The State’s legislative session wrapped up in June, a few days later than expected but still without significant progress on housing – a top priority for both Gov. Hochul and Mayor Adams. However, the legislature did pass nearly 900 bills this session, including the Clean Slate Act. Read on for a summary of what did – and did not – pass:
Clean Slate Act: The Clean Slate Act, which automatically seals certain criminal records after a set amount of time, was a high priority for legislative leaders this year. The bill, which does not apply to the most serious crimes such as Class A felonies, is intended to help individuals who have completed their sentences, and certain eligibility requirements rebuild their lives. Governor Hochul has indicated support for the bill’s concept, but has not said whether she will sign it into law.
Housing: As the session waned, leaders in the Assembly and Senate announced that, while they had a two-house agreement on a broad package of housing reforms, they were unable to reach a deal with the Governor. Despite the lack of action on major items such as Good Cause Eviction, the extension of the 421-a tax abatement, and other initiatives, the legislature did approve some less controversial housing policies, including:
- J-51 Replacement: The legislature passed a bill authorizing the city to implement a new “Affordable Housing Rehabilitation Program,” which replaces the former J-51 program. There are some changes from the previous program: it is now an abatement-only program, which will last for up to 20 years. Rental buildings must be at least 50% affordable, part of the Mitchell-Lama program, or receive government assistance. The assessed value of eligible properties is slightly increased, to $45,000 per unit, from the old program.
- Restrictions on Combining Units: Legislation to close the so-called “Frankenstein” loophole will restrict the ability to combine existing apartments and set higher rents if one or more of the combined units was rent-regulated.
Housing remains a top issue for the Governor, the Legislature, and municipal leaders. Governor Hochul has signaled that she may take executive action on housing, though her administration has not released details on what might be included in such a proposal.
Campaign Finance: The legislature voted to amend portions of the public funding program for campaigns, first enacted in 2020. The original program, which was intended to encourage local, small-dollar donations to electoral campaigns, provided public matching funds for contributions of $5-$250; no matching funds were to be received for donations over $250. The amended version will allow for matching funds for the first $250 of all donations up to the maximum contribution limit. The 2024 electoral cycle will be the first under the new public financing system.
Transportation: Advocates, led by Families for Safe Streets, prioritized the passage of “Sammy’s Law,” which would allow New York City to lower its own speed limit. Named after Sammy Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year old boy who was killed by a speeding driver in 2013, the bill had received support from Governor Hochul, Mayor Adams, and the New York City Council. It passed the State Senate in early June but was not brought to a vote by the Assembly.
LLC Transparency Act: The legislature adopted a measure that would require the disclosure of beneficiaries of limited liability companies doing business in New York. LLC would be required to register with the state and would be included in a public database. The bill sponsors aim to eliminate the ability of bad actors, especially in the real estate industry, to hide behind LLCs. Each house passed a slightly different version.
Other Albany Updates:
- Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal is resigning in order to lead government affairs for UJA-Federation. Prior to his resignation, Rosenthal’s name was floated as a possible challenger to Rep. George Santos.
- The Federal Highway Administration cleared the way for New York to begin to implement congestion pricing. The next step is to finalize toll rates, including any exemptions or discounts. The program is expected to be rolled out sometime in 2024.
June Primary Election Overview
New York City’s primary election on June 27th was largely characterized by low turnout and few surprises. However, there were some notable races.
In the hotly contested 9th District in Harlem, Yusef Salaam, one of the Exonerated Five, succeeded in challenging two sitting elected officials, Assembly Member Inez Dickens and Assembly Member Al Taylor. The incumbent, Kristin Richardson Jordan, was not seeking re-election.
The biggest surprise of the night may have been Chris Banks’ defeat of Council Member Charles Barron in District 42, which includes East New York, Brownsville, and Starrett City. Council Member Barron has represented the district in both the Council and the Assembly for over two decades. Banks is a lifelong resident of East New York, community organizer and nonprofit leader; he currently serves as the President of the 75th Precinct Council.
Elsewhere in Brooklyn, Susan Zhuang won the Democratic primary in the newly-drawn 43rd District, encompassing Bensonhurst and parts of Borough Park. Zhuang, who previously served as chief of staff to Assembly Member William Colton, will face Republican Ying Tan in the general election. Council Member Darlene Mealy fended off a challenge from Isis MacIntosh Green, who previously served as chief of staff to Assembly Member Latrice Walker.
In Queens, Tony Avella is expected to win a competitive Democratic primary in District 19. Avella, who served in the Council from 2002-2009, will face off against incumbent Republican Council Member Vickie Paladino in November.
Two sitting Council Members from Brooklyn will also compete in what is expected to be a close general election race. The redistricting process combined the districts of Republican Council Member Ari Kagan and Democratic Council Member Justin Brannan in Southern Brooklyn, setting up what is expected to be a close election.
On June 30th, just ahead of the new fiscal year on July 1st, the City Council adopted NYC’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget by a vote of 39-12. Of the twelve members who opposed the budget, eleven of them are members of the Council’s Progressive Caucus; they were joined by Republican Council Member Ari Kagan. Read on for a summary of the FY24 budget highlights:
- Restoration of $36 million in proposed cuts to public libraries
- Additional funding for cultural organizations
- $40 million for wage enhancements for contracted human services providers
- 5,000 additional slots for “Work, Learn, Grow,” which will provide year-round employment opportunities for Summer Youth Employment participants
- $20 million in additional funding to expand eligibility for the Fair Fares program
- Funding for swimming lessons in neighborhoods without access to public pools
- $4 billion in capital funds to support affordable housing. $2.5 billion will be allocated to the NYC Department of Housing & Preservation (HPD) and $1.5 billion will be slated for NYCHA.
- $11.1 million for housing assistance and vouchers
Other New York City Updates:
- The Rent Guidelines Board voted to approve increases on rent-regulated apartments by 3% for one-year leases and approximately 4.5% on two year leases (2.75% and then 3.2%).
- Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, NYC’s first female police commissioner, resigned at the end of June. First Deputy Commissioner Edward Caban was appointed acting commissioner and is rumored to be in line for the permanent position.
- The Department of City Planning announced its proposed City of Yes for Economic Opportunity Text Amendment. This is the second of three proposed text amendments and is aimed at reducing red tape to allow businesses to thrive in New York CIty.
- Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine issues report on AI
- Mayor Adams vetoed a package of legislation that aimed to expand access to housing vouchers for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. Prior to issuing the veto, Mayor Adams signed an executive order eliminating the mandate that families spend 90 days in shelter before qualifying for CityFHEPS vouchers and standardizing work rules for families and single adults. The Council is expected to override the Mayor’s veto.
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