Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell Community Newsletter
Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell
Manhattan Valley Morningside Heights
Upper West Side West Harlem
April 2006
Serving New York's 69th Assembly District

Dear Neighbor,

I would like to update you on my work in Albany on issues affecting our community and our entire State. I will also share with you local activities and initiatives in the district.

In Albany, I am working on several pieces of legislation that will improve access to health care coverage for all New Yorkers. I am happy to announce that on February 6th the Assembly passed my bill that will allow small employers to extend health insurance coverage to their employees’ domestic partners. I have also proposed the Fair Share Health Act, a law to ensure that large employers, like Wal-Mart, contribute appropriately to the cost of health care for their employees. Additionally, I have joined Speaker Sheldon Silver and other lawmakers in support of legislation allowing women access to emergency contraception (the “morning after pill”) without a prescription.

Several other bills I have introduced in the Assembly should improve New Yorkers’ quality of life, such as the Wireless Telephone Service Consumer Protection Act, which will regulate wireless telephone service providers. To protect individuals from abuse and violence, I have introduced legislation to strengthen orders of protection for victims of domestic violence as well as a measure to protect all public school students from harassment and discrimination.

Voluntarism is alive and well in District 69! I want to publicly thank all participants who showed their generosity this winter by donating coats and cell phones they no longer needed. My Community Office hosted the Verizon Hopeline Cell Phone Drive which was a great success. The proceeds from the drive will be donated to local nonprofit domestic violence organizations. We also enjoyed a hugely successful Winter Coat Drive in December, with neighborhood residents bringing in nearly 100 winter coats as part of the annual New York Cares campaign.

Housing issues continue to dominate our community in 2006. Two major areas I am working on are maintaining affordable housing and dealing with the impact of major development projects in our community. I am actively pushing for downzoning above 96th Street and for the designation of Historic Districts in Morningside Heights and Manhattan Valley. Concerning the Extell high-rise development project on both sides of Broadway between 99th and 100th Streets, I requested additional asbestos inspections at both sites which led to the developer being fined for several violations.

Regarding the Park West Village development, I have been holding discussions with local residents, businesses, and the property owners to make sure the vacated businesses do not create an unsafe environment for local residents. I am also working with the owners to organize a community forum so that residents can give their opinions and recommendations for the development and what new businesses should move there. And for tenants with specific housing problems, my Community Office (located at 245 West 104th Street) continues to host our legal clinic one evening each month.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call my office at 212 866 3970.



Bill Of Rights

photo O’Donnell at Cell Phone hearing with Assemblywoman Ginny Fields
Assembly Member O’Donnell introduced A.8539, the Wireless Telephone Service Consumer Protection Act, which will give the Consumer Protection Board authority to regulate wireless telephone service providers. The legislation would also provide specific protections for consumers, including the right to cancel service without any termination fees within 15 days after the first wireless telephone bill has been issued to the customer. This provision would give a meaningful remedy to the customer who receives a bill that is significantly higher than expected or advertised. The bill would require providers to disclose detailed coverage showing where cell phone service is and is not available, a significant issue for customers who buy cell phones for safety when driving. Other protections include: requiring upfront disclosure of monthly fees, taxes, surcharges and additional charges for using the cell phone, a formal customer complaint process at the Consumer Protection Board, and disclosure of the availability of E911 service.

The Assembly Standing Committees on Consumer Affairs and Protection, and on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions held a public hearing on March 13, 2006, to examine the need for increased public protection for wireless telephone customers in New York. Assembly Member O’Donnell questioned industry representatives from four of the largest cell phone service providers (Verizon, T-Mobile, Cingular, and Sprint/Nextel). Representatives were unable to provide their companies’ annual advertising costs or any data about the actual cost of compliance with state regulation, yet relied on the cost of providing the consumer benefits and services required by A.8539 as a reason to avoid state regulation.

At one point, in retort to an industry representative’s comments about a consumer complaint resolution, Assembly Member O’Donnell recommended that a single state agency be responsible for resolving consumer complaints, rather than Assembly offices resolving them in isolation for constituents. Earlier in the hearing, a representative of the Consumer Protection Board testified that complaints are referred to a number of different offices and agencies, and that the board does not currently have regulatory authority over cell phone service. “The need for consumer protection in this unregulated industry is a necessity. Cell phone users should feel comfortable in knowing their rights as a consumer are secure; this bill will do that.” O’Donnell said.

Fair Share Health Act

Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Fair Share Health Act, A. 9534-A, was favorably reported from the Labor Committee on February 28, 2006. This bill is similar to legislation that was recently enacted in Maryland (often referred to as the “Wal-Mart” bill). The legislation is designed to ensure that large employers contribute appropriately to the increasing cost of health care benefits for employees in New York State.

Under the Fair Share Health Program, employers with more than ten thousand employees in New York State must either spend at least a certain percentage of their payroll on employee health care benefits, or contribute the shortfall to the Fair Share Health Fund. For-profit employers must spend 8% of payroll on employee health care benefits or contribute the difference; the requirement for not-for-profit employers is 6%. Money in the Fair Share Health Fund would be used to provide health care and/or health coverage to employees who (a) are employed by employers that are required to make payments to the fund and (b) do not otherwise have health coverage, thus targeting funds to employees of large employers that provide inadequate health coverage.

A. 9534-A would not only help employees, but would also help employers by leveling the playing field so that businesses can compete fairly. Large employers that are not doing their “fair share” towards providing quality, affordable health care benefits have lower costs, and therefore a competitive edge, over those employers that do provide such benefits. This bill would require all large employers to either invest in their employees by providing quality, affordable health care, or to contribute to a fund that will be used to improve health care programs throughout the State.

Budget Highlights

For the second year in a row, the Assembly successfully negotiated a two-house budget agreement that will deliver an on-time budget for the State of New York. This year’s budget provides $1.8 billion for NYC schools’ capital construction program and a record increase in overall school aid. It will also provide meaningful tax relief such as: permanently eliminating the state sales tax on clothing and footwear under $110, rejecting the Governor’s education tax credit that would have benefited few families at the expense of public school districts, and substituting child tax credits that will benefit parents of all children age 4 to 17 regardless of where they go to school. The Governor has ten days to make changes to the overall budget before it is final.

Small Employers to Offer Domestic Partner Benefits to Employees

On February 6, 2006, the New York State Assembly passed A.2224 sponsored by Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell with a wide margin of support. This bill will allow small employers to offer health insurance coverage to the domestic partners of their employees, and requires insurance companies to make that coverage available when an employer wants to offer it. Large employers can already offer the coverage. Assembly Member O’Donnell’s bill will now give employers with fewer than 50 employees the same option.

A constituent’s story made the need for the bill apparent: the constituent called and said his employer wanted to give his domestic partner coverage, but the insurance company said it couldn’t. This bill was the result of that call. “If small businesses are trying to do the right thing by offering domestic partner insurance, they should be allowed to. It’s common sense,” said O’Donnell.

Dignity for All Students

Assembly Member O’Donnell picked up the Dignity for All Students Act—A.9491. This bill will afford all students in public schools an environment free of harassment and discrimination based on actual or perceived race, national origin, ethnic group, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex. The bill prohibits such discrimination and harassment in any activity occurring on school grounds and any activity conducted by the school. The bill also requires school districts to adopt procedures and guidelines for training staff to achieve these goals. The bill is currently referred to the Education Committee.

New York State Assembly
Renews Call
for Emergency Contraception

Assembly Member O’Donnell joined Speaker Sheldon Silver and other lawmakers in calling for a law allowing women access to Emergency Contraception (EC), or the morning-after pill, without a prescription through a pharmacist or registered nurse. The legislation, A.9906, passed the Assembly by an overwhelming margin and has been introduced in the State Senate.

Under current law, a woman must first obtain a prescription from a doctor before she can receive EC from a pharmacist. The new legislation will allow a physician to designate certain medical professionals who could dispense this type of contraception in an emergency over the counter, to prevent unintended pregnancy. Vetoed last year by Governor Pataki, this amended bill will enable a woman who cannot see her doctor within 48 hours access to EC. This bill will also provide access to EC for women who are uninsured.

Extell and Safeway Pay
Multiple Asbestos Fines

As a result of Assembly Member O’Donnell’s insistence upon safe asbestos abatement procedures, Extell Corporation and Safeway Environmental Corporation were each fined $10,500 for asbestos violations at 2629-2633 Broadway (245 W. 99th Street).

Dissatisfied with previous asbestos inspections, O’Donnell requested that the Department of Environmental Protection re-inspect the sites. Subsequently, they found several asbestos abatement violations at the western site. These violations were relayed to the Environmental Control Board, which held hearings on January 13, 2006, to determine penalties.

O’Donnell has been vigilant regarding safe asbestos removal during demolition and construction and has demanded that any violations be swiftly rectified and penalized.

2006 Hopeline Cell Phone Drive

Assembly Member O’Donnell would like to thank everyone who made this year’s cell phone drive a great success. During the month of January 2006, neighborhood residents brought in over eighty cell phones as part of this year’s Verizon Hopeline recycling program. The Hopeline program allows residents to dispose of used cell phones in an environmentally friendly way and also assist victims of domestic violence.

The collected cell phones were sent to a center to be recycled, refurbished or resold. Proceeds and refurbished cell phones will be donated to local nonprofit domestic violence organizations. In the U.S., cell phones are replaced approximately every 18 months of use, which results in over 130 million phones being disposed of annually.

Unclaimed Funds Held for
District 69 Residents

The State of New York is currently holding billions of dollars in unclaimed funds. Recently, Assembly Member O’Donnell contacted the State Comptroller’s Office to request information on unclaimed funds for local residents. The Comptroller’s Office informed us that they are currently holding funds for several thousand individuals who are currently living or have previously lived in the 69th Assembly District. “There are millions of dollars being held for New York City residents,” said O’Donnell. “I want to let people know there are resources available to claim these funds. “

If you think you may be owed money, please go to the Official New York State Office of the State Comptroller’s website at: If you cannot find your name, but believe you may have unclaimed funds, call the Comptroller’s toll-free hotline, 1-800-221-9311, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. EST to 5:00 p.m. EST. You may also write to:

Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi
c/o Office of Unclaimed Funds
110 State Street
Albany, New York 12236

photo O’Donnell with Goddard Riverside’s Beacon Program lobbying for Summer Youth Jobs

Daniel O’Donnell’s
Third Annual Reading Challenge

During the months of March and April, Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Community Reading Challenge is culminating in a series of Book Festivals at the neighborhood branch libraries. For the past three months, children from grades 2 through 8 have read books and responded by writing and drawing. Assembly Member O’Donnell will speak at each festival, encouraging library participation and the importance of reading.

Parents of children who have not yet signed up for the Reading Challenge are encouraged to call the Community Office at 212-866-3970 for more information.

Book Festival dates are:

George Bruce Branch Library
518 W. 125th Street
Friday, April 7, 4 p.m.
Morningside Heights Branch Library
2900 Broadway
Thursday, April 20, 4 p.m.

Free Legal Clinic For Tenants

REMINDER: On the last Thursday of every month, Assembly Member O’Donnell’s community office hosts free legal clinics for tenants who reside in the 69th Assembly District. Constituents can call to make an appointment to see one of our volunteer attorneys at 212-866-3970 and ask to speak to Joyce Goodman.

April 27th May 25th June 29th

Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Enrollment and Information Center

One Stop Senior Center (747 Amsterdam Avenue, 3rd Floor) offers information and assistance with enrollment in the Medicare Prescription Drug Program and EPIC. Please call 212-864-7900 to schedule an appointment.

You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE for around-the-clock information.

Big Apple Senior Strollers

Like to walk? Want company? Sponsored by NYC Department of Aging, Big Apple Senior Strollers organizes teams all over the city that offer walks three times per week. Walking keeps your energy up, helps you lose weight, and can diminish the effects of diseases like diabetes. The 2006 Campaign is starting now, so call 212-866-3970 to find a group (or start one!) in your neighborhood.

Summer Internship Opportunities

Please visit Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Community Office for information on a variety of summer internship opportunities at organizations throughout New York City. Internships offer valuable and interesting experience in areas such as the arts, sciences, education, and museum studies. Deadlines for many programs are quickly approaching, so please contact Carrie at 212-866-3970 or stop by our office at 245 W. 104th Street for more information.


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

Free and Confidential
HIV/AIDS Testing

NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene offers free and confidential HIV counseling and rapid testing at the Riverside Clinic, 160 W. 100th Street, Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Test results are available in one hour. Visit the clinic or call 212-865-7757 for more information.

Domestic Violence

If you are a victim of domestic violence, there are people who want to help. Please call the NYC Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-621-HOPE (621-4673) or call 311.

Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell COMMUNITY OFFICE INFORMATION:

245 West 104th Street, New York, New York 10025
Open Monday through Friday
9:30 AM - 5:30 PM
(212) 866-3970