones approximately every 18 months, which leads to 130 million phones being disposed of each year, and the number will continue to grow. By the end of 2005, cell phones will account for 65,000 tons of waste. So please bring in your used cell phone, with the battery and charger if possible, starting January 2nd continuing through January 31st, so that we can protect the environment and help individuals in need.


In October, Assembly Member O’Donnell announced that a traffic light will be installed at the intersection of 104th Street and Riverside Drive to control traffic on the northbound service road. After years of local residents’ attempts to secure a study of the busy intersection, he successfully petitioned the Department of Transportation to examine the site. Their study revealed what residents understand well: an additional light is needed to ensure the safety of pedestrians and motorists alike. The traffic light is scheduled to be installed by late January 2006.


This holiday season Assembly Member O’Donnell will be hosting a Winter Coat Drive in his community office starting December 1st through December 31st. Each year New York Cares collects more than 70,000 gently used winter coats for men, women and children. So please search your closets for any gently used winter coats you no longer want so that someone in need can be warm this winter. If you have any questions, please contact our community office.

Community News

For Tenants!

Please call 212-866-3970 and speak to Joyce Goodman to make an appointment to see one of our volunteer attorneys about tenant issues at our free monthly legal clinic.

December 15th dot January 26th dot February 23rd


For The Community Office of Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell

To volunteer or intern please fax a cover letter and resume to (212) 864-1095

For more information, please contact Carrie at: (212) 866-3970


The New York City Police Department is continuing to recruit men and women to join their ranks. Filing for the upcoming Police Officer examination will conclude on January 13, 2006.

Candidates will have the opportunity to choose from the following test dates:


Free tutorial sessions are available to all candidates throughout the boroughs. Candidates can also apply online. For more information call the Commanding Officer of Recruitment Section at (718) 222-5628.


In late January, Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Community Reading Challenge will begin for 2006. For the past three years, children from all over the district have participated in this exciting reading program. This year children in grades 2-5 can enjoy new suggested reading lists. Parents, please contact our Community Office or your local library for sign-up materials, reading lists, and book review forms. Call Carrie at 212-866-3970 for more information.


The Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline can inform you how to get low cost or free mammograms. 1 in 8 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Today, there are currently 2.6 million women living with breast cancer. Please call (800) 877-8077 for more information.


Over 81 years ago a group of New York postal workers began answering underprivileged children’s letters to Santa Claus. Over the years the program has grown, and every year generous New Yorkers answer thousands of letters sent to Santa Claus. The public is invited to read through and answer as many letters as they choose at:

Manhattan’s General Post Office
The James A. Farley Building
33rd and 8th Avenue
Starting December 2-23rd
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and
Friday 9am to 4:30pm
Thursdays 9am to 7pm
Saturdays 10am-4pm

If you have any questions please call (212) 330-3000.


Open Monday through Friday
9:30 AM - 5:30 PM
(212) 866-3970