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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

De Blasio Administration and USCIS Announce New Partnership To Establish “New Americans Corners” At Libraries Across The City

Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have joined forces to strengthen citizenship education and awareness efforts in the City of New York by establishing “New Americans Corners” in all 217 library branches of the Brooklyn, New York and Queens public libraries. The new partnership – which will provide recent immigrants with access to information and resources about citizenship, financial empowerment, and entrepreneurship – began as part of a signed letter of agreement between Mayor de Blasio and USCIS Director Léon Rodríguez. Mayor de Blasio and the presidents of New York’s three public library systems have also signed a parallel agreement to help implement this work.

The City’s three public library systems and other city agencies have supported immigrants for many years; however, this initiative formally establishes “New Americans Corners” in all 217 library branches across all branches of the Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, and Queens Library systems. Library visitors will be able to access information and resources about citizenship, financial empowerment and entrepreneurship through these corners. The City’s new agreements with USCIS and the public library systems facilitate the flow of materials, training, and increased cooperation among the federal agency responsible for granting citizenship benefits, New York City, and the public libraries. The USCIS agreement will remain in effect until December 31, 2018.

As community centers that immigrants trust and turn to for information and assistance, New York City libraries have been important partners for the City on a range of initiatives to reach immigrants, including IDNYC, the City’s municipal identification program.

USCIS and the City of New York also plan to:

  • Provide citizenship information through the City of New York and public library websites;
  • Expand community partnerships to hold naturalization information sessions throughout the City of New York;
  • Offer training on the naturalization process to library staff members; and
  • Raise public awareness of immigration services scams.

The Human Resources Administration, the Department of Small Business Services, and the New York City business community have also joined the effort to provide support to New York immigrants. Last month, the Department of Small Business Services announced a partnership with the library systems to provide free business courses and resources to immigrant entrepreneurs in up to eight languages through 18 library locations.

Additionally, this week, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs convened government and business leaders to launch the New American Workforce in New York City, a model for New York City employers to assist their immigrant employees attain U.S. citizenship. Led by the New American Workforce, an initiative of the National Immigration Forum, this model supports the full participation of immigrant employees in their workplace, community and economy. New American Workforce’s pilot program with the City’s Human Resources Administration has assisted hundreds of employees and clients on the path to citizenship.

Mayor de Blasio Appoints Salvatore Carcaterra to Civilian Complaint Review Board

Mayor de Blasio appointed Salvatore Carcaterra, designated by NYPD Commissioner Bratton, to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. As a member of the CCRB, Carcaterra will review agency investigations of misconduct complaints against NYPD officers and will make findings, along with other Board members, on whether or not to substantiate the allegations.

“We’re committed to building trust and cooperation between police and the communities they serve, and an independent and transparent CCRB plays a critical role in protecting New Yorkers’ rights and civil liberties. Given his extensive experience in the field of public safety, Sal Carcaterra will be a strong and knowledgeable addition to the Board,” said Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton.

Sal Carcaterra brings over two decades of law enforcement and counterterrorism experience to the CCRB. As Deputy Chief of Police from 2000-2002, he organized and managed the implementation of the NYPD’s overall terrorism response after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Carcaterra also helped direct and manage the daily operations of the entire NYPD workforce, which has equipped him with an incredibly thorough understanding of the Department and makes him a knowledgeable addition to the CCRB. Prior to serving as Deputy Chief, Carcaterra held other leadership positions within the NYPD. Currently, he is the president of a private security consulting firm, SFC Security & Intelligence, and has over ten years of experience in assuring security, stability, and protection for corporate and personal clients. Carcaterra fills the third seat on the Board designated by Commissioner Bratton.

Mayor de Blasio Appoints Sarah Sayeed as Senior Advisor to The Community Affairs Unit

Mayor de Blasio appointed Sarah Sayeed as a Senior Advisor in the Community Affairs Unit. Sayeed will specialize in issues related to the city’s Muslim community, coordinating with City agencies to determine how to best serve Muslim New Yorkers and building on the City’s existing network of outreach and engagement to improve communication and delivery of services.

“I am proud to welcome Sarah, with her strong background in community engagement and interfaith outreach, to her new role as Senior Advisor. Sarah will work with the Community Affairs Unit to further engage the Muslim community in the genesis and formation of City policy,” said Mayor de Blasio. “New York’s robust and vibrant Muslim community is an integral part of our city, and Sarah’s strong ties will help City Hall better connect with our Muslim brothers and sisters across the city to improve the lives of all New Yorkers.”

In her role as Senior Advisor, Sayeed will assist the Community Affairs Unit in expanding its outreach to the City’s Muslim community, bringing local insight on matters pertaining to City policy, ensuring services are culturally-appropriate and accessible to all New Yorkers, and informing the way City leadership and Agencies conduct outreach and service delivery for Muslim communities. Sayeed will work closely with several Mayoral offices and Agencies, including the Department of Youth and Community Development, the Department of Education, the Police Department, Department of Housing Preservation and Development, New York City Housing Authority, and Administration for Children’s Services. This appointment is the most recent step by the de Blasio administration to further engage Muslim New Yorkers around issues such as universal pre-K, combating bias crimes, IDNYC, and sustainability.

Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton Launch “Summer All Out” Initiative

Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bratton announced the launch of “Summer All Out,” a targeted anti-violence officer deployment program focused on high-crime areas across the city. Following last year’s successful implementation of Summer All Out and other summer initiatives, the NYPD will temporarily reassign 330 administrative officers to boost patrols in 10 high-crime precincts and four high-crime police service areas. The NYPD will also partner with community members, social service providers, and police organizations to specifically target gangs and street crews.

2014 was one of the safest years on record in New York City, with a record low of 333 homicides. Last year’s Summer All Out initiative and other efforts by the NYPD to reduce crime resulted in decreases in violent crimes compared to the same time period in 2013:

Between July 8 and October 5, 2014, the following crime outcomes occurred in the 10 targeted precincts:

  • There were 25.8 percent fewer homicides compared to the same period in 2013
  • There were 19.5 percent fewer shooting incidents compared to the same period in 2013
  • There were 22 percent fewer shooting victims compared to the same period in 2013

Overall Crime in Targeted Precincts:

  • The 77th Precinct saw the greatest drop in overall crime, with a 24.8 percent decrease
  • The 69th and 113th Precincts saw a drop of 13 percent in overall crime

Shooting Incidents in Targeted Precincts:

  • 53 percent decrease in the 113th Precinct
  • 53 percent decrease in the 42nd Precinct
  • 41 percent decrease in the 75th Precinct
  • 24 percent decrease in the 67th Precinct

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

Mayor de Blasio Appoints Michael Paul Carey as Director of The Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management, Prisca Salazar-Rodriguez as Mayor’s Director of Scheduling

Mayor de Blasio appointed Michael Paul Carey as Executive Director of the Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management, and Prisca Salazar-Rodriguez as Director of Scheduling.

Carey brings years of experience in event management to the role, having worked for both the City of New York and the White House in advance and special event coordination. As Executive Director of the Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management, Carey will be responsible for ensuring New York City continues to be the premier venue and backdrop for special events and cultural activities, and will work to ensure citywide events represent all New Yorkers.

“New York City does the biggest, best, and most complex public events in the world,” said Mayor de Blasio. “I trust Michael Paul Carey to lead this office with precision and professionalism, and bring the vision of our administration to this critical role.”

The incoming Director of Scheduling Prisca Salazar-Rodriguez has spent nearly two decades in New York City government, and as Director of Scheduling, Salazar-Rodriguez will bring her expertise to plan and execute the Mayor’s day-to-day schedule and events.

Mayor de Blasio: Health and Hospitals Corporation To Run City Correctional Health Service

As part of the de Blasio administration’s commitment to reform the city’s correctional system, the Mayor announced that the City will return the management of correctional health services to the Health and Hospitals Corporation and will not renew contracts with Corizon, Inc. and Damian Family Care Centers, Inc after their expiration.

HHC, New York City’s premier public health care provider, will be solely accountable for the quality of care provided to the approximately 70,000 people moving through the correctional system each year and the coordination and continuity of services to people during and after incarceration. The decision derives from an extensive review by an interagency team formed in the fall of 2014 to explore new strategies for organizing and delivering health care in the New York City jail system. The task force included the Mayor’s Office, DOHMH, DOC, HHC, Law Department and OMB. The City anticipates a seamless continuation of services and an orderly transition of services and staff completed by December 2015 and August 2016 – the expiration dates of the current contracts with Corizon and Damian, respectively. As is the case with all of its other operations, HHC will engage its nonprofit affiliates in the provision of patient care services.

HHC is the largest public health care delivery system in the nation, and is widely recognized for its quality and culturally-responsive services. HHC’s new role as manager of correctional health services will provide the following benefits to inmates and recently-released individuals:

  • Continuity of Care: Better coordination of care between hospital and jail-based health services, and access to HHC’s geographically convenient primary care centers to improve continuity of care after release.
  • Integration of Physical and Behavioral Health Services: More seamless coordination between the physical and behavioral health services – which ensures a holistic approach to care for patients.
  • Direct, Public Accountability: As a public entity, HHC is more accountable, more transparent and held to higher standards of care by the Mayor, its Board, and the City of New York.

The change in management will not result in staffing reductions or layoffs for DOHMH workers. Almost 300 DOHMH employees currently working on correctional health services will transfer to HHC payroll in August 2015. These staffers provide services ranging from information technology to discharge planning and other work essential to ensuring continuity of operations during the change. All current employees of Corizon and Damian – approximately 1,200 individuals – will be subject to comprehensive background checks, credential reviews, and evaluations of prior performance.

This change represents a transfer of services from one agency to another, including the existing budget for all of correctional health services, and the City does not anticipate any budget reductions. This transfer will occur through a Memorandum of Understanding between HHC and DOHMH. The DOHMH’s budget for correctional health services is approximately $225 million FY15, which includes the Corizon contract of approximately $154 million and the Damian contract of approximately $8 million. Additional costs for correctional health services will be determined after the operation is transferred and stabilized, at which point HHC will assess operational and capital needs to bring about improvements in quality of care.

De Blasio Administration Announces Early Care and Education Reforms to Improve Financial Stability of Providers, Ensure Safe and Healthy Learning Environments

The de Blasio Administration announced a set of reforms in support of EarlyLearn programs throughout New York City based on recommendations of the New York City Early Care and Education Task Force. These reforms – which will impact all 362 center-based EarlyLean programs serving over 36,000 children – will improve the financial stability of providers, make services more affordable, better compensate the workforce, and increase funds for repairs and technical assistance in order to ensure safe and healthy learning environments.

The Early Care and Education Task Force was convened by Deputy Mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli and ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrión in October 2014, and includes 44 key early care and education stakeholders, including government agencies, advocates, providers and child care consumers who developed recommendations to enhance the City’s Early Care and Education delivery system. Among the eight recommendations are the cultivation and compensation of a high-quality ECE workforce and increasing financial stability of EarlyLearn providers, both of which are addressed by the reforms announced:

  • ACS will offer a more flexible funding structure to better meet actual costs of providing high quality programs.  Providers will be reimbursed on actual expenses, which will recognize certain fixed costs, and ease the financial burden brought on by provider contribution requirement, which had been initiated under the previous Administration.
  • ACS will assist parents with fees to make services more accessible. ACS will reduce the fee paid by low-income parents whose children receive part-time care in EarlyLearn settings. These funds will provide relief to over 5,400 families who pay a part-time fee and make care accessible to additional families.
  • ACS will be able to better compensate the Early Care and Education workforce. The City’s Executive 2016 budget includes a 2.5 percent Cost of Living adjustment and a new $11.50 minimum wage for the staff of the City’s human services providers, including EarlyLearn staff.
  • ACS will ensure safe and healthy learning environments. ACS will spend over $7.4 million over the next two years to add 63 positions that will bolster its oversight, as well as improve its ability to ensure safe facilities. Over half of the positions will provide support and technical assistance to programs, and the remainder are trade staff who will implement necessary repairs and renovations.

The ACS Division of Early Care and Education at ACS administers one of the largest publicly-funded childcare systems in the country serving almost 100,000 infants, toddlers, pre-school and school-aged children annually.

ACS provides services through contracted care and vouchers to enhance child development and assist low-income working families, public assistance recipients who are employed or engaged in work activities, and families receiving child welfare services.

Read all of the Early Care and Education Task Force Recommendations here.

Mayor de Blasio Announces Creation of Clergy Advisory Council to Further Engage Communities of Faith in Formation of City Policy

Mayor de Blasio announced the creation of the Mayor’s Clergy Advisory Council – comprised of local faith leaders from across the five boroughs – to open a direct line of communication between religious leaders and City Hall. The Mayor made the announcement during Sunday’s mass at First Corinthian Baptist Church in Manhattan as part of the Administration’s ongoing commitment to engage communities of faith in the formation of City policy around issues like public safety, housing and education, as well as connect with residents on general City services.

The Council, which is still in formation, will be made up of a diverse set of local clergy tasked with liaising between members of the Administration and local faith communities. Council members will bring the priorities and concerns of New York’s congregants to City Hall, as well as share information on beneficial City programs such as free tax prep services and ID NYC with local faith communities. This effort will formalize and expand City Hall’s relationship with religious communities across the city – making it easier for New Yorkers to share feedback, improving service delivery and strengthening clergy networks across the five boroughs. Members of the Council will also be deputized to hold local meetings on matters pertaining to City policy – such as public safety, housing and education – and help identify and organize additional members of the clergy.

The Council will work directly with the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit and senior Administration officials to widen the reach of City services within communities across the city, and provide feedback on ways to strengthen programs that serve their congregations. The City will continue to work closely with groups like the Commission of Religious Ecumenical Leaders (COREL) to strengthen the Administration’s faith community network and further facilitate outreach to the city’s congregants. The Clergy Advisory Council will meet with the Mayor and his staff throughout the year, and hold monthly meetings with CAU, which will ensure members are supported in their community outreach.

Mayor de Blasio Announces Record-Breaking 70,000 Families Will Be Offered Pre-K Seats This Week

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that in the first round of pre-K offers, 69,393 applicants will receive an offer for free, full-day, high-quality pre-K later this week. Because of strong planning to match available seats with family demand, 70 percent of families will be awarded their top choice program and 82 percent of families will get one of their top 3 choices. Every family that applied will receive an offer, and there will be thousands of new seats available for the next round of admissions later this month.

The Mayor made the announcement at P.S. 5, The Ellen Lurie School, in Washington Heights where he handed offers of admission to Olivio Capellan and his four children to attend pre-K this fall. Each of the four children received an offer to P.S. 5, where programs specifically focus on helping children whose parents are immigrants to develop English language skills. Families big and small flocked to pre-K this year, including 1,113 sets of twins and 22 sets of triplets who applied for and will receive offers to pre-K. Parents with children enrolled in free, full-day pre-K save an average of $10,000 annually on childcare costs

For the first time, the DOE launched a streamlined enrollment process this year that allowed families to apply for pre-K in both district schools and NYC Early Education Centers through one easy-to-fill-out single application. Families were able to easily review all options available to them and rank up to 12 choices on their applications. Previously, parents were required to fill out separate applications – on two separate timelines – for district schools and Early Education Centers. On Wednesday, June 10, families will receive a single offer to their highest possible program choice based on the admissions priorities for district schools and early education centers. Families who did not receive their first choice will be placed on a waitlist at every program they listed higher than the offer they received.

A second round of applications begins June 22. All families – including those who receive offers Wednesday – are eligible to reapply in the second round. More than 1,700 new seats have been added to the pre-K directory in recent days, and thousands more will be added prior to the next round of applications. Families who apply in the second round who received an offer on June 10 do not forfeit their original offer, and students will remain on waitlists at the schools where they have applied.

Families can apply in one of three ways: online at www.nyc.gov/prek, over the phone by calling 311, or in person at one of the DOE’s 12 Family Welcome Centers. The application will be translated into nine languages, and additional translation services are available over the phone in more than 200 languages.

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

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

Council to Vote on “Fair Chance Act” Discouraging Employment Discrimination Based on Criminal Record

City Council will vote on the following:

Fair Chance Act
In order to address employment discrimination faced by individuals formerly incarcerated and increase gainful employment opportunities for those with arrest records or criminal histories, Introduction 318-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would make it a violation of the City’s Human Rights Law for any employer to make any inquiry about a job applicant’s criminal background prior to the applicant receiving a conditional offer of employment. Once a conditional offer is made, an employer would be permitted to make inquiries related to criminal history and could commence a criminal background check. If the employer decides to take adverse action against an applicant based on the applicant’s criminal record, the bill would require the employer to:  (i) provide the applicant with a written explanation of the decision not to hire the applicant; and (ii) hold the position open for three days, giving the applicant a chance to respond. During this three-day period, the applicant could address any incorrect or negative reporting, or provide the employer with proof of rehabilitation.

Car Wash Reform
Introduction 125-B, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, also known as “The Car Wash Accountability Act, ” is designed to help the City enforce environmental laws regarding the use of water and the disposal of pollutants as well as consumer protection laws for customers of car washes. The law will also help protect employees of car washes. Car wash employees are a particularly vulnerable group of low-wage workers. In fact, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently entered into a multi-million dollar settlement against car wash owners for wage theft including non-payment of overtime, minimum wage violations and stealing of tips. The law will require car washes to register with and secure a license from the Department of Consumer Affairs (“DCA”) in order to operate. Businesses where some car washing is done on the side, as is the case with many auto repair shops or car rental companies, would not be covered.

Small Business Package
Introduction 723-A, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require that the Mayor’s Office of Operations provide the business owner’s bill of rights in at least the top six languages spoken by limited-English proficient individuals, as those languages are determined by the Department of City Planning. Currently, those languages are Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, French Creole, and Italian. The bill would also require that the standardized customer service training curriculum developed by the Mayor’s Office of Operations include specific protocols for inspectors to follow when interacting with non-English speakers to ensure that such inspectors provide appropriate language translation services during inspections.

Introduction 724-A, sponsored by Council Member Margaret Chin, would require the appointment of small business advocates within the Department of Small Business Services  (SBS) dedicated to helping business owners obtain appropriate services from the Department and other government agencies. It would also require SBS to report on the number of requests received, the type of requests, and the assistance provided in response to each request.

Introduction 726-A, sponsored by Council Member Rafael Espinal, would require the Department of Consumer Affairs (“DCA”) to hold multiple business education events across the city each year to provide local businesses with information on the laws and rules that are enforced by the agency. The bill would require SBS to support DCA in organizing the events. The bill would require two such events to be held in two separate locations in each borough every year. Information provided at the events would address licensing schemes, consumer protection laws, and truth in pricing laws. Material produced for the business education events would be made available in English and in the six languages most commonly spoken by individuals with limited English language proficiency.

Introduction 725-A, sponsored by Council Member Robert Cornegy, would require the Mayor’s Office of Operations to engage in outreach efforts to ensure that a large number of small businesses are completing the customer service survey available on the City’s website. This feedback would be forwarded to agencies, and would be required under the bill to be used as these agencies formulate and refine their Council-mandated customer service training.

Introduction 456-A, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would require the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), which includes the Environmental Control Board, and Health and Taxi Tribunals, to issue monthly reports on violations that are dismissed in its tribunal. It would require the agencies that issue these violations to work with the Mayor’s Office of Operations to develop a report to the Council on the steps they plan to take to minimize the issuance of violations that are ultimately dismissed. For example, they might retrain inspectors or amend unclear rules.

Finally, Introduction 729-A, sponsored by Council Vincent Gentile, would require the Department of Consumer Affairs  to issue annual reports on the violations that are dismissed in its tribunal and would require DCA to report to the Council on the steps the agency plans to take to minimize the issuance of violations that are ultimately dismissed, such as retraining inspectors or amending unclear rules.

Crown Heights Historic District
The Crown Heights North III Historic District comprises more than 600 buildings, including single- and two-family row houses, flats buildings, and apartment houses primarily built from the 1870s to the 1930s representing the wealth of architectural styles that flourished in Brooklyn during this period, including the Neo-Grec, Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, Renaissance Revival, Beaux Arts, Colonial Revival, Arts and Crafts, and Art Deco styles. This historic designation will protect an important part of New York City’s architectural history and preserve the special character of this neighborhood.

Speaker Mark-Viverito, Council Member Dromm, Council Member Menchaca and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Announce Opening of East Harlem Office

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Daniel Dromm, and Immigration Chair Carlos Menchaca celebrated the opening of the IDNYC enrollment center in East Harlem. This permanent site is an addition to the many enrollment centers throughout the city that continue to help New Yorkers sign up for the highly coveted official city identification card.  Also joining the Speaker and Council Members were Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Cynthia Lopez, Commissioner for the Office of Media and Entertainment, Alice Knight, from the Union Street Settlement, Norma Bales a parent whose children attend Little Sisters of the Assumption, and students from Park East High School.

Since the launch of this program in January 2015, there have been over 100,000 IDNYC cards issued at over a dozen enrollment and pop-up centers throughout the five boroughs. The East Harlem enrollment center will be open 7 days a week until the end of the year.

The IDNYC program was created by the Council through legislation sponsored by Council Members Daniel Dromm and Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration. The IDNYC card offers a secure and formal identification card to anyone living within the five boroughs. Card holders are eligible for a wide variety of benefits including discounted movie theater tickets, access to the city’s three major library systems, free admission to the city’s cultural institutions for a year and prescription drug discounts through Big Apple Rx. IDNYC will also serve as a valid form of ID for 10 financial institutions.

Comptroller Stringer Launches Online Tool to Help New Yorkers Make Smart Banking Decisions

The accessibility and affordability of low-cost checking accounts varies widely across banks in New York City according to a new report, “Take it to the Bank: A New Yorker’s Guide to Affordable Checking Options,” released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.  In response to the findings of this new report, Comptroller Stringer released a new online search tool designed to provide New Yorkers with a clear roadmap to finding the right bank for their needs.

The Comptroller’s team approached 74 FDIC-insured banks that do retail banking in New York City as customers, closely reviewing the information available on their websites, and speaking directly with branch staff. The team then analyzed basic checking accounts offered, including comparisons of fees, language access, online banking, mobile apps, wire transfers, and branch hours, among other services. From that, the team developed product summaries and asked each bank’s corporate offices to confirm their findings.

The Comptroller’s Office found that among the 20 banks offering the most affordable combination of fees and opening deposits, the vast majority (90%) have 25 branches or fewer.

Bronx Borough President Diaz: NYC Parks Partners with NYC Department of Design and Construction to Re-Open the High Bridge to the Public

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, DDC Commissioner Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora and Congressman José E. Serrano celebrated the reopening of the High Bridge. They were joined in celebration by Councilmembers Fernando Cabrera, Vanessa Gibson, Mark Levine, and Ydanis Rodriguez; Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Victor Calise; author and actor Sonia Manzano (Maria from Sesame Street and author of The Lowdown on the High Bridge); and local advocate Chauncy Young; young High Bridge Historians Jocelyn Fuentes and Isabel Pasionara Young-Figueroa. Highbridge Voices and I.S. 52 Inwood Tiger Band added music to the celebration. Having been closed to the public for more than 40 years, the High Bridge will once again provide scenic pedestrian and cycling access between the Bronx and Manhattan.

Opened in 1848, the High Bridge is the oldest standing bridge in New York City and was a part of the city’s first water supply system. After being closed for more than four decades, NYC Parks and DDC restored and improved the 1,450-foot-long, 123-foot high bridge. As the only interborough bridge designed exclusively for pedestrians and bicyclists, the restoration of the High Bridge provides communities of both Manhattan and the Bronx with access to more than 125 acres of green space with baseball fields, basketball courts, bike trails, a skatepark, playgrounds and lawns.

The High Bridge restores a unique connection between two boroughs and provides communities with access to resources in both counties. Bronx residents are now able to walk directly to the Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center, while Manhattan residents will gain access to the Harlem River waterfront. The improved design will also allow pedestrians to enjoy new features including a hand-restored brick walkway, restored historic railing, new safety fence, barrier-free access, and new architectural lighting.

Manhattan Borough President Brewer leads Day of Action to boost free summer meals program

On Friday, June 12, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer led a borough-wide Day of Action to provide parents and children with detailed information about free meals available this summer through New York City’s Summer Meals Program.

Led by Brewer, about 100 volunteers and staff fanned out to Manhattan’s 82 Title One elementary schools with flyers explaining the program and detailing when and where free meals would be available this summer. Flyers were available in English, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese and customized with site-specific information for each neighborhood.

This outreach effort for the Summer Meals Program dovetails with Brewer’s continuing campaign to push Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Education to disseminate Summer Meals information to parents and students in early June or even May. By waiting until the very end of the school year to publish sites, schedules, and other information on Summer Meals, the Department of Education misses the opportunity to communicate to parents and students as a ‘captive audience’ and increase participation.

The Summer Meals Program is administered by the NYC Dept. of Education’s Office of School Food with federal funding, and serves free, nutritious meals during the summer at hundreds of public schools, public pools and recreation centers, New York City Housing Authority complexes and other sites.

Queens Borough President Katz to Swear in 339 Community Board Members

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz swore in 63 newly appointed community board member and 276 reappointed during a ceremony held on Monday, June 8th, in the New York Hall of Science, located at 47-01 111th Street in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The 339 members were appointed by Borough President Katz to serve two-years terms on their respective community boards, which play an important advisory role in considering land use and zoning matters. Community boards also contribute to the dialogue about the city budget, municipal service delivery and many other matters that impact their communities.

Eighty-nine individuals also honored in recognitions of their many years of excellent service on their respective boards. They include Miriam Levenson, who were recognized for 45 years of service on Community Board 4. Also honored were Joan Garippa of Community Board 11 and Seymour Finkelstein and Lloyd Hicks of Community Board 13, who are were honored for 35 years of service on their respective boards.

In addition, seven board members were honored for 30 years of service, 19 were honored for 25 years of service, seven were honored for 20 years of service, 25 were honored for 15 years of service and 27 were honored for 10 years of service.

Queens Borough President Katz: Maria Lisella is the New Queens Poet Laureate

Borough President Melinda Katz swore-in Astoria resident and Queens-native Maria Lisella as the new Queens Poet Laureate.

The swear-in took place during an installation ceremony held in Queens Borough Hall and was the culmination of a three-month search to find the next Queens Poet Laureate. Applicants for the unpaid positions were required to be residents of Queens and were asked to demonstrate their vision for how they would use the positions to promote a love of poetry and literacy through the borough.

Ms. Lisella is the sixth poet to serve as the borough’s Poet Laureate. Born in South Jamaica, Queens, Ms. Lisella moved with her family to Bellerose and lived as a Student in Flushing before she settled in Astoria 40 years ago. She hails from a family of Italian immigrants and speaks Italian along with basic Spanish.

Brooklyn Borough President Adams and Norman Siegel Announce Town Halls on Tenant Harassment in Brooklyn to Investigate Potential Lawsuits Against Harmful Landlords

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel announced a series of upcoming town halls to investigate cases of tenant harassment throughout Brooklyn. The aim will be to determine the potential for lawsuits against particularly bad-acting landlords whose actions, including shutting off utilities, practicing threatening or intimidating behavior against tenants, as well as removing boilers and venting systems, have put the health and safety of Brooklynites at risk. Borough President Adams discussed how the city’s affordable housing crisis and the actions of a number of bad actors led to this proactive outreach effort; he noted that tenant harassment complaints in Housing Court have nearly doubled since 2011.

The first town hall is scheduled for Tuesday, July 14th at Brooklyn Borough Hall in Downtown Brooklyn. Subsequent town halls are set for Thursday, July 16th at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center as well as Tuesday, July 28th at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Following the town halls, Borough President Adams noted that he will work with City and State partners in referring cases where criminality is at play to the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force. Where there are cases that may involve civil liability, he will work with a legal team, including Mr. Siegel, to explore the possibility of lawsuits.

A broad coalition of housing advocates partnering on these town halls joined Borough President Adams in support of the announcement, including the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development; Brooklyn Neighborhood Improvement Association; Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A; Carroll Gardens Association, Inc.; Fifth Avenue Committee; Flatbush Development Corporation; Los Sures Community Development Corporation; Midwood Development Corporation; Neighborhood Housing Services of Bedford-Stuyvesant; Neighbors Helping Neighbors; St. Nicks Alliance; Tenants & Neighbors; and the Urban Justice Center.

 City Agencies:

HPD: City Officials Join BRP Companies, Macedonia AME Church Elected Officials and Partners to Celebrate the Opening of Macedonia Plaza, Flushing’s Newest Affordable Housing Development

New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Vicki Been and New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) President Gary Rodney joined BRP Companies, Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and development partners to celebrate the opening of Macedonia Plaza. Built on an underused former city-owned site in Flushing, Queens, this newly constructed building located at 37-08 Union Street provides 143 affordable apartments for very low- and low-income New Yorkers as well as new retail space that will be occupied by Tree of Life NY grocery store later this year.  U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, State Assemblyman Ron Kim, Councilman Peter Koo, and Deputy Queens Borough President Melva Miller were among those present for the ceremony.

One of the oldest houses of worship in Queens, Macedonia AME Church recently celebrated its bicentennial.  It has been a valued supporter and key advocate for the inclusion of affordable housing at this site, and partnered with the City and developer to select the architect and develop the project’s design. The Church has also acted as the community liaison for the project since pre-construction.

The new 14-story, 161,760 square-foot affordable rental building makes productive use of a portion of a former municipal parking lot, combined with underused air rights made possible through collaboration with a community partner, the adjacent Macedonia AME Church. Macedonia Plaza was constructed on approximately 30,000-square-feet of a municipal parking lot formerly owned by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), and adds not just affordable housing, but 9,000-square-feet of new retail space.

Health Department Releases New Anti-Smoking Ads Featuring Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett

The Health Department released a new series of anti-smoking ads featuring Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Health Commissioner and herself a former smoker. Commissioner Bassett is the Health Department’s first Commissioner to appear in an anti-smoking ad. In the ads, Dr. Bassett discusses how she started smoking at age 16 and her eventual decision to quit the habit for good while she received her medical training at Harlem Hospital. She informs New Yorkers who smoke that while quitting wasn’t easy, she was inevitably successful in her efforts and feels healthier and happier as a result of her decision. The TV, subway, newspaper, radio and social media ads will run through June 28. View the Commissioner’s new TV ads on the NYCHealth YouTube page.

The Health Department also unveiled a new texting program, “Text NYC Quits,” that provides advice and encouragement for New Yorkers who are trying to quit smoking and stay smoke free. “Text NYC Quits” provides smokers and recent quitters with real-time, around-the-clock advice, support, tips and encouragement. Whether someone is thinking about quitting, has set a quit date or are four days smoke-free, “Text NYC Quits” has supportive messages to keep quitters motivated. To sign up, simply text “NYCQUITS” to 877-877.

Smoking remains common in the City, as smokers made up 16.1 percent of the adult population in 2013. While smoking rates have decreased since 2002 when the rate stood at 21.5 percent, the most recent numbers on smoking are still higher than the previous low of 14 percent in 2010. There are currently over 1 million smokers in New York City. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in New York City and kills an estimated 7,000 to 12,000 New Yorkers each year. There is still work to do to help people quit smoking and prevent youth from starting smoking. The most important step a smoker can take to improve his or her health is to quit smoking. Help is available to all New Yorkers who want to quit by calling 311, 1-866-NYQUITS or by visiting nysmokefree.com. Free medications and counseling are available. Using these services can make smokers twice as likely to successfully quit smoking.

 

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