New York City Council Stated Meeting Report
Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.
STATED MEETING - June 7, 2004
In the months after the collapse of the Twin Towers, the New York City Department of Buildings created a task force to look into how the city's buildings can be made safer. The panel, called the World Trade Center Building Code Task Force, looked at issues like building design, construction, and evacuation procedures for the city's 5,300 high-rise buildings. In February 2003, the group made 21 recommendations for improving safety.
On June 7, 2004, New York City Council passed new building code legislation based on 13 of the 21 recommendations. The council's bill (Intro 126-A) will require that:
- Building owners install emergency exit markings and signs at exit doors and stairs.
- Sprinklers be installed in all new hi-rise buildings.
- Existing skyscrapers upgrade their sprinkler systems.
- Fireproofing be re-inspected after building renovations.
- Building owners create emergency evacuation plans for non-fire related events like electrical blackouts, hazardous material spills, and other natural disasters.
"This legislation will go a long way to ensuring the security of generations to come," said Councilmember Madeline Provenzano, chair of the buildings committee.
The council also passed a bill (Intro 110-A) increasing fines for idling cars and buses and requiring more signs in bus terminals warning against leaving an engine running.
In 1971, the city passed an anti-idling law that restricts vehicles to idling for no more than three minutes. Last summer, a council investigation found that over 30 percent of buses in the city idle longer than allowed and that some bus companies build fines into the cost of doing business. Some neighborhoods with bus depots also have unusually high asthma rates, and some health and environmental groups believe there is a correlation. The legislation aims to reduce pollution in the city and particular in those areas.
"We have a number of hotspots where idling is a major problem... and [it] is detrimental to New Yorker's health," said Councilmember Eva Moskowitz, who authored the bill.
The council had a light legislative agenda for the day because it is currently focusing on budget negotiations with the mayor. A new budget for the next fiscal year must be approved by July 1.
Some Democratic council members took time in the meeting to urge the mayor to give new contracts for healthcare and daycare workers and called for increases in funding for social programs, senior citizen centers, and firehouses.
Republican Councilmember James Oddo read a passage from a speech by President Ronald Reagan, who died two days earlier, to say that those who advocate smaller government also share the goal of a better city. In the speech, Regan described America as "a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here."
"I ask that my colleagues keep [this image] in mind as we make some very difficult decisions in how to keep this city vibrant in the years to come," said Oddo.
The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for June 28, 2004.
For an archive of past meetings and council votes, visit Gotham Gazette's Searchlight.
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