At each of the City Council's stated meetings, council members introduce bills, most of which will never become laws (for the process by which bills become laws, click here). As a regular feature, Gotham Gazette discusses some of the legislation proposed at each meeting.
Members of the City Council proposed the creation of a bicycle task force, and asked for increased funding public housing units and transportation benefits for employees at their stated meetings on January 3 and 9.
Bicycle Task Force
Council Member Alan J. Gerson proposed Introduction 498 to create a bicycle safety task force for New York City at its January 3 meeting. Arguing that bicycle use improves personal health and reduces traffic congestion, Gerson hopes the task force will help reduce bicycle related accidents.
Two hundred twenty-five bicyclists died in crashes between 1996 and 2005, according to a report issued by several city agenceis. The report also found 97 percent of bicyclists who died were not wearing a helmet.
By establishing a group to review bicycle routes, patterns and safety the Council will better understand how to improve New York City’s bicycle program. This would be done by changing several bicycle regulations, funding educational campaigns to promote bicycle safety, and improving infrastructure for bicycle lanes and parking. Once established, the task force would develop recommendations on how the city could accommodate bikers safely and practically.
"The idea is to build off the mayor’s initiative on the five borough bicycle paths and get the right people together with the right background and expertise to make important decisions on bicycle safety in the city,” Gerson said. “We’re a busy, crowded city and if we want to make room for bikes we need to do it methodically and scientifically to fully analyze our options.”
Funding Public Housing
New York State built 12,500 apartments in 15 public housing developments throughout the city between 1958 and 1974. While these developments were originally financed with state funds, Albany has not contributed money for operating expenses since 1998. New York City Housing Authority, a city agency, manages the units.
According to Dilan, it costs about $62 million a year to operate the 15 developments. In fiscal 2007, city officials put $120 million in the budget for the long-term viability of the city's public housing. But If the management does not receive any financial assistance, argues Dilan, moderate-income families may see rent hikes, and all tenants may have to deal with reduction in services.
In Resolution 682 Dilan and Mendez are asking state officials to help avoid this, by asking the state to New York State to renew its financial support for the developments.
Encouraging the use of mass transportation is essential in reducing traffic congestion and pollution in the city, according to Council Member John C. Liu. With this in mind, Lui is calling upon the United States Congress to increase public transportation benefits for commuting employees.
The current law allows commuting employees to use up to $105 per month for public transportation, tax-free. Lui wants to increase the monthly cap to $205 with Resolution 683.
This resolution would encourage the use of mass transportation while reducing commuting expenses, especially for the people who ride the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad because their monthly commutes may cost more than the $105 they are currently allowed.