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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 - September 28, 2004

Quote of the Day:
"The more I look at this project the more I am convinced that it is insane. To dig an 80 foot hole, to alienate 48 acres of parkland, to build a plant that will have ancillary facilities around the community and a pipe to take sludge to the South Bronx... this is a project being built in the wrong place at the wrong time." - Councilmember Oliver Koppell speaking against a proposed filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

Meeting Summary:
On September 28, the New York City Council passed a measure that will help initiate construction of a massive water filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The underground plant, which will filter about 10 percent of the city's drinking water from the Croton Reservoir, will be placed under the Mosholu golf course.

For nearly a decade, the city has been trying to put a filtration plant in the park. Last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg brokered a deal to invest $240 million in the borough and won the support of many local politicians. (Read more about controversy surrounding the filtration plant.)

Supporters of the project argue that the water filtration plant is needed to provide safe drinking water for city residents. They also say it will bring jobs to an area with some of the highest unemployment rates in the city and provide much needed funds to improve parks and other infrastructure in the Bronx.

But opponents argue the plant will have an adverse affect on the environment and advocate for building it in another location along the Harlem River or in Westchester. They also fear that promises of jobs for locals will not materialize.

After vigorous debate, the council passed a Memorandum of Understanding for the project by a vote of 44 to 6 with 1 abstention. (Councilmembers Oliver Koppell, Helen Foster, Alan Jennings, Bill Perkins, Charles Barron, and Tish James voted "No"; Councilmember Gale Brewer abstained.)

The city must now submit its plans to a federal court. Groups opposing the plant are considering legal action to stop the project.

The council also overrode two vetoes by Mayor Bloomberg.

One measure (Intro 81-A) bans car alarms that are not installed by a car manufacturer. Mayor Bloomberg argues that the bill will affectively ban all car alarms in New York City and could lead to more automobile theft, but the council argues the law is needed to curb noise.

"It makes no sense that in a full blown initiative on noise problems in this city the mayor and the administration failed to address blaring car alarms that wake up people at all hours of the night," said Councilmember John Liu.

The council overrode the mayor's veto by a vote of 49 to 2 (Councilmembers Tony Avella and Erik Dilan sided with the mayor.)

The council also overruled the mayor on a resolution (Res 502) regarding pay phone franchises. The measure requires that future pay phone contracts on city property run for 15 years, rather than 11 years. Telecommunications companies and their lobbyists requested the change that the mayor says will tie the city's hands in future negotiations.

The council also passed three new bills it hopes will make New York's streets and sidewalks safer.

One bill (Intro 205-A) was drafted in response to the death of a woman who was killed last January when she stepped on a metal plate electrified by a faulty underground cable. The legislation requires that companies like Con Edison conduct routine inspections of wires and electrical infrastructure and issue annual reports to the city. The Department of Transportation will conduct random tests to detect stray voltage.

Another measure (Intro 364-A) doubles the fines for people participating or being a spectator of street drag racing. Another piece of legislation (Intro 98) bans the sale of illegal motor scooters, often called "pocket rockets."

"We are moving toward a day when we can walk the streets without fear of drag racing, exploding manhole covers, or fear of electrocution," said Queens Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr.

The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for October 13.

For an archive of past meetings and council votes, visit Gotham Gazette's Searchlight.