Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell
Community Newsletter
Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell
Manhattan Valley    Morningside Heights
Upper West Side    West Harlem
APRIL 2009

Dear Neighbor,

The Assembly continues to take the lead in matters of affordable housing. In this newsletter you can read about the efforts we are undertaking to strengthen rent regulation protections for tenants, including the passage of some of my own legislation.

School governance, otherwise known as mayoral control, is an issue of great importance to residents of my district and New York City. As a member of the Assembly’s Education Committee, I attended every public hearing on the topic so that I could fully assess the impact of this policy on students and families. I encourage any of my constituents with feedback on the successes and failures of mayoral control to share that input with my office.

I have advocated strongly on behalf of arts funding, and specifically the creation of a dedicated capital budget for arts organizations. Our neighborhood plays host to numerous artists, musicians, performers and patrons of the arts, so I know this will be of interest to many.

I also wish to highlight an article which outlines an exciting energy audit program that can help buildings take concrete steps towards becoming more “green” while saving money.

I am pleased to announce a series of community events this spring including one focusing on Financial Education and Unclaimed Funds co-sponsored with NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a toy testing event, a Quality of Life Forum, my Sixth Annual Community Reading Challenge, and a book drive to benefit Project Cicero and public school classrooms. Details for all of these events can be found within these pages.

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 Weighs School Governance

Between January 29th and March 20th, Assemblymember O’Donnell attended Education Committee hearings in Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Brooklyn on the subject of school governance. The hearings were held in all five boroughs in anticipation of the June 2009 sunset of legislation authorizing mayoral control of New York City public schools. Assemblymember O’Donnell is a member of the Education Committee and attended all five hearings in order to fully assess mayoral control’s impact, both positive and negative, on the students and families served by New York City’s public schools.

Assemblymember O’Donnell attended all five borough hearings on the topic of mayoral control. O’Donnell pressed Chancellor Joel Klein (center) and top advisors about the state of New York City schools.

At each of the five hearings, O’Donnell challenged Chancellor Joel Klein and his top advisors on issues including DOE’s handling of school overcrowding; resource allocation across districts and the city; the importance of parent involvement in decision-making; central staff compensation at DOE in the face of possible teacher layoffs; non-educators formulating policy at DOE; and the connection between school closings and high percentages of English Language Learners (ELL) or special needs students, where adequate resources have not been allocated to sufficiently meet student needs. At the February 6th Manhattan hearing, he pressed Chancellor Joel Klein on the issue of accountability, namely on the narrow options available under the current system to parents who wish to express their dissatisfaction with DOE’s handling of local issues.

Assemblymember O’Donnell heard testimony given by a wide range of stakeholders, including parents, teachers, advocates for special needs students and ELL, unions, Community Education Council members, charter school proponents, and the New York City Department of Education. Testimony ranged from outright denouncements of the Mayor’s handling of the school system to sweeping endorsements of the current governance structure. By far, the most common concern among witnesses was the lack of opportunity for parents to be meaningfully involved in local decision-making.

O’Donnell continues to meet with constituents, educators, and advocates to discuss this critical issue, and welcomes any community feedback about the current governance structure. He and his colleagues will be closely looking at the issues raised at the five hearings and making a determination about the administrative system for New York City’s public schools going forward.

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
& Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell


Financial Education &Today’s Economy:
Information You Can Use

Thursday, May 7th
6:30 PM (Doors open at 6:00 PM)

Goddard Riverside Community Center
593 Columbus Avenue @ 88th Street

Get answers to personal finance questions, including pensions and retirement;
learn about New York’s 529 college savings program; and see if you have
unclaimed funds with New York State.

Please RSVP by calling (212) 866-3970.

Attention! • ¡Atención!

Assemblymember O’Donnell’s community office has full-time Spanish-speaking staff available, 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 O’Donnell tiene disponible empleados que hablan español para asistir al público tiempo completo, lunes a viernes de 9:00 AM a 5:30 PM. La oficina está localizada en el 245 West 104th Street, cerca de Broadway. También pueden llamar a la oficina en horas laborables al (212) 866-3970.

Recuerden que nuestro noticiario está disponible en español, para obtener una copia favor de comunicarse con la oficina del asambleísta Daniel O’Donnell.

O’Donnell Advocates for Arts Funding

Assemblymember O’Donnell, a member of the Tourism, Arts, and Sports Development Committee, is advocating the support of arts and cultural institutions as a mechanism to boost New York State’s economy. Providing a way for arts organizations to survive and even thrive in difficult economic times will strengthen New York’s status as the country’s cultural leader. It will also secure the state’s ability to attract visitors who will spend on hotels, restaurants, retail, and transportation.

O’Donnell fought against the Governor’s proposed $7 million in mid-cycle cuts to the New York State Council on the Arts, and had urged that NYSCA organizations’ promised funding in 2008-09 not be subject to mid-year cuts. Although the $7 million cut was enacted, the Assembly did negotiate a compromise that will allow NYSCA the flexibility to mitigate these reductions. When the Governor froze NYSCA funding, 776 grants to 573 organizations that were part of NYSCA’s final two of four disbursement cycles were impacted. The Legislature has granted NYSCA authority to consider these grants and organizations first in 2009-10, essentially prioritizing them in the coming fiscal year.

Additionally, O’Donnell recently authored a letter to Speaker Sheldon Silver, co-signed by 21 of his colleagues, urging that the Assembly establish an annual capital budget for non-profit arts and cultural organizations across New York State. From O’Donnell’s letter to the Speaker:

“A dedicated, annual infusion of capital into the arts would help boost the state’s economy. When audiences flock to theaters, galleries, and concert halls, they also spend on hotels, restaurants, retail, and transportation. The non-profit arts industry accounts for thousands of jobs across the state, and capital projects would also provide jobs in the trades. The resources we direct towards the arts at this time will bolster the abilities of arts organizations to draw tourism money to the entire state. Our arts organizations are eager to increase capacity, improve programming, and grow audiences, but lack the financial ability to enhance and expand their facilities.”

Assemblymember O’Donnell firmly believes in institutionalizing the value we place on the arts as an economic engine and vital component of a well-rounded society. An annual commitment would allow these organizations, now struggling with massive cuts and layoffs, to enjoy the possibility of sustenance and even growth in lean times. Additionally, much of the programming eliminated by cultural organizations under severe budgetary constraints provides arts access to youth, seniors, and the under-resourced. The state will benefit in the short and long terms by allowing these institutions to continue offering high-quality arts programming to residents and visitors, improving and expanding their facilities, and acting as a critical economic engine for New York State.

Legislative Update

Assemblymember O’Donnell’s bill, A.4320, which is intended to protect victims of domestic violence by requiring criminal or family court judges to inquire about the existence and location of firearms owned or possessed by a defendant when an order of protection is sought, is slated to be taken up by both the full Assembly and Senate for the first time since its initial introduction. The measure has passed the Assembly every year since 2003.

Another O’Donnell bill has been amended and reintroduced in 2009. A.1868 would waive the citizenship requirement for being a New York City police officer or firefighter for people who have served in the United States armed forces. Current New York law requires U. S. citizenship to serve in the NYC police force or as a NYC firefighter. By contrast, citizenship is not required for service in the United States armed forces. Immigrants not only serve in the U.S. military, but they do so in active combat zones including Iraq and Afghanistan, and some sacrifice their lives on behalf of this country. Those who have served in the U.S. armed forces should be permitted to serve their community in the uniformed services.

A bill that protects access to affordable housing by preventing owners from adding the cost of major capital improvements (MCIs) to base legal regulated rents was passed by the Assembly on February 2, 2009. A.1928, authored by O’Donnell, would ensure that MCIs are calculated as a rent surcharge that ceases when the cost of the improvement has been recovered.

A.3106 is intended to help indigent defense offices recruit and retain qualified young attorneys by creating a statutory loan forgiveness program for defense attorneys. Having served as a public defender, Assemblymember O’Donnell is concerned that rising tuition costs and staggering student loan expenses discourage law school graduates from serving the public as indigent defense attorneys. Similarly situated prosecutors in New York now receive loan forgiveness assistance from the State. Assemblymember O’Donnell’s legislation would ensure a fair criminal justice system that has the confidence of the public, and attracts and retains talented attorneys on both sides.

Assembly Holds Hearing
on Rent Regulation, Passes Housing Package

On Friday, January 16th, Assemblymember O’Donnell attended a public hearing to hear testimony on what actions can be taken by the state to preserve the existing supply of rent regulated housing and to encourage the development of new units. The hearing focused on legislation, which was ultimately passed by that chamber, including a bill to repeal vacancy decontrol and one introduced by Assemblymember O’Donnell that would change the accounting for major capital improvements and increase the period over which those expenditures may be recovered.

Affordable housing has been and will remain one of Assemblymember O’Donnell’s primary concerns. While in recent years the number of rent regulated housing units has dwindled, the Assembly has consistently supported programs and initiatives designed to provide affordable housing to medium- and low-income households.

On February 2nd, the Assembly passed a package of bills to protect and strengthen rent regulated housing including the O’Donnell bill, the bill banning vacancy decontrol, a ban on “unique and peculiar” rent increases, a bill that allows New York City to pass stronger local laws regarding rent regulation, and adjustment of the thresholds used for calculating the deregulation of high-income apartments, among others. These bills now await action in the Senate.

Nearly 200 individuals attended a recent O’Donnell event on the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program and changes to Medicare.

Threatened Brownstones Deemed Eligible for Protections,New York Times Reports on Morningside Historic District Proposal

Last December, in response to an application submitted by Assemblymember O’Donnell, the New York State Historic Preservation Office deemed a group of buildings in Morningside Heights eligible for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Included in this group are three brownstones on W. 115th Street between Morningside Drive and Amsterdam Avenue that Columbia University has announced plans to demolish. Assemblymember O’Donnell strongly opposes the razing of these buildings which date to 1898 and are among the oldest standing in the neighborhood.

On Monday, March 2nd, the New York Times ran a story about those brownstones and the proposal for a comprehensive historic district in Morningside Heights. The article describes the frustration felt by advocates, including Assemblymember O’Donnell, at the inaction of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The original request for evaluation was filed in 1996.


One question commonly asked by rent stabilized and rent controlled tenants is whether they can be charged a fee for rent paid late.

Landlords cannot charge a rent stabilized tenant a late fee unless the original lease contains a provision specifically allowing for the imposition of such a fee. Even then, the fee imposed must be for a reasonable amount. With regard to rent controlled tenants who do not have leases, a building owner cannot collect such a fee.

If in doubt of your rights, consult with an attorney or call Assemblymember O’Donnell’s office before agreeing to pay late fees.


We have an energy- and money-saving suggestion that can make a BIG difference. Did you know that your building can get an energy audit? It’s like getting an individualized “energy diet” recipe for your building.

Here’s some background information: Energy use by buildings accounts for almost 80% of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions. Residential buildings produce about a third of those emissions. According to studies, large buildings can waste THOUSANDS of dollars every year due to inefficient equipment. Those thousands of dollars affect your wallet through higher maintenance charges and electricity bills, and rent increases tied to “the rising cost of energy.” Many experts say that we need to drop energy consumption by 30% or more by 2030. Since existing buildings represent 85% of the stock that will exist in 2030, it’s time to make what we have more efficient!

Residential buildings with five or more units are eligible for attractive incentives through the Multifamily Performance Program (MPP). Administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), MPP can identify opportunities throughout your building to save energy and improve efficiency by at least 20%. The more energy a building saves after reaching the 20% energy reduction target, the greater the financial reimbursement from NYSERDA. The Association for Energy Affordability ( reports it is not difficult for most buildings to reduce their energy consumption by AT LEAST 20%.

Despite the incentives, few buildings have taken advantage of this great opportunity.

A large pre-war building in our neighborhood utilized an MPP pre-qualified partner. Based on the recommendations, the building invested in heat sensors, upgraded the computer which regulates the boiler’s performance, and trained staff to implement and maintain many additional changes.

The audit and technical assistance cost $7,000 and the upgrades cost nearly $8,000. NYSERDA reimbursed 50% of these costs, leaving a balance of $7,500. The tiered-incentive structure of the program pays the building owner in increments at each phase of the project. The final 10% of the incentives are paid to the owner after the building’s annual utility bills show a 20% reduction in energy use.

Within four months, the building had saved $8,500 in fuel bills! Now, two years later, the building has substantially reduced fuel consumption. Continued savings are estimated to be in the ballpark of $30,000 to $40,000.

For smaller buildings, NYSERDA offers financial and technical assistance through its Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program.

It is especially important to make sure that the engineer you choose meets Certified Energy Management (CEM) standards. Good resources are The Association for Energy Engineers ( or the not-for-profit Association for Energy Affordability,

How can YOU can start saving? Contact NYSERDA by e-mailing, or calling (877) 697-6278. You can also visit NYSERDA’s Web site: Check out the tabs for “Multifamily 5+ units” and “Resources.”

Improving your building’s energy efficiency lowers green house gas emissions, saves money, and improves residents’ comfort. And, when buildings invest in energy efficiency, opportunities for green jobs expand. Improved energy efficiency = cost reduction + improved comfort for residents.

Contributed by Alexandra Woods, Ph.D.

Free Legal Clinic for Tenants

Assemblymember O’Donnell will be hosting opportunities for constituents with housing issues to consult with a volunteer attorney. Make an appointment by calling Joyce Goodman at (212) 866-3970.
Thursdays, April 30th, May 28th, June 25th

Community Reading Challenge

Attention all readers, Pre-K through 8th grade! Assemblymember O’Donnell’s Sixth Annual Community Reading Challenge has begun! Read your way towards a New York State Assembly Certificate and lively Book Festivals.

Look for more information and pick-up your reading challenge packets at Assemblymember O’Donnell’s Community Office and these participating New York Public Library locations:

Book Festivals

As part of the Community Reading Challenge, Assemblymember O’Donnell and the New York Public Library will sponsor three Book Festivals with live entertainment and healthy snacks.

Morningside Heights Branch
Friday, April 24th, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Bloomingdale Branch
Friday, May 1st, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

George Bruce Branch
Friday, May 15th, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Toy Testing Event

Assemblymember O’Donnell will be partnering with Clean New York ( to bring a toy testing event to the district. Clean New York is an education and advocacy group that works to get toxic chemicals out of daily lives. Parent and caregivers are invited to bring toys to be tested for harmful toxins. Please note that there is a five toy maximum so we may accommodate all who wish to attend.

Tuesday, April 21st
3:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Assemblymember O’Donnell’s Community Office 245 W. 104th St. (bet. Broadway & West End Ave.)

Please RSVP by calling (212) 866-3970.

April & May Book Drive

Assemblymember O’Donnell is sponsoring a book drive to benefit Project Cicero, an organization which distributes books to public school teachers and classroom libraries. For more information, please visit

During the months of April and May, please donate gently-used hardcovers and paperbacks for children and young adults at:

Assemblymember O’Donnell’s Community Office
245 W. 104th St. (bet. Broadway & West End Ave.)
9:00 AM – 5:30 PM

Thank You!

Assemblymember O’Donnell thanks every neighbor who participated in his recent Call to Protect Cell Phone Drive and New York Cares Coat Drive. The office collected almost 30 cell phones and 120 winter coats.

Internships Available

The office of Assemblymember O’Donnell is accepting applications for the summer internship program. To apply, please fax or email a cover letter and résumé to (212) 864-1095 or For more information, please call (212) 866-3970.

Sign-Up for E-Newsletters

For monthly e-mail updates from Assemblymember O’Donnell, please send an e-mail to with ‘subscribe’ as the subject.

Quality of Life Forum

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

Wednesday, May 6th
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
(Doors open at 6:00 PM)

Jewish Home Lifecare

120 W. 106th Street

Invited agencies/departments:

NYPD • NYCHA • MTA • Sanitation
Environmental Protection • Buildings • Transportation
Homeless Services • Parks • Health
Housing Preservation & Development

Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell

Open Monday through Friday
9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
(212) 866-3970