October 21, 2021
What's Happening in the 81st Assembly District?
  • Early Voting Begins Saturday, October 23
  • Reminder to Flip Ballot and Vote Yes for All Five Constitutional Amendment Proposals
  • Medicare Advantage Opt-Out Deadline for Municipal Retirees on October 31
  • Pushing for Vaccination Requirements at Older Adult Centers
  • Update on 6661 Broadway Homeless Shelter Proposal
  • Celebrating 20 Years of Montefiore's Children's Hospital
  • Local Update: Supporting Speed Humps Along East 235th Street in Woodlawn
  • Albany Update: Perfect Zero Score on American Conservative Union State Legislative Scorecard
  • COVID-19 Update: In-Home Vaccination Appointments Available for Boosters Too
  • JUST ANNOUNCED: Registration Event on 10/26 for Nourish Supplemental Food Program for Low Income Older Adults
  • REMINDER: Holiday Food Donation Drive Begins
  • Updates from Government & Community Partners
Early Voting Begins Saturday, October 23
As you are hopefully aware, there is an election coming up on November 2, 2021. Early voting for this election begins this Saturday, October 23 and goes through Sunday, October 31.

I highly encourage everybody to vote in the upcoming election, whether you are casting your vote by absentee ballot, early voting, or on election day.

The upcoming election includes municipal positions (Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council) as well State Supreme Court Justice and (in some areas) Civil Court Judge, along with five ballot proposals to amend the state constitution (more on these below). Please note that the Civil Court Judge position is not contested.

Every voter is assigned one specific early voting site. This assignment is based on your Election District and you should confirm your early voting site before you go as it may have changed.

The early voting sites are:

• InTech Academy (MS/HS 368) — 2975 Tibbett Avenue (at West 230th Street). In general, this early voting site covers Kingsbridge, Marble Hill, Spuyten Duyvil, and parts of central and southern Riverdale.

• Riverdale YM/YWHA — 5625 Arlington Avenue (at West 256th Street). In general, this early voting site covers northern Riverdale and parts of central Riverdale. Please note that if your Election Day poll site is at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, your early voting site has been changed to the Riverdale Y for this year (last year you would have gone to InTech for early voting).

• Bronx HS of Science — 75 West 205th Street (at Goulden Avenue). In general, this early voting site covers Van Cortlandt Village and Norwood.

• Monroe College — 2501 Jerome Avenue (at West 190th Street). In general, this early voting site covers Kingsbridge Heights.

• St. Barnabas High School — 420 East 241st Street (at McLean Avenue). In general, this early voting site covers Woodlawn and Wakefield.

The early voting times vary by day, but are always open at least between 10am and 4pm. Specifically, here are the operating hours on each day:

• Saturday, 10/23 — 8am to 5pm
• Sunday, 10/24 — 8am to 5pm
• Monday, 10/25 — 7am to 4pm
• Tuesday, 10/26 — 10am to 8pm
• Wednesday, 10/27 — 10am to 8pm
• Thursday, 10/28 — 10am to 8pm
• Friday, 10/29 — 7am to 4pm
• Saturday, 10/30 — 8am to 5pm
• Sunday, 10/31 — 8am to 4pm

For more information, please visit vote.nyc. To confirm your poll site, please visit findmypollsite.vote.nyc.
Reminder to Flip Ballot and Vote Yes for All Five Constitutional Amendment Proposals
This year, there are five ballot proposals to amend the state constitution that will be included on the ballot for the November 2 general election. This is an exciting opportunity to make significant changes and create new rights for people in New York, and I am proud to support all five ballot proposals.

Please note that the ballot proposals will be listed on the back of the ballot. You must turn your ballot over in order to vote on these proposals.

As a reminder, the process to amend our state constitution is not easy. In order to appear on the ballot, a proposal must pass two consecutive Legislatures (this set of proposals was passed by both the 2019-2020 Legislature as well as the 2021-2022 Legislature). If a ballot proposal receives a majority of statewide votes on November 2, then they will be ratified into our state constitution.

I shared an overview of the ballot proposals last month in a newsletter (available here), but I will recap each proposal and explain why I support it here.

PROPOSAL 1: Amending the Apportionment and Redistricting Process.

This proposal addresses two basic components. First, it would freeze the number of state senators at its current number (63) and adjust how population is counted for the purposes of district lines (counting all residents and counting incarcerated people at their last known address instead of at their place of incarceration). Second, it would adjust the Independent Redistricting Commission process by modifying the timeline to reflect changes in our census data and by removing provisions that would functionally allow the Republican Party (which is the minority party in both the State Senate and the Assembly) to unilaterally block redistricting proposals.

I support this proposal because the future of our country is at stake. The Republican Party has gerrymandered just about every state that they control, and the impact can be seen in state houses and the U.S. House of Representatives today. As every state approaches redistricting this year and next year, Republicans have made clear that they intend to gerrymander as much as they possibly can to maximize their political power. While it would be ideal if there was a nationwide independent redistricting process that completely eliminated all partisan influences, the reality is that we do not have that right now. New York State will likely have a huge impact on which party controls the House of Representatives after the 2022 midterm elections, and it would be foolish for Democrats to tie their hands behind their backs in trying to maintain control of this critical legislative chamber. The New York Independent Redistricting Commission, which was created in 2014, currently reflects a compromised deal that was made when Republicans controlled the State Senate. Additionally, there are some common sense elements in this proposal — particularly the changes to how population is counted and how many State Senators we have. I encourage everyone to vote YES on Proposal 1.

PROPOSAL 2: Right to Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthful Environment

This proposal simply enshrines the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment in the state constitution.

I support this proposal because New Yorkers deserve to live pollution-free. The Hoosick Falls disaster in 2015, where drinking water was found to contain toxic chemicals from a nearby plastics manufacturing facility, has highlighted that everyday people need more tools to combat corporations who continually put their own profits ahead of the health of people. Essentially, this amendment would give people like those who were poisoned in Hoosick Falls (or frankly, people in the Bronx) the ability to sue these corporations more easily over environmental malfeasance.

PROPOSAL 3: Eliminating Ten-Day-Advance Voter Registration Requirement

This proposal would delete the current requirement that a citizen be registered to vote at least ten days before an election.

I support this proposal because it would help expand the ability of New Yorkers to participate in our elections. Functionally, this amendment would allow the Legislature to enact same-day voter registration, which is a widely-regarded best practice to help people who are not traditionally engaged in elections become more involved in the selection of elected leaders.

PROPOSAL 4: Authorizing No-Excuse Absentee Ballot Voting

This proposal would delete the current requirement that an absentee voter explain why they are unable to appear at the polls (such as absence from the county, illness, or physical disability).

I support this proposal because it would help expand the ability of New Yorkers to participate in our elections. Functionally, this amendment would make permanent a law that I am proud to have authored which currently allows absentee voting for people who are concerned about acquiring or spreading transmissible illnesses such as COVID-19.

PROPOSAL 5: Increasing the Jurisdiction of the New York City Civil Court

This proposal would increase the New York City Civil Court's jurisdiction by allowing it to hear and decide claims for up to $50,000 instead of the current limit of $25,000.

I support this proposal, and in fact this proposal originated in legislation that I introduced, because it would reduce the burden currently imposed on the State Supreme Court. The threshold for Civil Court jurisdiction has been raised before, most recently in 1983, and it makes sense to increase this threshold over time because of economic inflation.
Medicare Advantage Opt-Out Deadline for Municipal Retirees on October 31
My office has heard from many constituents who are retirees from New York City government jobs and are worried about an impending change to their healthcare plan. The change is basically converting to something called "Medicare Advantage" and each individual person will need to make the decision about how they want to proceed.

The deadline for this decision is October 31, 2021.

In summary, the Medicare Advantage plan would make several significant changes to the existing Medicare coverage that many municipal retirees have now. Currently, municipal retirees do not need to get pre-approvals in order to access certain medical treatments. It is my understanding that Medicare Advantage would require pre-approvals, which may result in people being denied access to medical care that they need. Additionally, it is my understanding that Medicare Advantage would implement a maximum out-of-pocket cost for participants — which is not currently included in Medicare coverage for these retirees. There also may be some changes to prescription coverage and copay structures, as well as other finer details that I cannot go into in this newsletter.

Municipal retirees are being offered a choice: they can accept the change to Medicare Advantage (which requires no action to be taken), or they can opt out of this change and pay out-of-pocket premiums of $191.57 per month. I cannot provide advice to anyone on what decision should be made, but there is a dedicated helpline set up to answer questions that affected retirees have. The "NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Welcome Team" can be reached at 1-833-325-1190 from Monday through Friday, 8am to 9pm (excluding holidays). Please be aware that this is a separate phone number from the standard Medicare helpline. This change is not being made by Medicare, it is being made by a pair of private insurance companies who were selected by New York City to operate this Medicare Advantage plan.

For a little background information, this change is the result of an agreement between the Municipal Labor Committee and the New York City government. The Municipal Labor Committee is composed of representatives from an assortment of labor unions who represent public sector workers in New York City. The stated purpose of this restructuring is to reduce healthcare costs by $600 million, as per an agreement that was made in 2014 between the Municipal Labor Committee and Mayor Bill de Blasio. If you have questions about this agreement, or about the change in your retiree healthcare plan, you may want to contact your union directly.

In my personal opinion, I am always concerned about the potential for increased healthcare costs — especially for retirees who often have fixed incomes. Additionally, it should be noted that there are demographic disparities that have long existed in the New York City workforce (and everywhere) and those disparities are reflected in retiree benefits such as pension amounts. To put it simply, women and people of color who have historically been underpaid are more likely to have smaller pensions as well — meaning that increased out-of-pocket healthcare costs are harder to bear. I believe the solution to this problem is the New York Health Act, which would create universal, single-payer healthcare for all New Yorkers. I hope that every member of the Municipal Labor Committee who agreed to this change is also willing to support the New York Health Act, or at minimum is willing to engage in a good faith dialogue about what changes they need to see in order to support it.
Pushing for Vaccination Requirements at Older Adult Centers
Older adult centers are a vital part of our community, providing meals and social activities that are important resources for older adults. I am very pleased that they are back operating after being closed for much of the pandemic, however I am disappointed that the Department for the Aging (DFTA) has not required vaccinations in order to attend.

The result of this has been reduced capacity, which may prevent some older adults from accessing the full extent of services that they need, as well as worries from older adults who are worried about breakthrough infections from COVID-19 as we continue to struggle with variants. My office has heard from a number of older adults who are nervous about returning to the older adult centers they know and love because they can't be sure that everyone will be vaccinated.

I believe that DFTA needs to revise their policy and require vaccination in order to attend an older adult center, with the only exception being for people who have been recommended against vaccination by a legitimate medical professional. Vaccines for COVID-19 have been around for nearly a full year and are even available in one's own home. There is simply no excuse for not being vaccinated, especially when we are talking about sharing public spaces. New York City has imposed vaccination requirements for indoor dining, which I strongly support, and it seems ridiculous that this same precaution wouldn't be extended to indoor spaces where older adults share meals too.

Along with Council Member Eric Dinowitz, I sent a letter to the DFTA Commissioner asking her to revise their policy and require proof of vaccination to attend an older adult center. This is a policy that would be consistent with public health guidelines and would help older adults feel safe to return to the centers that many of them have attended for years.

If you want to share your opinion on vaccination requirements in older adult centers, I encourage you to send a message to the DFTA Commissioner using this webform.
Update on 6661 Broadway Homeless Shelter Proposal
Bronx Community Board 8 has informed my office that they have dates for the upcoming meetings where the proposed shelter at 6661 Broadway will be discussed.

There will be a Land Use Committee meeting on Monday, November 1st. There will also be a Health, Hospitals, and Social Services Committee meeting on Wednesday, November 10th. The calendar will be mailed out to their list and posted on their website once it is finalized, but if you are interested in this topic please mark these dates on your calendar.

It should be noted that the Department of Homeless Services has not committed to attend on either date at this time. This doesn't mean that they won't show up, but it also doesn't mean that they will. I believe it would be an act of gross negligence for the Department of Homeless Services to back out of attending these meetings and would be a clear signal that they know they are making a bad decision which they are unwilling to defend publicly.

I also wanted to remind people about the option to contact the Department of Homeless Services directly to register your opinion with them. My office has heard that people are hearing back from DHS, and there are some important questions which need to be answered about the deal that DHS is attempting to make on the proposed 6661 Broadway homeless shelter.

Their telephone number for the Commissioner's Office at Department of Homeless Services is 212-361-8000 and you can send an email to the Commissioner's Office using this webform.

In addition to asking DHS leadership to participate in the aforementioned Community Board 8 meetings, I believe it is important to ask them about how they can consider housing 4-6 grown adult men in the same room a dignified, compassionate way to help people in need. I believe it is also important to ask about the issues raised in a recent New York Times article about corruption and fraud among shelter operators, given that the CEO of the operator they intend to use at 6661 Broadway is or was under investigation for having his brother serving as the chief finance officer and his sister-in-law serving on the board. Although the New York Times article indicates that the city directed AAPCI to fire the brother and restructure, his brother (Raymond Okebiyi) is still listed as the Chief Financial Officer on the AAPCI website (as of October 21, 2021).
Celebrating 20 Years of the Children's Hospital at Montefiore
Last week, I was very excited to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Children's Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM). This has been a tremendous help to Bronx families, providing high quality medical care to children in need of it.

CHAM has been a leader in pediatric healthcare, innovating new treatments for children, researching how COVID-19 impacts children differently than adults, and more. For more information about this celebration, please see the Montefiore press release here.

I was pleased to issue an official proclamation, signed by every member of the Bronx Delegation in the Assembly, commemorating the incredible work that the Children's Hospital has done over the past two decades. Congratulations to Montefiore, and I look forward to another twenty years of helping families in the best borough in New York City!
Pictured above (left to right): Councilman Mark Gjonaj, Councilman Kevin Riley, State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Council Member Eric Dinowitz, Dr. Michael D. Cabana (Physician-in-Chief at CHAM), Congressman Adriano Espaillat, Dr. Philip O. Ozuah (President and CEO at Montefiore Medicine), Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, and Deputy Bronx Borough President Marricka Scott-McFadden.
Local Update: Supporting Speed Humps Along East 235th Street in Woodlawn
Recently, my office was contacted about a need for speed humps along East 235th Street in Woodlawn. I agree, and I have sent a letter to the Department of Transportation supporting the installation of speed humps along this street.

The DOT has already approved a speed hump on East 235th Street between Katonah Avenue and Kepler Avenue, and they have an active request for a speed hump between Vireo Avenue and Webster Avenue. I also suggested, per the request I received, for DOT to examine the block between Martha Avenue and Katonah Avenue.

Walkable communities are liveable communities, and it is imperative that our city use all appropriate tools to reduce dangerous driving behavior. If you have a location that you believe would benefit from speed humps (or anything else), I encourage you to let the Department of Transportation know by submitting a request through their website.

The easiest way to make a safety improvement suggestion is to use this online tool. DOT asks that before you submit a new request, you first check to see if a request has already been submitted. This can be done either by dragging the red location arrow to the area you want to discuss or by entering an address in the search bar. If there is an active request, you can sign up for updates to follow it's progress. If there is not an active request, then you can submit the request yourself using the "submit a new Case" link. Please feel free to contact my office about any requests that you submit or support, and I am happy to take a look and, assuming I agree, express my support to DOT.
Albany Update: Perfect Zero Score on American Conservative Union State Legislative Scorecard
This week, my office received an email from the American Conservative Union (this is the organization that hosts the annual CPAC conference) announcing that they have released their state legislative scorecards. It appears that they are a full year behind because the latest year available seems to be 2020, but I am incredibly proud that I have received a perfect zero score in back-to-back years from the ACU. I am one of only nine state legislators in New York to receive perfect zero scores in both 2019 and 2020.

For some context here, I want to share some of the bills which I proudly support and which the ACU opposes, along with how the ACU described the legislation:

A8963, which allows the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to better protect threatened animal species. The ACU described this bill as "Weakening Property Rights by Classifying More Animals as 'Vulnerable' under the Endangered Species Act". It passed the Assembly in 2020 by a vote of 137-5. The legislation was motivated by attempts to combat the giraffe trade, which is apparently not listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, and it basically establishes state criteria for the DEC to prohibit the sale of things like giraffe products in New York.

A9525, which allows people to appeal or bring a new action in court for housing discrimination cases that were dismissed for lack of probable cause or lack of jurisdiction. The ACU described this bill as "Enriching Plaintiff Attorneys by Allowing Dismissed Cases Alleging Housing Discrimination to be Refiled". This legislation is merely intended to bring state law into accordance with federal law. Additionally, in my opinion, it is far too easy for property owners to get away with housing discrimination that violates Human Rights Law or the Fair Housing Act. This legislation would functionally mean that someone doesn't lose their right to sue for housing discrimination simply because they didn't initially have the legal expertise to navigate the court system.

A168, which requires daycare centers to install cordless window coverings when they replace old ones so that children don't strangle themselves. The ACU described this bill as "Expanding the Nanny State to Mandate Daycare Center Window Coverings". It passed the Assembly in 2020 by a vote of 134-4. I cannot fathom why anyone would be opposed to keeping children safe at daycare.

I have never been so proud in my life to receive a perfect zero score, except for perhaps from the National Rifle Association, but I certainly hope I keep my perfect score in 2021 and future years.
COVID-19 Update: In-Home Vaccination Appointments Available for Boosters Too
If you are looking for how to get your COVID-19 booster shot, you should be aware that New York City is offering these booster shots at your own home (in addition to throughout the city at all vaccination sites).

Although only Pfizer is currently approved for a booster shot, it seems clear that we will soon have similar recommendations for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson as well. Currently booster shots for Pfizer are available to anyone who received the first two doses of Pfizer at least six months ago and who are also at least 65 years old OR have an underlying health condition that puts you at higher risk from COVID-19. There are also boosters available for people who are immunocompromised.

To request an at-home vaccination appoint for your Pfizer booster (or for a first/second dose of Moderna or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson), please fill out this webform: https://forms.cityofnewyork.us/f/home. You should receive a call within one week from one of the City's in-home vaccination providers so that you can schedule an appointment.

You can also walk-up to receive a vaccine (including boosters) or schedule an appointment at a number of locations throughout the city. Please visit vaccinefinder.nyc.gov to find a site near you.

If you need help navigating this process, please feel free to contact my office and we can try to help.
JUST ANNOUNCED: Registration Event on 10/26 for Nourish Supplemental Food Program for Low Income Older Adults
I pleased to announce that I will be co-hosting a registration event for Nourish (a supplemental food nutrition program) along with Council Member Eric Dinowitz, NY Common Pantry, and Riverdale Neighborhood House.

This event will help people register for free food packages every month, and is open to people who are over 60 years old, residents of New York State (bring your state or city ID), make less than $1,396/month, and make less than $16,744/year (bring proof of income or self declare). If you have questions about the program, please contact NY Common Pantry at 917-982-2562.

The event will be held on Tuesday, October 26 from 10am to 2pm at the Riverdale Neighborhood House (5521 Mosholu Avenue). If you have questions about the event, please contact Council Member Eric Dinowitz at 718-549-7300.

Shareable flyers are available in English (here) and Spanish (here).

WHO: New Yorkers aged 60+ who make less than $16,744 per year
WHAT: Registration event for free food packages every month (food will be given away at the event)
WHEN: Tuesday, October 26, 2021 from 10am to 2pm
WHERE: Riverdale Neighborhood House (5521 Mosholu Avenue, at West 256th Street — accessible by Bx7 or Bx10 bus one block away along Riverdale Avenue)
RSVP: No pre-registration required. Please bring New York state or city ID along with proof of income documents.
REMINDER: Holiday Food Donation Drive Begins
We missed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but I am pleased to announce that we are once again collecting food donations for Thanksgiving and the Winter Holidays.

As in previous years, we are asking people throughout the community to help out by establishing collection bins in your own buildings. You may need to get permission from your coop board or management company, but this has been a very successful way to help people donate to families in need during the holiday season. My office can then come collect donations directly from your building. A downloadable flyer is available here.

My office will also serve as a collection site for donations. We are located at 3107 Kingsbridge Avenue (cross street West 231st Street). You can drop off donations any time Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm (note the extra hours beyond our standard office hours).

Donations will be given to food pantries at Kingsbridge Heights Community Center as well as St. Frances of Rome. Thanksgiving donations must be before November 12th (Friday) and Winter Holiday donations must be before December 10th (Friday).

We will be accepting the following items:

• canned fruits and vegetables
• cereals
• dried beans
• pasta
• rice
• tuna
• coffee and teas
• canned juices
• powdered milk
• jell-o
• soups

Please contact my office with any questions or for help setting up a collection box in your building. We can be reached at 718-796-5345 and DinowitzJ@nyassembly.gov.
Updates from Government & Community Partners
Bronx District Attorney – Re-Entry Resource Fair on November 6
  • Event will be hosted at Bronx Community Board 12 (4101 White Plains Road, between East 229th Street and East 230th Street) on Saturday, November 6 from 12pm to 4pm
  • Intended to help formerly incarcerated and criminal justice involved individuals obtain ID, housing, healthcare, birth certificates, employment, and more
  • Event will also include food, music, and COVID-19 testing and vaccination
  • Event is in partnership with The Fortune Society, Osborne, and VIP Community Services
  • Event will be rain or shine and masks are required
Lehman College Small Business Development Center – Workshop Series
  • November 3, 2021: How to Start Your Own Small Business (US Small Business Administration Presentation)
  • November 10, 2021: Legal Aspects of Starting Your Small Business (Volunteers of Legal Service Presentation)
  • November 17, 2021: How to Write a Winning Business Plan (US Small Business Administration Presentation)
  • Lehman College SBDC will follow up with access to capital, credit, MWBE/PTAC designation, social media/marketing/ecommerce, and more as needed
  • Contact Lehman College Small Business Development Center for more information at 718-960-8806 or sbdc.bronx@lehman.cuny.edu
Metropolitan Transportation Authority – Station Closure at Norwood 205th Street
  • Track maintenance will close the Norwood-205th St station between October 29 at 9:45pm and November 1 at 5:00am
  • No D train service will be available during this time at this station
  • Free shuttle service bus will be provided between Norwood-205th Street and Bedford Park Boulevard (which will be the last stop during this work)
NYC Department of the Aging – My Ride Applications Now Accepted
  • Provides free on-demand transportation for older adults (ages 60+) and people with disabilities (18+) living in select Community Districts in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens
  • Can provide rides for things such as doctor appointments, visit family and friends, supermarkets, shopping malls, places of worship, and pharmacies.
  • Visit nyc.gov/aging/myride or call 212-AGING-NYC (212-244-6469) for more information and to apply
Con Edison – Curbside Electric Vehicle Charging at Lehman College
  • Construction began on July 29, 2021 to install an Electric Vehicle Curbside Charger Location on Bedford Park Boulevard between Goulden Avenue and Paul Avenue
  • Scheduled to be operable in late October
  • Part of a city-wide project to install over 100 curbside electric vehicle charging ports across New York City
  • Bedford Park Boulevard location will host 4 chargers for electric vehicles
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Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz

Phone: 718-796-5345 | E-Mail: dinowitzj@nyassembly.gov