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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at Association for a Better New York

The following remarks were given by the Mayor at ABNY on Thursday, March 5, 2015.

Thank you, Bill Rudin, Chairman of ABNY, for the introduction.

Want to acknowledge admin here: Tony Shorris, First Deputy Mayor; Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor Housing & Economic Development; Bill Bratton, Police Commissioner; Gabrielle Fialkoff, Senior Advisor to the Mayor; Maya Wiley, Counsel to the Mayor; Maria Torres-Springer, Commissioner, Department of Small Business Services; Julie Menin, Commissioner, Department of Consumer Affairs; Kyle Kimball, President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

Also want to acknowledge: Mayor David Dinkins; all elected officials here, including Public Advocate Tish James; all the great business and labor leaders here.

17 months ago, I was honored to address an event hosted by this organization — just about a month before the 2013 mayoral election.

At that time, there were some pundits who wondered exactly how ABNY would receive me.

After all, my campaign was built around progressive change – about taking aim at inequality and helping rebuild our middle class.  Surely – the cynics argued – progressive ideas would be met with the sound of crickets – or perhaps worse – when presented to those who have dedicated their lives to growing businesses and the economy.

But knowing this organization, and many of the individuals who comprised the audience that day, I wasn’t the least bit worried.

To read the full transcript, click here.

Mayor de Blasio Signs Legislation to Improve Coastal Storm Emergency Preparedness

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law Int. 519-A, in relation to the distribution of localized emergency preparedness materials; Int. 562-A, in relation to the creation of a Hurricane Sandy charitable organization and house of worship recovery task force; Intro 384-A, in relation to an annual report on non-governmental funding for New York City parks; Int. 655, in relation to the sale of tax liens, and Int. 615-A, in relation to allowing the Taxi and Limousine Commission to consider improved trouble lights for use in licensed vehicles.

The first and second bills, Intro 519-A and Intro 562-A, build on the work this city has done to ensure the city stays safe and resilient during and after emergencies. Intro. 519-A requires OEM to distribute emergency preparedness materials to communities at risk during coastal storms and hurricanes, including information on local evacuation zones and resources. Intro. 562-A creates a Hurricane Sandy charitable organization and house of worship recovery task force. This task force will make recommendations on how to streamline the allocation of resources and support. The bill was approved by the City Council at the Stated Meeting on February 12, 2015.

The third bill, Intro 384-A, will ensure that a DPR report on non-governmental entities now includes data relating to the expenditures or donations made to City parks by entities that run or maintain certain parks. The bill was approved by the City Council at the Stated Meeting on February 12, 2015. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsors, Council Members Mark Levine and Brad Lander, for supporting this legislation.

The fourth bill, Intro 655, will make technical amendments to legislation the Mayor signed earlier this year that reauthorizes the City to sell tax liens. The bill was approved by the City Council at the Stated Meeting on February 12, 2015. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Julissa Ferreras, for supporting this legislation.

The fifth bill, Intro 615-A, allows the Taxi & Limousine Commission to update requirements for trouble lights in licensed vehicles. Currently, taxis are using outdated trouble light technology, which sends distress signals to law enforcement in the event of a potential crime. Intro 615-A will allow the TLC to consider new technologies that are more visible to police passing by. The bill was approved by the City Council at the Stated Meeting on February 12, 2015. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, for supporting this legislation.

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

Comptroller Stringer Presents Analysis of New York City’s Preliminary Fiscal Year 2016 Budget

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released his report regarding the Mayor’s Preliminary FY 2016 Budget and Financial Plan for FYs 2015-2019, and testified before the New York City Council Finance Committee on Wednesday. The Comptroller also submitted his report on the City’s Planned Capital Commitments for FY14.

To read Comptroller Stringer’s testimony before New York City Council Committee on Finance Fiscal Year 2016 Preliminary Budget Hearing, click here.

To read Comptroller Stringer’s Comments on New York City’s Preliminary Budget for FY 2016 and Financial Plan for Fiscal Years 2015-2019, click here.

To read Comptroller Stringer’s report, A Closer Look: FY 2014 Actual to Planned Capital Commitments, click here.

Comptroller Stringer Audit Finds New York City Commission on Human Rights took Over a Year to Process More Than Half of its Cases

The New York City Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) failed to address more than half of received complaints within a one-year benchmark set by the Commission, instead completing complaints within an average of 427 days, according to an audit released by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

The audit covered from the period from January 2012 through June 2013 and focused on the Agency’s processes and timelines in handling cases related to discrimination pursuant to the City’s Human Rights Law.

The findings include:

  • Cases dragged on past deadlines: Less than half (291 of 593) of cases closed between January 1, 2012 and June 14, 2013, were within the agency’s one-year benchmark. For the remaining 302 cases, CCHR needed an average of 427 days to complete an investigation and close a case. Auditors expressed concern that as more time passed, the likelihood of details of the incident being lost or less clear for witnesses increased.
  • Inaccurate database information: Lack of adequate data checks in the complaint tracking database (CTS) leading to inaccuracies that can be triggers for overlooking key witnesses. Of the total 27,968 records included in the CTS data as of June 13, 2014, 649 complaint numbers were skipped or missing in the sequential numbering of complaints, 199 records had no complainant and respondent names, and several had dating anomalies.
  • No formal procedure for handling cases: A lack of formal standardized operating procedures for the handling and processing of complaints, resulting in the risk of inconsistent case assessment and varying degrees of access to justice.

The Comptroller offered the following recommendations to CCHR:

  • Identify and address delays: Complete a formal analysis of the case file processing to identify the cause of delays, and develop strategies to minimize them.
  • Integrate data checks into the CTS database: Make the necessary updates to the program to check for human entry errors, and minimize irregular date entries.
  • CTS database replacement: Consider a plan for replacing the CTS database, or conduct a comprehensive review, and develop a plan and timeframe for this for the long term.
  • Define clear policies and procedures for complaint processing & case management: Develop a baseline plan for acceptable case and complaint management that reflects the urgent nature of addressing human rights complaints, in accordance with the Human Rights Law and the Comptroller’s Directives.

To read the full audit, please click here.

Comptroller Stringer: New Claimstat Alert Shows Rise in Claims From Playground Injuries has Cost Taxpayers Over $20 Million

As the spring approaches and families prepare to descend on our City’s parks after a long winter, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released a new ClaimStat Alert focusing on the rise in playground-related personal injury claims against the City of New York along with parents, advocates and elected officials. Stringer also released a letter to the Department of Parks and Recreation asking them to redouble their efforts to bring all of its surfaces and equipment into a state of good repair.

Comptroller Stringer’s analysis found that from FY05-FY14, there were 577 playground-related personal injury claims filed against the City—an average of over one a week. Annual claims have risen 53 percent over the last ten years, from a low 45 claims in FY05 to a high of 69 claims in FY14. In addition to the human cost associated with these claims, taxpayers pay millions of dollars a year in settlements and judgments for playground-related personal injury claims—a total of $20,644,448 over the ten year period studied.

Further findings include:

  • Brooklyn had by far the most claims filed during this time period—209—dwarfing Manhattan (123), the Bronx (111), Queens (111), and Staten Island (23). To see an interactive map of all claims, please click here.
  • Some playgrounds had many more claims than others, with the most filed at Mullally Park Playground in the Bronx and Dr. Ronald E. McNair Playground in Manhattan (7 at each). Stroud and Slope Park Playground in Brooklyn, Juniper Valley Park in Queens and Union Square Park in Manhattan each had 6 claims.
  • Causes for injuries cited in the claims included:
  • Improper surfacing—including missing or defecting matting, cracked or broken surfaces, holes in the ground, and rubber mats that burn too hot in summer months—which accounted for 176 claims during this time period, over 30 percent of the total;
  • Insufficient maintenance and defective equipment, such as swings and slides;
  • Improper playground design; and
  • Protruding nails and/or debris

To see the full ClaimStat Alert on the playground-related personal injury claims, please click here.

Manhattan Borough President Brewer Stands With NYC Tour Guides and Condemns Tour Bus Operator’s Layoff Threat

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer joined licensed New York City tour guides affiliated with the Guides Association of New York City and Transport Workers Union Local 225 on the steps of City Hall for a rally supporting live tour bus guides and opposing the Gray Line tour bus operator’s scare tactics in contract negotiations.

In February, the Daily News reported on a leaked internal memorandum from the Gray Line tour bus operator, threatening a “mass layoff” of 150 tour guides on March 11. This layoff threat comes amid contract negotiations between Gray Line and TWU Local 225, which represents the tour guides.

Gray Line, which merged with competitor City Sights in 2009, is also the subject of an antitrust lawsuit filed by the United States and New York attorneys general, alleging the merger violated multiple state and federal antitrust laws, restraining competition and enabling monopolistic price-fixing.

Bronx Borough President Diaz: Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point Ready for Play

Donald J. Trump announced Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point will begin accepting tee time reservations online for play during the month of April beginning at 10:00 a.m. on March 11th. The much-anticipated official first day of play is scheduled for Wednesday, April 1st; weather permitting, for this championship caliber course designed by golf icon and globally renowned designer Jack Nicklaus, who was named by Golf Magazine as the 2014 Architect of the Year. Golfers can reserve tee times by visiting www.trumpferrypoint.com, calling (718) 414-1555 or emailing info@trumpgolflinks.com.

The city’s newest golf facility is located in the Bronx with easy access to all five boroughs, just minutes outside of Manhattan and situated at the foot of the Whitestone Bridge.

Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point will offer visitors and NYC golfers an unprecedented experience on a public golf course comparable to the nation’s top-ranked private and public courses.  This tournament-ready course will provide players an opportunity to test their game on pristine conditions designed and maintained to host major championships.  Golfers will enjoy a state-of-the-art, lighted practice facility overseen by highly-acclaimed instructor Michael Breed and the Michael Breed Golf Academy. Breed is recognized as the number one golf instructor in the state of New York and 13th on Golf Digest’s list of the Top 50 Instructors in the United States.

Queens Borough President Katz Accepting Applications to Serve on Community Education Councils

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is accepting applications from qualified community- and education-minded individuals to serve as a 2015-2017 Borough President Appointee to the Queens’ Community Education Councils (CECs).

CECs allow for parent involvement at the Community School District level and play an essential role in shaping education policies for New York City public schools.  They are education policy advisory bodies that have a number of important responsibilities, including reviewing and evaluating a district’s educational programs, approving zoning lines and holding public hearings.

City Agencies:

Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Fariña Designate Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha Official School Holidays

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced that New York City will become the largest school district in the nation to recognize Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as holidays on the official school calendar. In the coming 2015-16 school year, schools will close on September 24 for the Eid al-Adha, ensuring hundreds of thousands of Muslim families can observe the day. Eid al-Fitr, which falls over the summer in 2016, will be designated a holiday for those attending summer school. New York City schools will not lose any instructional days as part of this change to the calendar.

The Mayor and Chancellor made this announcement at PS/IS 30 in Brooklyn, where 36 percent of students were absent the last time Eid al-Adha fell on an instructional day.

The DOE joins other school districts in states such as Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Jersey that close its public schools in observance of Muslim holidays. The addition of the religious holidays Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha is a critical step toward ensuring that the school calendar reflects the diversity of our City’s schools.

Under the Chancellor’s Regulations, students are allowed an excused absence from school for their religious and cultural observances. However, that excused absence can still come at the expense of missing critical classroom instruction, exams or projects. The DOE will continue to closely monitor spikes in absenteeism over holidays as it works toward its commitment to serve the needs of all students to ensure equality and respect for families and children of all faiths.

Chancellor Announces Increase in Prose Applications

Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced that 118 schools have applied to participate in the Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) program for the 2015-16 school year, up from 107 applications last year. The PROSE program, which is currently in its first year and includes 62 elementary, middle, and high schools, allows schools to implement innovative plans that fall outside of the Chancellor’s Regulations or UFT or CSA contracts to improve their instruction and operations. The program was originally established as part of the recent teachers’ contract.

Applications came from across the City: 35 from the Bronx, 39 from Brooklyn, 25 from Manhattan, 17 from Queens and two from Staten Island, and spanned every grade level. Staff members of PROSE schools created a range of plans to drive innovation in their schools. Applications included:

• Goldie Maple Academy in Queens: Wants to structure its school day to take place from 8 a.m. to 4:34 p.m. five days a week. In order to make up for the longer hours each day, teachers would work a four-day week.

• Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science: Teachers and administrators want the ability to “time-shift” their vacation schedules and workday start and end times to allow more staffing to be available when needed. The school would also like more flexibility in scheduling to allow CBO enrichment programs to occur at different times during the day.

All proposals will be reviewed by a joint panel comprised of representatives from the DOE and UFT and CSA. Proposals approved by the panel must be voted on by UFT staff in those schools, and proposals receiving 65% or more affirmative votes will join the program. The 62 current PROSE schools will continue their initiatives in the coming school year

Health Department Debuts Powerful Anti-Smoking Ad, “Last Dance”

This week, the Health Department debuts “Last Dance,” a powerful anti-smoking ad produced in Australia by Quit Victoria. The ad depicts a man dying from smoking-related cancer having a last dance with his wife while their child looks on. The new ad depicts the harsh truth about smoking – it not only devastates the health of smokers, but also families who must care for the smoker and are ultimately left behind to mourn the loss of their loved one. The ad ends by asking smokers to quit smoking today.

Since 2006, New York City has aired a number of cutting-edge educational campaigns, produced here and in other jurisdictions, to encourage smokers to quit. The City’s efforts have been successful in motivating New Yorkers to make more than 700,000 requests for assistance in quitting over the last nine years. However, after many years of declines in smoking rates, the current rate of adult smokers has increased from 14 percent – its lowest point – in 2010 to 16.1 percent in 2013. There are currently over 1 million smokers in New York City.

New York City has been a leader in producing and airing anti-smoking ads. Like New York City, Quit Victoria has a long and successful history of motivating smokers to quit through powerful media campaigns. The World Lung Foundation, an international organization doing tobacco control work around the world, has adapted New York City and Quit Victoria campaigns for use in many other countries.

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