LATEST NEWS

The Villager : December 24, 2014 : by Zach Williams

The newest talk of constructing an additional exit at First Ave. for the L train asks Uncle Sam to pick up the bill.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials say that federal dollars would go a long way toward securing the $300 million necessary for the agency’s plan to overhaul the 10.3-mile subway line — as part of which, new exits and entrances would be installed on Avenue A as part of the First Ave. stop.

Several years of further review by the Federal Transit Administration are necessary, however, before a final decision on the M.T.A.’s request, which was announced on Dec. 12.

Sixty percent of the roughly 31,000 weekday riders who enter or exit the First Ave. station would use the proposed new entrances at Avenue A, according to the M.T.A. Plans also call for the installation of elevators at the 90-year-old station in order to make it compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Adding new exits at First Ave. and the Bedford Ave. stop in Brooklyn is one part of an overall plan to update the L line, which has experienced a 98 percent surge in ridership since 1998, and a 27 percent increase since 2007, according to the M.T.A. Another proposed improvement would boost train service by two trains per hour, a 10 percent increase over the present frequency of service.

“We have to increase capacity on the Canarsie Line and improve customer flow at stations to meet this increasing demand, and securing federal funding for a project of this magnitude will go a long way toward achieving that goal,” Carmen Bianco, New York City Transit president, said in a statement.

A previous effort led by state Senator Brad Hoylman was unsuccessful in convincing Extell Development to bankroll new exits on Avenue A while it developed an adjacent lot. Raising awareness around the cause of new entrances/exits there both for the safety and convenience of subway riders was the primary motivation behind that effort, a Hoylman spokesperson told The Villager in March.

In a Dec. 22 e-mail, a Hoylman representative praised the M.T.A.’s request for federal funding.

“This badly needed funding will help support new street-level entrances that will make it easier for straphangers to enter and exit the station, and ultimately reduce potentially dangerous platform crowding,” said Peter Ajemian.

City Councilmember Rosie Mendez is also behind the proposed plan, according to her spokesperson, John Blasco, who noted an additional potential benefit.

“Bringing an entrance to Avenue A would help a lot with traffic on First Ave.,” he said in a telephone interview.

If eventually approved, the project would be the first improvement to the L line under the plan, which would take several years to complete once funding is acquired, according to the M.T.A. Repairs to the Canarsie tube, through which the L train runs from Manhattan to Brooklyn, are also necessary due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.

Fifty millions dollars in funding for L train improvements were included in the M.T.A.’s 2010-2014 capital plan, with additional funding included in the agency’s proposed 2015-2019 plan, according to the M.T.A.

The newly announced request for federal dollars will be made through the F.T.A.’s Core Capacity program. Eligible projects must propose expansions in capacity of at least 10 percent to key transportation corridors that are either already overcapacity or will be within five years, according to the F.T.A.

The Epoch Times : December 16, 2014 : by Annie Wu

NEW YORK—One after another, local doctors described how their patients stopped seeing them after insurance companies refused to cover treatment costs, leaving the patients who couldn’t afford the exorbitant bills with no choice but to let their illnesses get worse.
Oliver Fein, an associate dean at Weill Cornell Medical College and a practicing physician, told of his 60-year-old patient diagnosed with lung cancer whose health insurer refused to pay for treatment. When his cancer got worse, the man had to mortgage his house to pay for chemotherapy.

Fein and other doctors were testifying at a public hearing on a New York State Assembly bill Monday, held at a New York University campus building in downtown Manhattan. If passed, the legislation would establish a universal healthcare system in the state, administered by the state government.

The program, called New York Health, would replace insurance companies—instead offering all state residents an insurance plan that includes primary, preventive, and emergency health care, as well as other health care needs like prescription drugs and medical devices, according to the bill’s main sponsor, assembly member Richard Gottfried.

Private insurers who offer the same benefits will be banned from operating in the state.

The program would be paid for through a progressive payroll tax based on one’s income. Employers pay 80 percent of the tax, while employees pay 20 percent. Self-employed individuals pay the entire tax amount.

The state will seek waivers from federally subsidized health care programs then deposit the federal money in a state trust fund, and eventually fold it into New York Health.

The Assembly health committee estimates that by eliminating the costs incurred from paying insurance companies, the New York Health program will save the state $20 billion a year.

New Yorkers Show Support
At Monday’s hearing, representatives from the 1199 SEIU health care workers union and a number of health care professional organizations supported the bill, citing benefits for their patients and for themselves as health care providers.

Doctors, social workers, and psychiatrists testified that they spend hours dealing with insurers who constantly change their rules on patients’ coverage eligibility.

(L to R) New York State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), State Assembly Member Joseph Borelli, Assembly Member Shelley Mayer, Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, and Chief of Staff to State Senator Bill Perkins, Cordell Cleare, at a public hearing on the “New York Health” bill that will establish a universal healthcare system in the state, on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

(L to R) New York State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), State Assembly Member Joseph Borelli, Assembly Member Shelley Mayer, Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, and Chief of Staff to State Senator Bill Perkins, Cordell Cleare, at a public hearing on the “New York Health” bill that will establish a universal healthcare system in the state, on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

Corey Johnson, a city council member who is chair of the city’s health committee, testified in support of the bill.

“We have to ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of their health status, their ability to pay, their zip code, their national origin, that they have the ability to see the doctors that they choose,” said Johnson.

The Opposition
But not everyone supported the bill’s proposal. Craig Hasday, who is the legislative chair of the New York State Association of Health Underwriters, said the bill doesn’t address the rising costs of health care, which insurers must pay for at increasing rates.

He said a government-run health care system encompassing the entire state is likely to come across problems with funding and how to provide prompt, efficient care.

Monday’s hearing was the fourth in a series of six hearings on the bill, being held throughout the state. The next one takes place in Mineola, Long Island.

Senator Bill Perkins has introduced a companion bill in the State Senate.

Forbes : December 16, 2014 : by CJ Arlotta

One New York state senator is determined to permit terminally ill New Yorkers to “make their own choices about their end-of-life care” by introducing “death with dignity” legislation in the coming legislative session.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents parts of Manhattan, has plans to introduce a bill that he says will mirror similar laws in Oregon, Washington and Vermont. This doesn’t mean Hoylman isn’t open to changes.

“As we continue to craft the legislation, we are looking for ways to update and improve the law in a way that reflects modern best practices and makes the most sense for New York,” he said in an interview.

Even though Hoylman says he’s received “overwhelmingly positive feedback from legislators and constituents alike,” not everybody is on board with his agenda.

Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group that opposes Hoylman’s bill, said New York City members of her organization have requested a meeting with Hoylman to urge him to withdraw his bill from his legislative agenda.

“Legalizing assisted suicide means that some people’s lives will be ended without their informed consent, through mistakes and abuse,” she said. “No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone.”

Here’s the full interview with Hoylman.

CJ Arlotta: Why are you introducing this bill?

Sen. Brad Hoylman: I was inspired watching and reading about Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old Californian with terminal brain cancer who moved to Oregon so that she could have control over the end of her life. I also have had loved ones — family and friends — with terminal diagnoses, and if they had the opportunity, some of them may have utilized aid in dying to ensure they had a measure of dignity in their final days. I believe New Yorkers who have a terminal illness and have less than six months to live should be able to make their own choices about their end-of-life care.

CJ: What are the chances of your bill becoming a law in New York State?

Hoylman: It’s too early to tell. Last week I began reaching out to my colleagues in the Senate asking them to co-sponsor death with dignity legislation I plan to introduce in the new year. So far, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from legislators and constituents alike. This isn’t surprising; recent public polling shows 70 percent of Americans support aid in dying for the terminally ill.

CJ: What does this bill take from death with dignity laws in Oregon, Washington and Vermont?

Hoylman: My bill will mirror the laws currently on the books in Oregon, Washington and Vermont to a large degree. However, as we continue to craft the legislation, we are looking for ways to update and improve the law in a way that reflects modern best practices and makes the most sense for New York.

CJ: Why isn’t the method used to end life mentioned in the bill?

Hoylman: As in other states with similar laws, the legislation would not mandate the usage of a particular medication; it would be up to the prescribing physician to select a medication. Through reporting requirements in other states, we know that doctors typically prescribe an oral dosage of barbiturate.

CJ: What would you say to those who oppose death with dignity laws?

Hoylman: I respect different moral and religious views on how best to deal with something as tragic as a terminal illness. But the point is that New Yorkers with a terminal diagnosis should have a choice on how their lives end, and currently they do not. This is a way to ensure some semblance of self-autonomy, dignity and control at the end of one’s life.

CJ: Why use the term “death with dignity” and not “physician-assisted suicide”?

Hoylman: When talking about individuals who have six months or less to live, it’s offensive to use the word “suicide,” as it connotes the idea that the person is choosing to end their life. “Aid in dying” laws are about giving terminally ill patients a choice in how they end their life to ensure some measure of dignity.

CJ: How does this bill put safeguards into place to protect terminally ill New Yorkers from potentially being abused?

Hoylman: Our bill will have strong protections in place to ensure that patients have the mental competency to make their own health care decisions, and are counseled by their physicians on all of their end-of-life care options, including hospice, pain management, etc. A qualified patient must make a written and oral request to his or her attending physician. A second oral request must be made, no sooner than 15 days after the initial oral request, the attending physician must offer the patient opportunity to rescind the request and inform the patient that they may rescind the request for medication at any time and in any manner, without regard to their mental state. At least two doctors must determine that a patient meets the requirements to utilize aid in dying.

The Legislative Gazette : December 15, 2014 : by Roger Hannigan Gilson

Protest from historical preservation groups and New York City politicians pressured the commission in charge of designating historical landmarks to backtrack Dec. 4 on plans to remove a bundle of almost 100 properties from consideration for landmark status.

The Landmark Preservation Commission, the New York City agency in charge of designating and preserving NYC’s most iconic architecture, had made the unprecedented decision to vote to remove the properties en masse, which would have left them open to major alteration or demolition.

Properties considered to have historical significance are “calendared” — or officially considered for landmark designation — after a lengthy review process. Traditionally, a public hearing would be then held on each property, after which the LPC would continue the review process.

Max Yeston of Landmark West, a nonprofit that works to win landmark status for buildings and districts on the Upper West side, said the commission’s vote to de-calendar the properties was only learned of “literally through the grapevine,” less than two weeks before the public hearing and vote was to be held.

The hearing and vote were scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 9.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, picked up the issue, writing a letter a week before the vote to Meenakshi Srinivasan, chair of the LPC, in which he said the de-calendaring would be an “indelible stain in New York City’s collective conscious.”

“The LPC should hold public hearings on the properties and carefully and deliberately consider each one on the merits of the proposed landmark, rather than the length of time it has been on the LPC’s calendar,” Hoylman wrote in his letter.

Many of the properties to be de-calendared had been under consideration since the 1970s.

According to Richard Moses, president of the Board of Directors for the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, a volunteer organization of preservation architects and community members, many properties hit political roadblocks on the path to landmark designation, and often end up in limbo on the LPC calendar.

Properties that were to be de-calendared included the famous Pepsi sign in Long Island City, Union Square Park, and several Broadway Theaters.

Moses said calendaring gives properties certain initial protections.

If the owner of a calendared property wants to make an alteration significant enough to necessitate approval from the city Department of Buildings, they must also get approval from the LPC, Moses said.

Arlene Simon, president of the Board of Directors for Landmark West said her concern is not about the particular properties involved, but instead about “the process.”

The LPC “must have a hearing for each and every property,” said Simon, who called the bundled de-calendaring “just horrendous.”

Simon suggested that the properties were bundled due to larger political forces.

Simon, Moses and Yeston said designating landmarks was a contentious process in Manhattan, the most expensive borough in New York City, which itself has the sixth most expensive real estate in the world, according to Forbes.

Moses said there are a “string” of organizations above the LPC, “so it’s not clear who’s responsible for which decision.”

The commissioners on the LPC, who are unpaid, are appointed by the mayor, according to the LPC website. The commissioners are supported by more than 60 paid staff.

After a calendared property is approved by the LPC for landmark designation, the New York City Department of City Planning must write a report. The process then moves to the City Council, which must approve the designation.

The City Council has been increasingly involved in the process in recent years, said Moses.

The calendared property must then be approved one final time by the mayor.

New York Observer : December 11, 2014 : by Ross Barkan

Mayor Bill de Blasio said today he is not ruling out pursuing a pied-à-terre tax in Albany next year, shooting down a New York Post report that said he had given up on the idea.

“I haven’t ruled out anything. I mean, we are putting together a legislative agenda for the new session in Albany that will start in January,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters at an unrelated press conference in the Bronx. “A whole host of issues have to be looked at.”

Mr. de Blasio said a “number of different proposals” related to affordable housing would be on the table for his legislative agenda, though he did not specify what he would want to see passed in the state legislature. “We have not ruled in or ruled out anything. There’s a process that we’ll complete this month that will lead to a formal legislative agenda,” he said.

The Post reported yesterday that Mr. de Blasio would not fight for a bill, proposed by Democratic State Senator Brad Hoylman, that would levy a tax on apartments valued at $5 million or more that are owned by absentee landlords. Mr. de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, reportedly gave up on the bill because it has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled State Senate.

“My understanding is a luxury tax for absentee landlords is not going forward,” a source told the newspaper. “The absentee-landlord tax is a nonstarter.”

For Republicans, the pied-à-terre tax indeed appears to be a nonstarter. A spokesman for the Republican conference told the Observer last month that the GOP would oppose any attempt by Mr. de Blasio to introduce a new real estate tax and the industry, which spent heavily to return the Republicans to the majority, argues such a tax would only hurt the city’s business climate.

Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said in November the de Blasio administration would be open to pursuing new real estate taxes when the state legislature is in session next year. New York City needs the permission of Albany to alter much of its tax structure.

“We’ve begun to lay out some basic concepts for that as we get ready to go to Albany and I think there is some general consensus that, for the City of New York to really do what we need to do for the public and to have the housing stock that we need, that to be able to capture some portion of this extraordinary real estate market is an appropriate way to go,” Ms. Glen said.

The New York Times : December 10, 2014 : by Anemona Hartocollis

Lee Albertorio felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body. After serving in the Air Force, he began taking hormones, which deepened his voice and made his physique more masculine.

He changed his passport to reflect that he was male, and last year he decided to have a mastectomy, known as top surgery. But his insurance company told him the operation was cosmetic and refused to cover it, he said Wednesday.

Now Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is warning insurance companies that they will no longer be allowed to deny gender reassignment surgery or other treatment to change a person’s gender, like hormone therapy, if a doctor has deemed that treatment medically necessary.

In a letter being sent to insurance companies this week, the governor said that because state law requires insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders, people who are found to have a mismatch between their birth sex and their internal sense of gender are entitled to insurance coverage for treatments related to that condition, called gender dysphoria.

“An issuer of a policy that includes coverage for mental health conditions may not exclude coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria,” the governor’s letter says.

“That would change everything — I mean that sounds very good,” Mr. Albertorio said excitedly when told of the governor’s order.

The rule makes New York the ninth state to require the coverage, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, an advocacy group, said on Wednesday. The others are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, according to the group. Washington, D.C., also mandates it.

The group said that most insurance policies currently exclude coverage for transgender treatment, and at best include it as a more expensive rider to a standard plan.

“This is an absolute sea change in the way that insurance for transgender people will cover their health care needs,” Michael Silverman, executive director of the fund, said. “This essentially opens up an entire world of treatment for transgender people that was closed to them previously.”

Leslie Moran, a spokeswoman for the New York Health Plan Association, the trade association for most health plans across New York State, said the industry did not object to having to cover gender dysphoria.

But she said the industry was concerned that the governor’s order could raise costs in the new year that were not contemplated during the recent round of rate-setting. And she said companies were concerned that the policy would open the door for other services that people might seek, claiming they were medically necessary for mental health reasons.

“It sets a precedent,” Ms. Moran said.

Benjamin M. Lawsky, the state’s superintendent of financial services, which regulates insurance, said he would “be very surprised” if the change led to a noticeable rise in insurance premiums, because the number of transgender people would be such a small part of the insurance pool.

“It will further solidify the rights of a group that probably weren’t always being treated as equal to everybody else, and that’s sort of fundamental to our system,” Mr. Lawsky said.

The new policy comes as the state is trying to negotiate a settlement in a class-action lawsuit seeking Medicaid coverage for sex-change treatments, and advocates said they hoped it was a signal that the state was going to approve that coverage as well. Mr. Lawsky said that State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, had brought the issue to his attention in June, by pointing out that several other states had barred insurance companies from excluding gender-change treatment.

At that time, a review board of the United States Department of Health and Human Services had just ruled that transgender people could no longer be automatically denied coverage for sex reassignment surgeries under Medicare, reversing a policy in place since 1981.

Mr. Hoylman said this week that he knew people who had had to scrape together money from fund-raisers to pay for their gender reassignment surgery. “Nobody should be in that position in order to embrace such a fundamental aspect of their personhood,” he said.

Mr. Hoylman said he was hoping the governor’s directive signaled that the political climate was right to pass a “transgender civil rights act” in the state, guaranteeing that transgender people would not suffer discrimination in other areas like housing.

Mr. Albertorio, 30, a program coordinator at a nonprofit agency, wanted the top surgery so badly that he paid for it using $6,500 in loans and credit card payments. To complete his transition will cost at least $50,000, which for him is “pretty out of reach.”

Long Island Exchange : December 9, 2014 : by staff

(Albany, NY) The Senate Democratic Conference today announced the introduction of legislation to reform the state’s criminal justice system and address incidents of police-caused fatalities. This initiative was introduced following a grand jury’s decision not to bring charges against a police officer who caused the death of an unarmed civilian and will implement a permanent Office of Special Investigation to review similar cases in the future. The Senate Democratic Conference also issued a call for funds to be provided in the 2015-2016 State Budget for law enforcement institutions to invest in wearable video cameras.

“The sad reality is many New Yorkers currently do not believe that all state residents are treated equally within our criminal justice system,” Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Reforming the criminal justice system to ensure that unarmed civilians are better protected is a common sense way to restore New Yorkers’ trust in our public protection institutions. I urge my colleagues in state government to join with the Senate Democratic Conference is supporting this legislation.”

Legislation sponsored by Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, will create the Office of Special Investigation to automatically review any criminal offense committed by a police officer that results in the death of an unarmed civilian. Additionally, New Yorkers will be able to petition this office to take over investigations in special circumstances.

The Senate Democratic Conference also announced that it will ask Governor Cuomo to provide approximately $75 million in the 2015-2016 Executive Budget for law enforcement agencies to purchase and utilize wearable video cameras. These state funds would be utilized to reimburse local and state law enforcement organizations who purchase and utilize these body cameras.

“Body cameras, when utilized properly, have already been shown to help facilitate more positive interactions between law enforcement officers and the public they serve,” Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo to ensure that funds are provided in the Executive Budget, and the enacted 2015-2016 State Budget, so public protection agencies throughout New York State will be reimbursed for investing in these common sense law enforcement tools.”

The initiatives advanced by Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and members of the Senate Democratic Conference are intended to address the grave concerns many New Yorkers feel regarding the criminal justice system and the perception that the system does not treat all New Yorkers equally. Implementing these common sense proposals will help heal the deep divisions in New York State and return the public’s trust in their law enforcement institutions.

Senate Democratic Conference Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris said, “Our state’s criminal justice system must have the full confidence of the public it serves, yet at this moment in history it does not. The proposals advanced by Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins represent the best hope for permanent reform and the return of trust to our justice system. I look forward to working with my Senate Democratic colleagues and all state leaders to achieve the progress that will ensure the system works for everyone.”

Senator Brad Hoylman said, “A Staten Island grand jury’s recent failure to bring an indictment after the tragic death of Eric Garner has highlighted serious flaws in our criminal justice system. Leader Stewart-Cousins’ badly needed legislation would empower the Attorney General’s office to investigate future criminal proceedings brought against police officers whose actions lead to the death of unarmed civilians. I strongly support this bill because it would help ensure the integrity of our criminal justice system at a time when too many New Yorkers are understandably losing faith in it.”

The Villager : December 4, 2014 : by Lincoln Anderson

It sounds a bit like the Yule Log without a flickering fire, eggnog without any eggs, or the Grinch without a diabolical plan to steal Christmas from the residents of Whoville.

Yes, state Senator Brad Hoylman is proposing what some might call a truly radical idea: an alcohol-free SantaCon.

Which would also mean a SantaCon without puking, urinating, stumbling and shouting on the sidewalks.

Hoylman spoke on the phone briefly Tuesday evening with a purported representative of the annual winter booze fest to see what he could find out about this year’s New York City event. Hoylman then relayed his findings to The Villager.

The event’s date is set for Sat., Dec. 13.

“They do not have the route planned,” Hoylman said. “They will not tell us where they are planning.

“They said they are in touch with the Parks Department, and they plan to be in touch with local police precincts and community boards before their event. They told us they will tell the route before it occurs.”

Last year, due to pressure by Hoylman and other politicians, SantaCon conceded to give them the route, though not until right before the event occurred.

“I don’t know if they want to exploit the element of surprise or they’re just disorganized or what,” Hoylman said.

During the bar crawl, the cell phone-toting Santas follow Twitter to get updates about where to go.

According to a Parks Department source, SantaCon organizers reached out to the agency to inquire about “potential meet-up locations.”

“No arrangements have been made at this point for a site that could potentially accommodate their numbers,” the source said.

Hoylman said he hopes to speak to the representative again, who only gave his name as Stefan, and who was the same rep Hoylman similarly dealt with last year. Local politicians, in a joint letter last year, called for SantaCon to behave — or else — with Hoylman acting as the pols’ point person.

At one point during Tuesday’s phone call, Hoylman hit Stefan with an idea that might have struck him like an ice fastball hurled by Snow Miser.

“I’ve also encouraged them to organize an alcohol-free SantaCon because I think that’s where most of the problems have originated,” the state senator said.

“If they organize it as an alcohol-free event, it potentially becomes a family attraction,” he added. “I think partying and drinking on the streets, they are menacing to family members and seniors. Binge drinking is the problem — it only takes a few to give an event a bad name.”

Hoylman said the self-appointed SantaCon rep didn’t seem averse to the proposal, feeling it’s more in line with the event’s origins, or so the man claimed. But he told Hoylman he wanted to confer with others before making any commitments on the idea.

“He said they want to be a New York City holiday event,” Hoylman reported. “He said he wants to bring Santa Con back to where it was more of a family event and it wasn’t raucous bad Santas. He said he wants to take it back to the group [to discuss].”

Last week, Susan Stetzer, district manager of Community Board 3, announced at the monthly full-board meeting that SantaCon won’t be partying in the East Village and Lower East Side this year.

Hoylman said that’s also his understanding about C.B. 3, and that he knows it was also Stefan that Stetzer spoke with.

Hoylman specifically asked the SantaCon spokesperson about all the Manhattan community board districts in his state senate district — including Community Boards 2, 4, 5 and 7, which collectively stretch from the Village to the Upper West Side — but didn’t get any concrete answers.

“He said they will be in Manhattan,” the elected official confirmed. Exactly where, though, is still a mystery.

Bushwick community leaders and bars also do not want SantaCon, and Gothamist recently reported that the event has crossed the Brooklyn hood off its list.

“Nobody wants them!” Hoylman said.

Locally speaking, last year’s SantaCon went better than in previous years, Hoylman acknowledged, though he attributed that, at least partly, to snowy conditions.

However, prior to last year’s bar crawl of inebriated St. Nicks, Hoylman had gotten Stefan to agree to three main conditions: namely, that the route would be shared with local police and community boards in advance; there would be “people watchers” to help control the crowds; and fliers would be posted urging the revelers to be “good neighbors.”

Despite these steps, Hoylman said, “Really, I think the snowstorm dampened their numbers.”

Also, he was a bit skeptical about the whole process of dealing with SantaCon, which is more hazy flash mob than organized event.

“There’s nobody in charge,” Hoylman said with some frustration. “Here I am speaking to this individual I never met, and he won’t give me his last name. It’s impossible to determine if he has any authority.”

At any rate, he said, “They promised to be back in touch once they have their permits.”

An e-mail query sent to the contact listed, “blitzen,” at the nycsantacon.com Web site, asking whether the Santas would be sober this year, received a lengthy statement in response, which didn’t mention anything about teetotaling.

The statement read, in part, “Whether it’s good news or bad, SantaCon’s colorful characters, fantastic photo opportunities, ballooning popularity, and inherently controversial nature make for great press.

“So who is ‘Santa’? WE are Santa: a group of about 30 volunteers. We are accountants and artists, bright-eyed students and grizzly workforce vets, small business owners, freelancers and corporate vice presidents. We’re blue-collar and white-collar…but on SantaCon we’re all fur-collar.

“We all share a passion for absurdity and a love for N.Y.C. Nothing makes us happier than seeing the creativity of SantaCon play out against the backdrop of the city where we live, work and play.

“SantaCon isn’t just a charity event — it’s a 100% volunteer-run charity event where every cent of the proceeds goes to N.Y.C charities. Last year, we helped the Food Bank for New York provide meals to hungry New Yorkers. For FIGMENT, a small nonprofit that runs free, hands-on arts events for children, SantaCon was literally a lifeline, providing almost 40% of the operating budget in 2013.

“We still see the Santa Pros as greater than the Santa Cons. We hope that this year, you will too.”

The statement ended with, “Love from the North Pole, Santa”

The event’s Web site is full of instructions on how the Santas should behave, such as: “Santa’s nice to kids: He makes them laugh, not cry” and “Santa respects the city: Santa doesn’t piss on the streets, start fights, block streets, climb on cars or deface property.” The page also warns that the costumed carousers shouldn’t have open alcohol containers on the streets, urinate in public, jaywalk or litter — or generally get too intoxicated.

In short, putting it in a way even drunken Santas can understand, the site warns participants not to violate the four “F” ’s: “Don’t f— with kids, cops, bar staff or N.Y.C.”

As for the route and what bars they’ll visit — assuming they don’t all get on the sleigh, or rather, wagon this year — the site notes, “Santa could tell you, but then Santa would have to kill you. Part of the fun of SantaCon is never quite knowing where the jolly horde will go next!”

Daily News : December 3, 2014 : by Kenneth Lovett

ALBANY — A Manhattan state senator wants to make New York the fifth state to allow assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

Democrat Brad Hoylman said his proposed law would permit doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill adults who want to take their own lives.

In a memo seeking co-sponsors, Hoylman cited the case of Brittany Maynard, the terminally ill California woman who became the public face of the right-to-die movement when she moved to Oregon to end her life under that state’s “Death With Dignity Act.”

Maynard, who had an aggressive form of brain cancer, took her life on Nov. 1.

“This bill will give capable adults who have been given a terminal medical prognosis a measure of control over their end-of-life care options,” Hoylman wrote in his memo, which was obtained by the Daily News.

But the proposal faces fierce opposition from religious groups.

“We knew the fight was coming,” said the Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation, an evangelical Christian group.

The New York Catholic Conference will also strongly oppose the Hoylman bill, spokesman Dennis Poust said.

Rev. Jason McGuire of the New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation opposes Hoylman’s proposal.
HANS PENNINK/AP
Rev. Jason McGuire of the New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation opposes Hoylman’s proposal.
“We believe the so-called death with dignity movement is predicated on the false notion that there is something undignified about a natural death,” Poust said. “We don’t buy that.”

Poust said people who are diagnosed with months to live often defy expectations, and that the fear and depression felt by terminally ill patients can cloud their judgment.

The key provisions of Hoylman’s bill are modeled after the Oregon law.

Under his proposed Death With Dignity Act, a person seeking assisted suicide would have to be at least 18 and be given no more than six months to live.

The individual would have to make written and oral requests to a physician, and follow up with another verbal request at least 15 days later. The patient also must be deemed capable of making and communicating health care decisions, meaning advanced Alzheimer’s patients wouldn’t qualify.

In other states, a person is given a fast-acting lethal barbiturate. Hoylman’s proposal does not yet specify a method of suicide.

But doctors assisting in a suicide would be immune from criminal or civil liability if they acted in good faith.

Assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana, and New Jersey and California have been debating the issue.

In New York, people on both sides of the approaching debate agreed Tuesday that approval of Hoylman’s bill is unlikely in 2015.

“But it gets the conversation going,” said George Eighmey, vice chairman of the Death with Dignity National Center.

In Oregon, 752 people have died under the Death With Dignity Act in the 16 years it’s been in palce, including 71 people in 2013. That’s a small percentage of the number of terminally ill people, but the fact that legal suicide is possible gives many people comfort, Eighmey maintained.

“The purpose is to give people facing end of life one more option,” Eighmey said.

Hoylman in his letter to the other senators said he recognizes the “legitimate profound emotional considerations and ethical and religious concerns surrounding this issue.”

But he said his legislation will include “strong protections” to ensure patients are capable of making sound, informed decisions while doctors, hospitals and pharmacists who object to the law are under no legal obligation to participate.

The Gothamist : December 2, 2014 : by Jessica Warriner

The same film crews that once threatened the existence of a Greenwich Village senior center may end up saving it.

Our Lady of Pompeii Church serves dual purposes—not only is it the site of the Greenwich House Senior Center, it’s also a popular location for film shoots—so popular, in fact, that church pastor Father Walter Tonelotto opted not to renew the senior center’s lease when it ends in 2015, preferring instead to convert it into a full-fledged movie set.

Unfortunately for Tonelotto, it seems that won’t be the case. In a letter to the Villager, Community Board 3 member and treasurer of the New York Production Alliance Anne K. Johnson wrote that in the event that the center is ousted, production companies would surely boycott:
I have been assured by a top union official in the industry that if it became known that the senior group was being evicted from Our Lady of Pompeii ostensibly for the benefit of “film crews,” the space would be boycotted, and no film crew would rent the space.

The center has been in the basement of 25 Carmine Street since 1973, and provides seniors more than 2,000 meals per month, in addition to health services like flu shots and daily recreational activities.

Part of the center is already rented out to film crews, and many seniors don’t understand why the current shared arrangement couldn’t continue. Center Director Sandy Gabin said though the shoots are sometimes a nuisance, Greenwich House has always worked to be accommodating.

“They use the front… we do our activities in the back. Because this way [the church] can make extra money, which is fine,” she said, noting the extra revenue helped to offset the cost of rent.

Gabin said the op-ed was a major boost to Greenwich House’s cause. “I thought it was wonderful,” she said. “That came right out of left field, we weren’t expecting that.”

Despite the extra support, the center still faces a battle to stay at Our Lady of Pompeii, and Gabin is forwarding a petition and letter to the church and Cardinal Timothy Dolan this week. With winter rolling in fast, the petition notes that the center is not only a useful social hub for seniors, but a warm place to go when temperatures drop.

One of the center’s volunteers, 94-year-old Josephine De Cicco, has been a regular at the center for over 30 years. At Tuesday’s lunch session, she was cutting and serving a cake to celebrate all the center’s November birthdays.

“This group of people—they come down here, they’re so happy, they eat, they do exercises, we have entertainment,” Josephine said. “So I fight, I fight for them.”

Other seniors told us what a vital part of the community the center was for them. 77-year-old Marcia said that it was almost a second home for many of the elderly. “These are the old-timers who need this place,” she said.

Peyton Bell, a veteran who has done work for the church in the past, said the senior center is “like an institution. People come down here to socialize. This is one of the few senior citizen places where you can just hang around.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman spoke about the ongoing dispute between Our Lady of Pompeii Church and the Greenwich House Senior Center at last week’s Community Board 2 meeting in Manhattan.

“Like a lot of negotiations, half of the battle is getting two people in the same room,” said Hoylman.

On Monday, Hoylman told us he’d been in communication with the archdiocese and hopes that Greenwich House CEO Roy Leavitt and Father Walter Tonelotto can meet to work out an agreement soon.

“We have an obligation to the seniors who helped build our community in the Village, and who use the center everyday from everything from hot meals to social service, to legal help. The senior center has been at Our Lady of Pompeii for over 40 years, and it’s centrally located. It would be very difficult for Greenwich House to find another location, especially in the time frame that’s been given,” said Hoylman.

Gabin was hopeful the combination of increased support from elected officials and promising words from the film community would sway Tonelotto to allow the center to stay. “[Greenwich House] came to [the church] about a rent increase, capital improvements, you know. And [they weren't] interested. So we’ll see,” she said. “There’s a lot of political pressure.”
The Church did not respond to our requests for comment.