Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell Community Newsletter
Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell

Manhattan Valley Morningside Heights
Upper West Side West Harlem
MARCH 2008

Dear Neighbor,

Since my last newsletter, the legislative session has gotten back in full swing.

I am proud to report that a bill that I authored has passed the Assembly early in this legislative session. A.1607 will restore the intent of a previous law by sealing records of non-criminal offenses, thereby preventing discrimination in credit and employment decisions. I will continue to work with advocacy groups and the Senate sponsor to get the bill to the Governor’s desk, and ultimately signed into law.

New York State has taken a bold step in the stewardship of one of the state’s largest natural resources, the Great Lakes water basin. Both the Assembly and the Senate have passed a compact that would create a multi-state commission to oversee the quality and quantity of water in the Great Lakes. The Governor has indicated his support, and the agreement will be a milestone example of inter-state cooperation to preserve this body of water with a tremendous impact on the environmental and economic health of our state and our country.

While I’m addressing issues of the environment, I also wanted to bring your attention to three initiatives to decrease the amount of paper, fuel, and waste generated by the creation of junk mail. In this newsletter, you’ll find a way to decrease the number of catalogs and credit card offers that you receive in the mail.

In the district, land use and preservation issues continue to take center stage. I am happy to report that the American Institute of Architects has withdrawn its application to amend citywide zoning in a way which would have undermined the recently adopted contextual rezoning of the Upper West Side and Manhattan Valley. The community should consider this a victory, and I will continue to advocate against any measures that will negatively impact the community’s zoning effort.

The chorus of voices seeking a historic district designation for Morningside Heights and the immediately adjacent areas is growing. I have requested pledges of support from elected officials, community organizations, and individuals. I am hopeful that the demonstration of support will convince the Landmarks Preservation Commission to break its record of inactivity and calendar a hearing.

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’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.

Public Opposition Causes Withdrawal of
Zoning Amendment Application

In the face of public opposition, the American Institute of Architects has withdrawn its application for text amendments to citywide zoning law which would have undermined the contextual zoning recently adopted in Manhattan Valley and the Upper West Side.

Assembly Member O’Donnell led the opposition as the first local elected official to publicly oppose the amendments. He testified at the December 19th, 2007, Community Board 7 Land Use Committee, against both the timing for public review and the content of the changes, the first opportunity for comment.

The amendments would have removed upper-story setback requirements which would result in higher street walls, and would have allowed rooftop utility towers (i.e. bulkheads) to exceed the zoning limit by up to four stories.

Residents of the Upper West Side and Manhattan Valley are uniquely positioned to offer valuable perspective and have almost exclusively protested the amendments. These communities had participated in a lengthy public process that culminated in contextually-appropriate zoning that was adopted by the city. The results were lauded by City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden as a model for community-government collaboration.

Assembly Member O’Donnell will continue to oppose any proposal that may weaken the recently adopted zoning regulations.

Quality of Life Forum

Address questions and concerns about quality-of-life
issues directly with responsible agencies.

Thursday, March 13th
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
301 W. 110th at Central Park West
Community Room

Invited agencies include:
NYPD • NYCHA • Dept. of Sanitation
Dept. of Environmental Protection • Dept. of Buildings • MTA
Dept. of Transportation • Dept. of Homeless Services

photo Buildings on W. 111th Street that would benefit from the protections of a comprehensive Morningside Historic District.
Momentum for Calendaring Morningside Historic District

Momentum is building for the designation of the Morningside Historic District. Bounded roughly on the south by W. 106th and W. 108th, on the west by Riverside Park, and on the East by Morningside Park, and extending north along the Riverside Drive/ Claremont Avenue corridor to Tiemann Place, the area has seen incredible development pressures in recent years and is in desperate need of the protections afforded by historic district designation.

Assembly Member O’Donnell has advocated on behalf of the designation since 1996, then as a founding member of the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee. He continues to build a coalition of supporters including elected officials, community groups, and district residents to overcome the inactivity on the part of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

As of the printing of this newsletter, Assembly Member O’Donnell has secured support from Congressman Charles Rangel, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, State Senator Eric Schneiderman, LANDMARK WEST!, and West Siders for Responsible Development.

In a letter to Chairman Tierney of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, Congressman Rangel writes, “Morningside Heights is rich in history, its roots dating back centuries. Needless to say, time is of the essence as new buildings are developed and old buildings are eroded.”

A designation would preserve the significant and unified architecture of the neighborhood; provide protections against inappropriate development, inadequate maintenance, and façade alterations; and prevent the loss of solidly-constructed low and middle-income housing.

Consistency of architectural styles, one of the main qualifications of a historic district, is the result of the majority of Morningside Heights being erected in a single burst of development between 1900 and 1915, enabled by the extension of the IRT subway line. What we have come to know as Morningside Heights and the immediately adjacent blocks was New York City’s first middle-class apartment house neighborhood. The neighborhood remains mostly first-built historic structures with few non-contributing buildings.

Despite the rich history and architecture of Morningside Heights, only a small fraction of the worthy buildings have been designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Assembly Member O’Donnell believes strongly that a more holistic approach to preserving and protecting this valuable neighborhood is long overdue.

Kate Wood, Director of LANDMARK WEST! notes how the designation of a historic district is the next important step to protect the fabric of the neighborhood. “Now that many blocks above West 96th Street have been rezoned to protect their traditional scale and character, it is time for the LPC to take action to protect the fine-grained qualities—the buildings, stoops, cornices, and decorative details—that lend beauty and texture to our daily lives.” She continues, “This area is ripe for a historic district. We appreciate the leadership Assembly Member O’Donnell is taking to secure the calendaring of the Morningside Historic District.”

Junk Mail
A Major Environmental Hazard

Junk mail is a serious environmental concern. More than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce junk mail, and 42% of timber harvested nationwide becomes pulpwood for paper. The energy used to produce and dispose of junk mail exceeds that of 2.8 million cars. About 28 billion gallons of water are wasted to produce and recycle junk mail each year. And believe it or not, you waste about 70 hours a year dealing with junk mail.

The average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year (about 560 pieces). 44% goes to the landfill unopened, and the majority of household waste consists of junk mail. But it isn’t just the sheer volume that is a problem: junk mail inks have high concentrations of heavy metals, making the paper difficult to recycle. Source:

  1. Eliminate unwanted catalogs at

  2. Opt out of credit card solicitations by going to or by calling 1-888-5opt-out. This service will prevent consumer credit reporting companies from providing your credit file information for offers of credit or insurance not initiated by you.

  3. Write Mail Preference Service of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and request that your name, address, and phone number be deleted from all mailing and marketing lists. DMA recommends that you provide three spellings or variations of your name, as well as any other names at your address (including previous occupants). They will retain your information for five years, at which time you should write again. They also ask that you sign and date your letter.Write to: Mail Preference Service; c/o Direct Marketing Association; PO BOX 9008; Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008 or call (212) 768-7277.

Assembly Passes O’Donnell Bill That Would Keep Non-Criminal Offense Court Records Sealed

Imagine this situation: You, or perhaps a young friend or relative, have been arrested for a minor offense. Your lawyer advises you to take a plea to what’s called a “violation” or a “non-criminal offense” because it won’t show up on your record as a criminal conviction, and you won’t risk going to trial and being convicted of a misdemeanor, which would show up as a criminal conviction.

You do what your lawyer suggests, and your lawyer then tells you that if you are ever asked “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” you can answer “No.” Perhaps years later, you apply for a job and check off “No” next to that question. Your prospective employer then contacts you and says that you lied on the application about your conviction, so you’re not getting the job.

How can this happen? The answer lies in a loophole in New York law that didn’t occur in the days when court records were kept only in paper form, but that happens much more readily now that court records have been computerized and are easily searched.

Under current law, when a person is convicted of a non-criminal offense, all of the fingerprint-related records maintained by the State Division of Criminal Justice Services are sealed, but the court records are not. The laws about sealing of records were intended to prevent discrimination against people who were charged with crimes. At the time those laws were enacted, only the fingerprint-related records were easily searchable, in the form of “rap sheets,” so sealing those records was enough to prevent discrimination by potential employers, creditors, and others. At that time, it was impractical for a credit reporting service or an investigator to check individual courthouse records manually throughout the state.

However, court records are now computerized and databases can be sold to investigators and credit reporting services. Even though it is unlawful for credit reporting agencies to disclose information about non-criminal convictions and for employers to consider such dispositions, they do so frequently, facilitating discrimination.

In response to this problem, Assembly Member O’Donnell introduced a bill several years ago that would seal court records when a person is convicted of a non-criminal offense, so that those records cannot be used for discriminatory purposes.

This bill, A.1607-B, would thus restore the original intent of the sealing laws. Last year, the bill was also introduced in identical form in the Senate, and was passed by the Assembly for the first time in June 2007. This year, the bill has already been passed by the Assembly, 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 and become law.

One of the advocacy groups that supports the bill is the Legal Action Center, as many of their clients are affected by the current gap in the law. Anita Marton, Vice President of the Legal Action Center said “We are very grateful to Assemblymember O’Donnell for his leadership on this important issue. We have had numerous clients who have suffered from illegal employment discrimination because of the loophole in this law. This bill will help many qualified individuals find gainful employment.”

Any one who has encountered a problem related to having pled to a non-criminal offense can find helpful information on this issue on the Legal Action Center website,, or can call the Legal Action Center for assistance at (212) 243-1313.

Thank You!

Assembly Member O’Donnell’s December New York Cares Coat Drive collection was a great success. The Community exceeded the office’s goal by donating 137 coats!

The Call to Protect Cell Phone Drive during the month of January was equally successful. The collected cell phones will act as a crucial lifeline for survivors of domestic violence.

Thank you to everyone who donated a coat or a cell phone and participated in these important community events.

March is National Nutrition Awareness Month

National Nutrition Month is an opportunity to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

The American Dietetic Association has identified the following tips:

  1. Use to develop a personalized plan for lifelong health.

  2. Get your food and nutrition facts from a doctor or a registered dietitian. They are qualified to translate the science of nutrition into reliable advice you can use every day.

  3. Balance physical activity and a healthful diet to manage weight and promote overall health and fitness.

  4. The majority of your food choices should be packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients — and lower in calories.

  5. Your total diet is the most important focus for healthful eating. No single food or meal makes or breaks a healthful diet.

  6. Prepare, handle and store food properly to keep you and your family safe from food-borne illness.

  7. Read food labels to get nutrition facts that help you make smart food choices quickly and easily.

  8. Choose polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats to keep your saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol low.

For more information on nutrition, please visit:

O’Donnell Urges Hold on
Consideration of Con Ed Rate Hike

Assembly Member O’Donnell joined other New York City elected officials in a recent letter to the Public Service Commission (PSC) asking the PSC to reject Con Edison’s pending rate increase request. If a rate increase were granted, it would affect customers throughout the city.

O’Donnell and others oppose the rate increase because it is too large, it will unreasonably burden ratepayers who already pay some of the highest rates in the country, and it is based on a plan that does not meet the state’s goals for energy efficiency and demand reduction.

Critically, there is a separate proceeding before the PSC that addresses issues related to energy efficiency and the demand side management program. Expert witnesses in both proceedings have suggested that it would be prudent to wait for the outcome of the energy efficiency proceeding before granting any rate increase to Con Edison.

Assembly Member O’Donnell and his colleagues urged that the PSC should follow the expert recommendations and not grant the rate increase.

Assembly Passes Great
Lakes Compact

On February 11, 2008, the Assembly passed A.7266-B, which calls on states in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin to create and coordinate water conservation programs. Once the legislation is passed by the compact members—Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—the agreement will move to Congress for approval and implementation.

The legislation is intended to protect the largest body of fresh water in the world which comprises over 750 miles of New York shoreline. Increased population growth around the basin, combined with increased commercial use, has highlighted the need for governments to work together to develop programs that manage and protect the fresh waters in this region.

The quality and quantity of water in the Great Lakes have a tremendous impact on the environmental and economic health of New York State and our country.

Free Legal Clinic for Tenants

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

March 27th, April 24th, May 29th

Sign up for E-Newsletters
Assembly Member O’Donnell’s office puts out a monthly update to these community newsletters. Historically, they have been available at community meetings and at the community office. We have begun to distribute these updates electronically, and if you’re interested in receiving these emails, please email the office at to be added to the list.

Free Tax Assistance

Goddard Riverside Community Center
647 Columbus Avenue @ W. 91st Street
Tuesdays, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM by appointment, through April 15th
Please call (212) 799-9400 to make an appointment.

Community Tax Aid is offering the free tax preparation to individuals with incomes up to $25,000 and families with incomes up to $40,000 who have income from interest, dividends and capital gains of less than $2,900. Assistance is provided by volunteers trained in tax preparation, including CPAs and attorneys.

One Stop Senior Services
747 Amsterdam Avenue, 3rd Floor (bet. W. 96th & W. 97th Streets)
Monday through Friday, 9:30 AM – 12:00 Noon, through April 15th
Call (212) 864-7900 with any questions about the program.
Free tax preparation to any senior over the age of 60.

5th Annual Community Reading Challenge
Attention All Readers, PreK through 8th grade! Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Fifth Annual Community Reading Challenge will begin in March. Read your way towards a New York State Assembly Certificate, an official citation for your achievements, and a lively Book Festival.

In March, look for more information at these participating New York Public Library branches:

•  Bloomingdale, 150 W. 100th Street(212) 222-8030,

•  George Bruce, 518 W. 125th Street(212) 662-9727, and

•  Morningside Heights, 2900 Broadway (113th Street) — (212) 864-2530

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

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.

Summer Youth Employment Program
The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) provides New York City youth aged 14–21 with summer employment and educational experiences. 25,000–50,000 youth annually receive summer jobs through these programs.

For more information on SYEP,
please contact 1-800-246-4646 or

NYC Seeks Lifeguards
Qualifying tests are now being given to individuals interested in a well-paying public service position that helps keep millions of New Yorkers safe. Public beaches are open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and the pools are open from late June through Labor Day. Lifeguards work 48 hours/week and first-year lifeguards will earn a minimum of $12.55 an hour. For more information, please visit the “Permits and Services” section of

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