Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Gotham Gazette covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.
QUOTES OF THE DAY:
"There will no longer be a tax on worship." - Councilmember Hiram Monserrate on suspending parking meters on Sundays.
"New Yorkers who pray on Saturdays and Fridays have been left completely out of the considerations of this bill." - Councilmember John Liu in response.
PARKING METERS ON SUNDAY
Since the city instituted Sunday parking meters three years ago, many churchgoers have complained about having to feed meters while they are in church. Some pastors have even complained to local politicians that their congregants must choose between walking out to the street with a handful of quarters in the middle of a sermon or getting a parking ticket.
To put an end to what some have dubbed "pay to pray," the New York City Council passed a bill (Intro 669) that would eliminate the need to feed parking meters on Sundays.
"This will impact hundreds of thousands of people who choose Sunday as their day of worship," said Councilmember Hiram Monserrate, who drafted the bill. "There will no longer be a tax on worship."
The council says it is also a way to give something back to New Yorkers who have seen tax and fee increases in recent years. And they hope it will help stimulate shopping.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has promised to veto the bill, arguing that the city would lose needed revenue. Sunday meter parking generates $12 million a year and was instituted in 2002 during the post 9/11 budget crunch.
Bloomberg also argues it will create additional parking problems because people will hog the parking spaces, parking their cars on Saturday night and not moving them until Monday morning.
The bill passed by a vote of 41 to 3 (seven members were absent). John Liu, Tony Avella, and Helen Sears - who all represent districts in Queens - voted "no" on the measure.
"I think it will make those parking spots much harder to find," said Councilmember John Liu, who chairs the council’s transportation committee. and also argued that the action may lead to an increase in double parking and make streets more dangerous for pedestrians.
"New Yorkers who pray on Saturdays and Fridays have been left completely out of the considerations of this bill," added Liu.
The council has more than the 34 votes needed to override the mayor and has promised to do so.
"This vote will tell the mayor three things," said Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who also helped draft the legislation. "Enough is enough. Leave us alone on Sundays. And sign this bill into law."
TAX BENEFITS FOR LEAD PAINT ABATEMENT
In February 2004, the New York City Council passed a law which requires owners to apartments built before 1960 to remove lead paint and dust and to give an annual account of children under the age of seven living in the building. Critics have charged that the regulations make it more expensive to renovate affordable housing.
In an effort to help landlords cover the cost of lead paint removal, the city offers tax benefits. And the council passed a measure (Intro 607-A) which extends these tax benefits to more building owners.
In the past, landlords had to prove there was a child under the age of seven in the building in order to receive the tax break. Under the new legislation, any landlord can apply.
It also reduces some fees, liability, and regulations that have discouraged some landlords from doing abatements. The council hopes that the measure will prevent landlords from passing the cost of removing lead paint on to their tenants.
"This will prevent further lead poisoning of our children and preserves affordable housing," said Councilmember Miguel Martinez.
SENIOR CITIZEN RENT INCREASE EXEMPTIONS
The council also passed a measure aimed at providing rent relief for low-income senior citizens.
In order to qualify for the senior citizen rent increase exemptions (also known as SCRIE), an applicant must be over the age of 62, have an annual income of $24,000 or less, and pay one-third or more of their income in rent.
The council's bill (Intro 666) will increase the maximum annual income requirement from $24,000 to $29,000 (in $1,000 increments each year) over the next five years.
In return for the exemptions, the government pays property owners an amount equal to the lost rent. The council estimates that the legislation will cost about $13.8 million over the next five years.
DISABLITY RENT INCREASE EXEMPTIONS
In June, the New York State Assembly passed legislation to create a similar rent exemption program for people with disabilities. The council passed legislation (Intro 667) to enact the program in New York City.
The disability rent increase exemption (or DRIE) will help 20,000 disabled New Yorkers, who earn less than $17,004 a year, and who pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent.
Although advocates for the disabled and council members hailed the new program, they said the salary requirements are too low and should be equal to the limits set for senior citizens.
Each year, the City Council takes a summer recess. There are generally no committee hearings during the months of July and August, though the council does meet once a month to pass urgent land-use measures or other legislation.
The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for August 17, 2005. The council resumes its regular schedule of hearings and meetings in September.