Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/antonio-reynoso 2017-10-18T05:58:28+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Protecting Tenants from Construction Harassment 2017-07-30T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-30T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7096:protecting-tenants-from-construction-harassment Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/sts_op-ed.jpg" alt="sts op ed" width="600" height="380" /></p> <p>photo, including three of the authors, via the Progressive Caucus</p> <hr /> <p>We’ve seen it in our districts. A new landlord takes ownership of a building and starts a construction project that never finishes in order to evict long-term residents. They may turn off the cooking gas indefinitely; they may even knock out the boiler with no explanation.</p> <p>For too many New Yorkers, this nightmare is their reality. The stories are plentiful: heat and gas shutoffs in the middle of winter, jackhammering causing cracks in apartment walls, loss of power, and lead dust in the air lasting for months on end. For years, city and borough officials and community advocates have encountered a critical mass of stories like these, detailing the unscrupulous conduct of landlords as well as the insufficient response from the City of New York.</p> <p>We, as members of the City Council members and its Progressive Caucus, see the writing on the walls: our city needs more protections in place for tenants facing construction harassment.</p> <p>Understanding the need to strengthen the ability of the Department of Buildings (DOB) to protect tenants from construction as harassment, the grassroots Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition (STS) has partnered with the Progressive Caucus to put forth a package of legislation aimed at achieving just that.</p> <p>These 12 STS bills, most of which are sponsored by members of the Progressive Caucus, with strong support in the Council, will put in place much tougher penalties against abusive landlords for illegal construction practices and enact preventative measures to help tenants protect their homes. &nbsp;</p> <p>The goal is to change the way DOB handles construction harassment so that the agency is empowered to become more proactive with regard to issuing construction permits and facilitating communication among tenants, landlords, and city agencies. Such renewed tenant protections are intended to quicken and fortify the City’s response to construction harassment so vulnerable residents in rapidly changing neighborhoods are able to stay in their homes and communities.</p> <p>As policymakers, we know that construction harassment by unscrupulous landlords only exacerbates the affordable housing crisis already facing residents of New York City. In recent years, the average rents in some city neighborhoods have risen by 20%; in such neighborhoods especially, unethical landlords can use construction as a way of cashing in on rising rents instead of protecting the existing tenants. Calls the City has been receiving from New Yorkers reflect this; construction-related complaints number in the thousands each year.</p> <p>Even as preserving and creating affordable housing has remained a focus of both the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, the myriad loopholes landlords use in existing laws allow the number of rent-regulated apartments to dwindle. With both the cost of living in the city and rent continuing to rise, protecting the health and safety of tenants through legislation is the minimum of what can be done, the least of how this city can maintain a fair and just society. With the city losing affordable housing every year, we cannot afford to ignore any way in which tenants are threatened by eviction from their homes.</p> <p>As the clock ticks toward the end of the current City Council session, we need the Council to pass this Stand for Tenant Safety package of legislation as soon as possible. The New York City Council just made history by passing the city’s first ever Right to Counsel legislation, which will provide legal assistance to tenants facing eviction in housing court. We urgently need to continue making progress on tenant rights in New York City by strengthening preventative measures that will help keep tenants from facing eviction in the first place.</p> <p>It is time that the City renew its commitment, through strengthening the enforcement power of the Department of Buildings, to standing up for residents living under adverse conditions and protect our communities from abusive, unethical landlords. As long as economic inequality and hazardous building conditions threaten health and safety, the City must continue to strengthen every person’s opportunity for a livable and affordable place to call home. As progressive City Council members, we hope our colleagues and the de Blasio administration will work together with us to ensure that our city’s most vulnerable tenants are protected.</p> <p>***<br />Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Helen Rosenthal &amp; Ben Kallos are all members of the City Council and leaders of its Progressive Caucus. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/CMReynoso34" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@CMReynoso34</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@DRichards13</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/HelenRosenthal" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@HelenRosenthal</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/BenKallos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@BenKallos</a>, &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCProgressives" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@NYCProgressives</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/sts_op-ed.jpg" alt="sts op ed" width="600" height="380" /></p> <p>photo, including three of the authors, via the Progressive Caucus</p> <hr /> <p>We’ve seen it in our districts. A new landlord takes ownership of a building and starts a construction project that never finishes in order to evict long-term residents. They may turn off the cooking gas indefinitely; they may even knock out the boiler with no explanation.</p> <p>For too many New Yorkers, this nightmare is their reality. The stories are plentiful: heat and gas shutoffs in the middle of winter, jackhammering causing cracks in apartment walls, loss of power, and lead dust in the air lasting for months on end. For years, city and borough officials and community advocates have encountered a critical mass of stories like these, detailing the unscrupulous conduct of landlords as well as the insufficient response from the City of New York.</p> <p>We, as members of the City Council members and its Progressive Caucus, see the writing on the walls: our city needs more protections in place for tenants facing construction harassment.</p> <p>Understanding the need to strengthen the ability of the Department of Buildings (DOB) to protect tenants from construction as harassment, the grassroots Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition (STS) has partnered with the Progressive Caucus to put forth a package of legislation aimed at achieving just that.</p> <p>These 12 STS bills, most of which are sponsored by members of the Progressive Caucus, with strong support in the Council, will put in place much tougher penalties against abusive landlords for illegal construction practices and enact preventative measures to help tenants protect their homes. &nbsp;</p> <p>The goal is to change the way DOB handles construction harassment so that the agency is empowered to become more proactive with regard to issuing construction permits and facilitating communication among tenants, landlords, and city agencies. Such renewed tenant protections are intended to quicken and fortify the City’s response to construction harassment so vulnerable residents in rapidly changing neighborhoods are able to stay in their homes and communities.</p> <p>As policymakers, we know that construction harassment by unscrupulous landlords only exacerbates the affordable housing crisis already facing residents of New York City. In recent years, the average rents in some city neighborhoods have risen by 20%; in such neighborhoods especially, unethical landlords can use construction as a way of cashing in on rising rents instead of protecting the existing tenants. Calls the City has been receiving from New Yorkers reflect this; construction-related complaints number in the thousands each year.</p> <p>Even as preserving and creating affordable housing has remained a focus of both the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, the myriad loopholes landlords use in existing laws allow the number of rent-regulated apartments to dwindle. With both the cost of living in the city and rent continuing to rise, protecting the health and safety of tenants through legislation is the minimum of what can be done, the least of how this city can maintain a fair and just society. With the city losing affordable housing every year, we cannot afford to ignore any way in which tenants are threatened by eviction from their homes.</p> <p>As the clock ticks toward the end of the current City Council session, we need the Council to pass this Stand for Tenant Safety package of legislation as soon as possible. The New York City Council just made history by passing the city’s first ever Right to Counsel legislation, which will provide legal assistance to tenants facing eviction in housing court. We urgently need to continue making progress on tenant rights in New York City by strengthening preventative measures that will help keep tenants from facing eviction in the first place.</p> <p>It is time that the City renew its commitment, through strengthening the enforcement power of the Department of Buildings, to standing up for residents living under adverse conditions and protect our communities from abusive, unethical landlords. As long as economic inequality and hazardous building conditions threaten health and safety, the City must continue to strengthen every person’s opportunity for a livable and affordable place to call home. As progressive City Council members, we hope our colleagues and the de Blasio administration will work together with us to ensure that our city’s most vulnerable tenants are protected.</p> <p>***<br />Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Helen Rosenthal &amp; Ben Kallos are all members of the City Council and leaders of its Progressive Caucus. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/CMReynoso34" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@CMReynoso34</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@DRichards13</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/HelenRosenthal" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@HelenRosenthal</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/BenKallos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@BenKallos</a>, &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCProgressives" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@NYCProgressives</a>.</p> <p>

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Fair Share: Design Flaws, Flashpoints & Possible Updates 2016-11-20T05:00:00+00:00 2016-11-20T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6633:fair-share-design-flaws-flashpoints-possible-updates Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27449795996_b13ffb1f6f_z.jpg" alt="garbage trucks" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Trucks (photo: Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p><em><strong>This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a></strong></em></p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flawed from the Beginning, Some Say</strong><br />Ronald Shiffman, now professor emeritus at the Pratt Institute and co-founder of Pratt’s Center for Community Development, was appointed to the newly-expanded City Planning Commission in 1990, and was present for the adoption of the Fair Share Criteria. He told Gotham Gazette that the creation of the criteria was compelled in large part by increasing concern over the then-nascent homelessness crisis and the early power of the emerging environmental justice movement.</p> <p>“The criteria came out of the need to house populations that were more difficult to house at that time: the homeless, people just released from mental hospitals, people with AIDS,” Shiffman said. “Because of statewide deinstitutionalization policies, the city had to find a way to house these people. The criteria were meant in part to prevent communities from discriminating against those populations.”</p> <p>Shiffman also said that the criteria were kept intentionally vague, so as not to “tie the city’s hands” when shelters and other facilities needed to be sited quickly, and noted the difficulty of achieving an equal distribution of burdens.</p> <p>“How do you make sure that no area is getting over-concentration due to having more city-owned property or being less powerful than other communities?” Shiffman said. “There is a difficult line between preventing communities from excluding populations in dire need of housing and giving communities tools to protest an over-concentration of ‘burdensome’ facilities. It was a goal, to find a balance, and for everyone to carry their fair share of residential facilities.”</p> <p>According to Shiffman, the Fair Share Criteria began to lose power as more city services and facilities were taken over by not-for-profit and private entities, because the accountability and mapping requirements set forth by the criteria apply to only city-owned and operated facilities.</p> <p>“With the privatization of those facilities, city control kind of evaporated,” Shiffman said. “Devolving so much authority to the private sector allowed service providers and the city to do things that were far more inequitable than when we were dealing only with city-owned lots.”</p> <p>At the same time that the newly-created criteria sought to compel communities to do their part to shelter fellow New Yorkers, the environmental justice movement saw the criteria as a tool to help protect low-income communities of color from becoming dumping grounds for waste processing stations.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista is the director of the New York Environmental Justice Alliance; in 1990, when the criteria were enacted, he was the Director of Community Planning with the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). Bautista said that the criteria emerged at the same time that the environmental justice movement in New York was ramping up.</p> <p>“Environmental activists saw Fair Share as an organizing opportunity,” Bautista told Gotham Gazette. “We developed a citywide coalition with groups doing different environmental organizing in low-income neighborhoods of color.” Those neighborhoods, Bautista said, had “too much of the bad stuff and not enough of the good stuff.”</p> <p>Bautista and others in the environmental justice movement at the time hoped that the criteria would increase transparency of the city facility-siting process, and provide an “early warning” to communities whose neighborhoods had been selected for waste processing stations so that they might intervene.</p> <p>“The Charter Revision in ‘89 put land use in the hands of the City Council,” Bautista said.</p> <p>While NYLPI was able to prevent the construction of two sludge treatment facilities using the criteria as an argument, Bautista says that, overall, the criteria are too superficial in nature and too opaque in execution to be impactful.</p> <p>“Fair Share was never designed to get at the root causes of inequity in neighborhoods,” Bautista said. “It was made to look at the symptoms of the problem; it wasn’t going to change the siting dynamic.”</p> <p>Bautista also points to the lack of penalties levied upon city agencies that do not submit upcoming facilities to the Citywide Statement of Needs; noting that there are no consequences for an agency that does not include plans to open a new facility in a neighborhood. For instance, the Fire Department submitted a site relocation proposal in the Statement of Needs for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_16_17.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2016/2017</a> but did not do so for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_17_18.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2017/2018</a>. At the same time, in 2016/2017, Department of Homeless Services and the Administration of Child Services had no site proposals, but in the next statement, both agencies put forward multiple projects. Not enforcing a complete picture of new facilities in neighborhoods means that communities “never get an accurate view of what’s happening in their areas,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“We had three administrations where Fair Share was meaningless because the regulatory framework made it so toothless,” Bautista said, referring to Mayors Dinkins, Giuliani, and Bloomberg.</p> <p>A representative for the City Planning Commission confirmed that there are no punitive measures taken against agencies that fail to participate in the annual statement, but that checks and balances on siting decisions occur throughout the ULURP and public comment process. Often, it is left to City Council oversight and public pushback to a Council member or at a Council hearing to hold sway over these types of omissions.</p> <p>Despite high hopes at the outset, there is no doubt that the Fair Share Criteria have not proved as useful as early proponents had hoped. But, their influence is starting to be felt again in conversations around distribution of facilities. The perception and reality of inequitable distribution are a constant in headlines across New York, as evidenced by the defeated proposal for the homeless shelter in Wakefield, which would have oversaturated the neighborhood, and the agitation over the conversion of the hotel into a homeless shelter in Maspeth, Queens, where the city has limited such facilities. In both situations, the city has had to navigate local concerns while attempting to install services and infrastructure for a growing population. In the case of Wakefield, Council Member Andy Cohen believes Fair Share was definitely a contributing factor in the administration’s final decision. In an interview outside City Hall, he told Gotham Gazette that there is a tension between the city’s need to house the homeless and the needs of communities.</p> <p>“I think in order to maintain quality of life there just has to be balance,” he said, “and having a disproportionate number of homeless people being serviced out of one community, I think taxes the NYPD.” He cited as an example one of the shelters in the Wakefield neighborhood that he said had generated more than 500 911 calls within the first six months of opening. “The precinct is not able to service the rest of the...precinct if they’re answering all of these calls so that’s the kind of example of why I think it’s important that these facilities are spread out in a proportional and representative way,” Council Member Cohen said.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flashpoints</strong><br />Council Speaker Mark-Viverito ignited a firestorm of protest and earned quite a few applause when she spoke hopefully in her <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/nyregion/melissa-mark-viverito-council-speaker-vows-to-pursue-new-criminal-justice-reforms.html?_r=0" target="_blank">2016 State of the City address</a> of reducing the jail population of Rikers Island so significantly “that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality,” and announced the creation of a special commission to be led by Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. The commission is reviewing the city’s entire criminal justice system, including the possibility of closing the island’s jails and relocating the detainees and inmates.</p> <p><a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160331/college-point/city-quietly-eying-sites-for-new-jails-replace-rikers-island-sources" target="_blank">DNAinfo reported in March</a> that, contrary to earlier claims from the mayor’s office that the closure proposal was a “noble” but “unworkable” concept, city officials had begun examining several locations for new and expanded jails that might house the thousands displaced by shuttering Rikers complexes. As of October 20, Rikers held about 7,500 inmates, many awaiting trial, and other city jails off the island held about 2,200, for a Department of Correction headcount of 9,764, according to a DOC spokesperson.</p> <p>According to DNAinfo, officials identified possible locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and on Staten Island, “where two new jails — each housing as many as 2,000 inmates — could be built.” According to several proposals that have been around for years, existing detention centers could and should be expanded to also accommodate detainees if Rikers were to be closed -- something Mayor de Blasio has called a long-shot and a many years, multi-billion dollar project if it were to ever come to fruition.</p> <p>Perhaps even more daunting to the prospect of closing Rikers jails than several billion dollars in costs are the roadblocks thrown up by the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP. In the event that the city would need to site small jails to take on the incarcerated population, each site would be subject to a lengthy, complicated, and controversial process that also requires the application of the Fair Share Criteria. Pushback from several City Council members was quick and fierce when DNAinfo reported on potential <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160404/east-new-york/more-neighborhoods-surface-as-possible-new-jail-sites-for-rikers-shutdown" target="_blank">communities</a> being targeted. No one wants a jail in their district - or “back yard.”</p> <p>One site on the short list for a hypothetical new jail is Hunt’s Point, where a jail barge holding 800 prisoners is currently moored - and the very neighborhood Mark-Viverito held up as an example of an area already saturated with more than its fair share of burdensome facilities.</p> <p>“While I understand that we need to make strides in improving corrections infrastructure, primarily Rikers Island, the solution is not building a new facility in the South Bronx,” City Council Member Rafael Salamanca, recently elected to represent the area, said in an April <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/jeffrey-d-klein/klein-salamanca-city-no-mini-rikers-hunts-point-community" target="_blank">press release</a>, released in collaboration with State Senator Jeff Klein.</p> <p>City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood, said in a statement that while he has not been able to verify that the city is considering using a National Grid site in his district as a jail location, “...if it were true, the proposal would need to go through public land use review, and I would never allow it to pass.” The Council is known to defer to the local representative on land use decisions.</p> <p>City Council Member Joseph Borelli, of Staten Island’s south shore, has advocated for addressing conditions at Rikers in lieu of shutting it down. He put his response plainly in <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/02/staten_island_jail.html" target="_blank">his letter</a> to Mark-Viverito: “No one wants a jail next to their house.”&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Homeless Shelters</strong><br />In 2013, then-Comptroller John Liu <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/20130509_NYC_ShelterSiteReport_v24_May.pdf" target="_blank">released a report</a> that set out to examine the way the city chooses sites for homeless shelters, and to “determine if the City’s goal of transparency is being effectively achieved by implementation of the Fair Share Criteria.” The answer, in short, was “no,” but the report dove deep into the ways the complex process of siting city facilities is made even more convoluted and opaque when different kinds of shelters and shelter operators are in play.</p> <p>“Shelters are undoubtedly clustered in low-income neighborhoods,” the report stated. Using data from 2011, the comptroller’s office showed that “family and adult shelters were unevenly dispersed across the city,” with the greatest concentrations found in the Bronx, followed by Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Staten Island was not included, because its six shelters made the borough an outlier that skewed citywide results. The analysis is never as simple as being borough-based, of course, and there are specific communities that are at the heart of fair share issues.</p> <p>Though the unequal distribution of shelters was stark, the report was more an indictment of the failure of the Fair Share Criteria to ensure transparency in the shelter siting process. The criteria, the report said, should “set the framework for dialogue between communities and government in an effort to achieve optimal levels of efficiency, utility, and fairness in the siting of public facilities,” and were developed “to provide communities with a transparent decision-making process that facilitates adequate planning and takes communities’ needs into account.”</p> <p>To this end, the report pointed out a litany of shortcomings, chief among them that a large number of homeless shelters are regularly not included on the annual Citywide Statement of Needs. Many DHS shelters are excluded, as are emergency shelters, which by nature are not anticipated, though potential sites could be identified earlier; as well as per diem shelters, “which are not City facilities” and therefore skirt a real public input process. Those exclusions, the report says, prevent communities from offering comment or intervening once a site has been chosen.</p> <p>The lengthy report contains a thorough critique of and suggestions for improvement to the transparency aspects of the Fair Share Criteria, but the driving conclusions were that “there is poor notification and limited community participation in decisions about siting family and adult homeless shelters” and that “clustering is occurring and that certain neighborhoods across the City have a higher proportion of family and adult shelters than others” - namely, low-income neighborhoods such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville in Brooklyn, Fordham, Morris Heights, Belmont, and East Tremont in the Bronx, and Central Harlem in Manhattan.</p> <p>If the public notification and input process were improved, the report says, a more transparent process might create a more equitable distribution of facilities.</p> <p>The problems of transparency and clustering don’t seem to have improved significantly since that data was collected in 2011.</p> <p>In 2015, the Department of Homeless Services <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150824/belmont/map-10-community-districts-carry-bulk-of-citys-homeless-shelters" target="_blank">released data</a> showing that the ten community districts with the most homeless shelters contain more shelters than the other 49 districts combined. Of those top ten districts, four were located in the Bronx.</p> <p>The other areas with the highest concentration of shelters were almost all low-income and predominantly non-white, including Manhattan Community Boards 10 and 3 in Harlem and the Lower East Side, respectively; Brooklyn CB3 in Bed-Stuy; and Manhattan CB11 in East Harlem.</p> <p>“New York City is legally obligated to provide shelter to any New Yorker who would otherwise be on the streets,” said a Department of Homeless Services spokesperson in an email. “Mayor de Blasio charged the administration with evaluating the breadth of human services located in each community district citywide to identify areas to locate new shelter facilities. We are committed to engaging communities on these issues, listening to feedback and working to address community concerns.”</p> <p>DHS takes a number of factors into consideration when selecting a new site for a homeless shelter -- rating the bid made for the site, whether the building has the appropriate documentation, including a Certificate of Occupancy, whether it complies with requirements of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), timeframe of availability, potential capacity and saturation, among others. The OTDA also has to approve the expansion of an existing shelter. In non-emergency circumstances, the city ensures that elected officials are informed of a shelter opening at least 45 days in advance. DHS now also creates a Community Advisory Board for every new shelter. These boards, comprised of appointees of local elected officials and community members, hold monthly meetings with DHS staff, the shelter operator, and NYPD to discuss any pertinent issues.</p> <p>However, the regulatory void in which homeless shelter siting operates became apparent in 2014, when DHS successfully opened a new homeless shelter for adult families without children at 56-66 Clay St. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, despite protests from local officials and community members that a public review process had not taken place.</p> <p>Assembly Member Joseph Lentol pushed back, citing the four existing shelters in his district, and asking city officials to consider the Fair Share Criteria before making a final decision.</p> <p>"For more than 40 years we have been our brother’s keeper, and we continue to accept that responsibility on the condition that we are not being unfairly singled out to carry this burden," Lentol said in a letter to Department of Homeless Services about the conflict. "Other communities are not carrying this same burden because Community Board 1 is unfairly carrying this load."</p> <p>But the shelter on Clay Street was not subject to the Fair Share Criteria, or to any lengthy public review process. It was instated as an emergency shelter, for which DHS must only give seven days notice. While DHS acted legally, the shelter felt as though it had been “smuggled in by the dead of night,” Board 1 chair Dealice Fuller said in a letter to Mayor de Blasio last year.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Waste Management</strong><br />On August 17, Mayor de Blasio announced major planned reforms to the city’s commercial sanitation industry, which would seek to reduce truck traffic and emissions, increase recycling and promote environmental justice by creating commercial waste zones that are each served by one private sanitation company. The plan was praised by the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition, an environmental justice community group that has long advocated against the problem of waste facility clustering in the city.</p> <p>While city officials are making and eyeing significant strides toward reducing the amount of waste New York residents and businesses produce, processing and transfer stations are concentrated in a handful of low-income communities populated predominantly by people of color.</p> <p>Transform Don’t Trash NYC <a href="http://transformdonttrashnyc.org/resources/dirty-wasteful-unsustainable-the-urgent-need-to-reform-new-york-citys-commercial-waste-system/" target="_blank">released a report in 2015</a> indicting the city’s “inefficient and ad-hoc arrangement” for waste processing that allows hundreds of private hauling companies to collect waste from restaurants, stores, and other businesses each night and “truck it to dozens of transfer stations and recycling facilities concentrated in a handful of low-income communities of color.”</p> <p>After collecting data for both city-run and privately-owned waste collectors, the report authors found that 75% of all waste handled in New York City is trucked to transfer stations in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5589-the-bronx-is-breathing-waste-transfer-station-city-council" target="_blank">just three outer-borough neighborhoods</a> in North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Northeast Queens.</p> <p>The 4,000-plus diesel trucks that transport waste to those facilities each day emit exhaust, increase traffic congestion, and add wear and tear to roads, according to the report. The study found that the trucks’ emissions alone have a significant negative impact of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5111-while-improving-quiet-crisis-air-quality-persists-new-york-city-asthma-air-pollution" target="_blank">air quality in neighborhoods</a> where waste facilities are clustered.</p> <p>While de Blasio’s new commercial sanitation plan will address these issues, there is no indication if it will also look at the Fair Share Criteria to site new waste management facilities. In March, the New Harlem East Merchants Association wrote a letter to the Department of Sanitation, demanding that the department reconsider its <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160218/east-harlem/city-ignores-concerns-about-proposed-sanitation-garage-residents-say" target="_blank">decision to open a sanitation garage</a> in a residential neighborhood on 3rd Avenue, about 1,200 feet away from another garage on East 131 Street, and in close proximity to two schools and a new cancer treatment facility.</p> <p>According to a statement from New Harlem East Merchants Association, the addition “would place an unfair burden on the East Harlem community,” which already struggles with an asthma rate twice that of the city-wide average (asthma rates in the nearby South Bronx are also quite high). The city has not indicated that community protest will prevent a second garage from going up.</p> <p>However, where the Fair Share Criteria have failed, local legislators are pursuing alternative projects and policies to prevent low-income communities from handling the vast majority of the city’s waste with a mind toward more equitable distribution.</p> <p>Building on the 20-year <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/about/laws/solid-waste-management-plan.shtml" target="_blank">Solid Waste Management Plan</a> (SWMP), which has an environmental justice focus and was adopted by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council in 2006, City Council Member Steve Levin of Brooklyn introduced a bill in October 2014. <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1937616&amp;GUID=2680B9A0-32EF-4B2F-BFD3-85D48111006F&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=495" target="_blank">Intro. 495</a>, also known as the “Trash Cap,” would cut the daily waste processing capacity in the three most-burdened neighborhoods -- North Brooklyn, South Bronx, and Northeast Queens -- by 50% of the daily trash volume they currently receive, according to Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s legislative director, Lacey Tauber. It would also cap the permitted capacity of waste transfer stations at 10 percent of the average citywide capacity.&nbsp;</p> <p>Reynoso, who is chair of the Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste, also represents the district with the highest concentration of waste facilities: parts of Brooklyn including Williamsburg and Bushwick.&nbsp;</p> <p>Under the trash cap bill, all community districts with solid waste transfer stations would be capped, but not every cap would be the same, Tauber told Gotham Gazette. The bill considers any community district handling more than 10 percent of the city’s waste as overburdened and seeks to ensure that community districts that aren’t already over that threshold are capped at 10 percent and cannot be pushed over it.</p> <p>“The [10 percent] cap on citywide waste ensures that lessening the burden on one community does not simply transfer that full burden to another similar community,” Tauber said.</p> <p>Tauber added that pairing prevention of over-saturation of waste facilities with a clear alternative is key to not sacrificing equity in one community to benefit another.</p> <p>“If we say you can’t bring it here but don’t specify where it can go, that directs waste to other low-income communities of color,” Tauber said.</p> <p>After negotiations with the de Blasio administration about the bill, which had a hearing early in 2015, it was amended to increase the cap from the original proposal of 5 percent to the current 10 percent. The bill has not yet been voted on in committee.</p> <p>Another way to decrease truck traffic and associated ills is through the use of marine transfer stations, or MTS, where waste leaves the city via barge, decreasing traffic and consolidating the process. The city is opening MTS in Queens, Brooklyn, and, perhaps most famously, on 91 Street on the Upper East Side. According to the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, the latter, a wealthy and well-connected neighborhood, has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into an <a href="http://ny.curbed.com/2014/11/25/10018036/trash-clash" target="_blank">opposition campaign</a>. Nevertheless, construction is still underway, and proponents of MTS believe the three will offer significant relief to overburdened communities.</p> <p>“It will help decrease traffic, congestion, pollution - everything that the trucks bring into those low-income neighborhoods,” Tauber said of the Upper East Side MTS.</p> <p>Yet, the MTS currently only deal with the residential waste under the jurisdiction of the Department of Sanitation. Incentivizing private truck companies that pick up waste from businesses and restaurants is another challenge that the city appears to be targeting through the neighborhood zoning plan. This model allows the city to consolidate truck traffic and regulate labor standards, truck emissions, and more. The proposal that the de Blasio administration put out has <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/08/tough-fight-in-store-for-de-blasios-private-carting-proposal-104815" target="_blank">a long way to go before becoming law</a>.</p> <p><strong>Updating Fair Share</strong><br />Despite noble intentions, the Fair Share Criteria does not achieve the kind of transparent public input process and equitable city landscape sought by its supporters. While Speaker Mark-Viverito promised in her February State of the City address that the City Council would “empower neighborhoods by working with our partners in City and State government to create tools and improve opportunities for public input in the Fair Share process,” no specific legislation has been put forth. In the August interview with Gotham Gazette, she said the Council was exploring the issue, and may put out a paper on it.&nbsp;</p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander, long a proponent of progressive city planning practices, has clear ideas about how to revamp the criteria.</p> <p>“Step one is to provide more transparency on both the existing siting of various forms of municipal infrastructure and services that are covered by the fair share rules, and more transparency on each individual application so it will be possible to really evaluate whether it is fair or not fair,” Lander told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>Second, Lander said that the criteria have to be updated. “If City Planning wants to do that, great. But if not, we need to step forward and push them to do it,” he said.</p> <p>The third objective, Lander said, and one that could be the most challenging legislatively, “is putting some teeth in the laws, having some consequence for unfair sitings, making unfair sitings be more difficult for the city than fairer ones.”</p> <p>“Developing a system that has at least a thumb on the scale toward more equitable distribution: that’s the ultimate goal,” Lander said.</p> <p>The City made significant moves in this direction in April, according to Lander, when the administration quietly resurrected the formerly-annual <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/Social-Indicators-Report-April-2016.pdf" target="_blank">Social Indicators Report.</a> Though the annual report was mandated in the same 1989 Charter Revision that created the Fair Share Criteria, this is the first report to be published by a Mayor in a decade.</p> <p>The report, which mostly escaped public notice, provides a comprehensive statistical snapshot of the city, ostensibly to provide a clearer understanding of both need and progress in various communities. The data is disaggregated by 45 different indicators, including race, income, gender, education, English proficiency, and others. The report’s introduction states that it is “meant to help guide the City’s efforts to reduce disparities and advance equity.”</p> <p>Lander says that while the City Council works on how to update and improve the Fair Share Criteria, the Social Indicators Report is a valuable and promising tool. “It’s a good, strong step forward,” Lander said. The Council member did not indicate whether anything on fair share from his office or the Council in general should be expected any time soon.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and veteran in the fight against clustering waste facilities in low-income neighborhoods, is cautiously optimistic.</p> <p>“What would make it meaningful would be to go back to the original concept: transparency and a full accounting of the burdens and lack of benefits in each community,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“The Fair Share Criteria was all we could muster in ‘89 and ‘90. After 25 years of cynicism, I’m looking forward to the [City Council] speaker - the first speaker of color - and Brad Lander - an activist involved in early fair share conversations - working toward a solution on this.”</p> <p><em>**This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a>**</em></p> <p>***<br />by Maggie Calmes &amp; Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note: this story has been updated to reflect amended language in Intro. 495, the "Trash Cap" bill.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27449795996_b13ffb1f6f_z.jpg" alt="garbage trucks" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Trucks (photo: Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p><em><strong>This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a></strong></em></p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flawed from the Beginning, Some Say</strong><br />Ronald Shiffman, now professor emeritus at the Pratt Institute and co-founder of Pratt’s Center for Community Development, was appointed to the newly-expanded City Planning Commission in 1990, and was present for the adoption of the Fair Share Criteria. He told Gotham Gazette that the creation of the criteria was compelled in large part by increasing concern over the then-nascent homelessness crisis and the early power of the emerging environmental justice movement.</p> <p>“The criteria came out of the need to house populations that were more difficult to house at that time: the homeless, people just released from mental hospitals, people with AIDS,” Shiffman said. “Because of statewide deinstitutionalization policies, the city had to find a way to house these people. The criteria were meant in part to prevent communities from discriminating against those populations.”</p> <p>Shiffman also said that the criteria were kept intentionally vague, so as not to “tie the city’s hands” when shelters and other facilities needed to be sited quickly, and noted the difficulty of achieving an equal distribution of burdens.</p> <p>“How do you make sure that no area is getting over-concentration due to having more city-owned property or being less powerful than other communities?” Shiffman said. “There is a difficult line between preventing communities from excluding populations in dire need of housing and giving communities tools to protest an over-concentration of ‘burdensome’ facilities. It was a goal, to find a balance, and for everyone to carry their fair share of residential facilities.”</p> <p>According to Shiffman, the Fair Share Criteria began to lose power as more city services and facilities were taken over by not-for-profit and private entities, because the accountability and mapping requirements set forth by the criteria apply to only city-owned and operated facilities.</p> <p>“With the privatization of those facilities, city control kind of evaporated,” Shiffman said. “Devolving so much authority to the private sector allowed service providers and the city to do things that were far more inequitable than when we were dealing only with city-owned lots.”</p> <p>At the same time that the newly-created criteria sought to compel communities to do their part to shelter fellow New Yorkers, the environmental justice movement saw the criteria as a tool to help protect low-income communities of color from becoming dumping grounds for waste processing stations.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista is the director of the New York Environmental Justice Alliance; in 1990, when the criteria were enacted, he was the Director of Community Planning with the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). Bautista said that the criteria emerged at the same time that the environmental justice movement in New York was ramping up.</p> <p>“Environmental activists saw Fair Share as an organizing opportunity,” Bautista told Gotham Gazette. “We developed a citywide coalition with groups doing different environmental organizing in low-income neighborhoods of color.” Those neighborhoods, Bautista said, had “too much of the bad stuff and not enough of the good stuff.”</p> <p>Bautista and others in the environmental justice movement at the time hoped that the criteria would increase transparency of the city facility-siting process, and provide an “early warning” to communities whose neighborhoods had been selected for waste processing stations so that they might intervene.</p> <p>“The Charter Revision in ‘89 put land use in the hands of the City Council,” Bautista said.</p> <p>While NYLPI was able to prevent the construction of two sludge treatment facilities using the criteria as an argument, Bautista says that, overall, the criteria are too superficial in nature and too opaque in execution to be impactful.</p> <p>“Fair Share was never designed to get at the root causes of inequity in neighborhoods,” Bautista said. “It was made to look at the symptoms of the problem; it wasn’t going to change the siting dynamic.”</p> <p>Bautista also points to the lack of penalties levied upon city agencies that do not submit upcoming facilities to the Citywide Statement of Needs; noting that there are no consequences for an agency that does not include plans to open a new facility in a neighborhood. For instance, the Fire Department submitted a site relocation proposal in the Statement of Needs for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_16_17.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2016/2017</a> but did not do so for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/publications/son_17_18.pdf" target="_blank">Fiscal Years 2017/2018</a>. At the same time, in 2016/2017, Department of Homeless Services and the Administration of Child Services had no site proposals, but in the next statement, both agencies put forward multiple projects. Not enforcing a complete picture of new facilities in neighborhoods means that communities “never get an accurate view of what’s happening in their areas,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“We had three administrations where Fair Share was meaningless because the regulatory framework made it so toothless,” Bautista said, referring to Mayors Dinkins, Giuliani, and Bloomberg.</p> <p>A representative for the City Planning Commission confirmed that there are no punitive measures taken against agencies that fail to participate in the annual statement, but that checks and balances on siting decisions occur throughout the ULURP and public comment process. Often, it is left to City Council oversight and public pushback to a Council member or at a Council hearing to hold sway over these types of omissions.</p> <p>Despite high hopes at the outset, there is no doubt that the Fair Share Criteria have not proved as useful as early proponents had hoped. But, their influence is starting to be felt again in conversations around distribution of facilities. The perception and reality of inequitable distribution are a constant in headlines across New York, as evidenced by the defeated proposal for the homeless shelter in Wakefield, which would have oversaturated the neighborhood, and the agitation over the conversion of the hotel into a homeless shelter in Maspeth, Queens, where the city has limited such facilities. In both situations, the city has had to navigate local concerns while attempting to install services and infrastructure for a growing population. In the case of Wakefield, Council Member Andy Cohen believes Fair Share was definitely a contributing factor in the administration’s final decision. In an interview outside City Hall, he told Gotham Gazette that there is a tension between the city’s need to house the homeless and the needs of communities.</p> <p>“I think in order to maintain quality of life there just has to be balance,” he said, “and having a disproportionate number of homeless people being serviced out of one community, I think taxes the NYPD.” He cited as an example one of the shelters in the Wakefield neighborhood that he said had generated more than 500 911 calls within the first six months of opening. “The precinct is not able to service the rest of the...precinct if they’re answering all of these calls so that’s the kind of example of why I think it’s important that these facilities are spread out in a proportional and representative way,” Council Member Cohen said.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Fair Share Flashpoints</strong><br />Council Speaker Mark-Viverito ignited a firestorm of protest and earned quite a few applause when she spoke hopefully in her <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/nyregion/melissa-mark-viverito-council-speaker-vows-to-pursue-new-criminal-justice-reforms.html?_r=0" target="_blank">2016 State of the City address</a> of reducing the jail population of Rikers Island so significantly “that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality,” and announced the creation of a special commission to be led by Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. The commission is reviewing the city’s entire criminal justice system, including the possibility of closing the island’s jails and relocating the detainees and inmates.</p> <p><a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160331/college-point/city-quietly-eying-sites-for-new-jails-replace-rikers-island-sources" target="_blank">DNAinfo reported in March</a> that, contrary to earlier claims from the mayor’s office that the closure proposal was a “noble” but “unworkable” concept, city officials had begun examining several locations for new and expanded jails that might house the thousands displaced by shuttering Rikers complexes. As of October 20, Rikers held about 7,500 inmates, many awaiting trial, and other city jails off the island held about 2,200, for a Department of Correction headcount of 9,764, according to a DOC spokesperson.</p> <p>According to DNAinfo, officials identified possible locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and on Staten Island, “where two new jails — each housing as many as 2,000 inmates — could be built.” According to several proposals that have been around for years, existing detention centers could and should be expanded to also accommodate detainees if Rikers were to be closed -- something Mayor de Blasio has called a long-shot and a many years, multi-billion dollar project if it were to ever come to fruition.</p> <p>Perhaps even more daunting to the prospect of closing Rikers jails than several billion dollars in costs are the roadblocks thrown up by the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP. In the event that the city would need to site small jails to take on the incarcerated population, each site would be subject to a lengthy, complicated, and controversial process that also requires the application of the Fair Share Criteria. Pushback from several City Council members was quick and fierce when DNAinfo reported on potential <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160404/east-new-york/more-neighborhoods-surface-as-possible-new-jail-sites-for-rikers-shutdown" target="_blank">communities</a> being targeted. No one wants a jail in their district - or “back yard.”</p> <p>One site on the short list for a hypothetical new jail is Hunt’s Point, where a jail barge holding 800 prisoners is currently moored - and the very neighborhood Mark-Viverito held up as an example of an area already saturated with more than its fair share of burdensome facilities.</p> <p>“While I understand that we need to make strides in improving corrections infrastructure, primarily Rikers Island, the solution is not building a new facility in the South Bronx,” City Council Member Rafael Salamanca, recently elected to represent the area, said in an April <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/jeffrey-d-klein/klein-salamanca-city-no-mini-rikers-hunts-point-community" target="_blank">press release</a>, released in collaboration with State Senator Jeff Klein.</p> <p>City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood, said in a statement that while he has not been able to verify that the city is considering using a National Grid site in his district as a jail location, “...if it were true, the proposal would need to go through public land use review, and I would never allow it to pass.” The Council is known to defer to the local representative on land use decisions.</p> <p>City Council Member Joseph Borelli, of Staten Island’s south shore, has advocated for addressing conditions at Rikers in lieu of shutting it down. He put his response plainly in <a href="http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/02/staten_island_jail.html" target="_blank">his letter</a> to Mark-Viverito: “No one wants a jail next to their house.”&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Homeless Shelters</strong><br />In 2013, then-Comptroller John Liu <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/20130509_NYC_ShelterSiteReport_v24_May.pdf" target="_blank">released a report</a> that set out to examine the way the city chooses sites for homeless shelters, and to “determine if the City’s goal of transparency is being effectively achieved by implementation of the Fair Share Criteria.” The answer, in short, was “no,” but the report dove deep into the ways the complex process of siting city facilities is made even more convoluted and opaque when different kinds of shelters and shelter operators are in play.</p> <p>“Shelters are undoubtedly clustered in low-income neighborhoods,” the report stated. Using data from 2011, the comptroller’s office showed that “family and adult shelters were unevenly dispersed across the city,” with the greatest concentrations found in the Bronx, followed by Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Staten Island was not included, because its six shelters made the borough an outlier that skewed citywide results. The analysis is never as simple as being borough-based, of course, and there are specific communities that are at the heart of fair share issues.</p> <p>Though the unequal distribution of shelters was stark, the report was more an indictment of the failure of the Fair Share Criteria to ensure transparency in the shelter siting process. The criteria, the report said, should “set the framework for dialogue between communities and government in an effort to achieve optimal levels of efficiency, utility, and fairness in the siting of public facilities,” and were developed “to provide communities with a transparent decision-making process that facilitates adequate planning and takes communities’ needs into account.”</p> <p>To this end, the report pointed out a litany of shortcomings, chief among them that a large number of homeless shelters are regularly not included on the annual Citywide Statement of Needs. Many DHS shelters are excluded, as are emergency shelters, which by nature are not anticipated, though potential sites could be identified earlier; as well as per diem shelters, “which are not City facilities” and therefore skirt a real public input process. Those exclusions, the report says, prevent communities from offering comment or intervening once a site has been chosen.</p> <p>The lengthy report contains a thorough critique of and suggestions for improvement to the transparency aspects of the Fair Share Criteria, but the driving conclusions were that “there is poor notification and limited community participation in decisions about siting family and adult homeless shelters” and that “clustering is occurring and that certain neighborhoods across the City have a higher proportion of family and adult shelters than others” - namely, low-income neighborhoods such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville in Brooklyn, Fordham, Morris Heights, Belmont, and East Tremont in the Bronx, and Central Harlem in Manhattan.</p> <p>If the public notification and input process were improved, the report says, a more transparent process might create a more equitable distribution of facilities.</p> <p>The problems of transparency and clustering don’t seem to have improved significantly since that data was collected in 2011.</p> <p>In 2015, the Department of Homeless Services <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150824/belmont/map-10-community-districts-carry-bulk-of-citys-homeless-shelters" target="_blank">released data</a> showing that the ten community districts with the most homeless shelters contain more shelters than the other 49 districts combined. Of those top ten districts, four were located in the Bronx.</p> <p>The other areas with the highest concentration of shelters were almost all low-income and predominantly non-white, including Manhattan Community Boards 10 and 3 in Harlem and the Lower East Side, respectively; Brooklyn CB3 in Bed-Stuy; and Manhattan CB11 in East Harlem.</p> <p>“New York City is legally obligated to provide shelter to any New Yorker who would otherwise be on the streets,” said a Department of Homeless Services spokesperson in an email. “Mayor de Blasio charged the administration with evaluating the breadth of human services located in each community district citywide to identify areas to locate new shelter facilities. We are committed to engaging communities on these issues, listening to feedback and working to address community concerns.”</p> <p>DHS takes a number of factors into consideration when selecting a new site for a homeless shelter -- rating the bid made for the site, whether the building has the appropriate documentation, including a Certificate of Occupancy, whether it complies with requirements of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), timeframe of availability, potential capacity and saturation, among others. The OTDA also has to approve the expansion of an existing shelter. In non-emergency circumstances, the city ensures that elected officials are informed of a shelter opening at least 45 days in advance. DHS now also creates a Community Advisory Board for every new shelter. These boards, comprised of appointees of local elected officials and community members, hold monthly meetings with DHS staff, the shelter operator, and NYPD to discuss any pertinent issues.</p> <p>However, the regulatory void in which homeless shelter siting operates became apparent in 2014, when DHS successfully opened a new homeless shelter for adult families without children at 56-66 Clay St. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, despite protests from local officials and community members that a public review process had not taken place.</p> <p>Assembly Member Joseph Lentol pushed back, citing the four existing shelters in his district, and asking city officials to consider the Fair Share Criteria before making a final decision.</p> <p>"For more than 40 years we have been our brother’s keeper, and we continue to accept that responsibility on the condition that we are not being unfairly singled out to carry this burden," Lentol said in a letter to Department of Homeless Services about the conflict. "Other communities are not carrying this same burden because Community Board 1 is unfairly carrying this load."</p> <p>But the shelter on Clay Street was not subject to the Fair Share Criteria, or to any lengthy public review process. It was instated as an emergency shelter, for which DHS must only give seven days notice. While DHS acted legally, the shelter felt as though it had been “smuggled in by the dead of night,” Board 1 chair Dealice Fuller said in a letter to Mayor de Blasio last year.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Waste Management</strong><br />On August 17, Mayor de Blasio announced major planned reforms to the city’s commercial sanitation industry, which would seek to reduce truck traffic and emissions, increase recycling and promote environmental justice by creating commercial waste zones that are each served by one private sanitation company. The plan was praised by the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition, an environmental justice community group that has long advocated against the problem of waste facility clustering in the city.</p> <p>While city officials are making and eyeing significant strides toward reducing the amount of waste New York residents and businesses produce, processing and transfer stations are concentrated in a handful of low-income communities populated predominantly by people of color.</p> <p>Transform Don’t Trash NYC <a href="http://transformdonttrashnyc.org/resources/dirty-wasteful-unsustainable-the-urgent-need-to-reform-new-york-citys-commercial-waste-system/" target="_blank">released a report in 2015</a> indicting the city’s “inefficient and ad-hoc arrangement” for waste processing that allows hundreds of private hauling companies to collect waste from restaurants, stores, and other businesses each night and “truck it to dozens of transfer stations and recycling facilities concentrated in a handful of low-income communities of color.”</p> <p>After collecting data for both city-run and privately-owned waste collectors, the report authors found that 75% of all waste handled in New York City is trucked to transfer stations in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5589-the-bronx-is-breathing-waste-transfer-station-city-council" target="_blank">just three outer-borough neighborhoods</a> in North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Northeast Queens.</p> <p>The 4,000-plus diesel trucks that transport waste to those facilities each day emit exhaust, increase traffic congestion, and add wear and tear to roads, according to the report. The study found that the trucks’ emissions alone have a significant negative impact of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5111-while-improving-quiet-crisis-air-quality-persists-new-york-city-asthma-air-pollution" target="_blank">air quality in neighborhoods</a> where waste facilities are clustered.</p> <p>While de Blasio’s new commercial sanitation plan will address these issues, there is no indication if it will also look at the Fair Share Criteria to site new waste management facilities. In March, the New Harlem East Merchants Association wrote a letter to the Department of Sanitation, demanding that the department reconsider its <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160218/east-harlem/city-ignores-concerns-about-proposed-sanitation-garage-residents-say" target="_blank">decision to open a sanitation garage</a> in a residential neighborhood on 3rd Avenue, about 1,200 feet away from another garage on East 131 Street, and in close proximity to two schools and a new cancer treatment facility.</p> <p>According to a statement from New Harlem East Merchants Association, the addition “would place an unfair burden on the East Harlem community,” which already struggles with an asthma rate twice that of the city-wide average (asthma rates in the nearby South Bronx are also quite high). The city has not indicated that community protest will prevent a second garage from going up.</p> <p>However, where the Fair Share Criteria have failed, local legislators are pursuing alternative projects and policies to prevent low-income communities from handling the vast majority of the city’s waste with a mind toward more equitable distribution.</p> <p>Building on the 20-year <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/about/laws/solid-waste-management-plan.shtml" target="_blank">Solid Waste Management Plan</a> (SWMP), which has an environmental justice focus and was adopted by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council in 2006, City Council Member Steve Levin of Brooklyn introduced a bill in October 2014. <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1937616&amp;GUID=2680B9A0-32EF-4B2F-BFD3-85D48111006F&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=495" target="_blank">Intro. 495</a>, also known as the “Trash Cap,” would cut the daily waste processing capacity in the three most-burdened neighborhoods -- North Brooklyn, South Bronx, and Northeast Queens -- by 50% of the daily trash volume they currently receive, according to Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s legislative director, Lacey Tauber. It would also cap the permitted capacity of waste transfer stations at 10 percent of the average citywide capacity.&nbsp;</p> <p>Reynoso, who is chair of the Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste, also represents the district with the highest concentration of waste facilities: parts of Brooklyn including Williamsburg and Bushwick.&nbsp;</p> <p>Under the trash cap bill, all community districts with solid waste transfer stations would be capped, but not every cap would be the same, Tauber told Gotham Gazette. The bill considers any community district handling more than 10 percent of the city’s waste as overburdened and seeks to ensure that community districts that aren’t already over that threshold are capped at 10 percent and cannot be pushed over it.</p> <p>“The [10 percent] cap on citywide waste ensures that lessening the burden on one community does not simply transfer that full burden to another similar community,” Tauber said.</p> <p>Tauber added that pairing prevention of over-saturation of waste facilities with a clear alternative is key to not sacrificing equity in one community to benefit another.</p> <p>“If we say you can’t bring it here but don’t specify where it can go, that directs waste to other low-income communities of color,” Tauber said.</p> <p>After negotiations with the de Blasio administration about the bill, which had a hearing early in 2015, it was amended to increase the cap from the original proposal of 5 percent to the current 10 percent. The bill has not yet been voted on in committee.</p> <p>Another way to decrease truck traffic and associated ills is through the use of marine transfer stations, or MTS, where waste leaves the city via barge, decreasing traffic and consolidating the process. The city is opening MTS in Queens, Brooklyn, and, perhaps most famously, on 91 Street on the Upper East Side. According to the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, the latter, a wealthy and well-connected neighborhood, has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into an <a href="http://ny.curbed.com/2014/11/25/10018036/trash-clash" target="_blank">opposition campaign</a>. Nevertheless, construction is still underway, and proponents of MTS believe the three will offer significant relief to overburdened communities.</p> <p>“It will help decrease traffic, congestion, pollution - everything that the trucks bring into those low-income neighborhoods,” Tauber said of the Upper East Side MTS.</p> <p>Yet, the MTS currently only deal with the residential waste under the jurisdiction of the Department of Sanitation. Incentivizing private truck companies that pick up waste from businesses and restaurants is another challenge that the city appears to be targeting through the neighborhood zoning plan. This model allows the city to consolidate truck traffic and regulate labor standards, truck emissions, and more. The proposal that the de Blasio administration put out has <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/08/tough-fight-in-store-for-de-blasios-private-carting-proposal-104815" target="_blank">a long way to go before becoming law</a>.</p> <p><strong>Updating Fair Share</strong><br />Despite noble intentions, the Fair Share Criteria does not achieve the kind of transparent public input process and equitable city landscape sought by its supporters. While Speaker Mark-Viverito promised in her February State of the City address that the City Council would “empower neighborhoods by working with our partners in City and State government to create tools and improve opportunities for public input in the Fair Share process,” no specific legislation has been put forth. In the August interview with Gotham Gazette, she said the Council was exploring the issue, and may put out a paper on it.&nbsp;</p> <p>City Council Member Brad Lander, long a proponent of progressive city planning practices, has clear ideas about how to revamp the criteria.</p> <p>“Step one is to provide more transparency on both the existing siting of various forms of municipal infrastructure and services that are covered by the fair share rules, and more transparency on each individual application so it will be possible to really evaluate whether it is fair or not fair,” Lander told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>Second, Lander said that the criteria have to be updated. “If City Planning wants to do that, great. But if not, we need to step forward and push them to do it,” he said.</p> <p>The third objective, Lander said, and one that could be the most challenging legislatively, “is putting some teeth in the laws, having some consequence for unfair sitings, making unfair sitings be more difficult for the city than fairer ones.”</p> <p>“Developing a system that has at least a thumb on the scale toward more equitable distribution: that’s the ultimate goal,” Lander said.</p> <p>The City made significant moves in this direction in April, according to Lander, when the administration quietly resurrected the formerly-annual <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/Social-Indicators-Report-April-2016.pdf" target="_blank">Social Indicators Report.</a> Though the annual report was mandated in the same 1989 Charter Revision that created the Fair Share Criteria, this is the first report to be published by a Mayor in a decade.</p> <p>The report, which mostly escaped public notice, provides a comprehensive statistical snapshot of the city, ostensibly to provide a clearer understanding of both need and progress in various communities. The data is disaggregated by 45 different indicators, including race, income, gender, education, English proficiency, and others. The report’s introduction states that it is “meant to help guide the City’s efforts to reduce disparities and advance equity.”</p> <p>Lander says that while the City Council works on how to update and improve the Fair Share Criteria, the Social Indicators Report is a valuable and promising tool. “It’s a good, strong step forward,” Lander said. The Council member did not indicate whether anything on fair share from his office or the Council in general should be expected any time soon.</p> <p>Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and veteran in the fight against clustering waste facilities in low-income neighborhoods, is cautiously optimistic.</p> <p>“What would make it meaningful would be to go back to the original concept: transparency and a full accounting of the burdens and lack of benefits in each community,” Bautista said.</p> <p>“The Fair Share Criteria was all we could muster in ‘89 and ‘90. After 25 years of cynicism, I’m looking forward to the [City Council] speaker - the first speaker of color - and Brad Lander - an activist involved in early fair share conversations - working toward a solution on this.”</p> <p><em>**This is part two of a two-part series on the city’s Fair Share rules. Read part one:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6630-city-may-soon-have-more-formal-fair-share-discussion" target="_blank">City May Soon Have More Formal ‘Fair Share’ Discussion</a>**</em></p> <p>***<br />by Maggie Calmes &amp; Samar Khurshid for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note: this story has been updated to reflect amended language in Intro. 495, the "Trash Cap" bill.</p> Procedural Move Could Lead to Vote on Right to Know Act 2016-08-11T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6478:procedural-move-could-lead-to-vote-on-right-to-know-act Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/right_to_know_protest_city_hall.jpg" alt="right to know protest city hall" width="600" height="282" /></p> <p>A Right to Know Act rally</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, City Council Members Ritchie Torres and Antonio Reynoso sent out a joint statement in which they addressed the ramifications of the impending retirement of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. &ldquo;With the departure of William Bratton,&rdquo; the statement reads, &ldquo;we are reminded that administrative agreements are every bit as short-lived as commissioners themselves, coming and going in the moments we least expect.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Council members were referring to an agreement between Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Bratton on the police department internally implementing certain provisions of the Right to Know Act, a proposed package of bills regulating police officer conduct during street stops of civilians. The bills, sponsored by Torres and Reynoso, have majority support in the Council but the speaker chose not to give them a vote and instead struck a compromise with Bratton - one that his replacement, now Chief of Department Jimmy O&rsquo;Neill has pledged to uphold. That deal didn&rsquo;t sit well with Torres and Reynoso (or other reform advocates, both in and outside the Council) and the two vowed to move forward without the speaker&rsquo;s blessing.</p> <p>&ldquo;As the sole legislature in New York City, &lrm;the City Council exists to hold agencies accountable through oversight and legislation,&rdquo; the statement says. &ldquo;Passing the Right to Know Act to advance accountability and transparency in policing, is an extension of what we were elected to do. &lrm;Let us honor the legislative role to which the public, through their votes, has assigned us &ndash; it&rsquo;s beyond time for the Council to pass the Right to Know Act and we will seek to do just that without any further delay.&rdquo;</p> <p>For the two Right to Know Act bills to get a vote before the full Council, they would typically have to first be voted through the Committee on Public Safety, chaired by Council Member Vanessa Gibson, who is a co-sponsor on Torres&rsquo; bill. But committee hearings are scheduled by the Speaker&rsquo;s Office, which can deny a hearing, and in this case is clearly opposed to these bills receiving a vote.</p> <p>That doesn&rsquo;t mean, however, that Torres and Reynoso have no options to push the bills through. Under the Council rules, a bill sponsor can get seven other members to co-sign a motion to discharge the bill from committee. That motion would have to be submitted to the Speaker and the relevant committee chair at least a week before a Stated Meeting of the full Council. The motion then gets voted on by the Council, and if passed with a simple majority, the bill then gets a vote at the next Stated.</p> <p>Council Member Gibson said it was too soon to consider that tactic. "The conversation on the Right to Know Act is not over, so I think it's premature to talk about a vote without the Speaker's support that might fracture good working relationships in the Council,&rdquo; she told Gotham Gazette in an email. &ldquo;I respect the Speaker's decision and I look forward to continuing to work with her, the rest of my colleagues, and incoming Police Commissioner Chief O'Neill as we see these administrative changes come to fruition."</p> <p>A spokesperson for Council Member Torres said that a discharge motion had not been filed as of Wednesday afternoon. Torres declined to provide any comment for this story. The Council&rsquo;s next stated meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 16. After that, the next Stated is set for September 14.</p> <p>Torres&rsquo; bill, Intro. 182, would require police officers to identify themselves by name, rank and command when a street stop does not end in an arrest. The bill has 33 sponsors. Reynoso&rsquo;s bill, Intro. 541, requires officers to obtain consent when searching a person, vehicle or home and also to inform a person of their right to refuse consent. That bill has 28 sponsors.</p> <p>The compromise between Mark-Viverito and Bratton incorporates certain aspects of the two bills, but not all. Under the agreement, the NYPD will make changes to its patrol guide, requiring officers to obtain a clear "yes" or "no" response after asking to conduct a consent search - meaning a search where there is no probable cause. Officers will also be required to give out business cards when they search a person, property, vehicle or home or at checkpoint stops and the search does not result in a punitive action.</p> <p>Council Member Jumaane Williams, an ally on both Right to Know bills and an outspoken critic of the deal between the speaker and commissioner, said he was glad Torres and Reynoso had decided to forge ahead with the bills. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll follow their leadership,&rdquo; he told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview. Williams agrees that the provisions of the bills need to be codified in law to be effective.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Speaker has said the legislative door isn&rsquo;t closed,&rdquo; he added, referring to Mark-Viverito&rsquo;s pledge to re-evaluate as they see implementation of the administrative changes, which will include adjustments to the NYPD patrol guide and new training of officers. &ldquo;Hopefully there&rsquo;s some common ground that we can reach to move [the Right to Know Act] forward,&rdquo; Williams said, adding that Bratton&rsquo;s retirement provides an opportunity &ldquo;to take a new look at where we are with this act.&rdquo;</p> <p>On Thursday, a number of prominent advocacy organizations that have been pushing the Right to Know Act and criticizing Mark-Viverito over her compromise with Bratton held a Twitter rally calling for passage of the two bills with the hashtag <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23RightToKnowAct&amp;src=tyah" target="_blank">#RightToKnowAct</a>. Leading the call was Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition group of dozens of nonprofits. Organizations that lent their voices to the effort on Twitter include the Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the New York Working Families Party, Justice League NYC, and Color of Change, among others.</p> <p>So far, the speaker has not responded to the indications that Torres and Reynoso would seek a vote without her express approval. She has time and again reiterated that the agreement with Bratton is an effective reform measure and one that goes into effect faster than legislation could. &ldquo;This is yet another set of critical police reforms that will continue to keep New Yorkers safe while also ensuring better interactions with the communities they serve,&rdquo; the speaker said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;This agreement is about more than talk, it is about action. These reforms serve as a model for how we can work collaboratively to achieve lasting change.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/right_to_know_protest_city_hall.jpg" alt="right to know protest city hall" width="600" height="282" /></p> <p>A Right to Know Act rally</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, City Council Members Ritchie Torres and Antonio Reynoso sent out a joint statement in which they addressed the ramifications of the impending retirement of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. &ldquo;With the departure of William Bratton,&rdquo; the statement reads, &ldquo;we are reminded that administrative agreements are every bit as short-lived as commissioners themselves, coming and going in the moments we least expect.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Council members were referring to an agreement between Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Bratton on the police department internally implementing certain provisions of the Right to Know Act, a proposed package of bills regulating police officer conduct during street stops of civilians. The bills, sponsored by Torres and Reynoso, have majority support in the Council but the speaker chose not to give them a vote and instead struck a compromise with Bratton - one that his replacement, now Chief of Department Jimmy O&rsquo;Neill has pledged to uphold. That deal didn&rsquo;t sit well with Torres and Reynoso (or other reform advocates, both in and outside the Council) and the two vowed to move forward without the speaker&rsquo;s blessing.</p> <p>&ldquo;As the sole legislature in New York City, &lrm;the City Council exists to hold agencies accountable through oversight and legislation,&rdquo; the statement says. &ldquo;Passing the Right to Know Act to advance accountability and transparency in policing, is an extension of what we were elected to do. &lrm;Let us honor the legislative role to which the public, through their votes, has assigned us &ndash; it&rsquo;s beyond time for the Council to pass the Right to Know Act and we will seek to do just that without any further delay.&rdquo;</p> <p>For the two Right to Know Act bills to get a vote before the full Council, they would typically have to first be voted through the Committee on Public Safety, chaired by Council Member Vanessa Gibson, who is a co-sponsor on Torres&rsquo; bill. But committee hearings are scheduled by the Speaker&rsquo;s Office, which can deny a hearing, and in this case is clearly opposed to these bills receiving a vote.</p> <p>That doesn&rsquo;t mean, however, that Torres and Reynoso have no options to push the bills through. Under the Council rules, a bill sponsor can get seven other members to co-sign a motion to discharge the bill from committee. That motion would have to be submitted to the Speaker and the relevant committee chair at least a week before a Stated Meeting of the full Council. The motion then gets voted on by the Council, and if passed with a simple majority, the bill then gets a vote at the next Stated.</p> <p>Council Member Gibson said it was too soon to consider that tactic. "The conversation on the Right to Know Act is not over, so I think it's premature to talk about a vote without the Speaker's support that might fracture good working relationships in the Council,&rdquo; she told Gotham Gazette in an email. &ldquo;I respect the Speaker's decision and I look forward to continuing to work with her, the rest of my colleagues, and incoming Police Commissioner Chief O'Neill as we see these administrative changes come to fruition."</p> <p>A spokesperson for Council Member Torres said that a discharge motion had not been filed as of Wednesday afternoon. Torres declined to provide any comment for this story. The Council&rsquo;s next stated meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 16. After that, the next Stated is set for September 14.</p> <p>Torres&rsquo; bill, Intro. 182, would require police officers to identify themselves by name, rank and command when a street stop does not end in an arrest. The bill has 33 sponsors. Reynoso&rsquo;s bill, Intro. 541, requires officers to obtain consent when searching a person, vehicle or home and also to inform a person of their right to refuse consent. That bill has 28 sponsors.</p> <p>The compromise between Mark-Viverito and Bratton incorporates certain aspects of the two bills, but not all. Under the agreement, the NYPD will make changes to its patrol guide, requiring officers to obtain a clear "yes" or "no" response after asking to conduct a consent search - meaning a search where there is no probable cause. Officers will also be required to give out business cards when they search a person, property, vehicle or home or at checkpoint stops and the search does not result in a punitive action.</p> <p>Council Member Jumaane Williams, an ally on both Right to Know bills and an outspoken critic of the deal between the speaker and commissioner, said he was glad Torres and Reynoso had decided to forge ahead with the bills. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll follow their leadership,&rdquo; he told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview. Williams agrees that the provisions of the bills need to be codified in law to be effective.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Speaker has said the legislative door isn&rsquo;t closed,&rdquo; he added, referring to Mark-Viverito&rsquo;s pledge to re-evaluate as they see implementation of the administrative changes, which will include adjustments to the NYPD patrol guide and new training of officers. &ldquo;Hopefully there&rsquo;s some common ground that we can reach to move [the Right to Know Act] forward,&rdquo; Williams said, adding that Bratton&rsquo;s retirement provides an opportunity &ldquo;to take a new look at where we are with this act.&rdquo;</p> <p>On Thursday, a number of prominent advocacy organizations that have been pushing the Right to Know Act and criticizing Mark-Viverito over her compromise with Bratton held a Twitter rally calling for passage of the two bills with the hashtag <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23RightToKnowAct&amp;src=tyah" target="_blank">#RightToKnowAct</a>. Leading the call was Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition group of dozens of nonprofits. Organizations that lent their voices to the effort on Twitter include the Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the New York Working Families Party, Justice League NYC, and Color of Change, among others.</p> <p>So far, the speaker has not responded to the indications that Torres and Reynoso would seek a vote without her express approval. She has time and again reiterated that the agreement with Bratton is an effective reform measure and one that goes into effect faster than legislation could. &ldquo;This is yet another set of critical police reforms that will continue to keep New Yorkers safe while also ensuring better interactions with the communities they serve,&rdquo; the speaker said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;This agreement is about more than talk, it is about action. These reforms serve as a model for how we can work collaboratively to achieve lasting change.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Use of Abstentions Varies Widely Among City Council Members 2016-06-22T04:00:00+00:00 2016-06-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6410:use-of-abstentions-varies-widely-among-city-council-members Amanda Sherwin <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27083071523_4affcb6e87_z.jpg" alt="27083071523 4affcb6e87 z" width="640" height="428" /><br />City Council chambers (Sofie Hecht for Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Hundreds of times a year, City Council members vote on pieces of legislation, including the city&rsquo;s budget, land use matters, and a wide variety of bills and resolutions. Members almost always vote &ldquo;yes&rdquo; or &ldquo;no.&rdquo; But sometimes, Council members choose to abstain, actively deciding not to declare they are for or against what is in front of them, and in the 51-seat City Council, abstentions are used by members to widely varying degrees.</p> <p>In the New York State Assembly, lawmakers <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/research/ethics/50-state-table-voting-recusal-provisions.aspx" target="_blank">may only abstain</a> from a vote when doing so would constitute a conflict of interest. In the New York City Council, however, lawmakers must abstain from a vote if there is a legitimate conflict of interest, but may abstain for other personal or political reasons as well. This leeway has led to some interesting voting patterns. Of the Council&rsquo;s current 51 members, 34 did not abstain from a vote during this iteration of the Council, which began in January of 2014, through May 12, 2016. The other 17 Council members have abstained between one and 103 times.</p> <p>At Gotham Gazette&rsquo;s request, data on all votes from the current Council session -- January 2014 to May 12, 2016 -- was scraped from the City Council website by <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/" target="_blank">NYC Councilmatic</a> and DataMade, a civic technology company.</p> <p>City Council Member Ruben Wills, who has been <a href="http://www.ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-comptroller-dinapoli-announce-indictment-nyc-councilman-ruben-wills" target="_blank">indicted</a> on corruption charges and also dealing with health issues, has abstained 103 times. Wills, who has also been declared absent for many votes, which is different from abstaining, declined to comment when contacted. The second most abstentions over the two year-plus period was by Council Member Jumaane Williams, who abstained 36 times. Council Members Andy King and Inez Barron abstained 21 times each, and Council Member Rosie Mendez abstained 14 times.</p> <p>The other 13 Council members who abstained during the tabulated time period did so between one and four times.</p> <p>(Note: some Council members abstained on the same bill or issue brought up at different times, like in committee and at the full Council. Bills must pass through committee, then the full Council to go to the Mayor&rsquo;s desk.)</p> <p>Two-thirds of Council members did not abstain from a single vote during the period studied. Two of those Council members who spoke with Gotham Gazette expressed similar opinions about the importance of voting, citing conflict-of-interest as the lone justifiable exception for abstaining. Council members who have abstained gave a variety of explanations when asked.</p> <p>&ldquo;I have one job. That job is to vote,&rdquo; said City Council Member Ben Kallos, who has not abstained on a vote since joining the Council in 2014. &ldquo;It is the one power, the one privilege that I have that no one else has and I take it seriously, and come to a decision every time. I was elected by the people to vote and for constituents to know where I stand on these issues.&rdquo;</p> <p>Nine Council members who have abstained on at least one vote gave reasons to Gotham Gazette, including: being supportive of part of but not the whole bill, and believing the bill needs more work, but not opposed to the concept enough to warrant a &ldquo;no&rdquo; vote; concern about the unintended consequences of a bill; needing additional time to review the legislation and/or gather feedback from constituents; deference to colleagues; and avoiding making a politically unwise move.</p> <p>&ldquo;I imagine there are three reasons for abstaining,&rdquo; said Council Member Ritchie Torres, who has not abstained since joining the Council in 2014. &ldquo;You might abstain out of ethics: you have a conflict of interest. Or you might abstain out of politics: you wish to avoid making a politically inexpedient vote. Or you might abstain out of ambivalence about the merits of the vote in question.&rdquo;</p> <p>Of those three, Torres continued, &ldquo;the only sensible justification is ethics,&rdquo; the other two are &ldquo;insufficient justifications for abstaining.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES</strong><br />Council Members Mark Treyger and Alan Maisel have both abstained only once, on a 2014 <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-253-2014/" target="_blank">bill </a>that eventually resulted in the creation of the city&rsquo;s IDNYC municipal identification card program. Treyger and Maisel, both former educators, were supportive of the policy, but had concerns about the way the data gathered to create ID cards for potentially undocumented immigrants would be stored, and who might have access to that data.</p> <p>During a hearing on the bill, &ldquo;Maisel and I asked about the security and the storage of the names of the applicants when they apply for the card, who holds it, who stores it, and is this information accessible by the Department of Homeland Security,&rdquo; Treyger told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;The answer was &lsquo;yes,&rsquo; we were told they have to store the information for a number of years, and it can get turned over to the [federal] government.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;I quite frankly did not feel comfortable with these answers, so I abstained as a sign of a lack of confidence with the security and protection of the names, but I didn&rsquo;t reject it as a whole, because I did advocate for resident discount cards for New Yorkers,&rdquo; Treyger added.</p> <p>Both Maisel and Treyger said that their previous experience as educators had shown them that some immigrant parents were deeply concerned about sharing information, and the two Council members were worried that information gathered for IDNYC cards could end up in the wrong hands.</p> <p>&ldquo;For example,&rdquo; Maisel said, they would essentially end up creating a list for &ldquo;a certain presidential candidate who could possibly become elected president, and we know where he stands on people who are undocumented,&rdquo; in obvious reference to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who has talked about rounding up undocumented immigrants for deportation.</p> <p><strong>POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS</strong><br />Five Council Members abstained on a <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-1109-2016/" target="_blank">recent bill</a> to limit the space in which costumed characters and other performers can operate in Times Square. The five members who abstained on the bill are all members of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus: Andy King, Rosie Mendez, Inez Barron, Vanessa Gibson, and Antonio Reynoso (Robert Cornegy Jr., also a member of the BLAC, was the lone &ldquo;no&rdquo; vote on the bill).</p> <p>Mendez and King said that they chose not to vote &ldquo;yes&rdquo; or &ldquo;no&rdquo; on the bill because King had introduced a similar bill back in 2014, yet neither King nor his bill were included in the drafting and passage of the new bill, introduced by Council Member Corey Johnson.</p> <p>&ldquo;When multiple Council members have ideas for the same or similar legislation, they will combine the Council members,&rdquo; Mendez said. King had proposed the legislation years ago, Mendez said, but &ldquo;King was never asked, never told anything, and his bill was disregarded.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;When I didn&rsquo;t see Andy&rsquo;s name on it, I decided to abstain,&rdquo; Mendez continued, adding that she did not have a chance to compare Johnson&rsquo;s bill against King&rsquo;s bill to see how similar or dissimilar they were. &ldquo;At the end of the day I had real concern about..the role of community boards not being included in the legislation.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;It got a little personal, so I chose not to vote on it, because I believed still more work needed to be done,&rdquo; King said of <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2597317&amp;GUID=56AB0593-7AB9-4595-BED3-FB292E6E1FC6&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank">Intro-1109</a>, the pedestrian plaza bill, which is now law.</p> <p>&ldquo;As you know, I started this conversation in 2014,&rdquo; King continued, &ldquo;and I thought it didn&rsquo;t play well in the Council for other Council members to pass something without inclusion of legislation that was already in the queue to address that&hellip;I chose not to participate rather than saying &ldquo;no&rdquo; to this one, I wanted to work to put more teeth in it.&rdquo;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Council Member Antonio Reynoso said that he abstained (his only abstention over the two-plus year period examined for this article) due to concern about &ldquo;potential unintended consequences of the bill. However, many members and advocates that we work with regularly and whose judgment we trust were for it, so he didn&rsquo;t want to go against it either. Instead he opted not to take a formal position.&rdquo;</p> <p>Council Members Gibson and Barron were not made available for comment, despite numerous requests.</p> <p><strong>NOT THE WHOLE PACKAGE</strong><br />Occasionally, Council members will abstain from voting on a bill because they do not entirely approve of it (whether it is due to what they see as potential unintended consequences or simply falling short of what would be ideal for their constituents).</p> <p>For example, Mendez abstained on one of two controversial changes to city land use rules (Zoning for Quality and Affordability, or ZQA) in committee because she felt that &ldquo;recent contextual rezoning that happened in the last ten years should've been kept intact.&rdquo;</p> <p>Yet, Council members &ldquo;made changes, so I didn't feel it merited a &ldquo;no&rdquo; vote,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But they didn't make enough changes to get me to a &ldquo;yes.&rdquo; So I abstained&hellip;.it wasn&rsquo;t completely wrong, it wasn&rsquo;t completely right, so I felt like that was the appropriate vote.&rdquo;</p> <p>To Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, occasionally abstaining on a vote because some elements of the bill warrant a positive vote, but some warrant a negative vote &ldquo;makes a great deal of sense.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;But,&rdquo; Muzzio continued, &ldquo;Ruben Wills abstaining 103 times indicates that he&rsquo;s a very confused Council member, and a very conflicted Council member.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;An excessive amount of abstentions,&rdquo; Muzzio said, suggests &ldquo;that he doesn&rsquo;t have very clear ideas in his mind of how to asses a policy so he takes the easy way out, which is abstaining.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>DEFERENCE/LAND USE</strong><br />At other times, Council members may choose to abstain, as King puts it, &ldquo;as a professional courtesy to my colleagues, as opposed to saying that we&rsquo;re not all on the same page.&rdquo; &ldquo;Unless it&rsquo;s something that has a really, really devastating impact on my constituents,&rdquo; King added.</p> <p>Abstaining out of deference seems to occur more often in the context of a vote on land use items, where the Council is known to defer to the local member whose district is directly involved. &ldquo;I have abstained usually land use items that are in a particular member's&rsquo; district,&rdquo; Mendez said. &ldquo;I would have otherwise voted &ldquo;no,&rdquo; but in deference to the Council member of that district I will abstain.&rdquo;</p> <p>This is because, as Mendez puts it, &ldquo;I really feel like I know my district better than anyone else&hellip;Likewise, I&rsquo;m not sitting in on all the minutiae of what [another Council member is] trying to negotiate for their district.&rdquo;</p> <p>But as Torres sees it, &ldquo;land use is the only context which a rank-and-file Council member can emerge as a counterweight to the Mayor&rsquo;s Office,&rdquo; and abstaining in land use out of deference to another Council member means those members who abstain &ldquo;are enjoying the benefits of local deference themselves while denying the benefit to everyone else. There&rsquo;s a word for this - parasitic.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;As far as I&rsquo;m concerned, it&rsquo;s parasitic,&rdquo; Torres continued. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not inaction, you are actively undermining the Council as an institution and&hellip;reaping the benefit of local deference to yourself while denying it to your colleagues.&rdquo; For Torres, the only valid reason for choosing not to vote &ldquo;should be ethics.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>NOT ENOUGH TIME</strong><br />On April 14, Council Member Jumaane Williams <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=479372&amp;GUID=32A5DF60-4B24-4DD0-8DF1-56C930581430&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">abstained</a> on a vote on the East New York rezoning plan in subcommittee, only to <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=479373&amp;GUID=E1C0D395-6B5B-4490-AFA2-7E4913F00F35&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">change his vote to a &ldquo;yes&rdquo;</a> when the same bill was heard in the Land Use committee less than an hour later.</p> <p>&ldquo;I just got the final plan this morning. I want to make sure to review it properly,&rdquo; Williams said at the time when asked by Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;At first glance, it looks good. I&rsquo;m still a little concerned about MIH [Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, the companion land use change to ZQA], but there wasn&rsquo;t much more you could ask him [Council Member Rafael Espinal] to do. That&rsquo;s why I changed my vote to a &ldquo;yes&rdquo; in Land Use.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;I will vote &ldquo;yes&rdquo; on the floor,&rdquo; Williams said, and did. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s obviously people left out of the plan. We have to figure out how to address that. But with the tools at his disposal, I think [Espinal] did the best that he could.&rdquo;</p> <p>According to Travis Lamprecht, a spokesperson for Council Member Vincent Gentile (who has abstained four times), the Council Member &ldquo;will choose to do so when he needs additional time to gather feedback from his district in order to make an educated decision for his constituents.&rdquo; Gentile has abstained twice on land use matters; once on Williams&rsquo; 2014 <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-318-2014/" target="_blank">bill</a> to prohibit discrimination when hiring based on a person&rsquo;s arrest record; and once on Council Member Helen Rosenthal&rsquo;s 2014 <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-171-2014/" target="_blank">bill</a> in relation to traffic violations and serious crashes and license suspension.</p> <p><strong>EXPLAINING ON THE FLOOR</strong><br />Council Members Brad Lander and Helen Rosenthal, both of whom have not abstained in the aggregated period, declined to comment for this story. Council Members Vanessa Gibson (four abstentions), Inez Barron (21), Robert Cornegy (four), Andrew Cohen (four), I. Daneek Miller (two), Eric Ulrich (two), Chaim Deutsch (two), Darlene Mealy (one), and Paul Vallone (one) all were not made available for comment, despite numerous attempts.</p> <p>It should be noted that abstaining is different from &ldquo;non-voting,&rdquo; which can occur when a Council member is not present for the vote. Council members may also be marked as &ldquo;excused&rdquo; from voting for medical reasons, or for jury duty, parental leave, and bereavement.</p> <p>Vallone&rsquo;s only abstention was on <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2560152&amp;GUID=52D3026A-7111-4C0A-B8B6-4215192147E9&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank">legislation</a> prohibiting Council members from <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6179-de-blasio-to-sign-higher-raises-for-council-than-he-previously-approved" target="_blank">earning most forms of outside income</a> and making the position of Council member full-time (one of Deutsch&rsquo;s two abstentions was also for this legislation).</p> <p>Ulrich's two abstentions were on bills introduced by Brad Lander requiring the NYC Commission on Human rights to perform an <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-690-2015/" target="_blank">employment</a> discrimination investigation and a <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-689-2015/" target="_blank">housing</a> discrimination investigation.</p> <p>Three of Gibson's four abstentions occurred on April 7, 2016 (on the <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-1109-2016/" target="_blank">pedestrian plaza bill</a>, on a bill to <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-1095-2016/" target="_blank">increase penalties</a> for illegal street hails at the city's airports and other designated areas, and on a bill to create a <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-1095-2016/" target="_blank">universal license</a> for taxicab and for-hire vehicle drivers and require that English language proficiency not be assessed through a written exam).</p> <p>&ldquo;Abstaining can mean several things,&rdquo; as Muzzio said, but &ldquo;one should always explain an abstention, because in a sense, it&rsquo;s a chicken[expletive] vote, meaning it&rsquo;s a way to evade a hard choice.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Ultimately,&rdquo; says Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, &ldquo;the voters are the judge, because their interest is what is supposed to be represented.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;City Council members are accountable to the people who elect them, and it&rsquo;s important for the public to know if a Council member chooses not to vote on an issue that a constituent thinks is important,&rdquo; Horner said. &ldquo;The Council member should have to explain it.&rdquo;</p> <p>When abstaining, Council members occasionally give a brief explanation for their vote.</p> <p>&ldquo;We are giving Department of Transportation the authority to justify the complete removal of costumed characters from Times Square,&rdquo; Reynoso said during an April vote on the pedestrian plaza bill. &ldquo;Should it lead to unintended consequences...we would be left with little recourse outside of legislation to undo any action,&rdquo; he added, expressing concern over the potential tension and competition that could arise should the costumed characters in Times Square be &ldquo;corralled&rdquo; into the proposed spaces, and he abstained.</p> <p>&ldquo;This has been a very important process, not perfect, but better than when it started,&rdquo; Mendez said during the March vote on rezoning plans. &ldquo;I think some of the Voluntary Inclusionary Zones could have been made mandatory&hellip;And I'm not happy with the fact that we are getting some height increases in the non-contextual zones,&rdquo; but, Mendez continued, &ldquo;since some work was done on this, and I feel that it is important to have a mandate inclusionary housing, I will be voting &ldquo;yes&rdquo;&rdquo; on two pieces of legislation and &ldquo;abstaining on LU 335 and the accompanying Reso 1023.&rdquo;</p> <p><em>ABSTENTION DATA, provided by Councilmatic and DataMade</em><br />Council members and number of abstentions from the current session, January 2014 to May 12, 2016<br /><br />Ruben Wills 103<br />Jumaane Williams 36<br />Inez Barron 21<br />Andy King 21<br />Rosie Mendez 14<br />Andrew Cohen 4<br />Vincent Gentile 4<br />Robert Cornegy 4<br />Vanessa Gibson 4<br />Chaim Deutsch 2<br />Eric Ulrich 2<br />I. Daneek Miller 2<br />Mark Treyger 1<br />Paul Vallone 1<br />Alan Maisel 1<br />Darlene Mealy 1<br />Antonio Reynoso 1</p> <p>Ben Kallos 0<br />Ritchie Torres 0<br />Brad Lander 0<br />Helen Rosenthal 0<br />Steven Matteo 0<br />Margaret Chin 0<br />Peter Koo 0<br />Fernando Cabrera 0<br />Costa Constantinides 0<br />Elizabeth Crowley 0<br />Laurie Cumbo 0<br />Inez Dickens 0<br />Daniel Dromm 0<br />Rafael Espinal 0<br />Mathieu Eugene 0<br />Julissa Ferreras-Copeland 0<br />Dan Garodnick 0<br />Barry Grodenchik 0<br />Karen Koslowitz 0<br />Stephen Levin 0<br />Mark Levine 0<br />Melissa Mark-Viverito 0<br />Carlos Menchaca 0<br />Annabel Palma 0<br />Ydanis Rodriguez 0<br />Donovan Richards 0<br />Deborah Rose 0<br />James Vacca 0<br />Jimmy Van Bramer 0<br />Joe Borelli 0<br />Rafael Salamanca - 0</p> <p>*Maria Carmen del Arroyo, Vincent Ignizio, and Mark Weprin also served as Council Members during this session before resigning and being replaced by Salamanca, Borelli, and Grodenchik, respectively, though none of the three abstained on any vote during the aggregated period.</p> <p>

***
by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27083071523_4affcb6e87_z.jpg" alt="27083071523 4affcb6e87 z" width="640" height="428" /><br />City Council chambers (Sofie Hecht for Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Hundreds of times a year, City Council members vote on pieces of legislation, including the city&rsquo;s budget, land use matters, and a wide variety of bills and resolutions. Members almost always vote &ldquo;yes&rdquo; or &ldquo;no.&rdquo; But sometimes, Council members choose to abstain, actively deciding not to declare they are for or against what is in front of them, and in the 51-seat City Council, abstentions are used by members to widely varying degrees.</p> <p>In the New York State Assembly, lawmakers <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/research/ethics/50-state-table-voting-recusal-provisions.aspx" target="_blank">may only abstain</a> from a vote when doing so would constitute a conflict of interest. In the New York City Council, however, lawmakers must abstain from a vote if there is a legitimate conflict of interest, but may abstain for other personal or political reasons as well. This leeway has led to some interesting voting patterns. Of the Council&rsquo;s current 51 members, 34 did not abstain from a vote during this iteration of the Council, which began in January of 2014, through May 12, 2016. The other 17 Council members have abstained between one and 103 times.</p> <p>At Gotham Gazette&rsquo;s request, data on all votes from the current Council session -- January 2014 to May 12, 2016 -- was scraped from the City Council website by <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/" target="_blank">NYC Councilmatic</a> and DataMade, a civic technology company.</p> <p>City Council Member Ruben Wills, who has been <a href="http://www.ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-comptroller-dinapoli-announce-indictment-nyc-councilman-ruben-wills" target="_blank">indicted</a> on corruption charges and also dealing with health issues, has abstained 103 times. Wills, who has also been declared absent for many votes, which is different from abstaining, declined to comment when contacted. The second most abstentions over the two year-plus period was by Council Member Jumaane Williams, who abstained 36 times. Council Members Andy King and Inez Barron abstained 21 times each, and Council Member Rosie Mendez abstained 14 times.</p> <p>The other 13 Council members who abstained during the tabulated time period did so between one and four times.</p> <p>(Note: some Council members abstained on the same bill or issue brought up at different times, like in committee and at the full Council. Bills must pass through committee, then the full Council to go to the Mayor&rsquo;s desk.)</p> <p>Two-thirds of Council members did not abstain from a single vote during the period studied. Two of those Council members who spoke with Gotham Gazette expressed similar opinions about the importance of voting, citing conflict-of-interest as the lone justifiable exception for abstaining. Council members who have abstained gave a variety of explanations when asked.</p> <p>&ldquo;I have one job. That job is to vote,&rdquo; said City Council Member Ben Kallos, who has not abstained on a vote since joining the Council in 2014. &ldquo;It is the one power, the one privilege that I have that no one else has and I take it seriously, and come to a decision every time. I was elected by the people to vote and for constituents to know where I stand on these issues.&rdquo;</p> <p>Nine Council members who have abstained on at least one vote gave reasons to Gotham Gazette, including: being supportive of part of but not the whole bill, and believing the bill needs more work, but not opposed to the concept enough to warrant a &ldquo;no&rdquo; vote; concern about the unintended consequences of a bill; needing additional time to review the legislation and/or gather feedback from constituents; deference to colleagues; and avoiding making a politically unwise move.</p> <p>&ldquo;I imagine there are three reasons for abstaining,&rdquo; said Council Member Ritchie Torres, who has not abstained since joining the Council in 2014. &ldquo;You might abstain out of ethics: you have a conflict of interest. Or you might abstain out of politics: you wish to avoid making a politically inexpedient vote. Or you might abstain out of ambivalence about the merits of the vote in question.&rdquo;</p> <p>Of those three, Torres continued, &ldquo;the only sensible justification is ethics,&rdquo; the other two are &ldquo;insufficient justifications for abstaining.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES</strong><br />Council Members Mark Treyger and Alan Maisel have both abstained only once, on a 2014 <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-253-2014/" target="_blank">bill </a>that eventually resulted in the creation of the city&rsquo;s IDNYC municipal identification card program. Treyger and Maisel, both former educators, were supportive of the policy, but had concerns about the way the data gathered to create ID cards for potentially undocumented immigrants would be stored, and who might have access to that data.</p> <p>During a hearing on the bill, &ldquo;Maisel and I asked about the security and the storage of the names of the applicants when they apply for the card, who holds it, who stores it, and is this information accessible by the Department of Homeland Security,&rdquo; Treyger told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;The answer was &lsquo;yes,&rsquo; we were told they have to store the information for a number of years, and it can get turned over to the [federal] government.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;I quite frankly did not feel comfortable with these answers, so I abstained as a sign of a lack of confidence with the security and protection of the names, but I didn&rsquo;t reject it as a whole, because I did advocate for resident discount cards for New Yorkers,&rdquo; Treyger added.</p> <p>Both Maisel and Treyger said that their previous experience as educators had shown them that some immigrant parents were deeply concerned about sharing information, and the two Council members were worried that information gathered for IDNYC cards could end up in the wrong hands.</p> <p>&ldquo;For example,&rdquo; Maisel said, they would essentially end up creating a list for &ldquo;a certain presidential candidate who could possibly become elected president, and we know where he stands on people who are undocumented,&rdquo; in obvious reference to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who has talked about rounding up undocumented immigrants for deportation.</p> <p><strong>POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS</strong><br />Five Council Members abstained on a <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-1109-2016/" target="_blank">recent bill</a> to limit the space in which costumed characters and other performers can operate in Times Square. The five members who abstained on the bill are all members of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus: Andy King, Rosie Mendez, Inez Barron, Vanessa Gibson, and Antonio Reynoso (Robert Cornegy Jr., also a member of the BLAC, was the lone &ldquo;no&rdquo; vote on the bill).</p> <p>Mendez and King said that they chose not to vote &ldquo;yes&rdquo; or &ldquo;no&rdquo; on the bill because King had introduced a similar bill back in 2014, yet neither King nor his bill were included in the drafting and passage of the new bill, introduced by Council Member Corey Johnson.</p> <p>&ldquo;When multiple Council members have ideas for the same or similar legislation, they will combine the Council members,&rdquo; Mendez said. King had proposed the legislation years ago, Mendez said, but &ldquo;King was never asked, never told anything, and his bill was disregarded.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;When I didn&rsquo;t see Andy&rsquo;s name on it, I decided to abstain,&rdquo; Mendez continued, adding that she did not have a chance to compare Johnson&rsquo;s bill against King&rsquo;s bill to see how similar or dissimilar they were. &ldquo;At the end of the day I had real concern about..the role of community boards not being included in the legislation.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;It got a little personal, so I chose not to vote on it, because I believed still more work needed to be done,&rdquo; King said of <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2597317&amp;GUID=56AB0593-7AB9-4595-BED3-FB292E6E1FC6&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank">Intro-1109</a>, the pedestrian plaza bill, which is now law.</p> <p>&ldquo;As you know, I started this conversation in 2014,&rdquo; King continued, &ldquo;and I thought it didn&rsquo;t play well in the Council for other Council members to pass something without inclusion of legislation that was already in the queue to address that&hellip;I chose not to participate rather than saying &ldquo;no&rdquo; to this one, I wanted to work to put more teeth in it.&rdquo;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Council Member Antonio Reynoso said that he abstained (his only abstention over the two-plus year period examined for this article) due to concern about &ldquo;potential unintended consequences of the bill. However, many members and advocates that we work with regularly and whose judgment we trust were for it, so he didn&rsquo;t want to go against it either. Instead he opted not to take a formal position.&rdquo;</p> <p>Council Members Gibson and Barron were not made available for comment, despite numerous requests.</p> <p><strong>NOT THE WHOLE PACKAGE</strong><br />Occasionally, Council members will abstain from voting on a bill because they do not entirely approve of it (whether it is due to what they see as potential unintended consequences or simply falling short of what would be ideal for their constituents).</p> <p>For example, Mendez abstained on one of two controversial changes to city land use rules (Zoning for Quality and Affordability, or ZQA) in committee because she felt that &ldquo;recent contextual rezoning that happened in the last ten years should've been kept intact.&rdquo;</p> <p>Yet, Council members &ldquo;made changes, so I didn't feel it merited a &ldquo;no&rdquo; vote,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But they didn't make enough changes to get me to a &ldquo;yes.&rdquo; So I abstained&hellip;.it wasn&rsquo;t completely wrong, it wasn&rsquo;t completely right, so I felt like that was the appropriate vote.&rdquo;</p> <p>To Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, occasionally abstaining on a vote because some elements of the bill warrant a positive vote, but some warrant a negative vote &ldquo;makes a great deal of sense.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;But,&rdquo; Muzzio continued, &ldquo;Ruben Wills abstaining 103 times indicates that he&rsquo;s a very confused Council member, and a very conflicted Council member.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;An excessive amount of abstentions,&rdquo; Muzzio said, suggests &ldquo;that he doesn&rsquo;t have very clear ideas in his mind of how to asses a policy so he takes the easy way out, which is abstaining.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>DEFERENCE/LAND USE</strong><br />At other times, Council members may choose to abstain, as King puts it, &ldquo;as a professional courtesy to my colleagues, as opposed to saying that we&rsquo;re not all on the same page.&rdquo; &ldquo;Unless it&rsquo;s something that has a really, really devastating impact on my constituents,&rdquo; King added.</p> <p>Abstaining out of deference seems to occur more often in the context of a vote on land use items, where the Council is known to defer to the local member whose district is directly involved. &ldquo;I have abstained usually land use items that are in a particular member's&rsquo; district,&rdquo; Mendez said. &ldquo;I would have otherwise voted &ldquo;no,&rdquo; but in deference to the Council member of that district I will abstain.&rdquo;</p> <p>This is because, as Mendez puts it, &ldquo;I really feel like I know my district better than anyone else&hellip;Likewise, I&rsquo;m not sitting in on all the minutiae of what [another Council member is] trying to negotiate for their district.&rdquo;</p> <p>But as Torres sees it, &ldquo;land use is the only context which a rank-and-file Council member can emerge as a counterweight to the Mayor&rsquo;s Office,&rdquo; and abstaining in land use out of deference to another Council member means those members who abstain &ldquo;are enjoying the benefits of local deference themselves while denying the benefit to everyone else. There&rsquo;s a word for this - parasitic.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;As far as I&rsquo;m concerned, it&rsquo;s parasitic,&rdquo; Torres continued. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not inaction, you are actively undermining the Council as an institution and&hellip;reaping the benefit of local deference to yourself while denying it to your colleagues.&rdquo; For Torres, the only valid reason for choosing not to vote &ldquo;should be ethics.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>NOT ENOUGH TIME</strong><br />On April 14, Council Member Jumaane Williams <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=479372&amp;GUID=32A5DF60-4B24-4DD0-8DF1-56C930581430&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">abstained</a> on a vote on the East New York rezoning plan in subcommittee, only to <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=479373&amp;GUID=E1C0D395-6B5B-4490-AFA2-7E4913F00F35&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank">change his vote to a &ldquo;yes&rdquo;</a> when the same bill was heard in the Land Use committee less than an hour later.</p> <p>&ldquo;I just got the final plan this morning. I want to make sure to review it properly,&rdquo; Williams said at the time when asked by Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;At first glance, it looks good. I&rsquo;m still a little concerned about MIH [Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, the companion land use change to ZQA], but there wasn&rsquo;t much more you could ask him [Council Member Rafael Espinal] to do. That&rsquo;s why I changed my vote to a &ldquo;yes&rdquo; in Land Use.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;I will vote &ldquo;yes&rdquo; on the floor,&rdquo; Williams said, and did. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s obviously people left out of the plan. We have to figure out how to address that. But with the tools at his disposal, I think [Espinal] did the best that he could.&rdquo;</p> <p>According to Travis Lamprecht, a spokesperson for Council Member Vincent Gentile (who has abstained four times), the Council Member &ldquo;will choose to do so when he needs additional time to gather feedback from his district in order to make an educated decision for his constituents.&rdquo; Gentile has abstained twice on land use matters; once on Williams&rsquo; 2014 <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-318-2014/" target="_blank">bill</a> to prohibit discrimination when hiring based on a person&rsquo;s arrest record; and once on Council Member Helen Rosenthal&rsquo;s 2014 <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-171-2014/" target="_blank">bill</a> in relation to traffic violations and serious crashes and license suspension.</p> <p><strong>EXPLAINING ON THE FLOOR</strong><br />Council Members Brad Lander and Helen Rosenthal, both of whom have not abstained in the aggregated period, declined to comment for this story. Council Members Vanessa Gibson (four abstentions), Inez Barron (21), Robert Cornegy (four), Andrew Cohen (four), I. Daneek Miller (two), Eric Ulrich (two), Chaim Deutsch (two), Darlene Mealy (one), and Paul Vallone (one) all were not made available for comment, despite numerous attempts.</p> <p>It should be noted that abstaining is different from &ldquo;non-voting,&rdquo; which can occur when a Council member is not present for the vote. Council members may also be marked as &ldquo;excused&rdquo; from voting for medical reasons, or for jury duty, parental leave, and bereavement.</p> <p>Vallone&rsquo;s only abstention was on <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2560152&amp;GUID=52D3026A-7111-4C0A-B8B6-4215192147E9&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank">legislation</a> prohibiting Council members from <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6179-de-blasio-to-sign-higher-raises-for-council-than-he-previously-approved" target="_blank">earning most forms of outside income</a> and making the position of Council member full-time (one of Deutsch&rsquo;s two abstentions was also for this legislation).</p> <p>Ulrich's two abstentions were on bills introduced by Brad Lander requiring the NYC Commission on Human rights to perform an <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-690-2015/" target="_blank">employment</a> discrimination investigation and a <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-689-2015/" target="_blank">housing</a> discrimination investigation.</p> <p>Three of Gibson's four abstentions occurred on April 7, 2016 (on the <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-1109-2016/" target="_blank">pedestrian plaza bill</a>, on a bill to <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-1095-2016/" target="_blank">increase penalties</a> for illegal street hails at the city's airports and other designated areas, and on a bill to create a <a href="https://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-1095-2016/" target="_blank">universal license</a> for taxicab and for-hire vehicle drivers and require that English language proficiency not be assessed through a written exam).</p> <p>&ldquo;Abstaining can mean several things,&rdquo; as Muzzio said, but &ldquo;one should always explain an abstention, because in a sense, it&rsquo;s a chicken[expletive] vote, meaning it&rsquo;s a way to evade a hard choice.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Ultimately,&rdquo; says Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, &ldquo;the voters are the judge, because their interest is what is supposed to be represented.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;City Council members are accountable to the people who elect them, and it&rsquo;s important for the public to know if a Council member chooses not to vote on an issue that a constituent thinks is important,&rdquo; Horner said. &ldquo;The Council member should have to explain it.&rdquo;</p> <p>When abstaining, Council members occasionally give a brief explanation for their vote.</p> <p>&ldquo;We are giving Department of Transportation the authority to justify the complete removal of costumed characters from Times Square,&rdquo; Reynoso said during an April vote on the pedestrian plaza bill. &ldquo;Should it lead to unintended consequences...we would be left with little recourse outside of legislation to undo any action,&rdquo; he added, expressing concern over the potential tension and competition that could arise should the costumed characters in Times Square be &ldquo;corralled&rdquo; into the proposed spaces, and he abstained.</p> <p>&ldquo;This has been a very important process, not perfect, but better than when it started,&rdquo; Mendez said during the March vote on rezoning plans. &ldquo;I think some of the Voluntary Inclusionary Zones could have been made mandatory&hellip;And I'm not happy with the fact that we are getting some height increases in the non-contextual zones,&rdquo; but, Mendez continued, &ldquo;since some work was done on this, and I feel that it is important to have a mandate inclusionary housing, I will be voting &ldquo;yes&rdquo;&rdquo; on two pieces of legislation and &ldquo;abstaining on LU 335 and the accompanying Reso 1023.&rdquo;</p> <p><em>ABSTENTION DATA, provided by Councilmatic and DataMade</em><br />Council members and number of abstentions from the current session, January 2014 to May 12, 2016<br /><br />Ruben Wills 103<br />Jumaane Williams 36<br />Inez Barron 21<br />Andy King 21<br />Rosie Mendez 14<br />Andrew Cohen 4<br />Vincent Gentile 4<br />Robert Cornegy 4<br />Vanessa Gibson 4<br />Chaim Deutsch 2<br />Eric Ulrich 2<br />I. Daneek Miller 2<br />Mark Treyger 1<br />Paul Vallone 1<br />Alan Maisel 1<br />Darlene Mealy 1<br />Antonio Reynoso 1</p> <p>Ben Kallos 0<br />Ritchie Torres 0<br />Brad Lander 0<br />Helen Rosenthal 0<br />Steven Matteo 0<br />Margaret Chin 0<br />Peter Koo 0<br />Fernando Cabrera 0<br />Costa Constantinides 0<br />Elizabeth Crowley 0<br />Laurie Cumbo 0<br />Inez Dickens 0<br />Daniel Dromm 0<br />Rafael Espinal 0<br />Mathieu Eugene 0<br />Julissa Ferreras-Copeland 0<br />Dan Garodnick 0<br />Barry Grodenchik 0<br />Karen Koslowitz 0<br />Stephen Levin 0<br />Mark Levine 0<br />Melissa Mark-Viverito 0<br />Carlos Menchaca 0<br />Annabel Palma 0<br />Ydanis Rodriguez 0<br />Donovan Richards 0<br />Deborah Rose 0<br />James Vacca 0<br />Jimmy Van Bramer 0<br />Joe Borelli 0<br />Rafael Salamanca - 0</p> <p>*Maria Carmen del Arroyo, Vincent Ignizio, and Mark Weprin also served as Council Members during this session before resigning and being replaced by Salamanca, Borelli, and Grodenchik, respectively, though none of the three abstained on any vote during the aggregated period.</p> <p>

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Top 10 Accomplishments of Progressive Leadership & The Need to #ProtectProgress 2016-05-19T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6344:top-10-accomplishments-of-progressive-leadership-the-need-to-protectprogress Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img5724.jpg" alt="richards reynoso crowd city hall" height="410" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Members Richards, left, and Reynoso, the authors, address a crowd</p> <hr /> <p>As co-chairs of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus, we have worked closely with Mayor de Blasio since he took office. It is clear that the mayor has delivered for our constituents and all 8.4 million New Yorkers in transformative ways. From affordable housing to quality jobs to expanded educational programming, New Yorkers are doing better and the scale of the accomplishments is substantial.</p> <p>In partnership with our Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the City Council, Mayor de Blasio has been helping to create a more equitable New York City. But this progress did not happen by chance, and it’s no foregone conclusion that we will be able to sustain it. We cannot allow our momentum to be derailed, destabilized, or diminished.</p> <p>Under a boldly progressive mayor and Council speaker, New York is safer and public policy is more equitable than at any point in our lifetimes. We must protect our progress, join us as we launch our <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> campaign, which includes the following highlights of this work, the Top 10 Accomplishments, by the Numbers:</p> <p><strong>1. Making Communities Safer:</strong> With two consecutive years of record low violent crime statistics, New York is the safest big city in the country.</p> <p><strong>2. Making Pre-K Universal:</strong> More than 68,500 children are getting the head start they deserve this year with full day pre-kindergarten classes for all of New York’s four-year-olds.</p> <p><strong>3. Developing and Preserving Affordable Housing:</strong> Over 100,000 New Yorkers have access to 40,000-plus new units of affordable housing. More affordable housing units were created in 2015 than in any year since the city’s housing department began.</p> <p><strong>4. Creating Economic Growth:</strong> More New York City jobs than ever before, totaling 4,296,100 across all five boroughs as of March 2016. This includes 254,900 new private sector jobs created during this administration, resulting in an unemployment rate of 6.1%, lower than other large cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. This is in part due to new legislation preventing discrimination against job seekers based on credit scores and prior convictions.</p> <p><strong>5. Improving Police-Community Relations:</strong> Reducing unlawful stop-and-frisks, which disproportionately affect African-American &amp; Latino New Yorkers with a 97% decline over four years.</p> <p><strong>6. Expanding Learning Time:</strong> The Mayor’s universal after-school program for 113,874 middle school students (double the number previously served) is providing quality programming during a critical time for childhood development.</p> <p><strong>7. Embracing Immigrant Communities:</strong> IDNYC enables non-citizens to participate in the civic and cultural life of the city, with 855,000-plus cardholders who have secured the peace of mind that comes from recognized government identification.</p> <p><strong>8. Extending New Yorkers’ Legal Right to Sick Leave:</strong> 3,400,000 private and nonprofit sector workers have access to paid sick leave thanks to an expansion created in partnership with the Council and the Mayor’s robust education campaign.</p> <p><strong>9. Making Streets Safer through Vision Zero:</strong> In 2015, New York City saw the fewest traffic fatalities in history, with a 22% reduction resulting from reduced speed limits and comprehensive safety plans.</p> <p><strong>10. Supporting a Living Wage:</strong> A $15 living wage is now guaranteed to every City worker and employee of nonprofit organizations contracted with the City, and the Mayor and Council have advocated for higher wages for all workers across the state.</p> <p>We must be proud of these accomplishments while we also build on them. Today, we call on progressives from Bushwick to Harlem, from the Rockaways to Riverdale to step and up and <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a>. Parents: tweet from your UPK sites that didn’t exist two years ago! Bicyclists: tweet images of your new protected lanes that are helping to save lives! IDNYC cardholders: tweet from wherever you are putting your card to use!</p> <p>Let’s get <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> into the conversation, so that together we can promote real results that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have delivered for New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br />City Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards are co-chairs of the Council’s Progressive Caucus. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/CMReynoso34" target="_blank">@CMReynoso34</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img5724.jpg" alt="richards reynoso crowd city hall" height="410" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Members Richards, left, and Reynoso, the authors, address a crowd</p> <hr /> <p>As co-chairs of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus, we have worked closely with Mayor de Blasio since he took office. It is clear that the mayor has delivered for our constituents and all 8.4 million New Yorkers in transformative ways. From affordable housing to quality jobs to expanded educational programming, New Yorkers are doing better and the scale of the accomplishments is substantial.</p> <p>In partnership with our Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the City Council, Mayor de Blasio has been helping to create a more equitable New York City. But this progress did not happen by chance, and it’s no foregone conclusion that we will be able to sustain it. We cannot allow our momentum to be derailed, destabilized, or diminished.</p> <p>Under a boldly progressive mayor and Council speaker, New York is safer and public policy is more equitable than at any point in our lifetimes. We must protect our progress, join us as we launch our <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> campaign, which includes the following highlights of this work, the Top 10 Accomplishments, by the Numbers:</p> <p><strong>1. Making Communities Safer:</strong> With two consecutive years of record low violent crime statistics, New York is the safest big city in the country.</p> <p><strong>2. Making Pre-K Universal:</strong> More than 68,500 children are getting the head start they deserve this year with full day pre-kindergarten classes for all of New York’s four-year-olds.</p> <p><strong>3. Developing and Preserving Affordable Housing:</strong> Over 100,000 New Yorkers have access to 40,000-plus new units of affordable housing. More affordable housing units were created in 2015 than in any year since the city’s housing department began.</p> <p><strong>4. Creating Economic Growth:</strong> More New York City jobs than ever before, totaling 4,296,100 across all five boroughs as of March 2016. This includes 254,900 new private sector jobs created during this administration, resulting in an unemployment rate of 6.1%, lower than other large cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. This is in part due to new legislation preventing discrimination against job seekers based on credit scores and prior convictions.</p> <p><strong>5. Improving Police-Community Relations:</strong> Reducing unlawful stop-and-frisks, which disproportionately affect African-American &amp; Latino New Yorkers with a 97% decline over four years.</p> <p><strong>6. Expanding Learning Time:</strong> The Mayor’s universal after-school program for 113,874 middle school students (double the number previously served) is providing quality programming during a critical time for childhood development.</p> <p><strong>7. Embracing Immigrant Communities:</strong> IDNYC enables non-citizens to participate in the civic and cultural life of the city, with 855,000-plus cardholders who have secured the peace of mind that comes from recognized government identification.</p> <p><strong>8. Extending New Yorkers’ Legal Right to Sick Leave:</strong> 3,400,000 private and nonprofit sector workers have access to paid sick leave thanks to an expansion created in partnership with the Council and the Mayor’s robust education campaign.</p> <p><strong>9. Making Streets Safer through Vision Zero:</strong> In 2015, New York City saw the fewest traffic fatalities in history, with a 22% reduction resulting from reduced speed limits and comprehensive safety plans.</p> <p><strong>10. Supporting a Living Wage:</strong> A $15 living wage is now guaranteed to every City worker and employee of nonprofit organizations contracted with the City, and the Mayor and Council have advocated for higher wages for all workers across the state.</p> <p>We must be proud of these accomplishments while we also build on them. Today, we call on progressives from Bushwick to Harlem, from the Rockaways to Riverdale to step and up and <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a>. Parents: tweet from your UPK sites that didn’t exist two years ago! Bicyclists: tweet images of your new protected lanes that are helping to save lives! IDNYC cardholders: tweet from wherever you are putting your card to use!</p> <p>Let’s get <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> into the conversation, so that together we can promote real results that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have delivered for New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br />City Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards are co-chairs of the Council’s Progressive Caucus. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/CMReynoso34" target="_blank">@CMReynoso34</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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City Council Raises Provoke Questions About Staff Pay 2016-03-08T00:01:45+00:00 2016-03-08T00:01:45+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6211:city-council-pay-raises-provoke-questions-about-staff-pay Carmen Russo <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18903409349_25ae288395_z.jpg" alt="city council members budget announcement" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Members of the City Council (photo: William Alatriste)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>As New York City Council members voted on a package of legislation that increased their salaries from $112,500 to $148,500, aides to two Council members stood silently in the balcony of the Council chambers, wearing white t-shirts that read, “Paycheck to Paycheck, Pay Raises for All.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The $36,000 salary bump for Council members is about the same amount of money that many of their staff members make in a year. These are aides filling roles such as communications director, scheduler, and community liaison. Chiefs of staff usually make quite a bit more. At a hearing on the bills two days before the vote, several Council members spoke in support of also providing pay raises to their staff members. The silent demonstration by staffers from the offices of Council Members Inez Barron and Rosie Mendez was itself a coordinated effort done with the support of Barron and Mendez.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council members set the salaries of their staff members and decide how many aides to employ - the average staff size is about seven. The amount Council members choose to spend on salaries comes out of their office budgets, which are set by the Council Speaker’s office.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council members say that a push to increase member budgets was initiated when it became clear that Council members themselves would be getting raises. In early February, at about the same time the Council was voting through raises for all city elected officials, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito provided Council members with about $29,500 each in additional funding for their offices.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In my tenure, I have increased the budgets of Council members, and I plan to do that again,” Mark-Viverito said at a Feb. 18 event organized by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to information obtained by Gotham Gazette through a Freedom of Information Act request, most Council members are now receiving a total of $409,000 to run their offices in the current fiscal year (FY 2016).</p> <p dir="ltr">That $409,000 is used by Council members to pay the rent for their district offices, the salaries of their staff members, and OTPS, or other than personal services, which include supplies, equipment, contractual services, and other operating expenses. The recent $29,500 bump will allow Council members to give raises to their staffers, if they so choose.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even with an increase to staff salaries, aides and Council members alike criticize current dynamics, which, they say, leave staff members significantly underpaid and overworked. Members argue that they are forced into a no-win decision whether to hire fewer staff members or pay more aides less and decry a situation where they lose staff to higher-paying government jobs at city agencies. They also say that current pay structures diminish the professionalism of Council staff and some call for more drastic increases to their office budgets.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The mayor’s office and city agencies can easily poach employees from the City Council, draining it of institutional memory,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, himself a former Council aide. “You have City Council staff who are performing professional functions on complex matters of budgeting, land use, and policy, without professional salaries. You have City Council staffers who do overtime without receiving overtime. And if you were to divide the salary of a dedicated Council staffer by the number of hours worked, the City Council may very well be guilty of wage slavery.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Helen Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette that “as soon as the Mayor said he was calling for the quadrennial [compensation] commission and they started to meet…one of the things I started pressing for in the Council among ourselves as a body is if we’re going to be put in a situation where we’re giving ourselves raises, I’m not sure I can do that without giving my staff a raise.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As mandated by law, Mayor de Blasio appointed an independent commission to review the salaries of elected officials last September, setting off a process that concluded on Feb. 19, when the mayor signed into law a package of legislation raising the salaries of all New York City elected officials. This includes the mayor, comptroller, public advocate, five borough presidents, five district attorneys, and 51 City Council members.</p> <p dir="ltr">The City Council held a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6144-questions-remain-as-city-council-moves-ahead-with-pay-raises-reforms" target="_blank">hearing</a> on the legislation Feb. 3, and approved the package of raises and reforms on Feb. 5.</p> <p dir="ltr">Rosenthal and other Council members expressed concern about the salaries of their aides to Mark-Viverito, and say that the speaker has responded to those concerns. “Members have been speaking on behalf of our staff,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, “this is something that I’ve brought up before, and I’m very happy that the speaker is receptive.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“The speaker is adding money - the same amount of money to each of our lump sums [office budgets],” Rosenthal said. “I will be allocating that for staff salaries, and I’m relieved and grateful for that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The budget increase, like Council members’ salary increase, is retroactive to Jan. 1, making it part of the current fiscal year 2016 budget. Council members and Mark-Viverito may look to include another increase during fiscal year 2017. The FY17 city budget is being negotiated and will go into effect July 1.</p> <p dir="ltr">Equalizing most members’ office budgets is a part of Mark-Viverito’s efforts to reform and democratize the City Council. In fiscal year 2015, about half of the City Council received $382,000 for their office budgets, while other members received $377,000. Council sources say this is another example of Mark-Viverito moving away from the practices of her predecessors, who used funding levels - both for office budgets and discretionary money to award nonprofits - to exercise control, reward allies, and punish those who were seen as out of step.</p> <p dir="ltr">Under Mark-Viverito, five Council members have received more than others for their office budgets. For the current fiscal year, chair of the finance committee Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, chair of the land use committee David Greenfield, and Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer all receive about $70,000 more to run their offices, with an annual budget of $479,000. Each of these three is provided increased funding based on heightened levels of responsibility.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Donovan Richards, whose district includes the Rockaways and requires him to run two offices, receives $454,000 this year. Council Member Alan Maisel has the highest office budget of any Council member - $489,000 annually - $80,000 above the majority of Council members.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked why his office budget was so much higher than that of the average Council member, Maisel told Gotham Gazette, “I have no idea. I don’t know what the reason is - maybe something built in from a previous Council member? I don’t know.” Maisel seemed surprised to hear he receives a larger office budget than other Council members, and asked what others receive.</p> <p dir="ltr">The speaker’s office was also unable to specify why Maisel receives a significantly higher office budget, saying only that the speaker retains the discretion to provide additional resources in limited circumstances - such a leadership positions, committee responsibilities, and hardship. Maisel succeeded Lew Fidler on the Council starting in 2014, the same year Mark-Viverito became speaker.</p> <p dir="ltr">In a statement, Council Member Richards explained to Gotham Gazette that he receives more for his office budget because “In District 31, we cover a large diverse constituency that has vastly different needs, from Southeast Queens, all the way to the Rockaways. The geographical distance between the two areas requires two district offices to handle the constituent caseload and day-to-day services more efficiently, which also requires additional staff to meet the needs of residents throughout the district.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Simply increasing Council members’ office budgets does not guarantee their staff members will receive a raise. Some Council members may choose to distribute the added $27,000-$32,000 in a way that gives each of their aides a pay raise, others may use the money to hire one additional staff member. Some Council members may not even use the added funds for salaries, but rather, to pay rent for a better office space or an additional office, or use it for OTPS.</p> <p dir="ltr">The $409,000 most Council members currently receive to run their offices creates a certain sense of equity, but does not take into account differing needs. Office rent may be higher on the Upper East Side than on Staten Island, for example, while Council members serving poverty-stricken districts may have cause to provide more robust constituent services than others, requiring them to hire additional constituent liaisons. Some Council members may need to offer different language services to their constituents.</p> <p dir="ltr">“My rent, I’m pretty sure, is twice as high as some of the members in the Bronx,” Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, said. “And certainly, my staff, who mainly live in the district, probably need a little bit higher salaries to be able to stay, as opposed to someone in the Bronx. It’s a reality that I find challenging.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Some of us have more demands on our staff than others, and there’s no recognition of that,” said Council Member Barron, who represents Brownsville and other parts of Brooklyn. Though office rent in poorer districts may be more affordable, Barron says, Council members representing “the Upper East Side, Upper West Side don’t have the same kinds of problems in terms of dealing with their constituents, agencies, and the problems that some of us in the more impoverished neighborhoods have. I think there should be some consideration of that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Williams, who represents Flatbush and other parts of Brooklyn, also points to differences in demands on district offices. “Some districts have a high, high volume of constituent services, some districts have a lower amount, there are some districts that focus more on legislation,” Williams explained. “The needs of every district’s very different, you may have a constituent liaison that sees one person every day, and another that sees one person every hour.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council members may hire as many staffers as they see fit, and the number of people they employ as well as the positions they name largely depend on the differing needs of their districts. Staff listings indicate Council members employ an average of seven aides, with some employing as many as nine or as few as four.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council members must choose between hiring a smaller staff and paying each aide more, or hiring more and paying each less.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s very unfortunate,” Council Member Antonio Reynoso, a former Council staffer himself, told Gotham Gazette. “Either we have three staff members and pay them a good amount for what they’re worth, or we have eight members and everyone’s taking a hit.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Torres, who represents parts of the Bronx, told Gotham Gazette he is currently experiencing some staff turnover, which he is “using to prioritize pay increases for existing staff. Even though there’s a real need for added capacity and more staffers.” Torres says he is choosing not to hire additional staff “because I cannot allow my staffers to earn what is an abysmal wage. It’s a death wage in some senses.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Staffers often end up filling numerous roles, with aides in many offices serving as both legislative director and budget director, legislative liaison and scheduler, or director of communications and legislation. Council aides are often in their twenties, working long hours, and eyeing other, higher-paying positions in government.</p> <p dir="ltr">Salaries for the same position can vary widely across offices, with Council members’ chiefs of staff - the highest paid staff position - receiving between $37,700 and $92,000 annually, according to 2015<a href="http://seethroughny.net/payrolls/city-of-new-york" target="_blank"> payroll records</a> compiled by The Empire Center. Most communications directors received between $28,700 and $50,000.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6144-questions-remain-as-city-council-moves-ahead-with-pay-raises-reforms" target="_blank">only hearing</a> on the package of bills that raised the salaries of Council members by $36,000 and modified rules by which members earn additional money, Council members defended the raise by pointing out how hard they work, that their responsibilities have increased over the years, and that they work long hours. The workload of Council aides has increased as well.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We work more than 60 hours a week,” Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez said during the Feb. 3 hearing. “For me, this is a big compromise that we’re doing…our salaries should be $175,000,” added Rodriguez, who<a href="http://seethroughny.net/payrolls/city-of-new-york" target="_blank"> in 2015 paid</a> his seven staffers at least $15,038 and at most $56,231.</p> <p dir="ltr">In December, Speaker Mark-Viverito submitted a<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/quadrennial/downloads/pdf/testimony/submission_and_attachments__speaker_melissa_markviverito.pdf" target="_blank"> letter</a> to the quadrennial commission describing the Council’s workload and reasons why Council members deserve a raise. “Each Member represents on average about 160,000 New Yorkers,” Mark-Viverito wrote, and “the time commitment for Council Members is considerable and most describe their jobs as ‘24/7,’ requiring them to be available around-the-clock.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Council Members have already made 105% more bill and resolution drafting requests, introduced 41% more bills and enacted 32% more Local Laws than through the same time period in the immediately preceding session,” Mark-Viverito added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Given Council members’ rationale that their workload has increased and they therefore deserve a raise, Joy Simmons, chief of staff for Council Member Barron, told Gotham Gazette she believes “staff members should also get raises, because the burden of that work falls on our shoulders…there’s many staff members living paycheck to paycheck."</p> <p dir="ltr">“Many Council members work ’24/7,’ but their staffs do as well,” said Simmons, who was one of the staff members to stand in silent protest at the Feb. 5 vote - she also testified before the Council on Feb. 3. “We’re working way more than 40 hours and not getting overtime, and there’s no provision to make more, and if you don’t work those hours they’ll find someone else who will.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“My staff definitely works more than 40 hours a week,” Reynoso said. “My staff works just as hard, if not harder, than me, they’re out there every day, in meetings, in the nighttime. They represent me, so when I can’t go somewhere, they’re out there.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“There are staffers that are coming in the office at 9 a.m. and are done at their community board meetings at 9 p.m.,” Torres said, “and you’re receiving $25,000, $30,000, $35,000 a year? That’s absurd. That’s unlivable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Low wages aren’t only hurting staffers - they diminish the professionalism of the City Council itself, Council members argue, and lead to a high turnover rate. Torres, Williams, and Reynoso believe Council members are given too few resources to adequately compensate their aides, causing Council members’ offices to become “a training ground for other agencies or other companies, because they see the work that the staff does, and they come and get them and we just can’t compete because there’s not enough money,” in Williams’ words.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reynoso says staffers often leave for similar positions in the mayor’s office that pay $60,000 a year - nearing the high end of what Council aides are paid. Other opportunities in city government abound. The Department of Education has six employees who do communications work - the highest paid among them (senior advisor to Chancellor Fariña for communications and external affairs) earned $177,235 in 2015. The DOE’s top press secretary earned $114,987, while the three deputy press secretaries made $69,065, $44,603, and $25,992, according to Empire Center <a href="http://seethroughny.net/payrolls">payroll records</a>. A DOE assistant press secretary made $54,685</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re like the minor leagues,” Reynoso said. “Many of our staff members get taken away from us to work in jobs that pay substantially more, we can’t compete. So we end up doing all the training, all the development, and then after a year, they’re gone…It takes away from the professionalism that we have at our office.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Reynoso said that for certain types of work Council members do, such as land use, it would be ideal to hire a planner with a Master’s degree, yet because Council members are unable to offer them a competitive wage, they end up hiring someone who may not be a planner, but knows about planning, meaning the city ends up without “the top professionals to do these things that are an important part of our job.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the added funds to Council members’ office budgets may “help us get closer to fairness,” Reynoso says, “it’s still nothing that can help us get competitive with the mayor’s office. Outside of doubling our staff budgets, it’s not going to be competitive.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Ultimately, it is up to the Council speaker to set the office budgets for members. Yet, some question why Council members don’t push more aggressively for a significant increase to their office budgets to be included in the city budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">“These Council members have supported other workers out there looking for pay increases and looking for protections within their industries - you know, airport workers, retail workers,” Ndigo Washington, legislative director for Council Member Barron, told Gotham Gazette, expressing dismay at the fact that Council members will so readily push for higher wages for other workers, but leave their own staffers poorly compensated.</p> <p dir="ltr">More could be done to address the wage situation beyond simply increasing Council members’ office budgets. There should be standards, some Council members argue, for a minimum salary for a chief of staff, legislative director, budget director, deputy chief of staff, and all typical staff positions.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think there’s an argument for a minimum,” Torres said, which he said would likely require a change to Council rules.</p> <p dir="ltr">A minimum standard could help, Council members and staffers say, though setting a uniform pay rate for certain positions is something to “be wary of,” according to Williams, given the vastly different roles and responsibilities of staffers from office to office.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the state Assembly, members’ office rents and utilities are paid through the central office. If the City Council were to alter the rules to allow rent to be paid centrally, it could free up money in Council members’ office budgets to be used to better compensate staffers, assuming significant deductions in those budgets would not be made.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Maybe the rent could be paid centrally,” Torres said, “so that it has no impact on the individual budgets of members.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Another issue raised by Washington and Simmons, both aides to Council Member Barron, is ensuring raises for staffers. “We’ve been told in the past that we might get a cost of living increase,” Washington said, “but we don’t know.” There is also the lack of job security or protection, as staffers are considered at-will employees. Council sources say they was a cost of living increase in 2015, one that applied to Council employees (working on the Council central staff and for members) with qualifying longevity.</p> <p dir="ltr">“What you have is a tale of two cities at City Hall,” said Council Member Torres. “You have egregious pay disparities in pay between the Mayor’s Office and the City Council...A poorly resourced City Council with poorly paid staff cannot possibly live up to its charter-mandated roles as a co-equal branch of government.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s a professional position and we’re reducing it to the status of a glorified internship,” he added, of aide roles.</p> <p dir="ltr">Simmons says that she and her colleagues hope that the mayor and the Council will “pass a budget that includes raises for members of Council staff, and even central staff.”</p> <p dir="ltr">

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18903409349_25ae288395_z.jpg" alt="city council members budget announcement" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Members of the City Council (photo: William Alatriste)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>As New York City Council members voted on a package of legislation that increased their salaries from $112,500 to $148,500, aides to two Council members stood silently in the balcony of the Council chambers, wearing white t-shirts that read, “Paycheck to Paycheck, Pay Raises for All.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The $36,000 salary bump for Council members is about the same amount of money that many of their staff members make in a year. These are aides filling roles such as communications director, scheduler, and community liaison. Chiefs of staff usually make quite a bit more. At a hearing on the bills two days before the vote, several Council members spoke in support of also providing pay raises to their staff members. The silent demonstration by staffers from the offices of Council Members Inez Barron and Rosie Mendez was itself a coordinated effort done with the support of Barron and Mendez.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council members set the salaries of their staff members and decide how many aides to employ - the average staff size is about seven. The amount Council members choose to spend on salaries comes out of their office budgets, which are set by the Council Speaker’s office.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council members say that a push to increase member budgets was initiated when it became clear that Council members themselves would be getting raises. In early February, at about the same time the Council was voting through raises for all city elected officials, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito provided Council members with about $29,500 each in additional funding for their offices.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In my tenure, I have increased the budgets of Council members, and I plan to do that again,” Mark-Viverito said at a Feb. 18 event organized by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to information obtained by Gotham Gazette through a Freedom of Information Act request, most Council members are now receiving a total of $409,000 to run their offices in the current fiscal year (FY 2016).</p> <p dir="ltr">That $409,000 is used by Council members to pay the rent for their district offices, the salaries of their staff members, and OTPS, or other than personal services, which include supplies, equipment, contractual services, and other operating expenses. The recent $29,500 bump will allow Council members to give raises to their staffers, if they so choose.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even with an increase to staff salaries, aides and Council members alike criticize current dynamics, which, they say, leave staff members significantly underpaid and overworked. Members argue that they are forced into a no-win decision whether to hire fewer staff members or pay more aides less and decry a situation where they lose staff to higher-paying government jobs at city agencies. They also say that current pay structures diminish the professionalism of Council staff and some call for more drastic increases to their office budgets.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The mayor’s office and city agencies can easily poach employees from the City Council, draining it of institutional memory,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, himself a former Council aide. “You have City Council staff who are performing professional functions on complex matters of budgeting, land use, and policy, without professional salaries. You have City Council staffers who do overtime without receiving overtime. And if you were to divide the salary of a dedicated Council staffer by the number of hours worked, the City Council may very well be guilty of wage slavery.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Helen Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette that “as soon as the Mayor said he was calling for the quadrennial [compensation] commission and they started to meet…one of the things I started pressing for in the Council among ourselves as a body is if we’re going to be put in a situation where we’re giving ourselves raises, I’m not sure I can do that without giving my staff a raise.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As mandated by law, Mayor de Blasio appointed an independent commission to review the salaries of elected officials last September, setting off a process that concluded on Feb. 19, when the mayor signed into law a package of legislation raising the salaries of all New York City elected officials. This includes the mayor, comptroller, public advocate, five borough presidents, five district attorneys, and 51 City Council members.</p> <p dir="ltr">The City Council held a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6144-questions-remain-as-city-council-moves-ahead-with-pay-raises-reforms" target="_blank">hearing</a> on the legislation Feb. 3, and approved the package of raises and reforms on Feb. 5.</p> <p dir="ltr">Rosenthal and other Council members expressed concern about the salaries of their aides to Mark-Viverito, and say that the speaker has responded to those concerns. “Members have been speaking on behalf of our staff,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, “this is something that I’ve brought up before, and I’m very happy that the speaker is receptive.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“The speaker is adding money - the same amount of money to each of our lump sums [office budgets],” Rosenthal said. “I will be allocating that for staff salaries, and I’m relieved and grateful for that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The budget increase, like Council members’ salary increase, is retroactive to Jan. 1, making it part of the current fiscal year 2016 budget. Council members and Mark-Viverito may look to include another increase during fiscal year 2017. The FY17 city budget is being negotiated and will go into effect July 1.</p> <p dir="ltr">Equalizing most members’ office budgets is a part of Mark-Viverito’s efforts to reform and democratize the City Council. In fiscal year 2015, about half of the City Council received $382,000 for their office budgets, while other members received $377,000. Council sources say this is another example of Mark-Viverito moving away from the practices of her predecessors, who used funding levels - both for office budgets and discretionary money to award nonprofits - to exercise control, reward allies, and punish those who were seen as out of step.</p> <p dir="ltr">Under Mark-Viverito, five Council members have received more than others for their office budgets. For the current fiscal year, chair of the finance committee Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, chair of the land use committee David Greenfield, and Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer all receive about $70,000 more to run their offices, with an annual budget of $479,000. Each of these three is provided increased funding based on heightened levels of responsibility.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Donovan Richards, whose district includes the Rockaways and requires him to run two offices, receives $454,000 this year. Council Member Alan Maisel has the highest office budget of any Council member - $489,000 annually - $80,000 above the majority of Council members.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked why his office budget was so much higher than that of the average Council member, Maisel told Gotham Gazette, “I have no idea. I don’t know what the reason is - maybe something built in from a previous Council member? I don’t know.” Maisel seemed surprised to hear he receives a larger office budget than other Council members, and asked what others receive.</p> <p dir="ltr">The speaker’s office was also unable to specify why Maisel receives a significantly higher office budget, saying only that the speaker retains the discretion to provide additional resources in limited circumstances - such a leadership positions, committee responsibilities, and hardship. Maisel succeeded Lew Fidler on the Council starting in 2014, the same year Mark-Viverito became speaker.</p> <p dir="ltr">In a statement, Council Member Richards explained to Gotham Gazette that he receives more for his office budget because “In District 31, we cover a large diverse constituency that has vastly different needs, from Southeast Queens, all the way to the Rockaways. The geographical distance between the two areas requires two district offices to handle the constituent caseload and day-to-day services more efficiently, which also requires additional staff to meet the needs of residents throughout the district.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Simply increasing Council members’ office budgets does not guarantee their staff members will receive a raise. Some Council members may choose to distribute the added $27,000-$32,000 in a way that gives each of their aides a pay raise, others may use the money to hire one additional staff member. Some Council members may not even use the added funds for salaries, but rather, to pay rent for a better office space or an additional office, or use it for OTPS.</p> <p dir="ltr">The $409,000 most Council members currently receive to run their offices creates a certain sense of equity, but does not take into account differing needs. Office rent may be higher on the Upper East Side than on Staten Island, for example, while Council members serving poverty-stricken districts may have cause to provide more robust constituent services than others, requiring them to hire additional constituent liaisons. Some Council members may need to offer different language services to their constituents.</p> <p dir="ltr">“My rent, I’m pretty sure, is twice as high as some of the members in the Bronx,” Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, said. “And certainly, my staff, who mainly live in the district, probably need a little bit higher salaries to be able to stay, as opposed to someone in the Bronx. It’s a reality that I find challenging.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Some of us have more demands on our staff than others, and there’s no recognition of that,” said Council Member Barron, who represents Brownsville and other parts of Brooklyn. Though office rent in poorer districts may be more affordable, Barron says, Council members representing “the Upper East Side, Upper West Side don’t have the same kinds of problems in terms of dealing with their constituents, agencies, and the problems that some of us in the more impoverished neighborhoods have. I think there should be some consideration of that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Williams, who represents Flatbush and other parts of Brooklyn, also points to differences in demands on district offices. “Some districts have a high, high volume of constituent services, some districts have a lower amount, there are some districts that focus more on legislation,” Williams explained. “The needs of every district’s very different, you may have a constituent liaison that sees one person every day, and another that sees one person every hour.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council members may hire as many staffers as they see fit, and the number of people they employ as well as the positions they name largely depend on the differing needs of their districts. Staff listings indicate Council members employ an average of seven aides, with some employing as many as nine or as few as four.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council members must choose between hiring a smaller staff and paying each aide more, or hiring more and paying each less.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s very unfortunate,” Council Member Antonio Reynoso, a former Council staffer himself, told Gotham Gazette. “Either we have three staff members and pay them a good amount for what they’re worth, or we have eight members and everyone’s taking a hit.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Torres, who represents parts of the Bronx, told Gotham Gazette he is currently experiencing some staff turnover, which he is “using to prioritize pay increases for existing staff. Even though there’s a real need for added capacity and more staffers.” Torres says he is choosing not to hire additional staff “because I cannot allow my staffers to earn what is an abysmal wage. It’s a death wage in some senses.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Staffers often end up filling numerous roles, with aides in many offices serving as both legislative director and budget director, legislative liaison and scheduler, or director of communications and legislation. Council aides are often in their twenties, working long hours, and eyeing other, higher-paying positions in government.</p> <p dir="ltr">Salaries for the same position can vary widely across offices, with Council members’ chiefs of staff - the highest paid staff position - receiving between $37,700 and $92,000 annually, according to 2015<a href="http://seethroughny.net/payrolls/city-of-new-york" target="_blank"> payroll records</a> compiled by The Empire Center. Most communications directors received between $28,700 and $50,000.</p> <p dir="ltr">During the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6144-questions-remain-as-city-council-moves-ahead-with-pay-raises-reforms" target="_blank">only hearing</a> on the package of bills that raised the salaries of Council members by $36,000 and modified rules by which members earn additional money, Council members defended the raise by pointing out how hard they work, that their responsibilities have increased over the years, and that they work long hours. The workload of Council aides has increased as well.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We work more than 60 hours a week,” Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez said during the Feb. 3 hearing. “For me, this is a big compromise that we’re doing…our salaries should be $175,000,” added Rodriguez, who<a href="http://seethroughny.net/payrolls/city-of-new-york" target="_blank"> in 2015 paid</a> his seven staffers at least $15,038 and at most $56,231.</p> <p dir="ltr">In December, Speaker Mark-Viverito submitted a<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/quadrennial/downloads/pdf/testimony/submission_and_attachments__speaker_melissa_markviverito.pdf" target="_blank"> letter</a> to the quadrennial commission describing the Council’s workload and reasons why Council members deserve a raise. “Each Member represents on average about 160,000 New Yorkers,” Mark-Viverito wrote, and “the time commitment for Council Members is considerable and most describe their jobs as ‘24/7,’ requiring them to be available around-the-clock.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Council Members have already made 105% more bill and resolution drafting requests, introduced 41% more bills and enacted 32% more Local Laws than through the same time period in the immediately preceding session,” Mark-Viverito added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Given Council members’ rationale that their workload has increased and they therefore deserve a raise, Joy Simmons, chief of staff for Council Member Barron, told Gotham Gazette she believes “staff members should also get raises, because the burden of that work falls on our shoulders…there’s many staff members living paycheck to paycheck."</p> <p dir="ltr">“Many Council members work ’24/7,’ but their staffs do as well,” said Simmons, who was one of the staff members to stand in silent protest at the Feb. 5 vote - she also testified before the Council on Feb. 3. “We’re working way more than 40 hours and not getting overtime, and there’s no provision to make more, and if you don’t work those hours they’ll find someone else who will.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“My staff definitely works more than 40 hours a week,” Reynoso said. “My staff works just as hard, if not harder, than me, they’re out there every day, in meetings, in the nighttime. They represent me, so when I can’t go somewhere, they’re out there.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“There are staffers that are coming in the office at 9 a.m. and are done at their community board meetings at 9 p.m.,” Torres said, “and you’re receiving $25,000, $30,000, $35,000 a year? That’s absurd. That’s unlivable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Low wages aren’t only hurting staffers - they diminish the professionalism of the City Council itself, Council members argue, and lead to a high turnover rate. Torres, Williams, and Reynoso believe Council members are given too few resources to adequately compensate their aides, causing Council members’ offices to become “a training ground for other agencies or other companies, because they see the work that the staff does, and they come and get them and we just can’t compete because there’s not enough money,” in Williams’ words.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reynoso says staffers often leave for similar positions in the mayor’s office that pay $60,000 a year - nearing the high end of what Council aides are paid. Other opportunities in city government abound. The Department of Education has six employees who do communications work - the highest paid among them (senior advisor to Chancellor Fariña for communications and external affairs) earned $177,235 in 2015. The DOE’s top press secretary earned $114,987, while the three deputy press secretaries made $69,065, $44,603, and $25,992, according to Empire Center <a href="http://seethroughny.net/payrolls">payroll records</a>. A DOE assistant press secretary made $54,685</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re like the minor leagues,” Reynoso said. “Many of our staff members get taken away from us to work in jobs that pay substantially more, we can’t compete. So we end up doing all the training, all the development, and then after a year, they’re gone…It takes away from the professionalism that we have at our office.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Reynoso said that for certain types of work Council members do, such as land use, it would be ideal to hire a planner with a Master’s degree, yet because Council members are unable to offer them a competitive wage, they end up hiring someone who may not be a planner, but knows about planning, meaning the city ends up without “the top professionals to do these things that are an important part of our job.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the added funds to Council members’ office budgets may “help us get closer to fairness,” Reynoso says, “it’s still nothing that can help us get competitive with the mayor’s office. Outside of doubling our staff budgets, it’s not going to be competitive.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Ultimately, it is up to the Council speaker to set the office budgets for members. Yet, some question why Council members don’t push more aggressively for a significant increase to their office budgets to be included in the city budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">“These Council members have supported other workers out there looking for pay increases and looking for protections within their industries - you know, airport workers, retail workers,” Ndigo Washington, legislative director for Council Member Barron, told Gotham Gazette, expressing dismay at the fact that Council members will so readily push for higher wages for other workers, but leave their own staffers poorly compensated.</p> <p dir="ltr">More could be done to address the wage situation beyond simply increasing Council members’ office budgets. There should be standards, some Council members argue, for a minimum salary for a chief of staff, legislative director, budget director, deputy chief of staff, and all typical staff positions.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think there’s an argument for a minimum,” Torres said, which he said would likely require a change to Council rules.</p> <p dir="ltr">A minimum standard could help, Council members and staffers say, though setting a uniform pay rate for certain positions is something to “be wary of,” according to Williams, given the vastly different roles and responsibilities of staffers from office to office.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the state Assembly, members’ office rents and utilities are paid through the central office. If the City Council were to alter the rules to allow rent to be paid centrally, it could free up money in Council members’ office budgets to be used to better compensate staffers, assuming significant deductions in those budgets would not be made.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Maybe the rent could be paid centrally,” Torres said, “so that it has no impact on the individual budgets of members.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Another issue raised by Washington and Simmons, both aides to Council Member Barron, is ensuring raises for staffers. “We’ve been told in the past that we might get a cost of living increase,” Washington said, “but we don’t know.” There is also the lack of job security or protection, as staffers are considered at-will employees. Council sources say they was a cost of living increase in 2015, one that applied to Council employees (working on the Council central staff and for members) with qualifying longevity.</p> <p dir="ltr">“What you have is a tale of two cities at City Hall,” said Council Member Torres. “You have egregious pay disparities in pay between the Mayor’s Office and the City Council...A poorly resourced City Council with poorly paid staff cannot possibly live up to its charter-mandated roles as a co-equal branch of government.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s a professional position and we’re reducing it to the status of a glorified internship,” he added, of aide roles.</p> <p dir="ltr">Simmons says that she and her colleagues hope that the mayor and the Council will “pass a budget that includes raises for members of Council staff, and even central staff.”</p> <p dir="ltr">

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, October 19 2015-10-18T05:00:00+00:00 2015-10-18T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5938:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-october19 Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" alt="New York City Hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio was in Israel over the weekend, where he spoke at the Annual Conference of Mayors, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visited recent terror attack victims, and made several other stops, including at the Western Wall and at a school educating a diverse student population. De Blasio spoke against a new wave of anti-Semitism and <a href="http://m.nydailynews.com/new-york/jerusalem-speech-mayor-de-blasio-decries-anti-semitism-article-1.2401818?cid=bitly" target="_blank">called for a "broken-windows" approach</a> to combatting hate.</p> <p>De Blasio is flying back to New York Sunday evening, he has no public events scheduled Monday.</p> <p>Coming up this week, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5935-the-mayors-media-blitz-de-blasio" target="_blank">the 'new' Bill de Blasio</a> will continue to show, with the mayor <a href="http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_268748/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=DwMmJjEm" target="_blank">set to hold</a> a joint press event with his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, on Wednesday. De Blasio and Bloomberg have appeared together several times since de Blasio came into office, but have not held a joint event, as they will for the planting of the millionth tree in the "Million Trees NYC" program launched by Bloomberg in 2007.</p> <p>As always, there's a great deal happening&nbsp;all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?</em><br /><em>E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>The run of the week in detail:</strong></p> <p><strong>Monday<br /></strong>On Monday, starting at 8:30 a.m., the City Council Progressive Caucus and allies are holding a conference to discuss progressive public policies and legislative priorities aimed at inequality and improving communities. Keynote will be given by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, with panel discussions on defending workers' rights, expanding and modernizing democracy, moving toward a greener city, and community safety and empowerment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Afterward, at noon outside of SEIU 32BJ headquarters, Progressive Caucus Members and allies will “rally on their legislative priorities aimed at offering genuine opportunity to all New Yorkers, especially those who have been left out of our society’s prosperity.” Caucus Co-Chairs Donovan Richards and Antonio Reynoso, Vice-Chairs Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos, and other caucus members will be joined by “event sponsors Local Progress and Working Families Organization and advocates from SEIU 32BJ, VOCAL NY, Communities united for Police Reform, Bag It NYC, Streetwise and Safe and BRT for NYC.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At 8:30 a.m. Monday, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#sthash.fxiimyMW.dpbs" target="_blank">Black Live Matter / Fight for $15: A New Social Movement</a>, a discussion on the convergence of the two movements and the chances of them sowing the seeds “for a broader social and economic justice movement” - featuring Alicia Garza of Black Lives Matter and Domestic Workers Alliance; Jelani Cobb, Journalist &amp; Professor at UConn; Hillman Judge; and Kendall Fells, SEIU / Fight For $15. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday morning’s The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will appear in one segment, discussing several topics, and Queens state Senator Michael Gianaris will appear in another to discuss his bail elimination proposal.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a>&nbsp;on Monday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Immigration will hold a joint oversight meeting with the Committee on Courts and Legal Services to evaluate Attorney Compliances with Padilla vs. Kentucky and court obstacles for immigrants in Criminal and Summons Courts.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Civil Rights will meet to hear several new bills related to protecting against discrimination; clarifying that any “person providing goods, services or accommodations” as stated in the Human Rights Law also includes government bodies; forbid any accommodation provider from discriminating based on income source; and make it unlawful for anyone who provides housing to refuse it to a person based the perception that the person is a victim of domestic abuse or violence.&nbsp;</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 1:30 p.m. in Niagra Falls,&nbsp;Attorney General Eric Schneiderman "will discuss steps his office is taking with local officials to combat the use of designer drugs."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 5:30 p.m., New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, together with the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the Council will host a <a href="https://twitter.com/IDaneekMiller/status/653948332172161024" target="_blank">Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Also at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a Borough Board <a href="http://queensbp.org/event/queens-borough-board-meeting-2-4-3-2-3-2/?instance_id=1283" target="_blank">meeting </a>to hear details from the Department of City Planning (DCP) on the “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” and “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing” proposed zoning text amendments.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:30 p.m., &nbsp;Sanctuary for Families’ <a href="https://www.sanctuaryforfamilies.org/event/above-and-beyond/" target="_blank">13th Annual Above &amp; Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards &amp; Benefit</a>&nbsp;will be honoring Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, Senior Advisor on Gender Equity and&nbsp;former Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday evening, Speaker Mark-Viverito will attend&nbsp;"the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Services Gala."</p> <p dir="ltr">Monday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">events</a>:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">Mark Treyger (District 47, Brooklyn) 6 p.m.</li> <li dir="ltr">Steve Levin (District 33, Brooklyn) 6:30 p.m.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Tuesday<br /></strong>On Tuesday at 9 a.m., on the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the Center for New York City Affairs at Milano School of International Affairs will hold a panel titled <a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hurricane-sandy-3-building-resilient-neighborhoods-tickets-18611697087" target="_blank">Hurricane Sandy +3: Building Resilient Neighborhoods</a>. Conversation will focus on the state of the post-storm infrastructure in the areas where the storm hit hardest. The panel will include Daniel A. Zarrilli, director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency; Joel Towers, executive dean, Parsons School of Design at the New School; Klaus Jacob, special research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; Onleilove Alston, executive director of Faith in New York; Hugh Hogan, executive director of the North Star Fund;Shermane Margaret Stewart-Lester, lay leader at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Far Rockaway.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a <a href="http://queensbp.org/event/queens-borough-cabinet-meeting-2-2-3-2-2-2/?instance_id=1281" target="_blank">Borough Cabinet Meeting</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a>&nbsp;on Tuesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 9:30 a.m. the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet to discuss land use applications.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will meet to discuss land use applications.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Assembly</a>&nbsp;on Tuesday: at 10 a.m. the Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities will convene for a public hearing on “The Adequacy of Supports and Services for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities.”</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tuesday, Public Advocate Letitia James&nbsp;chairs COPIC Commission meeting at Borough of Manhattan Community College (stream: http://livestream.com/BMCCMedia/events/4439178) at 10 a.m. Then, at 11:15, she is a panelist at "NASP's "The State of WMBE's Doing Business in NYS: From the Legislative Perspective" and at 6 p.m. she hosts "Staten Island Clergy Council Education Forum."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 11:15 a.m. Monday near Stuyvesant Town,&nbsp;Mayor de Blasio and "local elected officials and tenant leaders from Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village will hold a media availability" about the imminent sale of the property.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. from the 25th Police Precinct at 120 East 119th Street,&nbsp;"Mayor de Blasio – alongside Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton – will sign Intro. 917-A, criminalizing the manufacture, possession with intent to sell, and sale of synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic phenethylamines; Intro. 897, allowing the City to apply public nuisance regulations to violations of the new criminal provision barring the sale of K2; and Intro. 885-A, allowing the city to revoke, suspend or refuse to renew a cigarette dealer license due to the sale of synthetic drugs or imitation synthetic drugs...After, the Mayor will appear live on Power 105.1 with Angie Martinez to discuss the K-2 legislation."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 4 p.m. Mark-Viverito will host a press conference "to celebrate $1.2 Million in funding for STARS Afterschool Initiative with Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland at P.S. 50 on 100th Street in Manhattan. Then, at 8 p.m., Mark-Viverito will host "#SheWillBe Twitter Party to Discuss the City Council's First In The Nation Young Women's Initiative...Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #SheWillBe."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday Community Voices Heard will hold a rally titled “<a href="http://www.cvhaction.org/events/march-on-the-mayor-stop-privatization-start-funding-nycha" target="_blank">March on the Mayor: Stop Privatization, Start Funding NYCHA</a>.” The demonstration will demand a stop to increasing privatization and an increase in funding for the New York City Housing Authority by $2 billion starting this year.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. the Brooklyn Historical Society will host <a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/life-after-surveillance-in-bay-ridges-muslim-community-tickets-17898679432?utm_campaign=a1f9c65cf9-October+Programs+Week+2+(10132015)&amp;utm_term=0_556fa60cc0-a1f9c65cf9-[LIST_EMAIL_ID]&amp;utm_source=Brooklyn+Historical+Society+E-Newsletter&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;mc_eid=[UNIQID]&amp;mc_cid=a1f9c65cf9&amp;ct=t(October+Programs+Week+2+(10132015))" target="_blank">Life After Surveillance in Bay Ridge’s Muslim Community</a>, a discussion about the post-9/11 surveillance in Bay Ridge and how this surveillance sowed seeds of distrust in the neighbourhood. Panelists include moderator Jarrett Murphy, Executive Editor of City Limits; Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York; Moustafa Bayoumi; award-winning writer, and Professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York; and Dr. Ahmad Jaber, an OB/GYN at the Lutheran Medical Center in Bay Ridge and a Muslim religious educator.</p> <p dir="ltr">Tuesday "evening, the Mayor and First Lady Chirlane McCray will host the Gracie Gala Dinner," according to de Blasio's public schedule.&nbsp;The Gracie Mansion Conservancy will hold an <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/717-15/gracie-mansion-conservancy-public-re-opening-gracie-mansion-art-additions-and" target="_blank">invitation only fundraiser</a> to celebrate the grand re-opening of Gracie Mansion after recent repairs. The fundraiser will feature the mansion’s new art installation, Windows on the City: Looking Out at Gracie’s New York, curated with help of the Museum of the City of New York, the New York Historical Society, Brooklyn College, Brooklyn Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Governor Cuomo will&nbsp;attend "the Nassau County Democratic Committee Annual Fall Dinner."</p> <p dir="ltr">Tuesday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">events</a>:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens) 6 p.m.</li> <li dir="ltr">Eric Ulrich (District 32, Queens) 7 p.m.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Wednesday<br /></strong>On Wednesday in the Bronx: Mayor de Blasio and his predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will <a href="http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_268748/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=DwMmJjEm" target="_blank">meet</a> to plant the millionth tree in the Million Trees NYC program, a Bloomberg initiative begun in 2007.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Comptroller Scott Stringer will hold a “<a href="https://twitter.com/scottmstringer/status/652511684121202688" target="_blank">Queens Hearing for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs</a>.” The event is the next installment of the Comptroller’s “Red Tape Commision Hearings” dedicated to listening to ideas and suggestion that would make it easier for entrepreneurs and business owners to grow their businesses, while partnering with the government. The event will bring together Borough President Melinda Katz; Queens Chamber of Commerce; Queens Economic Development Corporation; the Queens Tribune; and co-chairs of the Red Tape Commission Jessica Lappin and Michael Lambert.</p> <p dir="ltr">Also at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly will headline a Fordham University event “<a href="http://www.alumni.fordham.edu/calendar/detail.aspx?ID=4266" target="_blank">Governance in New York City: The Bloomberg Years</a>.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Legislature</a>&nbsp;on Wednesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection and the Committee on Aging and the Subcommittee on Consumer Fraud Protection will hold a joint public hearing on “State resource funding to protect consumers, including seniors, from frauds and scams.”</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m. the Senate Task Force on Workforce Development will convene for a public meeting “To&nbsp;examine initiatives and determine best practices for job skill training and re-training programs, and provide recommendations to foster workforce development in New York State.”</li> <li dir="ltr">At 12:30 p.m. the Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities will hold a public hearing regarding the “Transition of Behavioral Health Supports and Services into Managed Care.”</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Harry Siegel of The New York Daily News and Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute will try to answer the question, “<a href="http://www.sfc.edu/pagecalpop.cfm?p=357&amp;verbose=284093" target="_blank">Is The NYPD Doing Its Job?</a>” The discussion will be moderated by social critic Kay S. Hymowitz, author of Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, and will explore the new tracking system aimed at reducing police brutality and assess Commissioner Bratton’s effort to implement the program.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Mark Levine will host the event <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1673652976254484" target="_blank">"Jewish Poverty in New York City"</a> along with a group of civic organizations including YM &amp; YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood, the Russian-speaking Community Council of Manhattan and the Bronx, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, the Fort Tyron Jewish Center, the Jewish Community Council of Washington Heights-Inwood, the Hebrew Tabernacle, and The Workmen’s Circle.</p> <p dir="ltr">Also at 6:30 p.m., City &amp; State NY will be host its 2015 <a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/city-state-new-york-city-rising-stars-40-under-40-tickets-18745852349?aff=erelexpsim" target="_blank">New York City Rising Stars: 40 Under 40</a> celebration. The list features stars in government, advocacy, labor, and consulting.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7 p.m. the Department of Education, the School Construction Authority, elected officials, and parents will meet for “<a href="http://ps10.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Over-Crowding.pdf" target="_blank">Let’s Talk About Overcrowding</a>.” The event will focus on the issue of overcrowding in public schools in Cobble Hill and Caroll Gardens, in addition to addressing several other school-related issues. State Senator Daniel Squadron, State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, City Councilmember Brad Lander, City Councilmember Steve Levin, and others will participate.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 3:30 Wednesday in Manhattan, Families for Excellent Schools is planning to hold another <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/10/8579681/shifting-focus-unions-charter-group-plans-teacher-rally" target="_blank">rally</a> to support charter schools, this time featuring charter school teachers, about 1,000 of whom are expected to rally.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wednesday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">event</a> is via CM Mark Levine (District 7, Manhattan) 6 p.m.</p> <p><strong>Thursday<br /></strong>At 8 a.m. Thursday, <a href="http://www.summit.mas.org/why-attend/" target="_blank">The Sixth Annual MAS Summit for New York City</a> will commence. The Municipal Art Society summit will run through Friday evening and include two days of networking opportunities and one hundred speakers. Notable presenters include: Commissioner Vicki Been, of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development; Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development; New York State Senator Chuck Schumer; Purnima Kapur, Executive Director for the Department of City Planning; and many more to speak about “The City We Want.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Thursday at 10:30 a.m. Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a <a href="http://queensbp.org/event/queens-borough-presidents-land-use-hearing-2-2-2-2-3-2-2-2-2-2-2-2/?instance_id=1328" target="_blank">Land Use Hearing</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a>&nbsp;Thursday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Finance will meet to discuss the extension of credit against the unincorporated business tax and the general corporation tax.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Transportation will meet to hear several bills related to the TLC and commuter vans..</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m. the Committee on Land Use will meet, with agenda TBA.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services will hold a hearing on new accessibility-related bills.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency will meet for oversight on coastal storm resiliency in the city two year after the SIRR report.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Economic Development will meet on bills that would require the NYCEDC to submit annual job creation reports to community planning boards; require SBS to collect data on gender and racial diversity among “executive level employees” in city contractor companies.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Assembly</a>&nbsp;Thursday, a “Budget oversight hearing for the Assembly Standing Committees on Local Governments and Cities.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Public Agenda will hold “<a href="http://www.publicagenda.org/blogs/nyc-event-restoring-opportunity-the-role-of-education" target="_blank">Restoring Opportunity: The Role of Education</a>,” an event to discuss how the education policies of both New York State and the entire nation need to change in order for the country to truly offer the opportunities promised by the American Dream. Brian Lehrer, from WNYC, will moderate the discussion, interviewing Andie Puriefoy, the former president of the Public Education Network and Alison Kadlec, an expert of higher education reform.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7 p.m. BRIC will host the panel discussion “<a href="http://www.eventbrite.com/e/breaking-down-the-walls-brooklyn-bheard-on-immigration-a-community-town-hall-tickets-18780118841?aff=estw&amp;utm_source=tw&amp;utm_medium=discovery&amp;utm_content=attendeeshare&amp;utm_campaign=social&amp;utm_term=listing" target="_blank">Breaking Down the Walls: #BHeard on Immigration, a Community Town Hall</a>.” The talk will be moderated by Brian Vines and feature City Council Member Carlos Menchaca; Linda Sarsour, Arab American Association; Adrian Carasquillo, immigration reporter for Buzzfeed news; Alina Das, NYU professor; and Shena Elrington, director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Popular Democracy.</p> <p dir="ltr">At their <a href="http://www.prideagenda.org/news/2015-09-28-empire-state-pride-agenda-present-25th-anniversary-silver-torch-award-governor" target="_blank">annual fall dinner</a> Thursday, Empire State Pride Agenda will award Governor Cuomo with the 25th anniversary Silver Torch Award for “his extraordinary efforts to make marriage equality a reality in New York — paving the way for the freedom to marry nationwide” and “his more recent commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic in New York.” Along with Cuomo, other speakers will be Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand,&nbsp;City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; City Public Advocate Letitia James; Pride Agenda Board Co-Chairs Norman C. Simon and Melissa Sklarz; and Pride Agenda Executive Director Nathan Schaefer.</p> <p dir="ltr">Citizens Union, the good government group,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/www/ud00/2/264f19babedf446a956b4911d258be18/Personal_Documents/CitizensUnionGala2015_InviteFINAL.pdf" target="_blank">will hold</a> its 2015 Annual Awards Dinner Thursday evening. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will give featured remarks. Citizens Union honorees include Mylan L. Denerstein (Public Service Award), Adam Flatto (Business Leadership Award), Haeda B. Mihaltses (Public Service Award), and Stephen P. Younger (Civic Leadership Award).</p> <p dir="ltr">Beginning Thursday evening and continuing through Friday, the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute will host “<a href="http://www.roosevelthouse.hunter.cuny.edu/events/youth-jobs-and-the-future-responses-to-youth-unemployment/" target="_blank">Youth, Jobs and Future: Responses to Youth Unemployment</a>.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Thursday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">events</a>:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">CM Helen Rosenthal (District 6, Manhattan) 6 p.m.</li> <li dir="ltr">CM Paul Vallone (District 19, Queens) 7 p.m.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend<br /></strong>At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Friday: at 10 a.m. the Committee on Higher Education will convene for oversight on college testing access.</p> <p>"The next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board will be held on Friday, October 23 at 10:00 AM."</p> <p dir="ltr">At the<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank"> New York State Assembly</a> on Friday: at 10:30 a.m. the Assembly Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions and the Assembly Standing Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry will hold a joint public hearing on “Providing Affordable and High Quality Cable, Broadband, and Telephone Service.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Friday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">event</a> is via CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn) 6 p.m.</p> <p dir="ltr">Saturday at 10:30 a.m., New Yorkers Against Gun Violence will hold <a href="http://nyagv.org/walk-over-the-hudson-for-gun-sense-saturday-1024/" target="_blank">Walk Over the Hudson for Gun Sense</a>, a march in response to recent bursts of gun violence across the US. The event invites citizens to show their “commitment to background checks, safe storage, and other common sense gun safety laws.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At noon Saturday, BetaNYC will hold an <a href="http://www.meetup.com/betanyc/events/226031486/" target="_blank">event</a> to improve CityGram.NYC, a website which allows New York City residents to subscribe to open government data based on their geographic location and areas of interest.</p> <p dir="ltr">Saturday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">event</a> is via CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn), 2 p.m.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Sunday, the de Blasio family will open their doors to the public at a Gracie Mansion Open House. A ticket giveaway will take place on the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/gracie/visit/gracie-mansion-open-house-tickets.page" target="_blank">event</a> website. In celebration of the Mansion’s 35th anniversary, the open house will feature 49 new works as part of the “Windows on the City: Looking Out at Gracie’s New York” show.</p> <p>***<br />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:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Colin O'Connor, Konstantine Beridze, and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/640px-New_York_City_Hall.jpg" alt="New York City Hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York City Hall</span></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What to watch for this week in New York politics:</strong></p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio was in Israel over the weekend, where he spoke at the Annual Conference of Mayors, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visited recent terror attack victims, and made several other stops, including at the Western Wall and at a school educating a diverse student population. De Blasio spoke against a new wave of anti-Semitism and <a href="http://m.nydailynews.com/new-york/jerusalem-speech-mayor-de-blasio-decries-anti-semitism-article-1.2401818?cid=bitly" target="_blank">called for a "broken-windows" approach</a> to combatting hate.</p> <p>De Blasio is flying back to New York Sunday evening, he has no public events scheduled Monday.</p> <p>Coming up this week, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5935-the-mayors-media-blitz-de-blasio" target="_blank">the 'new' Bill de Blasio</a> will continue to show, with the mayor <a href="http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_268748/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=DwMmJjEm" target="_blank">set to hold</a> a joint press event with his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, on Wednesday. De Blasio and Bloomberg have appeared together several times since de Blasio came into office, but have not held a joint event, as they will for the planting of the millionth tree in the "Million Trees NYC" program launched by Bloomberg in 2007.</p> <p>As always, there's a great deal happening&nbsp;all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?</em><br /><em>E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>***</em></p> <p><strong>The run of the week in detail:</strong></p> <p><strong>Monday<br /></strong>On Monday, starting at 8:30 a.m., the City Council Progressive Caucus and allies are holding a conference to discuss progressive public policies and legislative priorities aimed at inequality and improving communities. Keynote will be given by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, with panel discussions on defending workers' rights, expanding and modernizing democracy, moving toward a greener city, and community safety and empowerment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Afterward, at noon outside of SEIU 32BJ headquarters, Progressive Caucus Members and allies will “rally on their legislative priorities aimed at offering genuine opportunity to all New Yorkers, especially those who have been left out of our society’s prosperity.” Caucus Co-Chairs Donovan Richards and Antonio Reynoso, Vice-Chairs Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos, and other caucus members will be joined by “event sponsors Local Progress and Working Families Organization and advocates from SEIU 32BJ, VOCAL NY, Communities united for Police Reform, Bag It NYC, Streetwise and Safe and BRT for NYC.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At 8:30 a.m. Monday, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#sthash.fxiimyMW.dpbs" target="_blank">Black Live Matter / Fight for $15: A New Social Movement</a>, a discussion on the convergence of the two movements and the chances of them sowing the seeds “for a broader social and economic justice movement” - featuring Alicia Garza of Black Lives Matter and Domestic Workers Alliance; Jelani Cobb, Journalist &amp; Professor at UConn; Hillman Judge; and Kendall Fells, SEIU / Fight For $15. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday morning’s The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will appear in one segment, discussing several topics, and Queens state Senator Michael Gianaris will appear in another to discuss his bail elimination proposal.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a>&nbsp;on Monday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Immigration will hold a joint oversight meeting with the Committee on Courts and Legal Services to evaluate Attorney Compliances with Padilla vs. Kentucky and court obstacles for immigrants in Criminal and Summons Courts.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Civil Rights will meet to hear several new bills related to protecting against discrimination; clarifying that any “person providing goods, services or accommodations” as stated in the Human Rights Law also includes government bodies; forbid any accommodation provider from discriminating based on income source; and make it unlawful for anyone who provides housing to refuse it to a person based the perception that the person is a victim of domestic abuse or violence.&nbsp;</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">On Monday at 1:30 p.m. in Niagra Falls,&nbsp;Attorney General Eric Schneiderman "will discuss steps his office is taking with local officials to combat the use of designer drugs."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 5:30 p.m., New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, together with the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the Council will host a <a href="https://twitter.com/IDaneekMiller/status/653948332172161024" target="_blank">Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Also at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a Borough Board <a href="http://queensbp.org/event/queens-borough-board-meeting-2-4-3-2-3-2/?instance_id=1283" target="_blank">meeting </a>to hear details from the Department of City Planning (DCP) on the “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” and “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing” proposed zoning text amendments.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:30 p.m., &nbsp;Sanctuary for Families’ <a href="https://www.sanctuaryforfamilies.org/event/above-and-beyond/" target="_blank">13th Annual Above &amp; Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards &amp; Benefit</a>&nbsp;will be honoring Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, Senior Advisor on Gender Equity and&nbsp;former Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Monday evening, Speaker Mark-Viverito will attend&nbsp;"the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Services Gala."</p> <p dir="ltr">Monday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">events</a>:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">Mark Treyger (District 47, Brooklyn) 6 p.m.</li> <li dir="ltr">Steve Levin (District 33, Brooklyn) 6:30 p.m.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Tuesday<br /></strong>On Tuesday at 9 a.m., on the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the Center for New York City Affairs at Milano School of International Affairs will hold a panel titled <a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hurricane-sandy-3-building-resilient-neighborhoods-tickets-18611697087" target="_blank">Hurricane Sandy +3: Building Resilient Neighborhoods</a>. Conversation will focus on the state of the post-storm infrastructure in the areas where the storm hit hardest. The panel will include Daniel A. Zarrilli, director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency; Joel Towers, executive dean, Parsons School of Design at the New School; Klaus Jacob, special research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; Onleilove Alston, executive director of Faith in New York; Hugh Hogan, executive director of the North Star Fund;Shermane Margaret Stewart-Lester, lay leader at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Far Rockaway.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a <a href="http://queensbp.org/event/queens-borough-cabinet-meeting-2-2-3-2-2-2/?instance_id=1281" target="_blank">Borough Cabinet Meeting</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a>&nbsp;on Tuesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 9:30 a.m. the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet to discuss land use applications.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions will meet to discuss land use applications.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Assembly</a>&nbsp;on Tuesday: at 10 a.m. the Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities will convene for a public hearing on “The Adequacy of Supports and Services for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities.”</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tuesday, Public Advocate Letitia James&nbsp;chairs COPIC Commission meeting at Borough of Manhattan Community College (stream: http://livestream.com/BMCCMedia/events/4439178) at 10 a.m. Then, at 11:15, she is a panelist at "NASP's "The State of WMBE's Doing Business in NYS: From the Legislative Perspective" and at 6 p.m. she hosts "Staten Island Clergy Council Education Forum."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 11:15 a.m. Monday near Stuyvesant Town,&nbsp;Mayor de Blasio and "local elected officials and tenant leaders from Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village will hold a media availability" about the imminent sale of the property.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. from the 25th Police Precinct at 120 East 119th Street,&nbsp;"Mayor de Blasio – alongside Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton – will sign Intro. 917-A, criminalizing the manufacture, possession with intent to sell, and sale of synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic phenethylamines; Intro. 897, allowing the City to apply public nuisance regulations to violations of the new criminal provision barring the sale of K2; and Intro. 885-A, allowing the city to revoke, suspend or refuse to renew a cigarette dealer license due to the sale of synthetic drugs or imitation synthetic drugs...After, the Mayor will appear live on Power 105.1 with Angie Martinez to discuss the K-2 legislation."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 4 p.m. Mark-Viverito will host a press conference "to celebrate $1.2 Million in funding for STARS Afterschool Initiative with Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland at P.S. 50 on 100th Street in Manhattan. Then, at 8 p.m., Mark-Viverito will host "#SheWillBe Twitter Party to Discuss the City Council's First In The Nation Young Women's Initiative...Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #SheWillBe."</p> <p dir="ltr">At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday Community Voices Heard will hold a rally titled “<a href="http://www.cvhaction.org/events/march-on-the-mayor-stop-privatization-start-funding-nycha" target="_blank">March on the Mayor: Stop Privatization, Start Funding NYCHA</a>.” The demonstration will demand a stop to increasing privatization and an increase in funding for the New York City Housing Authority by $2 billion starting this year.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. the Brooklyn Historical Society will host <a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/life-after-surveillance-in-bay-ridges-muslim-community-tickets-17898679432?utm_campaign=a1f9c65cf9-October+Programs+Week+2+(10132015)&amp;utm_term=0_556fa60cc0-a1f9c65cf9-[LIST_EMAIL_ID]&amp;utm_source=Brooklyn+Historical+Society+E-Newsletter&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;mc_eid=[UNIQID]&amp;mc_cid=a1f9c65cf9&amp;ct=t(October+Programs+Week+2+(10132015))" target="_blank">Life After Surveillance in Bay Ridge’s Muslim Community</a>, a discussion about the post-9/11 surveillance in Bay Ridge and how this surveillance sowed seeds of distrust in the neighbourhood. Panelists include moderator Jarrett Murphy, Executive Editor of City Limits; Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York; Moustafa Bayoumi; award-winning writer, and Professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York; and Dr. Ahmad Jaber, an OB/GYN at the Lutheran Medical Center in Bay Ridge and a Muslim religious educator.</p> <p dir="ltr">Tuesday "evening, the Mayor and First Lady Chirlane McCray will host the Gracie Gala Dinner," according to de Blasio's public schedule.&nbsp;The Gracie Mansion Conservancy will hold an <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/717-15/gracie-mansion-conservancy-public-re-opening-gracie-mansion-art-additions-and" target="_blank">invitation only fundraiser</a> to celebrate the grand re-opening of Gracie Mansion after recent repairs. The fundraiser will feature the mansion’s new art installation, Windows on the City: Looking Out at Gracie’s New York, curated with help of the Museum of the City of New York, the New York Historical Society, Brooklyn College, Brooklyn Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Governor Cuomo will&nbsp;attend "the Nassau County Democratic Committee Annual Fall Dinner."</p> <p dir="ltr">Tuesday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">events</a>:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens) 6 p.m.</li> <li dir="ltr">Eric Ulrich (District 32, Queens) 7 p.m.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Wednesday<br /></strong>On Wednesday in the Bronx: Mayor de Blasio and his predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will <a href="http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_268748/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=DwMmJjEm" target="_blank">meet</a> to plant the millionth tree in the Million Trees NYC program, a Bloomberg initiative begun in 2007.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Comptroller Scott Stringer will hold a “<a href="https://twitter.com/scottmstringer/status/652511684121202688" target="_blank">Queens Hearing for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs</a>.” The event is the next installment of the Comptroller’s “Red Tape Commision Hearings” dedicated to listening to ideas and suggestion that would make it easier for entrepreneurs and business owners to grow their businesses, while partnering with the government. The event will bring together Borough President Melinda Katz; Queens Chamber of Commerce; Queens Economic Development Corporation; the Queens Tribune; and co-chairs of the Red Tape Commission Jessica Lappin and Michael Lambert.</p> <p dir="ltr">Also at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly will headline a Fordham University event “<a href="http://www.alumni.fordham.edu/calendar/detail.aspx?ID=4266" target="_blank">Governance in New York City: The Bloomberg Years</a>.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Legislature</a>&nbsp;on Wednesday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection and the Committee on Aging and the Subcommittee on Consumer Fraud Protection will hold a joint public hearing on “State resource funding to protect consumers, including seniors, from frauds and scams.”</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m. the Senate Task Force on Workforce Development will convene for a public meeting “To&nbsp;examine initiatives and determine best practices for job skill training and re-training programs, and provide recommendations to foster workforce development in New York State.”</li> <li dir="ltr">At 12:30 p.m. the Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities will hold a public hearing regarding the “Transition of Behavioral Health Supports and Services into Managed Care.”</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Harry Siegel of The New York Daily News and Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute will try to answer the question, “<a href="http://www.sfc.edu/pagecalpop.cfm?p=357&amp;verbose=284093" target="_blank">Is The NYPD Doing Its Job?</a>” The discussion will be moderated by social critic Kay S. Hymowitz, author of Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, and will explore the new tracking system aimed at reducing police brutality and assess Commissioner Bratton’s effort to implement the program.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Mark Levine will host the event <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1673652976254484" target="_blank">"Jewish Poverty in New York City"</a> along with a group of civic organizations including YM &amp; YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood, the Russian-speaking Community Council of Manhattan and the Bronx, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, the Fort Tyron Jewish Center, the Jewish Community Council of Washington Heights-Inwood, the Hebrew Tabernacle, and The Workmen’s Circle.</p> <p dir="ltr">Also at 6:30 p.m., City &amp; State NY will be host its 2015 <a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/city-state-new-york-city-rising-stars-40-under-40-tickets-18745852349?aff=erelexpsim" target="_blank">New York City Rising Stars: 40 Under 40</a> celebration. The list features stars in government, advocacy, labor, and consulting.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7 p.m. the Department of Education, the School Construction Authority, elected officials, and parents will meet for “<a href="http://ps10.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Over-Crowding.pdf" target="_blank">Let’s Talk About Overcrowding</a>.” The event will focus on the issue of overcrowding in public schools in Cobble Hill and Caroll Gardens, in addition to addressing several other school-related issues. State Senator Daniel Squadron, State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, City Councilmember Brad Lander, City Councilmember Steve Levin, and others will participate.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 3:30 Wednesday in Manhattan, Families for Excellent Schools is planning to hold another <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/10/8579681/shifting-focus-unions-charter-group-plans-teacher-rally" target="_blank">rally</a> to support charter schools, this time featuring charter school teachers, about 1,000 of whom are expected to rally.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wednesday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">event</a> is via CM Mark Levine (District 7, Manhattan) 6 p.m.</p> <p><strong>Thursday<br /></strong>At 8 a.m. Thursday, <a href="http://www.summit.mas.org/why-attend/" target="_blank">The Sixth Annual MAS Summit for New York City</a> will commence. The Municipal Art Society summit will run through Friday evening and include two days of networking opportunities and one hundred speakers. Notable presenters include: Commissioner Vicki Been, of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development; Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development; New York State Senator Chuck Schumer; Purnima Kapur, Executive Director for the Department of City Planning; and many more to speak about “The City We Want.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Thursday at 10:30 a.m. Borough President Melinda Katz will hold a <a href="http://queensbp.org/event/queens-borough-presidents-land-use-hearing-2-2-2-2-3-2-2-2-2-2-2-2/?instance_id=1328" target="_blank">Land Use Hearing</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a>&nbsp;Thursday:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Finance will meet to discuss the extension of credit against the unincorporated business tax and the general corporation tax.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 10 a.m. the Committee on Transportation will meet to hear several bills related to the TLC and commuter vans..</li> <li dir="ltr">At 11 a.m. the Committee on Land Use will meet, with agenda TBA.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services will hold a hearing on new accessibility-related bills.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency will meet for oversight on coastal storm resiliency in the city two year after the SIRR report.</li> <li dir="ltr">At 1 p.m. the Committee on Economic Development will meet on bills that would require the NYCEDC to submit annual job creation reports to community planning boards; require SBS to collect data on gender and racial diversity among “executive level employees” in city contractor companies.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">At the&nbsp;<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank">New York State Assembly</a>&nbsp;Thursday, a “Budget oversight hearing for the Assembly Standing Committees on Local Governments and Cities.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Public Agenda will hold “<a href="http://www.publicagenda.org/blogs/nyc-event-restoring-opportunity-the-role-of-education" target="_blank">Restoring Opportunity: The Role of Education</a>,” an event to discuss how the education policies of both New York State and the entire nation need to change in order for the country to truly offer the opportunities promised by the American Dream. Brian Lehrer, from WNYC, will moderate the discussion, interviewing Andie Puriefoy, the former president of the Public Education Network and Alison Kadlec, an expert of higher education reform.</p> <p dir="ltr">At 7 p.m. BRIC will host the panel discussion “<a href="http://www.eventbrite.com/e/breaking-down-the-walls-brooklyn-bheard-on-immigration-a-community-town-hall-tickets-18780118841?aff=estw&amp;utm_source=tw&amp;utm_medium=discovery&amp;utm_content=attendeeshare&amp;utm_campaign=social&amp;utm_term=listing" target="_blank">Breaking Down the Walls: #BHeard on Immigration, a Community Town Hall</a>.” The talk will be moderated by Brian Vines and feature City Council Member Carlos Menchaca; Linda Sarsour, Arab American Association; Adrian Carasquillo, immigration reporter for Buzzfeed news; Alina Das, NYU professor; and Shena Elrington, director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Popular Democracy.</p> <p dir="ltr">At their <a href="http://www.prideagenda.org/news/2015-09-28-empire-state-pride-agenda-present-25th-anniversary-silver-torch-award-governor" target="_blank">annual fall dinner</a> Thursday, Empire State Pride Agenda will award Governor Cuomo with the 25th anniversary Silver Torch Award for “his extraordinary efforts to make marriage equality a reality in New York — paving the way for the freedom to marry nationwide” and “his more recent commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic in New York.” Along with Cuomo, other speakers will be Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand,&nbsp;City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; City Public Advocate Letitia James; Pride Agenda Board Co-Chairs Norman C. Simon and Melissa Sklarz; and Pride Agenda Executive Director Nathan Schaefer.</p> <p dir="ltr">Citizens Union, the good government group,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/www/ud00/2/264f19babedf446a956b4911d258be18/Personal_Documents/CitizensUnionGala2015_InviteFINAL.pdf" target="_blank">will hold</a> its 2015 Annual Awards Dinner Thursday evening. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will give featured remarks. Citizens Union honorees include Mylan L. Denerstein (Public Service Award), Adam Flatto (Business Leadership Award), Haeda B. Mihaltses (Public Service Award), and Stephen P. Younger (Civic Leadership Award).</p> <p dir="ltr">Beginning Thursday evening and continuing through Friday, the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute will host “<a href="http://www.roosevelthouse.hunter.cuny.edu/events/youth-jobs-and-the-future-responses-to-youth-unemployment/" target="_blank">Youth, Jobs and Future: Responses to Youth Unemployment</a>.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Thursday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">events</a>:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">CM Helen Rosenthal (District 6, Manhattan) 6 p.m.</li> <li dir="ltr">CM Paul Vallone (District 19, Queens) 7 p.m.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Friday and the weekend<br /></strong>At the <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank">City Council</a> on Friday: at 10 a.m. the Committee on Higher Education will convene for oversight on college testing access.</p> <p>"The next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board will be held on Friday, October 23 at 10:00 AM."</p> <p dir="ltr">At the<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?sh=hear" target="_blank"> New York State Assembly</a> on Friday: at 10:30 a.m. the Assembly Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions and the Assembly Standing Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry will hold a joint public hearing on “Providing Affordable and High Quality Cable, Broadband, and Telephone Service.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Friday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">event</a> is via CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn) 6 p.m.</p> <p dir="ltr">Saturday at 10:30 a.m., New Yorkers Against Gun Violence will hold <a href="http://nyagv.org/walk-over-the-hudson-for-gun-sense-saturday-1024/" target="_blank">Walk Over the Hudson for Gun Sense</a>, a march in response to recent bursts of gun violence across the US. The event invites citizens to show their “commitment to background checks, safe storage, and other common sense gun safety laws.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At noon Saturday, BetaNYC will hold an <a href="http://www.meetup.com/betanyc/events/226031486/" target="_blank">event</a> to improve CityGram.NYC, a website which allows New York City residents to subscribe to open government data based on their geographic location and areas of interest.</p> <p dir="ltr">Saturday’s City Council Participatory Budgeting <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pb/events.shtml" target="_blank">event</a> is via CM Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn), 2 p.m.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Sunday, the de Blasio family will open their doors to the public at a Gracie Mansion Open House. A ticket giveaway will take place on the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/gracie/visit/gracie-mansion-open-house-tickets.page" target="_blank">event</a> website. In celebration of the Mansion’s 35th anniversary, the open house will feature 49 new works as part of the “Windows on the City: Looking Out at Gracie’s New York” show.</p> <p>***<br />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:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a>&nbsp;(please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).</p> <p>***<br />by Colin O'Connor, Konstantine Beridze, and Ben Max<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> School Meals in the Budget: Applause for Breakfast, Groans for Lunch 2015-06-25T18:26:16+00:00 2015-06-25T18:26:16+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5788:school-meals-in-the-budget-applause-for-breakfast-groans-for-lunch Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Rename-it-to-something-seo-focused.jpg" alt="Lunch 4 Learning" height="355" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Lunch 4 Learning at City Hall (photo: Zehra Rehman)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Supporters of expanding free school meals in New York City are expressing mixed reactions to the city budget agreement <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">announced</a> by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on Monday night.</p> <p>The fiscal year 2016 budget, at $78.5 billion of spending soon to be officially approved, satisfies one key demand of advocates – that of expanding "breakfast after the bell." The name refers to allowing students to eat free breakfast provided by the school in their classroom. The program will be funded for inclusion in 530 elementary schools. The budget also includes funding to continue universal free lunch in all of the city's standalone middle schools. But, this has disappointed advocates who were hoping the free lunch program would be expanded to elementary and high schools.</p> <p>In New York City, where one in every four child does not have access to enough food, many students depend on schools to provide their only consistently available meals of the day. Members of the City Council, Public Advocate Letitia James, and advocates had led a strong push for the budget to include funding to make school lunches free for all students, regardless of grade level or family income, and for the expansion of 'breakfast after the bell.'</p> <p>This year's preliminary and executive budgets did not include 'breakfast after the bell' or an expansion of universal free lunch but the final budget includes $17.9 million to expand the breakfast program to 530 elementary schools. City Council leadership considers the expansion of 'breakfast after the bell' and the continuation of the middle school free lunch pilot program successes. A continuation of the middle school program was not included by de Blasio when he unveiled his February preliminary budget, but the Council convinced him to restore it in his executive budget, released in May. At the time, Mark-Viverito said, "Bureaucratic hurdles are not an excuse for letting children go hungry."</p> <p>In response to the budget deal, Council members focused on gains made, praising the 'breakfast after the bell' provision in the budget for reducing negativity around hunger for elementary school children. "Hungry kids will face less stigma at school because of $17.9 million for 'breakfast after the bell' for 339,000 children at 530 elementary schools, which I rallied for and introduced legislation supporting," said Council Member Ben Kallos in <a href="http://benkallos.com/press-release/council-member-ben-kallos-applauds-fy16-budget-agreement" target="_blank">a post-budget statement</a>. Kallos, a strong supporter of expanding free school meals, added that "New York City is now an important step away from being near last among big cities in public school breakfast participation."</p> <p>Advocates for 'breakfast after the bell' also welcomed the announcement. "New York City students were big winners in last night's budget deal," chief strategy officer for Share Our Strength, Josh Wachs, said in a statement Tuesday. "No child should start the school day on an empty stomach. Thanks to leadership from the Mayor, Schools Chancellor, City Council, and partners in the Powered by Breakfast NYC coalition, they won't have to in NYC public elementary schools."</p> <p>Through the budget, 'breakfast after the bell' will be expanded to include all of the city's elementary schools by fiscal year 2018. At the moment, it is an opt-in program in New York City with principals deciding if their schools participate. Over 300 of the city's schools have opted in so far, either serving breakfast in classrooms or providing "grab and go" carts for students to pick up food to take into class. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">At Monday night's press conference</a>, de Blasio highlighted the role that the Council's insistence played and called breakfast an area where there was "opportunity for a major breakthrough" in fighting hunger and thus helping kids learn.</p> <p>As the expansion of 'breakfast after the bell' was celebrated, supporters of universal free lunch for all city students were less than satisfied. "I'm a little disappointed that it [universal school lunch] wasn't expanded," Public Advocate Letitia James told Gotham Gazette, while expressing satisfaction with breakfast program gains. "New York City should be leading the national conversation on improving nutrition in public schools but instead we're falling further and further behind."</p> <p>Other advocates echoed this sentiment. "We knew that the Council was championing this issue and that there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm," says Liz Accles of Lunch for Learning, a coalition-led campaign advocating for universal free lunch. "We're a little stunned that it wasn't in there."</p> <p>Last year, the city introduced a pilot program under which standalone middle schools provided free lunch to all students. This increased school lunch participation by 10 percent in those schools. While the consensus among advocates was that these numbers were a success, Mayor de Blasio described the results as "mixed" at his executive budget presentation. The mayor reiterated that conclusion at Monday's budget announcement, saying, "The first year of the school lunch program didn't achieve what all of us had hoped." He added that the coming year would involve "a much stronger promotional effort and effort to engage parents and students."</p> <p>It appears that if the middle school lunch program shows enough progress there may be room for expanding free lunch beyond those grades.</p> <p>"It's an opportunity that's being passed up," says Accles. "The federal government wants us to do this," she said referring to federal reimbursements for meals served in public schools. Public Advocate James pointed out that because most expenditures would be covered by these reimbursements, it would only cost the city $20 million per year to provide free lunch to all of the city's public school students. This amounts to 0.1 percent of the Department of Education's annual budget.</p> <p>The drive for universal free lunches and 'breakfast after the bell' has been in large part due to a poverty stigma associated with accepting free school meals, long-offered to students from the poorest households. Around three-fourth of New York City's public school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches on the basis of a family income below 130 percent of the poverty level, or other criteria such as being food stamp recipients, homeless, or in foster care. Despite the great need, stigma and a fear of being mocked limits student participation in free meal programs. A third of the students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches don't eat those meals, with participation dropping below 40 percent in high schools. "Given those numbers, I'm really shocked that the mayor did not support expanding free lunch," says James.</p> <p>Breakfast participation is even lower despite breakfast being free for all students in New York City public schools since 2003. Morning food has been offered before the start of school. Last school year only about 35 percent of the city's low-income students were eating breakfast in school, according to the latest annual report by the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit organization working to eliminate hunger and under-nutrition. A combination of factors, including the poverty stigma and logistical problems in getting to school much earlier than the start of the school day, drive down breakfast participation numbers.</p> <p>Supporters of universal free school meals say that there would no longer be stigma attached to accepting a school lunch if schools provide free lunches to all students and family income is no longer a deciding factor. Similarly, if all students are allowed to eat 'breakfast after the bell' together in their classroom, it would not single out those students who have to arrive to school early just to eat a free breakfast in the cafeteria.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">The budget</a> decisions that will dictate spending beginning at the July 1 start of the next fiscal year come as this school year is coming to a close. On Wednesday, the Department of Education announced that its "2015 Summer Meals program, which provides free, healthy breakfast and lunch to children across New York City, will begin this Saturday, June 27, the first day of summer vacation." The program is aimed at students who are food insecure and rely on school meals throughout the year.</p> <p>From the end of June through September 4, the program will provide free meals to "children 18 and younger" at "1,100 locations, including pools, school, libraries, parks, public housing sites, and community-based organization sites." Children don't have to prove New York City residency or be enrolled in summer school; no application or identification is needed to access food. The DOE said that "a record 8.1 million meals were served" last summer.</p> <p>Advocates want to see something similar all year round. On Tuesday afternoon, students from Lunch for Learning coalition groups delivered a letter to the mayor and a photobook of 330 pictures from its selfie campaign. They were accompanied by advocates, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, and leaders from Local 372, <a href="http://www.local372.org/" target="_blank">a union</a> of the city's Board of Education employees. Barbara Turk, the mayor's director of food policy, was at City Hall to receive the letter and photobook on the mayor's behalf.</p> <p>The message of the student letter was clear: "We are disappointed that expansion of Universal Free School Lunch for all public schools was left out of the budget. We have been working very hard to make this happen and were surprised and upset when you said the middle school results are mixed."</p> <p>"If I get on line, the rich students will say that I'm eating 'free-free,'" said 16-year-old Aminata, one of the students at City Hall representing Bushwick Campus Youth Food Policy Council. While she has to try to hide when she gets a free lunch at her high school, she says that her brothers in middle school do not have to worry about bullies in the cafeteria because everyone in their school eats free lunches. She often also has to share her free lunch with friends who don't qualify for reduced-price lunch but still cannot afford to buy food every day. "This is not a want, this is a need," said Shaun D. Francois I, president of Local 372.</p> <p>Though they are disappointed by the budget, supporters of universal free meals, including the public advocate, plan to carry on their efforts to expand the program to all of the city's schools. "We're going to continue to campaign and we're going to continue to keep the pressure on, working with advocates to expand this program so that students will be better nourished ready for the school day," James told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>"We know it's the right thing to do," says Accles. "We're going to keep pushing until we get it done."</p> <p>***<br />by Zehra Rehman, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Rename-it-to-something-seo-focused.jpg" alt="Lunch 4 Learning" height="355" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Lunch 4 Learning at City Hall (photo: Zehra Rehman)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Supporters of expanding free school meals in New York City are expressing mixed reactions to the city budget agreement <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">announced</a> by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on Monday night.</p> <p>The fiscal year 2016 budget, at $78.5 billion of spending soon to be officially approved, satisfies one key demand of advocates – that of expanding "breakfast after the bell." The name refers to allowing students to eat free breakfast provided by the school in their classroom. The program will be funded for inclusion in 530 elementary schools. The budget also includes funding to continue universal free lunch in all of the city's standalone middle schools. But, this has disappointed advocates who were hoping the free lunch program would be expanded to elementary and high schools.</p> <p>In New York City, where one in every four child does not have access to enough food, many students depend on schools to provide their only consistently available meals of the day. Members of the City Council, Public Advocate Letitia James, and advocates had led a strong push for the budget to include funding to make school lunches free for all students, regardless of grade level or family income, and for the expansion of 'breakfast after the bell.'</p> <p>This year's preliminary and executive budgets did not include 'breakfast after the bell' or an expansion of universal free lunch but the final budget includes $17.9 million to expand the breakfast program to 530 elementary schools. City Council leadership considers the expansion of 'breakfast after the bell' and the continuation of the middle school free lunch pilot program successes. A continuation of the middle school program was not included by de Blasio when he unveiled his February preliminary budget, but the Council convinced him to restore it in his executive budget, released in May. At the time, Mark-Viverito said, "Bureaucratic hurdles are not an excuse for letting children go hungry."</p> <p>In response to the budget deal, Council members focused on gains made, praising the 'breakfast after the bell' provision in the budget for reducing negativity around hunger for elementary school children. "Hungry kids will face less stigma at school because of $17.9 million for 'breakfast after the bell' for 339,000 children at 530 elementary schools, which I rallied for and introduced legislation supporting," said Council Member Ben Kallos in <a href="http://benkallos.com/press-release/council-member-ben-kallos-applauds-fy16-budget-agreement" target="_blank">a post-budget statement</a>. Kallos, a strong supporter of expanding free school meals, added that "New York City is now an important step away from being near last among big cities in public school breakfast participation."</p> <p>Advocates for 'breakfast after the bell' also welcomed the announcement. "New York City students were big winners in last night's budget deal," chief strategy officer for Share Our Strength, Josh Wachs, said in a statement Tuesday. "No child should start the school day on an empty stomach. Thanks to leadership from the Mayor, Schools Chancellor, City Council, and partners in the Powered by Breakfast NYC coalition, they won't have to in NYC public elementary schools."</p> <p>Through the budget, 'breakfast after the bell' will be expanded to include all of the city's elementary schools by fiscal year 2018. At the moment, it is an opt-in program in New York City with principals deciding if their schools participate. Over 300 of the city's schools have opted in so far, either serving breakfast in classrooms or providing "grab and go" carts for students to pick up food to take into class. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">At Monday night's press conference</a>, de Blasio highlighted the role that the Council's insistence played and called breakfast an area where there was "opportunity for a major breakthrough" in fighting hunger and thus helping kids learn.</p> <p>As the expansion of 'breakfast after the bell' was celebrated, supporters of universal free lunch for all city students were less than satisfied. "I'm a little disappointed that it [universal school lunch] wasn't expanded," Public Advocate Letitia James told Gotham Gazette, while expressing satisfaction with breakfast program gains. "New York City should be leading the national conversation on improving nutrition in public schools but instead we're falling further and further behind."</p> <p>Other advocates echoed this sentiment. "We knew that the Council was championing this issue and that there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm," says Liz Accles of Lunch for Learning, a coalition-led campaign advocating for universal free lunch. "We're a little stunned that it wasn't in there."</p> <p>Last year, the city introduced a pilot program under which standalone middle schools provided free lunch to all students. This increased school lunch participation by 10 percent in those schools. While the consensus among advocates was that these numbers were a success, Mayor de Blasio described the results as "mixed" at his executive budget presentation. The mayor reiterated that conclusion at Monday's budget announcement, saying, "The first year of the school lunch program didn't achieve what all of us had hoped." He added that the coming year would involve "a much stronger promotional effort and effort to engage parents and students."</p> <p>It appears that if the middle school lunch program shows enough progress there may be room for expanding free lunch beyond those grades.</p> <p>"It's an opportunity that's being passed up," says Accles. "The federal government wants us to do this," she said referring to federal reimbursements for meals served in public schools. Public Advocate James pointed out that because most expenditures would be covered by these reimbursements, it would only cost the city $20 million per year to provide free lunch to all of the city's public school students. This amounts to 0.1 percent of the Department of Education's annual budget.</p> <p>The drive for universal free lunches and 'breakfast after the bell' has been in large part due to a poverty stigma associated with accepting free school meals, long-offered to students from the poorest households. Around three-fourth of New York City's public school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches on the basis of a family income below 130 percent of the poverty level, or other criteria such as being food stamp recipients, homeless, or in foster care. Despite the great need, stigma and a fear of being mocked limits student participation in free meal programs. A third of the students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches don't eat those meals, with participation dropping below 40 percent in high schools. "Given those numbers, I'm really shocked that the mayor did not support expanding free lunch," says James.</p> <p>Breakfast participation is even lower despite breakfast being free for all students in New York City public schools since 2003. Morning food has been offered before the start of school. Last school year only about 35 percent of the city's low-income students were eating breakfast in school, according to the latest annual report by the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit organization working to eliminate hunger and under-nutrition. A combination of factors, including the poverty stigma and logistical problems in getting to school much earlier than the start of the school day, drive down breakfast participation numbers.</p> <p>Supporters of universal free school meals say that there would no longer be stigma attached to accepting a school lunch if schools provide free lunches to all students and family income is no longer a deciding factor. Similarly, if all students are allowed to eat 'breakfast after the bell' together in their classroom, it would not single out those students who have to arrive to school early just to eat a free breakfast in the cafeteria.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5784-mayor-a-council-announce-785b-fiscal-2016-budget-deal" target="_blank">The budget</a> decisions that will dictate spending beginning at the July 1 start of the next fiscal year come as this school year is coming to a close. On Wednesday, the Department of Education announced that its "2015 Summer Meals program, which provides free, healthy breakfast and lunch to children across New York City, will begin this Saturday, June 27, the first day of summer vacation." The program is aimed at students who are food insecure and rely on school meals throughout the year.</p> <p>From the end of June through September 4, the program will provide free meals to "children 18 and younger" at "1,100 locations, including pools, school, libraries, parks, public housing sites, and community-based organization sites." Children don't have to prove New York City residency or be enrolled in summer school; no application or identification is needed to access food. The DOE said that "a record 8.1 million meals were served" last summer.</p> <p>Advocates want to see something similar all year round. On Tuesday afternoon, students from Lunch for Learning coalition groups delivered a letter to the mayor and a photobook of 330 pictures from its selfie campaign. They were accompanied by advocates, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, and leaders from Local 372, <a href="http://www.local372.org/" target="_blank">a union</a> of the city's Board of Education employees. Barbara Turk, the mayor's director of food policy, was at City Hall to receive the letter and photobook on the mayor's behalf.</p> <p>The message of the student letter was clear: "We are disappointed that expansion of Universal Free School Lunch for all public schools was left out of the budget. We have been working very hard to make this happen and were surprised and upset when you said the middle school results are mixed."</p> <p>"If I get on line, the rich students will say that I'm eating 'free-free,'" said 16-year-old Aminata, one of the students at City Hall representing Bushwick Campus Youth Food Policy Council. While she has to try to hide when she gets a free lunch at her high school, she says that her brothers in middle school do not have to worry about bullies in the cafeteria because everyone in their school eats free lunches. She often also has to share her free lunch with friends who don't qualify for reduced-price lunch but still cannot afford to buy food every day. "This is not a want, this is a need," said Shaun D. Francois I, president of Local 372.</p> <p>Though they are disappointed by the budget, supporters of universal free meals, including the public advocate, plan to carry on their efforts to expand the program to all of the city's schools. "We're going to continue to campaign and we're going to continue to keep the pressure on, working with advocates to expand this program so that students will be better nourished ready for the school day," James told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>"We know it's the right thing to do," says Accles. "We're going to keep pushing until we get it done."</p> <p>***<br />by Zehra Rehman, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> Progressive Caucus Responds to De Blasio's Executive Budget 2015-05-13T05:00:00+00:00 2015-05-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5721:city-council-progressive-caucus-responds-to-de-blasios-executive-budget Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/rosenthal_and_co.jpg" alt="rosenthal and co" height="450" width="600" />&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CM Helen Rosenthal is a vice chair of the Progressive Caucus (@TenantPowerNY)</span></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In response to his recently unveiled fiscal year 2016 Executive Budget, the City Council’s 18-member progressive caucus sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday outlining an eleven-point “advancement framework.” In the letter, which alternately praises the mayor and requests additional funding for specific priorities, the council members outline “legislative, fiscal and advocacy goals” for a “more equal and more just New York.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The effort, in part led by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, a Progressive Caucus vice-chair, drew feedback from caucus members to identify where the mayor’s budget is in line with the group’s progressive agenda and where it still needs attention. “It is really the moral document behind the rhetoric,” Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette of the city budget in a Wednesday phone interview.</p> <p dir="ltr">The council members, 18 of the body’s 51 total members, largely commend de Blasio for his executive budget, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0">released last week</a>, that focuses on tackling income inequality, particularly through commitments to housing, workers’ rights, and civil legal services. “On the whole there’s no question it’s a very progressive, very impressive, and fiscally responsible budget,” said Rosenthal, who is a budget expert and chairs the Council’s contracts committee.</p> <p dir="ltr">But, Progressive Caucus members also pointed to certain priorities which complement the mayor’s own efforts and will be a part of budget negotiations over the next few weeks. “Some are smaller indications, some are bigger,” said Rosenthal. “But they all get to the same point,” she said, alluding to the work of "advancing opportunity for all New Yorkers," as stated in the letter, a copy of which was read by Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">For instance, the letter applauds the mayor for redirecting $506 million to the New York City Housing Authority through 2019, and providing an additional $300 million in capital funds over the next three years. But the mayor’s <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20140525/BLOGS04/140529919/right-sizing-housing-is-tricky-business" target="_blank">rightsizing initiative</a> has created the need for more resources for relocating families, they say in the letter. The caucus calls on the mayor to create a fund similar to the Council’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdf/Moving-Allowance-Program-Fact-Sheet.pdf" target="_blank">Moving Allowance Program</a> that helps low-income tenants relocate. It also asks for more funding for Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) Alternative Enforcement Program that undertakes maintenance work on dilapidated buildings.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor, in his executive budget, adjusted the income of 35,000 contract workers to provide them a living wage increase. The Progressive Caucus welcomed this measure. “The Caucus shares in your belief that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay,” reads the letter. Caucs members hope, however, that the mayor would expand this to all 125,000 city-contracted social service workers.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The point that this document intended to make is that we’re not just saying it. We’re giving exact examples,” Rosenthal said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Among the other allocations and initiatives the caucus praises in its letter are the $78 million commitment to mental health services; the $1.8 million increase for the Commission on Human Rights; $18.9 million for the municipal identification program, IDNYC; improvements in community safety; and the efforts to reduce homelessness.</p> <p dir="ltr">Caucus demands are both targeted and general. Among other things, the members are pushing for increased funding for seniors; restoring $8.7 million for park maintenance employees and greater funding to the Green Thumb community garden program; money to provide six-day service in libraries; creating an LGBT liaison at the Department of Education; providing green education programs; increasing support to worker cooperatives; tackling viral hepatitis cases; addressing disparities in school athletic opportunities, particularly for young women and students of color; and increasing funding for the Office of Special Enforcement to tackle illegal hotels.</p> <p dir="ltr">The letter also indicates the caucus’ disappointment for the lack of funding for oversight and protection against employer abuse. Earlier this year, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito &nbsp;<a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20150211/BLOGS04/150219957/council-speaker-vows-to-create-office-of-labor" target="_blank">proposed the creation</a> of an Office of Labor Standards for this very purpose.</p> <p dir="ltr">Although Mark-Viverito has technically not signed the letter, the agenda laid out in the document is in line with the City Council’s <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pr/041415br.shtml" target="_blank">preliminary budget response</a> put out by Mark-Viverito, Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras, and their fellow council members. Mark-Viverito was a co-founder of the Progressive Caucus with Council Member Brad Lander, but she has formally removed herself after becoming speaker. The caucus is currently co-chaired by Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards; Council Member Ben Kallos and Rosenthal are co-vice chairs. After outlining his executive budget last week, de Blasio is in Washington, DC and California this week talking about the fight against inequality in New York and nationally. He unveiled The Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality in DC on Tuesday with a large group of collaborators and co-signers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moving forward in the city, the final deatils of the budget will be worked out before the June 30 deadline, and Rosenthal said the progressive caucus will be asking detailed questions about where de Blasio’s latest iteration falls short and why. Publicly, these questions will be raised during the Council’s weeks of executive budget hearings set to begin next week. Following that, Progressive Caucus members will reconvene to give their input to the Speaker as Mark-Viverito works with the entire Council and negotiates with the mayor.&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/rosenthal_and_co.jpg" alt="rosenthal and co" height="450" width="600" />&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">CM Helen Rosenthal is a vice chair of the Progressive Caucus (@TenantPowerNY)</span></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In response to his recently unveiled fiscal year 2016 Executive Budget, the City Council’s 18-member progressive caucus sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday outlining an eleven-point “advancement framework.” In the letter, which alternately praises the mayor and requests additional funding for specific priorities, the council members outline “legislative, fiscal and advocacy goals” for a “more equal and more just New York.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The effort, in part led by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, a Progressive Caucus vice-chair, drew feedback from caucus members to identify where the mayor’s budget is in line with the group’s progressive agenda and where it still needs attention. “It is really the moral document behind the rhetoric,” Rosenthal told Gotham Gazette of the city budget in a Wednesday phone interview.</p> <p dir="ltr">The council members, 18 of the body’s 51 total members, largely commend de Blasio for his executive budget, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0">released last week</a>, that focuses on tackling income inequality, particularly through commitments to housing, workers’ rights, and civil legal services. “On the whole there’s no question it’s a very progressive, very impressive, and fiscally responsible budget,” said Rosenthal, who is a budget expert and chairs the Council’s contracts committee.</p> <p dir="ltr">But, Progressive Caucus members also pointed to certain priorities which complement the mayor’s own efforts and will be a part of budget negotiations over the next few weeks. “Some are smaller indications, some are bigger,” said Rosenthal. “But they all get to the same point,” she said, alluding to the work of "advancing opportunity for all New Yorkers," as stated in the letter, a copy of which was read by Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">For instance, the letter applauds the mayor for redirecting $506 million to the New York City Housing Authority through 2019, and providing an additional $300 million in capital funds over the next three years. But the mayor’s <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20140525/BLOGS04/140529919/right-sizing-housing-is-tricky-business" target="_blank">rightsizing initiative</a> has created the need for more resources for relocating families, they say in the letter. The caucus calls on the mayor to create a fund similar to the Council’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/hpd/downloads/pdf/Moving-Allowance-Program-Fact-Sheet.pdf" target="_blank">Moving Allowance Program</a> that helps low-income tenants relocate. It also asks for more funding for Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) Alternative Enforcement Program that undertakes maintenance work on dilapidated buildings.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor, in his executive budget, adjusted the income of 35,000 contract workers to provide them a living wage increase. The Progressive Caucus welcomed this measure. “The Caucus shares in your belief that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay,” reads the letter. Caucs members hope, however, that the mayor would expand this to all 125,000 city-contracted social service workers.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The point that this document intended to make is that we’re not just saying it. We’re giving exact examples,” Rosenthal said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Among the other allocations and initiatives the caucus praises in its letter are the $78 million commitment to mental health services; the $1.8 million increase for the Commission on Human Rights; $18.9 million for the municipal identification program, IDNYC; improvements in community safety; and the efforts to reduce homelessness.</p> <p dir="ltr">Caucus demands are both targeted and general. Among other things, the members are pushing for increased funding for seniors; restoring $8.7 million for park maintenance employees and greater funding to the Green Thumb community garden program; money to provide six-day service in libraries; creating an LGBT liaison at the Department of Education; providing green education programs; increasing support to worker cooperatives; tackling viral hepatitis cases; addressing disparities in school athletic opportunities, particularly for young women and students of color; and increasing funding for the Office of Special Enforcement to tackle illegal hotels.</p> <p dir="ltr">The letter also indicates the caucus’ disappointment for the lack of funding for oversight and protection against employer abuse. Earlier this year, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito &nbsp;<a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20150211/BLOGS04/150219957/council-speaker-vows-to-create-office-of-labor" target="_blank">proposed the creation</a> of an Office of Labor Standards for this very purpose.</p> <p dir="ltr">Although Mark-Viverito has technically not signed the letter, the agenda laid out in the document is in line with the City Council’s <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/pr/041415br.shtml" target="_blank">preliminary budget response</a> put out by Mark-Viverito, Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras, and their fellow council members. Mark-Viverito was a co-founder of the Progressive Caucus with Council Member Brad Lander, but she has formally removed herself after becoming speaker. The caucus is currently co-chaired by Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards; Council Member Ben Kallos and Rosenthal are co-vice chairs. After outlining his executive budget last week, de Blasio is in Washington, DC and California this week talking about the fight against inequality in New York and nationally. He unveiled The Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality in DC on Tuesday with a large group of collaborators and co-signers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moving forward in the city, the final deatils of the budget will be worked out before the June 30 deadline, and Rosenthal said the progressive caucus will be asking detailed questions about where de Blasio’s latest iteration falls short and why. Publicly, these questions will be raised during the Council’s weeks of executive budget hearings set to begin next week. Following that, Progressive Caucus members will reconvene to give their input to the Speaker as Mark-Viverito works with the entire Council and negotiates with the mayor.&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/samarkhurshid" target="_blank">@samarkhurshid</a></p> Bushwick Students Give City's Street Cleanliness Scorecards An Incomplete 2015-03-09T05:00:00+00:00 2015-03-09T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5611:bushwick-students-give-citys-street-cleanliness-scorecards-an-incomplete Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/trash-600.jpg" alt="trash Bushwick" height="266" width="600" /></p> <p>Bushwick photos by local students</p> <hr /> <p>Walk down a typical street in Greenwich Village or SoHo. It's likely to be clean of debris and garbage — in fact, there's a 93 percent chance the sidewalk is "acceptably clean," according to city records.</p> <p>Now walk down a typical street in Bushwick. According to the City, it's not all that different — there's an 89 percent chance that the sidewalk is clean.</p> <p>To some young Bushwick residents, that's a finding that doesn't match reality.</p> <p>Fed up with having to walk around discarded soda bottles, plastic bags, and dog droppings on their way to and from school, a class of seniors at Bushwick's Academy of Urban Planning, a high school, decided to get to the bottom of how the City assesses street cleanliness. They found what they say is outdated policy that masks a 'Tale of Two Cities'-esque reality.</p> <p>And they are pushing city officials to take notice.</p> <p>It's called the scorecard system. Each month, employees from the Mayor's Office of Operations observe a sample of streets in every city neighborhood and rate them on cleanliness, assigning scores to both the sidewalk and the street surface. A 1.0 means perfectly clean, and a 3.0 means a lot of litter. "Acceptably clean" is anything below a 1.5. Percentages of acceptably clean streets are released by community board district and can help the Sanitation Department decide its street-cleaning policies.</p> <p>The rubric for making the determination of clean or unclean, based on example photos, hasn't changed since the scorecard program began in 1974, a city spokesperson confirmed to Gotham Gazette. What was acceptably clean in the New York of the 70s, of graffitied subway cars and financial crisis, might not be all that acceptable in today's Big Apple. City officials argue, though, that the consistent standards means ratings reflect cleaner streets.</p> <p>These days, a vast majority of city streets and sidewalks are rated acceptably clean, which critics say prevents sanitation department crews from prioritizing neighborhoods that actually have a lot of litter.</p> <p>In November 2014, the most recent month available, 93.1 percent of city streets and 94.7 percent of city sidewalks were rated acceptably clean. 56 of the city's 59 community board districts had 85 percent or higher ratings of acceptably clean sidewalks, and 52 out of 59 had 85 percent or higher ratings of acceptably clean streets.</p> <p>November 2014 scorecard ratings, by community board district</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col2+from+1MIzW3AkbZ-GqiGP18QQ7Y1dW006okJ_Jgv5Rgk2N&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=40.745938143357044&amp;lng=-73.8963037612915&amp;t=1&amp;z=11&amp;l=col2&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2&amp;hml=KML" width="600" height="500" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;">source: <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ops/html/data/street_scorecard.shtml" target="_blank">Mayor's Office of Operations data</a></p> <p>In Brooklyn Community Board 4, which covers Bushwick, 88.5 percent of sidewalks and 89.5 percent of streets were scored acceptably clean in November.</p> <p>"We live here, and we saw that it's not true," said Jorge Santamaria, an Academy of Urban Planning student. "There's a lot of garbage on the street."</p> <p>Santamaria and his classmates in Jose Ortiz's third-period "Participation in Democracy" class decided to do something about it. Tasked with solving a problem in their neighborhood, students researched how the scorecard system worked.</p> <p>They requested the specific scores for their district through a Freedom of Information Law Request and took photos of litter-covered streets that the city claimed were clean.</p> <p>In one report, "Manhattan was scored with a 2, us with a 1.5," Santamaria said of ratings suggesting Bushwick had cleaner streets. "Whenever I go to Manhattan, it's not dirty at all. We think we should get more resources."</p> <p>"Of course, people there want their community to be clean, but I think our community should be as clean as Manhattan," added student Maritza Zeron.</p> <p>NYU junior Ryan Castellano, a "democracy coach" who helped students with their activism as part of the <a href="http://generationcitizen.org/" target="_blank">Generation Citizen</a> program, which brings together college students and high school classes to identify and solve community problems, said the divide in street cleanliness was obvious.</p> <p>"I live in Greenwich Village. If you walk around there, and go to Bushwick and walk around, you can see an enormous difference," Castellano said. "Those [scorecard] numbers don't match up at all."</p> <p>Over the years, New York "definitely has gotten cleaner, and our class' position is not that the city as a whole isn't better," Castellano said. "But there still is a diversity in how dirty neighborhoods are...there are still some that are much worse than others, and it's being misrepresented."</p> <p>City officials say the program provides valuable data on street and sidewalk cleanliness. The fact that the rubric hasn't changed shows how dramatically average cleanliness has improved, they say, from roughly 70 percent acceptably clean in the 1970s to over 90 percent clean now.</p> <p>"With a program's history as long as ours, we understand the importance of providing our City stakeholders and the public with useful information that impacts the cleanliness of our neighborhoods," said Mindy Tarlow, the director of the Mayor's Office of Operations, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>But the students are hoping to see action on the part of the City to raise standards of what is considered acceptably clean. That might mean a City Council hearing or a change in policy at the Office of Operations.</p> <p>City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who chairs the council's Sanitation Committee and represents part of Bushwick, met with Castellano earlier this month to discuss the students' research.</p> <p>"[Council Member] Reynoso is concerned and looking into it," Reynoso spokesperson Lacey Tauber said in an email.</p> <p>In addition to advocating for change at the city government level, the Academy of Urban Planning students are hoping to help fight litter themselves, through social media and by giving out t-shirts or stickers urging people not to litter.</p> <p>"In order to make our community cleaner, we need our whole community involved, not just our class," said student Kimberly Goris. "Our community is our home, it represents us — it's our identity."</p> <p>***<br />by Casey Tolan for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/trash-600.jpg" alt="trash Bushwick" height="266" width="600" /></p> <p>Bushwick photos by local students</p> <hr /> <p>Walk down a typical street in Greenwich Village or SoHo. It's likely to be clean of debris and garbage — in fact, there's a 93 percent chance the sidewalk is "acceptably clean," according to city records.</p> <p>Now walk down a typical street in Bushwick. According to the City, it's not all that different — there's an 89 percent chance that the sidewalk is clean.</p> <p>To some young Bushwick residents, that's a finding that doesn't match reality.</p> <p>Fed up with having to walk around discarded soda bottles, plastic bags, and dog droppings on their way to and from school, a class of seniors at Bushwick's Academy of Urban Planning, a high school, decided to get to the bottom of how the City assesses street cleanliness. They found what they say is outdated policy that masks a 'Tale of Two Cities'-esque reality.</p> <p>And they are pushing city officials to take notice.</p> <p>It's called the scorecard system. Each month, employees from the Mayor's Office of Operations observe a sample of streets in every city neighborhood and rate them on cleanliness, assigning scores to both the sidewalk and the street surface. A 1.0 means perfectly clean, and a 3.0 means a lot of litter. "Acceptably clean" is anything below a 1.5. Percentages of acceptably clean streets are released by community board district and can help the Sanitation Department decide its street-cleaning policies.</p> <p>The rubric for making the determination of clean or unclean, based on example photos, hasn't changed since the scorecard program began in 1974, a city spokesperson confirmed to Gotham Gazette. What was acceptably clean in the New York of the 70s, of graffitied subway cars and financial crisis, might not be all that acceptable in today's Big Apple. City officials argue, though, that the consistent standards means ratings reflect cleaner streets.</p> <p>These days, a vast majority of city streets and sidewalks are rated acceptably clean, which critics say prevents sanitation department crews from prioritizing neighborhoods that actually have a lot of litter.</p> <p>In November 2014, the most recent month available, 93.1 percent of city streets and 94.7 percent of city sidewalks were rated acceptably clean. 56 of the city's 59 community board districts had 85 percent or higher ratings of acceptably clean sidewalks, and 52 out of 59 had 85 percent or higher ratings of acceptably clean streets.</p> <p>November 2014 scorecard ratings, by community board district</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col2+from+1MIzW3AkbZ-GqiGP18QQ7Y1dW006okJ_Jgv5Rgk2N&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=40.745938143357044&amp;lng=-73.8963037612915&amp;t=1&amp;z=11&amp;l=col2&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2&amp;hml=KML" width="600" height="500" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;">source: <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/ops/html/data/street_scorecard.shtml" target="_blank">Mayor's Office of Operations data</a></p> <p>In Brooklyn Community Board 4, which covers Bushwick, 88.5 percent of sidewalks and 89.5 percent of streets were scored acceptably clean in November.</p> <p>"We live here, and we saw that it's not true," said Jorge Santamaria, an Academy of Urban Planning student. "There's a lot of garbage on the street."</p> <p>Santamaria and his classmates in Jose Ortiz's third-period "Participation in Democracy" class decided to do something about it. Tasked with solving a problem in their neighborhood, students researched how the scorecard system worked.</p> <p>They requested the specific scores for their district through a Freedom of Information Law Request and took photos of litter-covered streets that the city claimed were clean.</p> <p>In one report, "Manhattan was scored with a 2, us with a 1.5," Santamaria said of ratings suggesting Bushwick had cleaner streets. "Whenever I go to Manhattan, it's not dirty at all. We think we should get more resources."</p> <p>"Of course, people there want their community to be clean, but I think our community should be as clean as Manhattan," added student Maritza Zeron.</p> <p>NYU junior Ryan Castellano, a "democracy coach" who helped students with their activism as part of the <a href="http://generationcitizen.org/" target="_blank">Generation Citizen</a> program, which brings together college students and high school classes to identify and solve community problems, said the divide in street cleanliness was obvious.</p> <p>"I live in Greenwich Village. If you walk around there, and go to Bushwick and walk around, you can see an enormous difference," Castellano said. "Those [scorecard] numbers don't match up at all."</p> <p>Over the years, New York "definitely has gotten cleaner, and our class' position is not that the city as a whole isn't better," Castellano said. "But there still is a diversity in how dirty neighborhoods are...there are still some that are much worse than others, and it's being misrepresented."</p> <p>City officials say the program provides valuable data on street and sidewalk cleanliness. The fact that the rubric hasn't changed shows how dramatically average cleanliness has improved, they say, from roughly 70 percent acceptably clean in the 1970s to over 90 percent clean now.</p> <p>"With a program's history as long as ours, we understand the importance of providing our City stakeholders and the public with useful information that impacts the cleanliness of our neighborhoods," said Mindy Tarlow, the director of the Mayor's Office of Operations, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>But the students are hoping to see action on the part of the City to raise standards of what is considered acceptably clean. That might mean a City Council hearing or a change in policy at the Office of Operations.</p> <p>City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who chairs the council's Sanitation Committee and represents part of Bushwick, met with Castellano earlier this month to discuss the students' research.</p> <p>"[Council Member] Reynoso is concerned and looking into it," Reynoso spokesperson Lacey Tauber said in an email.</p> <p>In addition to advocating for change at the city government level, the Academy of Urban Planning students are hoping to help fight litter themselves, through social media and by giving out t-shirts or stickers urging people not to litter.</p> <p>"In order to make our community cleaner, we need our whole community involved, not just our class," said student Kimberly Goris. "Our community is our home, it represents us — it's our identity."</p> <p>***<br />by Casey Tolan for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p>