This Week in New York City Government
Mayor de Blasio Signs Legislation to Create Office of Civil Justice
Mayor de Blasio signed into law six pieces of legislation – Intro. 736-A, in relation to creating an Office of Civil Justice; Intro. 511-A, in relation to requiring the Department of Education to report annually on student demographics; Intro. 440-A, in relation to health services in city correctional facilities; Intro. 198-A, in relation to side guards; Intro 315-A, in relation to a truck route compliance study; and Intro. 641-A, in relation to a comprehensive study regarding pedestrian and bicyclist safety on truck routes.
The first bill, Intro. 736-A, requires the creation of an Office of Civil Justice, to be headed by a Civil Justice Coordinator and operated by the Human Resources Administration. The CJC will report to the Mayor and the Council on an annual basis on the civil legal service needs of low-income city residents – including but not limited to matters concerning housing, health insurance, medical expenses and debts, personal finances, employment, immigration, public benefits, and domestic and family matters – and on the availability of free and low-cost civil legal services to meet such needs. The CJC will also be required to make recommendations on the expansion of free and low-cost civil legal services programs, mediation programs, and other mechanisms that can assist low-income city residents with their civil legal service needs. The bill also requires the CJC to prepare a plan for providing these free or low-cost civil legal services to low-income New Yorkers who need such services. The plan is due within one year of the first civil legal services need report and will be updated every five years thereafter. This bill was passed during the Stated Meeting on May 27.
The second bill, Intro. 511-A, requires the Department of Education to report annually on student demographics and DOE’s efforts to encourage diversity in city schools. DOE will report on the demographics of students in grades K-12, and on the number of students who receive special education services, are English language learners, receive free or reduced lunch, reside in temporary housing, and, for students in K-8, attend school out of their community school district. These numbers will be disaggregated by grade level, race or ethnicity, gender, and ELL status, and the report will also include demographic information for students enrolled in the pre-K program. DOE will additionally be required to report on steps taken during the preceding school year to encourage diversity in its schools and special programs. This bill was passed during the Stated Meeting on May 27. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Lander.
The third bill, Intro 440-A, requires the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to submit a report every three months to the Mayor and Council Speaker detailing the health of inmates in city correctional facilities during the previous quarter. DOHMH is required to issue the first report no later than July 15, 2015, and every three months thereafter. The report will be required to include, but would not be limited to, the following available information: performance indicators reported to DOHMH by the entity providing services, methodology used to measure performance indicators, which metrics were used to determine whether performance indicators meet targets, the results of such determinations, and any actions that DOHMH has taken or plans to take in response to the data reported. If performance indicators relating to intake, follow-up care, patient safety, preventable hospitalizations, or preventable errors in medical care are reported to DOHMH, the department will be required include such data in the report. This bill was passed during the Stated Meeting on May 27. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Johnson.
The fourth bill, Intro. 198-A, requires the installation of side guards on all city trucks and trade waste haulers in order to ensure safer streets. All large vehicles in the city’s fleet, and all trade waste hauling vehicles licensed by BIC, will be required to install side guards by January 1, 2024. There are several exceptions to this law for vehicles on which side guard installation would be impractical, including street sweepers, fire engines, and other specialized vehicles. This bill was passed during the Stated Meeting on May 27. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Johnson.
The last two bills, Intro. 641-A and Intro. 315-A, require the Department of Transportation to complete a study regarding pedestrian and cyclist safety on truck routes and a study on truck route compliance. Intro. 641-A requires DOT to investigate the number of crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists in the last five years, and review and make recommendations on the strategies and policies used to ensure safety on truck routes. Intro. 315-A requires DOT to conduct a study of compliance of truck routes, and use the results of the study to take measures to increase compliance, including converting two-way streets to one-way streets, and increasing signage, education, and outreach to the trucking community. These bills were passed during the Stated Meeting on May 27. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bills’ sponsors, Council Members Chin and Vallone.
To read a full transcript on the Mayor’s remarks, please click here.
De Blasio Administration Releases Audit Report of Verizon’s Citywide FiOS Implementation
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Counsel to the Mayor Maya Wiley and Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) Commissioner Anne Roest announced the City’s audit findings of Verizon’s citywide Fiber Optic Service (FiOS) implementation. In a 2008 agreement with New York City, Verizon committed to extend its FiOS network to every household across the five boroughs by June 30, 2014.
Consistent with complaints from New Yorkers, the audit – initiated by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications last September – documents far-reaching failures and reveals that more than six years after its agreement with the City, Verizon has yet to deliver on the commitments spelled out in the franchise agreement.
The audit results – which are available here — reveal an egregious failure on the part of Verizon to deliver on the FiOS agreement, including:
- Verizon has not run fiber throughout enough of the City’s residential neighborhoods to deliver on its commitments.
- Verizon’s own records indicate that service is “unavailable” at certain residential addresses, despite company claims that it can deliver service to all New Yorkers who want FiOS.
- Verizon has failed to consistently document service requests.
- Where Verizon has accepted requests for service, it has consistently failed to respond to service requests within the required six- and 12-month timeframes.
- Despite clear requirements in the franchise agreement, Verizon has only tracked complaints from actual subscribers and has not tracked complaints and inquiries from prospective customers.
- Verizon failed to cooperate with the City’s audit of FiOS rollout, in violation of its franchise agreement
Currently, some 22 percent of New York City households have no Internet connection; that number jumps to 36 percent for families living in poverty. But even for those who have it, most pay too much for what they get, with the best $40 per month package available to New Yorkers, for example, featuring download and upload speeds that are a fraction of those available in other major cities like San Francisco and Seoul. The lack of competition in the City’s broadband market is one of many issues at the root of this problem.
Mayor de Blasio recognizes that broadband, like phone service, is a necessity that must be available to and affordable for all New Yorkers. As such, he has demanded greater accountability from the cable television and broadband service providers that use the City’s streets and public rights of way, first as Public Advocate and now as the City’s chief executive. Holding City franchisees accountable to the commitments they have made is a crucial element of the de Blasio Administration’s strategy for delivering universal, affordable broadband citywide.
Mayor de Blasio Announces Kate Blumm as Chief Speechwriter and Erin White as Communications Advisor
Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Kate Blumm as Chief Speechwriter and Erin White as an administration Communications Advisor.
Blumm, who presently serves as Communications Advisor to Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen, will lead a team of five in her new role as head of the City Hall speechwriting shop. Blumm and her team are tasked with preparing briefings, talking points and speeches for the Mayor and administration leadership on key policy priorities and initiatives. In addition to crafting the Mayor’s message around City policy, income inequality and expanding opportunity for all New Yorkers, she will advise on the administration’s overall communications strategy and long-term planning.
As Communications Advisor, Erin White will develop and advance communications strategy and policy for the Mayor and First Lady Chirlane McCray. White, who joins City Hall from the American Civil Liberties Union, brings years of experience in communications strategy, public relations and media management to the role. In her new position, White will be charged with developing and implementing long-term strategic communications and innovative ways to relay information to New Yorkers, providing reports and updates to senior administration officials on communications outreach, and coordinating communications across various departments. She will also work with senior administration leadership to inform broader strategic communications planning for the administration.
Mayor de Blasio: New York City and The United Nations Partner-up on IDNYC
To celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations, the de Blasio Administration announced that the United Nations will host a pop-up registration site for New York City’s municipal ID, IDNYC. The site will open on June 29 for delegates from Permanent Missions and United Nations staff to register for IDNYC.
IDNYC is a free identification card for all New York City residents, allowing us to celebrate who we are – New Yorkers. As a government-issued photo identification card, IDNYC secures the peace of mind and access to City services that come from having recognized identification. IDNYC benefits every city resident, including the most vulnerable communities – the homeless, youth, the elderly, undocumented immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and individuals who may have difficulty obtaining other government-issued ID.
The card can be presented as proof of identification when interacting with NYC public safety officers and is an accepted form of identification for opening a bank account at a dozen financial institutions across the city. IDNYC also streamlines access to the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens Public Library Systems in a single card. Cardholders may also sign up for a free one-year membership at 33 of the city’s leading cultural institutions, zoos, and botanical gardens.
The UN campus pop-up enrollment center will be open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. between June 29 and July 10. Enrollment will take 10-20 minutes and appointments can be booked in advance online. The program will do its best to accommodate walk-ins, but applicants are highly encouraged to schedule an appointment to avoid a long wait.
Mayor de Blasio Announces Major Sections of Central Park and Prospect Park Will Become Permanently Car-Free, Dedicated Solely to Recreation
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced permanent improvements to Central Park and Prospect Park that will make the majority of each park car-free, with park drives dedicated solely to recreation for the first time in more than a century. The changes will restore major sections of two of the city’s crown jewel parks to their original vision as recreational paths, making the parks healthier, safer and more accessible to millions of New Yorkers.
Central Park’s entire loop drive above 72nd Street will be permanently car-free. Prospect Park’s West Drive between Grand Army Plaza and Park Circle, previously open to motor vehicle traffic for two hours during weekday afternoons, will likewise be permanently reserved solely for recreation. With these changes, more of each park will be car-free than at any time since the first automobiles were introduced to them at the turn of the 20th century. Combined, more than 45 million people visit Central Park and Prospect Park each year.
The Department of Transportation conducted extensive traffic analyses of both parks’ loop drives and surrounding streets prior to undertaking these improvements. Neither change is projected to impact travel times or congestion in nearby neighborhoods. In Central Park, this change is consistent with the seasonal car-free summer hours of the past two years, which have proven to have had no adverse impacts.
Mayor de Blasio: The City of New York and Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City Collect Nearly $80,000 For Relief Effort to Support Victims of Earthquake in Nepal
The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, and the Community Affairs Unit, announced that the New York City Nepal Relief Effort has collected approximately $78,800 for victims of the tragic earthquake that struck the country and surrounding area on April 25.
The collected funds will be divided evenly between New York City-based Nepali community nonprofit organizations Adhikaar and The Gurung Society. Funds will be directed to areas of greatest need, such as securing food, clean water, shelter, and sanitation services for the millions of people who were injured, displaced or otherwise affected by the earthquake. The Mayor’s Fund received $50,000 in initial support for the New York City Nepal Relief Effort from the Association for a Better New York and the Rudin Family Foundations. Contributions from City employees accounted for over $13,000 of the total collected donations.
“New York City is home to the largest Nepalese community in the United States, so this tragedy hit very close to home for many New Yorkers. As millions in Nepal and Tibet struggle to put their lives back together after such a devastating and unexpected tragedy, I am proud that the people of this city were able to step up and lend a hand in the rebuilding effort,” said Mayor de Blasio.
Citywide and Borough Electeds:
Comptroller Stringer: Raising the Minimum Wage for Food Service Workers would Put $1.3 Billion into the Pockets of 180,000 Workers
A new report released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer found that raising the minimum wage for food service workers in New York City to $15 per-hour would boost wages by $1.3 billion a year and benefit an estimated 180,000 workers, with approximately half of the dollar gain realized by workers in the fast food sector.The Comptroller’s report shows how a $15 per-hour minimum wage would impact thousands of food service workers in New York City:
- In Queens, 66,000 workers would see a $550 million annual wage increase;
- In Brooklyn, 54,000 workers would see a $361 million annual wage increase;
- In Manhattan, 34,000 workers would see a $217 million annual wage increase; and
- In the Bronx, 22,000 workers would see a $161 million annual wage increase.
There are over 7,600 fast food establishments in the five boroughs employing more than 86,000 workers, according to the New York State Department of Labor. Using a separate data set, the Comptroller’s Office estimated the impact of increasing the minimum wage for food service workers and found that roughly 70 percent of New York City food service workers who would benefit would be Hispanic or Black while only nine percent of those workers affected would be students.New York City currently has the nation’s highest cost of living and, when adjusted for cost-of-living, the City’s minimum wage is the lowest of any major U.S. city. The report is a follow-up to an earlier study detailing the income effects of phasing in a $15 minimum wage for all low-wage workers in New York. In this report, the Comptroller reaffirms the wide-ranging impacts that a raised minimum wage would have on the amount spent on good and services, the impact on income distribution and the effects on rent burdened households.In addition, the Comptroller’s office found that:
- Data from the Survey of Consumer Expenditures shows that families with $10,000 more in annual income spend $1,100 to $1,800 more on housing, $300 to $600 more on groceries, $200 to $400 more on entertainment, $200 to $300 more on healthcare and $200 to $300 more on food consumed outside of the home.
- A higher minimum wage for all New Yorkers would significantly decrease the number of households earning $10,000 to $29,999 while increasing the number earning $30,000 to $39,999 by almost 69,000.
- If the minimum wage were raised to $15 per-hour by 2019 for all New York City workers, fewer New Yorkers would be severely rent-burdened.
Public Advocate James Releases LGBT Mental Health Resource Guide
Public Advocate Letitia James this week released a guide of mental health resources in all five boroughs for members of the LGBT community. The guide provides information for LGBT New Yorkers seeking a variety of supportive services including crisis counseling; substance abuse counseling; suicide hotlines; hormone therapy; and safe HIV, Hepatitis C, and other STD testing.
Forty-two percent of LGBT youth live in communities in which they feel a lack of acceptance of LGBT people, and 30 percent have missed at least one day of school in the past month because they did not feel safe in their school environment. Also, 33 percent of transgender youth have attempted suicide. In many cases, these young people do not have access to systems in their schools and communities that would provide them with culturally competent mental health resources.Additionally, lesbian and bisexual women were reportedly at least twice as likely as heterosexual women to have experienced suicidal thoughts in the past year. This startling disparity demonstrates the need for LGBT women to have access to resources that provide readily available support and counseling. Read the full resource guide here.
Manhattan Borough President Brewer announces $6 million for tech in 57 Manhattan public schools
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer announced a slate of capital grant awards promoting the use of technology and technology instruction in Manhattan’s public schools. The grants will be included in the city’s budget for Fiscal Year 2016, whose adoption is expected later this month.
Each year, as part of the city’s budget process, the five borough presidents are mandated by the City Charter to allot a portion of the city’s capital budget for the purchase or improvement of fixed assets such as buildings or other infrastructure. Each borough president then allocates that funding to City agencies, cultural institutions, or nonprofit organizations according to each office’s own process and priorities. As part of her capital allocations this year, Brewer dedicated more than $6 million to fund tech upgrades and applications of technology in the schools, more than 20 percent of her total allocations. Many of these investments will directly enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) instruction.
Highlighted projects made possible by this funding include:
- Renovations and equipment purchases for a recording studio at Harlem Renaissance High School in Central Harlem and a music lab at the Patrick Henry Preparatory School (P.S./I.S. 171) in East Harlem.
- Electrical infrastructure upgrades at P.S. 182 in East Harlem, to end recurring power outages and allow more in-classroom use of computers and electronics.
Other projects and equipment purchases these funds will make possible include:
- Purchase of “A+” mobile STEM lab workstations
- Conversion and creation of new technology labs in various schools
- Classroom audio systems
- “Smartboard” classroom instructional display tools
- New computers and workstations
Brooklyn Borough President Adams Honors Injured Cop and Partners as Brooklyn’s “Heroes of the Month” for May, Philanthropic Ice Cream Shop Owners as “Heroes of the Month” for June
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams paid tribute to an NYPD officer who was shot in the line of duty in Crown Heights and his former partner who helped apprehend the fare-beating suspect, as well as separately honored a married couple who owns an ice cream shop in Bath Beach and gives away cones to the less fortunate. NYPD Officers Randy Chow and James Li were declared “Heroes of the Month” for May in honor of their valiant actions, while Richard and Rosa Stakofsky earned the title of “Heroes of the Month” for June for their philanthropic efforts. This is a continuation of Borough President Adams’ monthly “Hero of the Month” events honoring the accomplishments of Brooklynites from all walks of life.
On February 26, 2014, Officers Chow and Li were on routine foot patrol in Crown Heights, as part of Operation Impact, when they spotted two men entering the backdoor of a B46 bus heading south on Utica Avenue without paying. Officers Chow and Li boarded the bus and removed both fare-beaters, at which point one of the men took off running. That man spun around and fired his handgun at the officers, hitting 26-year-old Officer Li in both legs. Two off-duty FDNY EMTs heard the shots and jumped out of their private car to help Officer Li as 30-year-old Officer Chow radioed for backup. Witnesses helped track down the perp, who had six prior arrests on his record in this city, and Officer Chow helped identify him as the man who shot his partner. That criminal is now serving 25 years in prison. Officer Li has recently returned to at the 71st Precinct on restricted desk duty due to his injury, due to his injury that makes it difficult for him to run or to walk long distances. He says he would not hesitate to get back out in the street. His former partner Officer Chow is now stationed at the 61st Precinct.
Richard Stakofsky grew up in the Carvel system. He opened his location with his father in 1978, which he now owns with his wife Rosa, who used to be a bank branch manager and now helps decorate cakes in the store. Richard has credited his father with instilling in him the values which have made him successful; he said “give the freshest products, have a clean store and the best customer service and you will be rewarded…when you think everything is perfect, make it better.” The Stakofsky family operates a popular Carvel location, which has four out of five stars on Yelp. They give away approximately 2500 ice cream cones twice a year for the poor and needy. Additionally, they work with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, American Kidney foundation, Arthritis Foundation, and the American Red Cross. At their most recent event, Richard and Rosa Stakofsky had over 4,200 people who came to his Carvel Ice Cream Shop.
Health Department Launches New Ad Campaign Highlighting the Health Risks of Children Consuming Sugary Drinks
The Health Department announced a new ad campaign educating New Yorkers on the health risks of children consuming sugary drinks. The ads explain that even though a child may not be overweight or obese, sugary drinks can lead to increased visceral fat, a fat that builds up in and around their organs. Visceral fat can lead to the child developing diabetes, heart disease, or a fatty liver. The ads end by encouraging parents to choose water or fruit for their children instead of sugary drinks. The TV, radio and social media ads are running through the end of this month. View the new ads on the NYCHealth YouTube page.
According to the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nearly 30 percent of New York City public high school students are overweight or obese. Sugary drinks are the leading source of added sugar in our diet and remain a leading contributor to the obesity and diabetes epidemics. Young people continue to drink sugary drinks – including soda, sports drinks and sweetened teas – at alarmingly high rates. Health Department data shows that 40 percent of public high school students reported consuming an average of one or more sugary drinks per day.
Sugary drink consumption among children and teens varies by neighborhood in New York City. Forty-nine percent of high school students in the South Bronx, East and Central Harlem, and North and Central Brooklyn reported consuming an average of one or more sugary drinks per day, compared to 40 percent of public high school students citywide. Nearly half of parents in the city’s poorest neighborhoods report that their 6 to 12 year old consumed one or more sugary drinks per day. The NYC Health Department has been educating New Yorkers about the dangers of sugary drinks since 2009 through educational campaigns like “Pouring on the Pounds,” “Sounds Healthy” and “Drinking Yourself Sick.” For more information, search “sugary drinks” at nyc.gov.
Health Department and Council Member Corey Johnson Announce Plan to Continue Services During the Chelsea Clinic Renovation
The Health Department and City Council Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson announced a plan to continue offering low and no-cost HIV and STD services in Chelsea while the Health Department’s Chelsea Clinic is being renovated. The Health Department is renovating the clinic, located at 303 Ninth Ave., to improve the patient experience and clinical services at the site. The plan includes immediate changes, as well as changes that will be implemented this summer and fall. The Health Department recognizes that HIV testing is the gateway to HIV prevention and treatment. Maintaining low and no-cost HIV and STD services in Chelsea during the clinic renovation is a vital step towards ending the epidemic. Effective immediately, Health Department staff members are stationed at a mobile van in front of the Chelsea Clinic to assist potential patients and direct them to nearby services. Community-based organizations are also providing mobile HIV and STD services near the Chelsea site five days a week to reduce the gap in service. These community partner vans can accommodate approximately 10 to 15 sexual health visits per day.
Starting this summer, Rapid 4th Generation HIV and Syphilis testing – the most advanced rapid HIV and syphilis testing – will be available at the DOHMH mobile van unit. In addition to providing services directly outside of the Chelsea Clinic building, the Health Department and Council Member Johnson have worked with community partners to bolster services at surrounding community clinics. The Health Department will supplement funding to the Community Healthcare Network, Callen Lorde, and Mt. Sinai Downtown Comprehensive Health Center to pay for testing costs and add one nurse practitioner at each site. These changes will allow the three sites to collectively support approximately 60 to 70 more sexual health visits per day than what is currently offered. New signs will be posted to include information about these enhanced services, and Health Department staff will also help visitors find these sites.
Beginning this fall, there will be a full-service Health Department mobile clinic on site that can provide HIV and STD testing and accommodate approximately 10 to 15 more sexual health visits per day than what is currently available. In addition, rapid HIV testing and Sexual and Behavioral Sites will continue to offer services, maintaining the capacity for 15 visits per day. All of these options create a patient care capacity that approximates that of the Chelsea Clinic.
The Chelsea Clinic improvement project will include a gut renovation of the basement, first and second floors. The renovated clinic will:
- Expand by 38 percent, increasing space for clients and clinical services
- Provide a modern and efficiently designed space for clients and clinic services
- Offer ADA-compliant building access via a lift
- Include Active Design features to improve service delivery
- House a new HVAC system to make the environment comfortable for clients
To make sure New Yorkers are informed about the temporary clinic closure, the Health Department has placed a large banner outside of the building, which includes directions to other Health Department clinics and service providers in the area. Handouts with this information are also available on site. In addition, the Health Department launched a texting service to help New Yorkers on the go find nearby sexual health services. New Yorkers can text “Chelsea” to 877877 for more information. The Health Department will also launch an online and print ad campaign to inform New Yorkers about the closure. To ensure that this new plan is meeting the needs of the community, the Health Department will hold quarterly Community Advisory Board meetings with elected officials and community partners starting this summer. In addition, the Health Department will monitor services to make sure the services offered are meeting demand.