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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Mark-Viverito, City Council Reach Early Agreement on Balanced FY2016 Budget

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and members of the City Council announced an early agreement for an on-time and balanced City budget for Fiscal Year 2016. The agreement on an approximately $78.5 billion budget moves forward key initiatives to tackle income inequality and lift up families across the five boroughs, while protecting and strengthening the City’s long-term fiscal health.

Among a variety of initiatives, tonight’s agreement includes:

  • $170 million to add new uniformed officers to the NYPD, coupled with vital reforms in overtime and civilianization that will generate over $70 million in savings when fully phased-in. The new officers will be dedicated to counter-terror efforts and neighborhood policing – central to Commissioner Bratton’s reengineering of the Department to bring police and community closer together while keeping crime low.
  • $39 million for universal six-day library service, extended hours, and other improvements.
  • Significant new investments in Renewal Schools, including $12.7 million for extended learning time, and $2.2 million for school-based health centers in FY17.
  • $17.9 million to phase-in breakfast in the classroom at 530 elementary schools, serving 339,000 students by FY18.
  • $6.6 million for the Department of Education to hire 50 additional physical education teachers and conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to address barriers and move schools toward full physical education compliance.
  • $1.8 million to expand the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) to serve New Yorkers in need.
  • $1.5 million in new staff and resources to meet the Mayor’s goal of ending veteran homelessness, and $335,000 to fund a team of Veterans Service Officers that will be deployed in communities throughout the five boroughs.
  • $4.3 million to eliminate waitlists for the Department for the Aging’s homecare program, and $2 million to expand elder abuse prevention.
  • $750,000 – growing in the out years – to fund support services through the Seniors in Affordable Rental Apartments (SARA) Program; 30 percent of those units are set aside for homeless seniors.
  • $21 million for FY2016 only to ensure there are no gaps in service as the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene establishes a more effective RFP process for service providers.
  • $1.14 million to fund 80 additional school crossing guards.
  • $687,000 to fund an extension of beach season for one week past Labor Day.
  • $5 million to dedicate additional resources to inspection and remediation of substandard conditions at boarding homes (known as “Three-quarter Houses”) and to relocate tenants.
  • $2.4 million – growing in the out years – to expand CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), with a goal of increasing the community college three-year associate degree graduation rate from 12 percent to 34 percent.
  • $1.3 million to expand resources for the Special Narcotics Prosecutor to address drug-related violence.

Budget monitors have validated the prudent way in which this administration has protected the City’s fiscal health. Earlier this month, all three major rating agencies affirmed the City’s strong, stable ratings. In the Executive Budget, the Mayor boosted reserves to unprecedented levels, including $1 billion a year in the General Reserve to provide much-needed protection in the event of a downturn; $2.6 billion for the Retiree Health Benefit Trust Fund; and the first-ever Capital Stabilization Reserve of $500 million to protect the City’s ability to invest in infrastructure and other needs, allowing the City to retire debt in a potential downturn and pay for research to make capital projects more cost efficient.

Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Bratton Unveil New, Groundbreaking Neighborhood Policing Vision

Mayor de Blasio and New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton unveiled One City: Safe and FairEverywhere, a groundbreaking plan of action to guide the work of the nation’s largest police force. The plan outlines a series of strategic changes that taken together form a new comprehensive framework for neighborhood policing – building a true partnership with neighbors and residents in the fight against crime.

The plan recognizes that the best way to keep crime at historically low levels, and drive it down even further, is to engage and activate community members as coequal partners in the fight against crime like never before.

To achieve this critical goal, One City: Safe and Fair – Everywhere introduces a comprehensive, pioneering plan for neighborhood policing. The plan is designed to solve the central problem in implementing the community policing ideal: providing officers with the time and training necessary to deepen relationships within the communities they serve, and transforming the role of officers from traditionally reactive responders to calls for service into something more – proactive problem solvers in true partnership with the community. The result, already being felt in four pilot precincts, is increased community engagement for officers, yielding collaboration and increased trust and respect between police and the communities they serve. This reduces and prevents crime, improves quality of life for all New Yorkers, and builds stronger relationships between residents and cops.

One City: Safe and Fair – Everywhere is a central pillar of the Police Department’s broad plan to define and implement new initiatives in five key areas, otherwise known as the Five “Ts”.

  • Tactics – A neighborhood-policing plan that is rooted in local communities and tied to local concerns.
  • Technology – A revolution in NYPD technology, bringing its full capabilities to police officers in the field.
  • Training – Field training for recruits and recurring training for veterans, imparting the skills to manage the human encounters that are the fundamental business of street policing.
  • Terrorism – Strengthened investigative enforcement efforts with federal, state and local partners, as well as significantly enhanced critical-incident response capabilities in evolving overseas conditions that have altered the local threat picture.
  • Trust – A compact with both the communities and the cops to deal fairly and respectfully with one another.

Since May, the neighborhood policing plan has been piloted in four precincts in Washington Heights (Manhattan) and the Rockaways (Queens). In the coming months, the program will be expanded to additional precincts across the city, with a specific focus and emphasis on high-crime areas. In developing this vision, the Police Commissioner and members of the Department met with hundreds of community leaders to help identify existing challenges and realistic and workable solutions.  In addition, Mayor de Blasio announced the addition of 1,297 new officers as part of the final budget negotiations with the City Council.  The force equivalent of much of this new staffing will be dedicated to One City: Safe and Fair – Everywhere.

Details of the plan can be found here.

Mayor de Blasio Announces Partnership with Warby Parker to Provide Free Eyeglasses to Students at Community Schools

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the City will expand its vision screening program to all 130 Community Schools and will partner with Warby Parker to provide a free pair of glasses to every student in need. Based on student needs, the City estimates the NYC-based tech company will provide glasses to approximately 20,000 students over the next four years. The new partnership will strengthen New York City’s Community Schools initiative, which helps students overcome barriers to learning, such as vision impairments that prevent children from reading or seeing the blackboard.

To ensure that every student in need can be served by the program, the City is significantly expanding vision screening to all 130 Community Schools. For the first time, the City is providing free eye tests for students in middle and high school through the Community Schools initiative, as well as to elementary schools. As a result, 65,000 more students will receive vision screening. Mayor de Blasio made the announcement at P.S. 50, a Renewal School in Manhattan that will participate in the program next year. All Renewal Schools are also becoming Community Schools and will integrate academics, social services and supports into the fabric of schools to help them better serve the needs of families.

Founded in 2010, Warby Parker is a NYC-based lifestyle brand that offers designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially conscious businesses. In partnership with the Community Schools initiative, Warby Parker will provide one free pair of glasses to all students who need them during the 2015-2016 academic year. For the following three school years, Warby Parker will provide one free pair of glasses to all new Community School students who need them. The company aims to distribute a selection of non-branded stylish frames to 20,000 students over the next four years. For the past year, Warby Parker has been piloting a similar program at New York City schools. This new partnership with the Community Schools initiative will enable the brand to reach even more kids, with the goal of ensuring that all local students who need glasses have the resources to access them.

The City has budgeted $10 million for the expansion of vision screening over the next four years, including $2 million per year baselined for each of the coming years in the Adopted Budget approved this week. The expansion of free vision screening builds on the City’s commitment to Community Schools, schools that are built on partnerships between families, staff and the greater community. Community Schools work to improve student outcomes by meeting the whole needs of students and of the family through academic enrichment, increased after-school activities, health and mental health services, and more. This partnership with Warby Parker will serve students in many of the city’s historically struggling schools, including all 94 Renewal Schools – all of which will be Community Schools starting this coming school year.

Mayor de Blasio Establishes Commission on Gender Equity

Mayor de Blasio announced New York City’s Commission on Gender Equity, established through Executive Order Number 10, to achieve economic mobility and social inclusion of all New Yorkers, particularly women and girls, and ensure their public safety. This Commission, which is still in formation, effectively replaces the City’s previous Commission on Women’s Issues, established in 2002. First Lady Chirlane McCray will serve as the honorary Chair of the Commission, which is comprised of a diverse group of leaders spanning public and private industries, non-profit organizations, and academia.

The Mayor is committed to leveraging every power of city government to expand and increase opportunity for all New Yorkers – regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation – and build a city that is safe and free of discrimination. The Commission on Gender Equity will be integral in achieving these goals, supporting City agency initiatives and working to use a gender lens which will include women, transgender and intersex individuals, and men to achieve greater gender fairness in this city. Over the past year, New York City has made huge strides towards gender parity, including establishing a historic partnership with UN Women and becoming the first American city to join the United Nation’s Safe Cities Initiative, expanding paid sick leave to many of the lowest paid industries that employ disproportionate amounts of women, making unprecedented investments in domestic violence response and education through the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, and appointing and promoting an unprecedented number of women to leadership positions in agencies and City Hall – with women serving in fifty percent of the administration’s senior leadership positions.

The Commission on Gender Equity will:

  • Serve as an advisory group to the Mayor on initiatives and methods to achieve the goals of the Mayor’s platform to reduce inequality, with a focus on gender-based inequality
  • Advocate for women, girls, transgender and intersex residents and support programs that have been created to remove barriers to full participation in all areas of women’s personal and work lives
  • Study the nature and extent of both the intentional and unintentional discrimination that women face in the City of New York, and their impacts on the economic, civic and social well-being of women
  • Make recommendations to the Mayor regarding legislative or executive action to improve the lives of women
  • Educate the public about women’s issues
  • Support and work collaboratively with the network of organizations in the public and private sectors working to expand opportunities for women
  • Work with the Mayor’s Office, the Mayor’s Office of Appointments, and advocacy and community organizations to identify and hire an Executive Director of the Commission, and additional members of the Commission.

Read the full executive order here.

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

Speaker Mark-Viverito to Announce New Committee Chairs

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will announce new committee appointments to fill vacancies created when Councilman Mark Weprin resigned last month to take a job in the Cuomo administration, Council sources confirmed to Capital.

Weprin, who chaired the Zoning and Franchises subcommittee, will be replaced by Councilman Donovan Richards.

Richards, who used to chair the Environmental Protection Committee, will be replaced by Councilman Costa Constantinides.

Constantinides, who chairs the Subcommittee on Libraries, will be replaced by Councilman Andy King, who did not previously hold any chairmanships.

Comptroller Stringer Proposes Legislation to Expand Protections for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Communities

In an effort to reduce harassment faced by transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer outlined proposed legislation that would require all publicly-accessible single-occupancy restrooms to become gender-neutral and change City codes to allow building owners to designate more gender-neutral restrooms.

The proposed legislation, which will be introduced by Council Member Daniel Dromm, is outlined in Comptroller Stringer’s new report, “Restrooms for All: A Plan to Expand Gender-Neutral Restrooms in NYC.” The report highlights the difficulties faced by many transgender and gender non-conforming individuals when using public restrooms and what steps other cities and states have taken to protect these communities.

The proposed legislation would:

  • Require existing single occupancy, publically-accessible restrooms to become gender-neutral: All public buildings and private businesses, with certain exceptions, would be required to designate existing single-occupancy restrooms as gender-neutral with new signage.
  • Amend City codes to give building owners the opportunity to designate additional gender-neutral restrooms: City laws currently mandate sex-specific restrooms in most buildings. This legislation would modify City codes to give building owners the option of designating gender-neutral bathrooms instead of or in addition to sex-specific facilities.

Several U.S. cities have already taken steps to provide gender-neutral restrooms.  In Washington D.C., a non-discrimination bill was passed that included a mandate for businesses to make single-stall restrooms gender-neutral. Philadelphia, Austin, and West Hollywood have also passed legislation to provide safe access to restrooms for transgender persons.

The Comptroller’s “Restrooms for All” report and proposal come at a time when transgender rights remain contested in the State legislature. The New York State Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), a law that would bar discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in New York State, has yet to be brought to the floor of the State Senate, despite the Assembly having voted in favor of it eight times.

Meanwhile, the need for greater protections for the transgender and gender non-conforming community persists.  According to recent surveys by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and UCLA Law School:

  • Seventy percent of transgender individuals reported denial of access to facilities, verbal harassment, or physical assault when they sought access to gender-segregated public restrooms;
  • Twenty-two percent of transgender Americans have reported being denied access to the restroom at work;
  • Over a quarter of transgender students in the United States have been excluded from accessing the bathroom at school; and
  • Ninety percent of transgender persons have experienced workplace harassment or have taken steps to hide who they are.

Comptroller Stringer Audit: NYCHA Renovations Keep Apartments Vacant for an Average of Seven Years

An audit released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer found that New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) keeps apartments off the rent rolls for an average of 7 years while doing major repairs. A total of 80 apartments have been left vacant for over a decade, and another 161 apartments have been empty for between three and ten years. In addition, while the Authority claims to have 2,342 vacant apartments, the audit made clear that NYCHA’s figures were estimates at best, with some of the units actually occupied by squatters and other City agencies.

Auditors examined how well NYCHA monitored and tracked vacant ‘off-roll’ and ‘on-roll’ apartments throughout 328 housing developments from July 2012 through April 2015.

Off-Roll Apartments

NYCHA categorizes off-roll apartments as being unoccupied for ‘an extended period of time.’

  • As of September 2014, NYCHA had 1,366 off-roll, vacant apartments, according to the Authority.
  • 312 of these apartments had been removed from rent rolls for ‘repairs or major improvements,’ and had been left vacant for an average of 2,605 days.
  • The audit team found that 241 of the apartments meant to be undergoing ‘repairs or major improvements’ had been vacant for three years or more as of September 2014. Keeping those 241 apartments vacant has cost the City an estimated $7.7 million in uncollected rent.
  • The audit found that, in many cases, apartments remained vacant long after repairs were completed.

On-Roll Apartments

NYCHA categorizes on-roll apartments as occupied or being turned over to a new tenant. NYCHA’s goal is to turn over vacated on-roll apartments in 40 days.

  • As of September 2014, NYCHA had 976 on-roll, vacant apartments, according to the Authority.
  • Of 115 apartments sampled, 88 were vacant for longer than 40 days, with an average vacancy period of 116 days.
  • According to the audit team’s calculations, keeping those 88 apartments vacant cost the City an estimated $131,000 in foregone rent.

Apartments Have Inadequate Physical Safeguards

  • At three apartments in the Harlem River development, lax security had enabled squatters to move in. Walls were covered in graffiti and liquor bottles were strewn across the floor at a fourth apartment in the same development.
  • At the Ravenswood development, auditors found two apartments containing food packaging with recent expirations dates, a sign that the apartments were being used.

Apartments Listed by NYCHA as Vacant, But Found to be in Use

Auditors reviewed a sample of 99 apartments that NYCHA had listed as vacant, and found 47 had been incorrectly classified and were, in fact, occupied.

  • 21 had actually been combined with other units, 17 were being used by NYCHA for community centers, offices or resident associations and several others were used by temporary tenants, other City agencies or private agencies for community programs.

“Knock, knock. Who lives there? NYCHA doesn’t know,” Stringer said.  “NYCHA’s ineptitude comes at a very steep price to taxpayers:  more than $8 million in estimated lost rent that could have helped to pay for repairs and services to directly benefit its residents. It’s beyond the realm of explanation how years can pass before apartments become habitable. I think we can all agree that the process has to change, from top to bottom, and I look forward to working closely with NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye as she works to improve the agency’s efficiency and effectiveness.”

The Comptroller’s Office recommended that NYCHA:

  • Improve operations to complete repairs and major modernizations so that apartments can be promptly rented;
  • Ensure greater efforts are made to turn over vacant apartments to new tenants quickly; and
  • Periodically monitor vacant apartments, update records on agencies and private organizations use of apartments and make sure that all rental agreements are up to date.

NYCHA generally agreed with nine of the ten audit recommendations.

Comptrollers Stringer Announces Pre-Litigation Settlement with Jonathan Fleming

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer announced the settlement of a pre-litigation claim with Jonathan Fleming for $6.25 million. Fleming filed a claim against New York City for damages related to his wrongful incarceration for a 1989 murder he did not commit.

“Following a careful review of the claim and facts of this case, my office has reached a settlement with Jonathan Fleming that is in the best interests of all parties,” Comptroller Stringer said. “Mr. Fleming spent nearly half of his life behind bars for a crime that evidence available at the time proved he could not have committed. I would like to thank Kings County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson for his efforts to exonerate Mr. Fleming. We cannot give back the time that he served, but the City of New York can offer Jonathan Fleming this compensation for the injustice that was committed against him.”

Under Chapter 5, Section 93 of the New York City Charter, the Comptroller has the authority to settle any claims against the City.

Comptroller Stringer Launches 2015 LGBTQ Services Guide and Website

In honor of Pride Month, on Monday, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released his office’s 2015 issue of the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Guide of Services & Resources,” and launched the Guide’s accompanying website.  This year’s Guide is the most comprehensive resource of its kind in New York City and includes contact and background information for nearly 600 programs and non-profits serving the city’s LGBTQ community. The 2015 edition features over 250 updated entries, 30 additions, categorizes organizations by area of focus and includes dozens of legal, anti-violence, and youth service providers.

The 2015 edition of the Guide reflects extensive outreach to LGBTQ organizations to update contact information and locations for over 250 entries. Among the 30 new additions, the Guide includes details for New York City hospitals with LGBTQ health service units. From the Elmhurst Hospital Chemical Dependency Treatment Clinic in Queens, which offers services focused on HIV positive individuals, to the Metropolitan Hospital Center in Manhattan, which offers transgender family services, hospitals throughout the City are providing a wide range of specialized services to LGBTQ New Yorkers.

Another purpose of the Guide is to raise awareness of the existing challenges for the LGBTQ community by including related statistics. A recent survey found that 74 percent of transgender persons have experienced harassment on the job, and studies show that over 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. These facts emphasize the importance of having an accurate listing of services geared towards the LGBTQ community.

Manhattan Borough President Brewer Announces $30 Million in Manhattan Capital Grant Awards for 2015

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer announced her office’s Fiscal Year 2016 capital grant awardees. The grants will be included in the final Fiscal Year 2016 city budget, whose adoption by the City Council is expected later this month.

Each year, as part of the city’s budget process, the five borough presidents are mandated by the City Charter to allot a portion of the city’s capital budget for the purchase or improvement of fixed assets such as buildings or other infrastructure. Each borough president then allocates that funding to City agencies, cultural institutions, or nonprofit organizations according to each office’s own process and priorities.

To view or download the full list of capital grant recipients and projects, click here (PDF).

Queens Borough President Katz Announces Appointees to Jamaica Now Leadership Council

Borough President Melinda Katz announced her appointees to the Jamaica Now Leadership Council, a new group created by the Borough President to oversee and evaluate efforts to unleash Jamaica’s vast potential for economic growth.

The Leadership Council will oversee the implementation of the Jamaica Now Action Plan “Action Plan”, a blueprint for economic growth and development in Jamaica released earlier this year. The Action Plan is the product of the Jamaica Planning Initiative, a neighborhood-based process launched by Borough President Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio that has brought City government and local stakeholders together to develop ideas to promote Jamaica’s development. The Council represents the diverse mix of stakeholders who participated in the Jamaica Planning Initiative.

Borough President Katz assembled a selection committee to review applications submitted by over 80 community stakeholders and appointed the Leadership Council members at the recommendations of the selection committee. The Borough President will chair the Leadership Council, while two appointees will serve as co-chairs.

Queens Borough Presdient Katz: Queens Holds Vigil for Charleston, Ligthing Ceremony for Gun Violence Awareness

Borough President Melinda Katz announced her appointees to the Jamaica Now Leadership Council, a new group created by the Borough President to oversee and evaluate efforts to unleash Jamaica’s vast potential for economic growth.

The Leadership Council will oversee the implementation of the Jamaica Now Action Plan “Action Plan”, a blueprint for economic growth and development in Jamaica released earlier this year. The Action Plan is the product of the Jamaica Planning Initiative, a neighborhood-based process launched by Borough President Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio that has brought City government and local stakeholders together to develop ideas to promote Jamaica’s development. The Council represents the diverse mix of stakeholders who participated in the Jamaica Planning Initiative.

Borough President Katz assembled a selection committee to review applications submitted by over 80 community stakeholders and appointed the Leadership Council members at the recommendations of the selection committee. The Borough President will chair the Leadership Council, while two appointees will serve as co-chairs.

To see a full list of all appointees, please click here.

Staten Island Borough President Oddo: History of Sandy Ground Exhibit at Borough Hall to be on Display all Summer

Borough President James Oddo will host the opening reception for “Quilts: The History of Sandy Ground told on Handmade Coverlets” on Monday, June 29th at 12pm at Borough Hall.  The display is on loan from the Sandy Ground Historical Society Museum. Each of the four quilts represents a different aspect of Sandy Ground’s history. The quilts were made by several groups of Sandy Ground volunteers. The show will be on display through the summer and is open to the public.

Settled in Rossville in 1833, Sandy Ground is the oldest continuously inhabited free black settlement in the United States. The Sandy Ground Historical Society runs a library and a museum on the site. The museum is home to Staten Island’s largest documentary collection of African-American culture and history.

 City Agencies:

DOE: Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Fariña Designate Lunar New Year an Official School Holiday

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced that New York City will become the second major urban school district in the nation, after San Francisco, to close on Lunar New Year in the official school calendar. In the coming 2015-16 school year, schools will close on February 8 for the Lunar New Year. New York City schools will maintain the same number of State-reimbursable instructional days as part of this change to the calendar.

In recent months, the Department of Education has worked through long-term school calendar planning to accommodate Lunar New Year in the years ahead, while still ensuring New York City can meet its commitment to educating students and meeting the State-mandated 180 days of instruction. The DOE facilitated the addition of Lunar New Year to the school calendar by consolidating two half-days previously designated for staff administrative work, of which neither could count toward the 180-day minimum, into just a single full day. This allowed room for the insertion of the Lunar New Year without any net loss in State aidable days. The DOE added Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as official school holidays earlier this spring.

New York City joins San Francisco, California, and Tenafly, New Jersey school districts, which close its public schools on Lunar New Year. Under the Chancellor’s regulations, students are allowed an excused absence from school for their religious and cultural observances.

DOE Announces Start of Annual Free Summer Meals Program for All NYC Children and Youth

The Department of Education (DOE) announced that the 2015 Summer Meals program, which provides free, healthy breakfast and lunch to children across New York City, will begin this Saturday, June 27, the first day of summer vacation. Children don’t need to be enrolled in summer school to participate in the Summer Meals program and no application or identification is required.

This year, the DOE’s Office of SchoolFood unveiled a brand new mobile app, which shows all Summer Meal sites and maps those closest to the user, and also provides daily menus. The free app, SchoolFood, can be downloaded on Apple and Android platforms. From June 27 through September 4, the Summer Meals program will serve children 18 and younger — regardless of New York City residency — at roughly 1,100 locations, including pools, schools, libraries, parks, public housing sites, and community-based organization sites. Last year, a record 8.1 million meals were served, an increase from the 7.6 million meals served during the previous summer.

To promote summer meals, the DOE has launched an extensive advertising campaign, targeting buses, subways and for the first time “station domination” ads at the 125th Street/Lexington Avenue subway station in Manhattan and Barclays Center/Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Volunteers from partner organizations will also go door to door and hand out flyers in 10 languages to spread awareness of the program.

This summer’s menu includes new items such as blueberry pancakes, yogurt and granola, and cheese omelet with salsa, along with longtime favorites like roasted chicken, beef tacos, black bean and corn salad, and fresh watermelon. All meals are low in fat and sodium and prepared without artificial colors or sweeteners.

DOE: Mayor De Blasio Announces Partnership with Warby Parker to Provide Free Eyeglasses to Students At Community Schools

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the City will expand its vision screening program to all 130 Community Schools and will partner with Warby Parker to provide a free pair of glasses to every student in need. Based on student needs, the City estimates the NYC-based tech company will provide glasses to approximately 20,000 students over the next four years. The new partnership will strengthen New York City’s Community Schools initiative, which helps students overcome barriers to learning, such as vision impairments that prevent children from reading or seeing the blackboard.

To ensure that every student in need can be served by the program, the City is significantly expanding vision screening to all 130 Community Schools. For the first time, the City is providing free eye tests for students in middle and high school through the Community Schools initiative, as well as to elementary schools. As a result, 65,000 more students will receive vision screening. Mayor de Blasio made the announcement at P.S. 50, a Renewal School in Manhattan that will participate in the program next year. All Renewal Schools are also becoming Community Schools and will integrate academics, social services and supports into the fabric of schools to help them better serve the needs of families.

“For thousands of children who are ready to learn, but whose vision may be holding them back, the future just got clearer and brighter. We are deeply appreciative of Warby Parker’s donation of new eyeglasses to thousands of students at Community and Renewal schools. This is a great new partnership – one of many we are building between homegrown tech companies like Warby Parker and the City to invest in our young people and our future. When NYC’s tech sector brings its expertise and resources into our schools, our students are the big winners,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Chancellor Announces Summer Book Giveaway for All Students Enrolled in Pre-K for All

Chancellor Fariña announced a book giveaway program for all 4-year-olds enrolled in free, high quality pre-K programs across the City. This free package – which includes five high-quality books, supplementary activities, and a letter from the Chancellor – will go to students participating in the first, historic year of Pre-K for All. Students in both full-day and half-day programs will all receive the books in addition to children enrolled in integrated special education settings and District 75 programs. The Chancellor made the announcement at Get Set Kindergarten’s stepping up ceremony in Brooklyn, where she handed out books to students and their families.

The books were selected based on their ability to support students’ and families’ transition from pre-K to Kindergarten, as well as to prevent summer loss of the critical learning and foundation that students gained from pre-K. Each book also comes with tailor-made educational activities to enhance the learning experience for the child. The activities also offer guidance for families on reading to their children and encouraging summer learning through books. All current pre-K families are receiving a package through their child’s program.  The City has budgeted around $1.4 million for the program – around $20 dollars per package.

Providing all pre-K families with the tools to continue their children’s learning during the summer months reflects the City’s commitment to combating summer learning loss. The five books included in the pack are ABC I Like Me!, Count!, How Do Dinosaurs Go to School, The Shape of Things, and White Rabbit’s Color Book. Each book was specifically chosen by DOE content experts to support and build on the critical academic foundation students developed during their year of pre-K and will need in kindergarten and beyond. Individual pre-K programs began receiving their books in May and the DOE has been distributing them to families since then.  Families also received a list of activities and a letter from the Chancellor, which can be viewed online here.

Next school year, there will be over 70,000 pre-K seats across all five boroughs – one for every 4-year-old in the City. Families who received a pre-K offer in June, have until Friday, June 26 to pre-register their child. Families interested in accepting their offer, must pre-register in person with their child and bring the required documentation (offer letter, child’s birth certificate or passport, and two documents verifying proof of residence).

A second round of applications is underway and all families – including those who receive offers Wednesday – are eligible to reapply in the second round. Families interested in applying in round two can find more information here. Families who apply in the second round who received an offer already do not forfeit their original offer, and students will remain on waitlists at the schools where they have applied.