Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell Community Newsletter
Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell

Manhattan Valley Morningside Heights
Upper West Side West Harlem

December 2007


Dear Neighbor,

I want to take this opportunity to wish you a happy holiday season and to update you on my work in the district as well as in Albany.

Since my last update, a number of important hearings were held on various topics. In mid-October, I joined a panel of Assembly colleagues to question Verizon representatives about a decision to bar NARAL Pro-Choice America from using Verizon’s network to deliver text messages. Verizon’s decision instigated questions of free speech, censorship, and equal access to communications networks.

I traveled to Albany to attend an Assembly Education Committee hearing on the educational needs of English Language Learners and Limited English Proficient students. Our community is home to a significant number of families with school-age children who speak a language other than English. It is of paramount importance that all students be given the same opportunities to learn and succeed.

I submitted testimony at two public hearings held by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. The hearings gave me an opportunity to testify in favor of common-sense reform to the too-often complicated rules that govern affordable housing.

I also joined numerous state lawmakers in requesting that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hold off on a fare increase until the state completes its budget cycle and the amount of state aid is clear. A fare hike should be the last resort, as fare increases unfairly burden the working families and commuters who need affordable transit options the most.

Large-scale construction projects continue to impact the quality of life of residents. My office continues to take a leading role in following-up on noise, dust, illegal work hours, and idling vehicle complaints. I will continue to advocate for residents’ health and well-being, and for the appropriate city agencies to remain accessible to the public.

On the heels of three recent successful community events, my office is hosting a coat drive in conjunction with New York Cares. Please consider donating gently used coats at my community office during the month of December.

My community office is located at 245 W. 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 with specific housing problems to discuss, I have a dedicated housing specialist on staff and host monthly legal clinics for tenants.

I hope you find this latest community newsletter informative and useful. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call my community office at (212) 866 3970.

Very truly yours,

Assembly Member O’Donnell Testifies at DHCR Hearings

Assembly Member O’Donnell testified in support of changes to the Mitchell-Lama housing program at a Division of Housing and Community Renewal forum on September 24th. The changes, as proposed by Governor Spitzer, would prevent a Mitchell-Lama landlord from making a claim for large rent increases based solely on the argument that opting out of the program is a “unique or peculiar circumstance.”

“There is no more pressing issue in my district than in the preservation of affordable housing,” O’Donnell said. “The rent increases sought by Mitchell-Lama landlords significantly threaten the stock of affordable housing in the district. Without these amendments, rent regulation would be simply ineffectual in the context of those coming out of Mitchell-Lama housing in that initial rents would be set at unaffordable rates and vacant apartments would be immediately deregulated. The rich diversity of people in our community would be threatened and many of those who have contributed to the development of its wonderful character, pushed out. The Governor’s proposed amendments are one significant step to protecting Mitchell-Lama tenants.”

Tenants of six buildings, with a total of 1,096 apartments, in the 69th Assembly District will benefit when the proposed changes are adopted.

On November 2nd, O’Donnell used an opportunity to testify on the proposed maximum base rent (MBR) to advocate for an overhaul of the MBR system:

“Let me begin by stating that the sheer complexity of the MBR system is troublesome for both tenant advocates and for rent controlled tenants themselves. The system . . . is sufficiently complex that it is unreasonable to believe that the average person could determine for themselves whether at any given time, they are being overcharged or not.

“Given that the vast majority of rent controlled tenants are senior citizens, I urge the Division of Housing and Community Renewal to revise its system so that it no longer burdens tenants with unaffordable rents and with an unreasonably complex system that makes it enormously difficult to determine whether rent increases, claimed by landlords, are legitimate.”

Despite programs aimed at preventing substantial increases, many lower middle class households are being unfairly burdened with rents that increase faster than their incomes.

photo Assembly Member O’Donnell visits the Oasis after school program at Alexander Robertson School, located at 3 W. 95th.


Assembly Member O’Donnell’s community office has full-time Spanish-speaking staff available to assist you, Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. The office is located at 245 West 104th Street, just off Broadway. You can also call during business hours, (212) 866-3970.


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.

photo Vital health information and services were provided at Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Health Service Day

Three Successful Events

Many took advantage of the Assembly Member’s Community Health Service Day at the Children’s Aid Society Frederick Douglass Center on Saturday, October 13th. Twenty-six health organizations participated—nine of which provided personal screenings and consultations. Stay tuned for information about the next Health Service Day in ‘08.

O’Donnell moderated a Quality of Life Forum at Goddard Riverside Community Center on October 16th. Residents in attendance set the agenda, addressing a panel of 16 representatives from various city departments and agencies. Representatives from NYPD, NYCHA, MTA and the departments of Homeless Services, Transportation, Buildings, Environmental Protection, and Sanitation fielded questions and participated in meaningful dialogue.

Most recently, Assembly Member O’Donnell and Council Member Mark-Viverito co-sponsored a Flu Shot Clinic at Grace United Methodist Church. New York Presbyterian administered the vaccine to over 80 neighbors.

Put the Brakes on a Fare Hike

Assembly Member O’Donnell recently joined a group of legislators in urging the MTA to delay consideration of a fare hike until April, giving the Governor and state lawmakers time to review the state budget. When the state budget is released, a more complete financial picture should emerge including possible increases in state aid which might remove any need for a fare hike. From the letter to MTA’s CEO:

“Many of the most vulnerable New Yorkers would bear the brunt of any [fare] increase. For the home health aide (earns $21,160 a year on average), teaching assistant ($23,840) or cook ($17,000 to $26,000), a fare hike will be a serious hardship. Under one of [the] options, the annual cost of city subway and bus fares could rise more than $170 for rush-hour riders.

“We believe it is time for the state to do better by commuters and straphangers. We believe we can, working together, save the fare. We believe that you, as CEO of the MTA, should join us in asking for more public support.”

Assembly Member O’Donnell believes strongly that a fare hike should be the last resort.

O’Donnell Continues to Advocate
for Morningside Historic District

Morningside Heights’ popularity has exploded in recent years, and the increase in luxury living space has effected a sadly proportionate decrease in affordable housing. Assembly Member O’Donnell strongly believes the city needs to enact all applicable protections, which is why the designation of the Morningside Historic District remains one of his top priorities. A historic district designation would protect this neighborhood from inappropriate development, façade alterations, and loss of solidly constructed low and middle-income housing.

As he noted in recent letters to the editor published in the Daily News and AM NY, the architecture of the area is unique, graceful, united in style, and perfectly suited to historic district designation. For many years, O’Donnell—initially in his role as Chair of Land Use on Community Board 9, later as founding member of the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee, and now as an Assembly Member—has advocated for the establishment of the Morningside Historic District.

Eighty-one historic districts currently exist in New York City, including the freshly minted Manhattan Avenue Historic District. Though these recent designations are important, the city has only just begun to offer the historically undervalued neighborhoods north of 96th Street their warranted protections and recognition. Assembly Member O’Donnell will continue gathering support for the designation of the Morningside Historic District and urging the Landmarks Preservation Commission to calendar a public hearing.

photo A panelist answers questions posed by members of the audience at Assembly Member O’Donnell’s October 16th Quality of Life Forum

Park West Village Update

Assembly Member O’Donnell continues to advocate on behalf of residents affected by the large-scale construction projects on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues between 97th and 100th Streets. Following the retaining wall collapse at 784 Columbus Ave., the site has instituted a monitoring system that includes optical monitoring using benchmarks, seismographs, and an independent monitoring agent. With his July and August letters to the Department of Buildings still unanswered, Assembly Member O’Donnell continues to seek a justification for the department’s lifting the stop work order without the cause of the collapse being ascertained.

Residents wishing to make a complaint about dust, noise, illegal work hours, or idling trucks should do so by calling 3-1-1 and then following-up with Assembly Member O’Donnell’s community office with the complaint ID # and details.

O’Donnell Attends Hearing on Educational Needs of English Language Learners & Limited English Proficient Students

photo The Assembly Member poses questions at a hearing about the educational needs of English Language Learners and Limited English Proficient students

In his opening remarks at the Assembly Education Committee’s October 12th public hearing, Assembly Member O’Donnell described the needs of school children who are learning English as “an issue that resonates in my district.” He went on to express the concerns he often hears from parents and grandparents in his district about the quality of their children’s and grandchildren’s education.

Assembly Member O’Donnell spoke about the dangers of over-testing children, especially when mandated tests may function as “snapshots” that do not always reflect a child’s real progress or real needs, and that may get in the way of more creative teaching and learning options.

During a discussion between Assembly Member O’Donnell and Commissioner Mills, the Commissioner agreed that the true prize for children is not a good test score, but a good life, and that a teacher’s ability to evaluate a student’s ongoing progress is one of the “best practices” identified by a panel of experts as part of the Board of Regents’ ongoing review of educational priorities.

Noting the importance of libraries as educational resources for families in his district, Assembly Member O’Donnell also asked the Commissioner whether there would be increases in library funding. The Commissioner said that the Regents would pursue additional library funding in the next budget cycle.

Assembly Member O’Donnell questioned representatives of the New York City Department of Education about the impact of charter schools on resources available to public school students, especially children with English Language Learning (ELL) needs.

Assembly Member O’Donnell focused on the discrepancy between the percentage of ELL students in charter schools (only 3%) and the percentage of ELL students in public schools (13%), and the likelihood that other high needs students were also disproportionately excluded from charter schools, thus skewing claims of greater academic success for charter school students.

City officials conceded that those differences should be taken into account in reviewing the data, without giving any specific assurances or explanations about how that would be done. Assembly Member O’Donnell said “I have some great public schools in my district,” and expressed concern that some of those schools might be getting short-changed in comparison to charter schools, which may not serve as many high needs children.

96th Street Subway Station Construction Update

Assembly Member O’Donnell has received multiple inquiries about the removal of trees and the sidewalk work currently being done at the corner of Broadway and 96th Street.

The sidewalk is being narrowed in order to make room for a reconfigured median upon which a new subway station head will be built. Approved by the Community Board, the improvements will make the 96th Street subway station ADA compliant.

During project planning, O’Donnell secured a commitment from the MTA to plant numerous trees in the community to replace each of those lost. The Assembly Member will be following the construction closely in order to let constituents know of any construction plans or service changes that will hamper traffic or commutes.

O’Donnell Presses Verizon About Decision to Deny NARAL Pro-Choice’s Application to Use Text-Messaging Network

Recently, when NARAL Pro-Choice America applied to use Verizon’s network to send text messages to individuals who had requested them, Verizon rejected the request, claiming the company has a right to block “controversial or unsavory” messages. Ultimately, the denial was overturned and Verizon apologized. But the dispute highlights a larger “net neutrality” issue, specifically whether carriers or Internet service providers should be able to control content transmitted via their infrastructure.

The dispute was also the instigation for a hearing to get the facts from NARAL and Verizon representatives and to consider the broader implications of Verizon’s “mistake”. Unfortunately, the laws that forbid communications companies from interfering with voice transmissions do not apply to text messages or the Internet.

Assembly Member O’Donnell questioned Verizon representatives about who at Verizon made the decision that NARAL’s message would be “controversial or unsavory” while other advocacy groups had been approved to use the network in the recent past. Company representatives deflected the question and indicated they had since changed their policy, but O’Donnell persisted, helping to make the case that without some intervention or regulation, an anonymous individual at Verizon becomes the arbiter of free speech.

O’Donnell Honored by Bailey House and the Anti-Violence Project

On October 25th, 2007, Bailey House honored Assembly Member O’Donnell with the 2007 Key Award for his advocacy on behalf of New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS, and the communities that serve them. Founded in 1983, Bailey House was the nation’s first provider of supportive housing to people living with AIDS.

On Monday, November 19th, the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project presented O’Donnell with a Courage Award at its 11th Annual ceremony. Recently, the Assembly Member secured funds that allow the AVP to provide training at domestic violence centers across the state. For twenty-seven years, the Anti-Violence Project has been providing direct assistance to LGBT and HIV-affected victims of bias-motivated violence, rape and sexual assault, intimate partner/domestic violence, HIV-related violence, as well as police misconduct and abuse.

Winter Heating Requirements

As a reminder, starting October 1st (through May 31st), landlords are required by law to provide heat and hot water at the following levels:

6 am – 10 pm: If the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees, the inside temperature must be at least 68 degrees everywhere in your apartment.

10 pm – 6 am:

If the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees, the inside temperature must be at least 55 degrees everywhere in your apartment.

Hot water at a minimum 120 degrees must be provided 24 hours a day, year-round.

Call 3-1-1 immediately to file a complaint.

Coat Drive for New York Cares

Thousands of New Yorkers are forced to make a choice between buying a winter coat and putting food on the table, or meeting other basic survival needs. Assembly Member O’Donnell’s office will host a coat drive in December, as part of a larger effort by New York Cares, which collects nearly 90,000 gently used winter coats during the coldest months of the year. Please bring your gently-used coats to Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Community Office; 245 W. 104th Street (bet. Broadway and West End)

December 1-21, 2007

Free Legal Clinic for Tenants

Assembly Member O’Donnell will host opportunities for constituents with housing issues to consult a volunteer attorney. To make an appointment, please call (212) 866-3970 and ask to speak with Joyce Goodman.

December 20th / January 31st / February 28th

Interns Needed

The Community Office of Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell seeks high school and college student interns to help staff the office, provide administrative support, conduct legislative research, and gain valuable work experience.

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.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

Did you know that compact fluorescent bulbs have a 75% energy savings over conventional bulbs? Compact fluorescents also produce less heat and typically last 10 times as long as standard bulbs. If every American replaced just one standard bulb with a CFL, we would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.

Call 3-1-1 for proper disposal, since CFLs contain mercury! Please do not put CFL bulbs in your household trash.

Do Not Call Registry

The Federal Trade Commission has recently announced that it will not drop telephone numbers from the National Do Not Call Registry based on the five-year expiration period. To add your number (if you have not already registered it), verify your registration, or remove your registration, please visit or call (888) 382-1222.


Besides these newsletters, Assembly Member O’Donnell also writes monthly updates. Historically, these updates have been available at community meetings and at the community office. We have rec-ently begun to distribute these updates electronically. If you are interested in receiving monthly up-dates by email, please email the office at to be added to the list.

Summer Internship Program at Manhattan District Attorney’s Office

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is accepting applications for its 2008 Summer Internship Program. Students must reside in Manhattan and be between the ages of 14 and 17 (18 years old if still in high school). Interested students should send a resume and an essay to: Community Affairs Unit, New York County District Attorney’s Office; Attention: Ms. Carol Ragsdale; One Hogan Place, Room 824; New York, NY 10013. Deadline is Friday, March 28, 2008. For more information, please call (212) 335-9082.

Special Camp Fair

Parents and caregivers of children and teens with disabilities can plan ahead for summer with the wealth of information provided at the free Special Camp Fair presented by Resources for Children with Special Needs, Inc. Representatives from 70 NYC day camps and sleepaway camps will be on hand to help parents and professionals plan productive summer experiences for children with disabilities. The Camps 2008 Guide will be available for free to all visitors.

Saturday, January 26, 2008
11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Church of St. Paul the Apostle
(Columbus Ave. near W. 60th Street)
Visit or call (212) 677-4650.

Looking for Volunteer Opportunities?

Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell


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