Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell Community Newsletter
Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnel
Manhattan Valley box Morningside Heights
Upper West Side box West Harlem
May 2008
box  Serving New York's 69th Assembly District  box

Dear Neighbor,

Spring has arrived. I am pleased to let you know that the Assembly, Senate, and Governor enacted a budget that balanced current economic realities with the desperate need for more accessible and affordable health care, support for affordable housing programs, and increased funding for K-12 and higher education. In this newsletter, you’ll find a more detailed report on the final budget.

Recently, sustainable transportation has been a much-discussed topic. I strongly believe that we must begin to link long-term transportation planning with environmental sustainability. To this end, I have introduced legislation (A.10638) which would accomplish this by creating a Sustainable Transportation Task Force. Among other things, the task force would study a new toll structure based primarily on a vehicle’s emissions and weight, accurate indicators of a vehicle’s impact on the environment and infrastructure.

In March, I was appointed to the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education. Significant issues will come before the Education Committee including mayoral control, class size, and school funding, to name just a few. Advocacy on behalf of children and families in my assembly district and across New York State will be my first priority in this new capacity.

On April 15th, I filed a Freedom of Information law request with the New York City landmarks Preservation Commission to obtain documents pertaining to the designation of a historic district in Morningside Heights. I hope to learn the status of the proposal, as well as discover any reasons for the Commission’s inaction. I deeply appreciate all of the positive feedback and support I have been receiving from the community in my pursuit of this designation.

A project that will light the perimeter of Morningside Park and Amsterdam Avenue cleared its final hurdle on April 14th when the Art Commission of the City of New York unanimously approved the proposal. I secured over $900,000 in state funding for the project, as well as a commitment from Columbia University to pay not only for electricity to light the pedestrian sidearms, but also for lampposts on Morningside Drive. The historic light poles will be an aesthetic improvement, and the improved lighting will make the area safer and more welcoming. Now that the project has its approvals, I have petitioned the Department of Transportation to make the improvements sooner rather than later.

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 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 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,

O’Donnell Introduces legislation to Create
Sustainable Transportation Task Force

Assembly Member O’Donnell recently introduced legislation that would facilitate statewide development of sustainable transportation policy to more adequately address the problems of pollution caused by motor vehicles, traffic volume that affects both pollution levels and wear on roadways, and the need for revenue for the maintenance and upkeep of roads and bridges. The bill, A.10638, would establish the Sustainable Transportation Policy Task Force, to examine ways in which environmental sustainability policies can be applied to or combined with transportation policy.

If passed, the legislation will provide a mechanism for long-term planning by adding sustainability to various state statutes and board and agency missions, as well as create a task force to develop tangible solutions that encourage environmentally responsible decision-making about vehicle purchases and driving habits. The task force would take a closer look at models that require vehicle owners to contribute their fair share, based on the type of vehicle they own, towards the maintenance of roads, bridges and tunnels. The immediate, and most specific, goal is to have the task force develop recommendations for toll and fee changes that will take into account vehicles’ weight, emissions ratings and fuel efficiency.

The bill is being circulated for comment among environmental advocacy and transportation sustainability groups. A.10638 will place the conversation about addressing problems of traffic volume, funding for this state’s vital transportation infrastructure, and improving air quality in a statewide context.


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

Monday, June 9th
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
Goddard Riverside Community Center

593 Columbus Avenue(between W. 88th and W. 89th Streets)

Invited agencies include:

NYPD • NYCHA • Dept. of Sanitation
Dept. of Health • Dept. of Environmental Protection
Dept. of Buildings • MTA • Dept. of Transportation
Dept. of Homeless Services


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


la oficina comunicaría del Asambleísta Daniel O’Donnell ahora tiene empleados que hablan español para asistir al publico, tiempo completo de lunes a viernes desde 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. la Oficina comunicaría esta localizada en el 245 West 104th, con la calle Broadway. También pueden contactar la oficina en horario de trabajo al (212) 866-3970.

Nuestro boletín de noticias ahora esta disponible en español, para obtener una copia favor de contactar la oficina del Asambleísta Daniel O’Donnell (212) 866-3970.

Inaction at Landmarks Preservation Commission Prompts O’Donnell to FOIL Historic District Documents

Assembly Member O’Donnell recently filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for release of documents pertaining to a historic district and landmarking of individual buildings in the Morningside Heights neighborhood.

Assembly Member O’Donnell was a founding member of the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee in 1996. The group was formed to protect the historically and culturally significant architecture of Morningside Heights and secure the designation of a historic district. It is now 2008, and the need for protection is only growing more immediate.

As reported in the last community newsletter, Assembly Member O’Donnell has collected letters of support from city, state, and federal elected officials, responsible development groups, and preservation organizations that support a historic district in Morningside Heights. Community Board 9 so strongly supports the exploration of a comprehensive historic district in Morningside Heights that it included the recommendation in its 197-a plan that was subsequently adopted by the City Council.

“There is overwhelming public support for a historic district in Morningside Heights,” said Assembly Member O’Donnell. “I remain perplexed why some proposals for designation are fast-tracked, while other equally deserving proposals remain stalled for more than a decade. I hope the response to my FOIL request will shed some light on the Commission’s inaction. Frankly, Chair Tierney should be ashamed that elected representatives must resort to using the Freedom of Information Law to ascertain basic information about proposals for historic districts.”

Assembly Member O’Donnell will continue to advocate for a historic district in Morningside Heights and will continue to report to the community on progress towards that designation.

O’Donnell Appointed to Assembly Education Committee

On March 4, 2008, Assembly Member O’Donnell was appointed to the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education. “I am honored to have been selected to serve my community and the Assembly in this capacity,” said O’Donnell. “I look forward to developing education policy that serves all the children of New York State.”

According to Speaker Sheldon Silver, “Assembly Member O’Donnell was appointed to the Education Committee on the merits of his work in the State Assembly and his commitment to addressing the needs of New York’s working families. He is deeply respected for his work in the community, as well as by his colleagues with whom he serves. I am certain he will continue his careful scrutiny of legislation and commitment to excellence as a Member of the Committee on Education.”

O’Donnell will now have the ability to be even more involved in issues of great significance to his constituents, including mayoral control, a state statute up for renewal in 2009. “As a member of the Education Committee, I will be able to more effectively advocate on issues that are of tremendous import to my constituents—and to all residents of New York State,” said O’Donnell. “I believe this advocacy to be the most important aspect of this appointment.”

Nearly 600 pieces of prospective legislation are reviewed by the Assembly Committee on Education during each two-year legislative term. The Committee deals with issues of great importance to the families of the 69th Assembly District, including mayoral control, class size, school funding, pre-K and early childhood education, testing, special education, transportation, breakfast and nutrition, health care services, construction and maintenance of school buildings, and charter schools.

Department of Buildings Releases Report on
Retaining Wall Collapse at 808 Columbus Avenue

Nearly nine months after the retaining wall collapse at 808 Columbus Avenue that resulted in the evacuation of hundreds of Park West Village residents, the Department of Buildings released a report which concluded that the collapse was the result of a segment of the wall’s sheeting system being erected on top of highly weathered rock that was weakened by the removal of adjacent competent rock through blasting.

Following the collapse, the department has not had a good track record of communicating with affected residents, so the Assembly Member undertook the task of distributing copies of the report’s executive summary to the nearly 1,000 residents of Park West Village.

While the report does place some fault with site engineers, it ultimately raises more serious questions than it answers. The department refused to take responsibility for its role in this accident and has yet to justify its decision to lift the Stop Work Order before completing the investigation.

Since the release of the report, the department’s leadership has changed. Assembly Member O’Donnell is hopeful that the department, currently headed by acting Commissioner Robert LiMandri, will be more responsive and accountable to the community at large.

photo Assembly Member O’Donnell moderates a question and answer session with city agency representatives and attendees at a recent Quality of Life Forum. Audience members posed questions about important quality of life matters including construction, noise, and crime.

On April 13th, Assembly Member O’Donnell enjoyed a Mets victory with children and families from Stryker’s Bay Neighborhood Council and West Side Little League. photo

Budget Report

This year the Assembly worked with Governor Paterson to negotiate and enact a budget that responsibly addresses a weakening economy, while recognizing that more resources needed to be allocated to assist working people who struggle to find and keep affordable housing and to make ends meet. The enacted budget, while not perfect, is smaller than the budget originally proposed by then Governor Spitzer and manages to add funds to support affordable housing and to keep the promise of quality public education for the State’s children.

The enacted budget includes a $200 million increase over the executive budget proposal for a variety of affordable housing initiatives. These programs, funded through the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal and the NYS Office for Temporary and Disability Assistance, will help people find affordable housing, create housing opportunities for homeless New Yorkers, and assist communities in their efforts to restore and revitalize existing structures. Providing this additional funding was an Assembly priority during the budget negotiations.

Specific programs supported by the Assembly’s action include the Low Income Housing Trust, the state’s Mitchell-Lama Rehabilitation and Preservation (RAP) program, the Mitchell-Lama All Affordable program, the Affordable Housing Program, the Homeless Housing Assistance program, the Assembly’s Sub-Prime Foreclosure Prevention Services program, the Homes for Working Families program, and other similar programs. The two Mitchell-Lama programs—RAP and All Affordable—are supported by $54 million in the State Fiscal Year 2008-2009 enacted budget.

This year’s enacted budget also includes a historic level of funding to continue the Assembly’s strong commitment to educational excellence for the nearly 3 million school children throughout New York State. Critically for NYC school children, the budget provides for a $533 million increase in Foundation Aid for NYC.

This year’s budget expands pre-K programs, increasing the number of 4-year-olds attending pre-K from 93,000 to 121,000. The Assembly also championed, and the final budget includes, funding restorations for adult literacy programs and libraries.

Finally, recognizing the importance of a high quality public higher education system, the enacted budget supports continued innovation and tuition support for the CUNY and SUNY systems.

Morningside Park Lighting Project Gets Final Approval

On April 14th, Assembly Member O’Donnell testified before the New York City Art Commission in strongest support of the Morningside Area Distinctive Street Lighting Project. This extensive project includes the replacement of over 150 “cobra” style street light lampposts with historic endpole lampposts throughout the Morningside area.

The new lampposts will be installed on Amsterdam Avenue between 125th and 110th Streets, on Cathedral Parkway from Amsterdam Avenue to Manhattan Avenue, and around the perimeter of Morningside Park. The lampposts lining the park will be equipped with pedestrian sidearms, which will significantly improve lighting around the park, providing an increased measure of safety for the surrounding community and park users alike.

His testimony urged the Art Commission, whose approval was needed for the project to move to the contract stage, to consider the project on “its unassailable merits: an invaluable measure of safety for park users and neighbors alike, enhanced quality of life for the surrounding community, and the beauty of historic lighting fixtures ringing a Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-designed landscape and lining Amsterdam Avenue.”

O’Donnell secured over $900,000 in state funding for the project, as well as a commitment from Columbia University to pay in perpetuity for electricity for the pedestrian sidearms. Columbia is also contributing capital funding for lampposts along Morningside Drive.

After the Art Commission hearing, O’Donnell petitioned Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to issue a contract this summer for the project so that the lamppost installation can begin as soon as this coming fall.

Legislative Initiative Funds Distributed

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

119th Street Tennis Association • American Red Cross • Bailey House • Ballet Tech • Bloomingdale Family Program • Broadway Mall Association • Citizens Committee for New York City • Community Healthcare Network • CONNECT • Douglass Senior Center • Friends of Morningside Park • Gay Men’s Health Crisis • Goddard Riverside Community Center • Harlem School of the Arts • Hetrick Martin Institute • Institute for Reproductive Health Access • Landmark West! • Legal Information for Families Today • Legal Services for New York (Manhattan Legal Services) • LGBT Community Center • M.S. 54, Booker T. Washington • Medicare Rights Center • Metropolitan New York Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty • MFY Legal Services • Momentum Project Morningside Retirement and Health Services • New Victory Theater • New York Cares • New York Classical Theatre • New York Foundation For Senior Citizens • New York Junior Tennis League • New York Public Library • North River Community Environmental Review Board • Oasis Community Corporation • One Stop Senior Services • P.S. 145 • Friends of P.S. 163 • Friends of P.S. 166 • Fund for P.S. 84 • Parent JobNet • Public Theatre of New York • Roundabout Theatre Company SAGE • Service Programs for Older People • SHARE Self-Help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer • Symphonyspace The After-School Corporation • The AIDS Service Center • The Creative Learning Center • Upper Manhattan Specialized Science High School Initiative • Urban Yoga Foundation • Wendy Hilliard Foundation • West Side Community Garden • West Side Crime Prevention

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.
Thursday, May 29th, June 26th, July 31st

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 e-mails, please e-mail the office at to be added to the list.

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.

Rent Guidelines Board Holds Public Hearings

The New York City Rent Guidelines Board, a nine member body chosen by the mayor, votes every year on the increases for the city’s rent stabilized tenants. Think rents are too high? Come to the Board meetings and hearing, and let the board members hear your story.

Public Hearing—Monday, June 16th
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street, Manhattan

For more information, to confirm the date, or to register to speak, please call the Rent Guidelines Board at (212) 385-2934 or see or

New York Organ Donor Network

Every 13 minutes, a new name is added to the national waiting list for organ donations. Each day, an average of 18 people who are waiting for organs or tissues die because no organs could be found for them. This means that each year, more than 6,000 people die in the United States waiting for organ transplants.

Nearly ten percent of the need is right here in New York. Of the nearly 100,000 people in the United States who need a life-saving organ transplant, about 8,500 live in New York State, but New York lags behind other states in potential donor enrollment.

The most important thing an individual can do is enroll in the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry—and inform your loved ones about your decision to enroll.

Please go to to enroll or for additional information.

Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell

Community Office Information:

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