Mayor Bill de Blasio announced changes in the senior leadership of his administration. Senior Advisor Peter Ragone has resigned his post in the administration. Ragone has been a long-time friend, supporter and advisor to Mayor de Blasio, from his first campaign for school board through his historic run for Mayor and the successful first year of his administration. Mayor de Blasio also announced today that Press Secretary Phil Walzak will move to the position of Senior Advisor for Strategic Planning. Before serving as press secretary to Mayor de Blasio, Walzak served as communications director of his campaign for Mayor in 2013.
“Phil has been a trusted member of my team for years now, and I am very pleased to have him assume a new role in my administration. He possesses skills, talents and commitment to the people of New York that is unparalleled,” said Mayor de Blasio.
“Serving the people of New York City over the past year has been a profound and distinct honor, and I want to thank the Mayor for the privilege,” said Phil Walzak. “I am excited by the opportunity to build on the achievements of this administration to lift up more New Yorkers.”
The Mayor also announced today that Andrea Hagelgans has been named Communications Director for the Office of the Mayor. Andrea is currently the Director of the Agency Communications, where she oversees the public affairs communications strategies between the Mayor’s office and all the agencies in the administration.
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law Intro No. 620, in relation to the naming of 56 thoroughfares and public places, Intro No. 612-A, in relation to the sale of tax liens, Intro No. 571-A, in relation to the early intervention program, and Intro No. 126-A, in relation to requiring the reporting of environmental data regarding schools.
The first bill, Intro 620, co-names Ridgewood Avenue between Shepherd Avenue and Highland Place in Brooklyn “Detective Rafael Ramos Way,” and co-names West 6th Street between Avenue S and Avenue T in Brooklyn “Detective WenJian Liu Way.” The legislation also co-names 46 other streets and public places, and makes technical changes to eight co-namings that are already signed into law. The bill was approved by the City Council at the Stated Meeting on January 22, 2015.
In his second State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced affordable housing would be the next front in his administration’s fight to lift up families and confront economic inequality. With housing the most significant cost facing New York City families, the Mayor laid out a sweeping set of programs to build a new generation of affordable housing, protect New Yorkers facing displacement from rising rents and harassment, and put in place the groundwork for denser, economically diverse communities with affordable homes for New Yorkers of all means.
From targeted new programs for populations like veterans and seniors, to specific neighborhoods being studied for growth and rezoning, to new resources to protect tenants, the State of the City put into practice key elements of the Housing New York plan to build and preserve 200,000 affordable homes in the coming decade.
Highlights of those initiatives include:
Building the Next Generation of Affordable Housing
Six Neighborhoods Now Slated for Mandatory Affordable Housing Requirements
In the first six neighborhoods now being studied for more residential capacity—East New York (Brooklyn), Long Island City (Queens), Jerome Avenue Corridor (Bronx), Flushing West (Queens), and newly announced Bay Street Corridor (Staten Island) and East Harlem (Manhattan)—a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy will require all new housing built under rezoning to include affordable units. The first rezoning will enter the formal land use process this spring.
Bring More Affordable Housing and Better Infrastructure to the Southwest Bronx
The City will invest $200 million in affordable housing, new infrastructure and job creation initiatives to the Lower Concourse area of the Southwest Bronx, which will include the construction of a new public open space, roads, local infrastructure upgrades, and remediation to spur development of up to 4,000 units of affordable housing. The design phase of the program will launch in the coming fiscal year.
Seize the Opportunity for Affordable Housing and Stronger Communities at the Sunnyside Yards
The City will work with communities in Queens to develop a new vision for the Sunnyside Yards in-keeping with the area’s working- and middle-class DNA. Development of the yards’ 200 acres represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build thousands of new affordable homes, knit together neighborhoods and meet vital needs facing western Queens for new open space, transportation and schools. The City will engage local stakeholders, the MTA, Amtrak and private owners to launch a feasibility study this month to determine the costs and infrastructure needs required to redevelop the rail yards.
Protecting New Yorkers from Displacement and Homelessness
Free Legal Defense for Tenants in All Areas Undergoing Rezoning
A new $36 million commitment will provide free legal representation in housing court to all tenants in rezoned neighborhoods facing harassment, building neglect or eviction proceedings. Approximately 90 percent of tenants enter housing court without a lawyer. The new funding will triple the City’s investment in these free legal services for tenants. Coupled with City efforts to protect and strengthen rent regulation in Albany, the City will aggressively protect the existing affordable housing in changing neighborhoods.
End Homelessness Among Veterans
Through new programs, new outreach, and a new priority for veterans in specific housing programs, the City will end homelessness by the end of 2015 for the approximately 1,000 veterans living in shelters and on New York City streets.
Help Seniors Live Independently
With half of seniors “housing-burdened,” the City will create and preserve 10,000 units of senior housing, supported by a $400 million capital investment as well as Section 8 vouchers. The first projects, many under a new Senior Affordable Rental Apartments (SARA) program, will begin in 2015.
Keep New York City Affordable for Artists and Makers
To help low-income artists thrive in New York City, the Department of Cultural Affairs will invest $30 million in 1,500 affordable live/work spaces for artists in the coming decade, working with cultural partners, housing agencies and the philanthropic community. The City will also convert underutilized City-owned assets into 500 below-market artist workspaces, creating new cultural hubs for communities to share in performances and arts education.
Supporting Growth with Better Infrastructure
Launch a Five-Borough Ferry System
To make sure there is new transportation to accommodate growth, the City will launch a new Citywide Ferry Service that will knit together existing East River routes with new landings and services to Astoria, the Rockaways, South Brooklyn, Soundview and the Lower East Side. Pegged to the cost of a Metrocard, service will launch in 2017 and will be supported by City operating support and a $55 million capital commitment. Further expansion to Stapleton and Coney Island will constitute a second phase of expansion, pending additional funding.
Implement 13 New Bus Rapid Transit Routes
To connect growing neighborhoods and improve commutes for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, the City will develop and implement 13 new Bus Rapid Transit routes through 2017. Improved service, off-board fare collection, dedicated bus lanes and reduced travel times will speed commutes on Woodhaven Boulevard, Utica Avenue, Flushing-to-Jamaica, and 86th Street during the next immediate wave of expansion. The City will partner with the MTA, New York State, and US Department of Transportation to secure multi-level support for the Select Bus Service program, starting with a $295 million commitment from the City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the Digital.NYC Five-Borough Tour, a series of public events to directly introduce New Yorkers to Digital.NYC, a first-of-its-kind comprehensive hub for the city’s tech ecosystem. The Five-Borough Tour will help people across the city access the resources on Digital.NYC to help turn ideas into businesses, aid digital startups, and connect New Yorkers to opportunities and jobs in the city’s tech ecosystem.
Digital.NYC features a pioneering search portal and database with profiles of virtually every city-based tech company and investor, a continuously updated list of tech and digital job openings, a citywide tech event and class calendar, an interactive map of tech companies, an index of startup resources across the boroughs, and more. To date, more than 104,000 people have viewed over 570,000 pages on Digital.NYC, where they have engaged with over 50,000 pieces of content, including the latest job listings, startup profiles, and news. More information and an RSVP for each event may be found at http://www.digital.nyc/mediaroom. Tickets for individual events open two weeks in advance of each event.
Digital.NYC Five-Borough Tour event schedule:
Date: 6:30 PM, Wednesday, February 4
Location: XO Group, 195 Broadway, 24th Floor, New York, NY
In partnership with the Alliance for Downtown New York and LaunchLM
- Colin O’Donnell, Founding Partner, Control Group, LinkNYC
- David Rose, CEO, Gust.com, Digital.NYC
- Lori Anne Wardi, Ownit, .NYC
- Sandy Carter, GM Ecosystems and Social Business, IBM
- Kyle Kimball, President, NYCEDC
- Aaron Holiday, Managing Entrepreneurial Officer, Cornell Tech
- Matthew Flamm, Crain’s NY reporter (moderator)
Date: 6 PM, Wednesday, February 18
Location: Made in NY Media Center by IFP, 30 John Street, Brooklyn, NY
In partnership with Made in NY Media Center by IFP and Dumbo BID
- Anastasia Leng, Founder & CEO, Hatch
- Noah Rosenberg, Founder, Narratively
- Raul Gutierrez, Founder & CEO, TinyBop
- Charlie O’Donnell, CEO, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures
Date: 6:30 PM, Wednesday, February 25
Location: Bronx Academy for Software Engineering, 2474 Crotona Avenue, Bronx, NY
In partnership with The Bronx Academy for Software Engineering and Bronx Tech Meetup
- Pedro Torres Picón, Managing Director, Quotidian Ventures
- Majora Carter, CEO, Startup Box
- Kathryn Finney, Managing Director, DigitalUndivided
Date: 6:30 PM, Wednesday, March 25
Location: Coalition for Queens, 31-00 47th Avenue #1105, Long Island City, NY
In partnership with C4Q and Queens Tech Meetup
- Kristin Hodgson, Communications Director, Meetup (one-on-one session)
- Jukay Hsu, Founder, Coalition for Queens
Date: 6:30 PM, Thursday, April 2
Location: General Assembly, 902 Broadway, 4th Floor, New York, NY
In partnership with General Assembly and Flatiron BID
- Jake Schwartz, Co-Founder & CEO, General Assembly
- Hagos Mehreteab, Senior Director of Talent Acquisition, AppNexus
- Madison (“Maddy”) Maxie, Creative Technologist
- Kristen Titus, Founding Director, NYC Tech Talent Pipeline
Date: 6:30 PM, Wednesday, April 8
Location: Staten Island Makerspace, 450 Front Street, Unit B, Staten Island, NY (entrance on Thompson St)
In partnership with Staten Island Makerspace
- John Salis, CEO, SIABC
- Aileen Gemma Smith, CEO, Vizalytics
- Kevin Lawrie, Co-Founder & CTO, INBOX25
Date: 6 PM, Wednesday, April 22
Location: MIST, 46 West 116th Street, New York, NY
In partnership with Silicon Harlem
- Clayton Banks, Co-Founder, Silicon Harlem
- Ofo Ezeugwu, CEO & President, WhoseYourLandlord.com
- Sam Sia, Co-Founder, Harlem Biospace
Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon, and NYC & Company Board of Directors Chairman and President of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Emily K. Rafferty announced that New York City reached an all-time record 56.4 million visitors in 2014. These visitors generated a record $61.3 billion in overall economic impact, supporting 359,000 tourism related jobs and $21 billion in wages. The City’s hotel sector reached 102,000 hotel rooms last year, while selling a record 32.4 million total hotel room nights, an all-time high. The tourism industry also generated $3.7 billion in local tax revenues.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Julie Menin announced the largest public education and outreach tax credit campaign in the City’s history. Today is the first-ever Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day of Action, an extensive day of outreach where more than 2,000 volunteers are calling New Yorkers to encourage them to file their taxes for free and claim refund-boosting tax credits. As a service to eligible New Yorkers, the City will contact more than 270,000 New Yorkers through phone calls and automated calls. This year, the City is for the first time, funding the free tax preparation partners, which will allow for an expansion of the City’s network of sites to nearly 200 locations citywide, 60 more than last year, as well as increased staffing at partnering sites. The City has also launched a wide-reaching, targeted advertising and social media and texting campaign to reach eligible New Yorkers, including the estimated one in five households who are eligible for EITC but don’t claim it.
Citywide and Borough Electeds:
Expanding upon the release of the annual list of the 100 Worst Landlords in New York City, Public Advocate Letitia James recently announced the release of the 30 Worst Illegal Hotel Landlords. The new list exposes the city’s top 30 landlords who have been cited by the Department of Buildings for 423 illegal hotel violations totaling $796,000 in fines since 2011.
Illegal hotels operators use third-party websites to unlawfully convert residential units into more lucrative short-term rentals for transient visitors for fewer than 30 days in violation of state law. Illegal hotels exacerbate New York’s housing crisis by depleting an already scarce supply of affordable housing and pose a serious public safety threat as many of the illegally-rented apartments do not meet various building, fire, and safety code regulations.
Parents, elected and city officials together announced plans underway to permanently expand capacity that’s been long overdue at overcrowded P.S. 19Q in Corona, the largest elementary school in New York City. The plans include removing all six school Temporary Classroom Units (also known as “TCUs”, “transportables” or “trailers”) at P.S. 19Q and temporarily relocating 500 of its students to a nearby newly-constructed building until the completed construction of a new physical addition to P.S. 19Q.
Despite the overcrowding it has endured, P.S. 19Q is an “A Grade” school, and meets or exceeds all of its student performance targets according to the New York City Department of Education (DOE) 2013-2014 School Quality Guide. In addition, P.S. 19Q students are rated as having made excellent year-to-year progress on the statewide English and Math tests, according to the DOE 2013-2014 School Quality Snapshot.
The DOE and the New York City School Construction Authority have taken critical steps to combat overcrowding and improve existing school structures in the City. Of the School Construction Authority’s $13.5 billion 2015-2019 Capital Plan, $4.5 billion has been set aside for new school construction, which will include the new physical addition for P.S. 19Q. The Capital Plan will create around 33,000 seats to address overcrowding and enrollment growth, and also takes significant steps to address pre-K need and invest in school infrastructure to enhance educational opportunities for our children.