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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Ponte Announce 14-Point Rikers Anti-Violence Agenda

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Correction Commissioner Joe Ponte announced a 14-point plan to aggressively combat violence and promote a culture of safety on Rikers Island, including five main initiatives to target inmate-on-inmate violence. This plan represents the administration’s continued commitment to reform Rikers Island after decades of neglect.

At the heart of the plan are five major initiatives to reduce inmate-on-inmate violence:

  • Keeping weapons, drugs and contraband out of Rikers, including visitor reforms
  • Creating an integrated classification and housing strategy to more safely house inmates
  • Providing comprehensive security camera coverage
  • Designing effective inmate education opportunities and services to reduce idle time
  • Developing crisis intervention teams to respond more quickly to inmate-on-inmate violence.

Inmate-on-inmate violence has been on the rise at Rikers Island over the past decade, representing 71 percent of all violent incidents for 2014. Thus far in 2015, 711 inmates were involved in an attack on another inmate.

De Blasio Administration Appoints Three Members to Rent Guidelines Board

Mayor de Blasio made three appointments to the Rent Guidelines Board. The Mayor appointed Helen Schaub and K. Sabeel Rahman as public member representatives, and Scott Walsh as an owner representative.

The Rent Guidelines Board determines annual rent adjustments for approximately one million apartments across the city subject to the Rent Stabilization Law.

Helen Schaub, one of the public member representatives appointed, has spent more than ten years as a community organizer with a significant focus on housing. She is currently the New York State Director of Policy and Legislation at 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. In this position, she oversees all of the New York State policy and legislative work for the nation’s largest local union, representing 300,000 registered nurses, social workers, certified nursing assistants, home health aides and other health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes and home care agencies in New York State. Before her years at SEIU, she worked as an independent consultant, helping grassroots organizations with organizational development and fundraising. Schaub also serves on the Board of Trustees for the 1199SEIU National Benefit and Pension Funds, the Advisory Board for the East Harlem Health Outreach Partnership, and the Board of Directors for Project Vote.

K. Sabeel Rahman, the second public member representative appointed, is an Assistant Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School. Rahman has a distinguished academic career spanning much of the past decade, serving as the Reginald Lewis Fellow at Harvard Law School and a fellow at the Center for American Political Studies and the Center for Ethics. Rahman has developed and consulted on economic and financial regulatory policy for a wide range of government and non-government organizations, including the Gettysburg Project, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Governance Lab at NYU, the President’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs; the Global Economic Governance Program in Oxford; McKinsey and Company; BRAC (a development NGO in Bangladesh); and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. While a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, he advised the Office of the NYC Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development on economic development strategy and issues including regulating the sharing economy, homelessness and place-based development.

Scott Walsh, the owner representative appointed, is the Vice President of Development at Forest City Ratner Companies. A trained and former practicing architect with extensive neighborhood knowledge, he has consulted for a wide array of stakeholders, including for the Urban Land Institute. Previously, Walsh spent more than a decade at TF Cornerstone, most recently as a director. In this role, he was involved in all new development projects from acquisition to stabilization, and has developed and maintained pricing models for portfolio of institutional grade rental and condo apartment houses. Before becoming director, Walsh worked as an Associate within Residential Acquisitions at TF Cornerstone, and as Residential Property Manager prior to that. Walsh serves on the board of the Long Island City Partnership.

Mayor de Blasio Announces First Anniversary of East Harlem Explosion and Building Collapse

Thursday, March 12th, marked the first anniversary of the tragic East Harlem explosion, in which eight lives were lost and a total of 106 households and seven buildings were impacted. Mayor de Blasio will attend a memorial service with East Harlem/El Barrio residents hosted by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to commemorate the lives lost in the tragedy. First Lady Chirlane McCray, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the Mayor’s Fund are visiting Safe Horizon’s Northern Manhattan office to recognize Safe Horizon, Union Settlement and LSA Family Services – organizations that were central to the recovery effort.

LOCAL BUSINESSES

There were 60 impacted ground level establishments, more than 90 percent have re-opened, and the Department of Small Business Services continues to work and provide assistance to the impacted East Harlem businesses.

Following the explosion, the Department of Small Business Services and Speaker Mark-Viverito’s office issued bilingual recovery and assistance information to Community Board 11, distributed information to impacted properties, and went door-to-door on multiple visits to see how the City could help. SBS also worked with the US Small Business Administration and NYC Emergency Management, to qualify the area impacted as a declared disaster area, which would make impacted businesses eligible for access to low-cost SBA disaster loans. Ongoing services include one-on-one personal assistance with client managers to guide through the recovery process, assistance with insurance matters, help accessing documentation to show loss/damages for insurance, and connections to financing assistance.

INFRASTRUCTURE
Last Spring, the de Blasio administration brought together city agencies and the utility companies (Con Edison and National Grid) to review the city’s emergency response to under-street conditions and coordination of underground infrastructure improvements. Additionally, the administration accelerated infrastructure improvement and the Department of Environmental Protection received an additional $300 million in funding from the City for fiscal years 2016 to 2018 to replace the oldest water and sewer infrastructure over the next 10 years. DEP, Con Edison, and National Grid are working together to coordinate  water and gas infrastructure investments with a first wave of 10 sites across the five boroughs selected based on overlapping priorities, and are additionally identifying opportunities to use a joint bidding contracting structure to reduce costs and expedite underground infrastructure projects in a coordinated fashion.

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña Announce First Signs of Progress in Struggling Schools, Promote Experienced Leader to Head Renewal Schools

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced a new Renewal Schools leader to spearhead change at 94 Renewal Schools, and detailed progress happening on the ground at long-struggling schools.

They made the announcement at Boys and Girls High School, the oldest high school in Brooklyn and an institution that has struggled for more than a decade. Today, there is new momentum at Boys and Girls because of the School Renewal program. There is a new principal with a track record of achievement, new Advanced Placement course offerings to challenge students, twice as many seniors on track to graduate on time, climbing attendance rates, and a new Saturday Academy to provide students with small group instruction and Regents Exam preparation on weekends. As part of Boys and Girls’ transformation, every teacher must reapply for his or her position.

Mayor de Blasio announced the $150 million School Renewal program in November, dedicating experienced new leadership and new resources to 94 schools that have struggled for years. The effort will be overseen by the new Executive Superintendent for the School Renewal Program, Aimee Horowitz, a leader with a track record of turning around troubled schools and raising student achievement. Horowitz has most recently served as superintendent for Staten Island high schools and 14 Renewal Schools, including Boys and Girls High School and Automotive High School. She was also the founding principal of the College of Staten Island High School for International Studies, which maintained a graduation rate of well above 95 percent under her leadership.

Mayor de Blasio: Marking Women’s History Month, City’s Records Department Unveils Exhibit Honoring Women’s Activism in New York City

Marking Women’s History Month, the New York City Municipal Archives—a division of the City’s Department of Records and Information Services (DoRIS)—opened the exhibit Women Make History: A March Through the Archives. The exhibit features historical documents, photographs and objects that spotlight how women in and out of City government led successful efforts for change on pay equity, reproductive health, violence against women, and equal opportunity. Women Make History also marks the beginning of a five-year Women’s Suffrage Centennial celebration initiated by DoRIS to recognize past accomplishments and inspire activism across New York City.

Notable “first” women are spotlighted throughout the exhibit—Emily Warren Roebling, who stepped in and orchestrated the building of the Brooklyn Bridge; Judge Constance Baker Motley, who became the first black woman appointed to the federal bench in 1966 (and the first to argue before the United States Supreme Court, winning 9 out of her 10 cases); and educator and civil rights leader Antonia Pantoja, who founded ASPIRA, a non-profit organization for Latino youth focused on promoting a positive self-image, commitment to community, and education.

The selections are drawn from among the 200,000 cubic feet of original records that the DoRIS preserves and manages for New Yorkers in the Municipal Archives. Some of the items on display include Lady Deborah Moody’s land ownership patent dating from 1645—one of the oldest documents in the Municipal Archives. A series of original documents from Mayor LaGuardia’s files also show the first-ever report on Sex Crimes, as well as letters documenting the controversial program the mayor instituted to curb sex offenders.

First Lady Chirlane McCray, Deputy Mayor Glen and Citi Launch Women Entrepreneurs NYC to Expand Entrepreneurship in New York City

First Lady Chirlane McCray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen and Citi will announce WE NYC (Women Entrepreneurs New York City), an initiative to expand female entrepreneurship in New York City, with a special focus on underserved women and communities. Over the next three years, WE NYC will connect 5,000 women to free training and business services to help them start and grow their businesses. These services will be provided by the City’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS), as well as via public-private partnerships. WE NYC has also convened an Advisory Council consisting of a diverse set of public, private, non-profit and philanthropic partners that will meet regularly to inform the initiative’s efforts.

First Lady Chirlane McCray Highlights New York City’s Leadership in Reducing Gender Inequality

In an op-ed in The Guardian, First Lady Chirlane McCray speaks about New York City’s work to advance the rights of women and girls. New York City was the first city in the country to join the UN Women’s Safe Cities Global Initiative, and the First Lady signed the Memorandum of Understanding at the UN in November. The City is taking steps to make all public spaces free of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence.

Yesterday, First Lady Chirlane McCray joined several de Blasio Administration commissioners at the March for Gender Equity and Women’s Rights, and the Mayor and First Lady will host a Beijing +20 Reception at Gracie Mansion tonight.

NYC and Syracuse Mayors Urge Governor, State to Meet Legal School Funding Obligation so Local Communities an Invest in Critical School Reforms

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner called on the State to meet its school funding obligations under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision and provide the much-needed resources local communities require to implement critical reforms that will turn around struggling schools and best serve our students.

Some of these groundbreaking reforms currently pursued by municipalities like New York City include offering community schools services like mental health supports that will keep kids in the classroom; providing extended day learning; creating new CTE and STEM programs so students graduate ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow; expanding summer school opportunities to ensure summer learning loss doesn’t hold back progress, and putting more guidance counselors into schools so students can access critical social and emotional supports. Syracuse’s fair share of CFE dollars would enable the City to focus on reforms like extending the school day, hiring more great teachers, and expanding STEM and arts education programs for students.

First Lady Chirlane Mccray Delivers Remarks at March for Gender Equity and Women’s Rights with U.N. Women in Celebration of International Women’s Day and Beijing+20

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

There’s something special in the air today. Can you feel it?

No, I’m not talking about spring. That’s coming, but today I’m talking about history. Today, you are marching in the footsteps of generations of feminists—many of whom called New York City home. Did you know International Women’s Day started right here in 1908? It’s true! 15,000 women marched through these streets, demanding better pay, voting rights, and shorter work hours. A lot has changed since 1908, but New York is still a pioneer in women’s rights.

Last November, we became the first U.S. city to join the Safe Cities Global Initiative and commit to keeping all of our public spaces free from sexual harassment. And that’s just the beginning! If there’s one thing you should know about my husband, Mayor Bill de Blasio, it’s that he is a true believer when it comes to women having power. As a father, Bill played an active role in helping me raise two fantastic young people. Our daughter, Chiara, is a loud-and-proud feminist who is taking Women and Gender Equity classes in college. And our son, Dante? He’s a feminist to the bone! As Mayor, Bill has launched groundbreaking initiatives that are already un-stacking the odds that have held women back for far too long.

Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray Deliver Remarks at Beijing +20 Reception

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Welcome, everyone. Welcome to Gracie Mansion. This is the people’s house – the people of New York City. Thank you for being here and we welcome you. I want to thank our wonderful commissioner for international affairs, Penny Abeywardena, who is extremely enthusiastic to work with all of you and to spread the message of everything we’re doing here in New York City, but also to find out how New York City can be a great host to you and all the great work you’re doing. Let’s thank Penny for all she does.

[Applause]

And suffice it to say, in the work of our international affairs office, Penny will ensure a singular focus on the rights and needs of women at all times. I guarantee that. We should all thank, for an extraordinary performance, Miri Ben-Ari. It was a beautiful performance and heartfelt.

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

City Council to Vote on Legislation Increasing Consumer Affairs Outreach and Education to Young New Yorkers

The City Council will vote on legislation requiring the Department of Consumer affairs to engage in outreach and education efforts on issues that impact individuals aged 16-24. The Council will also vote on legislation extending current rent stabilization laws. Additionally, the Council will vote on legislation requiring the Department of Education to disclose data related to the provision of special education services in city schools.

Public Advocate James Calls for Increased Funding for Rape Crisis Centers, Rape Prevention Programs, and SAFE Centers of Excellence

In light of recent reports that rape and sexault assault crimes are on the rise in New York City, Public Advocate Letitia James called for several measures to combat and respond to these crimes, including increased funding for rape crisis centers, restored funding for rape prevention programs, and additional funding to establish SAFE Centers of Excellence in the Bronx and Brooklyn, which are the two most under-served boroughs for such services. Following the brutal rape of a 12-year-old girl in the Bronx and last week’s revelation of two teenage girls in Brooklyn who were raped and sex trafficked in their own neighborhood, the Public Advocate is also calling for increased vigilance in the community to get the perpetrators off the streets and for reporting of all instances of sexual assault to the authorities.

Over the last five years, reported rape crimes have increased in New York City. And while 1,537 rapes were reported to the New York Police Department in 2014, it is estimated that as many as 50,000 rapes may be occurring each year in New York City. Misdemeanor sexual assault crimes are also on the rise. According to CompStat, as of the week ending February 22, 2015, these crimes were up 9.6 percent. Additionally, women who are poor and/or persons of color are disproportionately victims of sexual assault – nearly 40 percent of Black women and almost 20 percent of Latinas.

The Public Advocate is calling for the following measures:

  1. Include an additional $3 million in State funding for rape prevention programs in the 2015-16 Budget. On April 1, 2015, state funding for prevention programs is set to expire unless the governor and legislature act. The reduction of $1,495,743, a 60% decrease in prevention funding would affect vital sexual assault prevention programs, which is the only truly proactive way to prevent sexual assaults.
  2. Increase State Funding for Rape Crisis Services by $2.8 million. As of April, 2015 Rape Crisis Programs will receive 42% less funding for sexual assault victim services, at a time when cases have gone up by 65% over the last two years. This will result in the devastating reduction of necessary services from hotlines to individual counseling. It will also necessitate laying off at least two dozen experienced service providers, meaning that more than 2,000 victims will go without services.
  3. Add a total of $900,000 in city funding to support the creation of SAFE Centers of Excellence in the Bronx and Brooklyn, two most under-resourced boroughs in New York City. New York State certified Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner programs provide victims with specialized support, care and equipment necessary to conduct examinations and provide ongoing support services for survivors.

Public Advocate James Introduces Legislation to Assist Seniors and People with Disabilities with Snow Removal

Public Advocate Letitia James introduced legislation requiring the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to establish a program to assist seniors and people with disabilities with snow removal, and cutting fines for failure to remove snow from sidewalks by at least fifty percent for these individuals. In another year of remarkable snowfall, DSNY has so far issued more than 10,000 tickets to homeowners for failure to clear snow. A key change included in the Public Advocate’s bill is to improve payment for volunteers by contracting with non-profit organizations to assist with snow removal from sidewalks and curb cuts. Under the current program, single-day workers often wait 4-8 weeks for payment, which discourages many from participating in this important work. The Public Advocate’s legislation amends Administrative Code sections 16-123 and adds section 16-124.2.

Bronx Borough President Diaz Celebrates Impact of Mentoring  with Nation’s First Mentoring Organization

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. today joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City (BBBS of NYC) for a Day of Service as part of a year-long campaign by the organization to highlight the impact of mentoring and raise awareness of the urgent need for volunteers.

The Borough President and BBBS of NYC visited IN-Tech Academy (M.S./High School 368), where high school and middle school student representatives led a tour of the school. Borough President Diaz and Hector Batista, chief executive officer of BBBS of NYC, spoke about the significance of community service and emphasized the positive impact young adults can have on their own communities by becoming involved.

The year-long campaign brings together public officials, community organizations, schools and current Big Brothers and Sisters in a series of events intended to help find volunteer mentors, or “Bigs,” for the hundreds of young people currently awaiting a match. Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC currently serves more than 3,600 young people every year through a number of specialized mentoring programs.

In the Bronx, the need for volunteers is particularly urgent. Approximately 28% of young people in BBBS of NYC programs reside in the Bronx, compared to just 3% of volunteers.

December marked the 110th anniversary of BBBS of NYC, and the nation’s first mentoring organization continues to renew the call for mentors first made by its founder, Ernest Coulter, in 1904.

Mentoring is open to adults 21 or older who reside in the five boroughs, and it is free to volunteer. To become a volunteer mentor, donate, or learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC, please log onto www.bigsnyc.org or call 212-686-2042.

Queen Borough President Katz Announces Annual Queens World Film Festival Kicks Off at Museum of the Moving Image

The 5 annual Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) kicks off at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, on Tuesday, March 17, with a special opening night tribute to director Leon Ichaso and a sampling of the many films in competition. The Festival runs through Sunday, March 22, with daily screenings at MoMI, at the Secret Theatre in Long Island City and at PS 69 in Jackson Heights. This year’s program features 117 feature films and shorts from 30 countries, including 19 films made in the Borough of Queens. The Festival awards prizes in all categories for those films that are in competition. The winners will be announced at the closing night ceremony to be held on Saturday, March 22, at the Museum of the Moving Image in its beautiful Redstone Theater. The closing night film, shown out of competition, is the highly acclaimed Dukhtar (Daughter) by Afia Nathaniel.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz: Parent Advisory Board on Common Core 

Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a regular meeting of the Queens Parent Advisory Board. This month’s meeting will focus on the New York City Department of Education’s (DOE’s) implementation of the Common Core learning standards, about which many parents have expressed concerns. DOE representatives will give a presentation on the Common Core standards for literacy and math and answer questions from those in attendance. Parent Advisory Board meetings are open to the public.

WHAT: Queens Parent Advisory Board Meeting on Common Core

WHERE: Queens Borough Hall (Borough President’s 2nd Floor Conference Room)

120-55 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens

WHEN: Wednesday, March 18th at 6:00 PM

WHO: MELINDA KATZ, Queens Borough President

KERRY CUNNINGHAM, Department of Education, Division of Teaching and Learning

LENA KIM, Department of Education, Division of Teaching and Learning Office of Student Enrollment.

About the Parent Advisory Board

The Parent Advisory Board gives Queens public school parents an opportunity to be heard on education issues and concerns and provides a forum to meet with senior city and state DOE officials. The meetings are open to the public, especially any and all parents with children in the public school system.

City Agencies:

Chancellor Fariña Launches Ninth Annual Citywide Survey of NYC Public Schools 

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited Creston Academy in the Bronx to announce the launch of the ninth annual New York City School Survey of public school students and parents. The survey is among the largest annual surveys in the nation and is designed to support a dialogue among all members of the school community about how to make our schools stronger sites of learning. The teacher survey was released in early January, and completed online through mid-February. Last year, a total of 981,253 parents, teachers, and students participated in the NYC School Survey.

The NYC School Survey, designed in partnership with the Research Alliance, is now aligned to the DOE’s research-based Framework for Great Schools. The survey will collect vital information about a school’s capacity across six essential elements – Rigorous Instruction, Supportive Environment, Collaborative Teachers, Effective School Leadership, Strong Family-Community Ties, and Trust. A school’s performance across these elements reflects its ability to meet students’ needs and improve achievement.

Chancellor Fariña and City Council Education Committee Chair Daniel Dromm Congratulate Record 55 ‘Respect For All’ Schools

Chancellor Carmen Fariña and City Council Education Committee Chair Daniel Dromm congratulated students and staff at a record 55 schools for the outstanding programs they have created to combat bullying, discrimination and harassment. They have been named Respect for All Schools as part of the Department of Education’s Respect for All initiative, which helps schools foster inclusive learning environments.

The 55 schools were named Respect for All Schools for implementing programs during the 2013-14 school year that teach students the importance of respecting others. The Department of Education and the City Council created the award as part of the City’s efforts to combat bullying and harassment. The awardees were announced at PS 380 John Wayne Elementary in Brooklyn, one of the winning schools.

Respect for All is an initiative that schools engage in throughout the school year and its goal is to combat bullying as well as harassment based on ethnicity, color, national origin, race, religion, citizenship or immigration status, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, weight, and disability. To support schools in this work, the DOE’s Office of Safety and Youth Development has made many resources available to principals and school staff members through the online Respect For All Library, which includes sample lesson plans and connections to community organizations that offer programs and free curricular resources. The DOE also provides full-day professional training in age-appropriate curriculum modules, access to the webinar “Step In, Speak Up” to help support LGBT students, and other professional development opportunities.

The initiative is supported by the City Council, United Federation of Teachers, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, and a number of community-based organizations.

Chancellor Fariña Announces Appointment of Borough Field Support Center Directors

Chancellor Carmen Fariña  announced the appointment of the Department’s seven Borough Field Support Center (BFSC) Directors and its Senior Executive Director of the Office of Field Support. With guidance from Guzmán, BFSC Directors will provide supports and resources to superintendents under the new, streamlined school support structure announced in January. Each BFSC Director will manage a full range of deputies and school support resources. Superintendents will work with schools to utilize these integrated services based on schools’ individual needs and specifically to support struggling schools. The BFSC Directors will also work closely with Guzmán and other DOE central leadership, and be held accountable for the improvement of schools under their purview.

There will be one BFSC in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and two each in Brooklyn and Queens. BFSCs’ full range of supports for schools will include: instruction, finance and human resources, operations, student services such as health resources and counseling, supporting English Language Learners, and supporting students with special needs. The centers will open in summer 2015 to ensure the school support structure is in place for a smooth beginning of the 2015-16 school year. In the coming months, the new BFSC Directors will lead hiring for borough based support staff, and take part in ongoing intensive professional development and trainings with DOE leadership to ensure the centers are set to open this summer.

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