Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell
Upper West Side
SERVING NEW YORK’S 69TH
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
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,
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
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
$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
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.
CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY AT
FREDERICK DOUGLASS CENTER
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
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.
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.
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 www.greenschoolsnyc.ning.com
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:
- Nearly all city schools now have Sustainability Coordinators.
- Each borough has a sustainability supervisor at DOE’s Integrated Service Centers.
- Schools have been “benchmarked” and their baseline energy use determined, using the Energy
Star Portfolio Manager program.
- Environmentally preferable products are now highlighted in the catalogue from which schools
must purchase supplies.
- Funds have been allocated by DOE’s Division of School Facilities for energy efficiency
improvements such as boiler control panel upgrades.
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
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
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