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

Dear Neighbor,

I hope that you enjoyed a healthy and relaxing summer. Fall is fully underway, and I have much to report to you.

I wish to congratulate Community Board 9 and the residents of West Harlem on the newly constructed West Harlem Piers Park. This beautiful new waterfront park is a tremendous asset for area residents and the entire city, and was the result of years of persistence and hard work by the community. Job well done!

After decades of advocacy, the State Legislature succeeded in reforming the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. These harsh laws mandated minimum sentences for many lower-level, non-violent drug offenders while maintaining maximum penalties. They also disproportionately impacted the state’s African-American and Latino communities. As a former criminal defense attorney and Chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Criminal Procedure, I was an avid proponent of these reforms and view them as an important first step.

I was proud once again to be the prime sponsor of the Marriage Equality Act, which in May passed in the Assembly with an even wider margin than before. I am optimistic that New York will soon offer all of its citizens the rights, responsibilities, benefits, and privileges that come with civil marriage.

This year, the Legislature passed a budget that closed an historic $17.65 billion gap while maintaining core services and streamlining government spending. There may be more action needed to deal with impending budget shortfalls, and I will continue to advocate for the needs of the most vulnerable among us.

I also want to bring your attention to an article about an exciting new initiative taking place in our schools to encourage energy conservation and educate students, parents, and teachers about how to contribute to reducing New York City’s energy usage and care for our planet.

I am pleased to announce two key community events this fall, including a Community Health Service Day on October 17th. Free glucose, blood pressure, dental health, and HIV screenings will be available as well as important information on a wide range of health issues. I’m also hosting a Quality of Life Forum on October 21st, where people can address representatives of city and state agencies with their questions and concerns about everything from transportation to construction conditions to crime and safety.

My community office is located at 245 W. 104th Street, just off Broadway. My staff and I are always 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,

Session Wrap-up

Marriage Equality
Once again, I was proud to be the prime sponsor of this important and historic piece of legislation in the Assembly. Immediately upon receiving the bill from the Governor, I set to work convincing my colleagues to support it and to widen the margin from our previous vote in 2007. As you are likely aware, my chamber passed that bill on May 12th. The hours of debate were moving and incredibly personal to me. Just like in 2007, my partner of 28 years was seated in the gallery watching the proceedings as I and many of my colleagues spoke about the injustices that this bill would correct.

O’Donnell leads the debate on marriage equality in the New York State Assembly, May 12, 2009.

Rockefeller Drug Law Reform
I am pleased to report that the 2009-2010 state budget included reform of the 35-year-old Rockefeller Drug Laws that mandated minimum sentences for many lower-level, non-violent drug offenders—but maintained maximum penalties.

The Rockefeller Drug Laws have disproportionately impacted the state’s African-American and Latino communities. African-Americans and Latinos make up 90 percent of the state prison population under sentence for drug offenses, yet studies show that the rate of illicit drug use is 8.7 percent for blacks, 8.1 percent for whites, and 7.2 percent for Latinos.

The reforms will save New York taxpayers some of the millions of dollars it costs to incarcerate these offenders – and make the criminal justice system more effective and fair in such cases by: restoring sentencing discretion to judges; making probation a sentencing option; expanding other sentencing and substance abuse treatment options; and providing a framework for the successful reentry of drug offenders into society after completing their sentences.

Facing extraordinary economic challenges, the Legislature passed a $132 billion spending plan which closed a $17.65 billion gap by implementing $5.1 billion in necessary spending cuts, raising $5.2 billion in revenue, utilizing $1.1 billion in non-recurring revenues and maximizing federal stimulus dollars.

By making the state’s marginal tax rates more progressive, and implementing $6.2 billion in stimulus monies, the state prevented the deepest cuts to schools, reversed damaging cuts in health care, and began implementation of permanent health care spending reforms that will lead to $1.6 billion in savings this year and billions more in future years.

Besides including important reforms of the Rockefeller drug laws, this budget included an expansion of New York’s nickel deposit law to bottled water and increased the public assistance grant for the first time in nearly two decades.

The 2009-2010 state budget stabilizes aid to public schools and invests $2.5 billion for SUNY, nearly $118 million more than last year, and $144.4 million more to CUNY, providing it with $1.9 billion.

$49.9 million was restored to the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program, which is designed to lower prescription drug costs for seniors with fixed incomes, and $2.8 million was restored to the Medicaid program to restore coverage for drugs denied by Medicare Part D. This “wrap around” coverage is essential in ensuring that EPIC beneficiaries do not leave the pharmacy without their needed drugs.

While it was a difficult budget year, the Legislature and Governor appropriately balanced the needs of the most vulnerable among us, while maintaining core services and streamlining government spending.

Community Health Service Day

Assembly Member O’Donnell hosts an opportunity to get vital health services and information.
Local organizations provide screenings for blood pressure, glucose levels, cholesterol, HIV, and dental health. Information will be available about nutrition, mental health, diabetes, cancer, organ donation, and children’s vision.
Saturday, October 17th
11:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.
885 Columbus Ave. at W. 104th St.

Contact Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Community Office for more information.


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.

Nuestro boletín de noticias ahora está disponible en español, para obtener una copia favor de llamar la oficina del Asambleísta.

Land Swap Announcement Raises Concerns
On August 12, Jewish Home Lifecare unveiled a proposal with The Chetrit Group to swap JHL’s West 106th Street site for one in Park West Village.

The West 106th Street site was cut-out of the sweeping 2007 rezoning when the Department of City Planning and the Upper West Side Rezoning Task Force recommended that much of the existing R7-2 zones be replaced with contextual zoning designations. The land on all sides of this site was rezoned either R8A or R8B. In response to Jewish Home Lifecare’s proposal to redevelop its nursing home facilities here, its site remained R7-2 which has no height limit and provides a significant Floor Area Ratio bonus for the inclusion of community facility uses.

Assembly Member O’Donnell vigorously supported the community’s call for the comprehensive rezoning to prevent inappropriate development and unequivocally opposed the exemption along West 106th Street, which the City Council ultimately approved.

O’Donnell responded to the announcement of the plans:

“The sole reason these parcels retained their original zoning is because Jewish Home Lifecare made the case that it needed the flexibility afforded by an R7-2 designation to develop a state-of-the-art skilled nursing facility. Now that the institution has announced the site will be used by a for-profit developer, the City Council must immediately eliminate the special cut-out and establish the full zoning plan as originally recommended by the city’s Planning Department and the Upper West Side Rezoning Task Force.”

As regards the Park West Village site, O’Donnell is committed to the maintenance of existent open space and believes strongly that any proposed project must be carefully reviewed to ensure adherence to both the letter and spirit of the open space law. Additionally, every possible attempt must be made to mitigate the impacts of construction on this community that already has endured quality of life compromises throughout the current development project.

Community Organizations Funded by Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, 2009
AIDS Service Center of Lower Manhattan • Bailey House • American Ballet Theatre • Black Equity Alliance of New York City • Broadway Mall Maintenance Fund • Children’s Aid Society • Frederick Douglass Children’s Center • Citizens Committee for New York City • City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court • Classical Theatre of Harlem • Community Research Initiative on AIDS • Frederick Douglass Senior Center • Friends of PS 163 • Friends of PS 166 • Fund for PS 84 • Gay Men’s Health Crisis • Historic Districts Council • Keigwin & Company • Landmark West • Legal Information for Families Today • Legal Services for New York City • LGBT Community Center • Medicare Rights Center • MFY Legal Services • Morningside Heights/West Harlem Sanitation Coalition • Morningside Retirement and Health Services • Municipal Art Society of New York • New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project • New York Classical Theatre • New York Foundation for Senior Citizens • One Stop Senior Services • Parent JobNet • PS 75 Parent Teacher Association • PTA of MS 54 • Roundabout Theatre Company • Science Schools Initiative • SAGE • National Organization for Women (NOW-NYC) • Service Program for Older People • Strycker’s Bay Neighborhood Council • Urban Yoga Foundation • Vocal Ease • West Side Community Garden • Westside Crime Prevention Program • YMCA of Greater New York

Harlem Piers Ribbon Cutting
On Saturday, May 30th, Assembly Member O’Donnell joined elected officials and West Harlem residents at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for West Harlem Piers Park on the waterfront at West 132nd Street. The opening of the park is especially rewarding for O’Donnell because he served as Chair of the Harlem Piers Committee of Community Board 9 when the project was first being planned. The existence of this park is a victory for the community and residents who will now have an improved green space and waterfront amenities after so many years of hard work.
O’Donnell attends ribbon cutting of Harlem Piers Park at 132nd Street along the Hudson River. In the background, Community Board 9 Chair Patricia Jones, Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, District Leader Martin Smith, Assembly Member Denny Farrell.

Tenants’ Corner:

SCRIE Eligibility Expanded
Individuals 62 years and older living in rent regulated housing should be aware that the income eligibility for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program has been increased to $29,000 as of July 2009. For more information, please visit or call Assembly Member O’Donnell’s community office at 212-866-3970.

Renters Insurance If you rent your apartment, one way to protect yourself from a loss in the event that your personal property is stolen or damaged in a fire or flood is with the purchase of renters insurance. While no one anticipates the occurrence of such events, the fact is that there have been a number of fires in apartments in the 69th Assembly District this year where tenants lost many of their possessions and were not compensated by their landlords. Renters insurance offers you some protections from these losses. Make sure, however, that if you purchase renters insurance you take the time to become an informed consumer and know exactly what your policy will—and will not—cover.

If you have questions about renters insurance or are trying to evaluate a specific policy, you can call the New York State Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau at (800) 342-3736. General questions can be directed to the Department at (212) 480-6400. A detailed NYS Consumer Shopping Guide for Homeowners and Tenants Insurance can be found at

Greening Schools in District 3

This year New York City’s schools are going green as never before. In April, NYC public schools joined the national Green Schools Alliance, which runs contests and resource fairs as well as creates online ways to connect so that schools can help other schools meet sustainability goals.

Anyone interested in learning more is invited to the new Green Schools NYC online networking site; please visit

In District 3, parents, teachers, custodians, and the Department of Education formed a Green Schools Group to share ideas and best practices about making the public schools more sustainable. A kickoff meeting held in early August at the office of the Community Education Council of District 3 was attended by parents, teachers, principals, custodians, the Manhattan Sustainability Supervisor, Community District Superintendent, members of CEC3, and Division of School Facilities Chief John T. Shea.

In the past year NYC public schools have laid important foundations: The schools are trying to meet the goals of PlaNYC, which pledges to cut the city’s energy use by 30% by 2017. Because schools consume 25% of New York’s municipal energy, DOE’s efforts are crucial to the city meeting its greenhouse gas reduction goals. Experts say that the most powerful way schools can fight climate change is by reducing their energy use. All members of the school community—teachers, principals, custodians, students, and parents—can help.

Parents at the District 3 Green Group noted that a lot of energy can be saved for free, just by changing behaviors: turning off lights when no one is using a room, setting computers to sleep when not in use and turning them off at night, buying Energy Star-rated appliances, making sure air conditioners are turned off and boilers turned down at night. Parents and students can help their schools accomplish these goals by changing all light bulbs to compact fluorescents (CFLs), putting up signs (perhaps made by children) that tell the principal and teachers they care, putting sustainability on the PTA agenda, monitoring progress, starting green clubs that hold events, contests, and activities, and even signing on to the Performance Manager site to see and influence their school’s energy use in real time. (For more details, please visit

While reducing energy use is the most important weapon against climate change, sustainability has many other themes, such as healthy food, composting, and reducing waste. Recycling is the law, and parents can contact the Department of Sanitation to help resolve any conflicts that are preventing the school from recycling. A DOS representative will come to the school to help facilities managers figure out how to comply with the law. DOS has a great website, NYCWastele$$, with contests, videos, and information about school recycling for both kids and teachers.

Although most District 3 schools are just starting out on the path to significantly cutting energy use, Green Schools NYC is already impacting the environmental culture of our city, one school at a time.
by Jennifer Freeman

Jennifer is coordinating the District 3 Green Schools Group and also working with the national nonprofit Green Schools Alliance. She is a former member of the Community Education Council of District 3. For more information, please visit

A four-year-old reader submitted this drawing after reading Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert for the 2009 Community Reading Challenge.

O’Donnell Testifies Against Rent Increases, In Support of Increased Funding for Affordable Housing

At the Rent Guidelines Board public hearing held June 17th, 2009, Assembly Member O’Donnell offered strong testimony in opposition to proposed rent increases. O’Donnell feels strongly that in this economic climate, it is inappropriate to further burden thousands of New Yorkers who are already struggling to make ends meet.

“The proposed rent increases, if passed, will be an economic burden to thousands of families and individual renters who reside in my district and throughout the city. With this much at stake we must recognize that for the people in regulated apartments, affordable rents are essential. Otherwise the system offers no meaningful protection. I am adamantly opposed to yet another rent increase.”

Assembly Member O’Donnell called for increased funding to support affordable housing in his testimony at the June 23rd, 2009 hearing on NYC Housing Authority’s Annual Plan.

“I am here today to say that for too long our government at all levels has not demonstrated the kind of monetary commitment necessary to ensure that public housing in New York City is well maintained, that residents are offered critically important services and that the inventory of housing remains at its present level. There is an urgent need for renewed commitment to public housing, not only in word but through the priorities set in our budgets.”

Funding Plan Prevents MTA Service Cuts & Fare Increases
On May 6th, the state legislature agreed upon a plan to provide consistent, stable funding to the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

While Assembly Member O’Donnell was pleased that the unreasonable fare increase was avoided, along with proposed service cuts that had threatened the loss of the M10 along Central Park West, he does not believe the plan went far enough. O’Donnell has long advocated the establishment of a dedicated revenue stream to fund MTA’s ongoing capital needs, essential to the system’s upkeep and maintenance. While the agreement provides sufficient funds for MTA’s next two years of capital expenses, the State will need to go back to the drawing board at that time to provide MTA with the funding necessary to maintain and expand access to our mass transit system.

O’Donnell believes New York should also be planning to expand the transit system to accommodate future generations of New Yorkers. During the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, investment in the MTA came to a standstill. It was a horrible mistake that had a devastating impact on the city, the suburbs, and the entire economy. New York City and State cannot afford to make that mistake again.

A safe, efficient, and dependable mass transit system is critical to our region’s economic health. O’Donnell opposes MTA’s plans to reduce staff at subway stations and will continue to advocate against these and other service reductions.

O’Donnell speaks with Community Reading Challenge readers at George Bruce Branch Library.

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 speak with Joyce Goodman. Oct. 29th / Nov. 19th / Dec. 17th

New York State and City Preparing for H1N1
New York State is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address possible cases of H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) in New York. H1N1 is different from a seasonal flu, although some symptoms are similar, including fever, cough, sore throat, chills and fatigue. H1N1 can be treated with antiviral drugs, so there is no need to panic.

If you have questions or concerns about H1N1, the state has set up a 24-hour toll-free hotline at 1-800-808-1987. You can also call 311. The H1N1 vaccine is expected to be available in mid-October.

Up-to-date information regarding H1N1, travel warnings and alerts can be found at the CDC website,, or the NYS Department of Health Website, New York City Department of Education has information about symptoms, precautions, and school closings at

Quality of Life Forum

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

6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
(bet. W. 88th and W. 89th Streets)

Doors open at 6:00 p.m.

Invited agencies/departments:
NYPD • NYCHA Dept. of Sanitation • Dept. of HealthDept. of Environmental Protection Dept. of Buildings • MTA • Dept. of Transportation • Dept. of Homeless Services
Thank You!
This past spring, hundreds of students participated in Assembly Member O’Donnell’s 6th Annual Community Reading Challenge. Children pre-K through eighth grade submitted book reviews and drawings and attended reading parties at the district’s three branch libraries—Bloomingdale, Morningside Heights, and George Bruce. Assembly Member O’Donnell especially wishes to recognize the hard work of the New York Public Library staff and the businesses whose time and generosity made this year’s reading challenge a success. Westside Market, Gristedes, and Citarella sponsored healthy snacks for our reading parties and Book Culture donated door prizes.

In May, Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Annual Book Drive collected nearly 1,400 children’s books for Project Cicero to distribute in NYC public school classrooms. O’Donnell wishes to thank everyone who participated, including Valley Restoration Thrift Store on Amsterdam Avenue, for their generous book donations.

Assembly Member O’Donnell would also like to thank all who donated to Project Back To School, a school supply drive sponsored by the Coalition for the Homeless and WPIX/Channel 11. His community office was a drop off point for backpacks, lunch boxes, and other school supplies for our city’s homeless children. Thank you to all participants for their generous donations.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
For additional information and resources including how to get a free or low-cost mammogram, please call Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program at 800-877-8077 or visit

Unemployment Assistance
With the rise in New York State’s unemployment rate, more and more individuals are finding themselves having to navigate our city and state’s assistance programs for the first time. Any constituent with questions about unemployment insurance or any other benefits program should contact Assembly Member O’Donnell’s community office. The office can help get answers to difficult questions or connect you with a Department of Labor liaison as appropriate.

Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell

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