Assemblyman O'Donnell
Community Newsletter
Manhattan Valley box Morningside Heights
Upper West Side box West Harlem
November 2006

Dear Neighbor,

The Fall Community Newsletter gives me a chance to update you on what is happening in our district, especially in regard to new development and construction. I am working on several fronts to assure that our community’s interests are taken into account when new construction projects are approved and building commences. From advocating for community involvement to pushing city agencies to investigate permits and work practices, I am doing whatever I can to ensure the safety of surrounding residents and pedestrians. The upper West side is unique with its open spaces and beautiful architecture. I understand the importance of maintaining that charm, so I will continue to push for historical districts and work with the local city council members to downzone this entire area.

As part of my ongoing oversight of development in our area, I remain vigilant about any building code violations. Whether it is the Ellington Hotel adding additional floors to its structure or the massive construction site at Park West Village, my staff and I are working to protect residents. When I received complaints about safety at the Ellington Hotel site, I immediately contacted the Department of Buildings and the Department of Homeless Services to investigate the problems.

While the impact of major development projects on our community continues to dominate discussion in the district, I am also fighting to preserve affordable housing in our area. Constituents come into my community office every day with housing issues ranging from evictions to harassment. The current real estate market has overwhelmed the housing stock, making it extremely profitable to kick out rent stabilized and rent controlled tenants. That is why I have a full-time housing specialist and monthly tenant clinics to assist those tenants who are at risk of losing their homes. We must continue to support local small businesses in the area who are also feeling the market pressure of rising rents they cannot afford.

On a lighter note, the newly rehabilitated courts at 119th Street in Riverside Park served as the backdrop for the Eighth Annual Matthew Shepard Tennis Jam on September 16, 2006, which was a great success. They raised over $12,000 for the Matthew Shepard foundation. At my community office this winter we will continue two initiatives that were very successful last year - our Winter Coat Drive for the month of December and our January Cell Phone Collection. Beginning on December 1st, we will be accepting gently used winter coats as part of the New York Cares annual coat drive. And beginning on January 2nd, we will be collecting used cell phones as part of the CALL TO PROTECT campaign to benefit survivors of domestic violence.

Please note that my Community Office is located at 245 West 104th Street, just off Broadway. My staff and I are available to assist you. I encourage you to call, write, or visit us, Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. For those who have specific housing problems to discuss, we offer a free Tenant Clinic one evening a month to assist you.

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


photo O’Donnell with Judy Shepard and organizers at the 8th Annual Matthew Shepard Tennis Jam


The Upper West Side, Manhattan Valley, and Morningside Heights are changing rapidly. As our neighborhood becomes safer and crime decreases, these areas are becoming a popular destination for renters and buyers alike. Although we all desire an increased quality of life-less crime and drug activity, better city services, increased property values, cleaner streets-this sometimes comes at a cost. Rents rise. Small businesses are pushed out. People can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood in which they grew up. And developers see lucrative opportunities where we see a small building with a favorite restaurant or our trusted drycleaner. These two, three, and four story buildings that house small businesses and affordable housing are under a serious threat from the rising property values north of 96th Street. That is why, after the towers that now loom over Broadway at 100th Street were planned, the community demanded a rezoning package that would protect the area from another development like the Extell buildings.

After vigorous dialogue and significant community input, Department of City Planning is in the final stages of developing a rezoning package for West 97th to 110th Streets. I have continually advocated for the community to have a voice in this proposal that will tremendously impact area residents. And as an avid proponent of down-zoning, I believe the plan will go far toward protecting this community from the negative impact of large scale development. Contextual zoning will discourage developers from demolishing tenements, and with them, many of our affordable housing units.

Because air rights cannot be purchased across zones, discrete zoning for avenues and mid-blocks will prevent developers from accumulating air rights and constructing towers completely out of context with the surroundings. Numerous "soft sites" still exist along Broadway, and the new package will prevent massive towers from going up at those sites.

I am pleased to have been able to fully support the community in its efforts to develop this comprehensive rezoning package, and look forward to its implementation in our community. This long-needed change will protect our neighborhood’s residents, their valued businesses, and their homes.


Assembly Member O’Donnell continues to push the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and its chair, Robert Tierney, to include on its calendar the designation of the Morningside Historic District. Since February, O’Donnell has demanded not only the calendaring of this issue, but also an explanation of why LPC has failed to protect this area, which lags far behind neighborhoods south of 96th Street in the number of landmarks and historic districts.

For years, the community has petitioned LPC for this designation, and much of the preparatory work has long been completed. The proposed district encompasses an area that includes parts of Morningside Heights, the campus of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the entire area of Morningside Park - the only Frederick Law Olmstead-designed park not currently protected - and extends as far south as 108th Street. The Morningside area is rich with architectural, historical, and cultural significance, and it is sorely in need of the protection and recognition that the designation affords. Assembly Member O’Donnell has been and will continue to be a strong advocate for the protection of this richly deserving neighborhood.

Residents Return to 964 Amsterdam Avenue

Nearly a year after the deadly fire in their apartment building, residents were able to return to their renovated apartments at 964 Amsterdam Avenue after the completion of an extensive renovation of the common area and all affected apartments. Assembly Member O’Donnell worked with the management company to ensure that all former residents were able to return once the renovations were completed.

While the residents were displaced, O’Donnell assisted many with issues ranging from temporary housing to emergency grants to securing tenancy rights. He continuously urged the landlord to speedily and safely complete the renovations so that the tenants could return to their homes. Even after the residents returned, there were several issues to address, such as succession rights, incorrect rental arrears, and problems with utilities and renovations in individual apartments. "It was my utmost priority to see the tenants back in their homes," said O’Donnell. "This was a tragic incident, and I am thankful no one lost their home permanently because of it." His community office remains open, as always, for those residents who need assistance.

Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell Voices Concern Over Ellington Hotel Construction

Assembly Member O’Donnell contacted the Department of Buildings and the Department of Homeless Services to express his concerns regarding construction at the Ellington Hotel located at 610 West 111th Street. The hotel, which houses homeless families, is currently undergoing construction to add five additional floors to its six-story structure. Many residents in the surrounding buildings were concerned about the building’s history of building violations.

Assembly Member O’Donnell called on the Department of Buildings to investigate the site to make sure there were no outstanding building violations and that all proper work permits were issued. He also contacted the Department of Homeless Services to express his concern for the residents, who are remaining in the hotel for the duration of the construction. "I want to make sure every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of the residents in the Hotel. I would hate to see an accident occur because of past violations or faulty work." Due to his vigilance, the construction site has been shut down twice for not having the proper permits.


I would like to personally thank all of the lawyers who have given their free time to volunteer for my monthly tenant clinic in my community office. The act of assisting those who do not have access to legal advice for serious housing matters is commendable.

Thank you:

Jacqueline Bukowski
Barbara Butler
Morton Cohen
Max Gould
Patricia Maniscalco
David Robinson


Building on the success of last year’s coat drive, this holiday season Assembly Member O’Donnell will again be hosting a Winter Coat Drive at his Community Office. This year’s coat collection will begin on Friday, December 1st and continue through Friday, December 22nd.

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 used winter coats in good condition that you no longer want. By bringing these coats over to Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Community Office at 245 West 104th Street, Suite 1D, you can help someone in need be warm this winter.

If you have any questions, please contact our Community Office at 212-866-3970.


Demolition is well underway at the Park West Village development sites on Columbus Avenue between 97th and 100th Streets, and Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell continues to advocate for the developers to initiate a Community forum for neighborhood residents. O’Donnell feels the community’s input should be a significant part of the decisions that affect it the most, and the proposed development has already seriously impacted the surrounding community. His community office continues to investigate complaints about illegal or dangerous demolition and construction practices; a recent request to the Department of Environmental Protection resulted in an inspection for asbestos at the Columbus and Amsterdam Avenue sites, where the inspector found no current evidence of asbestos.

In late September, Assembly Member O’Donnell met with the principal and parents of P.S. 163 on West 97th Street to hear their concerns about the large-scale construction and development project. They voiced concerns ranging from dangerous construction conditions to asbestos and mold to crime on blighted stretches of Columbus and Amsterdam where once-vibrant businesses no longer exist. Assembly Member O’Donnell asked that the developers meet with the parents to discuss their concerns, and a meeting has been set up for later this month. As per the school’s request, O’Donnell contacted the 24th Precinct, and safety officers will be speaking with P.S. 163 students about safely walking home from school.

The presence of mold in empty buildings along Amsterdam Avenue between 98th and 100th Street has caused particular concern in the community. Assembly Member O’Donnell, alarmed by the strong odor of mold emanating from several of the empty buildings there, contacted the property’s owner about this issue. Citing his concerns about the buildings’ proximity to Happy Warrior Playground and P.S. 163, and the health trigger that mold and allergens can be for children with asthma, O’Donnell called for mold abatement to be immediately completed at the site.

photo O’Donnell at ribbon-cutting for new field at MS54


Assembly Member O’Donnell called for the MTA to allow the east side entrance of the 96th Street subway station to remain open after 9 pm. After receiving complaints from a constituent, O’Donnell contacted the MTA, describing the inconvenience resulting from leaving only one exit open after 9 pm, while heavy pedestrian traffic remains. He also cited the unsafe conditions created by only one narrow stairwell remaining open in a possible emergency situation.

Due to O’Donnell’s persistence and the constituent’s vigilance, the MTA agreed to install an emergency egress door at the east side entrance, making it available to customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Holiday Dinner at Goddard Riverside Community Center

The Goddard Riverside Community Center is sponsoring its annual Holiday Dinner for individuals and families in need. The Community Center invites its neighbors to come and join them for the holiday, especially those who haven’t any place to go or anyone to celebrate with. The dinner will be held on:

Monday, December 25th
12 to 3 P.M.
At Goddard Riverside Community Center
593 Columbus Avenue at 88th Street

Volunteers Needed: The Goddard Riverside Community Center is seeking volunteers to help with this annual holiday meal. Needed are contributions of cooked turkeys and baked desserts (pies, cakes, cookies, etc.). For further information, please call (212) 873-6600.


This coming January, Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell’s Community Office will be accepting used cell phones for recycling. O’Donnell is participating in the CALL TO PROTECT campaign to benefit survivors of domestic violence. Donated Phones are refurbished and sold to raise funds for the purchase of new, reliable phones and airtime which are distributed to domestic violence shelters nationwide. Funds raised are also distributed to leading domestic violence agencies. Since 1996, more than 37,000 phones, with matching airtime, have been distributed to domestic violence agencies.

Each phone collected will be sent to a recycling center where it will be recycled, refurbished or resold in an environmentally-friendly way. "Anything that we can do to assist victims of domestic violence is worthwhile," said O’Donnell. "The CALL TO PROTECT program addresses victims’ practical needs in a way that is environmentally sound - a double benefit to the community."

Disposing of wireless phones in an environmentally responsible way is very important. Cell phones contain many hazardous materials, including mercury and lead. It is estimated that Americans replace their cell phone approximately every 18 months, which leads to 130 million phones being discarded each year, and the number will continue to grow.

For all these reasons we encourage you to bring in your used cell phone(s), with the battery and charger if possible, starting January 2nd and continuing through January 31st. You can help protect both the environment and individuals in need.

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 must call to make an appointment to see one of our volunteer attorneys at 212-866-3970 and ask to speak to Joyce Goodman.

November 30th · January 25th · February 22nd


If you are planning on enrolling your child in kindergarten for the fall of 2007, please note that the application deadline for New York City Region 10 is Friday, January 12th, 2007.

More information is available at the Department of Education Region 10’s website at

Flu Shots are Available

Flu season is upon us. New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation will have flu vaccines on hand and will administer them to New York City residents who request them. Priority will be given to those over 65, who have chronic diseases or who have conditions that put them at risk for serious flu complications. Uninsured patients will receive shots at no cost.

For more information on locations where you can get a flu shot, call 311.


Attention All Readers, Grades pre-K thru 8th: Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Fourth Annual Community Reading Challenge will begin in February! Read your way toward a New York State Assembly Certificate, an official citation for your achievements, and a lively Book Festival. In February, look for more information at these participating New York Public Library locations:

  1. Bloomingdale Branch Library, 150 W. 100th Street
  2. George Bruce Branch Library, 518 W. 125th Street
  3. Morningside Heights Branch Library, 2900 Broadway (113th Street)

For more information on how you can participate, please call 212-866-3970.

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


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