News from the NYS Assembly
Committee on Cities

Sheldon Silver, Speaker Scott Stringer, Chair August 2004

Message from the Chair

Dear Friend:

As Chairperson of the Assembly Committee on Cities, I am pleased to update you on our many activities. Over the past year, the Committee has been working diligently to enact legislation to assist the sixty-two cities in our state.

At the same time, the Committee has undertaken the responsibility of crafting a statewide urban agenda, after our City Summit tour last year. Our committee also joined with other Assembly Committees to hold hearings to determine the impact of cultural institutions on cities and to investigate the closure of firehouses in New York City.

The Cities Committee continues to assist cities through our budget and legislative agenda all over New York State. As the backbone of our state, our cities need help to succeed. By enacting programs and laws to fit the needs of individual cities, the committee is accomplishing this goal.

I look forward to working together with you in the future. Please feel free to share your opinions and ideas with me.

Scott Stringer
Chair, Assembly Committee on Cities


High Risk Terrorism Dollars.
Assemblymember Stringer introduced Assembly bill A.8337b to prevent the Governor from spending any U.S. Patriot Act authorized Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) monies anywhere but in the cities specified by the Department of Homeland Security. This legislation helps keep high risk terrorism dollars where they belong — in cities where high terrorist threat exists. The Committee has advanced this legislation to the Ways & Means Committee, where it awaits approval.

The UASI grants are specifically allocated for cities designated by the Department for Homeland Security to be at high risk for terrorism. In New York State the designated cities are Albany, Buffalo and New York City. Under Federal Guidelines, the Governor is authorized to take as much as 20% of this UASI funding. In 2003, the Governor took $25 million out of the $125 Million allocated to New York City to spend at his discretion. In 2004, he could potentially reroute $13 million out of the total $64 million allocated to Albany, Buffalo and New York City to other areas across the state. This year, New York City alone may lose as much as $9.3 million from the Governor’s skimming.

West Nile Pesticide Protection.
The Committee advanced Assembly bill A.4568, sponsored by Assemblymember Stringer, to address the public health issue raised when pesticides sprayed to prevent the spread of the West Nile virus mix with uncovered fruits and vegetables. Many stores in New York City display fruits and vegetables outside their shops, a concern during spraying. Anvil 10-10, the pesticide sprayed by the city to combat West Nile Virus, should not come into contact with food. The legislation requires removal or covering of all outside produce in advance of and during spraying.

LED Screens Blight Residential Neighborhoods.
As residential neighborhoods learned after the MTA started erecting Light Emitting Diode (LED) screens at NYC subway stations, new technology can bring new problems. This cutting-edge technology flashes ads twenty-four hours a day with extraordinarily bright lights. The giant, luminous commercials of Times Square utilize the same technology. With no community input, the MTA started a pilot program, placing 100 screens in many quiet residential areas in Manhattan. To prevent such actions, Assemblymember Stringer introduced Assembly bill A.9216 to restrict placement of these screens on public property in residential and mixed use communities. This bill awaits passage by the full Assembly.

Emergency Assistance for “Big Five” Cities.
The Assembly passed Assembly bill A.9282, sponsored by Assemblymember Sam Hoyt, to grant emergency assistance to Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo, Yonkers and Rochester. The extension of this emergency aid program grants almost $27 million in financial assistance to supplement the income of cities that have reached constitutional property tax limits.

Keeping Business in New York City.
The Assembly approved a renewal of the New York City Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP), sponsored by Speaker Silver. The program encourages businesses to relocate to New York City from outside the City and provides an incentive to relocate within the City for businesses that consider relocating to competing areas. By providing a tax credit to businesses willing to bring jobs and to make an investment in New York, the program has allowed New York to remain competitive and to keep jobs within the city.

Heliport Construction Oversight.
Densely populated areas across the state, particularly New York City, have actively opposed construction of rooftop heliports since 1965. Helicopters create large amounts of noise and pose serious risk to the surrounding communities. Community groups across the state have fought the building of rooftop heliports, and the Assembly remains committed to codifying the need for oversight of such construction in law. The Committee advanced Assembly bill A.910, sponsored by Assemblymember Deborah Glick, to regulate any new construction and use of heliports. If passed into law, the bill would require a city permit for the building of all non-medical emergency heliports.


Last year, the Committee on Cities began the first ever City Summits tour. Its first two hearings were held in May 2003 in Albany and New York City. This past fall, the Committee traveled to Buffalo and Syracuse to hold the last of the hearings. The committee heard from elected officials and advocates on how the State can help our urban areas. Though different in many ways, the cities of New York are in need of solutions to many common problems such as lack of affordable housing, depleted property tax bases, and urban sprawl.

After compiling testimony from across the state, the Committee is at work to construct an urban agenda for the cities of New York, and looks forward to sharing its report with you in the near future.


Assemblymembers Stringer, Klein, and Lentol hear testimony at Firehouse Closure Hearing.
Due to reported budget constraints, New York City closed six firehouses in May 2003, even after the Assembly approved over $200 million in state aid to deal with the budget gap. These firehouse closures in Greenpoint, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Astoria, Harlem, Sunset Park, and Cobble Hill drew great resistance in both the affected neighborhoods and across the city. At a time when terrorism, blackouts and natural disasters were on everyone’s mind, closing firehouses seemed unthinkable.

To investigate the rationale and effects of the firehouse closings the Assembly Committee on Cities joined Jeffrey Klein, Chair of the Committee on Oversight, Analysis, and Investigation, and Joseph Lentol, Chair of the Committee on Codes to conduct hearings this past April. The hearings were held in two parts: the first hearing heard from community and fire service union advocates from across New York City explaining the effect of closed firehouses on their neighborhoods. The hearing revealed that response times have risen over twelve seconds citywide. Fire Department officials expected the rise in response times due to the closures would only be a quarter of a second. No representative from New York City was present to explain the rationale for the closures or how the year-long closures affected NYC.

NYC Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta testified at the second hearing. At this hearing the administration had to answer tough questions from the Committee Chairs. Commissioner Scoppetta admitted that response times may have increased more than expected because the City did not shift engines from the closed fire houses to other houses. The committees also learned that the Mayor had no intention of reopening these six firehouses even if the NYC Council or the State Legislature gave the city the money to do so.

With higher response times, there exists a public safety hazard as a result of the closures. The committees will continue to work in order to reopen all six fire houses closed in New York City.


In June, the Committee on Cities co-convened a legislative hearing with Richard Brodsky, Chair of the Committee on Corporations, to examine the Governor’s proposed legislation to expand the Javits Center. While Mayor Bloomberg and the Governor’s intention to develop the Hudson Yards presents an incredible opportunity for New York’s growth, we must ensure that the process is conducted at a pace that allows for thorough review and comment. The hearing analyzed the Governor’s proposed legislation and, as a result, the Assembly has introduced legislation that substantially changes his bill. Unlike the Governor’s plan, the Assembly legislation deals only with the expansion of the Javits Center and does not in any way authorize the construction of a sports stadium.

It was a priority of the Committee to maximize the opportunity for community input and review, and accordingly, the Assembly bill puts back the provision to create a Community Advisory Council that the Governor had sought to delete. In addition, the Assembly bill requires that the development undertake a Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) review, giving the community ample opportunity to comment on the project.

A project of this size and scope that uses public dollars calls for thoughtful discussion and analysis.


In the wake of a blackout affecting nearly every major city in the Northeast, the Assembly Committee on Cities organized a “Green Building Expo” in October 2003. Over 150 people joined Committee Chair Scott Stringer at the New York Historical Society to learn about cutting edge ‘green’ technology. The interactive presentation included information on sub-metering, solar and wind energy, and other technologies which can reduce apartment buildings’ energy costs, as well as promote energy conservation. The Cities Committee is committed to advancing information and legislation to reduce New Yorkers’ dependence on costly electricity.


The Committee on Cities and the Committee on Tourism, Arts & Sports Development held a hearing to examine the contributions made by cultural organizations to the economies of New York’s cities. Tourism agencies, theaters, and museums from across the state provided testimony. The hearing explored the important economic impact of cultural institutions on cities. The testimony stressed the importance of strengthening government partnerships to support cultural initiatives, a suggestion which will guide the committees in shaping future legislation.

E-mail Updates

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To sign up, e-mail Assemblymember Stringer at
and we will add your name to the distribution list.

Assemblymember Scott Stringer
Chair, NYS Assembly Committee on Cities
Room 842 LOB • Albany, NY 12248 • 518.455.5802

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