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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña Announce New PROSE Schools Driving Innovation Across School System 

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced that 64 more schools will become Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) schools for the 2015-16 school year, allowing them to suspend Department and union rules to innovate new ways to reach students. The PROSE program is currently in its first year and already includes 62 elementary, middle, and high schools. With this latest cohort, the program is ahead of schedule and nearly two-thirds of the way towards its target of spurring innovation at 200 schools.

The PROSE program, made possible through new contracts with the United Federation of Teachers and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, created an opportunity to experiment at the school level in ways traditionally blocked by Department or union rules. Schools are using the PROSE program to adopt some of the most innovative education practices emerging from the grassroots, like lengthening their school days, combining subjects to deepen students’ understanding of relationships between science and math, and replacing rigid student-teacher ratios with more flexible ones that allow for advanced lecture-style classes that prepare students for college and small-group breakout sessions to help struggling students.

All PROSE schools announced were developed by school faculty; reviewed by a joint DOE, UFT and CSA panel; and approved by their principals and at least 65 percent of teachers. There was overwhelming support at the grassroots to see reforms implemented, with nearly 90 percent of UFT staff voting in favor of their school joining the PROSE program this year. In total, 119 schools submitted PROSE proposals, an increase from 107 schools last year. In addition to the 64 new PROSE schools, all 62 current PROSE schools will remain part of the program, many of them making deeper changes in the coming school year.

New PROSE schools were selected from across all five boroughs based on the quality of their proposals, their readiness to implement innovative work, and a proven track-record of school communities working collaboratively: 14 from the Bronx, 24 from Brooklyn, 13 from Manhattan, 11 from Queens and 2 from Staten Island. 7 of the selected schools are elementary schools, 1 is a K-2 school, 2 are K-8 schools, 1 is a K-12 school, 19 are middle schools, 6 are secondary schools, and 28 are high schools. The new PROSE schools will implement a wide range of innovations designed by school staff, including:

  • Michael J. Petrides School, Staten Island: This K-12 school is implementing larger seminar-style classes in its high school that mimic the college-style lectures students will encounter after graduation.  This innovative approach breaks with formulaic staffing ratios and allows team teachers in the classroom to also work one-on-one with students, something not possible under existing rules.
  • Middle School 390, Bronx: This school is reworking its entire schedule to focus aggressively on reading and writing instruction. While continuing to preserve instructional time for other subjects, the school will provide students with up to 30 minutes of independent reading at the beginning of the day and up to 36 minutes of focused writing at the end of each day.
  • Riverdale Avenue Community School, Brooklyn: To provide additional learning time for students, more collaboration time for teachers, and additional opportunities for family engagement, this elementary school will stagger teacher schedules to enable students to have a longer school day.

The 64 new schools come in addition to the 62 PROSE schools from last year, which included:

  • School of Integrated Learning, Brooklyn: This school has implemented flexible teacher-student ratios to accommodate small-group learning experiences. With larger classes – up to forty students in a class – one teacher can lead the room while a second teacher simultaneously works with small groups of three to five students to give hands-on attention to students who are struggling.
  • Bronx Park Middle School: Over five days this school year, the staff at Bronx Park Middle School engaged in full-day professional development sessions during which teachers reviewed student work and discussed strategies to support increased student learning in upcoming units. This time enabled teachers to develop targeted teaching strategies for individual students and classrooms. PROSE allowed the school to rearrange the calendar to accommodate these days, while the school worked with community organizations to offer full-day programming for students during the professional development days.

The DOE’s Research and Policy Support Group (RPSG) is collecting information from school faculty and administration through a survey and is conducting focus groups to assess the impact of provided flexibilities on school instruction and operations. A preliminary report will be available in the summer. The PROSE team is also supporting schools to develop systems to monitor the progress of their own initiatives.

To read a full transcript of the Mayor’s remarks, please click here.

Mayor de Blasio Announces Sherry Chan as City’s New Chief Actuary

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sherry Chan as the City’s new Chief Actuary. In this role, Chan will serve the City’s retirement funds and oversee actuarial calculations for post-employments benefits for City employees.

As Chief Actuary, Chan will work for the five major actuarially-funded New York City Retirement Systems, including the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), the Board of Education Retirement System (BERS), the New York City Police Pension Fund, and the New York Fire Department Pension Fund. The Chief Actuary also serves as the legally-designated technical advisor to the Board of Trustees of the New York City Retirement Systems (NYCRS). The Office of the Actuary is responsible for determining employer contributions and funded status for NYCRS, preparing employer contributions for use in the development of budget and financial plans, certifying benefits for retiring employees, and preparing financial reports and accounting information on the New York City Health Benefits Program.

Sherry S. Chan has more than 15 years of international actuarial experience, with a specialty in retirement benefits. Most recently, Chan served as Chief Actuarial Officer for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and was an actuary for the state of Ohio. While in this role, Chan was also actively involved in the actuarial community, volunteering with the Actuarial Foundation’s Advancing Student Achievement Program and on the Board of the Columbus Actuarial Club. Chan is also an Associate of the Society of Actuaries, a Fellow of the Conference of Consulting Actuaries, and a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries. Chan received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University, where she studied actuarial science, mathematics, economics and Chinese. She earned a master’s degree from The Max M. Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University after graduating from their Executive MBA program.

Mayor de Blasio Opens First Full Section of New Resilient Rockaway Beach Boardwalk, Kicks off Beach Season

Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, New York City Economic Development Corporation President Kyle Kimball, and local leaders opened the first full section of the newly constructed Rockaway Boardwalk, from Beach 86th Street to Beach 97th Street, and announced a commitment to keep all $480 million in Federal Emergency Management Administration funding obligated for the project in the Rockaways if dollars remain once the boardwalk is complete. All New York City public beaches will be open for swimming starting tomorrow, Saturday, May 23.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, significant parts of the boardwalk and its surrounding amenities were destroyed or severely damaged. As a result of the de Blasio administration’s push, the Rockaway Boardwalk will be continuously complete by Memorial Day 2016, with intact sections of the old boardwalk and new sections linked together. The boardwalk will be entirely completed as new construction by Memorial Day 2017.

When combined with intact and previously restored sections, the first phase of reconstructed boardwalk means that there are 2.2 miles of the boardwalk currently accessible to the public. The second section of new boardwalk, from Beach 97th Street to Beach 107th Street, is expected to open on July 4 of this year, representing a total of 2.6 miles, or 55 percent of the boardwalk that will be accessible.

The boardwalk will rival the best in the world with respect to resiliency to extreme weather and the effects of climate change – featuring multiple layers of protection that include sand retaining walls and planted dunes, more resilient planking, coated steel support piles, plant-stabilized berms, and elevation to three feet above the 100-year flood plain. This complements the comprehensive resiliency plan underway across the Rockaway peninsula, including 3.5 million cubic yards of sand now providing interim protection on Rockaway beaches, major shoreline improvements, a double dune system in Breezy Point, bulkhead repairs, and much more. FEMA has obligated $480 million for boardwalk reconstruction, which includes the costs of repairs and resiliency measures. The de Blasio administration is committed to using any remaining funds from the FEMA reimbursement on further protective measures along the Rockaway peninsula.

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

Council to Vote on Creating Office of Civil Justice and More

Office of Civil Justice
Each year, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who cannot afford legal counsel are forced to take on their legal battles by themselves. Without access to an attorney, these individuals and families are at a disadvantage when fighting to avoid eviction, deal with debt collectors, or receive government benefits they are entitled to. Seniors, domestic violence survivors and people with disabilities often face civil legal difficulties without legal counsel.

Introduction 736-A, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Mark Levine, requires the creation of an Office of Civil Justice, headed by a Civil Justice Coordinator. This office will advise the Mayor on implementing and coordinating the provision of civil legal services among agencies, as well as review budget requests and make recommendations. The Civil Justice Coordinator will be responsible for assessing the ability and capacity of civil legal provider programs, pro-bono programs, and law school programs, in order to determine how many low-income New York City residents are actually being served and how many have unmet needs for civil legal services. Additionally, the Coordinator will evaluate and recommend mechanisms for providing free and low-cost civil legal services during and after emergencies. Finally, the Coordinator will be required to identify areas and populations of the City that have the most unmet needs. This bill will go into effect immediately.

City Jail Health Services Transparency
Introduction 440-A, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, would ensure that performance data from healthcare providers in New York City jails is reported to the city and made available to the public. Specifically, it would require quarterly reporting from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (“DOHMH”) that includes any physical or mental health performance indicators reported to them by any healthcare provider in jails.

This bill would require that the Council and Mayor receive the same reports that healthcare providers currently provide to DOHMH, and that they are posted online. Corizon, the current healthcare provider at the Rikers Island jail complex, currently provides quarterly reports on 40 performance indicators to DOHMH. This legislation would require the same reporting from any future provider of healthcare services in New York City jails that reports to DOHMH. These reports would include the performance indicators, the methodology used to calculate them, and any actions taken or planned to be taken by DOHMH in response. Even if no performance indicators were reported to DOHMH by a healthcare provider at City jails, DOHMH would still be required to issue a quarterly report covering five areas of inmate health—intake, follow-up care, patient safety, preventable hospitalizations, and preventable errors in medical care. This bill would go into effect immediately, with the first report due by July 15, 2015.

Traffic Safety Bills
The Council will vote on three bills that will promote safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists by requiring life-saving vehicle modifications known as side guards on more than 10,000 large trucks, improving efforts to keep trucks from needlessly using residential streets, and studying how we can improve safety along truck routes in New York City.

Introduction 198-A, sponsored by Council Members Corey Johnson, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, would require all large vehicles in the City fleet—including Department of Sanitation collection trucks—and City-licensed trade waste hauling vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds to be equipped with side guards. Side guards are devices fit to the side of a truck that help prevent pedestrians and cyclists from falling into the exposed space between a vehicle’s axles. Use of side guards has been shown to reduce fatalities in collisions with pedestrians and cyclists.

The Department of Transportation requires trucks to operate on designated routes unless they’re making a pick-up or delivery; however, each year thousands of trucks are cited for illegally deviating from these routes, causing safety and traffic concerns in residential areas.

Introduction 315-A, sponsored by Council Member Paul Vallone, would require the Department of Transportation to conduct a study on truck route compliance. The study would include locations where large numbers of truck drivers regularly operate off designated truck routes and may also include problematic locations identified by Council Members and Community Boards. Based on the study, the Department of Transportation would institute measures to increase compliance, such as converting two-way streets to one-way streets, posting signs regarding the permissible use of certain routes by trucks, and education outreach to the trucking industry. The Department of Transportation would post the study, including the locations of such measures, on its website and submit a copy to the Council no later than January 1, 2017.

An additional bill, Introduction 641-A, sponsored by Council Members Margaret Chin and Ydanis Rodriguez would require the Department of Transportation to conduct a study on the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists along truck routes. The study would include a review of how tolling policies impact truck route usage, an analysis of serious crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists on truck routes, and information on policies and strategies to increase safety on truck routes, as well as recommendations for further improving safety along truck routes. The Department of Transportation would post the study online and submit copies to the Mayor and Council by June 30, 2016.

Transparency for Student Diversity Data in City Schools
Introduction 511-A, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would require the Department of Education (DOE) to submit to the City Council and post on its website an annual report regarding student demographics and the DOE’s efforts to encourage diversity within schools. The bill would require reporting on the following demographic data in all schools and all districts for students in kindergarten through eighth grade who:
• Receive special education services
• Are English language learners
• Receive free or reduced price lunch
• Reside in temporary housing
• Are attending a school outside of the community schools.

This information would be further disaggregated by grade, race/ethnicity, gender and primary home language (for students who are English language learners).

Comptroller Stringer: City’s Contribution to the MTA is the Equivalent of Every Household Paying a $130 “Invisible Fare” Every Month Before Buying a Metrocard or Paying a Toll

A new analysis released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer finds that New York City taxpayers and businesses contribute over $10.1 billion annually in taxes, fares, tolls and direct expenditures toward the operations of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a far higher total than generally recognized.

The Comptroller’s analysis is a comprehensive examination of the full cost of the MTA to New York City, commuter counties within the MTA region, New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey, including operating expenditures, direct expenditures by the City on behalf of the MTA, and capital expenditures.

The report found that in addition to the $5.3 billion in fares and tolls paid by City residents across all MTA systems in FY 2014, New Yorkers paid an additional “invisible fare” of $4.8 billion dollars. This “fare” included taxes, fees and subsidies levied on City residents and businesses such as the Payroll Mobility Tax, a $0.50 per-ride taxi surcharge and a dedicated portion of the sales tax in New York City and the commuter counties. The “invisible fare” also includes $612.5 million in direct expenditures that pay for policing New York City Transit and debt service payments.

New York City and Commuter Counties Overburdened, Neighboring States not Paying “Fare” Share
The MTA is a creature of the State, however, the State’s contributions to the MTA have been significantly less than the City’s. In MTA FY 2014, New York State paid $603.5 million to the MTA, roughly 4 percent of the Authority’s operating budget. This figure is 1/8th of the amount that the City contributes to the MTA, excluding fares and tolls.

New York City and commuter counties pay more toward the MTA’s operating revenue than the MTA spends on services for their residents. However, the opposite is true for neighboring states: when analyzed by ridership in MTA FY 2014, Connecticut provided approximately $156 million less than they consumed in services, while New Jersey’s contribution was $65 million less than their proportional share of MTA services.

New York City’s Capital Contributions and Debt Service far Greater than Previously Known; State and Federal Support is a Fraction of New York City’s
Despite the oft-repeated statistic that the City contributes $100 million annually to the MTA’s capital needs, the Comptroller’s report found that the City’s support for the MTA’s capital program is actually multiples of that figure. From City FY 2005-2014, the MTA had available an average of $175 million of City funds for capital projects. However, the MTA was only able to commit an average of $81 million a year of this funding – effectively signing contracts for just 46 percent of planned commitments.

Including the City’s contribution to capital spending on the extension of the 7 subway line, from MTA FY 2005-2014, the average amount of capital funding received from the City was $296 million annually. But the greatest support provided by the City for the MTA’s capital program isn’t its contribution of capital dollars, but rather paying the debt service on the billions the MTA borrows. In 2014, the City’s contribution included $1.85 billion to the MTA in debt service to pay for its own borrowing for MTA projects, debt service for the 7-line extension and MTA’s debt service supported by the City’s contribution to its operating expenses. In contrast, the State’s contribution to MTA debt service is one-tenth of the City’s, coming in at approximately $180 million dollars.

The Comptroller’s report also compared federal funding in the 2015-2019 MTA Capital Plan against federal support for the two previous MTA Capital Plans. The report concludes that the federal government should contribute between $1.6 and $4.6 billion more than its current $6.8 billion pledged contribution to the 2015-2019 Capital Plan in order to bring its support in line with past capital plan contributions.

Public Advocate James Rallies to Save Day Care Centers

Public Advocate Letitia James stood with elected officials, advocates, daycare providers, parents, and children to call on the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) to develop a plan to save hundreds of City funded EarlyLearn NYC day care seats that have closed or are at risk of closing. New York City subsidizes hundreds of day care centers through its EarlyLearn NYC program. However, over the last year, eight  day care centers in high need neighborhoods and with direct leases through the City have been forced to close, representing nearly 600 seats, and many more are at risk.

“For working families, access to affordable early child care is an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “We cannot allow another day care center to close. ACS must develop a plan to reinstate the child care capacity that has been lost and ensure that, moving forward, there is adequate funding and resources to support our EarlyLearn providers.”

Public Advocate James Calls for Reforms to Mayoral Control

Public Advocate Letitia James released sweeping recommendations on reforming mayoral control of New York City public schools. The reforms call for enhancing parental and community engagement, strengthening accountability, and improving the Department of Education’s (DOE) finances. The report, titled “Our Schools, Our Voices: The Future of Mayoral Control in New York City,” was created with input from over 300 parents, community members, educators, and other stakeholders who attended a series of public forums in all five boroughs over the last year.

“In every corner of our City, public school parents want a greater role in the decisions being made about their children’s education,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Mayoral control ensures there is accountability at the very top, but we must make changes that increase transparency and empower parents in public schools. I urge our state lawmakers to consider these common sense reforms before any renewal of mayoral control.”

In 2002, New York State law significantly altered the structure of New York City’s public school governance from a decentralized system of elected community school boards and an appointed central Board of Education, to a system of “mayoral control” in which the mayor holds vested authority over the City’s school system. Under mayoral control, the mayor has the power to appoint the chancellor, structure finances, appoint and remove members of the Panel for Education Policy (PEP) at-will, and set citywide education policies. The State legislature must authorize a renewal of mayoral control, and any proposed changes, before the current law sunsets on June 30, 2015.

To read the full report, please click here.

Queens Borough President Katz: IDNYC Card Enrollment Center to Open at Queens Borough Hall

Due to tremendous demand for the IDNYC card, Borough President Melinda Katz announced Queens Borough Hall will serve as an IDNYC Pop Up Enrollment Center from June 2 – 16. All New York City residents age 14 and older are qualified to apply for an IDNYC card, regardless of immigration status.

The IDNYC card is an accessible and secure document that enables residents to access City services and grant admission to City buildings, such as schools. In addition, the card can be presented as proof of identification for interacting with the police and is an accepted form of identification for opening a banking account at select financial institutions. An IDNYC card can also be used at all branches of all three of New York City’s public library systems and be used to obtain discounts and other benefits at museums and cultural institutions, entertainment venues, pharmacies and fitness centers.

The IDNYC card is free for all New Yorkers who apply before December 31, 2015. Cards are valid for five years from the date the application is approved. The City will protect the confidentiality of all IDNYC card applicants to the maximum extent allowable by applicable federal and state law, and in accordance with Local Law 35. In addition, the City will not ask applicants for information about their immigration status for purposes of obtaining the card.

Brooklyn Borough President Adams Launches Brooklyn Nightlife and Restaurant Coalition, Aimed at Improving Industry Relations with City

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams was joined by local entrepreneurs to launch the Brooklyn Nightlife and Restaurant Coalition, a group whose mission will be to improve relations and dialogue between industry stakeholders, community members, and City agencies. The hospitality sector had the fastest rate of job growth in Brooklyn between 2008 and 2012, expanding twice as fast as the rest of the city; of these jobs, 85 percent were in restaurants and bars. Borough President Adams spoke at the launch about the importance of these small businesses as well as how the Coalition will help organize and strengthen this community.

The Coalition will be chaired by Borough President Adams and Dave Rosen, owner and operator of The Woods, a bar and restaurant in Williamsburg. Membership will include owners of bars and restaurants in each community district, representatives from regulatory and enforcement agencies, and trade associations.

Businesses that have agreed to join the Brooklyn Nightlife and Restaurant Coalition in advance of its first official meeting include Bobby Redd Projects, an event production space in Bushwick; Brooklyn Brewery, a brewery in Williamsburg; Momofuku Milk Bar, a bakery in Williamsburg; Noble Experiment, a distillery in Bushwick; Output, a nightclub in Williamsburg; PopGun Presents, a live music venue in Bushwick; Project Parlor, a bar in Bedford-Stuyvesant; Roberta’s, a pizzeria in Williamsburg; Van Brunt Stillhouse, a distillery in Red Hook; and The Woods. Additionally, the leadership of the Coalition includes Crown Architecture and Consulting, an architecture and design firm; Elke Hoffman Law, a law firm specializing in the hospitality industry; and Helbraun, Levey, and O’Donoghue, a law firm specializing in the hospitality industry.

Staten Island Borough President Oddo: Summer Events of 2015 Announced 

Borough President James S. Oddo has announced the dates and locations for the 2015 Summer Sunset Concert Series. The series is made possible by the Borough President and Council Members Vincent Ignizio, Steven Matteo and Debi Rose. In addition, he announced two other special events – a free Doo Wop concert and the popular Back to the Beach festival.

All Thursday night concerts will begin at 7 pm. The concert schedule is as follows:

July 2nd – Conference House Park
July 9th – Clove Lakes Park
July 16th – Lemon Creek Park
July 23rd – Corporal Thompson Park
July 30th – Historic Richmond Town
August 6th – Bloomingdale Park
August 13th – Snug Harbor Cultural Center
August 20th – Willowbrook Park
August 27th – Silver Lake Park

In addition, BP Oddo and Massimo DiDonna, of the Bini Foundation, announced that Back to the Beach would return again this summer, on July 11 and 12.

Click here to view the Back to the Beach flyer.