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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

De Blasio Administration Announces Labor Agreements on Public Projects to Reduce Costs, Increase Opportunity for City’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Counsel to Mayor and M/WBE Director Maya Wiley, Contract Services Director Lisette Camilo, Senior Advisor to the Mayor Bill Goldstein, and School Construction Authority President Lorraine Grillo, announced a deal on several new project labor agreements with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC) that will cover an estimated $8 billion of construction projects throughout the term of the agreements and will save the City over $347 million. This amount includes an estimated savings of over $70 million related to citywide renovation work, over $84 million related to Department of Environmental Protection renovation work, and over $195 million related to School Construction Authority work. The Health and Hospitals Corporation is also analyzing whether to enter into a PLA that will yield additional savings.

In negotiating the current citywide renovation and DEP PLAs, the City focused on methods to increase opportunities for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, and created notable exemptions within the agreement to improve M/WBE participation in City construction work. The City and the BCTC also entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) focusing on increasing opportunities for women, new high school graduates of the City’s public schools, returning veterans and employees of certified M/WBEs by providing them with expanded career paths to good-paying construction jobs through apprenticeships.

“We are using every tool we have to reduce inequality in this city, and today’s agreement will ensure that the City will create good-paying jobs while managing our City projects in a cost-effective and fiscally responsible manner,” said Mayor de Blasio. “And for the first time ever, the City has negotiated provisions to open doors of economic opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses and create new pathways to good jobs for New Yorkers.”

Mayor de Blasio Orders Immediate Actions to End the Use of Substandard Three-Quarter Houses in New York City

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that an interagency task force will review the use of three-quarter houses in New York City. The Mayor ordered his senior staff to immediately conduct a full review of all residences identified by the Human Resources Administration that house 10 or more unrelated adults that receive the $215 State-set public assistance rent allowance. Starting this week, inspectors from several City agencies, including the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Human Resources Administration and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will visit identified locations to document health and safety violations. Where serious or repeated violations are found, HRA will invoke its authority under the State’s social services law provision to withhold rent. If necessary, alternative accommodations will be found to protect the health and safety of residents.

The City will continue to partner with law enforcement to address Medicaid fraud that it has been investigating at three-quarter houses, and will make additional referrals for prosecution.

The City is already working with the federal court receiver and Samaritan Village to ensure that the 1,200 residents that have been receiving services from Narco Freedom, the substance-abuse-treatment provider where an investigation has already resulted in criminal indictments, will be placed in appropriate programs and living conditions.

The Mayor will also request all State agencies to stop referrals to three-quarter houses, which has been City policy since 2010 when then-Public Advocate de Blasio pushed for the change. Additionally, the City will ask the State to increase the public assistance rent allowance for singles and families, and continue to fight for an adequate allocation of supportive housing units for the five boroughs.

Mayor de Blasio Signs Legislation to Increase Transparency of FDNY Hiring Process

Mayor de Blasio signed into law nine pieces of legislation – Intro. 579-A, in relation to reporting on the racial and gender makeup of applicants for firefighter civil service examinations, and admission and graduation statistics from the probationary firefighter school; Intro. 222-A, in relation to building owners providing notice to their tenants for service interruptions; Intro. 702-A, in relation to developing a guide for building owners regarding aging in place; Intro. 764, in relation to amending the district plan of the Lower East Side Business Improvement District; Intro. 240-A, in relation to filing semiannual reports on catch basin cleanup and maintenance; Intro. 742-A, in relation to the community engagement process in the Percent for Art law; Intro. 592-A, in relation to the preservation of certain hotels; and Intros. 761 and 772, in relation to technical changes to certain pet shop requirements.

The first bill, Intro. 579-A, requires the Fire Department to report on the racial and gender makeup of applicants for the firefighter civil service examinations. The FDNY will be required to provide an annual report on the number of women and people of color who progress through each phase of the hiring process, starting with its most recent written examination in 2012. The report will also include admission and graduation statistics from the probationary firefighter school. FDNY is also required to report on its recruiting activities, including expenditures, recruiting events, and preparatory materials for potential applicants. This bill was passed during the Stated Meeting on May 14.

The second bill, Intro. 222-A, requires building owners to notify tenants in advance of non-emergency repairs that would cause service interruptions. The bill requires landlords to provide occupants with notice prior to performing work that would interrupt building services for more than two hours, with the exception of emergency work or repairs. Landlords must notify building occupants of the type of work being performed and the estimated start and end dates of the service interruption. This bill was passed during the Stated Meeting on May 14. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsors, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Mendez.

The third bill, Intro. 702-A, requires the Department of Aging – in collaboration with the Department of Buildings, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and business and nonprofit experts – to develop and distribute a guide for building owners to assist aging tenants and make it available on the DFTA’s website by July 1, 2016. This guide will include information on accessibility for individuals with limited mobility related to lighting, grab bars, technological improvements, and width of doorways and hallways. This bill was passed by the City Council during the Stated Meeting on May 14. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsors, Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Member Chin.

The fourth bill, Intro. 764, amends the district plan of the Lower East Side’s Business Improvement District to modify the existing services, which will now include additional services such as capital and technical assistance to BID stakeholders. The bill also amends the method for district assessments by creating two sub-districts within the BID – one comprised of the five tax lots within the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, and the other comprised of the remaining tax lots. This bill was passed by the City Council during the Stated Meeting on May 27. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsors, Council Members Ferreras and Chin.

The fifth bill, Intro. 240-A, requires the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to submit semiannual reports on catch basin cleanup and maintenance to the Mayor and City Council. The bill requires that the Department inspect every catch basin at least once per year and respond to complaints to unclog or repair catch basins within a nine-day window. This bill was passed by the City Council during the Stated Meeting on May 27. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Williams, and Council Member Richards, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection.

The sixth bill, Intro. 742-A, increases public notice for Percent for Art projects by requiring the Department of Cultural Affairs to present on works of art for the Percent for Art program at a public meeting, such as a community board meeting in the affected district. The Department must also post advance notice of the public meeting and the intent to include works of art in a Percent for Art Project on the DCLA website. This bill was passed by the City Council on May 14. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsors, Council Members Van Bramer and Cumbo.

The seventh bill, Intro. 592-A, requires the City to produce a report on the impact of the hotel industry on the City’s economy. This report will include an analysis of recent and projected conversions of hotel space, short- and long-term impacts of these conversions on the economy, impacts of restrictions on conversions, and recommendations for the preservation and enhancement of the hotel industry. The bill also places short-term restrictions on substantial conversions of hotels in Manhattan with at least 150 rooms.  A property owner may apply for a waiver from the bill’s restrictions to the Board of Standards and Appeals, which will determine whether the owner can demonstrate a need under the bill’s standards. This bill was passed by the City Council on May 14. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Johnson.

The final two bills, Intro. 761 and Intro. 772, make technical changes to certain pet shop requirements, as added by local laws 5 and 7, and 6 and 8, respectively, for the year 2015. These laws make important reforms to the sale of animals in New York City and set standards of care for animals in pet shops. Intro. 761 and Intro. 772 amend certain definitions and clarify provisions of the laws. These bills were passed by the City Council on May 14. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor Council Members Johnson and Crowley.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Administration Public Safety Officials Support  Raise The Age Legislation

Mayor Bill de Blasio and all of the Administration’s public safety agencies issued the following joint statement in support of efforts to raise the age of Family Court Jurisdiction in New York State.

“New York State has long been a pioneer in safe and effective juvenile and criminal policies. Yet, to our shame, in one area – treating 16 and 17 year olds as adults in the criminal justice system – we are behind all but one other state in the country.

It is time for New York to do the responsible thing: we must pass Raise the Age legislation now, before the session ends in June. Experts in law enforcement, prosecution, and juvenile justice from around the state agree.

We support a sensible and safe approach to adjudicating 16- and 17-year-olds in juvenile courts, housing them in juvenile facilities, and providing them with the age-appropriate services and conditions of confinement to reduce their re-offending and help them get their lives back on track.  Sound scientific data show that young people in this age group are different from adults in the way they make decisions and in the way they make long lasting behavior changes.  This research has repeatedly been cited in U.S. Supreme Court rulings affirming the importance of a separate treatment for juveniles.

We are encouraged by the success of other states that have recently raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction with positive public safety outcomes. New York State should take the responsible step for our youth and Raise the Age to bring our state in line with both the well-founded practice and science of the 21st century.

Over the past year, my administration has pursued a series of policy reforms aimed at reducing crime and unnecessary arrests and incarcerations, mitigating collateral consequences, and helping young adults get out of the criminal justice system and onto the right path towards productive futures. Enacting this legislation will provide a path forward for youth across New York to ensure they are treated as  just that – youth – and not housed with older and potentially more hardened offenders.

We thank the leaders in Albany for their commitment to avoiding shifting costs to local communities. We look forward to continuing to work together to make New York a national leader in juvenile justice reform, and we urge action on legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility this session.”

Mayor de Blasio Announces Jessica Singleton as City’s New Chief Digital Officer

Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced Jessica Singleton as the City’s new Chief Digital Officer. Singleton, who has served as Digital Director for the City since January 2014, will expand her role managing the City’s digital engagement strategy. In her new capacity, Singleton will encourage public participation in City-led technology initiatives, focus on outreach to the tech community, and direct citywide digital policy. The expansion of Singleton’s responsibilities underscores Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to make New York the most tech-friendly and innovative city in the world.

“From day one, Jessie understood that the purpose of government is to provide the highest quality services and support, and to ensure these services are accessible to all. Her leadership in the digital domain helped bring pre-K to the fingertips of New York parents, made possible Digital.NYC – a first-of-its-kind hub for New York City’s tech ecosystem – and spurred the integration of social media into NYC311’s service response queue. With a strong track record of producing digital tools that engage and excite, I’m eager to see the results she delivers for New Yorkers in this expanded role,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Reporting to the Senior Advisor to the Mayor Phil Walzak, the Chief Digital Officer directs the Office of Digital Strategy (NYC Digital) to produce and distribute digital content, launch digital products to promote civic engagement and increase government transparency, and support New York City’s tech ecosystem.

Mayor de Blasio Appoints Carla Matero as Director of The Mayor’s Office of Special Projects and Community Events

Mayor de Blasio appointed Carla Matero as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Projects and Community Events.  As Director, Matero will be responsible for overseeing MOSPCE, which plans and coordinates all public ceremonies, celebrations, receptions, and other events held by the Mayor and First Lady of New York City.

Carla Matero brings significant planning and communications experience to her new role. She most recently served as the Executive Director of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, and is well-equipped with the skills and experience to coordinate events on a large scale. She also has a background in community outreach through the arts, having served as Pennsylvania’s Artist in Residence for three years.

“So much of MOSPCE’s work revolves around celebrating the wonderful people and communities that make our city great. Carla understands just how much we have to be proud of here in New York City, and she’s no stranger to the extensive planning and coordination required by her new role as Director. I’m excited to welcome her onto our team.” said Mayor de Blasio.

Mayor de Blasio Appoints Judges to Family Court

Mayor de Blasio appointed Judge David Kaplan and Judge Emily Ruben to Family Court. As Family Court judges, Kaplan and Ruben will be charged with presiding over cases related to New York’s children and families.

Family Court is part of the New York State Unified Court System. Family Court judges hear cases related to adoption, foster care and guardianship, custody and visitation, domestic violence, and abused or neglected children.

The Mayor swore in the following judges:

Judge David Kaplan, most recently served as Supervising Judge of Housing Court in New York County. He was first appointed as a Housing Court Judge in 2008. Prior to that, he served as Law Clerk to the Honorable Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick in the New York State Court of Appeals and was a Court Attorney to Housing Court Judges. Judge Kaplan received his law degree from Emory University School of Law.

Judge Emily Ruben, has served The Legal Aid Society, Civil Division for over 18 years as Attorney-in-Charge of the Brooklyn Neighborhood Office, co-Supervisor of the Domestic Violence Project, and Supervising Attorney of the Citywide Family Law Unit. She was a member of the Lawyers Committee Against Domestic Violence, which she co-chaired from 2009 through 2012. Ruben is also a member of the New York State Unified Court System’s Matrimonial Practice Advisory Committee, the New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, and co-chaired the Custody, Visitation, Order of Protection subcommittee of the New York City Family Court Advisory Committee. Judge Ruben received her law degree from New York University Law School.

First Lady Chirlane McCray Announces Petition to Support Affordable Housing in New York City

Roughly a quarter of the population of New York City depends on rent regulation laws that keep their homes affordable. On June 15th, those laws are set to expire, threatening the city’s one million rent-regulated apartments and the ability of New Yorkers to stay in their neighborhoods.

The State Assembly has already taken action to support those tenants, and I am calling on their partners in Albany to step up and safeguard New York City as a city for everyone. By truly strengthening the rent laws, they can help New Yorkers stay in their neighborhoods. And by passing a small tax on the sale of the most expensive homes in the city, Albany could help provide the precious resources we need to fund 37,000 affordable apartments-enough to house 95,000 more people.

To sign the petition to support affordable housing, please click here.

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz Elected to Lead Queens City Council Delegation

The longest-serving Democrat in the City Council is set to lead the Queens delegation, sources say.

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, a Forest Hills lawmaker, will likely be chosen by her 13 Queens colleagues next week to head the delegation, replacing outgoing Councilman Mark Weprin. Mr. Weprin is set to resign from office to take a position with the Cuomo administration.

“I’m confident that Karen will be our next delegation chair,” Councilman Rory Lancman, a Koslowitz ally, told the Observer.

“She wants it,” Mr. Weprin added. (Ms. Koslowitz did not return a request for comment.)

Ms. Koslowitz, the chairwoman of the Committee on State and Federal Legislation, is a logical choice. By number of years served in the Council–not consecutive terms–she is the longest tenured member. She was originally elected in 1991 and served until 2001, when she was term-limited out of office. After an eight-year stint in the Queens borough president’s office, she ran and won the same City Council seat in 2009. She was easily re-elected in 2013. Ms. Koslowitz is not being challenged, according to several Council sources. She enjoys the support of the Queens Democratic Party, which saw its clout diminish after Melissa Mark-Viverito became the speaker of the City Council in 2014. Delegation chairs have a role in the budget negotiations with the speaker and mayor. They present their borough’s needs during the negotiations, allowing the diverse delegation to speak with something resembling a unified voice.

Queens’ delegation is the second largest after Brooklyn. Unlike their neighbor to the west, they only pick one chair: Brooklyn has two, Councilman Mark Treyger and Councilwoman Darlene Mealy. Ambitious politicians have coveted the posts and at least two coups have been staged on sitting delegation chairs. Mr. Treyger, with the support of many Brooklyn Democrats, ousted Councilman Carlos Menchaca in February. More than a decade earlier, a canny Park Slope councilman named Bill de Blasio did the same to another colleague, Lew Fidler. Mr. de Blasio was elected mayor in 2013.

Public Advocate James Calls for Tripling Funding to CUNY Child Care Programs

Public Advocate Letitia James released a report recommending that the City increase its contribution to the CUNY budget for child care from $500,000 to $1.53 million to ensure that every child receives the care and opportunities needed. Public Advocate James’ report recommends the funding go toward increasing the number of child care slots, increasing pay and benefits for child care staff, and increasing data collection, research and outreach efforts.

City funding for CUNY child care programs has remained flat at $500,000 since 1980. Over the past 35 years, there has been an increased demand for services and an increased cost to provide these services.

A 2014 survey of all CUNY campus child care centers found that 91% of student parents said it would be “difficult” or “very difficult” to attend school without campus child care. According to Public Advocate James’ report, titled “Relieving the ‘Third Shift’: The Case for Expanding Child Care at CUNY Community Colleges,” students with dependent children – especially single mothers – are at higher risk of dropping out, accumulating higher debt, and are more dependent on campus childcare for success in school. Even as student parents manage to graduate, the lack of child care services often delays their graduation and increases the amount of debt they accrue.

Public Advocate James, Legal Services NYC, and MinKwon Take Action after Elderly, Disabled NYers Lose Rent Subsidies

Public Advocate Letitia James and eight elderly and disabled tenants represented by Legal Services NYC and MinKwon Center for Community Action have filed a federal lawsuit against the New York City Department of Finance (“DOF”), DOF Commissioner Jacques Jiha, and the City of New York. The individual plaintiffs are widows and adult disabled children whose rent subsidies were revoked after their spouses or parents died, causing them to be at immediate risk of eviction and homelessness.

The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (“SCRIE”) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (“DRIE”) programs allow low-income households “headed” by elderly and/or disabled New Yorkers to freeze their rent at a given rate, preventing the neediest New Yorkers from being evicted, becoming displaced, or becoming homeless as rents rise. DOF allows surviving members of a household receiving a SCRIE or DRIE subsidy to maintain the same frozen rent rates after the designated “head of household” dies (known as a “benefits takeover”), as long as the next designated head of household meets certain criteria.

Beginning sometime around May of 2014, however, DOF began denying these benefit takeovers to people who did not notify the Department within 60 days of the death of their family member. Because the Department failed to notify anyone of this new 60-day deadline, low-income New Yorkers who have just lost a family member are now at risk of eviction and homelessness. And because DOF does not allow multiple eligible members of a household to be co-applicants for the programs, the new rule is causing benefits to be stripped away from elderly widows and adult disabled children who would have been otherwise been eligible on their own.

Bronx Borough President Diaz Issues Letter on Bronx Taxi Incident

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has issued a letter to Taxi & Limousine Commission Chairperson Meera Joshi in response to reports that Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was denied taxi service to The Bronx during her recent visit to New York City.

In his letter Borough President Diaz, himself a former employee of the Taxi & Limousine Commission, notes that such refusal is illegal, and calls for Commissioner Joshi to investigate not only Mayor Cruz’s complaints but the attitudes of yellow taxi drivers towards The Bronx, as well.

“If yellow taxi drivers are refusing service to The Bronx, or only providing that service begrudgingly, how many potential tourists is my borough losing because of this?,” wrote Borough President Diaz. “The Bronx has seen significant transformation in recent years, and we cannot effectively tell that story if yellow taxi drivers are refusing to bring passengers here.”

To read the full letter, please click here.

Bronx Borough President Diaz & Bronx Jewish Historical Initiative Launch New Website & Hall of Fame

On Tuesday, June 2, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and the Bronx Jewish Historical Initiative co-hosted an event launching the initiative’s new website and celebrating the induction of the inaugural class of the “Bronx Jewish Hall of Fame.”

Inductees included former Bronx Borough President and New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams, activist and author Blu Greenberg, comedian and author Robert Klein, author Cynthia Ozick and Daniel Reingold, President and CEO of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale by RiverSpring Health. The event’s emcee was Mike Woods of FOX 5’s “Good Day New York.” The event was sponsored in part by the Hebrew Home at Riverdale by RiverSpring Health, MacQuesten Development and Riverside Memorial Chapel.

“The Jewish community has a long and proud history in The Bronx, and we would not be where we are today without their significant contributions,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “This new website will help document the stories of our borough’s Jewish experience for future generations, and the ‘Bronx Jewish Hall of Fame’ will help us honor some of the legends from this community who have made an impact not only in The Bronx, but across the world.”

Manhattan Borough President Brewer Announces Community Board Leadership Development Training Series

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer will kick off her summer Leadership Development Training series with a ‘Land Use and Zoning 101’ seminar at her 1 Centre Street offices.

The series of trainings and seminars is intended for Community Board members, members of other appointed bodies like Manhattan’s highly active Solid Waste Advisory Board, and members of the public interested in civic involvement. The sessions are open to all registrants, and cover a range of subjects relevant to Community Board service and general civic participation.

For the first time, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office will offer trainings on landmarks and the use of open data. Other subjects covered will include:

• Land use and zoning (‘101’ and ‘advanced’)
• The New York City budget process
• Community planning tools and resources
• Conflict-of-interest and freedom of information law
• Parliamentary procedure and conducting a meeting
• Equal employment opportunity and diversity

Sessions began Thursday, June 4 and will continue through Tuesday, June 30.

Manhattan Borough President Brewer: Mayor Signs BP Brewer and Council Member Mendez Law Protecting Tenants

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Council Member Rosie Mendez celebrated Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature of Int. 222, legislation requiring landlords provide tenants with advance notice for non-emergency repair work that will result in disruptions to building services.

The new law establishes a general baseline of 24 hours’ advance notice for most work. For work affecting elevators, the bill requires 10 business days’ notice for major alteration work and 24 hours’ notice for any other work that will suspend all elevator service for more than two hours. This legislation, sponsored jointly by Council Member Mendez and Borough President Brewer, closes a gaping hole in the city’s tenant-protection laws, which previously did not provide no such advance-notice requirements.

Many landlords and management companies already provide advance notice of planned repairs to tenants – but many others do not. The reasonable notice requirements established by Int. 222 would help tenants plan ahead to minimize the impacts of these service disruptions on their lives, and also help tenants distinguish between disruptions for planned work on the one hand, and emergent service failures or landlord harassment tactics on the other.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Buildings will be responsible for enforcement and rulemaking in relation to the new law. The law will take effect in the fall of 2015.

Queens Borough President Katz to Host Free Queens Workshop on Applying for State Economic Development Grants

Borough President Melinda Katz announced a free training workshop on June 11 on accessing multiple economic development funding sources through one streamlined grant application process. Queens’ local businesses, non-profit organizations, municipalities, economic development officials and members of the public are encouraged to participate.

As part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to stimulate economic growth, a statewide Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process helps streamline and expedite the process for applying for state funding for economic development projects.  The CFA serves as a single entry point for access to the state’s economic development funding, eliminating the need for grant seekers to navigate multiple agencies and funding sources.  Empire State Development Regional Director of New York City Joseph Tazewell will be the featured presenter.

As part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to stimulate economic growth, a statewide Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process helps streamline and expedite the process for applying for state funding for economic development projects.  The CFA serves as a single entry point for access to the state’s economic development funding, eliminating the need for grant seekers to navigate multiple agencies and funding sources.  Empire State Development Regional Director of New York City Joseph Tazewell will be the featured presenter.

WHAT: Building Capacity: Queens Training Workshop on the New York State Consolidated Funding Application

WHEN: Thursday, June 11, 2015 at 10-11:30am

WHERE: Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Boulevard.

The 2015 NYS Consolidated Funding Application accesses economic development funding sources totaling $750 million from state agencies and authorities including: NYS Canal Corporation; NYS Council on the Arts; NYS Department of Environmental Conservation; NYS Department of Labor; NYS Department of State; NYS Empire State Development; NYS Energy Research & Development Authority; NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation; NYS Homes and Community Renewal; NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation and the New York Power Authority.

Brooklyn Borough President Adams Announces to Legal Service Program, Offering Free Professional Assistance to Brooklynites in Needs

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams announced his Access to Legal Service program, a partnership he has forged with the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project and Legal Services NYC-Brooklyn, to offer free professional assistance to Brooklynites in need. The initiative will run out of Room G-80 at Brooklyn Borough Hall between the hours of 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM on select days. On the second Wednesday of every month, the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project will offer foreclosure intervention and prevention services. The second and fourth Thursday of every month will feature housing and elder law assistance, as well as help with pension matters, from Legal Services NYC-Brooklyn. Borough President Adams noted the importance of making legal services available to those facing financial challenges in the borough.

“The law impacts all of us, and we must empower everyone with the resources needed to handle it,” said Borough President Adams. “I thank the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project and Legal Services NYC-Brooklyn for partnering with me on Access to Legal Service, an effort that will ensure more Brooklynites can overcome whatever difficulties they might face in availing themselves of needed legal assistance. Programs like this can be the difference in someone keeping their home, securing their person, and aging with dignity.”

“The Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) is excited and proud to partner with the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office to provide critical legal information and advice to Brooklyn residents facing foreclosure though a new monthly legal clinic at Borough Hall,” said Heidi Lee Henderson, Esq., executive director of the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project. “The VLP’s mission is to ensure that high quality legal representation is accessible to those who, because of the overwhelming burdens of poverty, would not otherwise have their rights protected or their voices heard.  The VLP’s foreclosure program provides critical legal assistance to Brooklyn residents facing the acute loss of their homes, and through the VLP’s partnership with Borough President Eric Adams, our compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys will help Brooklyn residents stay in their homes, help stabilize neighborhoods, and provide a valuable resource to an overburdened and challenged court system.”

Brooklyn Borough President Adams Urges Governor Cuomo to Restore $100m in State Funding for Critical NYCHA Roof Repairs

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams stood atop the damaged roof of 110 Humboldt Street, a seven-story residential building that is part of the Borinquen Plaza II development in Williamsburg, as he urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to restore $100 million in State funding for critical New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) roof repairs. The investment by the State, which had been previously indicated to go toward these needed projects and to be matched by the City budget, has been redesignated to fund legislators’ pet projects such as landscaping and playgrounds. Five NYCHA developments in Brooklyn are set to lose out on support for roof repairs as a result of this decision, including Borinquen Plaza I and Borinquen Plaza II, Langston Hughes Houses and Samuel J. Tilden Houses in Brownsville, and Bernard Haber Houses, a senior citizen development in Coney Island. Borough President Adams spoke about how the health and safety of public housing residents must be a greater concern for government than other cosmetic improvements.

In the rain, Borough President Adams joined Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna, who formerly represented Borinquen Plaza II in the City Council, and Juan Caban, former resident association president at Borinquen Plaza I, to show the patchwork repairs, deep pools of water, and the softness of the roof at 110 Humboldt Street as clear examples of its substandard condition, at one point demonstrating how he could put his hand under torn pieces of the roof.

Reports have shown that substandard roofs lead to damaging leaks and toxic mold growth in residents’ apartments, as well as more strained boilers and greater building emissions due to poor insulation. According to the rating system for NYCHA roofs, with one being “good” and five being “beyond useful life,” the seven buildings at Borinquen Plaza II have roofs rated at 4.26, while the ten buildings at Borinquen Plaza I are rated at 4.32. In testimony by NYCHA Executive Vice President for Capital Projects Ray Ribeiro to the City Council’s Committee on Public Housing last week, it was noted that roof replacement at three developments reduced work orders by an average of 56 percent, highlighting how patchwork repairs have taken limited maintenance manpower away from other pressing needs.

 City Agencies:

 Chancellor Fariña Announces New Easy-To-Use, Family-Facing Online Account for School Data

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced the launch of NYC Schools accounts, a new easy-to-use tool for parents to view critical information about their children, including grades, attendance records, and the contact information on file at the school. State test scores will be added after they are released. The account, which parents can sign up for starting June 8, gives families the ability to view student information on mobile devices, furthering the DOE’s commitment to bringing parents into school communities as critical partners in their children’s education. Parents or guardians will be able to sign up for a NYC Schools account using their personal email addresses, create their own passwords, and access information about all their children through one account.

Student information will be easy to view on any type of device and will be available in ten languages. The NYC Schools account will enable parents to see information they formerly found in ARIS, a system that cost the DOE $95 million between 2007 and 2014 but was heavily underused: in the 2012-2013 school year, only 3 percent of parents logged in. The NYC Schools account was designed in-house for less than $2 million and will cost under $4 million for further development and maintenance over the next four years.

When NYC Schools accounts are initially released on June 8, families will be able to use the tool to view current attendance records, student profiles, and the contact information on file at their school. Final report card grades will be online when they are issued at the end of the school year. State test scores for math, English Language Arts, and Regents exams will be available after they are released by the State. Historical data, such as previous years’ grades and scores, will also be added later in 2015. The accounts have a built-in comment feature, allowing DOE to gather feedback to improve user experience. Parents must register for an account at their child’s school, where their identities can be verified. To further ensure the privacy of information in NYC Schools accounts, all student data is encrypted. The system is entirely built and maintained by the DOE and no outside entity or vendor has access. The DOE will provide guidance to school leaders on communicating with parents on how to register and is scheduling parent workshops for the summer.

In addition, the DOE recently released two tools for school staff that will allow all school leaders across the City to more easily and accurately measure student progress and use those findings to improve their schools. Using the new tools, principals and teachers will be able to identify and support struggling students earlier than ever before, identify and address performance trends at their schools, and track current and former students’ progress over time. The Progress to Graduation Tracker will be available to high schools and transfer high schools, while the School Performance Data Explorer will be available to all schools.

 

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