I want to take this opportunity to update you on various issues facing our community and our state.
One of our most urgent public health and safety issues, and a matter that I’ve been engaged with for over a year, is the regulation of natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale formation in upstate New York. While advocates of drilling cite fiscal benefits, the environmental and health impacts of such activities could be severe and devastating. These impacts are of particular concern to New York City residents because our drinking water comes from a reservoir that rests above the formation. You can read more about this issue and my call for a ban on drilling in the city’s watershed in this newsletter.
You’ll also find reports on a recent meeting about juvenile justice system reforms and a hearing regarding our state’s compliance with federal voting regulations.
I wish to express my thanks to all of the neighbors, community organizations, and businesses that participated in my recent community events. In September and October, my office held a Quality of Life Forum, a flu shot clinic, a Health Service Day, and a successful school supplies drive for homeless children. This December, I’ll host a Senior Forum and my office will once again serve as a collection site for the New York Cares Coat Drive. In January, I hope you’ll consider donating your used cell phones to be refurbished for domestic violence survivors. The details for all of these upcoming events are included within these pages.
My office has received numerous complaints about soot and smoke produced by boilers burning low-grade heating oil. I have introduced legislation to address this quality-of-life, environmental, and health problem at its source by regulating the grade of heating oil allowed to be burned in New York City residential buildings.
I am also pleased to report that the installation of distinctive lighting fixtures around Morningside Park has begun. Park neighbors and visitors will start to see the installation of unique light poles and sidearms to light the park’s perimeter.
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,
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.
The trip was the culmination of a program this fall administered by American Ballet Theatre, for which Assembly Member O’Donnell secured state funds, in which students at this and other District 3 and 5 schools learned the fundamentals of ballet, the art’s history, and classical music appreciation, and then applied what they learned during a trip to see a performance by American Ballet Theatre.
Assembly Member O’Donnell believes strongly that the arts are part of any well-rounded education, and he regularly devotes state discretionary funds to schools for programming in dance, music, and the visual arts. In addition to the arts, Assembly Member O’Donnell also secures state funds for chess and yoga classes, computer equipment, and science supplies at our public schools.
Assembly Member Keith L.T. Wright
Medicare, Medicare Part D, and EPIC;
Extra Help program;
Medicare Savings Programs;
Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP);
Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE), the program which allows senior rent-controlled and rent-stabilized tenants to file for relief from rent increases; and
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
There will be opportunities to speak with representatives and make follow-up appointments.
Spanish translation services will be available.
Habrá un intérprete disponible.
Refreshments will be served.
Please RSVP by calling 212-866-3970.
O’Donnell was pleased to hear Chesapeake Energy Corporation’s recent announcement that the company will not drill in the watershed. This is a tremendous victory, as Chesapeake is currently the only leaseholder in the watershed, and can only be attributed to the intense efforts of advocates such as those who contacted O’Donnell about the issue. While he was relieved by this decision, he strongly believes that this promise is not enough. We cannot rely on energy companies to act responsibly and must take steps to protect this region from any future speculation. Assembly Member O’Donnell has called upon the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to institutionalize this protection and ban all drilling in the watershed.
Drilling in the Marcellus Shale is an issue O’Donnell has been following closely for over a year. In October of 2008, he attended a public hearing on drilling in this region and vigorously questioned industry representatives about their refusal to disclose chemicals used and plans for recapturing and disposing of these compounds.
This past October 15th, he attended the second Assembly hearing on this important subject. He heard testimony from witnesses including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Advocates of New York, and the Sierra Club. O’Donnell questioned DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis on whether the agency’s proposed regulations went far enough and why, if there was no “substantial risk,” those who stand to profit were unwilling to post a bond to protect against damaging our water. When O’Donnell pressed NYC DEP Acting Commissioner Steven Lawitts, he confirmed that the city is concerned about potential impacts. The rights of property owners must be balanced against the potential damages, and the proposed regulations do not go far enough.
Assembly Member O’Donnell signed onto a letter requesting that the comment period for DEC’s Supplemental Generic Environmental Statement (SGEIS) be extended to at least 180 days. Sixty days is just not enough time to thoroughly review an 800-plus page document and analyze its implications. In response, DEC extended the comment period through December 31st of this year.
O’Donnell also sent a letter dated November 6, 2009, to State Health Commissioner Richard Daines, urging that the DOH “actively participates in these determinations which could have such tremendous fiscal and health impacts on New York City and the surrounding counties.” He will continue to follow this issue closely and is examining possible legislative solutions. O’Donnell thanks all advocates for their work on this very important subject.
Assembly Member O’Donnell is thrilled to announce that this fall, Department of Transportation issued contracts to begin work on the Morningside Area Distinctive Street Lighting Project. Once this extensive project is completed, historic street lights will line the entire perimeter of Morningside Park, as well as Amsterdam Avenue from 125th to 110th Street and 110th Street from Amsterdam to Manhattan Avenue. O’Donnell secured nearly $1 million in state funding for this project.
O’Donnell advocated for this 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.
The greatest benefit is inarguably the additional safety and security the lighting project will afford to the park’s users and neighbors in Central Harlem, West Harlem, and Morningside Heights. Lighting is currently poor around Morningside Park and on Amsterdam Avenue, part and parcel of an historical disregard for neighborhoods north of 96th Street. O’Donnell also secured a commitment from Columbia University to pay in perpetuity for electricity for pedestrian sidearms that will adorn endpoles around the park’s perimeter, providing light for sidewalks all around the park. This will tremendously impact neighborhoods surrounding Morningside Park and will go far to repair an inexcusable and long-standing lack of investment in this community.
The endpoles were selected specifically to enhance the historic character of the neighborhood. The area is home to a wealth of distinctive and historically significant architecture, and the fixtures will be consistent with the architectural fabric of the surrounding neighborhood.
The lighting project is one very important step towards improving the safety, quality of life, and historic character of this community.
In response to constituent complaints regarding smoke and air quality, Assembly Member O’Donnell recently introduced legislation which would prohibit the burning of more dense grades of heating oil in New York City. The burning of these fuels, more commonly known as grades #4 and #6, emits a higher concentration of pollutants which are associated with cardiopulmonary diseases. A commonly used and preferred alternative, grade #2, is a more cleanly burned liquid.
New York City is unusual in its dependence on dense grades of fuel oil to heat large apartment buildings. The bill, A9253, aims to safeguard our environment and the health of New York City residents.
New York City students as young as junior high school age are increasingly involved in gang activity. The current way of identifying oneself as affiliated with a local gang is by displaying a three initial “word” on one’s backpack or other school paraphernalia. These “words” look like meaningless combinations of letters, but are actually the initials of local gangs.
If you suspect that a young person you know may be involved in gang activity, please contact Lt. Kevin O’Connor at NYPD’s Manhattan Borough North at 212-678-1810. Lt. O’Connor has been working on this issue for years and can offer you helpful information as well as advice about how to talk to the young person in your life about this issue.
Many community residents attended Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Community Health Service Day. The fair, hosted by Children’s Aid Society’s Frederick Douglass Center on Saturday October 17th, featured nearly twenty health organizations—many of which provided free screenings and consultations.
Assembly Member O’Donnell’s recent Flu Shot Clinic, hosted at Grace United Methodist Church, and co-sponsored with the Ryan Community Health Center and the New York City Department of Health, administered the seasonal flu vaccine to 100 neighbors.
Most recently, O’Donnell moderated a Quality of Life Forum at Goddard Riverside Community Center. Residents addressed a panel of representatives from various city departments and agencies.
Assembly Member O’Donnell’s office served as a drop-off location for the Coalition for the Homeless Back to School Project, collecting a dozen fully-stocked backpacks in addition to donations of school supplies. Assembly Member O’Donnell wishes to thank all of the community members who were so generous with their support.
On September 17th, 2009, Assembly Member O’Donnell attended a symposium on cost-effective measures to reform the state’s juvenile justice system.
The session, hosted by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Office of Children and Family Services, presented innovative residential care models that have led to reductions in offending behavior among young people returning home from placement because these programs included education, and mental health and chemical dependency services.
O’Donnell remarked of the session, “It is crucial that we view these youth as redeemable individuals who deserve every opportunity to rehabilitate their lives and become fully participating members of society. We must explore every possible strategy to break the vicious and costly cycle of crime.” As Chair of the Assembly’s Subcommittee on Criminal Procedure, Assembly Member O’Donnell has consistently supported increasing resources for youth and juvenile offenders and is a strong advocate of successful alternative to incarceration programs.
On October 22nd, Assembly Member O’Donnell attended a hearing regarding New York State’s implementation of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Passed in 2002, HAVA required the replacement of undependable voting systems and the establishment of minimum election administration standards.
Since 2005, New York has created a statewide database of registered voters; overseen the placement of one handicap accessible voting system in each poll site; and promulgated regulations on voting machines and training of poll workers.
In addition, the state Board of Elections is currently testing optical scan voting machines. The test will provide information as to how new voting systems will impact poll site configuration and staffing.
The hearing examined all of these issues, any potential future use for lever voting machines in our state, and the need for legislation to promote the efficient administration of elections.
Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) is now accepting applications. HEAP provides New York City households which meet certain income and other criteria with a yearly benefit of up to $50.00 for people whose heat is included in their rent. The benefit is considerably higher for individuals who pay their own heating bill. Residents of New York City Housing Authority are not eligible for the program.
If you receive food stamps, look for a $50.00 supplement on your EBT card. Food stamp recipients should get HEAP automatically.
Eligibility is based, in part, on the monthly gross income and size of your household. For example, a one person household earning less than $2,031/month, and a two member household earning less than $2,655/month will qualify. Qualifying information for larger households and applications can be found at myBenefits.ny.gov or by calling New York City’s HEAP Hotline at 800-692-0557.
Individuals who are 60 years or older and not working or persons under 60 who receive either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may apply through the mail. All other applicants should apply in person. Applications centers are located throughout the city. One conveniently located center is in the lobby at 340A West 34th Street.
Please also feel free to call the Community Office of Assembly Member O’Donnell at 212-866-3970 with any questions regarding HEAP.
Assembly Member O’Donnell will host opportunities for constituents with housing issues to consult a volunteer attorney. To make an appointment for one of these evening clinics, please call 212-866-3970 and speak with Joyce Goodman.
Dec. 17th • Jan. 28th • Feb. 25th
Assembly Member O’Donnell’s office will host a coat drive in December as part of a larger effort by New York Cares, which collects and distributes nearly 90,000 gently used winter coats during the coldest months of the year. Please bring gently used coats to Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Community Office; 245 W. 104th Street (bet. Broadway and West End).
A donated cell phone can become a lifeline for domestic violence survivors when faced with an emergency situation. CALL TO PROTECT is a national campaign to collect cell phones to support organizations that provide needed services to domestic violence survivors. Please bring your used cell phone to Assembly Member O’Donnell’s Community Office; 245 W. 104th Street (bet. Broadway and West End). For more information, and to learn how to erase your personal data prior to donating, please visitwww.calltoprotect.org.
Assembly Member O’Donnell’s office distributes a monthly update via e-mail and at community meetings. If you’re interested in receiving this update electronically, please e-mail the office at email@example.com to be added to the list.
The office is particularly interested in updating its list of neighborhood and tenant associations in the district who wish to receive updates and other flyers promoting community events. Please e-mail contact information for your neighborhood or tenant association to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-866-3970.
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.
Common Cents, creator of the Penny Harvest, nurtures a new generation of caring and capable young people by enabling them to strengthen their communities through philanthropy and service-learning. Since 1991, Penny Harvest students have collected over $7.7 Million in pennies and given it all away to charity.
Participate in the Penny Harvest by finding a school near you and adding your pennies to their collection! Local participating schools include PS 166; PS 36; PS 76; Abraham Joshua Heschel School; Society for the Advancement of Judaism; Frederick Douglass Academy II Secondary School; PS 145; PS 163; PS 165; Claremont Children’s School; The School at Columbia University; River Park Nursery; PS 84; and Morningside Montessori School.
Assembly Member O’Donnell is proud to announce his score of “102” in the 2009 Environmental Advocates legislative survey for his consistent support of the organization’s pro-environment legislative agenda.
For more information, please see www.eany.org.
The New York Police Department is using the online tool NIXLE to communicate with subscribers via e-mail and text message about crime alerts, traffic advisories, community meetings, and other important announcements. To register for an account and subscribe, please visit www.nixle.org.