This Week in New York City Government
Mayor de Blasio Announces Tentative Contract Agreement with Sergeants Benevolent Association
Mayor de Blasio announced that the City of New York has reached a tentative contract agreement with the Sergeants Benevolent Association, which covers 4,602 full-time sergeants of the NYPD.
With this agreement, the de Blasio administration has reached contract agreements with more than 76 percent of the City workforce—including four out of five police unions—and eight uniformed unions have are now ratified.
This agreement is pattern-conforming with the Uniformed Superior Officers Coalition agreement negotiated in December 2014. The agreement also incorporates the unprecedented health care savings agreed upon with the Municipal Labor Committee, ensuring that these raises are affordable and responsible for the City and its taxpayers.
Mayor de Blasio Announces Tentative Contract Agreement With Committee of Interns and Residents
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the City of New York has reached a tentative contract agreement with the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare, which covers 2,039 medical and dental residents training at Health and Hospitals Corporation facilities.
To date, the de Blasio administration has reached contract agreements with nearly 75 percent of the City workforce that had previously been working under expired contracts.
The agreement is consistent with the established civilian pattern and requires no new funding over previous budgetary projections. The proposed seven-year, four-month contract would begin, retroactively, on October 26, 2010 and expire on February 25, 2018.
The agreement includes additional benefits that are fully funded out of the pattern cost and four-month contract extension, a new childcare benefit, investments in the Patient Care Trust Fund, and one-time bonuses.
The agreement also includes the unprecedented health care savings agreed upon with the Municipal Labor Committee, ensuring that these raises are affordable and responsible for the City and its taxpayers.
First Lady Chirlane McCray Discusses the Challenges of Finding Effective Mental Health Services and the Intersection of Mental Health and Criminal Justice
First Lady Chirlane McCray speaks out about her plan to shatter the stigma of mental illness and create a more inclusive treatment system that works for all New Yorkers.
“The first step to solving the crisis is to simply acknowledge that it exists,” writes First Lady Chirlane McCray. “We must start a real public conversation about mental illness, and we must start connecting people to appropriate services. That is how we will shatter the stigma.”
The First Lady writes honestly about the difficult process of connecting her daughter, Chiara, to high-quality resources:
“Our search had begun … when Chiara, then 18 years old, bravely revealed to Bill and me that she was suffering from anxiety, depression and addiction. I felt everything you’d expect a mother to feel: love, sadness, fear and a great deal of uncertainty. Our child was in terrible pain, but because it originated in her brain and not another part of her body, there wasn’t an established series of steps to follow.”
Inspired by her own challenges, the First Lady has made a commitment to making sure all New Yorkers can access the services they need to regain their mental equilibrium.
Over the next few months, the First Lady will visit New Yorkers in all five boroughs to hear some of the stories of people with firsthand experience of the current system. She will meet with teenagers, mothers, people without a home, people in jail, senior citizens and veterans. She will also sit down with service providers and advocates.
Citywide and Borough Electeds:
Comptroller Stringer Announces Retirement Security Study Group
New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer announced the launch of the New York City Retirement Security Study Group (NYC RSSG), a panel comprised of national academic leaders with broad expertise in all aspects of retirement security. The group is charged with developing innovative and affordable savings options for the growing number of New Yorkers without access to retirement plans at work.
Comptroller Stringer first announced his plans to form the study group in June 2014 at a conference at The New School in New York City. With this initiative, New York becomes the first city in the nation to advance comprehensive retirement security solutions at the local level, in consultation with leading national experts.
Comptroller Stringer created the study group in response to mounting evidence of an imminent retirement security crisis that threatens the financial independence of many New Yorkers and will potentially create new demands on City-funded services in the coming years.
Comptroller Stringer Presents Analysis of New York City’s Preliminary Fiscal Year 2016 Budget
A first-of-its-kind analysis of capital commitments, higher revenue projections and a new comparison of pension and salary cost trends highlighted an analysis of the City’s Preliminary Fiscal Year 2016 budget presented by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.
The Comptroller’s analysis projects $1 billion more tax revenue in FY15 and FY16 and nearly $3.5 billion more in the out years of the Financial Plan. The higher projected revenue produces funds in FY15 and FY16 nearly sufficient to close the remaining out-year gaps through 2019, an unprecedented budget position for New York City.
Stringer also found that a decrease in the rate of growth of pension contributions since FY13 effectively offsets more than half of the increased costs of wage and salaries after the recent negotiated labor settlements. From FY09-FY13, the average growth of salary costs was $120 million compared to $447 million for pensions. However, from FY13-FY19: salaries are projected to rise by $867 million annually, while pension costs are projected to rise by $67 million per year – the inverse pattern of FY09-FY13.
As an accompaniment to his budget analysis, Comptroller Stringer unveiled a new report and searchable online database (.xls) which provides the most complete picture to date of actual capital commitments as compared to planned capital commitments at 25 City agencies, spanning 40 project types and encompassing more than 1,600 budget lines.
Comptroller Stringer Finds Widespread Language Barriers In Housing Courts For Non-English Speaking New Yorkers
Tenants with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) face a myriad of hurdles in housing courts in all five boroughs, including long waits for interpreters and inadequate multi-lingual signage and literature, according to a review of language access issues in our City’s courts system in all five boroughs by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.
Recently, Comptroller Stringer toured Bronx Housing Court with Community Action for Safe Apartments Bronx to see first-hand the issues confronting litigants. More than 1.8 million New Yorkers are Limited English Proficiency and face significant hurdles in accessing services in the court system. Following the tour, the Comptroller’s office visited housing courts in all five boroughs to assess how each location provides language services.
Comptroller Stringer released a letter calling upon Chief Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti, who oversees the administration and operation of the New York State’s Unified Court System, to address several identified problems, including:
- Ensuring that proper interpretation services are in place to guide litigants, as outlined in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Advocates informed the Comptroller’s Office that wait times for interpreters can extend for many hours, or force postponements to other days. As a result, litigants are often pressed by landlord attorneys to negotiate outside courtrooms without the benefit of an interpreter in order to avoid spending more time in court;
- Limited services and resources provided at Help Centers at all courthouses. The information and guidance provided at these desks, and at those run by non-profit organizations, is often the main navigation tool to the courts for many individuals; and
- Inadequate multi-lingual literature and signage and inconsistent displaying of “We Speak Your Language” posters which direct litigants to services in the courthouse. For example:
- Brooklyn’s housing court featured poorly marked signs leading to interpreters on the second floor;
- In Queens, only the “We Speak Your Language” was prominently displayed while other signs were not translated;
- In Manhattan, the first sign a litigant sees upon entrance is in English only; and
- In the Bronx, many signs that would be extremely useful for LEP litigants appear in English only, including the Housing Court Directory and directions regarding how to check in with the court clerk.
City Council to Vote on Reforms to Veterans Advisory Board
City Council will vote on a package of bills reforming the Veterans Advisory Board and providing greater transparency on programs serving veterans in New York City. Additional, the Council will vote on legislation requiring city agencies to produce annual reports on worker cooperatives in New York City. The Council will also vote legislation amending the administrative code in relation to the removal of downed trees.
The Veterans Advisory Board advises the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) and serves as a liaison between the veterans’ community and city government. However, many veterans have expressed concern about the Board’s lack of transparency and accountability to the community, including insufficient knowledge as to the Board’s activities and an inability to participate in Board meetings. The Council will vote on two bills to reform the board, making it more accountable, more accessible, and more reflective of the veterans’ community.
Introduction 611-A, sponsored by Council Member Mathieu Eugene, would expand the membership of the Board from nine members to eleven members, providing both the Mayor and the Council Speaker with one additional appointee to ensure broad representation from across the veterans’ community. Additionally, it would increase the Board’s accessibility to veterans and their families by requiring each Board member to create an electronic mail address devoted to Board-related business that MOVA will be required to post publicly on its website.
This legislation would take effect thirty days after enactment into law.
Manhattan Borough President Brewer: More Than 700 New Yorkers Apply for Seats on Manhattan Community Boards
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer announced that 722 New Yorkers have applied for membership on Manhattan’s 12 community boards in the 2015 appointment round, a 21 percent increase over 2014. Of these applications, 470 were from new applicants, a 43 percent increase over 2014.
The Borough President’s office announced that the 2015 applicant pool achieved a marked increase in diversity across multiple categories. The number of applicants self-identifying as African-American or black increased by nearly 80 percent, while the number self-identifying as Latino or Hispanic more than doubled. LGBT applicants also nearly doubled, as did the number of public housing residents applying. The Borough President’s office also began monitoring several new demographic categories of interest for comparison in future years, such as applicants who are parents of school-age children.
In the first full appointment cycle following passage of the new law, the Manhattan Borough President’s office received 25 applications from 16- and 17-year olds, and 35 applications from teens overall. This tally followed an outreach effort that included recruitment and information sessions for interested teens, as well as a Facebook ad campaign targeted to teens borough-wide.
Bronx Borough President Diaz Releases Annual Development Report
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has issued his annual development report, highlighting the total development seen in The Bronx since he first took office in 2009.
The report notes that, in total, The Bronx has seen more than $7.212 billion in total development in all categories since 2009, when Borough President Diaz first took office. In 2014 alone, The Bronx saw over $1.13 billion in new development.
The report follows last week’s “State of the Borough” address, in which Borough President Diaz outlined his continued vision for the ongoing growth of the borough’s economy.
To read the complete report, click here.
Bronx Borough President Diaz: Rename Bronx Post Office for Herman Badillo
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has issued a letter to the United States Congress proposing that the United States Post Office’s Morrisania branch, located at 442 East 167th Street, Bronx, NY, 10456, be renamed in honor of former U.S. Congressman and Bronx Borough President Herman Badillo, who passed away last year.
“Congressman Herman Badillo was a trailblazer in government,” said Bronx Borough President Diaz. “He was an early advocate for bilingual education programs in the country as well as a crusader for worker’s rights during his tenure in Congress. I am proud to have gotten to know him and call him my dear friend.”
Borough President Diaz first mentioned the proposal in his annual “State of the Borough” address last week.
Herman Badillo was the first Latino to be appointed as a Commissioner of New York City, the first Latino to be elected to serve as a Borough President in New York City, the first Latino to be a Deputy Mayor for any New York City Mayor, the first Puerto Rican to serve as the Chairman of the City University of New York and the first Puerto Rican to be elected to the United States Congress as a voting member.
Queens Borough President Katz Hosts Celebration of Black History
Borough President Melinda Katz hosted a celebration of Black History Month on Monday, February 23 in the Faculty Dining Room of York College, located at 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard in Jamaica.
“Black History Month gives us an opportunity to learn about and reflect upon the many achievements African Americans have made in a diverse array of important fields, including science and technology, arts and culture and politics and government” Borough President Katz said. “The celebration of Black History Month helps ensure that these achievements are appropriately recognized and celebrated and reminds us all about the importance of respecting people of all races and ethnicities, because all of us have dignity as human beings and deserve the right to be able to pursue our dreams and contribute to society to the best of our abilities.”
Several distinguished African Americans were presented with Citations of Honor during the event, including Ramon Cameron of Project Hope – New Direction, Karen Clements of Clements Communications Inc., Diamond Craig of Purposely Pretty, Andrew Jackson of the Langston Hughes Library, Dr. Selena Rodgers of York College and artist and teacher Charles Tilly.
Brooklyn Borough President Adams Unveils “Access-Friendly NYC” Initiative with Aging and Disabled Advocates to Advance Public Building Accessibility
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams joined advocates from the aging and disabled communities to unveil Access-Friendly NYC, a new initiative to promote a set of guidelines that would advance accessibility of public buildings beyond compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The effort focuses on how Brooklyn and New York City can lead the way in making improvements to physical, visual, auditory and social access for all of its residents; 12 percent of the borough’s population is over the age of 65, while almost 10 percent have reported having some form of disability. Borough President Adams praised the new initiative, launched after he conducted a walkthrough of Brooklyn Borough Hall on Wednesday with several dozen advocates and City officials, including representatives from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), Department for the Aging (DFTA), Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities (MOPD), and New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR), which took part in Wednesday’s walkthrough to learn how the building can enhance its accessibility.
Following the walkthrough, Borough President Adams praised DCAS for their expeditious response to some of the suggested improvements from better accessibility in Brooklyn Borough Hall; changes made include the removal of decorative metal gates, deemed hazardous from some with visual impairments, as well as the addition of a second grab bar in the accessible stall of the ground floor bathroom.
Chancellor Fariña Appoints Milady Baez as Deputy Chancellor for English Language Learners
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced the appointment of Milady Baez as Deputy Chancellor of the Department of English Language Learners and Student Support (DELLSS), which serves approximately 140,000 students across the five boroughs. Baez, who was named Senior Executive Director of the new department in August, will continue to spearhead New York City’s efforts to streamline services and resources that support the needs of the English Language Learner (ELL) student population.
Consistent with the Chancellor’s Framework for Great Schools which focuses on teacher training and rigorous instruction as core components of improving student achievement, Baez is expanding professional development opportunities across New York City to support educators in deepening their understanding of second-language acquisition and leading the expansion of bilingual programs.
Under Baez’s leadership, DELLSS will fulfill a renewed commitment to better serve linguistic learners and promote equity by providing the following opportunities and access to resources and educational programs:
• Expanding parent choice with the creation of new Dual Language and Transitional Bilingual Education programs to support ELLs in gaining language proficiency in English and their native language
• Providing borough-wide parent workshops on Dual Language, Transitional Bilingual Education, and English as a Second Language programs to promote family and community engagement
• Increasing the number of Common Core-aligned professional development opportunities for principals, teachers and staff to deepen their understanding of second-language acquisition and literacy development
• Hiring instructional coaches to support school-based staff
HPD Releases Initial Findings of 2014 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Vicki Been announces the initial results of the 2014 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey (HVS). The survey, conducted every three years, is required by State and City rent-regulation laws to determine New York City’s overall vacancy rate for rental housing. Initial findings show that while the City’s housing stock continues to increase, more than half of the renters are experiencing some level of rent-burden, and that vacancy rates are the tightest for units at the lowest rents.
The survey’s initial findings reveal that the City’s total housing stock rose to more than 3.4 million units, the largest housing stock for New York City since the start of the Housing and Vacancy Survey (HVS) in 1965. This reflects the overall strength of New York City, which continues to thrive economically and attract people from all around the world. However, the population growth that accompanies this sustained progress continues to outpace housing production, resulting in a citywide net estimated rental vacancy rate of 3.45 percent. This is below the five percent legal benchmark that triggers the declaration of a “housing emergency,” which is necessary for the continuation of rent regulation protections for New York City residents.
The survey also confirms that fifty-six percent of New York City renters are rent-burdened, meaning that they pay more than one third of their income on rent and utilities. The median annual income in New York for households that rent was $41,500, but the median monthly rent, including utilities, was $1,325 – almost $300 more a month than the average family could afford to pay. In addition, about three in ten renter households in the City are severely rent-burdened – paying fifty percent or more of their household income for rent. This is especially troublesome given the extreme scarcity of vacant units available at low rents.