This Week in New York City Government



Mayors de Blasio & Cornett Lead Bipartisan Group of 104 Mayors to Call on Congressional Leadership: Pass Multi-Year Transportation Bill That Significantly Increases Funding

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett led a bipartisan group of 104 U.S. mayors from across the nation in a letter to Senate and House leaders, calling for the swift passage of legislation that will significantly increase transit, highway and safety program commitments to cities, and provide six years of funding certainty in the transportation reauthorization that is set to expire on July 31.

The group of mayors, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and many other Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, noted that current federal commitments are insufficient to maintain, much less enhance, our nation’s transportation network. Public transit maintenance needs exceed $86 billion and the highway and bridge repair backlog is an estimated $808 billion. Since 2009, federal surface transportation commitments have remained stagnant.

In New York City, these vital funds are used to support road and bridge repairs, safety improvements, MTA subway and bus maintenance and improvements, bus rapid transit routes, the Staten Island Ferry system, and more. These investments are sorely needed: in New York City, over 160 bridges were built over a century ago; in New York State, 60 percent of roads are considered in poor or mediocre condition; and the subway signal system is largely over 50 years old.

The federal government’s failure to invest would mean our infrastructure continues to lag behind, while new projects remain stalled.

The full letter is available here.

De Blasio Administration Announces Proposal to Make New York City Schools Safer With Fewer Student Arrests, Suspensions, and Summonses

City leaders, educators, and community stakeholders presented the de Blasio Administration with recommendations to promote school safety while also reducing student arrests, suspensions, and summonses. These ten proposals, developed by the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline, aim to improve the environment at schools with high rates of arrests, summonses and suspensions; reduce racial and special education disparities in discipline; and incentivize schools to adopt discipline policies that support students’ long-term success.

The Mayor, Chancellor of the Department of Education Carmen Fariña, and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have committed to reviewing these recommendations and announcing an implementation timeline for those that will be adopted before the school year begins in the fall. The Leadership Team will continue to meet over the next six months to track implementation and develop additional recommendations.

After a 63 percent increase in school suspensions between 2000 and 2010, the de Blasio administration has made a concerted effort to both promote school safety and reduce overly punitive school discipline. This effort has worked: citywide, schools are becoming safer and suspensions are declining.

Despite this success, a high number of suspensions and arrests are concentrated in a small number of schools and disproportionately impact students with special education needs and students of color.

The strategy calls for both system-wide improvements to continue positive citywide trends, as well as concentrated resources to reduce disparities and better support high-need schools and students. Recommendations include:

Mayor de Blasio Announces Department of Transportation Commencing Work on $100 Million Vision Zero Overhaul of Queens Boulevard

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that shovels are hitting the ground on a $100 million Vision Zero project to redesign Queens Boulevard as a safe, livable corridor that will protect residents, connect neighborhoods and improve the borough’s quality of life. In its first year of operation, Vision Zero resulted in the safest for pedestrians since record-keeping began in 1910, and 2015 is shaping up to be even safer.

The project, unanimously approved by the local community board, dramatically designs one of the city’s most dangerous streets, bringing safer crossings and more crosswalks for pedestrians, protected bicycle lanes, expanded medians with trees and plantings, and reconfigured intersections that deter speeding and other dangerous behavior.

Since 1990, 185 New Yorkers have lost their lives on Queens Boulevard, most of them pedestrians. The first phase of the project will target 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd   Street in Woodside. Between just 2009 and 2013, six people were killed on this stretch of roadway, 36 suffered severe injuries and 591 more were hurt in crashes. The improvements will be installed through October, followed by the project’s extension further east in 2016.

When implemented, the project will significantly improve safety on the corridor. The new design will route through-traffic on the main line roadway and reduce motorists’ switching repeatedly between the main line and service road via “slip lanes.” The plan eliminates highway-like design features that encourage speeding, and completes the pedestrian network by connecting neighborhoods with new crossings. The DOT will implement the following improvements:

To read a full transcript on the Mayor’s remarks, please click here.

De Blasio Administration, Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and Department for Youth & Community Development Announce Doubled Summer Internship Opportunities for City Youth in “Ladders For Leaders” Program

Just two months after launching the Center for Youth Employment to advance workforce readiness for New York City youth, Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the Department of Youth & Community Development announced that the City has more than doubled the number of positions available through this summer’s Ladders for Leaders program. The highly competitive program provides paid, professional internships to New York City youth between the ages of 16 to 21 who are enrolled in school.

Launched in 2006 at the urging of top business figures, Ladders for Leaders places New York City students into professional summer internships citywide. This year, the program will offer high-quality internship experiences to 1,018 participants across the city, up from 475 in 2014 – surpassing the initial goal of at least 1,000 internship positions this summer. This achievement was made possible due to a sustained call to action from the Mayor, the Mayor’s Fund, DYCD leadership, and private sector partners and the more than $2.2 million in financial support from private employers.

This year’s program is especially rich in internships available in the tech sector. Through first-time partnerships with companies like AOL and Pandora, the City has created 203 positions for students in New York City’s growing tech industry, up from just 44 slots last year. In total, Ladders for Leaders will place participants with 185 public and private employers in 16 industries, including financial services, hospitality, media, legal services, educational services, the nonprofit sector, health care, child care, government, business, construction and real estate, retail, marketing and energy.

De Blasio Administration Announces Record-Breaking 4,100 Certified M/WBEs in Last Fiscal Year

The de Blasio administration announced that the City has reached more than 4,100 certified Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) in Fiscal Year 2015 – a record-breaking number that surpasses the previous program high of 3,783 certified M/WBEs in FY14. Roughly 1,500 of those – more than one-third – have been certified since the start of the de Blasio Administration.

Increasing the number and capacity of certified M/WBE firms has been a top priority of the de Blasio administration, resulting in the largest number of certified M/WBEs in the City’s history and underscoring the administration’s commitment to increasing the total City awards to M/WBE firms by a minimum of $16 billion over the next ten years. Certified M/WBE firms have access to programs and services to help them bid on and win public and private sector contracts.

“We have set an ambitious goal to ensure our City’s procurement reflects the great diversity of business owners in NYC, and we are using every tool we have to increase City contracts going to Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This record-breaking milestone is critical to our efforts to create more opportunities for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises to compete for City contracts, and we will continue to work directly with businesses to provide resources to help them succeed and compete for larger contracts.”

Mayor de Blasio Appoints Benita Miller as Executive Director of The New York City Children’s Cabinet

Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Benita Miller as Executive Director of the New York City Children’s Cabinet, an initiative driving cross-agency policy to support children’s health and wellbeing.

In her role as Executive Director, Benita Miller will manage the planning and management of the NYC Children’s Cabinet’s operations, with a focus on prioritizing policies and regulations that agencies will jointly review and revise in order to create an alignment that benefits the city’s children. The NYC Children’s Cabinet will continue to be a space for leaders of City agencies to identify and analyze individual and common areas of work that impact children safety and create an action plan to become child-safety focused.

Most recently, First Lady Chirlane McCray and the NYC Children’s Cabinet launched “Love Is,” an original hardboard baby book published by Scholastic, Inc. to encourage early childhood language development as part of the Talk to Your Baby campaign.

About Benita Miller
Benita Miller formerly served as Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Family Permanency Services in the Administration for Children’s Services, where she led initiatives and operations related to ensuring the safety, wellbeing and permanency of all children receiving foster care services as well as caseload reductions and trauma assessment tools in family foster care. Miller developed the Housing Academy Collaborative to better prepare youth transitioning from foster care to supportive housing and NYCHA residences. She also strengthened services being provided to expectant and parenting youth and secured support from the Center for the Study of Social Policy to develop policies and programming for young fathers who are in foster care.

Mayor de Blasio Appoints Two New Members to the Child Fatality Review Advisory Team

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the appointment of two new members to the Child Fatality Review Advisory Team, pediatrician Steven Ajl, MD, and advocate for child-related issues Donna Lawrence.

As members of the Child Fatality Review Advisory Team, these appointees will be charged with reviewing aggregate data on child fatalities and identifying trends and risk factors for injury-related deaths among children in New York City.

The advisory group, formed in 2005, was established to conduct a comprehensive, multiagency and multidisciplinary review of all child deaths in New York City, including motor vehicle and traffic accidents, residential fires, fatal unintentional injuries sustained in the home, and the socioeconomic conditions, housing quality, and racial disparities in injury-related child deaths. Members of the Advisory Team highlight trends and patterns regarding child fatalities, and make recommendations and help create policies for expanding the City’s child safety efforts.

The Advisory Team meets at least four times per year and is comprised of 11 members, including 6 ex-officio members, or their designees: Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services, Commissioner of the New York Police Department, the City’s Chief Medical Examiner, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, and Chancellor of the Department of Education. The Public Advocate appoints one member, and the Mayor and the Speaker each appoint two members, one pediatrician and one advocate for child-related issues, to the Advisory Team to serve two-year terms.

Steven Ajl
Stephen Ajl is a pediatrician with more than 30 years of experience and expertise in child abuse. He is the Director of Pediatric Ambulatory Care and Chairman of the Child Abuse Committee at the Brooklyn Hospital Center. He is also the Medical Director of two Child Advocacy Centers – The Jane Barker Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center and The Staten Island Child Advocacy Center. He has been certified by The American Board of Pediatrics in General Pediatrics and has a sub-specialty board in Child Abuse Pediatrics. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the subcommittee on Child Abuse and Neglect. He is also a member of the New York Professional Society on Abuse and Neglect. He received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Temple University School of Medicine. He worked in Pediatric Residency at New York Hospital-Cornell University School of Medicine.

Donna Lawrence
Donna Lawrence is a dedicated children’s rights advocate, most recently serving as President and CEO of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation. Previously, she served for 12 years as Director of the Children’s Defense Fund of New York, and worked as Director of the Mayor’s Office for Children and Families under Mayor David N. Dinkins. She has also served as an appointed member of numerous task forces related to child services, including the New York State Task Force on Juvenile Justice and the New York City Child Fatality Review Committee. Lawrence received a Bachelor’s in social work from Cornell University, and a Master’s from Columbia University.

Mayor de Blasio Appoints Jonathan Soto as Senior Community Liaison in Community Affairs Unit

Mayor de Blasio appointed Jonathan Soto as a Senior Community Liaison in the Community Affairs Unit. In this role, Soto will assist City Hall on issues related to faith communities and the newly formed Clergy Advisory Council, helping the Council in its outreach and community engagement work and fostering relationships with communities of faith across New York City.

In his role as ­­­­Senior Community Liaison, Soto will bring organizing and advocacy experience to strengthen the Clergy Advisory Council’s mission of engaging communities of faith in the formation of City policy and administration of City services. The Clergy Advisory Council, comprised of a diverse set of local faith leaders from all five boroughs, was created last month to open a direct line of communication between religious leaders and City Hall. Soto will help facilitate the Council’s community engagement, work to grow participation in City initiatives, and expand communication between government and faith communities.

Jonathan Soto
Jonathan Soto is an experienced activist and leader committed to inclusivity and progress for communities throughout New York City, and particularly communities of faith. He has served as Borough Director for the Bronx Long Term Recovery Group, dedicated to physical and economic rehabilitation of communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, and partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Soto has also served as Policy Director for the Bronx Clergy Roundtable, where he helped communities of faith with various organizing efforts and youth mentoring programs. Soto is a graduate of Fordham University and will receive his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School in 2016.

Citywide and Borough Electeds:

Council Reaches Agreement on Studying For-Hire Vehicle Growth

For-Hire Vehicle Growth Study
After years of remaining relatively flat, the number of licensed for-hire vehicles—a category including liveries, black cars, and luxury limousines—jumped from 37,782 in 2010 to nearly 63,000 as of June 2015. The demand for new licenses continues to rise, with TLC issuing approximately 2,000 new licenses each month so far this year, resulting in a net of over 1,200 new cars on the road.

The Council will vote on Introduction 847-A, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, requiring a study on how growth in the taxi and for-hire vehicle industries has impacted traffic, air quality, noise, and public health. In order to conduct a thorough review of the impact of for-hire vehicles, the Council reached an agreement with Uber to provide information and data for a study to be completed by December 1, 2015.

Additionally, the Council and the Administration—with the participation of Uber—will begin a broader conversation on a number of issues facing the taxicab and for-hire vehicle industries, including accessibility, driver earnings, how surcharges and taxes levied on taxicabs and for-hire vehicles support the MTA and transportation infrastructure, and consumer protections.

Adult Protective Services
Adult Protective Services (APS) is a division of the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA), that provides social services to adult New Yorkers, regardless of income who meet the following criteria:
• Are mentally and/or physically impaired
• Due to these impairments, are unable to manage their own resources, carry out the activities of daily living, or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, exploitation or other hazardous situations without assistance from others
• Do not have anyone willing and able to responsibly provide them with assistance.

Introduction 89-A, co-sponsored by Council Member Steve Levin at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, would require HRA to prepare semiannual reports which would be submitted to the Council and posted on HRA’s website regarding referrals to APS. The bill would require the reports to include the total number of referrals received, the number of referred individuals who were determined ineligible for services, disaggregated by the reason such individuals were determined ineligible, a general description of the source of the referrals, and the council district, community board, and zip code of the referred individuals. The bill would require the first report to cover the period of July 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015. The bill would take effect immediately and would expire and be deemed repealed on January 1, 2023.

Additionally, Introduction 830-A, co-sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Paul Vallone, would require HRA to conduct biannual trainings for appropriate employees of several agencies on best practices in identifying potential APS clients and how to refer such individuals to APS. Many individuals who could potentially be eligible for APS may go unidentified, and agency employees interacting with such individuals may be unaware of how to refer them to APS. This legislation would provide greater awareness to employees of agencies who frequently interact with the public.

Communications Resiliency
Introduction 425-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Treyger, tasks the New York City Climate Change Adaptation Task Force with evaluating the possible effect of climate change on telecommunications infrastructure. The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications would be included as a member of the task force and representatives from the telecommunications industry would be included among the public members of the task force. The task force’s report would also be required to include short and long-term recommendations for improving the resiliency of existing public and private telecommunications infrastructure. The bill also requires that outreach be conducted to telecommunication service providers, including all those with a franchise agreement with the City, to request their cooperation in obtaining needed information. If any providers declined to cooperate, the bill requires that to be noted in the report.

Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance in City Parks
Introduction 558-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, would require the Parks Department (DPR) to issue a report to the Mayor and Council that would provide an annual accounting of which facilities under its jurisdiction were assessed for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards for accessible design. The report would detail whether each assessment was done during the course of regular construction work or as the result of a complaint, as well as what work was done and what work will be done to bring such facilities into compliance during the calendar year when the report is issued. It would also include an updated list of DPR facilities that are specifically designed for use by disabled persons.

Speaker Mark-Viverito and NYC Council: Unaccompanied Minors Representation Crisis Ended in NYC

One year after calling for New York City to step up and “respond to the humanitarian crisis we have before us,” Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced that the New York City Council Unaccompanied Minors Initiative is successfully providing attorneys for every minor who arrives in New York City. To date, the Initiative has taken on 648 cases directly, screened over 1,600 immigrants and won 14 asylum cases ensures that every child who makes it to New York City has access to an attorney.  The Unaccompanied Minors Initiative is a public-private partnership between the New York City Council, which provided $1 million in Fiscal Year 2015,  and the Robin Hood Foundation and the New York Community Trust who together contributed $900,000. In Fiscal Year 2016, the City Council allocated an additional $1.5 million for the Initiative.

According to data from Transactional Records Access Clearing House, 91% of children in removal proceedings without a lawyer are deported. However, only 22% of children with lawyers during proceedings are deported. Overall, it is estimated that two of every three children are eligible for either Special Immigrant Juvenile Status or asylum. Through the City Council’s Unaccompanied Minors Initiative, all children who make their way to New York City have free access to legal representation and justice.

Legal and social services for the Unaccompanied Minors Initiative are provided by Catholic Charities Community Service of the Archdiocese of New York (CCCS), The Door, Legal Aid, Make the Road, Central American Legal Assistance (CALA), Kids in Need of Defense, Atlas: DIY and the Safe Passage Project at New York Law School.  In total, the Initiative has helped fund training and mentoring for more than 5,000 attorneys and student volunteers over 60 training sessions.

Comptroller Stringer: Public Pension Leaders Call on Sec to Strengthen Disclosure of Private Equity Expenses to Limited Partners

A coalition of State and City Treasurers and Comptrollers sent a letter on Tuesday to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairwoman Mary Jo White asking the Commission to adopt new rules requiring greater transparency from private equity managers when disclosing fees and expenses to limited partners.

The bipartisan group, which represents 13 public pension funds overseeing approximately $1 trillion in assets, asked the SEC to require the clear and consistent disclosure of fees and expenses which are often hidden in complicated, and even opaque, reporting systems. The letter also requested that the SEC require private equity firms to disclose information relating to fees and expenses quarterly, rather than on an annual basis, and called for an industry-wide standard for reporting.

The letter notes that, of the four types of private equity firm expenses, only one – directly billed management fees – is regularly provided to investors. The other three – fund expenses, allocated incentive fees and portfolio-company charges – are often reported deep in annual financial statements, and only on an annual basis.

The coalition’s goal is to compel private equity firms to provide consistent and comparable fee disclosures. Every stakeholder, from the SEC to institutional investors and those who set accounting standards, must play a constructive role in helping public pension funds meet their fiduciary obligations.  However, the SEC is in the best position to take common-sense steps to standardize how fees are determined and disclosed.

Bronx Borough President Diaz Allocates Over $34 Million to Bronx Organizations

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has announced that his office is providing more than $34 million in capital funds to organizations all over the borough through his FY2016 capital funding allocations.

This year, Borough President Diaz will allocate $34,450,000 to 108 total projects. This includes funding for nearly 70 education projects across the borough, park upgrades, the redesign and redevelopment of a portion of the Grand Concourse as well as the creation of over 2,300 units of new housing, among other projects. Since taking office in 2009, Borough President Diaz has funded a total of 480 projects for $166,480,000.

This year, Borough President Diaz’s largest allocations went to housing, $11.2 million, representing 32.7 percent of his total capital budget. These funds will support the creation of 2,331 new units of housing of all types across sixteen projects, keeping in line with Borough President Diaz’s commitment to keep the borough’s housing stock diverse and affordable.

Borough President Diaz is also providing more than $10.6 million, or 30.8 percent of his entire capital budget, to 67 school projects across the borough. This money, which represents the second highest percentage of this year’s capital allocations, will go towards technology upgrades and other physical plant improvements in public schools across The Bronx.

Several notable projects Borough President Diaz is funding this year include $1 million towards the next phase of the renovation of the Grand Concourse, over $1 million towards renovations at both Lehman College and Bronx Community College, $500,000 towards a new building for the Pregones Theater, and $150,000 towards a dog run on Pelham Parkway.

The full list of projects can be found here.

Manhattan Borough President Brewer announces Sept. 10 public hearing on Manhattan traffic congestion

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer announced a public hearing on Manhattan traffic congestion, its causes, and potential solutions.

Brewer issued the following statement:

“Uber and for-hire vehicles are only one piece of a larger congestion puzzle, and we need to have a broader conversation on congestion causes and solutions in Manhattan. That’s why I am convening a public hearing, as authorized by the City Charter, to fully explore this issue.

“According to the Taxi & Limousine Commission, the number of for-hire vehicles on our streets has spiked by 63 percent since 2011, and right now we are adding vehicles at a rate of 2,000 per month. These increases, driven by Uber and other e-hail services, may be exacerbating Manhattan’s traffic problems.

“But we need to get the full picture of all sources of traffic increases, and holistic solutions to the gridlock that afflicts Manhattan. That conversation needs to include congestion pricing options, East River tolls, and significantly more investment in the MTA from every level of government. This public hearing will enable New Yorkers to get the full picture from a broad range of experts and interested parties.”

City Agencies:

NYC Schools Survey Results Show High Overall Satisfaction, Improved Pathways to College

Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced the results of the ninth annual NYC School Survey, which revealed high levels of student, parent, and teacher satisfaction with our schools. The survey was completed by 951,424 students, parents, and teachers between January and April 2015, and is a critical piece of the Chancellor’s continuing commitment to engaging school communities and collaborating with parents, students, and teachers to improve achievement across our schools.

The results suggest high overall satisfaction with the City’s schools, as 95 percent of parents report satisfaction with their child’s education. The results also reveal significant improvements in schools’ work preparing students for the future, with more parents responding that their child’s school is preparing them for college and careers and more students identifying a school staff member who is guiding them towards postsecondary options. Teachers are more satisfied with the quality of their Common Core-aligned professional development – for the first time this school year, all teachers across the City had 80 minutes of professional development time every week – and have seen general improvement in their schools: 87 percent of teachers would recommend their school to parents, up from 81 percent in 2014.

The 2015 NYC School Survey is the first survey aligned to the DOE’s research-based Framework for Great Schools that provides the Strong Schools, Strong Communities support structure and measures school capacity across its six critical elements: rigorous instruction, supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family-community ties, and trust. By aligning questions to these critical elements – and including results in the upcoming 2014-15 School Quality Reports – the improved survey provides a clear picture of each school’s strengths and helps school leaders and school communities identify and address areas for improvement. The survey results suggest high overall parent, student, and teacher satisfaction across all six Framework elements. Over 90 percent of parents highlighted their school’s strong family-community ties, responding that the principal and staff worked hard to engage them and create a sense of community.

According to survey results, parent and teacher satisfaction with the Schools Chancellor and the Panel for Educational Policy both increased significantly this year. Parent satisfaction with the Schools Chancellor and Panel are at 75 and 76 percent respectively, up from 71 percent and 73 percent in 2014. In Chancellor Fariña’s first full school year, teacher satisfaction with her nearly doubled to 60 percent from 31 percent. Teacher satisfaction with the Panel jumped from 28 percent to 49 percent. The results of this year’s NYC School Survey, designed in partnership with NYU’s Research Alliance for New York City Schools, also showed that students feel significantly safer in their classrooms and school buildings.

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