Assemlymember O'Donnell Community Newsletter
Manhattan Valley box Morningside Heights
Upper West Side box West Harlem
October 2007

Dear Neighbor,

I am pleased to have this opportunity to update you about recent developments on important community issues, upcoming events that I am hosting, and legislative accomplishments from this past season. As many are well aware, summer is by no means a quiet time in New York City, and there is much to report.

In the district, development continues at an often alarming pace, and many safety and quality-of-life issues arise as a result. Most significantly, on July 25th, a retaining wall collapsed at the construction site at 808 Columbus Avenue, forcing the evacuation of all residents of 784 Columbus Avenue and crystallizing local residents’ suspicions about unsafe conditions at all related sites. Additionally, residents of Park West Village and the surrounding community continue to experience a decreased quality of life as a direct result of massive-scale development underway on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. My staff and I continue to work vigorously to protect these residents from unsafe conditions and the noise, dust, and fumes that accompany large-scale, long-term projects. That is why the recently implemented rezoning package is so important-it places contextual limits on development, better reflecting the surrounding community.

I will also tell you more about the Assembly’s vote for marriage equality for same-sex couples, by far the most critical event of my professional life and a deeply emotional moment in my personal life. With the Assembly’s solid support of this measure, I am one step closer to marrying-and legally protecting-my partner of almost three decades, and thousands of couples in New York State are closer to enjoying, if they so choose, the protections and responsibilities conferred by civil marriage. I am immensely grateful for all of this community’s support, and thank everyone who has called or written to offer their support and congratulations.

Over the past few months, I have received a tremendous amount of correspondence about New York City’s environmental sustainability, and particularly about congestion pricing, both in support of and opposing the Mayor’s initial proposal. Heavy traffic has an inestimable health and quality of life impact on community residents and can increase the incidence of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. It is vital that we mitigate congestion in New York City, and I support the recent establishment of a 17-member commission to carefully consider many congestion-relieving options to battle this challenging and nuanced problem. I will give you a detailed update on the current status of the city’s congestion relief commission.

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 with these or any other issues or concerns you may have. 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.

Very truly yours,

Legislative Wrap-Up

During this past session, Assembly Member O’Donnell introduced bills that were passed by the Assembly that will protect consumers, expand health coverage options for domestic partners, and help prevent discrimination. These bills still need to be acted upon by the Senate in order to help those they were designed to protect.

During the last week of the legislative session, the Assembly passed A.2030, the Wireless Telephone Service Consumer Protection Act. This bill, discussed in detail in the March newsletter, has been introduced in the Senate but faces strong opposition there from the wireless industry. The legislation would provide specific protections for consumers, including the right to cancel service without any termination fees within 15 days after the customer’s first wireless telephone bill has been issued. This provision would give a meaningful remedy to the customer who receives a bill that is much higher than expected or advertised. Other protections include: 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.

A.3251 would allow small employers to offer health insurance coverage to 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 coverage to their employees’ domestic partners; O’Donnell’s bill will give employers with fewer than 50 employees the same option.

A bill that would help prevent discrimination in employment and other areas, A.1607-B, was passed by the Assembly in late June. This bill would ensure that certain court records are sealed and do not become available to private investigative services and credit reporting bureaus. Under current law, when a person is convicted of a non-criminal offense, all fingerprint-related records are sealed, but the court records are not. Court records are now computerized and can therefore be used for employment and credit checks, facilitating discrimination. A.1607-B would seal court records so that they cannot be used for such discriminatory purposes, restoring the original intent of the sealing laws. The bill has been introduced in the Senate, and Assembly Member O’Donnell will continue to work with the Senate sponsor, advocacy groups and the District Attorneys Association in an effort to have the bill passed by both houses.


La oficina de la comunidad del asambleísta Daniel O’Donnell ahora tiene empleados que hablan español para asistir al público tiempo completo, lunes a viernes de 9:00 AM a 5:30 PM. La oficina de la comunidad está localizada en el 245 West 104th St., y la calle Broadway. También pueden llamar a la oficina en horas laborables al (212) 866-3970.

Nuestro noticiario ahora está disponible en español, para obtener una copia favor de llamar a la oficina del asambleísta Daniel O’Donnell al (212) 866-3970.

Marriage Equality Act Passes in the Assembly

On June 19th, the Assembly spoke out for equality when 85 members voted yes to allow New York State to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Introduced in the Assembly on May 21, 2007, the Marriage Equality Act, A.8590, had a record 56 sponsors, and it garnered a ground-breaking 85 votes when it came to the floor on June 19, 2007. As the bill’s prime sponsor, Assembly Member O’Donnell led the debate on the Assembly floor, fielding questions and providing the evening’s final statement. The ideals of freedom, equality, and happiness were evoked; they drove the debate and moved many of O’Donnell’s colleagues, some of whom had expressed reluctance or fear of retaliation, to vote yes on this historic bill. The Senate’s corresponding bill, as introduced by Governor Spitzer, did not move forward.

Last summer, Assembly Member O’Donnell and his partner of 27 years were plaintiffs in the same-sex marriage case decided in the Court of Appeals, where, over a strong dissent by Chief Judge Kaye, the Court declined to find a constitutional right to marriage equality for same-sex couples. Instead, the majority opinion placed responsibility on the legislature to protect the rights of same sex couples and their families. In May, Governor Spitzer followed through on his campaign promise to support marriage equality and introduced his same-sex marriage program bill. For the next month, O’Donnell persuaded reluctant colleagues, or those afraid of conservative reprisal, to vote in favor of equal civil rights for gay and lesbian couples.

The Marriage Equality Act would establish equal treatment under the law for all married couples, regardless of the sex of the parties. In consideration of the religious beliefs of clergy members, the bill also provides that no clergy member or religious institution would be compelled to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. Civil marriage is a legal circumstance with over 1,300 state-level rights, responsibilities, benefits, and obligations that lesbian and gay couples cannot currently assume. Under current law, partners unable to enter into a civil marriage-and their children-lack legal protections taken for granted by married couples in such areas as property ownership, inheritance, health care, hospital visitation, taxation, insurance coverage, and pension benefits. Same-sex couples should have the right to legally ensure that each partner, and their children, will be protected in the case of illness, death, or the difficult times from which no family is exempt. This bill would redress those inequities.

Assembly Member O’Donnell’s energy will now be focused on getting this critical civil rights legislation passed in the Senate.

Assembly Member O’Donnell’s
Join Assembly Member O’Donnell and Community-Based Health Organizations and get helpful health information and free services
The Children’s Aid Society
(Frederick Douglass Center)

885 Columbus Avenue at 104th Street

From 11:00am - 3:00pm

  • Free information about important health issues including nutrition, domestic violence prevention, diabetes, and cancer from local community health organizations
  • Free screenings for dental/oral health, bone density, glucose, cholesterol, HIV/AIDS, children’s vision and blood pressure
  • Become a blood donor and help your community

Please call Assembly Member O’Donnell’s community office if you have any questions.

photo Community members getting important health information during the Grant Houses Community Health Service Day. photo Assembly Member O’Donnell making his closing statement during the debate of the Marriage Equality Act.

Congestion Relief Plan Update

A congestion relief plan for New York City takes a critically important step forward with the establishment of a 17-member, bi-partisan commission to review plans to reduce traffic congestion and approve a plan that will result in the same level of traffic mitigation as the plan that was submitted by the Mayor to the U.S. Department of Transportation in June. On Thursday, July 26, the Assembly passed A.9362, establishing the commission and requiring the development and submission of a traffic congestion mitigation plan. The bill was signed into law by the Governor on July 26.

The commission is required to consider both a congestion pricing plan and an array of alternatives that may have the same effect as a fee to drive into certain areas of the city. In accordance with the new law, the Mayor submitted a plan to the commission, and by October 1, 2007, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and NYS Transportation Department must comment on the Mayor’s plan, along with submitting analyses of the capital funding needed to implement the plan, the way in which revenues generated by the plan will be used, and the impact of such revenue on the MTA’s budget and NYSDOT’s budget.

Last month, the commission’s membership was finalized, with representatives from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, and it will now proceed with conducting public hearings and reviewing the city’s plan as well as other traffic mitigation proposals. It will develop a comprehensive plan that will then be submitted for consideration. The commission is required to vote on a plan by January 31, 2008 and the Legislature to act on the plan by March 31, 2008.

Assembly Member O’Donnell Recognized for Environmental Advocacy

Environmental Advocates of New York, a nonprofit government watchdog organization, recently released the names of NYS legislators who supported all four of the environmental community’s "Super Bills", priority environmental legislation for the 2007 legislative session. Assembly Member O’Donnell was recognized as an environmental leader for supporting the following pieces of legislation:

  • The Community Preservation Act gives localities the power to vote on preservation funding without prior approval of the Legislature.
  • The Clean Water Protection/Flood Prevention Act, or "wetlands bill" closes a giant loophole in statewide wetlands protection.
  • The Bigger Better Bottle Bill updates the state’s recycling program and earmarks unclaimed deposits for NYS’s Environmental Protection Fund.
  • The Climate Change Solutions Act & Fund dedicates funds from NYS’s auction of carbon dioxide emission credits to support clean energy and increase energy efficiency.

Park West Village Update

As residents and neighbors of Park West Village continue to experience the noise, dust, and fumes of ongoing demolition and construction at all related sites on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues between 97th and 100th Streets, Assembly Member O—Donnell continues to advocate for their safety, health, and well-being. On July 25th, a retaining wall collapsed at the construction site of 808 Columbus Avenue, and all residents of 784 Columbus Avenue were evacuated until inspections of the buildings ensured their safety. Residents of the "p line" of apartments, those closest to the collapsed wall, were lodged elsewhere for several days until engineers certified the stability of these apartments.

Though Department of Buildings issued a Stop Work Order for 808 Columbus Avenue, Assembly Member O’Donnell repeatedly urged Commissioner Patricia Lancaster to stop work at all related sites on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues between 97th and 100th Streets until the cause of the collapse was ascertained. He also exhorted DOB to regularly communicate with community residents about each site’s current permit status, as well as what practices people should expect to observe at the sites. In the wake of a traumatic and potentially dangerous event such as the wall’s collapse, information is crucial to the local community’s well-being and peace of mind. On August 30th, the Stop Work Order for 808 Columbus Avenue was lifted. O’Donnell protested this action to DOB, since the cause of the wall’s collapse remained unknown.

Recent additional actions taken by Assembly Member O’Donnell to protect and advocate for the neighbors of these projects include contacting Department of Environmental Protection about the proliferation of mosquitoes in standing water at the site; advocating on the behalf of the P.S. 163 community to DOB, DEP, and NYC Department of Education; and continuing to press the developers to include the community in developing solutions to its serious concerns. O’Donnell remains committed to the safety, health, and well-being of the community during these massive-scale projects. If you experience excessive dust, noise, or fumes, or if you believe you have observed an illegal demolition or construction practice, please contact 311 and then O’Donnell’s district office, and his staff will swiftly follow up on the complaint.

Over 1,200 Books Donated for New York Public Schools

Assembly Member O’Donnell wishes to thank all those who participated in his spring book drive. The community’s response was incredible; over 1,200 children’s books were donated for NYC public school classrooms. They will be distributed to teachers by Project Cicero, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing and encouraging reading. "This shows an incredible level of commitment from this community to quality education for all children," said O’Donnell. The book drive was a part of O’Donnell’s Fourth Annual Community Reading Challenge.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

According to the New York State Department of Health and Human Services,

  • Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women in New York State.
  • In New York State alone, about 13,800 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer and at least 3,000 will die from this disease.
  • About 150 men a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in New York State.
  • About 5% to 10% of breast cancers are believed to be inherited. If there is history of breast cancer in your family, please inform your health care provider.

In order to successfully treat and detect breast cancer, the Department of Health and Human Services is urging all individuals to routinely receive mammograms and perform breast self-examinations. These examinations are crucial in the early detection of this disease and may save your life.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, the following resources are available at the statewide level as well as in New York City:

SHARE- Self Help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer
1501 Broadway, Suite 704A
New York, NY 10001
Breast Cancer: (212) 382-2111
Toll Free: (866) 891-2392
Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program
Toll Free: (800) 877-8077

For more information on breast cancer visit the New York State Department of Health and Human Services website at:


Assembly Member O’Donnell welcomes two new staff members to his community office:

Shane Seger
Director of Communications


Carmen De La Rosa
Community Liaison

Community Organizations Receive Funding

Assembly Member O’Donnell is pleased to announce the distribution of member item funding to the following 501(c)(3) charitable community organizations:

American Red Cross • Anti-Violence Project • Bailey House • Ballet Tech • Booker T. Washington (MS 54) • Broadway Mall Association • Children’s Aid Society, Frederick Douglass Center • Community Service Society • CONNECT • Friends of Morningside Park • Institute For Reproductive Health Access • Landmark West • Legal Information for Families Today • LGBT Community Center • Maurer Foundation Breast Health Education • Metropolitan NY Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty • Momentum • Morningside Retirement And Health Services • New York Classical Theatre • North River Community Review Board, Inc. • NY Public Library • NYC Kid Fest • One Stop Senior Services • PS 163 • PS 166 • Quality Services for the Autism Community • Riverside Park Fund • Roundabout Theatre Company • SAGE • Services Program for Older People • Shalom Tenants Alliance • SHARE Symphonyspace • The Theatre Museum • Uptown Dance Academy • Westside Crime Prevention • YMCA Grosvenor Neighborhood House.

photo Assembly Member O’Donnell with Community Reading Challenge participants at the Book Festival at George Bruce Branch Library.

Blood Donation Information

Blood is in constant demand for treatment of accident cases, cancer victims, hemophiliacs, and for use during surgery. In fact, nine out of ten of us will need blood at some time in our lives. Nearly 2,000 people need to donate blood every day in order to meet this demand. Supplies are critically low in the summer and early fall due to vacations, holidays, and heat. City and regional organizations are seeking donors to help avoid this potentially life-threatening problem.

For information about donating, eligibility, and volunteer opportunities:

New York Blood Center
(800) 933-BLOOD

American Red Cross
(800) 448-3543

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. To make an appointment to see one of our volunteer attorneys, please call (212) 866-3970 and ask to speak to Joyce Goodman.
  OCTOBER 25th  square   NOVEMBER 29th  square   DECEMBER 20th*
*December’s clinic will be held on the third Thursday of the month.


Join Assembly Member O’Donnell with City and State Agencies at our
Goddard Riverside Community Center
593 Columbus Avenue at West 88th Street

From 6:30pm - 8:00pm

Invited Agencies: NYPD, NYCHA, Dept. of Transportation, Dept. of Buildings, Dept. of Health, Dept. of Sanitation, Dept. of Homeless Services, MTA

Please call our community office if you have any questions.

Now Accepting:
Ideas for More Green

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is asking for assistance locating open tree pits, including address and cross street, if possible. The agency is also accepting suggestions for new Greenstreets, where paved, vacant traffic islands and medians are converted into green spaces with shade trees, flowering trees, shrubs, and groundcover. If you can recommend any locations for either of these important quality of life initiatives, please contact Assembly Member O’Donnell’s office at (212) 866-3970 and he will convey your suggestions to the Parks Department.

Learn to Swim

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is offering free swimming classes for tots (ages 3-5), children (ages 6-14), and adults (ages 18+). Classes begin this month. For registration dates, locations, and information, call (718) 760-6969.

Career Opportunity with the New York State Police

The New York State Police offers a rewarding and challenging career opportunity for individuals who meet basic eligibility requirements. NYSP is actively recruiting candidates for their next round of applications, due December 1st. NYSP is an equal opportunity employer that values diversity.

For more information, please call (917) 492-7126, email, or visit


For the Community Office of Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell

To apply for an internship, please fax a cover letter and resume to: (212) 864-1095

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

Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Helpline Expanded

The NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse has announced their toll free information and helpline is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you or someone you know needs help, referrals, or has questions about prevention, treatment, and recovery services, please call 1-800-522-5353 or visit

Free Flu Shots

Assembly Member O’Donnell and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, in participation with New York-Presbyterian Hospital, are hosting a free flu shot event for adult and senior community residents.

Thursday, November 8th
Grace United Church, 125 W. 104th Street
From 10:00am - 1:00pm

If you are interested in receiving a free flu shot on this date, please register in advance by visiting O’Donnell’s community office at 245 W. 104th Street or by calling (212) 866-3970. Supplies are limited.

Additionally, New York City’s Department of Health will administer flu vaccines 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, you can call 311.

Assemblymember O’Donnell


9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
245 West 104th Street
(Between Broadway & West End Avenue)
(212) 866-3970