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Gotham Gazette

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City lawmakers are holding a hearing today to discuss the state of ferry service in the five boroughs, with advocates and transportation experts expected to testify in support of expanding use of the waterways for transit.

The disruption to subways and buses by Superstorm Sandy brought renewed attention to the potential of the city's "blue highways." For instance, when the subway to the isolated Rockaway Peninsula was knocked out, emergency ferry service provided a critical connection for commuters needing to get to Manhattan.

Advocates say expanded ferry service would create redundancy to the transit network, connect far-flung communities that have no other reliable transit and be available during emergencies.

Gotham Gazette took an in-depth look at the issue back in April.

The joint hearing of the Council's transportation, waterfront and economic development committees begins at 1 p.m. today.

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After what some advocates call years of inaction, the City Council has spent the last few months passing a series of bills aimed at helping veterans.

The flurry of legislative action comes at a time when the resources for veterans across the country are increasingly strained but the need for them is increasing as post-9/11 soldiers come home.

The latest bill to be passed by the Council directs each city agency to name a veterans' affairs liaison who would also work with the mayor's office to make sure former soldiers' needs are being met. Training would also be provided as needed for the liaisons. The bill passed 49-0 yesterday.

Sponsored by Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile, the bill follows up on a 2008 executive order from Mayor Michael Bloomberg the calls for the coordination of veterans services with the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs. Called ineffective by some, the order has fallen flat. The inaction prompted Gentile to propose Int. 0480, which already boasted 27 co-sponsors.

Gentile called the bill a benefit for both the city and veterans.

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The Assembly and Speaker Sheldon Silver took a shellacking in reports today by Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan and the Joint Commission on Public ethics for their handling of sexual harassment charges against Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Donovan found that the secretive manner in which initial sexual harassment charges were handled against Lopez only "encouraged" the assemblyman to continue his pattern of harassment. According to JCOPE's report, two staffers who accused Lopez of harassment and filed complaints were moved off Lopez's payroll; Lopez then hired new female staffers and pressured them for intimate relationships.

Silver's office has undoubtedly been fielding a bevy of calls from reporters regarding the findings of both reports.

Silver's spokesman Michael Whyland issued a statement defending his boss saying, "A full review of the facts by both JCOPE and the Special Prosecutor has found that all actions by the Assembly were lawful and there was no basis for an ethics complaint against the Speaker or his staff."

Whyland also used the opportunity to reiterate that Silver has called for Lopez's resignation and still wants him to resign. "Given that the JCOPE investigation has found significant violations of the Public Officers Law by Assemblyman Lopez, Speaker Silver renews his call for him to resign," said Whyland in the statement.

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The city hopes to get more people engaged in this year's pivotal election with a new web app that aims to benefit both campaigns and voters.

The web app, named NYC Votes, will streamline campaign donations and also serve as a resource on candidates and the election.

NYC Votes Candidate Contribution ScreenAn early version of the software was demoed at a public hearing last night where developers showed a simple interface that included a step-by-step process for making donations.

The software draws from the city's campaign finance data and is expected to be released in two weeks. It will be available on most browser-enabled devices, including phones and tablets.

"We started from the premise of creating a much more seamless, end-to-end experience for participants in the voting process," said Art Chang, the chairman of the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee of the city's Campaign Finance Board, which held the hearing and is in charge of developing the software.

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NEW YORK — After almost four years of negotiations and months of political bickering, about one million working New Yorkers are a step closer to gaining paid sick days.

The City Council approved a bill today that will require many businesses to give sick workers time off. It passed 45 to 3.

The bill is much transformed from the one originally introduced in 2010 and kept from a vote by Speaker Christine Quinn until a near insurrection from her colleagues and criticism from advocates threatened to become a political liability as she seeks the Democratic nomination for mayor.

Under the bill approved by the Council, eligible workers would be guaranteed a minimum of five paid sick days. The bill also says that no one in New York can be fired for taking an unpaid sick day. Whereas the original bill would have forced businesses with five or more employees to provide paid sick days, the version passed today applies to those with 20 or more employees.

The law would go into effect in April of next year, with the possibility of expanding to businesses with 15 or more employees in late 2015, depending on the law's success. Full-time and part-time workers would be protected under the law, although it excludes interns and seasonal workers.

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