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This Week in New York City Government

Mayor:

Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Steven Banks and Commissioner Nisha Agarwal Announce Full Eligibility Criteria and Operational Details of IDNYC

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Human Resources Administration (HRA) Commissioner Steven Banks, and Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Nisha Agarwal announced today the publication of the municipal identification card program eligibility and privacy policies, establishing broad access for all New Yorkers to apply for the card while implementing strong measures to ensure applicant privacy and prevent against fraud and identity theft. The administration also announced the official name and logo of this historic initiative: IDNYC.

On July 10, 2014, Mayor de Blasio signed Local Law No. 35, establishing the New York City Identification Card Program to ensure that every New Yorker is provided with the opportunity and peace of mind that comes with possessing a government issued photo identification. On August 4th, Mayor de Blasio signed Executive Order 6 of 2014 designating the Human Resources Administration as the administering agency of IDNYC.

The newly published rules provide that:

  • The IDNYC Card will be provided to applicants free of charge (the de Blasio Administration has committed to making IDNYC available free of charge for the first year of the program through December 31, 2015)
  • The IDNYC Card will expire after five years
  • The minimum age to apply for the card will be 14 years of age
  • Applicants will be required to present proof of identity and proof of residency in New York City
  • Homeless New Yorkers without a permanent address will have the ability to obtain a card
  • The card will provide address confidentiality protections to survivors of domestic violence

Additionally, the rules establish which documents may be used to demonstrate identity and residency.  The rule sets forth over 40 categories of documents that may be used to establish identity, including foreign passports and consular identification cards, foreign birth certificates, military identification, U.S. high school diplomas, and U.S. voter registration cards. Applicants will be able to demonstrate residency in New York City with cable, phone or utility bills, bank statements, and residential leases, among other documents. The documents will be accepted on a point-based system that weighs document value, similar to the one used by the New York State DMV.

Applicants without a home address will be able to list a Care Of address on their card. Passports that are machine-readable will be accepted up to three years after expiration, but all other documents must be current. There will be a 30-day window for applicants to appeal IDNYC denials.

The need for the City of New York to create an additional form of government-issued photo identification is significant, as approximately half of New York City residents age 16 and over do not have a New York State Driver’s License. The IDNYC Card will connect New Yorkers in all five boroughs – regardless of immigration status, homeless status, or gender identity – to public and private sector services, including one-year free membership packages at 33 of the City’s leading cultural institutions.

On October 8, 2014, HRA held a public hearing on the proposed IDNYC rules, receiving feedback from advocates and members of the public on how this card should reflect the needs of all New Yorkers, and address concerns about privacy and security.

As a result of the feedback received at the hearing, Commissioners Banks and Agarwal formed a workgroup to develop three executive orders, mandating high levels of protection for cardholder information and stringent processes for dealing with third party requests for IDNYC cardholder information. The HRA Executive Orders establish that only HRA staff designated by the IDNYC Executive Director and the HRA General Counsel will have access to the IDNYC applicant database, and all access to databases and servers will be tracked through audit logs.  A fourth executive order sets forth details concerning the administrative appeals process for applicants who have been denied a card. Commissioner Banks signed and issued the executive orders in conjunction with the publication of the rules.

Read the full HRA Executive Orders Here: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/muniid/about/executive-orders.page

The technology firms Prutech and MorphoTrust were chosen through a competitive bid process to develop the card enrollment system. MorphoTrust is an internationally renowned company that works with 42 state DMVs to provide highly secure driver license and state identification cards. The firm has established itself as a leader in developing topline security systems that protect against fraud and offer among the most advanced security protections in the world. Prutech has a breadth of experience delivering complex technology projects for the City of New York.

The enrollment system will feature ID verification scanning technology and high-tech cameras. Additionally, nearly two dozen experienced HRA investigators have been hired by the IDNYC Program as Integrity Specialists to protect against fraud and verify applicant identity. IDNYC cards will be printed by 3M, which has established a reputation for its extensive experience printing fraud-resistant identification cards for states and national governments. The cards will be printed on polycarbonate cardstock and features will include an embedded hologram, applicant signature, an engraved City seal and a secondary, black and white ghost photo of the applicant.

IDNYC cards will be available to the public in January 2015. The full list of enrollment center locations will be announced in advance of the launch.

Mayor de Blasio Appoints Nilda Mesa as Director of the New Office of Sustainability

Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Nilda Mesa as the Director of the new Office of Sustainability, which will spearhead the administration’s environmental and sustainability initiatives. Mesa brings with her extensive experience at the local, state, and federal levels of government, and in both the public and private sector. She will coordinate the administration’s sustainability initiatives and green investments, guide interagency processes, and help lead implementation of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and One City, Built to Last¸ Mayor de Blasio’s sweeping green buildings plan.

Mesa is currently the Director at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination. Prior to joining the administration, Mesa served in two key capacities at Columbia University, as the Assistant Vice President of Environmental Stewardship from 2006 to 2012 and as the Chief Administrative Officer and Associate Dean of Administrative Affairs at the Graduate School of Journalism from 2012 to 2013.

Previously, Mesa served as the Associate Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, leading an initiative involving over thirty agencies to streamline implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act. She also served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as Counsel to the NAFTA Taskforce, where she led U.S. legal negotiations with Canada and Mexico and implemented legislation related to trade and the environment. Mesa served as the Assistant Deputy for Environment at the U.S. Air Force, and began her career at the California Attorney General’s Office enforcing toxic management and natural resources laws. She has a J.D. from Harvard University and a B.A. from Northwestern University.

Mayor de Blasio Announces $1.2 Million Donation from NY Giants Chairman Steve Tisch to Protect Student-Athletes

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $1.2 million donation to the city’s Public Schools Athletic League from New York Giants Chairman and Executive Vice President Steve Tisch. The donation, made to the Fund for Public Schools, will provide 53 new certified trainers and EMTs to oversee all contact football practices at schools with varsity and junior varsity teams. As a result, nearly 3,500 high school football players will have trained personnel at their practices, helping avoid injuries and ensuring a swift response if a player is hurt on the field.

The Mayor made the announcement with players from Erasmus Hall and Abraham Lincoln High School, which are playing each other in the final of the PSAL playoffs on December 9 at Yankee Stadium.

De Blasio Administration Marks Safest August-November Period Since Modern Crime Statistics in 1993

Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton announced the city’s latest crime numbers and outlined the administration’s work this year to strengthen the relationship between police and community. For example, low-level marijuana arrests—which disproportionately affect young men of color—have decreased by 61.2 percent since the new policy launched by the de Blasio administration last month.

The Mayor and Commissioner Bratton made this announcement at Ingersoll Houses in Brooklyn—one of the facilities where the de Blasio administration invested $210 million for NYCHA anti-violence programs—where crime has decreased by 18.6 percent. Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton also announced today that the NYPD body camera pilot program will begin this week, starting with the training of three commands where stop-and-frisk rates have been the highest: PSA 2, 40 Precinct, and the 120 Precinct.

“Thanks to the NYPD and the leadership of Police Commissioner Bratton, crime in New York City is at historic lows,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “But this administration doesn’t rest on its laurels—we will continue to build on our efforts to strengthen the bond between our police officers and communities they service, working to keep New York the safest big city in the nation.”

Highlights from today’s announcement include:

  • Overall index crime is down 4.4 percent at the end of November.
  • Homicides in New York City have decreased by 6.8 percent; robbery is down 14.4 percent; and rape is down 2.9 percent from already historically low numbers.
  • The four month period of August through November has had the lowest number of shooting incidents and homicides compared to prior August through November periods since 1993.
  • In the City’s housing developments, overall crime decreased by 5.3 percent and homicides fell by 7.7 percent.
  • Criminal possession of marijuana decreased by 61.2 percent as of the new policy launched by the de Blasio administration last month.
  • In transit, overall crime decreased by 13.8 percent, and robbery has decreased by 29 percent.

View the transcript here.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Library Chiefs Announce Expansion of Library Hotspot Program Through Google Donation

Mayor de Blasio, New York City’s three library systems, and Google announced a $1 million donation from Google for an innovative library program lending Wi-Fi devices to New Yorkers to use at home.

The Library Hotspot program gives families, many lacking broadband access, the opportunity to borrow free Wi-Fi devices from their local libraries. The program was successfully piloted by The New York Public Library over the summer, when families at four branches in the Bronx and Staten Island were able to borrow devices for months at a time.

Google’s $1 million donation, along with a $500,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge, an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and Robin Hood Foundation, will allow the program to expand this fall to all three library systems, including Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library. The goal is to offer about 10,000 families Wi-Fi devices powered by Sprint, helping to close the digital divide in New York City.

“Far too many New Yorkers do not have regular access to the Internet, and as a result find themselves excluded from a wealth of education, employment, and community resources,” said Ben Fried, Google’s Chief Information Officer. “This innovative program to loan hotspots to low-income households is a simple, effective way to help those who need broadband and technology the most.  With this donation of $1 million and wifi-enabled Chromebooks, Google hopes to give some of the most underserved in our city a way to bridge the tech divide.”

The New York Public Library launched its pilot program after a survey of patrons revealed that 55 percent of those utilizing free internet and computers in its branches did not have broadband access at home. When household income dropped to under $25,000, about 65 percent reported having no access.

The expanded program will launch in December, with the city’s three library systems each rolling it out slightly differently:

  • In the Brooklyn Public Library, patrons are eligible to borrow devices for one year if they don’t have broadband at home and are enrolled in one of BPL’s adult education or inclusion programs, including ESOL, Adult Basic Education, or Citizenship Preparation classes. BPL will also make devices available at their NYC Connected Communities branches, which serve communities most impacted by the digital divide. At those branches, adult library cardholders without broadband at home can register for and attend a program orientation session.
  • In the New York Public Library system, which covers the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, people are eligible to borrow devices for six months if they don’t have broadband at home and are currently enrolled in one of several library programs, including after-school programs or adult learning programs, such as ESOL or literacy classes.
  • At Queens Library, the mobile hotspots will be lent to students in its Adult Learning Program, and to anyone with a library card from five libraries also lending Google tablets.

In addition to funding for Wi-Fi devices in New York City, Google’s donation will also provide the city’s library systems with 500 Google Chromebooks, which will be distributed based on need to children and teens enrolled in Library after-school programs. Additionally, small portion of the Wi-Fi devices will be distributed to support similar pilot programs in libraries in Maine and Kansas.

De Blasio Administration Launches $130 Million Plan to Reduce Crime, Reduce Number of People with Behavioral and Mental Health Issues Behind Bars

The de Blasio administration released the report of the Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System, a comprehensive roadmap to continue to drive down crime while also reducing the number of people with behavioral health issues needlessly cycling through the criminal justice system.

This unprecedented, $130 million, four-year investment is a key component of the de Blasio administration’s ongoing efforts to reduce unnecessary arrests and incarceration, direct criminal justice resources to where they will have the greatest public safety impact, and make the system fairer. The Manhattan District Attorney contributed $40 million to this effort, with the remaining $90 million coming from City funds.

Over the last 20 years, New York City has experienced the sharpest drops in crime anywhere in the nation, while also substantially reducing jail populations. Despite this success, individuals with behavioral health issues constitute a bigger and bigger percentage of the total number incarcerated. On any given day in New York City jails, approximately 7 percent of those detained suffer from serious mental illness, 38 percent from a broader array of mental issues, and more than 85 percent have substance use disorders. Many justice-involved individuals with behavioral health needs cycle through the system over and over again, often for low-level offenses. For example, a group of approximately 400 individuals has been admitted to jail more than 18 times in the last five years. This same group accounted for more than 10,000 jail admissions and a collective 300,000 days in jail during this period.

The Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System spent 100 days developing dozens of interlocking public health and public safety strategies that address each point in the criminal justice system and the overlap among those points. The recommendations of the task force focus on ensuring that, when appropriate, individuals with behavioral health disorders: do not enter the criminal justice system in the first place; if they do enter, that they are treated outside of a jail setting; if they are in jail, that they receive treatment that is therapeutic, rather than punitive; and that upon release, they are connected to effective services.

Signature initiatives of the Action Plan include:

  • Before Arrest: Expand training for police officers and encourage diversion to services, instead of arrest, for people who do not pose a public safety threat. The City will expand training for police officers that will enable them to better recognize the behaviors and symptoms of mental illness and substance use. This new training module will ultimately be integrated into the police academy curriculum, and in the short term, will be stand-alone 36 hour training for 5,500 officers in two target areas.
  • At Arraignment: Expand supervised release, develop risk assessment tool, pursue bail reform strategies, and reduce case processing times. The City will add 2,300 slots to existing supervised release programs for adults and pilot a new, science-based risk assessment tool for judges and service providers that accurately identifies and diverts people who do not pose a high risk of re-offending or flight and can therefore be safely supervised in the community, continuing to work and meet other commitments while waiting for trial.

The City will begin efforts to improve its bail system to reduce reliance monetary bail as a surrogate measure of risk by developing a scientifically-validated risk tool that judges can factor into their release decisions, similar to what has been done effectively in other jurisdictions.

  • Incarceration: Expand access to effective treatment in jail. Among other initiatives, the City will improve officer and inmate safety by deploying Crisis Intervention Teams composed of corrections and health workers to deescalate incidents; reduce punitive segregation; develop a strategy to expand access to substance use disorder treatments; and create specialized units to provide preventative services to inmates with behavioral health issues.
  • Release and Re-entry: Expanded re-entry services and supportive housing to set people up to never return to jail. Among other initiatives, the City will provide in-jail discharge planning teams to connect people to Medicaid, the Human Resources Administration, Health Homes and other available programs and services, as well as create 267 supportive, permanent housing slots through the Department of Homeless Services to reduce emergency room, shelter, and jail use.

Recognizing the foundational importance of housing in stabilizing the lives and improving treatment of people with behavioral health issues, the City will also establish a housing planning team that will focus on providing additional access to supportive, affordable and public housing for justice-involved individuals with behavioral health issues.

These strategies will be jointly implemented by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York Police Department, the Department of Correction, the Department of Probation, the District Attorneys, the Courts, the Administration of Children’s Services, and non-profit groups, among others. Mayor de Blasio launched the Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System in June 2014 to develop a strategic, actionable plan to transform the city’s criminal justice system to one that reliably assesses who poses a public safety risk and ensures that the system appropriately addresses—not just at arrest, but well before and well after—the behavioral health issues that have led many into contact with the criminal justice system.

The de Blasio Administration will Combine the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability with the Office of Environmental Coordination to Create a New Office of Sustainability

The following is an article from Capital Pro.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration will combine the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability with the Office of Environmental Coordination to create a new Office of Sustainability that will guide the city’s efforts to mitigate climate change, according to a City Hall official briefed on the matter.

The Associated Press reported early this morning that the mayor has placed Nilda Mesa, head of the current Office of Environmental Coordination at the helm of the new sustainability office. Mesa was hired in September to “shape this administration’s response to important environmental review procedures and policies, including preparation and oversight of environmental reviews on behalf of the Office of the Mayor,” according to an administration email obtained by Capital at the time. Mesa most recently worked as the chief administrative officer and associate dean of administrative affairs at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. Before that, she served as the university’s chief sustainability officer.

She is a former Clinton-Gore appointee to the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The restructuring comes after months of pressure from environmental groups to fill the role vacated by Sergej Mahnovski who led the OLTPS under former mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The new office will work in conjunction with the newly created Office of Recovery and Resiliency to map out climate policy as well as plan for the expected sea-level rise and increased flooding in New York as a result of climate change. De Blasio has staked out starkly different positions from his predecessor on virtually every policy issue except for climate change. He has praised Bloomberg’s record on the issue. The new structuring and new appointment are scheduled to be announced this afternoon, when De Blasio signs into law a bill codifying the city’s intent to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and NYC Council Announce $2M for Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services Expansion

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the New York City Council broke ground on the expansion of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services to 1268 East 14th Street in Brooklyn. The new property, funded in part by the New York City Council, will serve as OHEL’s main campus and allow families and residents greater access to OHEL’s community services—including support for domestic violence survivors, services for New Yorkers living with disabilities, and mental health treatment.

In the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget, the New York City Council allocated $2 million to support OHEL’s $8.45 million expansion into 1268 East 14th Street, a move that will consolidate the majority of its Brooklyn non-residential community programs into one location. This central location will increase accessibility and delivery of services to the community including an outpatient mental health center, foster and preventive care, domestic violence services, supportive housing, day programs and case management for thousands of individuals with disabilities and families that OHEL serves every day.

OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services began as a small foster care agency in 1969.  OHEL is large social service agency that meets the diverse and growing social service needs of the community. Over 1,500 dedicated professionals and volunteers offer comfort, support, protect and elevate the lives of thousands of individuals and families every day.

Comptroller Stringer Audit Reveals Thousands of Computers and Tablets Lost and Unused at the Department of Education

More than 1,800 computers were unaccounted for or missing entirely and nearly 400 laptops and tablets were found unpacked and unused in ten Department of Education (DOE) locations, raising concerns that millions in computer equipment may be lost citywide, according to an audit of DOE’s inventory control over nearly $200 million in computer purchases released today by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

The audit examined how DOE maintained inventory controls over computer hardware purchased through two separate contracts with Apple and Lenovo.  The contracts, entered into in September 2009 and July 2011 respectively, have been used to purchase over 211,000 pieces of computers and tablets worth more than $197 million as of September 2014.

Auditors examined a sample of the computer and tablet inventory purchased from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013 for use at ten DOE sites – nine schools and one administrative building. At one of the schools, Bronx P.S. 168, auditors examined lists provided by DOE’s Asset Management System (AMS) database, a program which contains records of the computer and tablet purchases, but is not used by DOE to maintain inventory control. At the remaining nine sites, the results of auditors’ physical findings at these sites were compared with the AMS database.

Audit findings include:

  • Missing computers and grossly inaccurate records– DOE was unable to identify the location of 1,817 laptop and desktop computers that were supposed to be at the ten sites-1,090 that were listed as “asset location unknown” or were no longer listed at all at Bronx P.S. 168 and 727 that were not physically found at nine of the locations.  The Department spent nearly $200 million during FY12-FY13 on computers and tablets, yet does not maintain a centralized inventory system to make sure they are sent to the right places. Instead, the DOE tasks schools with creating their own annual inventory lists.  These school inventory lists are not reconciled with the AMS database of purchases, leaving the DOE with inaccurate counts and unknown locations of computers and tablets.
  • No system to track tablets – DOE spent $26.9 million on tablets during FY 2012 and 2013 citywide, but did not keep an inventory of these purchases, even though its Standard Operating Procedures requires it to do so. According to City records, 956 tablets were purchased for eight sampled schools during the audit period, but only 703 were listed on the individual sites’ inventory records, leaving 253 unaccounted for.
  • Computers sitting in closets – The audit found 394 devices had gone unused and unopened at the eight school sites that were physically examined. At Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, 78 laptops and iPads, some purchased in 2011, were found unopened.

Recommendations submitted to the DOE by Comptroller Stringer’s office included:

  • Create a centralized inventory system – DOE should have a centralized inventory system for computer hardware that includes computer hardware purchases and delivery information, as well as the item’s current location.
  • Revise DOE’s Procedures – DOE should ensure that all hardware purchases are included in its AMS and require schools to do annual inventory counts that are reconciled with AMS.
  • Find every computer identified as missing – DOE should locate those computers identified as missing and take steps to ensure that other locations have accurate inventories.
  • Report any evidence of crimes – If evidence of illegal activity is uncovered as pat of the updated inventory, the DOE should immediately contact the proper authorities and cooperate with any investigation.

Comptroller Scott Stringer and Borough Presidents Diaz, Adams, Brewer Katz, and Oddo Call for Five Borough Broad Bill of Rights on Public Wi-Fi Agreement

On Wednesday, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. along with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo outlined a Five Borough Broadband Bill of Rights to improve Internet speeds across the City, create stronger oversight and accountability and ensure greater community involvement in the proposal to create a free public WiFi system across New York City. The Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC), on which Comptroller Stringer and the five Borough Presidents sit, will hold a hearing on Monday to discuss the draft franchise agreement for CityBridge LLC to create the “LinkNYC” WiFi system.

The main components of the Five Borough Broadband Bill of Rights are:

1. Ending Internet Inequality – The Administration should ensure that the contract provides for equal WiFi speed throughout all five boroughs. Currently, the contract provides that public phones with advertising receive up to 1 gigabit of speed, while in other areas of the City, public phones without advertising would receive 100 megabits of speed. Nearly two-thirds of the faster access points are slated to be in Manhattan, compared to only 6 percent in the Bronx.

2. A Stronger, More Accountable Contract – Stronger oversight provisions are necessary to ensure that contract requirements are met and accountability measures are robust. Currently, the contract permits the commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) to waive various contract requirements, including siting, removal and replacement schedules and technology requirements.

3. Greater Transparency on Revenue Forecasts and Redistribution – The contract is premised on a business model that puts advertising dollars ahead of people. The public should know what assumptions CityBridge’s business model is based on, including how much revenue is being generated by the advertising and where those funds will be going.

4. Community Consultation – The contract should include language that ensures that the process of deploying WiFi across the City is executed with the interests and input of communities in every borough. Just as the Department of Transportation engaged community stakeholders, business improvement districts, community boards, and the public regarding siting of CitiBike stations, so too DoITT should work with the vendor(s) to craft a detailed, robust plan for community engagement.

5. Sustainability and Resiliency – The contract should require design enhancements which would allow the system to make use of alternative energy sources, like solar power, while also reducing its reliance on the existing power grid. Moreover, following the widespread power outages that occurred during Superstorm Sandy, greater detail is needed on how the system would function in the event of a disaster that causes power outages.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, DCAS Commissioner Cumberbatch, Launch Winter Food Box Program for City Employees in Cooperation with GROWNYC

GrowNYC, the nonprofit which manages the city’s Greenmarket program, is beginning the winter season of its Fresh Food Box program, and Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, City Department of Administrative Services (DCAS) Commissioner Stacey Cumberbatch, and GrowNYC Executive Director, Marcel Van Ooyen, today announced a new Civic Center outpost of the program for City employees, located under the arch of the Municipal Building this and every Thursday through the winter. The program has also begun at four other locations.

The winter Fresh Food Box allows participants order on a weekly basis to pick-up a bag of fresh fruits and vegetables for the bargain price of $10, which would otherwise retail for more than $20. The Municipal Building location is open only to city employees, but these four other locations also offer week-in-advance ordering of fresh-grown produce for any New Yorker:

Queensbridge
1025 41st Avenue, Long Island City
December – Spring
Wednesdays 3:30 pm – 6:30 pm
First order 11/25/14, first pick up 12/3/14
Community Partners: Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House

Two Bridges
265 & 275 Cherry Street
December – Spring
Thursdays 3:30 pm – 6:30 pm
First order 11/20/14, first pick up 12/4/14
Community Partner: Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, Inc.

Bellevue Hospital
462 1st Ave
December – Spring
Wednesdays 11 am – 2 pm
First order 11/25/14, first pick up 12/3/14

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
331 East 70th Street
December – Spring
Tuesdays 3:30 pm – 6:30 pm
First order 11/25/14, first pick up 12/2/14
Community Partner: Lenox Hill Neighborhood House

GrowNYC’s Fresh Food Box Program is a food access initiative that allows New Yorkers, many in underserved communities, to purchase a curated selection of fresh, healthy, regionally-grown produce; the best of what’s seasonally available. Fresh Food Box customers can take advantage of the cost benefits of buying in a group, and enjoy the quality and variety of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share, with the flexibility of week-to-week purchasing. July through November Fresh Food Box produce is grown on farms in the Northeast; December through Spring, Winter Box produce is grown on farms on the East coast, within a one day drive of NYC.

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GrowNYC is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that works to make New York City more sustainable, and improve the lives of all New Yorkers. Reaching two million New Yorkers every year, GrowNYC operates Greenmarket farmers markets, engages New Yorkers in recycling education and resources, builds and maintains green spaces and engages young people in hands-on education. Learn more at www.grownyc.org.

The Capital: Affordable Housing Builders Want $1 Billion for New Units

The following is an article from Capital Pro.

A coalition of affordable housing developers is asking for the state to set aside $1 billion from of its current $5 billion surplus to construct new units around the state, citing an acute shortage of housing in New York City. Jolie Milstein, president of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, made the request during an Assembly budget hearing on Tuesday. State lawmakers are considering a special session that might deal with some of the surplus gained through financial settlements with banks including J.P. Morgan and Standard Charter. A number of players have already begun lobbying to see it used for education expenses or infrastructure investments.

“The overwhelming balance of those funds resulted from enforcement of bad acts associated with mortgage foreclosures, and we believe a substantial portion of those settlements should be invested in affordable housing, where there is a clear nexus of those harmed,” Milstein said.

She proposed using $500 million for a new program to foster mixed-use projects, as well as dedicating $350 million to existing programs, like the Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s Homes for Working Families, and another $150 million for tax credits. Asked by Assemblyman Keith Wright, a Harlem Democrat who chairs the chamber’s housing committee, Milstein declined to state a position on rent control laws that are up for renewal this year. One of her aides said that, at the moment, her group supports the extension of the 421-a and J51 tax credit programs in their current form. Wright said he was skeptical of the “80-20 paradigm,” in which subsidies are granted to buildings that have 20 percent of their units set aside as affordable while letting market rates dictate the rest. Wright instead proposed keeping half of the units at market rate, while setting aside 30 percent for middle-income families and 20 percent for low-income families. Milstein seemed skeptical, noting market units “cross-subsidize” affordable units under the current system.

 Agencies:

HPD Commissioner Been Announces Latest Program to Encourage Minority and Women Owned Business Participation on Affordable Housing Development Projects

New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Vicki Been announced that HPD is issuing its Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE) Request for Qualifications (RFQ). The M/WBE RFQ is part of Building Opportunity, HPD’s multi-pronged initiative aimed at increasing opportunities for M/WBEs to compete to participate in HPD-supported development projects. Though this RFQ, HPD will evaluate and compile a roster of prequalified M/WBE developers with the necessary experience and capacity to develop, maintain, and manage high-quality affordable housing.

Legislation introduced by State Senate Housing Chairwoman Cathy Young and State Assembly Housing Chairman Keith Wright, which was signed into law by the Governor on November 21st, now enables HPD to designate a specific pipeline of development projects to be competitively solicited to pre-qualified M/WBEs. The M/WBE RFQ will allow HPD generate the pre-qualified roster of M/WBEs that will be able to compete for those development projects. Candidates responding to the RFQ must be certified M/WBEs who have the experience and capacity required to develop, maintain, and manage multifamily affordable housing.

In addition to applying for this program, eligible M/WBEs will have the opportunity to seek loans from the New York City Acquisition Fund which will work in parallel with the program to provide qualified M/WBE developers with low-cost financing for affordable housing development projects. Increasing access to capital through the Acquisition Fund is an important component of the Building Opportunity initiative.

It is also envisioned that many of the M/WBEs currently enrolled in the series of capacity building workshops which launched in October, will choose to respond to the RFQ and, if qualified, later compete for the designated pipeline of affordable housing projects.

HPD will accept applications for the M/WBE RFQ beginning today, December 2, 2014 through March 20, 2015. More information regarding the RFQ can be found on HPD’s website.

The City’s investment in affordable housing must be tied to greater M/WBE participation in housing development, and the effort to expand opportunities for M/WBEs reflects the values and priorities in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough Ten-Year Plan to build and preserve 200,000 affordable units for New Yorkers at the very lowest incomes to those in the middle class.

Strengthening M/WBE participation supports community growth and economic opportunity as many of these small firms work and hire locally. It also expands the pool of developers that have the experience and capacity to build and manage affordable housing in New York City, which increases competition and strengthens the housing industry. This new pipeline of developers will be critical as the City ramps up affordable housing production under the Housing New York plan over the coming years.

Launched by HPD in 2013,Building Opportunity is a four-pronged initiative to expand opportunities for M/WBEs to compete more effectively for HPD-supported affordable housing development work. Many M/WBE developers have limited access to affordable credit or land, constraining their ability to compete with larger firms for HPD subsidy in building affordable housing. The four prongs of Building Opportunity include:

Increase Development Opportunities:
State Senate Housing Chairwoman Cathy Young and State Assembly Housing Chairman Keith Wright introduced legislation which passed over the summer, and which was signed into law by the Governor on November 21, 2014 that enables HPD to promote the participation of M/WBEs in its loan and disposition programs. With the legislation enacted and signed into law, HPD is able to designate a pipeline of development projects to be competitively solicited to a pre-qualified list of M/WBEs that will be generated by the RFQ that was announced today.

Build the Capacity of M/WBE Developers:
HPD in partnership with SBS, NYSAFAH and other partners have developed a series of capacity building workshops designed specifically for M/WBEs. The workshops, which launched in October 2014, are providing valuable insight and instruction into industry best practices to aid M/WBE’s seeking to compete more effectively for HPD-supported affordable housing development work. M/WBE developers who choose to take advantage of these services will have the opportunity to learn effective business planning, financial management, and strategies for competing more effectively for HPD-supported affordable housing development work.

Increase Access to Capital:
The New York City Acquisition Fund, LLC currently provides low-cost loans to developers of affordable housing and offers favorable terms to small, nonprofit developers. The Fund plans to extend these lending terms to qualifying M/WBE developers that may not otherwise have access to much needed capital.

Encourage Developers to Use M/WBE Contractors:
HPD will also begin requiring all developers receiving HPD financing to submit utilization plans where the developers may voluntarily establish goals for including M/WBE contractors in their development projects. During construction, developers will submit semiannual updates listing the M/WBE general contractors, subcontractors, and professional services providers they have hired and the amounts that have been paid out under contracts with those entities.  This program is intended to encourage all developers to include qualified M/WBEs in their development team wherever feasible and is in line with similar initiatives such as New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s M/WBE program.

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