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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

De Blasio Administration Marks National Volunteer Month

Marking National Volunteer Month, the de Blasio administration launched the city’s first Mayoral Service Recognition Program. The City also announced the release of a series of video and radio public service announcements, which highlight causes like hunger prevention and raise awareness about NYC Service volunteer opportunities across the five boroughs.

“New York City’s greatest strength is in our people, and this month we celebrate service across the five boroughs,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “From our new mayoral recognition program to a series of NYC Service PSAs, we aim to recognize volunteers for their contribution to our communities and inspire others to action. Democracies are rooted in civic engagement and I commend NYC Service for its efforts to mobilize and empower volunteers to tackle our greatest needs in every neighborhood. Together, we are a stronger city. I urge all New Yorkers to dedicate any time they can spare by connecting to volunteer opportunities at nyc.gov/service.”

The Recognition Program launched today will promote service across the five boroughs by recognizing youth, adults, and businesses in the city who have made a significant volunteer impact on their communities. The program aims to deepen engagement and boost volunteerism in the city.

Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Mark-Viverito Announce Over 100,000 IDNYC Applicants Enrolled

Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito announced that over 100,000 New Yorkers across the five boroughs have submitted applications for the IDNYC program, less than three months after launching the most ambitious municipal identification program in the country. Other cities across the country that have implemented municipal ID initiatives, such as New Haven, San Francisco, and Oakland, enrolled approximately 1 percent of their populations during their first year of operation. On March 30, just the 77th day since the launch of IDNYC, the 100,000th New Yorker applied for an IDNYC card – well exceeding 1 percent of the City’s population (approximately 84,000). To date, 105,053 New Yorkers have had their applications processed.

As required by local law, the Administration this week submitted the IDNYC’s first quarterly report to the City Council, detailing the City’s rapid expansion of the program to meet the extraordinary demand for a government-issued photo identification card available to all New York City residents, regardless of immigration status.

The quarterly report contains key information about the IDNYC program, as required by local law, including breakdown of card enrollment data, such as enrollment by borough and card issuance to minors. The report also details the rapid expansion of the program to meet demand by adding workstations at IDNYC enrollment centers, extending hours of operation, realizing technology efficiencies, and opening new large-scale IDNYC enrollment hubs across the city. At the time of the report, the City had more than tripled the program’s enrollment capacity.

Mayor de Blasio and Attorney General Schneiderman Announce Joint Task Force to Combat Immigration Services Fraud

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the formation of a new joint task force to target those who prey on immigrants, while encouraging victims of fraud to come forward without fear.

The task force, led by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, together with the Office of the Attorney General, will dedicate enforcement resources and conduct a public awareness campaign to stop predators from taking advantage of immigrant communities in advance of the full implementation of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The task force is committed to undertaking the following actions:

  • Targeted enforcement and/or investigations against immigrant service providers who may be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. These investigations could occur in partnership, where feasible, or independently by each agency.
  • Improved information-sharing to identify illegal activity and coordinate enforcement efforts. In collaboration with community organizations, the task force will establish an information pipeline to connect on-the-ground reports of immigration fraud hotspots to City agencies and the Attorney General’s Office to stop problematic service providers or practices.
  • Increased public awareness outreach to engage vulnerable communities and encourage victims to come forward. City agencies and the Attorney General’s Office will collaborate on public education campaigns to bring attention to potential abuses wherever they exist.
  • Continual expansion to include other relevant governmental entities and provide a blueprint for cities and states across the country to adopt best practices. As part of Cities United for Immigration Action, New York City is working in close collaboration with partner cities to develop a national model to combat immigration services fraud.

Mayor de Blasio: One Year Later, City’s Paid Sick Leave Law working New Yorkers

New York City’s landmark paid sick leave law, which turns one year old on April 1, 2015, has been implemented smoothly and effectively by the City, bringing this important worker benefit to millions of employees in the five boroughs. One of Mayor de Blasio’s first actions as Mayor was to strengthen and expand the City’s yet-to-be-implemented Earned Sick Leave Act (also known as the Paid Sick Leave Law), to include over 500,000 more New Yorkers who weren’t already covered. Mayor de Blasio accelerated the law’s implementation to April 1, 2014. He also expanded the law to include manufacturing workers who had been exempted, as well as the definition of covered family members to include grandparents, grandchildren and siblings.

In the absence of momentum on paid sick leave at the federal level, cities and states have taken the lead. Since New York’s enactment and expansion of the City’s Paid Sick Leave law, the issue has emerged on the legislative agenda in states and localities throughout the country. Following New York City’s lead, cities including Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Eugene, Oregon; Oakland, California; Tacoma, Washington; as well as several cities in New Jersey, and the states of California and Massachusetts, have recently enacted laws to give workers access to paid sick leave. This week, on the one year anniversary of New York City’s law, the White House will begin a campaign traveling across the country to promote paid leave policies.
New York City’s Paid Sick Leave Law – the largest municipal law of its kind in the nation – covers employees who work at least 80 hours a year. If an employer has five or more employees, the employees are entitled to paid sick leave. If the employer has four or fewer employees, they are entitled to unpaid sick leave. Under the law, workers earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year.

In order to ensure New Yorkers knew their rights and responsibilities under the law, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)  implemented an extensive outreach campaign in multiple languages, that engaged and educated both employees and employers. This campaign included the distribution of nearly two million pieces of literature, which went to over 400,000 businesses and were distributed at presentations at more than 800 events. The City additionally implemented a far-reaching advertising campaign in subway cars, stations, and buses, as well as on television, radio, online and in daily, community, and foreign language newspapers. Paid sick leave information continues to be provided in 26 languages, beyond the 7 mandated by the law.

Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Trottenberg Announce Expansion of Staten Island Ferry Service

“We’re committed to bringing better transit and opportunity to parts of the city that have long gone underserved. The Staten Island Ferry is the lifeline for an entire borough. Setting a 30-minute standard for service will help Staten Islanders work, grow businesses on the island, and bring us closer to a day when every New Yorker has access to frequent, reliable public transit,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Starting next month, we will begin increasing service on the Staten Island Ferry on weekends in the morning and overnight. And we will put forward funding in our executive budget to reach full 30-minute service, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

“We are pleased to announce that beginning on May 1, we will begin expanded overnight service on the Staten Island Ferry, adding six round trips per week, one each on Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights and three on Sunday morning. This Administration is committed to providing 30 minute service, 24/7, to the 22 million annual ferry riders and 470,000 Staten Islanders – which helps provide transportation equity for the borough. Moving forward, we will be working expeditiously in the coming months to finalize the best option for the full 30-minute overnight service for ferry riders,” said NYC Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

“This decision was so critically important, not just on the substance of increasing ferry service in order to provide Staten Islanders a viable and consistent mass transit option to come and go as work and life demand; not just to further unleash the economic development potential of the North Shore, but also because it speaks to the relationship the de Blasio Administration has with the people of Staten Island. I, and others, have provided the Mayor with a blueprint for helping Staten Island, and this is a great demonstration of communication, collaboration and commitment,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo.

De Blasio Administration Launches Major Funding Initiative to Create Thousands of Jobs in City’s Life Sciences Sector

Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President Kyle Kimball have announced the expansion and launch of the Early-Stage Life Sciences Funding Initiative, a public-private partnership to strengthen the city’s economy and newly position New York City as a global capital for life sciences innovation, to result in both thousands of new jobs and pioneering medical innovations for patients.

The historic co-investment partnership has exceeded its initial funding goal by $50 million to launch with a total of $150 million, which includes $10 million in anchor funding from NYCEDC and leveraged with capital from industry partners and managed by leading venture capital partners. The Funding Initiative will identify and invest in the most promising research generated by the city’s academic medical institutions and leading entrepreneurs, creating and growing companies working on the leading edge of life sciences advances.

The City also highlighted its ongoing efforts to dramatically increase the current stock of less than 1 million square feet of commercial R&D laboratory capacity in New York City, in order to give early-stage and established companies the affordable, accessible and connected physical space needed to grow and thrive. These efforts include the redevelopment of an underutilized 14-story city-owned building on First Avenue and East 26th Street, which will be repositioned into a new bioscience research center anticipated to house 100,000 square feet of new wet lab space. A private partner for this effort will be announced in the coming months.

The City is also continuing to work with its partners at The Alexandria Center for Life Sciences, located at First Avenue and East 29th Street, which has already brought more than 200 jobs to New York City from New Jersey, thanks to anchor tenant Roche Laboratories. The development of an approximately 350,000 square foot third tower at The Alexandria Center  is anticipated to bring the total footprint of the campus to 1.1 million square feet of available wet lab and office space. In the coming months, the City will work to identify additional opportunities to increase the supply of lab space for life science professionals.

De Blasio Administration Details $400 Million in Health Savings for FY15, on Track for Even Greater Savings in Future Years

The de Blasio administration announced that it will reach $400 million in health care cost savings for Fiscal Year 2015, part of the unprecedented and guaranteed health savings agreed upon with the Municipal Labor Committee last year. In total, the City and the MLC have agreed to at least $3.4 billion in savings over the next four years, and $1.3 billion in recurring savings every year after. The Office of Labor Relations detailed the FY2015 savings – as well as savings already secured for future years – in its FY2015 Q3 report to the Mayor.

For over 20 years, the City was unable to modernize its employee benefit programs and develop more efficient and cost-effective approaches to health care. Any changes required agreement between the City and municipal unions.

When the de Blasio administration took office, every contract with municipal workers was expired. Since then, the administration has reached agreements with 76 percent of the workforce, representing both civilian and uniformed employees. Incorporated in those contract settlements is an agreement with the MLC to fundamentally bend the health care cost curve with $3.4 billion in savings from FY2015 through FY2018, and $1.3 billion in savings recurring every year after.

Mayor de Blasio, Senator Schumer Announce $3 Billion in Federal Funds to Repair and Protect 33 Sandy-Damaged NYCHA Developments Housing Thousands – Largest FEMA Grant in History

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced approximately $3 billion in federal funding to repair and protect 33 public housing developments that sustained severe damage during Hurricane Sandy – the largest FEMA grant in the history of the agency. Half of the funds will be designated for repairs, while the other half will be aimed at implementing resiliency measures to better protect developments from future disasters. The funding is authorized by FEMA’s Alternative Procedures, which provides a lump sum payment instead of the typical incremental funding by FEMA.

Approximately $3 billion in funding will allow the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to repair and enhance resiliency at 33 developments where Sandy’s storm surge flooded basements and first floors of NYCHA buildings, severely damaging boilers and electrical and mechanical equipment, and leaving many residents without power and heat for days or weeks.

With these funds NYCHA will be able to make critical repairs and implement key resiliency measures to better protect residents. NYCHA will be able to address considerable damage caused by Sandy at various developments where electrical and mechanical systems were crippled and in many cases completely destroyed. The funds will also allow NYCHA to take steps to make these developments more resilient to future storms. New construction of elevated boilers, installation of flood barrier systems, and stand-by generators will now help protect NYCHA residents from future extreme weather.

Mayor de Blasio Signs Legislation to Extend Rent Stabilization Laws

Mayor de Blasio signed into law Intro. 685, in relation to extending rent stabilization laws; Intro. 458-A, in relation to requiring the Department of Consumer Affairs to provide outreach and education to young adults; and Intro. 435-A, in relation to reporting of special education services provided by the Department of Education.

The first bill, Intro. 685, extends the rent stabilization laws in New York City until April 1, 2018.  The 2014 Housing Survey shows that New York City currently has a rental vacancy rate of 3.45 percent, which constitutes a housing emergency, and this legislation is necessary to restrict rent increases and prevent evictions. This bill was approved by the City Council during the Stated Meeting on March 11.

The second bill, Intro. 458-A, requires the Department of Consumer Affairs to provide outreach and education related to consumer protection issues to young adults ages 16-24. Educational materials related to consumer products commonly available to young adults – such as student loans and credit cards – must be made available at public schools and CUNY schools, as well as online, to ensure young adults are financially literate. This bill was approved by the City Council during the Stated Meeting on March 11.  In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Mark Treyger, and Chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs, Council Member Rafael Espinal, for supporting this legislation.

The third bill, Intro. 435-A, requires the Department of Education to report annually on students receiving special education services. This report will provide information that includes the types of services students receive, and demographic information about the students receiving them. This bill was approved by the City Council during the Stated Meeting on March 11. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor and Chair of the Committee on Education, Council Member Daniel Dromm, for supporting this legislation.

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

Mayor de Blasio Appoints Thomas Snyder as Chief of Staff

Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Thomas Snyder as Chief of Staff to the Mayor’s Office. A seasoned executive with extensive public sector experience, Snyder brings a commitment to progressive and effective leadership to the position.

A nationally-recognized labor leader, Snyder joins the administration after nearly two decades with UNITE HERE International Union, where he most recently served as International Union Vice President. Prior to joining UNITE HERE, Snyder served the City of Boston in various capacities, most recently supervising various city departments as Administrative Services Director.

“On day one, our administration pledged to provide New Yorkers with strong and effective leadership that will deliver for all our city’s residents. By putting the Mayor’s Office in Snyder’s experienced and capable hands, we continue to build on this pledge.  I look forward to working alongside Snyder as we strive to provide residents across the five boroughs with the services, support and leadership they deserve,” said Mayor de Blasio.

First Lady Chirlane McCray, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Deputy Mayor Richard Buery Announce Early Childhood Development Initiative

First Lady Chirlane McCray, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Deputy Mayor Richard Buery announced a collaboration between the New York City Children’s Cabinet and Too Small to Fail urging parents to talk, read and sing to their babies from birth. The “Talk To Your Baby, Their Brain Depends On It” initiative will feature major public awareness campaigns and a new partnership with Scholastic Inc. to distribute baby book bundles to hundreds of thousands of new NYC parents.

These efforts will focus on closing the “word gap.” Studies have found that by age four, children in middle and upper income families hear 30 million more words than their lower-income peers. This disparity in hearing words from parents and caregivers translates directly into a disparity in learning words. And that puts our children born with the fewest advantages even further behind.

The “Talk To Your Baby, Their Brain Depends On It” public awareness campaign, aimed at promoting ‘attachment parenting’ and early brain development among children ages zero to three, will include online resources with information and tips for parents and caregivers, subway advertisements and digital outreach. Materials will promote a new texting program administered by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that will provides parents and caregivers of young children with once-a-week texts with coaching tips and information relating to language development, attachment-encouraging behavior and socio-emotional health. This public awareness campaign is made possible through a book donation worth $1.5 million contributed from Scholastic Inc., to be included in 200,000 Baby Book Bundles – to be distributed over the next two years to families with children ages zero to three through City agencies and the Reach Out and Read program – encouraging parents to talk, read and sing to their babies.

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

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

City Council to Vote On Bills Strengthening Human Rights Commission

The City Council will vote on three pieces of legislation that will strengthen the city’s Human Rights Commission. Introduction 421-A would expand annual reporting requirements. Introduction 689-A would require a minimum of five housing discrimination investigations during a period of one year commencing this October. Introduction 690-A would require a minimum of five employment discrimination investigations during a period of one year commencing this October.

Introduction 421-A, sponsored by Council Member Darlene Mealy, would require the Human Rights Commission to include information regarding the number of investigations the Commission conducts each year in its annual report to the Council and the Mayor. This information would increase transparency regarding the number and type of investigations initiated by the Commission each year.

Introduction 689-A, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would require the Human Rights Commission to conduct no less than five investigations of discrimination housing accommodations over a period of one year. This bill would require the Commission to use pairs of “testers” to investigate local housing accommodation providers. Each investigation would include matched pair testing where testers who present similar credentials, but differ based on one or more of the protected classes in the Human Rights Law. For example, the testers could differ in actual or perceived race, gender, sexual orientation or national origin. The investigations would begin on or before October 1st, 2015.

Introduction 690-A, sponsored by Council Member Darlene Mealy, would create the same requirements as 689-A for investigations into employment discrimination. Information related to the results of these investigations would be included in the Commission’s annual report to the Council.

Comptroller Stringer Audit of Build It Back Reveals Millions Paid Out for Incomplete Work, Double-Billing & Undocumented Travel Costs

New York City’s recovery effort following Superstorm Sandy was a boon for consultants who failed to do required work and left thousands of victims without help long after the storm ravaged the City—and problems continue to this day, according to an audit released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

The Comptroller’s audit revealed the City’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations (HRO) failed to properly monitor contractors and paid $6.8 million to them for work that that was flawed or incomplete – contributing to extensive delays in the delivery of aid to more than 20,000 people seeking help.

The audit examined the Build it Back Single Family Program – which focused on owner-occupants of properties with one-to-four units affected by Sandy – from June 1, 2013 to August 1, 2014. The findings were enhanced by testimony from six public hearings that Stringer’s office held in areas hardest hit by the storm, which were attended by hundreds of New Yorkers. The audit included detailed reviews of a random sample of 70 applicants, plus reviews of program design, management and operations by HRO and its contractors.

Triborough Electeds Sign On to Bill to Stop Bridge Trespassing

In response to yet another trespassing incident on a New York City bridge — the RFK Triborough Bridge was breached by climbers on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 — Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, State Senator Daniel Squadron, and Assemblymember Joseph Lentol announced key support of Bronx, Manhattan and Queens elected officials for their state legislation to raise trespassing penalties on critical infrastructure. Congressmembers Crowley, Maloney and Rangel; Bronx Borough President Diaz Jr.; State Senators Gianaris and Serrano;  Assemblymembers Rodriguez, Simon and Simotas; and Councilmember Constantinides all represent the RFK Triborough Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge, and have now co-sponsored or endorsed the bill.

The RFK incident comes following multiple security breaches of the Brooklyn Bridge in the past twelve months. This legislation (S.2190) was announced in November, and would fill a gap in current state law, as well as complement a proposal introduced earlier this year by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer that would make it a federal crime to trespass on critical infrastructure with the intent to commit a crime.

The Critical Infrastructure Safety Act would apply the same definition used in the Executive Law to protect critical infrastructure from a terrorist attack. Under the bill, a person would be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor when an individual trespasses on infrastructure so vital to the state that its disruption, incapacitation or destruction could jeopardize the health, safety, welfare or security of the state, its residents or its economy.

City Agencies:

Department of Education: Chancellor Fariña Announces Expansion of ASD Nest and Horizon Programs

Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced an expansion of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Nest and Horizon programs. ASD Nest and ASD Horizon are cutting-edge programs designed to provide individualized supports and services to students on the autism spectrum. Both programs help students with autism strengthen interpersonal skills and succeed in the classroom. As a superintendent in 2003, Chancellor Fariña was a member of the team that helped develop the original ASD Nest program at PS 32 in Brooklyn.

ASD Programs currently serve more than 1,300 children with autism across more than 50 City schools, and are aimed at putting them on the path to graduating high school ready for college and careers. The 41 new classes will be spread across 32 schools in all five boroughs with 12 in Brooklyn, 10 in Queens, eight on Staten Island, seven in Manhattan, and four in the Bronx. Of the new classes, 26 are Nest programs and 15 are Horizon programs.

ASD Nest was developed and is supported in collaboration with New York University. ASD Nest is an Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) program for students with autism. ICT classrooms include students with and without disabilities and are led by two teachers, a general education teacher and a special education teacher. ASD Nest class sizes are smaller than traditional ICT classes, allowing teachers to offer more tailored support to students with autism. Additionally, ASD Nest classes use a specialized curriculum, Social Development Intervention (SDI), to improve social interactions and academic success. Each ASD Nest class has two teachers who are trained in working with students with autism and in teaching the specialized curriculum. Both teachers must also participate in ongoing professional trainings throughout the year.

The ASD Horizon program was developed in collaboration with the New England Center for Children (NECC) and provides small classes for students with autism who have greater social and academic needs. Students in ASD Horizon’s classes are taught through another specialized curriculum – based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis – addressing their academic and social needs. Along with the specialized curriculum, students in ASD Horizon programs receive services including speech and language therapy to support their interpersonal communication skills.

Department of Homeless Services Commissioner, Schools Chancellor, and NYC Service Partner With Scholastic to Launch Literacy Program In 20 DHS Shelters, Serving Over 4,000 Children

Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor, Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña, NYC Chief Service Officer Paula Gavin, and Scholastic Inc. launched a pilot literacy program making available reading materials for school-age children living in 20 DHS shelters.  The program includes books donated to each shelter from Scholastic Inc., and seeks to serve over 4,000 children. Scholastic has donated 170 books per shelter, including bilingual books.

To further enhance the initiative, NYC Service and DHS have formed partnerships with Jumpstart, Literacy Inc., Read Aloud, and Literacy Partners to help implement the project. NYC Service has been working to recruit volunteers to assist in the shelters’ libraries.  Additionally, DHS with the support of NYC Service has partnered with the Queens, Brooklyn, and New York Public Libraries to support the participating pilot libraries in each borough.

Tuesday afternoon at the HELP Crotona shelter, a Bronx facility for families with children, city agency officials, public library representatives, and Scholastic gathered to unveil and introduce the library space.  They were joined by special guest, “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” who greeted and interacted with the children.  Commissioner Taylor was joined by Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, and representatives from Scholastic Inc., HELP USA, and the public libraries in each borough.

“We at DHS are committed to fostering the healthy development and educational attainment for all children living in our system. Making sure that children in shelter have books to read is fundamental to promoting academic achievement and enrichment,” said DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor. “The generosity of Scholastic Inc. has greatly assisted us with this launch, as we make strides towards reducing homelessness and improving lives.”

Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Four DOHMH Employees Volunteer to Help with Ebola Response in Guinea

The Health Department announced that four agency employees have volunteered to fight Ebola in West Africa. The employees will spend one month in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, working as “disease detectives” and assisting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists’ overall outbreak response.

Before leaving for Guinea, the employees will receive training at the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta. The employees will not have direct contact with Ebola patients, but will be actively monitored by the Health Department when they return to New York City as a precaution.

During their time in Guinea, the four employees will support the response team currently working on the Ebola outbreak and work as “disease detectives” to trace patient contacts participate in the following activities:

  • Analyzing data from needs assessments and working with team leads to update country work plans.
  • Building infection control capacity.
  • Assisting in tracking progress of implementing country work plans.
  • Assisting with efforts to improve national Ebola surveillance in Guinea.

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