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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, December 18

New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Although there is a lot happening in New York this week, a great deal of attention will also be paid to Washington, D.C., where Congress may pass a tax reform bill that would have major ramifications for New Yorkers, including by raising the overall city, state, and federal tax burden for many.

Other than the action in D.C., there will be a lot happening on Monday and Tuesday at the City Council, which is set to pass a long list of bills in its final committee and full-body hearings of the four-year session. Monday is full of committee hearings where bills must first pass, while Tuesday will feature the final full Council meeting of this Council and the tenure of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, as well as several other members who are leaving the body, either by choice or because of term limits.

At the same time, the city is awaiting more developments in the race to replace Mark-Viverito as Speaker. The vote for the next Speaker will occur on January 3, the first meeting of the next Council class.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio will be in Iowa on Tuesday for a speech at Progress Iowa's annual holiday party. That appearance, which has created more buzz around de Blasio's national ambitions and consideration of a 2020 presidential campaign, will be sandwiched in between two more local town halls for the mayor, with City Council Members Elizabeth Crowley and Laurie Cumbo. Both have had tricky relationships with the mayor -- de Blasio is unpopular in Crowley’s Queens district and she was surprisingly and narrowly defeated in her reelection bid, possibly because de Blasio dragged her down; and de Blasio’s support for the redevelopment of the Bedford-Union Armory in Cumbo’s district made him a complicated player in her contentious reelection campaign, which she won with support from de Blasio's associates, but not publicly the mayor himself.

[Listen to our recent podcast discussion with Crowley, where she discussed the mayor and her reelection loss.]

[Read our look at the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment deal moving ahead and how it is emblematic of de Blasio’s larger, controversial approach to development.]

There's a lot happening the first few days of the week - see our day-by-day rundown below - before things quiet down ahead of the Christmas holiday.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

At 11 a.m. Monday, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will be at the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center in Manhattan to announce aid for residents displaced by Hurricane Maria.

At the City Council on Monday, there will be a very busy final day of committee hearings, before the final stated meeting of the four-year session on Tuesday. Most of the committee hearings will see bills passed so that they can then move through the full Council the next day.
--The Committee on Transportation will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to street safety and bollards.
--The Committee on Parks and Recreation will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to “cleaning park playground equipment after the spraying of pesticides.”
--The Committee on Finance will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “IBO’s evaluation of the Commercial Revitalization Program.”
--The Committee on Youth Services will meet at 10:30 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to access to homeless services for runaway and homeless youth.
--The Committee on Economic Development will meet at 10:30 a.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to the “creation of a subcontractor resource guide.”
--The Committee on Education will meet at 11 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to “requiring the Department of Education to report on students in temporary housing” and to “the collection of gender pronoun information.”
--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 11 a.m.
--The Committee on Civil Rights will meet at 11:30 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to requiring “covered entities to engage in a cooperative dialogue with persons who are or may be entitled to reasonable accommodations” and to amend the administrative code and city charter regarding human rights law.
--The Committee on Immigration will meet at noon to discuss a resolution “denouncing the termination of the DACA program and calling on the state and federal government to extend protections for undocumented youth by passing the New York State DREAM Act of 2017, as well as the federal DREAM Act of 2017.”
--The Committee on General Welfare will meet at noon to discuss several proposed laws regarding a wide range of issues, such as exits from domestic violence shelters, homeless services posting census data for shelters, and “education continuity,” among other things.
--The Committee on Cultural Affairs will meet at 12:45 p.m. to discuss a resolution “establishing January 30 annually as Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.” Korematsu was the plaintiff in a U.S. Supreme Court case challenging the legality of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
--The Committee on Cultural Affairs will also meet jointly with the Subcommittee on Libraries at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “library construction projects.”
--The Committee on Public Safety will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss the proposed Right to Know Act bills.
--The Committee on Aging will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to “establishing a temporary task force on post-incarceration reentry for older adults” and to “providing certain information to users of life-sustaining equipment and individuals for whom a disruption in electrical service would create a medical emergency.”
--The Committee on Small Business will meet at 2 p.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to “requiring the commissioners of sanitation and consumer affairs to study the feasibility of a penalty mitigation program.”
--The Committee on Environmental Protection will meet at 2 p.m. to discuss several proposed laws relating to a wide range of subjects, including the use of alternative fuels in ferries and school buses, and to amending the energy code for certain buildings.
--The Committee on Civil Service and Labor will meet at 2:30 p.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to “protecting employees who seek temporary changes to work schedules for personal events and certain other schedule changes.”
--The Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet at 3 p.m. to discuss several proposed laws relating to a wide range of subjects, including community land trusts, vacant land for affordable housing, and other subjects.

On Monday, NYCHA and NYC Health + Hospitals will begin offering free testing for lead levels in blood for certain children living in NYCHA apartments.

At 10 a.m. Monday, the Asian-American Federation, Transportation Alternatives, and the Biking Public Project will hold a rally at the City Hall steps urging Mayor de Blasio not to crackdown on the use of e-bikes, commonly used by low-wage workers, often immigrants, in the food service industry.

At 11 a.m. Monday, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Senior Advisor to the Mayor Gabrielle Fialkoff, Human Resources Administrator Grace Bonilla, and others will announce “funds raised to meet the immediate needs of Puerto Rico evacuees, including coats and clothing for the winter, bedding, and other home goods” at the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center in East Harlem.

On Monday, New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators will hold two press conferences at the offices of Long Island state legislators urging them to support the Child Victims Act, which allows survivors of child abuse to litigate their case up until age 50 for civil cases and 28 for felony cases, up from the current 23. The two legislators who will be lobbied are Elaine Phillips of Mineola, at 11 a.m., and Carl Marcellino of Oyster Bay, at 1 p.m.

At 4:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, "Mayor de Blasio will hold a public hearing for Intros. 799-B, 1376-A, and 1783 a package to provide commercial rent tax relief for certain small business owners; Intro. 1210-A requiring diaper changing stations in new and renovated buildings with public restrooms, regardless of gender; Intro 1241-A to create a watch list of rent regulated buildings housing tenants at-risk for eviction."

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, the New York Times’ Ginia Bellafante will moderate a conversation with Erica Mateo and Deron Johnston of the Brownsville Community Justice Center, and David Burney, Design and Development Commissioner under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, regarding “placemaking -- the nexus of public space and public safety -- in Brownsville,” at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

At 7 p.m. Monday, Mayor de Blasio will hold a town hall meeting at IS 113 in Glendale, Queens, with City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

In the 7 and 10 p.m. hours, de Blasio is expected to make his weekly appearance on NY1’s Road to City Hall.

The full City Council will meet at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday for the final stated meeting of the year and of the current four-year session. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will host her final pre-Stated press conference as Speaker at 12:30 p.m.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Ford Foundation will host a debate on whether to end pretrial detention and cash bail in New York State. Several members of the State Legislature will participate as either speakers, debaters, or judges, including Senators Michael Gianaris, Jesse Hamilton, and Marisol Alcantara, and Assemblymember David Weprin. The debaters will include formerly incarcerated men and women, arguing on behalf of the Fortune Society.

Mayor de Blasio will be in Iowa on Tuesday. “New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will headline Progress Iowa’s fifth annual Holiday Party on December 19th. Mayor de Blasio will focus his remarks on the future of the progressive movement and the effort to resist the conservative agenda being enacted across the country.”

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will hold an “emergency teach-in” about the GOP tax plan. The event will take place at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio will hold a town hall meeting at University Settlement-Ingersoll Community Center in Downtown Brooklyn, with City Council Member Laurie Cumbo, U.S. Reps Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries, State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Jesse Hamilton, and Assemblymember Walter Mosley.

At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Care for the Homeless will hold its annual Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service at LIU Brooklyn’s Luntey Commons, in Downtown Brooklyn.

Friday and the weekend
No events on our radar as of Sunday evening.

*Note: we won’t be publishing a Week Ahead for the week of December 25. We’ll be back for the shortened holiday week of Tuesday, January 2.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

Max & Murphy Podcast: Eric Koch, former City Council communications director

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette

December 15, 2017 - Max & Murphy: Eric Koch, former top aide to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

eric koch 277 b

Eric Koch helped Melissa Mark-Viverito become the City Council Speaker, then was her communications director for more than three years. He helped her craft policy and messaging, gave her political guidance, booked her media appearances, drafted her major speeches, and more. Koch has been a fierce defender of Mark-Viverito and is proud of her legacy as she wraps up her four years at the top of the city's legislative body. Earlier this year, Koch left city government to join Precision Strategies, a consultancy. He joined Max & Murphy to discuss his work, Mark-Viverito's tenure, the ongoing race to replace her, and more.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy and guest @EricDKoch. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

City Council to Pass Bills Mandating Assessment of Vacant Lots

vacant bldg via hpd

(photo via @NYCHousing)

Two years ago, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Members Jumaane Williams and Ydanis Rodriguez each introduced a bill under a set called the Housing Not Warehousing Act, a package aimed at reducing homelessness and increasing the city’s affordable housing stock. The bills seek to mandate an annual tally of the number of vacant lots and buildings in the city, determining which of those under city jurisdiction could be developed for affordable housing, while also requiring landlords with vacant properties to register them with the city.

Two of those bills, sponsored by the Council members, are set to be voted on by the Committee on Housing and Buildings, chaired by Williams, at a hearing on Monday. Following that, the bills are expected to head to the Council floor for a vote and approval on Tuesday at the last full meeting of the body in the current four-year session. They would then head to the desk of Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose administration has not supported the legislation.

The bills have strong support from housing advocates who have decried rising homelessness in the city as buildings remain unoccupied and lots remain undeveloped. The de Blasio administration continues to insist the city is doing everything in its power to utilize city-owned vacant lots for affordable housing, and have pushed back against a February 2016 report by City Comptroller Scott Stringer that indicated more than 1,100 lots that the city owns but were vacant.

[Related: Key to Affordable Housing Development, Vacant Lots Remain Source of Controversy]

Rodriguez’s bill would require the city to conduct an annual census and compile a list of vacant properties in the city, coordinating with numerous city agencies and departments, while Williams’ bill would mandate reporting by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) on the vacant lots and buildings under its jurisdiction, along with the potential for those properties to be used for creating affordable housing.

In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Williams said he was “proud” of his tenure as committee chair, “and what better way to end this term than by passing this legislation which puts in place additional tools we need to combat the urgent affordable housing and homelessness crisis we face in this city.” Williams also thanked James, Rodriguez, and “all of the activists who helped get us to this pivotal moment of progress.”

Rodriguez, in a statement, called the act an "important step" in tackling the city's affordable housing crisis. "By identifying vacant properties, we can turn them into permanent affordable housing units for our working families and our neediest New Yorkers, and prevent homelessness." he said.

James’ bill, which is not on the schedule for Monday’s hearing, takes aim at private landlords and the property they keep empty. The bill would have required landlords to register with the city buildings that have been vacant longer than a year. It mandates fines - between $100 and $500 every week - for those landlords that fail to renew those registrations every year.

Williams did not address the exclusion of the public advocate’s bill from the package, but Kevin Fagan, a spokesperson for the Council member, said it was a “pretty common situation” for a bill to be left out of a legislative package when it goes to a vote. All three of the bills have at least 30 sponsors in the 51-seat Council. Fagan pointed to the recent Construction Safety Act, also sponsored by Williams, as an instance where bills in the final approved package did not all pass at the same time.

“While we're disappointed the entire Housing Not Warehousing Act will not be voted upon, it is promising that two bills that seek to address our affordable crisis are coming to the floor for a vote,” said James, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “We must leave no stone unturned when it comes to building affordable housing, and that includes utilizing our vacant lots and properties. We are hopeful that Int. 1034 will pass quickly in the next session.”

Charmel Lucas, a member of Picture the Homeless, an advocacy group that has pushed for these bills, said in a statement that the group was glad the two bills will be voted on and that the group would continue to work with the public advocate to help pass her bill in 2018. “We're grateful to all the council members who had our back on bringing this important issue to a vote, including the current speaker candidates,” Lucas said. “These bills will help homeless people get the housing they need. By identifying vacant property that landlords are sitting on for decades, we can take steps to develop them into extremely-low-income housing."

There was some good news for the public advocate, however. A separate bill she sponsors -- requiring HPD to provide more information on owners of buildings and the violations and complaints they face -- will be approved at the same Monday committee hearing. “Transparency is critical for New Yorkers seeking to hold unscrupulous landlords accountable,” James said, touting the Worst Landlords Watchlist published by her office every year. “This bill will create an easy-to-use database that allows tenants to identify patterns of abuse and harassment by landlords across buildings, further empowering and protecting tenants.”

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note - This article has been updated to include comment from Council Member Rodriguez and to clarify Fagan's comments on the Construction Safety bill. 

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