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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

Mayor, Local Elected Officials and Tenant Leaders Announce 20-Year Agreement with Blackstone and Ivanhoé Cambridge to Protect Middle Class Housing at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village

The Mayor of the City of New York, local elected officials and tenant leaders announced an agreement with Blackstone and Ivanhoé Cambridge, a subsidiary of CDPQ, a leading Canadian pension fund manager,that will protect thousands of affordable apartments at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village – one of the largest enclaves of moderate and middle income housing left in Manhattan. The agreement represents the largest number of affordable apartments ever preserved in a single City-led transaction in the history of New York City.

The 5,000 remaining below-market apartments at STPCV have been in danger of becoming permanently deregulated as soon as current tenants leave, changing the face of this community forever. Under the agreement, Blackstone and Ivanhoé Cambridge – which are acquiring the complex from CW Capital – will ensure those rental apartments will remain affordable to moderate and middle-income families for at least the next 20 years. The plan will halt the loss of more than 300 affordable apartments each year and ensure this remains a home for nurses, teachers, first responders and working families.

The agreement also caps rents for “Roberts” tenants living in approximately 1,400 apartments, who are subject to significant increases in 2020, when the J-51 tax abatement expires. Under the agreement, rent increases on these units will be limited to five percent per year for five years, starting in 2020.

Additionally, Blackstone and Ivanhoé Cambridge have publicly stated their intention to protect the community’s open spaces and the unified nature of Peter Cooper and Stuyvesant Town, as well as to create an environment welcoming to long-term tenants seeking to put down roots. The agreement will also provide additional on-site services for STPCV’s growing senior population including a licensed social worker, a staffed Community Center providing programming for seniors, regular medical screenings, wellness checks to look in on elderly tenants, and a dedicated staff member to assist seniors with completing SCRIE benefit applications.

STPCV will be held in a partnership comprised of Ivanhoé Cambridge and Blackstone’s core real estate fund, Blackstone Property Partners, which makes long-term investments in high-quality, stable assets.

De Blasio Administration, City Council Member Corey Johnson and Hudson River Park Trust Announce Plan to Save Deteriorating Pier 40 and Create Affordable Housing for Working Families and Seniors

Administration officials announced a new proposal, negotiated with Council Member Corey Johnson, to save Hudson River Park’s Pier 40 and deliver nearly 500 affordable apartments to the community, especially for seniors. The transaction, which will undergo a full public review process, would generate approximately $100 million to repair Pier 40 by transferring development rights to the nearby St. John’s site, located across the West Side Highway from Pier 40.

The funds, subject to approval by the Hudson River Park Trust’s Board of Directors after an independent appraisal process, will be used to make long-overdue repairs to the severely damaged and dilapidated Pier 40 – the park’s largest pier. Portions of the aging pier have been closed in recent months out of concerns for public safety.

As part of the new proposal, the St. John’s Center Partners – Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital Group, LLC – have committed to ensuring that 30 percent of apartments built on their nearby site receiving the pier’s development rights will be permanently affordable to low income and moderate income families, including an entire building of affordable homes for seniors. The plan also includes removing much of the existing overpass structure above Houston Street, creating an elevated publicly accessible open space as well as improving the access to Hudson River Park. The announcement comes as the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) and the St. John’s Center Partners started the environmental review process through the filing of an Environmental Assessment Statement and Draft Scope of Work for a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS.) This will include the rezoning of the St. John’s Center site to allow residential units and the creation of a Hudson River Park special district in order to facilitate the transfer of development rights from the Park. The proposed development will be considered through a full public review via the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which includes review by City Planning Commission, local Community Board, Borough President and City Council.

Pier 40’s athletic fields are a community asset and host hundreds of thousands of individuals of all ages each year. But a recent report conducted by the engineering firm The Halcrow Group, revealed that 57 percent of Pier 40’s 3,500 steel pilings are suffering severe deterioration, up from 38 percent five years ago. The roof is in such disrepair that sections of the income-generating garage and other areas have been closed. Pier 40 has generated roughly 40 percent of HRPT’s operating revenue, largely through its parking facility. HRPT has lost in excess of $1 million in annual operating income due to closed portions of Pier 40.

Losing the Pier would mean a permanent loss of the largest pier in Hudson River Park, a loss of beloved community ballfields and a loss of income to support the Park’s operations. The Trust’s offices and park operations hub would also have to be relocated. The sale of development rights outside of the Park’s limits will generate the funds needed to save the Pier. HRPT is governed by the Hudson River Park Act and operates on a premise of financial self-sufficiency; it receives no public funding for its operations. That self-sufficient model is heavily reliant on the few piers designated for limited commercial uses in the Hudson River Park Act. If the funds and development are approved, HRPT will send out a RFP for firms who can design pile repairs shortly thereafter, with the goal of starting repairs in 2017.

The agreement mirrors the intent of State legislation signed into law in November 2013 in which the transfer of development rights from sites within the Park was authorized as a way of creating revenue for the Trust while avoiding the introduction of additional private uses within the Park. The current St. John’s Center covers more than three city blocks from Charlton Street to Clarkson Street along the West Side Highway and has been underutilized for years. Designed by world-renown architect COOKFOX, the new proposal would create approximately 1.7 million square feet of floor space, of which approximately 1.3 million will be residential, and approximately 400,000 square feet will be commercial space.  The current estimate for the purpose of evaluating the environmental impact of this project is that up to 1,586 residential units would be created. As part of the agreement, the St. John’s Center Partners have committed to a requirement that 30 percent of all residential units will be dedicated to permanent affordable housing – including low income, moderate income, and senior housing. The project will include 5 buildings ranging in height from 240 to 430 feet. The development will also include a new approximately 14,200-square-foot outdoor publicly accessible open space on the existing platform spanning West Houston Street. The current overpass over Houston Street would be demolished and replaced with an elevated garden.

This development is projected to create 1,800 new construction jobs, 1,400 new non-construction jobs, and 1,500 direct full- and part-time jobs from the project’s annual operation. The project’s construction is estimated to inject $2.2 billion in the NYC economy and subsequently contribute $400 million annually from the project’s operation. Finally, the project’s construction will create approximately $126 million in new tax revenues for NYC and New York State and then $21.8 million from its annual operation. The entire project will be designed for extreme weather and storm resiliency, including state of the art flood mitigation. The new cellars will be designed to be waterproof and to resist the potential for the hydrostatic pressure of high water levels, while the ground floor will be designed with building integrated flood proofing methods. The project will also feature world-class architecture that responds to existing neighborhood character with an elegant design that maximizes light and air to view corridors and streetscape.

Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Hosts 25th Annual National Disability Employment Awareness Month Awards, Activates Local Businesses, Nonprofits, City Agencies to Address Disability Unemployment

In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) and ACCES-VR hosted a celebration at Tweed Courthouse honoring New York City businesses that recruit, train, hire and promote individuals with disabilities. 2015 is both the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark civil rights legislation for people with disabilities in the United States, and the 25th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month in New York City. To mark these milestones, MOPD Commissioner Victor Calise is presenting the Champion of Change Awards to five organizations who – through their innovation, vision, design, development and implementation – change the status quo for employment and career opportunities for people with disabilities.

This year’s Champion of Change award recipients include:

Ken Davenport, Deaf West Theatre, Cody Lassen, and Hunter Arnold, who will receive the Champion of Change award for their commitment to bringing “Spring Awakening” to Broadway for all New Yorkers and for shining the light on actors of all abilities. Presenting the award is Carla Hoke-Miller, Director of Theatrical Partnerships for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.
Additional recipients of the Champions of Change Awards are LinkedIn, Montefiore Medical Center, JCPenney, and Alpha Workshops. Chris Neale of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development and the Director of NYC Workforce Development Board will serve as master of ceremonies.

Throughout the month of October, MOPD is hosting a series of discussions, community events and workshops designed to understand the hiring needs of local businesses and connect employers to a talent pool of New Yorkers with disabilities seeking increased employment, including the first convening of a Business Development Council. MOPD is also meeting with human resources professionals to discuss ways to recruit talent and establish talent pipelines, as well as colleges and universities to better understand the needs and employment goals of students and alums. MOPD has created a series of videos featuring New Yorkers with disabilities in the workplace, titled “At work, it’s what I CAN do that matters.” The videos are available on the MOPD website, social media, and soon in taxis and on NYC TV.

Unemployment and under-employment rates for people with disabilities far exceed rates for able-bodied workers. For disabled graduates of four-year colleges in the United States, the employment rate for both men and women is 50.6 percent, as compared to an employment rate of approximately 90 percent for able-bodied Americans. When people with disabilities are employed, they are far more likely than their non-disabled peers to be employed part-time, and their median income is less than two-thirds the median wage for workers without disabilities for the same job. As a result of the 2008 recession, people with disabilities left the labor force five times faster than workers with disabilities, and employment for people with disabilities has not bounced back to its pre-recession count.

To further increase opportunity for New Yorkers with disabilities in the workforce, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities will continue to engage leaders in the business community in the recruiting, retention and promotion of employees with disabilities; introduce the concept of careers and employment to young people with disabilities and provide introductions to internships, mentoring, career exploration, and summer employment; create apprenticeship programs in growth industries; ensure that training curriculum, learning tools and technologies are accessible to all; educate individuals with disabilities and their families of the benefits of work and career; educate employers on the benefits of hiring this untapped talent pool; and make employment for people with disabilities a priority and include people with disabilities in the solutions. Through this work, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities is raising awareness among New York businesses and employers on issues related to disability employment, as well as celebrating the contributions of New Yorkers with disabilities as an integral part of the city’s workforce.

Mayor de Blasio Signs K2 Legislation into Law to Criminalize Sale and Production

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law three new bills to curb the use of K2 and increase violations for those who seek to sell or manufacture this chemical mixture. The three bills are part of a multi-agency enforcement, education and prevention strategy against K2. This strategy aims to reduce the presence and use of K2 by aggressively cracking down on suppliers while offering supportive services and treatment to users in need. Sold in bodegas, synthetic cannabinoids are leaves sprayed with unpredictable and diverse chemical combinations that are either smoked or ingested. The drugs go by a variety of names, such as K2, Spice, Green Giant, and Caution, and produce adverse consequences ranging from agitation to vomiting to tremor seizures to hallucinations to violent behavior.

The new laws provide the City with additional tools and penalties to reduce the sale and manufacture of K2:

  • Intro 917-A, sponsored by Speakers Ruben Wills, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Fernando Cabrera, Andrew Cohen, Vanessa Gibson, Antonio Reynoso, Ritchie Torres, and Reuben Wills, criminalizes the manufacture, possession with intent to sell, and sale of synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic phenethylamines. Selling K2 will be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
  • Intro 897, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Daniel Garodnick, allows the City to apply public nuisance regulations to violations of the new criminal provision barring the sale of K2 – which gives the City additional enforcement tools.
  • Intro 885-A, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council Members Vanessa Gibson and Andrew Cohen, allows the City to revoke, suspend or refuse to renew a cigarette dealer license due to the sale of synthetic drugs or imitation synthetic drugs.

This legislation is part of the City’s multi-agency strategy to use enforcement, education, and prevention efforts to reduce K2 in New York City.  This strategy includes:

Reducing the supply of K2:

  • NYPD seizures: Last week marked the fifth multi-agency operation in the past few months. Five locations were inspected and 9 bags of Extreme K2 were seized. Last month, the City, in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration, conducted searches of five processing facilities that resulted in the seizure of about $17.5 million worth of K2 product, ingredients and paraphernalia – including at least 200 kilograms of synthetic compounds used to make K2, and 150,000 packets of finished K2. Ten individuals were indicted in connection with the drug ring and federal charges are being pursued by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office. More than 80 stores and bodegas throughout New York City were inspected as part of the enforcement action.
  • Enforcement awareness: Multi-agency enforcement actions will continue, and the results of these actions will be shared widely with bodega owners and cigarette distributors to increase awareness of the consequences of selling K2.
  • Labeling violations: The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has issued, and will continue to pursue, violations for inadequate and misleading labeling. Consequences for retailers selling K2 include the assessment of fines and the potential suspension or revocation of licenses issued by the agency, such as cigarette retail dealer licenses.
  • Additional legal tools: The City is working with State representatives on State legislation to complement the new City laws just signed.

Reducing the demand for K2:

  • Public awareness campaign: DCA and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are spearheading a comprehensive public awareness campaign to educate users and potential users about the harms of using K2 and dispel the many myths surrounding the marketing of K2 as legal and safe.
  • Education summit: Building off a successful model recently used in Houston, New York City will hold a summit on K2 at Brooklyn Law School on November 16th that will address the harmful effects of its use and best practices for treating users both from a public safety and public health perspective.  This summit will provide judges, first responders, law enforcement and public health professionals with resources to effectively implement the new criminal provision barring the sale of K2, connect users to treatment in the short-term, and ensure that users are connected to stabilizing services in the long-term.
  • Health advisories: The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has released a third health advisory on synthetic cannabinoids, available here.

Ensuring effectiveness:

  • Emergency room monitoring: City health agencies are monitoring cannabinoid-related emergency department visits daily and are developing a standardized treatment protocol and management plan for people who present with K2 use in emergency rooms.
  • Tracking strategies: The City will track enforcement strategies to ensure that sales of the drug cease and ensure that public health resources are rapidly deployed to meet emergent user health needs.

Since January 2015, there have been more than 4,500 synthetic cannabinoid-related emergency department visits in New York City, with more than 1,200 emergency department visits occurring in July. Males account for approximately 90 percent of these emergency room visits. Patients have a median age of 37 and are disproportionately residents of shelters and individuals with a psychiatric illness. Nearly all – 99 percent – of patients are age 18 and older. Led by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the multi-agency effort includes representatives from the New York Police Department, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Health and Hospitals Corporation, the Law Department, the Department of Homeless Services, the Sheriff, and the Attorney General’s office.

Mayor de Blasio Announces “Caring Neighborhoods” to Bring Primary Care to Underserved Areas Across the City

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the Caring Neighborhoods initiative, a transformative new program that will significantly increase primary care access for thousands of residents in underserved neighborhoods across New York City. Spearheaded by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Caring Neighborhoods builds primary care capacity in neighborhoods where for decades over a million New Yorkers have faced limited options for convenient and affordable health care services. Over 100,000 new patients will be able to receive care in their own neighborhoods thanks to the community health centers expanded through Caring Neighborhoods – part of the Administration’s plan to expand access to primary care health and provide high-quality and comprehensive healthcare services to any city resident, regardless of ability to pay. The City committed $20 million over two years in its FY16 budget to cover pre-development and start-up operating costs for new health centers.

Both NYCEDC and HHC’s expansion efforts target high-need neighborhoods throughout the City that lack adequate access to medical care. These neighborhoods were determined through a City-commissioned analysis conducted by the Community Health Care Association of New York State, with supplemental areas identified at the recommendation of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. CHCANYS is releasing an update to its 2013 report, titled Expanding Sustainable Community Health Centers in New York City, which assesses all city neighborhoods for their need for additional primary care services, and factors contributing to the sustainability of new clinics.

HHC Community Health Centers

The Caring Neighborhoods Initiative will provide direct support for both the creation of five new HHC primary care centers in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, and to expand services at six existing HHC primary care centers in high-need neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. New and expanded services will start in mid-2016 and will be completed by end of 2017. The City is providing $12 million in capital support.

The new and expanded access to healthcare services in high-need neighborhoods also contribute to Dr. Raju’s plan, announced in April, to bring financial stability to HHC in part by increasing the number of New Yorkers it serves to 2 million annually.

The expansion of primary care availability through new and expanded HHC health centers also directly supports HHC’s long-term financial goal of stabilizing its budget in future Fiscal Years by expanding its patient base and improving patient retention through better access to care and improved patient experience at HHC facilities. HHC will seek approval for the new centers to become part of HHC’s Gotham Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike Gotham Health, which currently comprises 40 primary care delivery sites serving more than 140,000 New Yorkers.

NYCEDC’s Community Health Center Expansion Program

As part of Caring Neighborhood’s strategic approach to expanding primary care, NYCEDC’s Community Health Center Expansion Program will provide a range of support to FQHCs and FQHC Look-Alikes (collectively health centers). This Program will support the over 30 non-profit health centers that already provide high-quality primary care and are looking to expand their services in the highest need neighborhoods. The Program seeks to accelerate the creation of these health centers by making available on a competitive basis up to $8 million in grants, real estate assistance to help identify new health center sites in underserved neighborhoods including potentially City-affiliated properties, and one-on-one technical assistance, among other benefits.

Wednesday, NYCEDC released two Requests for Proposals open to FQHCs and FQHC Look-Alikes in New York City. The two RFPs address the diverse needs of health centers at different stages of development, and will provide selected health centers with pre-development and operating support on a competitive basis. Grants and assistance are expected to be distributed starting in March 2016, with construction occurring throughout 2016 and 2017. Beginning in January 2016, NYCEDC will also host a training series open to all health centers in the city, regardless of their interest in the competitive application process.

This effort is the latest in NYCEDC’s portfolio of programs to generate shared prosperity for all New Yorkers. As the City’s primary engine for economic growth, NYCEDC is committed to strengthening neighborhoods and growing quality jobs by building community assets and ensuring that those community assets – like community health centers – have the resources to scale up. NYCEDC’s Healthcare Desk leads healthcare enterprises to more equitable and profitable business models for both workers and employers through programs addressing health technology adoption, payment reform, real estate transformation, and health inequities.

Targeted Neighborhoods

The high-need neighborhoods targeted by Caring Neighborhoods include:

  • 6 areas in the Bronx (Fordham-Bronx Park, Pelham-Throgs Neck, Crotona-Tremont, High Bridge-Morrisania, Hunts Point-Mott Haven, Northeast Bronx)
  • 8 areas in Brooklyn (Northwest Brooklyn, Bedford Stuyvesant-Crown Heights, East New York, Sunset Park, Borough Park, East Flatbush-Flatbush, Coney Island-Sheepshead Bay, Williamsburg-Bushwick)
  • 4 areas in Manhattan (Washington Heights-Inwood, Central Harlem-Morningside Heights, East Harlem, Union Square-Lower East Side)
  • 4 areas in Queens (Long Island-Astoria, West Queens, Flushing-Clearview, Jamaica)
  • 3 areas in Staten Island (Port Richmond, Stapleton and St. George, South Shore)

Caring Neighborhoods is part of the Administration’s commitment to reduce health disparities, and complements DOHMH’s initiative to support the integration of public health and primary care in high-need neighborhoods by revitalizing its underutilized buildings to co-locate community-based organizations, providers of medical, dental and mental health services. It also complements the Administration’s work to improve healthcare access for immigrant New Yorkers, as recently detailed in a report by the Mayor’s Task Force on Immigrant Health Care Access. As noted in the report, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are critical healthcare safety-net providers, delivering culturally competent primary care in community-based settings in neighborhoods with high concentrations of immigrant New Yorkers.

The healthcare sector is the leading employer in New York City, providing approximately 515,500 jobs, approximately 18,500 of which were created over the last year. In 2015, the federal government awarded $8.6 million in New Access Point annual operating grant funding for FQHCs in New York City; the de Blasio administration provided letters of support for many of these applicants.

Mayor de Blasio Calls for Change in State Law to Better Ensure Dangerous Defendants are Detained

Mayor de Blasio announced he is calling for two key changes to state law that would provide judges with more tools to ensure that dangerous defendants are not released to the street. The Mayor called for a change in state law to allow judges to consider public safety risk in determining an individual’s bail amount. Currently, New York State is one of three states that does not allow judges to consider dangerousness when setting bail. The Mayor also called for public safety risk and flight risks to be considered when a judge determines whether an individual is eligible for a diversion program, neither of which is currently required for consideration.

Currently, judges can only consider risk of flight when setting bail. State law states that the court “must consider the kind and degree of control or restriction that is necessary to secure his court attendance when required.” The Mayor is calling for the addition of language to the statute requiring a judge to consider whether a defendant poses a danger to the community when deciding how much bail is set. This would allow judges to make more informed and accurate decisions about who should be detained and released, and allow judges to see results of validated risk-assessment tools that have been shown in other states to predict public safety risk accurately.

Tyrone Howard, the individual being held responsible for killing a New York City police officer, paid his bail, which was set at $35,000. Howard had an extensive history of drug felonies and misdemeanors. The judge could have made a different bail decision if he were able to consider Howard’s extensive criminal history as an element of dangerousness. Criminal history is a major component of validated risk assessment tools that have been shown in other jurisdictions to accurately predict whether a defendant will re-offend if released.

The Mayor is also calling for the addition of dangerousness and risk of flight to the state judicial diversion statute. Current law does not require judges to consider either of these factors. Rather, current law that governs who is eligible for diversion requires the exclusion of certain defendants based on current charge and prior offenses and allows a judge to consider any relevant evidence—without requiring judges to consider dangerousness or risk of flight. The Mayor, Manhattan DA and Speaker are calling for a stronger law that requires judges to consider these two factors.

Today’s call for a change to state law builds upon New York City’s history of leading the nation in pre-trial justice reform. Earlier this month, the administration launched The Bail Lab, an initiative that aims to solve the problems that plague the current money bail system in the near term, while the City works to change state law. The City is also working to avoid unnecessary detention on bail for low-risk people by expanding supervised release citywide, supporting Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s creation of a citywide bail fund, and working with the Council to create eligibility criteria to ensure this valuable program is safely administered. And the de Blasio administration’s Justice Reboot initiative has made significant progress in cutting case delay and ensuring that felony cases move efficiently through the courts. The strategy announced today advances the administration’s work to ensure that all components of the City’s pre-trial system effectively protects public safety and increase fairness.

Mayor de Blasio: City of New York Launches #AutumnInNYC Contest for @nycgov Instagram Handle

In honor of the arrival of autumn, the de Blasio administration announced that the City’s official Instagram channel will host another online contest encouraging New Yorkers to submit photos of the city. Following in the tradition of the first #SignsOfSpringNYC contest this past spring, winners of #AutumnInNYC will serve as Instagram ambassadors on @nycgov, the official Instagram account of New York City government. The #AutumnInNYC contest will once again engage New Yorkers from across the five boroughs, giving voice to a diverse range of perspectives and photographic styles on the City’s official Instagram account. Submissions will be accepted via a web formhosted on nyc.gov, and one ambassador from each borough will be selected by a panel of judges. In order to be eligible, photos will need to be submitted in a square format by end of the day on November 1. The judging and vetting period will take place from November 2 to November 7.

The six judges who will select the final ambassadors are:

  • Chirlane McCray, First Lady of New York City
  • Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
  • Mitchell Silver, Commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs
  • Rob Bennett, Director of Creative Communications, City of New York
  • Marty Markowitz, Vice President of Borough Promotion and Engagement, NYC & Company

Winners will be announced on November 14 and the winning photos will be showcased on the @nycgov Instagram and Medium channels, as well as other City social media accounts. Ambassadors will serve through Spring 2015, and will also have special access to InstaMeets coordinated by the City.

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

Public Advocate Tish James and Governor Cuomo Announce New Measures to Protect Foster Children

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, and child plaintiffs announced a series of measures being taken by the state to better protect foster children. The measures are the result of a recently settled class action alleging harm to children in New York City’s foster care system.

The city’s foster care system is administered by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and overseen by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). As a result of this settlement, OCFS will retain a monitor to work with the Public Advocate’s Office and the plaintiffs to review and evaluate the city’s foster care system. OCFS will also require ACS to retain a research expert, who will conduct annual case record reviews. Additional settlement details are included below.

The steps outlined in the agreement include:

  • Commitment to reform: Under the agreement, New York State and the Plaintiffs all agree that children in the New York City foster care system should be protected from maltreatment, provided with permanent homes and families within a reasonable time, and provided with foster placements and services that promote their well-being.  The agreement aims to effectuate these goals.
  • Appointment of a Monitor: A Monitor, to be paid for by the State, will be retained for at least three years, and potentially beyond, to support compliance with relevant federal and State laws, regulations and policies. The monitor will produce bi-annual reports evaluating (a) the foster care placement process in New York City, (b) any potential causes of maltreatment of children in foster care in New York City and ways to lower the rate of such maltreatment, (c) the availability and appropriateness of services in the foster care system, and (d) the recruitment of an appropriate and sufficient array of placements, including potential permanent families, for such children.
  • Appointment of a NYC Research Expert: A Research Expert will be retained by ACS with the State and the Plaintiffs’ approval, for at least two years, and potentially beyond, to perform confidential case record reviews of children in the custody of ACS to determine compliance with relevant federal and State laws, regulations and policies relating to safety, permanency and well-being of foster children.
  • Implementation of Corrective Action Plans: If the Monitor or the Research Expert finds there is any substantial non-compliance with applicable laws, regulations or policies, either OCFS directly or ACS under OCFS’ oversight, will determine whether any corrective action is necessary and, if so, require the implementation of corrective action plans.   Plaintiffs will have an opportunity to comment on any proposed corrective action plans that are developed as a result of the Monitor’s quarterly reports or the Research Expert’s biannual aggregate reports.

The plaintiffs can return to court to enforce the settlement’s terms. The City of New York and ACS are not parties to the agreement, and that portion of the lawsuit will move forward in Court.

Bronx Borough President Diaz and PACE to Host Gifted & Talented Open House 

For the second year in a row, the Office of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and PACE (Parents’ Alliance for Citywide Education) will co-host a Gifted & Talented Education Open House providing information about New York City’s Citywide Gifted & Talented (G&T) elementary schools, Bronx district G&T programs and other accelerated education options. The groups will hold two events on Thursday, October 29th at the Bronx Library Center – one at 10-11:30 a.m. and another at 6-7p.m.

Each event features drop-in sessions related to G&T education as well as a presentation on the public school G&T testing process by expert consultants. PACE and Bronx Borough President representatives will be on hand, and current parents at Citywide G&T schools and district G&T programs will be available for informal Q&A.  Representatives from other local educational groups will provide information and a representative from the NYC Department of Education will also be available to answer questions specific to the public school G&T process.

In addition to gathering information on educational options, attendees can sign up on site for the free G&T test offered by the DOE.

Among the five boroughs of New York City, Bronx children are tested at the lowest rate per capita, according to DOE statistics. This can change with better outreach to all Bronx communities. In fact, after last year’s Open House at which scores of parents signed up for the G&T test on site, the number of Bronx children taking the G&T test for entry to Kindergarten increased by over 13 percent whereas in other boroughs the testing rate stayed flat or even decreased.  The PACE group believes if more parents have their children tested, the demand for accelerated programs will grow in The Bronx.

Bronx Borough President Diaz: Unemployment Drops to 6.6% 

Bronx job statistics continued to improve this month, according to the latest numbers from the New York State Department of Labor.

The unemployment rate in The Bronx fell to 6.6 percent in September 2015, down from 7.3 percent in August 2015 and 8.7 percent in September 2014. Those same statistics show that the total number of Bronxites who are employed is 565.7 thousand, up from 468.8 thousand in May 2009 when Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. first took office, meaning that nearly 100,000 more borough residents have jobs than did roughly six years ago.

“Our borough is in the midst of a tremendous revival, and these numbers bear that out,” said Borough President Diaz. “More Bronxites are employed than at any point since they began keeping such statistics. We are bringing new businesses to our borough, helping our existing businesses expand, and fostering the right climate for growth and development. Those efforts are having a positive effect on our borough and its population, as is clear from these job numbers.”

Brooklyn Borough President Adams Calls for Greater City Access to Safe Spaces for Youth Sports Play

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams led hundreds of young athletes in their sports gear and team uniforms, along with their parents and coaches, in a march across the Brooklyn Bridge as he called for greater city access to safe spaces for play. Representatives of the dozens of local teams participating in the effort, comprising over twenty different athletic disciplines, gathered at a rally prior to the step-off, where they spoke about the positive impact that youth sports has had on addressing childhood obesity, gang violence, and social development issues; Borough President Adams addressed his own experience growing up with youth sports and the value it had for him.

Borough President Adams renewed his call for the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to open up public schools to all groups seeking to use the space for positive youth and community development outside of school hours. He noted that New York City has 1454 public school buildings, with 441 in the borough of Brooklyn alone, and that the structures are left vacant or are unreachable during non-school hours due to schools charging hundreds of dollars an hour to utilize space.

Following the march, participants gathered at a youth sports expo at Brooklyn Borough Hall, offering resources for families and giveaways for local athletic events; the sponsors of the Brooklyn Youth Sports Walk and Expo were Global Mixed Gender Basketball, Modell’s Sporting Goods, and Target.

City Agencies:

Department of Education: First “Net-Zero” Energy School Named after Former DOE Deputy Chancellor Grimm

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña joined students, families, staff and local officials to dedicate the city’s new “net-zero” energy school to the late Kathleen Grimm, a former Deputy Chancellor at the DOE whose vision and dedication helped make the school a reality.  The Kathleen Grimm School of Leadership and Sustainability at Sandy Ground, or PS 62, is housed in a brand-new, uniquely designed 68,000-square-foot building that will generate energy with over 2,000 photovoltaic solar panels, a wind turbine, heating and cooling systems powered by underground geothermal wells and a host of other clean energy features.

The school building serves as a hands-on learning laboratory for its students, allowing educators to integrate their surroundings into lessons about sustainability, innovation and the importance of preserving and protecting our environment. Some of the building’s features, such as its energy use dashboards, can be woven directly into the science, math and even writing curricula.  With skylights and reflective ceiling panels angled to maximize natural light, motion-sensor energy-efficient indoor lighting, as well as a specially designed precast concrete building envelope which acts as a rain screen, the school uses 50 percent less energy than a typical school building.

This building is designed to produce as much energy as it consumes and will be the first “net-zero” school east of the Mississippi River. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, the building is oriented on its 3.5-acre property to maximize exposure to the sun, with its south façade sloped at 70 degrees. Daylight will provide 90 percent of the light on the south side of the building, 60 percent on the north side and up to 75 percent to interior spaces such as the gymnasium and cafeteria. The green roof will reduce heat and underground tanks will collect precipitation and prevent runoff.

Health Department Launches 2015 Flu Shot Awareness Campaign: “Avoid the: Pain. Fever. Chills. Misery. Get the Flu Vaccine Today”

The Health Department launched a public awareness campaign reminding New Yorkers that the flu vaccination is the best protection against “Pain. Fever. Chills. Misery.” The campaign will feature four English and two Spanish ads, which will run in subway cars. The campaign will also have a social media presence. Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory viral illness that can cause significant illness and death. More New Yorkers die from influenza and pneumonia than from any other infection. In 2013, 2,472 New Yorkers died from influenza and pneumonia; 80%-90% of influenza-related deaths are among persons aged 65 years and older. Influenza activity is usually at its peak January through March, but it can start as early as November. It is important to get vaccinated now – before influenza season starts. The NYC Health Department is also producing an informational ‘Influenza Health Bulletin’ for the public in English and 11 other languages. The Health Bulletin and other influenza information can be found by visiting nyc.gov and searching for ‘health bulletins.’

While annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all people aged 6 months and older, it is especially recommended for those at risk of developing influenza-related complications. Those at risk include children under 5, pregnant women, adults aged 65 and older, and people with chronic health conditions, such as heart, lung, and kidney disease, diabetes, morbid obesity and those who are immune compromised. Health care workers and other people who live or work with people at high risk of influenza complications, also need a flu vaccine to avoid infecting others.

Flu vaccine can help prevent pain and misery of influenza. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalizations among several high-risk groups, including persons with diabetes, chronic lung disease and in those over 50 years of age. Pregnant women have a four-fold higher risk of being hospitalized if they get the flu. A flu vaccine can protect them and their infant by passing on protective antibodies to their infants until they can get their own vaccine at 6 months.  Flu vaccine coverage was 44% for persons aged 18 years and older. Coverage was lower for younger adults: 35% for persons aged 18-49 years, 50% for persons aged 50-64 years and 64% for persons aged 65 years and older.  Vaccination coverage differed by race and ethnicity for older New Yorkers.  Among New Yorkers aged 65 and older, there are disparities in the prevalence of flu vaccinations between Black non-Hispanics (53%) compared with White non-Hispanics (69%) and Hispanics (68%), according to the 2014 Community Health Survey.

To help prevent the spread of infection in the community and among children under 5 in the child care setting, the Board of Health approved an amendment in December 2013 requiring children between 6 months and 5 years of age enrolled in city-licensed childcares, preschools, Head Start or pre-Kindergarten programs to receive an annual influenza vaccination by December 31st each year.

Influenza vaccination coverage for all children in New York City remains below the national coverage goal of 70 percent. Based on Citywide Immunization Registry data, for last season, influenza vaccination coverage rates for children in New York City with at least one dose was:

  • Aged 6 to 59 month-olds- 67%
  • Aged 5 to 8 year-olds- 50%
  • Aged 9 to18 year olds- 34%

HPD, HDC & WIN Celebrate Groundbreaking of $80 Million Supportive and Affordable Housing Development in Brooklyn

Win, one of the largest nonprofits serving homeless women and their families in New York City, was joined by New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Vicki Been, New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) President Gary Rodney, and partners to break ground on a new affordable housing development in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood.

The Win Glenmore development is financed under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough, 10-Year Housing Plan. The most comprehensive affordable housing plan in the City’s history and largest municipal housing plan in the nation, its goal is to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing for very low- and middle income families to help address New York City’s  affordability crisis. The Win Glenmore, the largest permanent supportive housing initiative in Win’s history, will provide 160 safe, clean, and permanent residential apartments to some of New York’s most vulnerable families. The development will be a six-story mixed-use building containing approximately 176,923-square-feet. The unit distribution will include 12 studios, 67 one-bedroom apartments, 68 two-bedroom apartments and 13 three-bedroom apartments. There will be an additional two-bedroom apartment for an onsite superintendent. The development will also feature 24 onsite parking spaces, 3,158-square-feet of retail space and 3,179-square-feet of community space.

The $80 million supportive and affordable housing development will primarily serve 96 chronically homeless families or families at serious risk of becoming chronically homeless, in which the head of the household suffers from a substance abuse disorder, a disabling medical condition or HIV/AIDS. This development will benefit from project-based section 8, allowing residents to pay only 30 percent of their monthly income towards rent. The remaining 64 units will be affordable to low-income individuals and families with annual incomes no more than $36,300 for an individual and $46,620 for a family of three. Income levels are calculated annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The above incomes are set according to HUD’s 2015 calculations.

An innovative mix of government and private sector funders have partnered with Win to support this project, including HDC, HPD, the New York State Homeless Housing and Assistance Program (HHAP) under the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA), the office of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York City Office of Environmental Remediation (OER), Richman Housing Capital, Bank of America, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), and Glenmore LLC.  Construction financing sources include $40.1 million in tax-exempt bonds and $8.85 million in corporate subsidy from HDC. HPD provided approximately $11.9 million in City Capital and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. The Brooklyn Borough President’s office contributed $500,000 in Reso A. Approximately $5.2 million was contributed through the New York State Homeless Housing Assistance Program and the New York City Office of Environmental Remediation issued $40,000 for light remediation work.  Additionally, Bank of America provided a loan of $4 million.  The Richman Group is the tax credit syndicator for this project.

The affordable housing units not filled by special needs referral will be through NYC Housing Connect, an Open Lottery System to ensure fair and equitable distribution of housing to income-eligible applicants. Marketing of the apartments and the application process for the lottery typically begins when construction is approximately 70 percent complete. For more information regarding the affordable housing lottery process or if you would like to receive an e-mail when HPD updates its available apartment and home website listings for City-subsidized housing in the five boroughs, please visit the ‘Find Housing’ page under the ‘Renter’ tab at www.nyc.gov/hpd. Current housing lotteries are also available at www.nyc.gov/housingconnect. Applicants may submit either a paper application or an electronic application. Duplicate applications will be disqualified.