News from Helen
Pedestrian safety continues to be a top priority. I’ve learned that the Department of Transportation (DOT) spends the winter months planning so they can begin construction and street redesign as soon as the weather warms up. Working with DOT, we expect safety changes to the Lincoln Center “bow tie” area will begin late Spring. Additionally Citibike docking stations will be installed soon.
Pedestrian Safety Forum
A couple of weeks ago, Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Jill Abramson, Dana Lerner, and I were on a panel about street safety hosted by the West Side Spirit and moderated by its Editor-in-Chief Kyle Pope. Some things that came out during the forum: we have a shortage of school crossing guards, so if you know anyone who might be interested in the job, please encourage them to apply. Additionally, some members of the audience raised concerns about police enforcement of traffic violations; I really appreciated that several police officers attended the forum, and they encouraged the audience to attend their precinct’s monthly Community Council meetings (see the meeting schedules for the 20th precinct and the 24th precinct). You can learn more about the forum from press coverage in the West Side Spirit, Gothamist, and the Observer.
DOT Lincoln Square “bow tie” Pedestrian Safety Enhancements
Last Tuesday the Department of Transportation gave a presentation on pedestrian safety enhancements for the Lincoln Square “bow tie” at the Community Board 7 Transportation Committee meeting. Changes include left turn restrictions, signal timing, signage and clear painted markings, shortening the length of road pedestrians have to cross, and extending the protected bike lane. The proposal got a favorable vote from the Committee and will be voted on by the Full Board on March 3rd. You can see the latest version of the plan here.
Increasing Daily Trash Cleanup on Broadway
Many of you have voiced concerns about trash on the streets, so I gave funding to the Doe Fund to do daily trash cleanup on 26 blocks of Broadway. This program not only cleans our streets but also helps people at risk — including homeless, formerly incarcerated, and long-term unemployed men and women — earn money doing transitional work while receiving vocational training, housing, and job placement. You can learn more about it in DNA Info.
March Housing Clinic: DHCR Overview, including MCIs and 1/40ths
When owners make improvements or installations to a building subject to the rent stabilization or rent control laws, they can raise the rents of tenants based on the cost of improvement or installation. MCI items include boilers, windows, electrical rewiring, plumbing and roofs. You can also meet with an attorney, free of charge. The clinic will be on Wednesday, March 4 from 6pm – 8pm at Goddard Riverside, 593 Columbus Avenue (between 88th & 89th Streets).See the flyer.
Chamber of Commerce Services on the UWS: Chamber on the Go
Small business owners are too busy running their business to go to the Chamber of Commerce for help, so last week the Chamber came to the Upper West Side by van: Chamber on the Go. I was proud to fund this service for local businesses, and I hope we can expand this exciting initiative in the next fiscal year. This event happened thanks to a handful of people, including Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carlo Scissura, Council Member Robert Cornegy, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board Ken Biberaj, West Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Andrew Albert, and head of external affairs for Google in New York William Floyd.
Despite being rescheduled due to a snowstorm, the Department of Homeless Services’ HOPE Count was a big success. Members of the community and beyond came out and volunteered, including some AmeriCorps members! This is an important annual event that helps DHS determine how many homeless people are on the streets. Consider joining us next year!
Age-Friendly Neighborhoods Initiative
Age-Friendly NYC wants to hear from you! They would like your feedback on the Council’s work to make the City’s neighborhoods more inclusive to older adults. It’s a quick survey, and it’s entirely confidential. Take the survey.
Apply to Join the Citywide and Community Education Council
Parents, if you’d like to get more involved in your child’s school, consider applying to join your local CEC and other citywide education councils. All parents are encouraged to apply! Visit here to learn more.
Suggest a Citibike Docking Station Location
Citibike is coming to the Upper West Side, and DOT wants your input for bike station locations! Use this map to share where you’d like to see (and don’t want to see) a Citibike station. DOT will be presenting its final proposal to Community Board 7 for a vote. As soon that’s been scheduled, we’ll be sure to send out an announcement. Stay tuned!
Submit a Snow Complaint
If you see a bus stop, sidewalk, or street corner that needs to be cleared of snow, report it on my website, and my staff will try to get it cleared.
Chess-in-the-Schools Chess Tournament
Chess-in-the-Schools is a great after school program teaching chess to elementary school children, and a few weeks ago they held their citywide chess tournament. I was proud to give funding to the program, and the tournament was a lot of fun!
Airbnb Data Portal
Have you ever wondered exactly how many of your neighbors are renting out their apartments on Airbnb? You can now see for yourself through a new data portal, InsideAirbnb. There are almost 1,000 apartments being rented out — illegally — on the Upper West Side alone and almost 16,000 illegal rentals citywide, turning what should be permanent residences into hotel rooms. The next time you have trouble finding an apartment or think your rent is too high, think of this map.
CITY HALL NEWS
Illegal Short-term Rentals
A recent Council hearing on illegal short-term rentals exposed the darker side of Airbnb’s business model. New York State law prohibits residents from renting out an entire apartment for less than 30 days, but Airbnb and other short-term rental sites encourage and profit from this illegal practice. (It is legal, however, to rent out a room of your apartment for less than 30 days, so long as you remain in the apartment during that time.) The hearing garnered a wave of press coverage, and I encourage you to learn more about this issue: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Capital, Newsweek, Crain’s New York, New York Observer, Gothamist, Curbed, BuzzFeed News, CityLand, Mashable, The Villager, and New York Business Journal.
Improving Parents’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
All parents of public school children have the right to “opt-out” of high stakes testing, but many don’t know it. They might not even know there is a Parents’ Bill of Rights that already exists through the NYC Department of Education. Council Member Daniel Dromm and I introduced a bill calling on the DOE to distribute the Parents’ Bill of Rights to all public school parents at the start of every school year and to include information about parents’ rights to — and consequences of — “opting-out” of high stakes testing. You can read about the bill in Chalkbeat and see the language of the bill online.
I recently introduced a Resolution calling on New York City to recognize Meatless Mondays. By going meatless one day a week, (a 15% reduction of saturated fat intake) we can eat healthier and put less pressure on the environment. This effort stems from a huge coalition, including Upper West Side restaurant owner Bill Telepan, Mario Batali, cardiologists, animal rights activists, and Paul McCartney! To learn more about the issue, you can read my press release, the language of the bill, and press coverage in DNA Info, WFUV, EcoWatch, and The Dodo.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is currently being negotiated between the U.S. and eleven other countries entirely in secret — even from Congress. From leaked drafts, there is serious cause for concern that the TPP would weaken U.S. standards for labor protections, environmental protections, and food sanitation. Many organizations support my resolution asking Obama not to sign the “fast track” TPP, including: The Sierra Club, Democracy for America, United for Action, and Communications Workers of America. Read the language of the bill and the press release.
My legislative priorities for 2015
You can learn more about my legislative priorities for 2015 in my latest op-ed in the West Side Spirit.
Stay warm and safe!