Update: Making State Projects Comply With NYC Fire and Building Codes
Buildings and projects owned by the State government or public authorities like the MTA or Empire State Development Corp. are exempt from New York City building and fire codes. For many years, I have believed this endangers New Yorkers, especially firefighters, police and EMTs who respond to emergencies, and I have fought to change the law.
In 2010, Senator Daniel Squadron and I passed a law that created a joint City-State Task Force on Building and Fire Safety to develop recommendations. The Task Force recently released its report. We testified at a City Council hearing on the subject.
We urged immediate implementation of the recommendations to close major gaps in the fire code at hundreds of state-owned buildings around the city. I also reiterated my call for state legislation to make these projects subject to the City codes.
I first wrote a bill to do that years ago, after a construction accident and serious problems with construction safety at the former Coliseum site (now the Time-Warner Center) came to light. Since a public authority owned the site, City codes did not apply.
In 2009, the City Administration proposed changes to my bill to apply City building and fire codes to State buildings, in response to the death of two firefighters in the fire at the Deutsche Bank building. The bank was exempt from the City fire code because a public authority owned it. Senator Squadron and I introduced the City's proposal.
When the bill began moving through the Legislature in 2010, Gov. Paterson's administration indicated it would veto the bill and proposed as an alternative legislation that would create this Task Force. The City Administration and I felt the Task Force would represent a significant step toward improving the situation. Therefore, Senator Squadron and I amended the bill; it became law and the Task Force was created.
I am pleased with the report of the Task Force, which highlights dramatic discrepancies that allow state-owned buildings in NYC to remain exempt from critical standards and makes important recommendations to close these gaps.
It is a shame that these changes did not happen prior to the 2007 Deutsche Bank tragedy.
Landmark Building Update
It has been a long struggle to protect the Hopper-Gibbons house as a historic Underground Railroad site in Chelsea. Several years ago, community preservation advocates identified a row of 19th Century Greek Revival houses on W. 29th St. (originally "Lamartine Place"), 333-359 between Eighth and Ninth Avenues worthy of historic preservation. The Landmarks Preservation Commission created the "Lamartine Place Historic District" in 2009, which would preserve this block, and specifically designated #339 as an historic property.
The owner illegally constructed an additional floor and misled DOB about its floor plans. The Buildings Department issued a partial stop-work order on the property (allowing only fire safety work) and has issued a violation declaring the construction illegal.
The owner of the building filed a formal appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeal to permit the illegal addition to stay. This may be the last opportunity we have to erase this scar from a historic block. I testified against the owner's appeal at the public hearing last month on behalf of State Senator Tom Duane, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Borough President Scott Stringer, and myself.
High Line Phase 3 Ribbon Cutting
The High Line Park, the enormously successful elevated park running along Tenth Avenue on Manhattan's West Side, has been open for three years. The first and second phases (up to 30th Street) have been open to the public. The City the Friends of the High Line is working to begin the final phase of the project, north to 34th Street, in the soon-to-be-developed Hudson Yards.
Last month, I joined Mayor Bloomberg, Friends co-founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Senator Tom Duane, and other members of the community to officially start the process for phase 3 of the park. The High Line is a great new place to relax and see special views of the city and the neighborhood. If you haven't gotten up there yet, you should!
West Side Tenants Conference
On Saturday, November 3, the 8th Annual West Side Tenants Conference will be at Fordham University School of Law, --- West 62 Street. This is an important conference for tenants to attend and learn about various housing issues.
Senator Tom Duane will give the keynote address and I will run a workshop on the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program (SCRIE).
For more information or to RSVP, call 212-541-5996 or visit their Web site.
Free Transportation Program for the Disabled and Seniors
The New York Foundation for Seniors is an organization dedicated to helping New York's seniors enjoy healthier, safer, more productive and dignified lives in their own homes and communities. The Foundation recently announced its new Freedom Van Program.
This exciting new program is FREE for senior citizens (60 and over) and the disabled. The van operates in Manhattan, and will transport passengers to and from medical appointments, hospitals, shopping centers, and recreation activities.
For more information and to find out eligibility, please call 212-956-0840.
Register to Vote - Online!
New York State has a great new system that lets you register to vote online.
If you want to use this system, you first have to have a New York State driver's license or non-driver ID card - because then the Department of Motor Vehicles has a digital copy of your signature on file. You go to dmv.ny.gov and set up an account by answering questions to prove who you are. You will set up a unique username and password. You can then go through the system and register to vote, or change your party enrollment, or change your address. DMV then inserts the signature it has for you on file on the form and delivers it to the Board of Elections.
If you don't have a driver's license or non-driver ID, you can still register to vote in person or by mail. You can get a voter registration form from my community office or print one out from the New York City Board of Elections website (vote.nyc.ny.us) and mail it in.
I applaud Gov. Cuomo for creating this system. Only about a dozen states have online registration.
Make sure you and your family, friends, and neighbors are registered to vote. It is important that our community's voice - your voice - is loud and strong!
The deadline for registering to vote in this November's election is Friday, October 12. If you mail in your registration, it must be postmarked by October 12 and the City Board of Elections must receive it by October 17.
To just check the status of your registration, use this website: Voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us.
You can also find out where you vote and to see a sample ballot at vote.nyc.ny.us.
214 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Albany, NY 12248