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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

De Blasio Administration to Seek Amendments to State Law to Help Increase Contracting to Minority and Women-Owned Businesses

The de Blasio administration is calling for changes in state law to increase contracting opportunities for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs). The City has already increased contract awards to M/WBE by 57 percent over the previous fiscal year, bringing total awards in the last fiscal year to $690 million, and recently announced a commitment to award more than $16 billion to M/WBE businesses over the next 10 years. To achieve this goal, the City is seeking changes in State law to spur more opportunities for M/WBEs, including giving the City many of the tools the State already has to boost these businesses. The changes the City is seeking include:

Parity with the State to Raise Thresholds for Discretionary Spending

  • Current Law: The State is permitted to engage in small-purchase discretionary spending with M/WBEs up to $200,000, while the City is only allowed moderate discretion to do so for purchases up to $100,000.
  • Proposal: Provide the City the same authority as the State – allowing the City to engage in small-purchase discretionary spending to M/WBEs up to the $200,000 threshold.

Expansion of ‘Best Value’ Procurement

  • Current Law: The City can only factor M/WBE status in “best value” procurements (only applicable to purchase contracts) when the M/WBE is certified by the State – putting the thousands of M/WBEs certified by the City at a disadvantage.
  • Proposal: The City seeks to amend the State law to allow the City to factor M/WBE status for M/WBEs certified by City or State – adding the thousands of M/WBEs certified by the City to the pipeline. Additionally, the City seeks to allow “best value” awards to factor in vendors’ records of complying with existing labor standards, maintaining harmonious labor relations, protecting the health and safety of workers and paying wages above any locally defined living wage.

Authority for City Agencies to Establish M/WBE-related Pre-Qualified Lists in All Industries

  • Current Law: Only authorizes M/WBE prequalification lists for public works (i.e., construction) contracts and does not authorize prequalified lists for purchase contracts.
  • Proposal: Expand law to permit prequalified lists for purchase contracts – expanding opportunities for prequalified M/WBEs.

Capacity Building Program

  • Current Law:Current law does not explicitly provide strong authority for the City to create mentorship programs and meaningful opportunities for participants in those programs.
  • Proposal: Amend State law to allow the City to establish capacity building programs for the benefit of State or local M/WBE-certified firms.

Mayor de Blasio Proposes Uniformed Disability Bill to Improve Status of Uniformed Workers Disabled on the Job

Mayor de Blasio proposed a change in the disability benefits for uniformed employees that will dramatically increase the support these City workers receive if they are disabled on the job. Uniformed staff in NYPD, FDNY, DOC and DSNY who are injured and unable to work as a result of their injuries will be affected. The bill proposes three essential changes to the current disability benefit that modify the disability laws put in place by New York State in 2009 and 2012. When implemented together, these changes will more fully protect uniformed public servants—especially those who have more recently joined City service—who are injured on the job and allow them and their families to receive the support they need in the years after their service ends.

The City’s proposal will change the way the disability benefit calculations are made in three ways:  it will use the greater of the final average salary or the basic maximum salary as the basis for calculating benefits; it will remove the social security offset; and it will return to the previous formula for calculating cost of living adjustments.

The financial impact of the proposed changes have been estimated by City actuarial staff to be $47 million through FY 2019. This plan will require approval in Albany for passage.

Examples of the Impact of the City’s Proposal:

  • For a Firefighter hurt on the job after two years, total tax-free disability benefits would increase by 65 percent.
  • For a Police Officer seriously injured after five years of City work, total tax-free benefits in the first year would also rise by 65 percent.
  • In both cases, first year disability benefits would exceed their final average salary at the time of their injury.

Background:

Prior to July 2009, police officers and firefighters, and prior to April 2012, sanitation workers and correction officers, received a tax-free accidental disability retirement benefit equal to 75 percent of final salary, in addition to any Social Security benefit, including Social Security Disability Insurance.

Following state changes, all of the City’s uniformed forces pensions now receive a tax-free accidental disability retirement benefit of 50 percent of pay based on a three or five-year average (Tiers 3 and 6). This is offset by one-half of any benefits they receive from Social Security.

The Mayor’s proposal would count a higher salary in the disability package and remove the Social Security offset. Additionally, the proposal will replace Tiers 3 and 6 COLA with Tier 2 COLA. Together these changes cost $47 million through FY 2019.

Mayor de Blasio Launches Shelter Repair Squad to Address Urgent Health and Safety Conditions in City Shelters

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the City will be deploying over a hundred workers from multiple City agencies to over 500 buildings that operate as homeless shelters to begin immediately addressing building, fire and other code violations that may impact the health and safety of residents.

After decades of neglect and underfunding from Federal, State, and City government, the City’s shelters have seen deteriorating conditions, and Mayor de Blasio is ordering a top to bottom inspection and repair process from the newly launched Shelter Repair Squad – an interagency team spearheaded by Deputy Mayors Anthony Shorris and Lilliam Barrios-Paoli and comprised of the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), Fire Department (FDNY), Department of Buildings (DOB), Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). Each agency has assigned teams to the Shelter Repair Squad for both inspection and repair.

This effort will be funded by $12.5 million through Fiscal Year 2016. The Administration will also commit further funding for ongoing costs as needed.

Agency Roles and Responsibilities:

DHS:  Remediate issues found by other agencies
DOB: Inspect and dismiss violations
HPD: Inspect and help remediate violations (example: repairing plumbing, fixing walls, replacing wiring)
FDNY: Inspect and ensure safety fire panels, smoke detectors fire plans, and fire exits
DOHMH: Inspect inside and outside shelters for rodents and cockroaches, and provide guidance on pest control

The announcement comes two months after the City’s Department of Investigation released a report, commissioned by the Mayor, about conditions at 25 City-run homeless shelters. The DOI Report called for the creation of an inter-agency task force. The Department of Homeless Services worked closely with DOI in identifying and addressing issues, and started a series of reforms to improve shelter inspections and hasten the timeline for making corrections, and DOI will continue to monitor and oversee where City government can be more effective. DOI found a total of 621 violations in their report, and 273 of those violations were outstanding when the report was published. All but a handful of the outstanding violations are now repaired or in process of being repaired. The Shelter Repair Squad will now extend this work to include all City shelters, including family and adult shelters and clusters run by external providers.

De Blasio Administration Announces Multifaceted Effort to Address Labor Abuses and Health Risks at City’s Nail Salons

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an aggressive advocacy and educational initiative by the City to immediately address labor and health issues at local salons, support salon workers, and educate businesses and consumers.

The State of New York licenses salons and the City of New York has limited jurisdiction over labor and wage laws. The City is executing a wide variety of actions within its powers to address allegations of disturbing conditions in nail salons uncovered by a recent New York Times investigation. This effort, led by the Department of Consumer Affairs with support from the Department of Small Business Services, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, and others, will include dedicated outreach to and education of workers, employers and consumers, legal investigations and direct actions for New Yorkers to take. Additionally, the Administration is collaborating with City elected officials who have previously initiated action to address these workplace threats, including Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and Council Members Rafael Espinal, Consumer Affairs Chair and Corey Johnson, Health Committee Chair. These partnerships will maximize outreach, education, and technical assistance across the city for business owners, employees, patrons and more regarding potential health hazards and workplace safety.

“Every New Yorker must be protected‎ from predatory workplace practices that threaten their health and exploit their labor,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will use all available powers to shield nail salon workers from deplorable conditions, empower them with awareness of their rights, and offer every other support we can to ensure the safety and dignity of our hardworking fellow New Yorkers.”

Mayor de Blasio: The City of New York and Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City Launch Relief Effort to Support Victims of Earthquake in Nepal

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City announced that it is raising funds for victims of the tragic earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25. The Mayor’s Fund has already collected $50,000 in initial support for the New York City Nepal Relief Effort from the Association for a Better New York and the Rudin Family Foundations.

As the focus of relief efforts in the region turns from search and rescue operations to securing shelter, food, clean water and sanitation services for the 8 million people who have been affected, the Mayor’s Fund is calling on New Yorkers to donate to the effort. All donations received will be directed to New York City-based Nepali community nonprofit organizations, such as Adhikaar, The Gurung Society, and other reputable international humanitarian organizations working with affected communities in Nepal.

According to the United Nations, of the 8 million people who have been affected in Nepal by the earthquake, 3 million are in need of food and 2.8 million have been displaced. Twenty-five million dollars has already been raised by the United States nonprofit sector to address the disaster caused by the earthquake. The United Nations is appealing for at least $415 million to support the recovery.

Mayor de Blasio Announces .nyc is Fastest Growing City Domain Six Months After Launch

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that just six months after its historic public launch, the. nyc top-level domain has become the fastest-growing city domain in the world – racking up over 75,000 registrations to date. New York is the only city with top-level Internet domain exclusively reserved for its residents and businesses.

In partnership with Neustar, the official registry for .nyc, the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation released new data, offering strong support for the efficacy of the City’s domain registration policies, which aim to prevent cybersquatting and price-gouging. The data reflects .nyc domain registrations through March 31, 2015:

  • There are more than two dozen industries represented on the .nyc domain
  • 53 percent of .nyc domains have been registered to individuals; 47 percent have been registered to small businesses and organizations
  • The average registrant owns between 2-3 domains, and 97 percent of registrants own 10 or fewer domains
  • The average retail cost paid for .nyc domain is $34.99

In addition to serving as a digital platform for small businesses, individuals and organizations, .nyc is also helping to spur the creation of new online communities. Notable among these efforts is Digital.nyc, the official online hub of the New York City startup and technology ecosystem. Since its launch in October 2014, Digital.nyc has seen over 1.2 million page views, resulting in over 123,000 content engagements, and over 3,000 user-generated content submissions. Currently, Digital.nyc receives over 110,000 visitors per month and the site’s directory has grown to 6,455 startups.

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

Council to Vote on Creation of Aging-in-Place Guide for New York City Residential Buildings and More

The Council will vote on the following:

Aging Guide
New York’s seniors have expressed an overwhelming desire to remain in their own homes as they age. As residents age, however, many face challenges such as limited mobility, vision, and other impairments that make it difficult for them to safely remain in their homes. Introduction 702-A, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Aging Committee Chair Margaret Chin, would require the Department for the Aging (DFTA) to develop, publish, and distribute a guide for building owners on or before July 1, 2016 regarding modifications and improvements that may be made to residential units to assist older tenants to remain in their homes safely and for as long as possible. This policy was first proposed by Speaker Mark-Viverito in an October 2014 address about making New York more senior-friendly. DFTA would be required to consult with the Department of Buildings, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, as well as businesses and nonprofit organizations with expertise in design for dwellings occupied by older residents as part of the guide development process. The guide would also include information on available public and private sources of funding to assist building owners in making such modifications and improvements.

FDNY
The Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) is currently comprised of approximately 10,500 firefighters and fire officers. Of that 10,500, only 44 are women, a total of approximately .4 percent. Nationally, women compromise four percent of all firefighters.  Racial minorities currently constitute 14 percent of FDNY firefighters, and roughly 17 percent of firefighters nationally. Introduction 579-A, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would require the FDNY to report on the number of females and minorities it hires as firefighters, covering every phase of the firefighter hiring process from the most recent written examination in 2012, disaggregated by gender and race or ethnicity. It would also require the FDNY to issue an updated version of such report within 30 days of the graduation of any class of firefighters from the FDNY’s probationary firefighter school. Additionally, the FDNY would be required to report on its recruiting activities, including its recruiting expenditures, provide a list of the recruiting events in which it participates, and provide a list of the preparatory materials for firefighter applicants. This bill would go into effect sixty days after it becomes law.

Notice to Tenants for Service Interruptions
Introduction 222-A, sponsored by Council Member Rosie Mendez, would require landlords to provide building occupants with notice prior to performing work which would cause an interruption in building services expected to last for at least two hours. The notice would be posted in a prominent place in the building, state the type of work being performed, and the estimated start and end date of the service interruption. When work is performed on an emergency basis, and results in a service interruption which lasts for two or more hours, notice would be posted as soon as possible after the commencement of such interruption. This local law would take effect 120 days after enactment.

Community Involvement in the Percent for Art Program
The Percent for Art law was passed in 1982 by the New York City Council. The law requires that one percent of the budget for eligible City-funded construction projects be spent on artwork for City facilities. The program offers City agencies the opportunity to acquire or commission works of art specifically for City-owned buildings throughout the five boroughs.  However, there have been concerns raised that there has not been sufficient community involvement in choosing these works of art. Introduction 742-A, sponsored by Majority Leader Van Bramer and Council Member Cumbo, would require that the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) provide reasonable advance notification of its intention to include works of art in a Percent for Art project on DCLA’s website. The bill would also require that DCLA hold or present at a public meeting, such as a meeting of the community board of the community district in which a project is located, on such works of art prior to inclusion. The bill would further require that notice of the hearing be published on DCLA’s website at least fourteen days before the hearing takes place. The bill would take effect immediately following its enactment into law.

Catch Basins
A catch basin is a type of storm drain that is normally located adjacent to a curb, where it collects rainwater from the streets and directs it into the sewer. Catch basins can become clogged with refuse and debris, which may lead to localized flooding. Currently the 148,000 catch basins maintained by the Department of Environmental Protection are inspected approximately once every three years. Introduction 240-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would require the Department of Environmental Protection to inspect catch basins, at a minimum, once every year and unclog or repair clogged catch basins within nine days after inspection or the receipt of a complaint that catch basin is clogged. This local law also requires that the Department submit reports twice each year to the Mayor and the Speaker regarding the inspection, maintenance and repair of catch basins, disaggregated by community district. Catch basins that have not been unclogged or repaired within nine days after an inspection or the receipt of a complaint shall be identified in the next report. This bill would take effect on July 1, 2016 and sunsets on June 30, 2019.

Hotel Conversion Study
Introduction 592-A, would require a study of the effects of hotel conversions on the City’s economy, including its effects on employment. For a period of two years, while the study is conducted and its results considered, the legislation would limit the ability of owners of large hotels in Manhattan to convert hotel space to other uses. Owners could apply to the Board of Standards and Appeals for a waiver and would be required to demonstrate for the board that their hotel was unable to earn a reasonable financial return in order to convert the building. The bill provides an exemption for recently purchased hotels where the new owner can show the board that he or she bought with the intent to convert the hotel. This legislation would take effect immediately and would sunset two years after enactment.

Comptroller Stringer and NYCHA Chair Olatoye Announce Sweeping Overhaul of Housing Authority Inventory Systems

In a joint announcement, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chair & CEO Shola Olatoye announced a sweeping overhaul of the agency’s inventory system, following the release of an audit by the Comptroller that uncovered numerous weaknesses in how the Authority tracks, stores and manages its inventory.  As part of the announcement, NYCHA agreed to establish a working group to modernize its supply chain systems with input from the Comptroller’s office and outside experts.

Among the problems uncovered by the audit were:

  • Missing inventory
  • Poor protocols to ensure NYCHA got value for liquidating supplies and materials
  • Failure to maintain detailed logs for items received or distributed
  • Poor accountability
  • NYCHA personnel made misstatements to external auditors
To read the full audit, please click here.

Comptroller Stringer: Audit Finds Woefully Inadequate Cleaning Leaves Subway Tracks Littered With Garbage and Infested by Rats

The vast majority of New York City’s underground subway tracks—filled with rats and vermin, dirt, garbage and other debris–are cleaned sporadically, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) New York City Transit (NYCT) has ignored stations with peeling paint that desperately need attention, according to a new audit released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

Only three percent of the tracks in 276 underground stations were cleaned according to NYCT’s own standards–potentially exposing millions of commuters to track fires, train delays and rat infestation in hundreds of stations.

The Comptroller’s audit checked to see if NYCT was meeting its own goals for cleaning tracks and painting stations from July 1, 2013 to June 2014. During this period, NYCT paid $240 million to 2,485 employees to clean and maintain subway stations. While the agency’s operating revenue grew 34% between 2008 and 2013, the percentage of that revenue spent on cleaning stations fell from 6.3% to 5.4% and the agency also slashed the number of track cleaning employees by nearly 50%.

According to the MTA’s standards, cleaning crews are expected to visit each underground station and clean track beds once every three weeks. Tracks are also to be cleaned every six months by one of the NYCT’s VAK-TRAK trains, which vacuum up trash from the tracks. In 2012, NYCT also launched “Fastrack,” in which segments of subway lines are shut down at night to perform maintenance, cleaning and repair, including full-scale station painting.

The Comptroller’s audit revealed that none of NYCT’s goals for cleaning and painting were fully met:

  • Tracks aren’t cleaned properly, leaving garbage and rats: Auditors found that 269 of 276 underground station tracks were cleaned less than once every three weeks, falling short of NYCT’s goals. Some 88% of stations were cleaned less than 8 times per year.

At Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station, two tracks weren’t cleaned at all for four months. When crews finally got around to cleaning them, they collected 122 bags of trash from the tracks.

  • Vacuum trains constantly break down and only clean 1/3 of each track, if they clean at all: NYCT owns two vacuum trains, one of which was out of service for most of the audit period. When it was operating, auditors found that it failed to pick up debris on the track 70 percent of the time. In total, 12% of the stations examined were not cleaned at all by a VAK-TRAK, instead of twice a year as is the standard.
  • Fastrack doesn’t prioritize painting stations in poor conditions: 31 of 39 stations scheduled for Fastrack work had extensive peeling paint, but only seven of those were scheduled for full- scale painting. During the first three months of this year, NYCT painted several stations that were not rated as having poor paint conditions by their own station condition survey.

Auditors made several recommendations to NYCT, virtually all of which the agency agreed with, including:

  • Allocating more funds and employees to improve maintenance and cleanliness;
  • Buying newer, more effective vacuum cars;
  • Developing a system to clean track beds to ensure they are cleaned frequently; and
  • Increasing staffing levels for painters and prioritizing poorly maintained stations for Fastrack repairs.

To read the full audit, please click here.

Comptroller Stringer: Planned Cuts by Federal Government Undermine Care for Uninsured, Threaten HHC’s Financial Health

New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) is facing substantial financial risks because of federal funding cuts for providing healthcare to the uninsured, according to a new report, “Holes in the Safety Net: Obamacare and the Future of HHC,” released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. The report provides the first public assessment of how the proposed cut in Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funds, in combination with a lower-than-expected reduction in uninsured patients at HHC, threatens the future of the City’s public hospitals.Obamacare has helped hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers access high-quality, affordable insurance. As a result, the federal government made the assumption that the ACA would substantially reduce the number of uninsured patients hospitals must serve. However, that assumption has proven to be flawed in cities like New York, where large numbers of undocumented immigrants are ineligible for coverage under the ACA and thousands more face barriers to accessing affordable insurance.

The Comptroller’s analysis reveals the impact that the cut in DSH funds, money provided to the states to distribute to hospitals that provide care to the uninsured, will have on HHC.

  • HHC expects to absorb a 24 percent reduction by 2019 in the DSH program, which it planned to offset by a projected future decline of 7.2 percent in its uninsured population.
  • However, in the first year of the ACA when the largest drop in the uninsured population could be expected, HHC saw only a 1.3 percent reduction in these patients.
  • With revenue from new enrollees in HHC’s MetroPlus private health insurance plan projected to offset only about 28 percent of the DSH cut, HHC estimates that it will finish FY 2019 with a precarious cash position of only $44 million, down from $1 billion at the end of FY 2015.

In an effort to secure HHC’s finances, protect New York taxpayers, and enhance care for the uninsured, Comptroller Stringer urged Congress to:

  • Postpone implementation of the DSH cuts until a fuller picture of the remaining uninsured emerges and the impact of the proposed cuts can be accurately assessed; and
  • Allow undocumented immigrants to enroll in health insurance offered through the ACA exchange, with access to the tax credits available under the law to make buying and using coverage affordable.

While Congressional action is critical, the Comptroller believes that we cannot wait for Washington to act. As a result, the report proposed additional steps that should be considered at the state and city level, including:

  • Creating a state-funded insurance program for undocumented immigrants and others who do not purchase health insurance. The FY 2016 New York State budget authorizes a new health insurance option, known as the Basic Health Plan (BHP), to provide very low cost insurance to lower-income New Yorkers who don’t qualify for Medicaid and/or find it difficult to afford insurance through the exchange. The state should explore the feasibility of covering undocumented immigrants through the BHP;
  • Implementing a more equitable intra-state distribution DSH formula that targets DSH funding to hospitals treating the highest proportions of uninsured patients; and
  • Requiring HHC to collect and disseminate the costs associated with treating the uninsured to enhance transparency and enable the City to better advocate for policy changes at the federal and state levels.

New York City taxpayers are ultimately on the hook for HHC, which served 431,000 uninsured individuals last year – more people than live in the city of Miami, Florida. Most recently, the City opted to cover the costs of collective bargaining increases and the write-off of $300 million in payments owed to the City from FY 2013. In the event that HHC experiences severe budget shortfalls in future years, it is likely that the City will need to provide additional financial support.

To read the report, please click here.

Comptroller Stringer & AARP New York to Significantly Expand the Number of Identity Theft Protection Events in 2015

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel kicked off the 2015 Shred Day event series in front of the Union Settlement Association in East Harlem on Monday. In response to high demand, the partnership between the Comptroller’s office and AARP New York—now in its second year—will nearly double the number of Shred Day Events throughout the City.

In his first year as Comptroller, Stringer and AARP New York joined together to hold 27 fraud workshops, in multiple languages, throughout the City. Constituents at these events requested free shredding services to help protect them from identify theft and fraud, which became the impetus for Shred Day events. Last year, the Comptroller and AARP New York held 10 Shred Day events from the North Shore on Staten Island to Co-Op City in the Bronx. This year, they will nearly double the number of events, with 18 Shred Days scheduled, including the first four events, which were announced:

  • Flushing, Queens-Bowne Park, May 20th
  • Soundview, the Bronx-May 23rd
  • Penn South Towers, Manhattan-June 3rd
  • The Tides on Staten Island-June 4th

Combating fraud is a priority for AARP New York, which represents approximately 750,000 members age 50-plus in the five boroughs of New York City. In a 2014 report, AARP New York found that identity theft or credit card fraud had impacted roughly one-fifth to one-fourth of 50+ voters in New York City, and 75% are concerned with becoming a victim of identity theft, which was tops among all types of fraud. Additional details on these Shred Day events and upcoming events can be found on the AARP New York City web site at www.aarp.org/nyc.Comptroller Stringer has been a long-time supporter of safety measures against identity theft. A report released when he served as Manhattan Borough President in 2013 found that over 38,000 New York City residents were victimized by identity theft in 2011 alone, suffering damages of over $1.5 billion. In 2012, New York ranked fifth in the country for the number of identity theft complaints submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Last year, fraudsters stole $16 billion from 12.7 million U.S. consumers in identity theft schemes, according to the 2015 Identity Fraud Study.

Comptroller Stringer Appoints John McKay as Director of Communications

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer announced the appointment of John McKay, former Vice President for Corporate Communications at NBCUniversal, as his new Director of Communications. Mr. McKay will begin work on Monday, May 18.

As Director of Communications, John McKay will be responsible for framing and implementing both daily and long-range communications strategies for the Comptroller’s Office. He will be in charge of managing external and internal messaging, driving media outreach campaigns from the Comptroller’s Office to communities throughout New York City, and working with stakeholders in all five boroughs to convey information about the Comptroller’s policies and proposals.Mr. McKay was Vice President of Corporate Communications at NBCUniversal from 2008-2014. Among many responsibilities, he developed and executed media strategies on a wide range of legislative and regulatory issues affecting the company; oversaw all communications aspects of the company’s anti-piracy initiatives; played a pivotal role in communications activities involving the 2011 merger of Comcast and NBCUniversal; managed communications for the company’s Diversity and Inclusion program, and supervised digital teams producing entertainment-focused videos for NBCUDirect.com.

Prior to that, Mr. McKay worked for Sony Music Entertainment/Sony BMG, joining in 1997 as the Director of Editorial Services, and subsequently holding positions of increasing responsibility, including Vice President of Media Relations from 2002 to 2004, and Vice President of Communications from 2004-2008. Before that, he was Manager of Media Relations for Sony Worldwide Networks, and a Senior Account Executive at Bender, Goldman & Helper in New York.

Manhattan Borough President Brewer: Brewer-Mendez Tenant Notification Bill Passes Council

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Council Member Rosie Mendez celebrated the Council’s passage of Int. 222, legislation requiring landlords provide tenants with advance notice for non-emergency repair work that will result in disruptions to building services. The bill establishes a general baseline of 24 hours’ advance notice for most work. For work affecting elevators, the bill requires 10 business days’ notice for major alteration work and 24 hours’ notice for any other work that will suspend all elevator service for more than two hours.

This legislation, sponsored jointly by Council Member Mendez and Borough President Brewer, closes a gaping hole in the city’s tenant-protection laws, which currently provide no such advance-notice requirements.

Many landlords and management companies already provide advance notice of planned repairs to tenants – but many others do not. The reasonable notice requirements established by Int. 222 would help tenants plan ahead to minimize the impacts of these service disruptions on their lives, and also help tenants distinguish between disruptions for planned work on the one hand, and emergent service failures or landlord harassment tactics on the other.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Buildings will be responsible for enforcement and rulemaking in relation to the new law.

Bronx Borough President Diaz, Senator Peralta, and Assemblyman Sepúlveda Call for Hotel Occupancy Tax Portion to Promote Local Tourism

State Senator Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), joined by Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx), Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., and Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President John Calvelli unveiled at the Bronx Zoo a bill that would provide each New York City borough with a portion of city hotel occupancy tax it collects to promote local tourism. Senator Peralta is the prime sponsor of the bill in the Senate and Assemblyman Sepúlveda is carrying the measure in the Assembly.

Senator Peralta said the bill (S.2238/A.6960) would offer boroughs four percent of the city hotel occupancy tax revenue collected annually within a specific borough, up to a maximum of $300,000 per year. The money would allow each borough to promote their own tourist attractions from famous sites such as Coney Island, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Alphabet City, and The Bronx Zoo, to their hidden gems. The new revenue can also be used to promote for-profit venues, like bars, restaurants, bookstores and coffee shops.

The Senator noted the tax revenue would go to each of the borough’s tourism council or similar entities designated by local law and approved by the Economic Development Corporation for the promotion of local sights, attractions and restaurants.

Queens Borough President Katz Secures Funding for New Pre-K Program at Queens Library in NYCHA Ravenswood Houses

Borough President Melinda Katz announced the allocation of discretionary capital funding to create a new, free, full-day pre-K program at the Ravenswood Community Library located in the NYCHA Ravenswood Houses at 35-32 21st Street.

The new pre-K program would add 36 seats to School District 30, which has one of the largest pre-K seat shortages in Queens for the upcoming school year. The site was approved in August 2014 by the NYC Department of Buildings to host and operate a pre-K program.

The funds for Ravenswood Community Library secured by Borough President Katz is a continuation of her commitment with City Hall to address the pre-K seat shortage. Last week, Borough President Katz also held an informational session with over a dozen Queens property owners to solicit vacant space for pre-K seats, especially in Districts 24 and 30.

According to the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC), the cost to modify the Ravenswood Community Library for a new pre-K program is estimated at $572,000. The initial $250,000 was committed by the Shoolman Foundation, as well as $72,000 from the NYC Department of Education (DOE).  When the Queens Library approached Borough President Katz for the remainder $250,000 that would allow the build-out of 36 new full-day pre-K seats, Borough President Katz took swift action to secure it from her discretionary capital funds.

For the pre-K program, the Ravenswood Community Library’s entire space will be used for pre-K from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays. Outside of school hours, the Library will be utilized as a Family Literacy Learning Center, which will offer English as a Second Language courses and other classes for adult learners.

Queens Borough President Katz Approves Zoning Amendment to Remove Barriers that Have Slowed Post-Sandy Recovery Process

Borough President Katz issued an approval of  the Citywide Flood Resilience text amendment – proposed by the Department of City Planning, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery – which will lift regulatory barriers that have slowed the recovery process in Sandy-impacted neighborhoods in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn.

In the wake of Sandy, thousands of properties are being elevated, repaired and rebuilt to comply with flood-resistant construction standards and to protect property owners against higher flood insurance premiums. Yet the city’s existing Zoning Resolution includes a number of restrictions on construction that have inhibited such recovery efforts. The amendment facilitates the elevation of existing homes and the resilient reconstruction of significantly damaged or destroyed homes by simplifying the process for documenting non-compliances and non-conforming uses, removing disincentives for property owners to make resilient investments, and establishing a new zoning envelope so that rebuilt homes fit the visual character of the neighborhood.

The Citywide Flood Resilience text amendment has been approved by affected Community Boards 10, 13 and 14.  The need for the amendment emerged from Borough President Katz’s Hurricane Relief Task Force, which brings together multiple local, state and federal government agencies, elected officials and civic leaders to one table to discuss relevant recovery and rebuilding issues. The resulting proposed amendment is a testament to Mayor de Blasio’s 2014 overhaul of Build it Back, which prioritized effective inter-agency collaboration and increased community engagement in the planning process. The proposed amendment must next be approved by the City Planning Commission and the City Council before it can take effect.

Queens Borough President Katz: New Pedestrian Safety Measures Installed on 147th Avenue Between Game Fields of Rosedale Little League

Borough President Melinda Katz, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), elected officials, community leaders, families and young players of the Rosedale Little League unveiled the newly-installed measures to improve pedestrian safety along heavily trafficked 147th Avenue between the two segments of Brookville Park and at other intersections in the vicinity.

The DOT recently installed the new pedestrian crossing signal, crosswalk and lane markings on 147th Avenue between the game fields used by the Rosedale Little League (ages 4-17) on both the north and south sides of the road.  The straight stretch of the avenue is prone to vehicles traveling above the speed limit, especially with over 1,500 feet between the traffic signal at Brookville Boulevard and the one at 230nd Place.

For years, parents, elected officials and community members had made repeated requests for safety measures on 147th Avenue; the requests were previously denied by DOT in 2010. The Rosedale Little League, community leaders and families, however, never gave up and DOT was happy to give it a fresh look.

In addition to the new pedestrian crossing signal and lane markings on 147th Avenue, DOT this year has already completed multiple studies on Brookville Boulevard which fronts the east side of Brookville Park between 142nd and 147th Avenues. As a result, three new signals have been approved on Brookville Boulevard at 143rd, 144th and Newhall Avenue and are expected to be installed by the end of June.

City Agencies:

Chancellor Fariña Announces Election Results for Citywide and Community Education Councils

Chancellor Fariña announced that hundreds of parents have been selected to serve on the 36 Citywide and Community Education Councils, where 325 seats were up for election. This year’s “Raise Your Hand” campaign was met with an outpouring of enthusiasm from parents across each borough who applied to play an active role in public education and represent their school communities. Participation increased across the board, as more parents ran for the Councils and more parent leaders voted to elect them than in past elections. In total, 1,290 parents applied to run for Citywide and Community Education Councils, up from 729 in 2013, 511 in 2011, and 576 in 2009, and 60% more parent leaders voted for their preferred candidate – 2,297 compared to 1,433 in 2013. The results are posted at NYCParentLeaders.org.

Earlier this year, the DOE launched a multi-lingual ad campaign in subway and ethnic and community publications across the five boroughs to increase parent and community engagement. In addition, over 55 information sessions and candidate forums were conducted to ensure that the public had the opportunity to learn more about the elections. Nine of the 55 sessions were held in collaboration with the offices of the five Borough Presidents.  Interpretation services were available at each candidate forum. Parents serve two-year terms on 36 Councils throughout the City, which include 32 district Councils and four Citywide Councils, one each for High Schools, English Language Learners, Special Education and District 75. The 32 district Councils are responsible for approving school zoning lines, holding hearings on the Capital Plan, and providing additional input on important policy issues. Citywide Councils evaluate and advise on school policy concerning their areas of focus.

HPD: City Housing Agencies Announce New Green Housing Preservation Program to Deliver on Key Commitments in Mayor’s Affordable Housing Plan and ONENYC

Building on Mayor de Blasio’s comprehensive plan for a sustainable and resilient city, “One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City,” New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Vicki Been and New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) President Gary Rodney announced the new Green Housing Preservation Program to assist owners of small- to mid-sized multifamily properties across the city in undertaking energy efficiency and water conservation improvements as well as moderate rehabilitation to improve building conditions, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and preserve affordability. Based on a typical scope of work, it’s anticipated that owners may see more than a 10% annual reduction in utility costs. The new program and related green preservation initiatives are funded with $45 million in city capital provided by the Mayor in HPD’s fiscal year 2016 budget. Additionally, the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC) created a fund that will be available to participating owners who need assistance in financing the predevelopment requirements necessary for participation in the program.

The new program also advances the goals of the Mayor’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough, 10-Year Housing Plan, to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing,and One City: Built to Last, the City’s ten year plan led by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability to reduce GHG emissions from buildings by 30% below 2005 levels by 2025 in order to be on the pathway to an 80 percent reduction in citywide GHG emissions by 2050. The Green Housing Preservation Program was designed to address the triple threat of rising building costs, a growing affordable housing crisis, and the looming risks of climate change. Many owners of small- to mid-sized buildings are being squeezed by steadily rising energy and water costs and would benefit from weatherization and other efficiencies that would aid in reducing those expenses. Unfortunately, these owners may find it difficult to secure the financing necessary to perform the needed improvements.

Utility costs account for roughly 25% of the average operating budget of a rent-stabilized building – costs that have exacerbated the affordability crisis for both tenants and owners.  As rents and utility costs have outstripped wages, the demand for affordable housing has grown dramatically, along with the number of New Yorkers suffering from rent burdens: 56% of households are rent burdened and paying more than a third of their income in rent and utilities. In addition, three in ten households are severely rent burdened, paying half or more of their income to rent and utilities.  At the same time, almost 75% of NYC’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings and 35% of emissions come from residential buildings.  New York City is still recovering from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. This alone is powerful evidence of the risks posed by climate change and how high the stakes are for New Yorkers and for the world.

HPD: City Officials Joined Pratt Area Community Council and Partners to Celebrate the Ceremonial Ribbon-Cutting of 365 Jay Street, Brooklyn’s Landmarked Former Fire Headquarters

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) joined the Pratt Area Community Council (PACC), MDG Design & Construction and partners to celebrate the ribbon-cutting ceremony for 365 Jay Street in the Downtown area of Brooklyn. The Romanesque-style civic building was designed by Frank Freeman and constructed in 1892. It served as a fully operational fire house until the 1970s and was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 and was designated a New York City Landmark in 1973. Through a 2013 financing deal, 365 Jay Street has undergone significant renovations and its 18 units have been preserved as affordable housing for an additional 30 years. These fully rented units are affordable to a mix of incomes ranging from low-income households to middle-income households.

“The preservation of a beautiful landmark such as this is an important way to protect the historical character of our city,” said HPD Commissioner Vicki Been. “This preservation is made even more significant by the extension of affordability for these 18 units of low- and middle-income housing. I would like to thank our development partners for their support of our commitment to keep New York City affordable to residents at risk of displacement. I would also like to thank the HPD asset management and preservation teams for their hard work in preserving 365 Jay Street and making it possible for 18 households to call this beautifully rehabilitated building home.”

 

 

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