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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

Mayor de Blasio, Queens Officials and the Arker Companies Break Ground on 154 New Affordable Homes for Low-Income Seniors

Mayor Bill de Blasio joined Queens officials, the Arker Companies to break ground at the Beach Channel Senior Apartments in Far Rockaway, Queens.  When completed in 2017, the seven-story, mixed-use development will be 100 percent affordable, providing apartments for 154 low-income seniors, including 46 for formerly homeless seniors.

Beach Channel is the very first project to break ground under the City’s new $350 million program to finance affordable housing especially for low-income seniors, recently launched as part of the Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York plan. The Senior Affordable Rental Apartments (SARA) Program will enable the Beach Channel project to serve seniors with little to no income, with residents earning less than $36,300 per year. The City intends to build and preserve 10,000 apartments affordable to seniors over the next 10 years.

Financing for the project was completed in June, adding these affordable apartments to the 20,326 units the de Blasio administration closed in fiscal year 2015 – the highest total in more than 25 years. Beach Channel reflects not only the tangible progress made towards the 200,000 affordable units in ten years, but the administration’s commitment to reaching deeper levels of affordability and meeting the special housing needs of the elderly, the homeless, the disabled, and those most vulnerable New Yorkers.

Beach Channel also reflects the City’s push to stem the homelessness crisis, with 30 percent of the affordable units reserved for formerly homeless seniors, who will be referred by the New York City Housing Authority and the Department of Homeless Services. The availability of Project-based Section 8 through NYHCA enables the development to reach especially low-income households.

Senior services will be provided to residents of the development by the Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation, which will offer short-term supportive counseling, health and personal care referrals, meals and supplemental food, and more intensive services and referrals as needed. Created to facilitate independent living for seniors, Beach Channel is adjacent to new residential and commercial development at nearby Arverne East, one block away from a shopping center and super market, and accessible by train.

Mayor de Blasio Announces City Task Force to Curb Topless Individuals, Costumed Characters in Times Square

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that a multiagency City task force will be convened to address the growing problem of topless individuals and costume characters in Times Square. Over the past several months, serious concerns have been raised about both the appropriateness of topless individuals in Times Square, as well as aggressive solicitation by topless individuals and costumed characters that oftentimes becomes harassment of New Yorkers and visitors alike.

The task force will be co-chaired by Police Commissioner William Bratton and City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod, and will include representatives from the New York City Police Department, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Transportation, the Law Department, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Department of City Planning, Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, NYC & Company, and Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen. The Task Force will also include external stakeholders from the Times Square community and local elected officials. The group will study the legal and oversight issues associated with regulating topless individuals and costumed characters, and report back findings by October 1 of this year.  Final membership of the task force will be announced soon.

“Millions of families and visitors come to Times Square every year to see and experience the bustling metropolis of New York City – the Crossroads of the World,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Yet that experience has been diminished by the proliferation of topless individuals and costumed characters who too often harass people and expose families to inappropriate acts. To ensure all are welcome, and to continue the great success that is Times Square, the City will aggressively pursue every avenue for regulating these behaviors. This task force will identify the best legal and regulatory ways to move forward and keep Times Square the popular destination site for visitors and families from New York City and across the world.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio Signs First-In-Nation Legislation for Cooling Tower Maintenance

Mayor de Blasio signed into law Intro. 866, in relation to regulation of cooling towers. The legislation requires the registration of all cooling towers, annual certification, quarterly inspection, and reporting of increased microbes to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The legislation also mandates the disinfection of cooling towers with levels of microbes that pose potential health risks. Violations of registry, certification and inspection requirements are liable for civil penalties up to $10,000. Failure to disinfect towers with increased microbes are classified as misdemeanors, punishable up to $25,000. The legislation takes effect immediately, and building owners have 30 days to register their cooling towers. The de Blasio administration, New York City Council, and Governor Cuomo collaborated closely on the policy to ensure consistency in regulation in New York City and across the state.

“The recent Legionnaires’ outbreak has been an unprecedented challenge requiring an unprecedented response,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “But a powerful response is just one piece of the equation. New Yorkers need to be protected from the disease through aggressive preventive action, and this groundbreaking legislation, developed in partnership with the City Council, is exactly that.”

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

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

Comptroller Stringer Calls on the Public to Help Find More than One Thousand Workers Owed $3.7 Million

With Labor Rights Week just days away, on Wednesday, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer enlisted the help of the public to identify more than one thousand workers who are entitled to payments totaling $3.7 million as part of unclaimed prevailing wage settlements with several companies that worked on City-funded projects. The Comptroller’s Office sets and enforces prevailing wage and benefit rates on New York City public works projects and attempts to find workers who are owed wages from these settlements.

For a complete list of the 1,056 individuals entitled to unclaimed wages, please click here.  To search by name, please click here. To see a citywide map of how many individuals are owed funds in each zip code, please click here. To see a map of each borough, with the names of individuals owed wages, please visit the following links:

  • In Brooklyn, 241 individuals are owed a total of $628,447;
  • In Queens, 200 individuals are owed a total of $799,351;
  • In the Bronx, 160 individuals are owed a total of $324,729;
  • In Manhattan, 53 individuals are owed a total of $62,180; and
  • In Staten Island, 25 individuals are owed a total of $19,599.

Workers who believe they may be entitled to unclaimed wages can call the Comptroller’s hotline, send in inquiries via email to laborlaw@comptroller.nyc.gov or check the Comptroller’s unclaimed wages website, which is now mobile-friendly.

Prevailing wage laws require employers to pay workers the wage and benefit rate set annually by the New York City Comptroller when those employees work on City public works projects, such as, renovating public schools, or building service contracts, which includes security guard and custodial work, with City agencies. When companies do not pay, the Comptroller enforces the law to ensure workers receive what they are owed.

Since taking office, Comptroller Stringer has enhanced his office’s efforts to recoup unpaid prevailing wages and benefits. Since 2014, the office has reached settlements worth more than $8.6 million, including one in May with North American Iron Works in which the company paid nearly $1 million to 33 workers that was rightfully theirs, and debarred 21 contractors from doing business with the City as a penalty. In instances in which funds have been recovered and workers cannot be located, the Comptroller’s Office maintains the wages in a trust account as search efforts are continued.

The announcement marks a renewed effort by the Comptroller’s office, culminating in Labor Rights Week (August 25th–29th), to help identify those who are owed wages through social media, media partnerships, distribution of informational flyers in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Creole, Urdu, and Bengali in neighborhoods throughout the City and a new mobile-friendly site to search for unclaimed wages.

Public Advocate James Sues DOE for Dangerous Conditions on School Buses Carrying Children with Disabilities

Public Advocate Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education (DOE) for failing to adequately provide air conditioning on school buses transporting District 75 children with disabilities.

The complaint, filed along with two District 75 children, cites dangerous temperatures as high as 91 degrees recorded on City school buses. The two children are being represented by Rankin & Taylor, PLLC.

District 75 is a citywide school district providing educational, vocational, and behavioral support programs for students who are on the autism spectrum, have significant cognitive delays, are severely emotionally challenged, are sensory impaired and/or disabled. Due to the nature of the supportive programming, District 75 students attend school through the summer months.

“By failing to protect our most vulnerable children, DOE is violating the law and our moral conscience,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Unlike other school districts, District 75 provides for children with disabilities who often cannot voice their anguish while enduring unusually long bus rides during the hottest months of the year. DOE has repeatedly failed to take meaningful action, and it’s up to us to fight for the health and safety of these children.”

DOE contracts with private bus companies to transport approximately 27,000 students with disabilities. According to the City code, any bus transporting a child with a disability to and from a school in the city must be air-conditioned when the outside temperature exceeds 70 degrees. The Office of the Public Advocate found specific instances where high temperatures were recorded on buses, including temperatures as high as 91 degrees.

The lawsuit follows a letter sent by Public Advocate James to DOE in September 2014 after a District 75 child on the autism spectrum was stuck on a school bus in sweltering heat without any air conditioning and had to be taken to the emergency room. Public Advocate James asked for a number of documents and assurances, and offered to work with the DOE in the 2014/2015 school year to ensure that the problem got resolved. However, DOE never provided the requested information and temperatures exceeding eighty degrees have been recorded on District 75 school buses through August 2015.

Bronx Borough President Diaz Blasts NYCHA Housing Proposal

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is raising serious concerns over a proposal by the New York City Housing Authority to develop open green spaces between existing buildings at city housing projects.

“The tenants of NYCHA should not be treated like second-class citizens,” said Borough President Diaz. “Despite the assertions of NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye, these green spaces play a critical role in the everyday life of building tenants, especially children, and should be preserved. NYCHA’s housing stock is already poorly maintained. Taking away light, air and green space from these tenants—taking away safe spaces where children play—would be an outrage.”

Borough President Diaz also criticized Ms. Olatoye for her comments in an interview with Politico New York, where she described the green spaces at NYCHA developments as “strewn with trash” and “gated off,” and therefore any discussion of their use by tenants amounts to “nostalgia.”

“Ms. Olatoye should not be so cavalier about her agency’s responsibility to manage these spaces,” said Borough President Diaz. “If the space is strewn with trash, pick up the garbage. If they are gated off, then open the gates. Her admission that NYCHA cannot maintain space for its tenants should not be an excuse to develop inappropriate housing projects, but should instead spark a discussion about ways to provide additional resources to the hardworking men and women employed by the housing authority.”

Borough President Diaz added that he is not opposed to all development on NYCHA property, and has in fact supported some projects in the past. But to develop on cherished green space does a tremendous disservice to the over 400,000 city residents who call these developments home.

“I understand the need to build more affordable housing,” said Borough President Diaz. “But this development should not be at the expense of the quality of life of NYCHA tenants.”

Staten Island President Oddo: Rescheduled Walk With A Doctor to take place Wednesday, Aug. 26th

BP Oddo and the Richmond County Medical Society will host the next event in the “Walk With A Doctor” series on Wednesday, August 26th, at 6 p.m. at Historic Richmond Town. The walk, which was rescheduled due to rain, will take place prior to the Sunset Summer Concert, which begins at 7 p.m. in the same location.

Prior to the walk, Dr. Radha Syed, MD, FACOG, will give a talk about bone health, vitamin D deficiency, and screening recommendations for osteoporosis. Dr. Syed is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist at Staten Island University Hospital.

The walk will be hosted by a guide from Historic Richmond Town who will educate participants on the property and Staten Island history.

“Walking is the easiest thing you can do to get your body moving and get on the path to good health,” said Ginny Mantello, M.D., Director of Health and Wellness at Borough Hall. “Our program is unique because while you’re getting exercise, you are also learning about osteoporosis from a board certified obstetrician.”

Each session in the series takes place at a different location on the Island.

City Agencies:

Chancellor Fariña Highlights Expanded Summer Institute for Pre-K Teachers and Program Leaders

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña kicked off the Department of Education’s Pre-K Summer Institute, a collaboration between the DOE, Bank Street College of Education, CUNY, and Fordham University that will provide training for over 5,500 pre-K teachers, teacher assistants, and leaders across all pre-K settings in district schools, NYC Early Education Centers, and charter schools. This is the second year of the Pre-K Summer Institute, and for the first time this year, the Summer Institute will offer dedicated training for program leaders. This year, programs will also offer differentiated supports and professional development that will continue throughout the year.

There are four two-day institutes for teachers between August 10 and 21, two each at Brooklyn and Queens College. Last month, over 1,000 pre-K leaders were trained for the first time at the Pre-K for All Summer Institute for leaders. Teachers and leaders receive differentiated support aligned to their pre-K program’s Instructional Track. The Summer Institute is an important and meaningful step towards ensuring high-quality pre-K instruction across all pre-K settings. This September, for the first time every 4-year-old will have access to free, full-day, high-quality pre-K

“School’s never out for New York City’s committed teachers, and I’m happy to see so many of them here to improve their craft,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “We are grateful to Bank Street College of Education, CUNY, and Fordham University for their partnership, and I know our teachers will take what they learn into our pre-K classrooms to better meet the needs of students and families. With improved and consistent training, we are going to see better instruction – and better results – for our 4-year-olds.”

Health Department Reports First Human Case of West Nile Virus Infection for 2015 Season: Patient Hospitalized, Treated, and Discharged

The Health Department confirmed the season’s first human case of West Nile virus in a Brooklyn man who was hospitalized with viral meningitis. The patient was over the age of 60 years and has been treated and discharged.

In addition, the Queens neighborhoods listed below are being treated due to rising West Nile virus activity with high mosquito populations. The spraying will take place on Monday, August 17, 2015 between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following morning, weather permitting. In case of bad weather, application will be delayed untilTuesday, August 18, 2015 during the same hours.

Human cases of West Nile virus occur each year in New York City, typically from July through October. A total of 318 New Yorkers have been diagnosed with West Nile virus since it was first found in the United States in 1999.

The Health Department’s aggressive West Nile Virus program focuses on prevention first and then mosquito control. The agency uses a comprehensive approach to monitor the city for West Nile virus and help control its spread by mosquitoes. Exterminators are surveying and treating, if required, routine and other potential mosquito breeding sites all over the City. The agency inspects and treats standing water sites with non-chemical larvicides to kill larval mosquitoes before they emerge as flying adults. When necessary, the agency also applies small amounts of chemical pesticides (adulticides) to kill adult mosquitoes. A schedule of mosquito control activities is available online at nyc.gov/health/wnv or by phone from the 311 call center.

To date, the Health Department has completed 6 rounds of pesticide spraying this season to reduce the number of mosquitoes and the risk of West Nile virus. A third aerial larviciding was conducted on August 5 and 6 on Staten Island and Queens. The Health Department treats 62,160 catch basins in Queens two to three times per year. The second round of catchbasin treatments (larviciding) was completed on July 30 and the third round of treatment started on August 4, 2015. The Health Department has conducted 90 WNV presentations across the five boroughs.

For these sprayings, the Health Department will use a very low concentration of Anvil® 10+10, a synthetic pesticide. When properly used, this product poses no significant risks to human health. The Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:

  • Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying. People with asthma or other respiratory conditions are encouraged to stay inside during spraying since direct exposure could worsen these conditions.
  • Air conditioners may remain on, however, if you wish to reduce the possibility of indoor exposure to pesticides, set the air conditioner vent to the closed position, or choose the re-circulate function.
  • Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If outdoor equipment and toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using again.
  • Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water. Always wash your produce thoroughly with water before cooking or eating.

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