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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

Mayor de Blasio, Lower Manhattan Leaders Announce New $100 Million City Commitment to Coastal Resiliency

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Lower Manhattan elected officials and community leaders announced a new City capital commitment of $100 million to help protect Lower Manhattan from flooding.  The announcement comes as the country marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and approaches the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.

This new City investment is in addition to the nearly $15 million for Lower Manhattan resiliency that the City announced in March 2015, which included $6.75 million from the City and State for preliminary design and environmental review and another $8 million in City capital funds for first-phase flood protection design and implementation in Battery Park. The investment will go toward integrated flood protection around the southern tip of Lower Manhattan, stretching from Montgomery Street in the Two Bridges neighborhood on the Lower East Side, down and around to the northern end of Battery Park City. The flood protection and resiliency measures build on a commitment made in OneNYC earlier this year, and will include coastal protection, storm water management, housing resiliency, and community co-benefits – including a focus on New York City Housing Authority developments and other multifamily buildings. The City will release a Request for Proposals in September and undertake an extensive community engagement process to shape the final design.

The new flood protection system will complement the City’s comprehensive $20 billion resiliency plan already underway around the five boroughs, including the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project being built from Montgomery Street north to East 23rd Street. The City, in collaboration with partners like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has already implemented a number of short-term resiliency measures, such as additional sand and dunes on the City’s beaches and repairs and improvements to City facilities, boardwalks, and other infrastructure.  The City and its partners are also implementing a variety of coastal resiliency measures such as beach improvements and wetland enhancements in the Rockaways and Jamaica Bay, a levee on the East Shore of Staten Island, investments at the food distribution center in Hunts Point, a comprehensive study at Coney Island Creek, and integrated flood protection in Red Hook.  This is supplemented by significant resiliency investments being made in City infrastructure, such as $3 billion for NYCHA developments, $1.7 billion for public hospitals, and other measures to prepare for the impacts of climate change and other 21st century threats.

The City will also leverage this new funding commitment to Lower Manhattan to bolster its application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition. This summer, the City was selected to join Phase 2 of the competition, which was designed to improve resiliency in eligible communities across the country. If the City’s application is successful, it could be eligible for up to $500 million in additional funding –  potentially sextupling the amount of resiliency funding for this Lower Manhattan project.

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

Mayor’s Office Launches Redesigned NYC.gov/nonprofits, Website Devoted to New York City’s Nonprofit Organizations

The Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, Mayor’s Office of Operations and NYC Service worked together to redesign – and relaunch –NYC.gov/nonprofits to better support nonprofits. This comprehensive site provides information and referrals to assist nonprofits to improve their management practices and helps startup visionaries effectively navigate the requirements for a successful nonprofit. The City is providing a one-stop shop for nonprofit organizations to get the help they need and build capacity to change the world and deliver quality services to New Yorkers.

The nonprofit staff and board members visiting this website will find great examples, tools and information to create effective internal controls, good financial oversight, and engaged board governance. Nonprofits can easily access funding opportunities through the City’s HHS Accelerator system as well as federal, state, and other city sources through this site. NYC.gov/nonprofits will answer nonprofit boards’ and staffs’ frequently asked questions about how to start a nonprofit, how to get funding from NYC, and how to get assistance navigating the contracting process.

Also available through NYC.gov/nonprofits are free and affordable trainings on nonprofit compliance and best practices. The Mayor’s Office of Contract Services hosts a series of comprehensive trainings on critical topics including legal compliance, board development, financial oversight, volunteer management, and NYC contract management. In addition, there is a comprehensive calendar of trainings offered by experts around the city as well as web-based trainings accessible from anywhere.

De Blasio Administration Announces Start of $87 Million Queensbridge Houses Roof Replacement

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Housing Authority Chair Shola Olatoye announced the start of rooftop replacement construction at Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, underscoring a core commitment of NextGeneration NYCHA to preserve and maintain NYCHA’s precious housing stock

Leaky roofs are the main cause of water and moisture entering a building, and the accumulated moisture contributes to mold, leaks and physical damage to the buildings structure. These vital repairs will decrease the number of leaks in NYCHA buildings, and move the Authority towards completing the critical infrastructure repairs committed to residents. The City has invested $300 million over the next three years to fund roof replacements, and NYCHA’s pairing an additional $80 million in federal public housing capital funds this year to supplement this investment.

By replacing roofs at Queensbrige Houses,  NYCHA will:

  • Preserve physical structures by safeguarding them from incoming moisture, saving money on repairing moisture damage
  • Eliminate core symptoms of mold in NYCHA buildings, protecting residents and improving their quality of life
  • Reduce operating expenses by making buildings more efficient

Queensbridge North and South together make up the largest public housing development in North America, with over 3,000 units and over 7,000 residents. NYCHA will replace roofs on 26 residential buildings at Queensbridge, including additionally repairing exterior brickwork, replacing window sills, and removing parapet walls to facilitate new roof railing installation. The work, which represents an $87 million investment, includes $60 million in funding from the city and $27 million in federal funding. Construction is expected to be completed by July 2017.

Last month, the administration announced in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) a $10 million investment in free high-speed broadband service in five public housing developments citywide, including Queensbridge North and South. Additionally, Queensbridge is one of 15 NYCHA developments targeted by the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, a comprehensive initiative to reduce crime and strengthen neighborhoods in the 15 New York City Housing Authority developments that account for 20 percent of all violent crime in the City’s public housing. As of August 16, major crime in Queensbridge had decline 18.5 percent compared to the same period last year.

Mayor de Blasio Appoints Artist Mary Valverde to The Public Design Commission

Mayor Bill de Blasio has appointed Mary Valverde for the Sculptor seat of the Public Design Commission. Per the New York City Charter, the Mayor selects nominees for the PDC’s professional members from lists provided by the Fine Arts Federation. PDC reviews permanent works of art, architecture and landscape architecture proposed on or over City-owned property, and acts as caretaker and curator of the City’s public art collection.

About Mary Valverde
Mary A. Valverde is an interdisciplinary artist who uses ephemeral materials to reflect upon sacred spaces and rituals, and politics of production, exploitation, social roles, culture and tradition. Valverde teaches at Hunter, York, & Cooper Union School of Art and was the 2011 MFA Lecturer at the ICA Philadelphia. She is the recipient of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Design’s Full Dean’s Diversity Fellowship and in 2010 received the Artist Fellowship, Inc. Individual Artist Award and the Mayer Foundation Grant. Valverde’s work has been exhibited at El Museo del Barrio, The Queens Museum of Art, Jersey City Museum, Momenta Gallery, Abrons Art Center, and Cuchifritos Gallery, among others. Valverde received her MFA from the University of Pennsylvania and her BFA from the School of Visual Arts, NY.

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

Comptroller Stringer Releases Claims Report for Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014

The office of New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer today released a Claims Report covering data for Fiscal Years (FY) 2013 and 2014 (from July 1, 2012 to June 30 2014).

The report, which includes data on personal injury and property damage settlement and judgment costs paid by the city, shows that the City paid out $495 million in settlements and judgments in FY 2013. For FY 2014, payments shot up by 11 percent, reaching $550.3 million.

“The cost of claims against the City has skyrocketed, and it’s the taxpayers who are left holding the bag,” commented Comptroller Stringer. “New York City’s agencies and authorities need to pay close attention to this growing problem, and take real action to bring costs down.”

Highest Payments by Agency

The agencies with the highest tort settlement and judgment costs during the period were:

  • The Department of Education, with $34.4 million in FY 2013, and $27.3 million in FY 2014.
  • The Sanitation Department, with $30.4 million in FY 2013, and $37.9 million in FY 2014.
  • The Department of Transportation, with $72.2 million in FY 2013, and $70.3 million in FY 2014.
  • The Health and Hospitals Corporation, with $132.3 million in FY 2013, and $123.1 million in FY 2014.
  • The Police Department had the highest settlement and judgment costs in FY 2014, with $216.9 million, which was a significant increase from FY 2013 ($138.1 million).

Progress in Early 2015 Data

While the data in the FY13 & FY14 Claims Report shows a rise in NYPD settlement amounts during FY 2013 and 2014, there is good news to report in FY 2015: the number of claims against the NYPD declined by 11 percent, based on a preliminary review of data that is outside the scope of the current report. While it’s impossible to know the future settlement costs of those claims, the decrease marks the first time in more than a decade that claims against the NYPD have dropped by double digits.

“While preliminary, the decrease suggests a more pro-active approach when it comes to risk management, and that’s good news for the both the agency and for taxpayers,” said Stringer. “The Health and Hospitals Corporation has similarly been working for years to reduce claims, and it shows – settlement and judgment costs are down at HHC some 16 percent in FY 14 compared to nine years ago. My office stands ready, willing and able to work with any city agency on efforts to drive down claims.”

ClaimStat

Every year the Comptroller’s office receives approximately 28,000 claims relating to a wide range of items, including police actions, falling tree limbs, playground injuries and potholes. Through ClaimStat, the Comptroller’s office analyzes all of this data as it comes, and identifies trends in claims activity that ultimately lead to settlements and judgments against the city. City agencies can use this data to change their practices and solve problems before they happen.

The Comptroller’s office already works closely with the NYPD on ClaimStat data through a joint working group of senior managers who meet regularly, and address issues and trends regarding claims involving law enforcement. This historic initiative has allowed for the sharing of information and unprecedented communication through which the Comptroller’s office provides real time information to the NYPD, while also securing evidence from the NYPD for use in deciding whether to resolve meritorious claims, or reject frivolous claims, far earlier.

Other key findings

  • In FY 2014, 2,899 claims were filed against the Department of Correction—more than twice the number filed a decade ago in FY 2005.
  • Meanwhile, medical malpractice claims against the Health and Hospitals Corporation and other agencies continued to fall, down 29 percent since FY 2005 to the lowest level in years.

An archive of Comptroller Claims Reports dates back to FY 2000.

Comptroller Stringer Releases Bengali Edition of Immigrant Rights and Services Manual

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer was joined by community leaders and elected officials on a tour of businesses in Jackson Heights to distribute the first copies of a Bengali-language version of the Comptroller’s “Immigrant Rights and Services Manual,” a comprehensive guide to city, state, and federal services for immigrant families, students, workers, and entrepreneurs. The 70-page guide has been translated into Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and now Bengali and is being translated into a number of other languages. The manual outlines the real-life impact of recent legislation and policy changes, such as IDNYC, the new municipal identification card, and Local Laws 58 and 59, which restrict the city’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The manual includes sections on:

  • Language access rights – An overview of how city agencies are required to provide language access under Local Law 73 and Mayor’s Executive Order 120;
  • Public benefits – Information on the wide range of public benefits and programs available to immigrants, including the areas of health care, public schools, and housing;
  • Immigrants’ rights and protections – A description of workers’ rights (such as prevailing wages and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations), consumer and financial rights, anti-discrimination protections, and the dangers of immigration consultant fraud;
  • Voting and civic participation – A summary of how immigrants can become involved in civic life, from filing taxes to attending and joining community boards;
  • Resource directory – A list of government agencies, community organizations, and other resources that can help immigrants obtain benefits and services and enforce their rights; and
  • Deportation and detention – An in-depth overview of who can be deported and why, including when New York City does and does not cooperate with ICE, and the legal resources and assistance immigrants can access for these proceedings.

Brooklyn Borough President Adams: Joined by Local Resident Recovering From K2 Addiction, Highlights Human Impact of Synthetic Marijuana Use and Issues Call to Action

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams joined Della Ellis, a resident of Downtown Brooklyn recovering from an addiction to K2, a common street name for synthetic marijuana, to highlight the human impact of its usage in Brooklyn and across the five boroughs; in 2014, New York City saw a 220% increase in emergency room visits related to synthetic drug use. Joined by representatives from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and New York City Police Department, as well as local hospital leadership and community-based organizations fighting against the damaging effects of K2 use, Borough President Adams issued a call to action to address this pressing concern impacting public health and safety, including legislative measures on the city, state, and federal levels.

Borough President Adams strongly advised residents to call 311 and report any stores selling or possessing K2. The drug has been sold in bodegas, smoke shops, and online for less than ten dollars a packet, wrapped in colorful packaging that may refer to it by one of its other many street names; additional monikers that have been used include, but are not limited to, AK-47, Bliss, Crazy Monkey, Fake Weed, Green Giant, Mr. Nice Guy, Scooby Snax, Spice, Wet Lucy, and Zohai. While it is known as “synthetic marijuana”, it is not made from the marijuana plant and is not natural; K2 is comprised of dried, shredded plant material with the appearance of potpourri that has been sprayed with mind-altering chemical compounds.

Effects of K2 usage include, but are not limited to, anxiety, hallucinations, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, loss of consciousness, paranoia, sedation, seizures, and vomiting; craving and withdrawal are additional risks for regular users. Borough President Adams noted the increase of late in local use, including in Central Brooklyn; Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant has recently seen a spike of three to six related emergency room visits a day. Males account for 90% of citywide visits to emergency rooms, with the median age of patients being 37 years old.

Brooklyn Borough President Adams Unveils Over $3 Million in Funds to construct and Preserve Affordable Housing Across Brooklyn

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams unveiled over $3 million in Fiscal Year 2016 funds from Brooklyn Borough Hall to construct and preserve hundreds of affordable housing units across Brooklyn. Joined by local tenants, affordable housing developers, and community leaders, he made the announcement outside 442 Logan Street, an affordable housing development in East New York owned and managed by Mutual Housing Association of New York, Inc. (MHANY) which will receive part of a $500,000 allocation in funding for needed renovations to 77 total units; the organization was also granted $250,000 to construct new affordable housing for their Pacific Linwood project in Crown Heights and East New York. Borough President Adams spoke about the imperative of addressing the borough’s affordable housing crisis, standing alongside giant checks symbolic of his investment in creating and maintaining much-needed units for middle and low-income Brooklynites.

“As One Brooklyn, we must ensure our borough can afford to be home to everyone from everywhere,” said Borough President Adams. “Recent data has shown that Brooklyn is now the most unaffordable place in the United States to buy a home. My office is working hard on addressing the arrays of challenges facing affordability; these include our fight against tenant harassment, our push to strengthen rent regulations, our efforts to properly prepare residents for upcoming housing lotteries, as well as our approach to advancing non-traditional and underdeveloped locations for affordable housing development through our role in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). This approach must be matched with a financial commitment that supports the borough-wide creation and preservation of affordable housing, and I’m proud that this budget makes a significant down payment towards that ongoing mission.”

East New York is home to two additional projects funded by Borough President Adams in his capital budget. $500,000 was directed toward the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation for their Pitkin-Berriman project, which will produce 60 environmentally-sustainable affordable rental units, with the majority as two- and three-bedroom units; apartments will be affordable for households whose incomes are between 50% and 60% of the area median income (AMI), and the ground floor of the project will contain over 7,400 square feet of ground-floor grocery space as well as approximately 8,000 square feet of green outdoor space and gardens along Berriman Street. An additional $500,000 was allotted to the Local Development Corporation of East New York (LDCENY) for the construction of Van Sinderen New Lots Apartments, which will provide low-income affordable housing to 130 families; 10% of the units will be rented to households whose incomes are at 27% AMI, 15% at 37% AMI, 15% at 47% AMI, and 60% at 57% AMI.

City Agencies:

Chancellor Fariña Appoints New Head of Family and Community Engagement, Redoubles Focus on Parental Engagement

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced the appointment of Yolanda Torres as Executive Superintendent of the Division of Family and Community Engagement (FACE). Torres will lead FACE’s renewed efforts to create welcoming environments for all families and develop stronger relationships between schools and their communities. As Executive Superintendent, Torres will focus on implementing the vision for FACE, deepening the connection between schools and communities, developing parent leaders, and helping families support learning in and outside of the classroom.

Torres will redesign FACE to better align with the Framework for Great Schools, and focus on the importance of strong family-community ties for student achievement through an emphasis on training and professional development, outreach and engagement, and parent leadership.

Torres, a former public school parent and grandmother, is a South Bronx native and has worked as an educator in the Bronx for more than 30 years – most recently as Superintendent of Community School District 7. Torres began her education work in Puerto Rico, teaching English to middle school students. Throughout her career, she has focused on leveraging opportunities within the community through partnerships with colleges and community-based organizations. As principal at PS 226 in District 10, she was awarded a five-year grant for $1.3 million to support her innovative work serving English Language Learners and parents.

During her tenure as a Bronx superintendent, Torres held bi-monthly parent workshops in the district office that provided families information on the Common Core Learning Standards, school discipline code, and school safety. Other trainings focused on helping parents develop their own goals and vision for their families. In addition, Torres provided parent coordinators extensive professional development and gave extra support to principals and teachers to implement the added 40 minutes each week of parent engagement in their schools.

HPD: New Real Estate Tax Compliance Program Announced by Attorney General Schneiderman, Governor Cuomo and HPD Commissioner Been Aims to Restore Thousands of NYC Apartments to Rent Regulation

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by Commissioner James S. Rubin of New York State Homes and Community Renewal and Commissioner Vicki Been of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development, announced that notices have been sent to 194 building owners who accepted lucrative tax breaks under the state’s “421-a” program without fulfilling the law’s rent-regulation requirements. The building owners who received notifications provide housing to more than 2,400 families and individuals in New York City who are entitled to rent-regulated leases under the law. The “Real Estate Tax Compliance Program” team includes Attorney General Schneiderman’s Real Estate Finance Bureau, Governor Cuomo’s Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) and HPD’s Tax Incentive Programs Unit. The initiative is part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s ongoing investigation into violations of the 421-a property tax exemption program and is aimed at ensuring building owners are in compliance with the law.

As part of an ongoing investigation conducted in close collaboration with HCR’s TPU and HPD, the Attorney General’s Office identified 194 building owners who have received 421-a tax benefits, but have not registered their apartments as rent-regulated. The notices, sent yesterday, alert these owners to the potential legal consequences they face – including revocation of 421-a tax benefits – if they do not come into compliance by registering their apartments as rent-regulated and supplying their tenants with rent-regulated leases.  TPU will be monitoring the subsequent registrations filed by the identified owners that benefited from the 421-a program. If an owner fails to register or fails to register properly, TPU can seek an administrative order freezing the current rents, as well as pursue overcharge actions against the owners for collecting improper rents and will seek treble damages on behalf of the effected tenants.

The notices were sent to building owners where 421-a paperwork was previously filed with the Attorney General’s Real Estate Finance Bureau and HPD indicating that the buildings would become condominiums, thus exempting them from having to register their units as rent regulated. In the aftermath of the market crash of 2008, rather than sell the units as condos as represented, these building owners rented them at market rents without registering them as rent regulated, as required by the law. The 421-a tax break is available to individual condo unit owners or rental building owners provided that those building owners register the units as rent regulated.

The buildings deemed not in compliance with the 421-a rent-regulation requirements are located in all five boroughs of New York City, with a high concentration of buildings in the following Brooklyn neighborhoods: Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Bensonhurst. In Queens, the community districts encompassing Astoria, Long Island City, Corona and Elmhurst have more than two dozen non-compliant buildings. Citywide maps showing the location of these buildings by community district, along with statistics on the number of non-compliant apartments, are available here and here.

Health Department: Youth Increase Awareness about Damaging Effects of Sugary Drinks in Communities Across City

The Health Department announced the launch of #OurVoiceNYC, a program that engages youth aged 13 to 19 from across New York City to serve as key partners in agency public health campaigns. The agency’s Center for Health Equity has trained and educated more than 100 youth throughout the city to be health ambassadors in their communities. Over a dozen young people living in neighborhoods with the highest burden of disease expressed their views on how their communities are flooded with unhealthy marketing messages. These youth and their peers will tour the city on a double-decker digital bus, raising awareness about predatory marketing and the damaging effects of sugary drinks. The bus will stop near Brooklyn Borough Hall, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Adam Clayton Powell Plaza in Harlem, and end at Times Square. At each stop, the youth will spread the word to peers and other passersby by doing street interviews and passing out educational information.

Data suggest that children view about 13 food and drink ads on TV a day, and most ads are for unhealthy products. According to a recent Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity report, “Black and Hispanic youth receive a ‘double dose’ of food marketing that promotes products high in sugar, saturated fat and sodium. Compared to White non-Hispanic youth, they are exposed to more food advertising in the media, as well as more marketing messages in their communities. This exposure contributes to greater consumption of fast food and sugary drinks, and contributes to higher rates of obesity and other diet-related diseases in Black and Hispanic communities.” Compared with their White peers, the report found that Black children and teens saw more than twice as many TV ads for candy, gum, snacks and sugary drinks.

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