At CB4, Public Events & Legislative Priorities

Ed Sullivan, representing Letitia James, talks about the Public Advocate’s current efforts to make school lunches available for all students and acquire funding for additional police officers. Photo by Zach Williams.
Ed Sullivan, representing Letitia James, talks about the Public Advocate’s current efforts to make school lunches available for all students and acquire funding for additional police officers. Photo by Zach Williams.

BY ZACH WILLIAMS | Legislative priorities announced by elected officials at the June 4 meeting of Community Board 4 (CB4) addressed social justice and government accountability, with some measures also aimed at providing a bit more peace at home for local residents.

In the coming weeks, local outreach at the level in upcoming weeks will extend to seniors looking for rent increase exemptions, and those wishing to keep track of Hurricane Sandy recovery. An effort aimed at limiting the issuance of After Hour Variances to local construction sites, as well as calls to expand school meal programs, are moving forward. Meanwhile, at higher levels of government, elected representatives seek to take the lead in addressing wider social issues such as LBGT rights, greater transparency at the Port Authority, and gun violence.

Providing free school meals free for all students was an initiative mentioned by spokespeople for Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Public Advocate Letitia James. The former is urging the city Department of Education to expand the summer food program and increase its public outreach efforts.

“It is a critical resource for combating hunger,” said Diana Howard, who represented Brewer. Too often, the lack of comprehensive information online prevents families from knowing where and when children can receive summer lunches, a situation which could be alleviated through greater coordination by the department, according to Brewer. She was joined in the effort by Ed Sullivan, who represented James. He said that making school lunches available for all students removes a stigma for those children coming from low-income families. If all of them had the option to receive free lunches at school, poor children would no longer be so conspicuously disadvantaged in front of their peers, he noted.

“It may sound like Communism, but I don’t care,” said Sullivan.

Acquiring $90 million in order to add 1,000 additional police officers to increase safety in public housing is also a current priority for James, said Sullivan.

State Senator Brad Hoylman was the only public official to personally address the meeting. He has proposed a bill, which would ban conversion therapy for minors statewide. Testimony before the state legislature by young people who have undergone the therapy (which seeks to change one’s sexual orientation), as well as consultations with mental health professionals, indicate that the technique may have harmful effects on subjects and fail to achieve its intended results, he said at the meeting.

Another bill sponsored by Hoylman would allow judges to approve requests for public records from the Port Authority. “This is way overdue,” said Hoylman of updating current law, which exempts the Port Authority from many state public information requirements. “You don’t have to rely solely on the Port Authority. Go to a judge, get a court order if you want a record,” he said of the intent behind the proposed bill before the state senate.

Blind and visually impaired patients at New York hospitals would receive large print or audio materials of their discharge plans and pre-admission information, per legislation sponsored by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and recently passed by the state senate and assembly, according to spokesperson Paul Sawyier.

A clinic was held on May 21 to help residents looking to enroll in the Senior Rent Increase Exemption program, he said. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently signed into law a two-year expansion of the program, which had an income cap of $29,000, an amount rising to $50,000 in July. Applicants must be at least 62 years old, live in rent-stabilized or controlled housing, and spend more than one-third of their monthly income on rent in order to apply through the city’s Department of Finance website (home.nyc.gov/dof) once applications are available.

State Senator Brad Hoylman makes the case against conversion therapy. Photo by Zach Williams.
State Senator Brad Hoylman makes the case against conversion therapy. Photo by Zach Williams.

Rosenthal’s office has been working with organizers of Live Nation and the Hudson River Park Trust in order to mitigate disruptions to the local community during a series of summer concerts and events at Pier 97. A community hotline will be implemented. For more info, call Rosenthal’s district office: 212-873-6368.

Paid family leave insurance was among the topics of discussion at the inaugural “Let’s Talk” forum hosted by District 3 City Councilmember Corey Johnson on May 26. The next such forum has yet to be scheduled, according to Matt Green, a spokesperson for Johnson. A council-sponsored celebration of LGBT pride will be held on June 18 starting at 5:30 p.m. in the Great Hall at Cooper Union. RSVP by noon on June 17, to events eventscoordinator@council.nyc.gov.

Johnson is also a co-sponsor of a bill, introduced by Rosie Mendez, District 2 Councilmember (for the East Village and Lower East Side). If passed, the measure would tighten restrictions on the issuance of After Hour Variances, which permit construction work on weekends and at night — a recurring source of complaints from residents.

Fall 2014 will see the opening of a new M12 bus service connection the West Village and Columbus Circle, but a further addition to local public transit is also in the works, Green said. The MTA is proposing weekend service for the M8. During testimony before the agency on May 14, Johnson said restoring weekend service to the line is vital, but ultimately not enough in order to service the area.

“The M8 is the only cross-town transportation option between Houston Street and 14th Street…restoration of weekend service is not enough and we would like to see the restoration of overnight service as well,” he said at the May 14 meeting.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has put her efforts into a bill proposing funds for research on gun violence prevention — a challenge considering the general stalemate within Congress on legislation pertaining to gun ownership, conceded Tricia Shimamura, a spokesperson for Maloney. Her legislation would provide $10 million per year to the Centers for Disease Control for six years in order to study how to prevent such violence as well as promote safety with firearms. “[Public officials] are really lacking in the causes and characteristics of gun violence,” Shimamura said at the meeting.

A current bill receiving bipartisan support would address demand for sex trafficking through increased services to help victims, while also strengthening penalties for others involved in the practice. Maloney was among 35 other members of Congress who are calling upon Attorney General Eric Holder to join in the effort, Shimamura said.

Residents interested in further oversight of federal recovery funds for Hurricane Sandy can attend a June 17 hearing sponsored by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer. The event will also include, Maloney, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Brewer, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Hoylman, Johnson, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and other local and state officials. The event will begin at 7 p.m. in the Goldie Chu Community Room (82 Rutgers Slip). RSVP by calling 212-669-4466 or via email at eventsrsvp@comptroller.nyc.gov.