At its most recent meeting on July 19, 2006, the New York City Council introduced 13 new bills, including legislation aimed at identifying potential historic landmarks, monitoring educational programs for the disabled, and gaining a more accurate count of the number of homeless people living on city streets.
PRESERVING LOCAL LANDMARKS
The rich history of New York can be chronicled through the various landmarks that have been preserved throughout the city. But with city's real estate boom and developers looking for places to build and structures to renovate, historic spaces are constantly at risk. In response to the growing development pressures in the city, Councilmembers Tony Avella and Jessica Lappin introduced new bills aimed at improving the preservation process.
Intro 393 would require the City Council to publish a semi-annual list of potential landmarks. The list would be forwarded to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which would be required to hold a public hearing on a proposed sites within 60 days and on a proposed historic district within 90 days.
According to Councilmember Avella the bill would "mandate that there is a fair public hearing for all proposed landmarks."
However, the council does not have the full authority to dictate such changes in policy at the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and even if the bill passes, it would require a change in the city's charter and would have to be approved by voters in a referendum in the next general election.
With a similar aim in mind, Councilmember Jessica Lappin introduced a bill, Intro 400, which seeks to establish a survey division within the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Researchers would seek out potential historic sites and make recommendations to the commission about future landmark designations.
CARE FOR THE DISABLED
In 2005, New York State passed legislation requiring the Department of Education to monitor the quality of care provided at out-of-state facilities where some of New York City's developmentally disabled residents receive specialized services. It was named "Billy's Law" after Brooklyn resident Billy Albanese, who suffered numerous injuries while attending Bancroft Neurohealth Facility in New Jersey from 1992 to 1997.
While the law ensures that the Department of Education keeps meticulous records of their findings, this information is difficult for parents to obtain.
Intro 396 would require that the Department of Education's findings be easily accessible and reported to the City Council. The City Council would hold public hearings on the issue to enable parents to gain a better understanding of the quality of care that their children are receiving.
STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT
Councilmember David Yassky introduced Intro 405, which would provide grants for student loan repayment for city workers who have earned graduate degrees.
In order to qualify for the loan repayment program, an applicant must have earned a graduate degree from an accredited university, maintained at least a "B" average, worked full-time for the city for at least three years, and continue to work full-time for the city for at least two years after receiving assistance. The amounts of the grants are subject to the discretion of the Commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.
This legislation would extend the available grants to government employees who have already received their graduate degree; the program is currently only available to employees actively pursuing degrees.
With more than 200,000 motor vehicle accidents in New York each year, Republican Councilmembers Andrew Lanza and Dennis Gallagher introduced two bills aimed at making the city streets safer for drivers and pedestrians.
Intro 394 would prohibit any commercial motor vehicle from parking within fifteen feet of a corner. Under current law, commercial vehicles are allowed to park near corners for up to three hours.
"Drivers approaching intersections with obstructed views are forced to play Russian roulette with oncoming traffic," said Councilmember Gallagher.
Exceptions would be made for vehicles carrying a handicap person and for emergency and law enforcement vehicles.
Intro 399 calls for the installation of a stop sign or traffic light at every intersection surrounding city schools.
"School children are our most vulnerable pedestrians and we have an obligation to keep them safe," said Councilmember Lanza.
COUNTING THE HOMELESS
In 2003, Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted an annual survey of homeless adults living on city streets. However, some council members have criticized the survey because it takes place in the winter months when many homeless people seek shelter.
Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Bill de Blasio have drafted a bill (Intro 392) which would require that the survey be conducted in the spring or fall.
"We don't want to underestimate the extent of the problem," said Councilmember Bill de Blasio.
The bill also calls for a breakdown of the homeless population by borough and City Council district. Currently, the survey does not happen across the entire city, but focuses on Manhattan and certain sections of the other boroughs.
50 NOISIEST BUSINESSES
According to a recent survey, noise is the number one complaint of New Yorkers. Councilmember Vincent Gentile wants to keep a detailed record of the city's noisiest bars and nightclubs.
Intro 397 would create a monthly report of the 50 establishments with the most noise complaints, as recorded by the 311 information line. The report would be submitted to the City Council Speaker each month.
Although there are no enforcement measures attached to the bill, lawmakers argue it would give them a better idea of who is consistently failing to comply with current noise regulations.