News NY City Council Challenger Pledges to be Responsive to Local Issues

Several significant New York City Local Laws have been known for being excessively costly, unrealistic, and providing limited value and returns. Among the most notorious are the Local Law 11 (FISP: Facade Inspection Safety Program), 126 and 97 dealing with garages, elevators, carbon emissions and sustainability. Collectively, these have been raising the cost of living for local residents at an alarming rate.

For the past several months I have exhausted all efforts to attract the attention of New York City Council to immediately suspend the wasteful and outdated Local Law 126 elevator upgrade, which the City failed completely to provide adequate prior notice to those being regulated. My Local Law 11 Coalition which has attracted substantial attention New York City co-op and condo owners, but it too has not yet been recognized for the significant problem that it presents. However, there may be hope on the horizon that this may change.

Ethan Felder, Candidate for City Council in District 29


This past Sunday at the Austin Street Fair in Forest Hills, I saw Ethan Felder, a local community leader who announced that he is running for City Council in District 29. He intends to challenge the incumbent, Lynn Schulman, in this June's New York City Democratic Primary. Part of his campaign is prioritizing improving lines of communication between the City Council's office and local residents. This includes identifying urgent problems that need to be addressed in a timely fashion which can have a punishing impact on residents (small property owners and renters), businesses and visitors to the neighborhood.

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Some of the most pressing that impact District 29 include increased presence of crime (shoplifting, personal safety), the dramatic increase in cost of living expenses due to regulation, providing proper aid and assistance to the increasing number of homeless and mentally ill that appear in streets and in subways. Most recently, I directly assisted law enforcement and prosecutors in the local arrests and prosecutions of several career criminals. He invited me to candidly discuss these issues personally, and how we could work together to effectuate the return to the very high quality of life that the community has enjoyed for so many years.

Ethan is a lifelong resident of District 29, attending nearby Solomon Schechter in Kew Gardens Hills and graduating from Townsend Harris High School at CUNY Queens College. He later received his bachelor's degree at Cornell University and juris doctorate to practice law at Washington University. For many years he served as a labor attorney at 32BJ SEIU, protecting the welfare of union and essential employees in New York City. He has a history of dedication to community service, having been appointed to Community Board 6 in 2018 and elected as District Leader in 2020 in New York State Assembly District 28.

New York City's Highly Controversial Borough Based Jails - Relocation of the Riker's Island Jail Complex


I first met Ethan back in 2018, when I had begun to attend monthly community board meetings in the hope of joining the ranks of friendly local residents whose generous efforts are responsible for the high quality of living and warm community environment the neighborhood has enjoyed for decades. (Kudos to the Friends of MacDonald Park!) Standing on the sidewalk across from Borough Hall on Queens Boulevard, I was part of a small group of involved residents whose passion for serving the community extended well beyond the meeting. This included Ethan, who was amicable and generous with his time, articulately sharing his insights and subject matter expertise on several important matters.

Some of the matters of concern to District 29 included the ominous announcement introducing the highly controversial Borough Based Jails initiative to relocate Riker's Island's notorious jails into the small residential communities of Chinatown, Kew Gardens & Forest Hills, Boerum Hill and Mott Haven. I recall Ethan being visibly present for both Community Board 6 and Community Board 9's objection to the jail, which remains a substantial concern for those neighborhoods including Jamaica, Briarwood, Richmond Hill and Rego Park in Queens. It was expressed by a City Council member that the Council had made these jails a fait accompli, without much of any detailed information about what 'integration' of a jail into residential communities comprised and how could be reasonably and logically implemented. Vehement objections to the jail are still ongoing in Chinatown, which are now projected to be at upwards of $3 billion per each jail.

Representation at Important Kew Gardens, Forest Hills & Rego Park Events


Over time, I regularly saw Ethan at memorable places and events. This included a well attended memorial for Zhiwen Yan in front of the Great Wall restaurant, a beloved neighborhood "friend" and delivery person. Afterward, we discussed what could be done to help secure our neighborhood which could supplement what the City and our local police could offer. On another occasion across the street from the restaurant in MacDonald Park, I saw Ethan rally for greater attention to address the alarming increase of Asian hate, anti-semitism, and to celebrate the diversity, support and sense of community that our neighborhood generally has had to offer.

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New York City's Avalanche of Costly Local Laws


After mentioning to Ethan how my attempts failed to attract the City Council's attention to address the devastating effect of their inadequately designed and communicated Local Law 126, he followed up with me personally to discuss. We probled issues related to 126 adn other troubling Local Laws that the City Council has continued to press onwards such as:

  • Local Law 11 ('FISP' or 'SWARMP'), a facade regulation which mandates that the hundreds of six story buildings in the district be treated harshly as the equivalent of being a high-rise building - which imposes punishing costs (using near $1M and greater) on numerous buildings and their residents every seven years.

  • New Local Law 126's outdated and needless elevator requirement that immediately imposes sunk costs of $10,000+ per elevator + unknown recurring costs. It also includes stringent new garage requirements, which is the direct result of the collapse of a beachfront building in Miami Beach, Florida.

  • New Local Law 97 which compel property owners to reduce gas emissions without any government or City assistance (including tax breaks.) Instead, it imposes $10,000s in annual penalties and greater for non-compliance, in addition to the tremendous cost to remedy the numerous pre-war buildings that exist in the area.

  • Local Law 152 represents another stringent regulation that shut down gas piping of many buildings, requiring them to invest millions to replace them. After doing so, the City Council then put forth Local Law 97, which essentially phases out gas uses in New York City and leaves buildings with huge financial holes from replacing gas piping with a very limited usage period.

These issues impact heavily on all of residents - renters, small property owners, families and seniors. There is a need for someone with experience and a vested interest (who is also a property owner and with whom much of this resonates) to be proactive, reactive and an impacting voice to make a difference for all the right reasons.

Final Thoughts


There is a saying that you can't fight City Hall, even when clearly bad or questionable laws exist. But Mr. Felder hopes that by ensuring he is listening attentively to the needs of the people in his district, such a fight can be minimized. I will continue to move forward with my efforts building the Local Law 11 coalition and other initiatives that aspire to continue to maintain and enhance the quality of life that our neighborhood had prior enjoyed for many years. Hopefully there is good cause for optimism in the future for the community in District 29 in Queens, New York City.
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Michael Wechsler
Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at Zedge.net and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.

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