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Required in Some Cases, Home Rule Sheds Light on City-State Power Dynamic


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At The City Council (photo: Sofie Hecht for Gotham Gazette)


Late last Friday night, many New Yorkers—especially elected officials—looked on as lawmakers in Albany made a frenzied effort to pass legislation hours after their session had been scheduled to end. Although most of the legislation classified as statewide, or “general” laws, several bills would impact a select few regions or New York City specifically, most notably, perhaps, mayoral control of New York City schools.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio was again given a one-year extension of school control, there were other city-specific issues at hand -- granting disability benefits to city firefighters, extending construction authorities for some city agencies, among others.

The state legislature often has free reign to pass laws that override local autonomy, but in certain cases it must seek local approval first (cities cannot pass laws that override state law). Known as “home rule” and intended as a check on state government power, a clause in New York’s constitution dictates that Albany can pass “special laws” that only affect specific counties—but only if the legislatures of affected counties sign off.

Most recently, the New York City Council passed four resolutions June 8, pre-approving of special bills in Albany allowing the city to allocate Bronx park land to a children’s museum, providing disability benefits to FDNY workers, encouraging building in unmapped areas of the city, and extending death benefits for city sanitation workers. All but the sanitation workers’ benefits bill were passed in Albany by the end of the legislative session.

City Hall passage of these home rule resolutions nearly mirrored the last-minute frenzy in Albany, with Council members quickly moving bills through committee and the full Council as the clock was ticking in the capital. To do so, the Council reopened a recessed full-body Stated Meeting on June 8, bumping back a previously scheduled June 9 Stated Meeting, and moving several committee hearings (Committee on Public Safety, Committee on Oversight and Investigations, and Committee on General Welfare) to accommodate. The Council also slotted in a hearing of the Committee on State and Federal Legislation earlier that morning in order to pass the four resolutions on to the full body for passage.

"Obviously when the legislative session at the state level is in its last days, we always leave our [stated] meetings open in case we have to come back at the last minute to vote on a home rule,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito explained when asked by Gotham Gazette at a recent press conference. “There’s some legislation at the state level that needs a home rule. So we determine what are the things that we would want to vote on."

All the machinations shed light on both home rule and city-state dynamics, as well as the workings of the city and state governments and communication between the two.

According to a spokesperson for Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the last-minute rescheduling was done to give Albany enough time to pass the bills before the end of its session, which wound up going on about 30 hours longer than had been expected. It remains unclear, however, exactly why the Council waited until so late in June to rapidly pass the resolutions given that the four bills were introduced in Albany months ago. Repeated questions to Council spokespeople went unanswered.

Lawmakers in Albany do not always have to rely on approval from City Hall to pass laws that target New York City. Thanks to cloudy wording in the state constitution and complex legal precedent, home rule has exceptions: courts have ruled that Albany lawmakers can pass any special law, regardless of whether it has New York City Council approval, so long as that law qualifies as an issue of “substantial state concern.”

When city and state legislatures disagree over the extent of home rule’s protections, precedent typically favors the state, according to the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a firm that provides legal assistance to municipalities attempting to expand local authority.

“In general, while Home Rule is often held out as the ‘solution’ to state preemptive authority, it's not,” CELDF Associate Director Mari Margil said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “While Home Rule can give communities broader local authority, that local authority remains subject to the discretion of the state. And the state can generally restrict local authority as it wishes.”

Although Margil said she is not familiar with the home rule situation in New York specifically, the precedent set by a 2013 ruling of the State Court of Appeals seems to confirm her theory. The year before, Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed for passage of a state bill that would authorize him to sell $1 billion in new taxi medallions—a power usually reserved for the City Council, which had already rejected Bloomberg’s pitch. Albany passed the bill without the Council’s approval, a move that a State Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 2012. This decision was then overturned by the Court of Appeals on the grounds that taxi services in the city had economic repercussions of “substantial State concern.”

Because so many local issues could have implications beyond municipal borders, Albany has the advantage given this legal precedent. In a recent display of state authority, state lawmakers voted at the end of session to extend mayoral control of New York City schools by just one year, tacking on caveats that force Mayor Bill de Blasio to release school budget reports and allow charter schools more flexibility in choosing their authorizers. It is state, not city, law that dictates the structure of education policy-making in New York City and while de Blasio and others have called for making mayoral control of the schools permanent, Albany lawmakers have not been willing to give up power over renewal at whatever length intervals they deem.

Albany can dodge home rule by creating general laws meant to apply to all cities—even if, in reality, they only apply to one. This is also the case with mayoral control, where the law’s wording applies to cities with populations over one million, thereby taking the form of a general law while only affecting New York City. Mayoral control of schools is one flashpoint in the antagonistic relationship between de Blasio and state Senate Republicans, who control that chamber and de Blasio attempted to oust from power during the 2014 elections.

Relations between de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo also have significant city-state power dynamics, with the state having a great deal of power over city funds, policies, and infrastructure. The ongoing feud between the two Democrats has led to questions around how the state is using its levers of power to support or undermine de Blasio’s agenda.

There are many areas where the city needs state sign-off, like around the number of stoplight speeding cameras it can install and the use of federal bonds for affordable housing, the latter having come into play in the de Blasio-Cuomo saga.

Meanwhile, the state Senate passed a bill earlier this month that would block cities from passing fees on merchandise bags, nullifying a yearslong effort by New York City Council members to pass a law imposing a five-cent fee on plastic shopping bags that was just approved this spring. The coup was actually led by members of the Legislature - in both houses - that represent parts of the city, where local City Council members had tried in vain to stop the bag fee bill.

Without any protection granted by home rule, the City Council entered a deal with state legislators that would delay implementation of the fee until an “agreement” could be reached. The Council modified the bill to extend the timeline. At a press conference on Tuesday, Mark-Viverito railed against opponents—ostensibly in Albany—who did not respect the Council’s local authority.

“We are the legislative body for the City of New York. We are the ones that have been elected by the constituents here in the city to basically guide this body, to lead this household,” Mark-Viverito said. “We don't do things from one night to the next, we have a very open process in this Council where we deliberate on issues, and the bag bill in particular was debated extensively…so we would hope that that would be honored and that would be respected.”

The plastic bag fee law was promoted as an anti-pollution cause and, following the introduction of the state bill, lawmakers in Albany were criticized for bowing to the will of plastic bag-manufacturing lobbyists. This situation is emblematic of those which the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund aims to prevent—where a state legislature’s interests override issues with local support. Home rule is intended to prevent such total state control, but usually fails, according to Margil.

“Routinely, we see corporations working with state legislatures across the country to put in place pre-emptive state laws which prohibit communities from doing anything related to their industry,” Margil said. “It's this way across the country.”

Establishing more effective home rule protections for municipalities typically requires the establishment of a local Bill of Rights tied to existing chartered home rule, according to CELDF. Altering New York’s State Constitution is a lofty goal, but many are already looking ahead to the next statewide referendum on whether to convene a constitutional convention, with the vote coming in November 2017. Governor Andrew Cuomo advocated for a constitutional convention in an interview with The New York Times last weekend when he implied holding one would be necessary for campaign finance reform. “The people are going to have to do it,” he said of closing the infamous LLC loophole.

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by Aaron Holmes, Gotham Gazette

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Use of Abstentions Varies Widely Among City Council Members


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City Council chambers (Sofie Hecht for Gotham Gazette)


Hundreds of times a year, City Council members vote on pieces of legislation, including the city’s budget, land use matters, and a wide variety of bills and resolutions. Members almost always vote “yes” or “no.” But sometimes, Council members choose to abstain, actively deciding not to declare they are for or against what is in front of them, and in the 51-seat City Council, abstentions are used by members to widely varying degrees.

In the New York State Assembly, lawmakers may only abstain from a vote when doing so would constitute a conflict of interest. In the New York City Council, however, lawmakers must abstain from a vote if there is a legitimate conflict of interest, but may abstain for other personal or political reasons as well. This leeway has led to some interesting voting patterns. Of the Council’s current 51 members, 34 did not abstain from a vote during this iteration of the Council, which began in January of 2014, through May 12, 2016. The other 17 Council members have abstained between one and 103 times.

At Gotham Gazette’s request, data on all votes from the current Council session -- January 2014 to May 12, 2016 -- was scraped from the City Council website by NYC Councilmatic and DataMade, a civic technology company.

City Council Member Ruben Wills, who has been indicted on corruption charges and also dealing with health issues, has abstained 103 times. Wills, who has also been declared absent for many votes, which is different from abstaining, declined to comment when contacted. The second most abstentions over the two year-plus period was by Council Member Jumaane Williams, who abstained 36 times. Council Members Andy King and Inez Barron abstained 21 times each, and Council Member Rosie Mendez abstained 14 times.

The other 13 Council members who abstained during the tabulated time period did so between one and four times.

(Note: some Council members abstained on the same bill or issue brought up at different times, like in committee and at the full Council. Bills must pass through committee, then the full Council to go to the Mayor’s desk.)

Two-thirds of Council members did not abstain from a single vote during the period studied. Two of those Council members who spoke with Gotham Gazette expressed similar opinions about the importance of voting, citing conflict-of-interest as the lone justifiable exception for abstaining. Council members who have abstained gave a variety of explanations when asked.

“I have one job. That job is to vote,” said City Council Member Ben Kallos, who has not abstained on a vote since joining the Council in 2014. “It is the one power, the one privilege that I have that no one else has and I take it seriously, and come to a decision every time. I was elected by the people to vote and for constituents to know where I stand on these issues.”

Nine Council members who have abstained on at least one vote gave reasons to Gotham Gazette, including: being supportive of part of but not the whole bill, and believing the bill needs more work, but not opposed to the concept enough to warrant a “no” vote; concern about the unintended consequences of a bill; needing additional time to review the legislation and/or gather feedback from constituents; deference to colleagues; and avoiding making a politically unwise move.

“I imagine there are three reasons for abstaining,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, who has not abstained since joining the Council in 2014. “You might abstain out of ethics: you have a conflict of interest. Or you might abstain out of politics: you wish to avoid making a politically inexpedient vote. Or you might abstain out of ambivalence about the merits of the vote in question.”

Of those three, Torres continued, “the only sensible justification is ethics,” the other two are “insufficient justifications for abstaining.”

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
Council Members Mark Treyger and Alan Maisel have both abstained only once, on a 2014 bill that eventually resulted in the creation of the city’s IDNYC municipal identification card program. Treyger and Maisel, both former educators, were supportive of the policy, but had concerns about the way the data gathered to create ID cards for potentially undocumented immigrants would be stored, and who might have access to that data.

During a hearing on the bill, “Maisel and I asked about the security and the storage of the names of the applicants when they apply for the card, who holds it, who stores it, and is this information accessible by the Department of Homeland Security,” Treyger told Gotham Gazette. “The answer was ‘yes,’ we were told they have to store the information for a number of years, and it can get turned over to the [federal] government.”

“I quite frankly did not feel comfortable with these answers, so I abstained as a sign of a lack of confidence with the security and protection of the names, but I didn’t reject it as a whole, because I did advocate for resident discount cards for New Yorkers,” Treyger added.

Both Maisel and Treyger said that their previous experience as educators had shown them that some immigrant parents were deeply concerned about sharing information, and the two Council members were worried that information gathered for IDNYC cards could end up in the wrong hands.

“For example,” Maisel said, they would essentially end up creating a list for “a certain presidential candidate who could possibly become elected president, and we know where he stands on people who are undocumented,” in obvious reference to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who has talked about rounding up undocumented immigrants for deportation.

POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS
Five Council Members abstained on a recent bill to limit the space in which costumed characters and other performers can operate in Times Square. The five members who abstained on the bill are all members of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus: Andy King, Rosie Mendez, Inez Barron, Vanessa Gibson, and Antonio Reynoso (Robert Cornegy Jr., also a member of the BLAC, was the lone “no” vote on the bill).

Mendez and King said that they chose not to vote “yes” or “no” on the bill because King had introduced a similar bill back in 2014, yet neither King nor his bill were included in the drafting and passage of the new bill, introduced by Council Member Corey Johnson.

“When multiple Council members have ideas for the same or similar legislation, they will combine the Council members,” Mendez said. King had proposed the legislation years ago, Mendez said, but “King was never asked, never told anything, and his bill was disregarded.”

“When I didn’t see Andy’s name on it, I decided to abstain,” Mendez continued, adding that she did not have a chance to compare Johnson’s bill against King’s bill to see how similar or dissimilar they were. “At the end of the day I had real concern about..the role of community boards not being included in the legislation.”

“It got a little personal, so I chose not to vote on it, because I believed still more work needed to be done,” King said of Intro-1109, the pedestrian plaza bill, which is now law.

“As you know, I started this conversation in 2014,” King continued, “and I thought it didn’t play well in the Council for other Council members to pass something without inclusion of legislation that was already in the queue to address that…I chose not to participate rather than saying “no” to this one, I wanted to work to put more teeth in it.”

A spokesperson for Council Member Antonio Reynoso said that he abstained (his only abstention over the two-plus year period examined for this article) due to concern about “potential unintended consequences of the bill. However, many members and advocates that we work with regularly and whose judgment we trust were for it, so he didn’t want to go against it either. Instead he opted not to take a formal position.”

Council Members Gibson and Barron were not made available for comment, despite numerous requests.

NOT THE WHOLE PACKAGE
Occasionally, Council members will abstain from voting on a bill because they do not entirely approve of it (whether it is due to what they see as potential unintended consequences or simply falling short of what would be ideal for their constituents).

For example, Mendez abstained on one of two controversial changes to city land use rules (Zoning for Quality and Affordability, or ZQA) in committee because she felt that “recent contextual rezoning that happened in the last ten years should've been kept intact.”

Yet, Council members “made changes, so I didn't feel it merited a “no” vote,” she said. “But they didn't make enough changes to get me to a “yes.” So I abstained….it wasn’t completely wrong, it wasn’t completely right, so I felt like that was the appropriate vote.”

To Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, occasionally abstaining on a vote because some elements of the bill warrant a positive vote, but some warrant a negative vote “makes a great deal of sense.”

“But,” Muzzio continued, “Ruben Wills abstaining 103 times indicates that he’s a very confused Council member, and a very conflicted Council member.”

“An excessive amount of abstentions,” Muzzio said, suggests “that he doesn’t have very clear ideas in his mind of how to asses a policy so he takes the easy way out, which is abstaining.”

DEFERENCE/LAND USE
At other times, Council members may choose to abstain, as King puts it, “as a professional courtesy to my colleagues, as opposed to saying that we’re not all on the same page.” “Unless it’s something that has a really, really devastating impact on my constituents,” King added.

Abstaining out of deference seems to occur more often in the context of a vote on land use items, where the Council is known to defer to the local member whose district is directly involved. “I have abstained usually land use items that are in a particular member's’ district,” Mendez said. “I would have otherwise voted “no,” but in deference to the Council member of that district I will abstain.”

This is because, as Mendez puts it, “I really feel like I know my district better than anyone else…Likewise, I’m not sitting in on all the minutiae of what [another Council member is] trying to negotiate for their district.”

But as Torres sees it, “land use is the only context which a rank-and-file Council member can emerge as a counterweight to the Mayor’s Office,” and abstaining in land use out of deference to another Council member means those members who abstain “are enjoying the benefits of local deference themselves while denying the benefit to everyone else. There’s a word for this - parasitic.”

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s parasitic,” Torres continued. “It’s not inaction, you are actively undermining the Council as an institution and…reaping the benefit of local deference to yourself while denying it to your colleagues.” For Torres, the only valid reason for choosing not to vote “should be ethics.”

NOT ENOUGH TIME
On April 14, Council Member Jumaane Williams abstained on a vote on the East New York rezoning plan in subcommittee, only to change his vote to a “yes” when the same bill was heard in the Land Use committee less than an hour later.

“I just got the final plan this morning. I want to make sure to review it properly,” Williams said at the time when asked by Gotham Gazette. “At first glance, it looks good. I’m still a little concerned about MIH [Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, the companion land use change to ZQA], but there wasn’t much more you could ask him [Council Member Rafael Espinal] to do. That’s why I changed my vote to a “yes” in Land Use.”

“I will vote “yes” on the floor,” Williams said, and did. “There’s obviously people left out of the plan. We have to figure out how to address that. But with the tools at his disposal, I think [Espinal] did the best that he could.”

According to Travis Lamprecht, a spokesperson for Council Member Vincent Gentile (who has abstained four times), the Council Member “will choose to do so when he needs additional time to gather feedback from his district in order to make an educated decision for his constituents.” Gentile has abstained twice on land use matters; once on Williams’ 2014 bill to prohibit discrimination when hiring based on a person’s arrest record; and once on Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s 2014 bill in relation to traffic violations and serious crashes and license suspension.

EXPLAINING ON THE FLOOR
Council Members Brad Lander and Helen Rosenthal, both of whom have not abstained in the aggregated period, declined to comment for this story. Council Members Vanessa Gibson (four abstentions), Inez Barron (21), Robert Cornegy (four), Andrew Cohen (four), I. Daneek Miller (two), Eric Ulrich (two), Chaim Deutsch (two), Darlene Mealy (one), and Paul Vallone (one) all were not made available for comment, despite numerous attempts.

It should be noted that abstaining is different from “non-voting,” which can occur when a Council member is not present for the vote. Council members may also be marked as “excused” from voting for medical reasons, or for jury duty, parental leave, and bereavement.

Vallone’s only abstention was on legislation prohibiting Council members from earning most forms of outside income and making the position of Council member full-time (one of Deutsch’s two abstentions was also for this legislation).

Ulrich's two abstentions were on bills introduced by Brad Lander requiring the NYC Commission on Human rights to perform an employment discrimination investigation and a housing discrimination investigation.

Three of Gibson's four abstentions occurred on April 7, 2016 (on the pedestrian plaza bill, on a bill to increase penalties for illegal street hails at the city's airports and other designated areas, and on a bill to create a universal license for taxicab and for-hire vehicle drivers and require that English language proficiency not be assessed through a written exam).

“Abstaining can mean several things,” as Muzzio said, but “one should always explain an abstention, because in a sense, it’s a chicken[expletive] vote, meaning it’s a way to evade a hard choice.”

“Ultimately,” says Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, “the voters are the judge, because their interest is what is supposed to be represented.”

“City Council members are accountable to the people who elect them, and it’s important for the public to know if a Council member chooses not to vote on an issue that a constituent thinks is important,” Horner said. “The Council member should have to explain it.”

When abstaining, Council members occasionally give a brief explanation for their vote.

“We are giving Department of Transportation the authority to justify the complete removal of costumed characters from Times Square,” Reynoso said during an April vote on the pedestrian plaza bill. “Should it lead to unintended consequences...we would be left with little recourse outside of legislation to undo any action,” he added, expressing concern over the potential tension and competition that could arise should the costumed characters in Times Square be “corralled” into the proposed spaces, and he abstained.

“This has been a very important process, not perfect, but better than when it started,” Mendez said during the March vote on rezoning plans. “I think some of the Voluntary Inclusionary Zones could have been made mandatory…And I'm not happy with the fact that we are getting some height increases in the non-contextual zones,” but, Mendez continued, “since some work was done on this, and I feel that it is important to have a mandate inclusionary housing, I will be voting “yes”” on two pieces of legislation and “abstaining on LU 335 and the accompanying Reso 1023.”

ABSTENTION DATA, provided by Councilmatic and DataMade
Council members and number of abstentions from the current session, January 2014 to May 12, 2016

Ruben Wills 103
Jumaane Williams 36
Inez Barron 21
Andy King 21
Rosie Mendez 14
Andrew Cohen 4
Vincent Gentile 4
Robert Cornegy 4
Vanessa Gibson 4
Chaim Deutsch 2
Eric Ulrich 2
I. Daneek Miller 2
Mark Treyger 1
Paul Vallone 1
Alan Maisel 1
Darlene Mealy 1
Antonio Reynoso 1

Ben Kallos 0
Ritchie Torres 0
Brad Lander 0
Helen Rosenthal 0
Steven Matteo 0
Margaret Chin 0
Peter Koo 0
Fernando Cabrera 0
Costa Constantinides 0
Elizabeth Crowley 0
Laurie Cumbo 0
Inez Dickens 0
Daniel Dromm 0
Rafael Espinal 0
Mathieu Eugene 0
Julissa Ferreras-Copeland 0
Dan Garodnick 0
Barry Grodenchik 0
Karen Koslowitz 0
Stephen Levin 0
Mark Levine 0
Melissa Mark-Viverito 0
Carlos Menchaca 0
Annabel Palma 0
Ydanis Rodriguez 0
Donovan Richards 0
Deborah Rose 0
James Vacca 0
Jimmy Van Bramer 0
Joe Borelli 0
Rafael Salamanca - 0

*Maria Carmen del Arroyo, Vincent Ignizio, and Mark Weprin also served as Council Members during this session before resigning and being replaced by Salamanca, Borelli, and Grodenchik, respectively, though none of the three abstained on any vote during the aggregated period.

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, June 20


New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will continue to see dissection of the end of the state government legislative session, which wrapped in the very late hours Friday night, or Saturday morning, with a flurry of activity and major deals on a variety of issues. Session was extended a day-plus and, as is usually the case, lawmakers voted through bills that they, like the larger public, had not properly reviewed. There was a fairly minor set of "ethics" changes agreed to by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders; this year's large set of divergent proposals known as the "big ugly" that included another one-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools; and several other decisions, including the last-minute passage of legislation to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports. [Read our full initial report on the end of session here.]

In a five-point ethics package, deals were reached to further regulate independent expenditure committees and political nonprofit advocacy groups; to require more disclosure from political consultants; and to begin the four-stage process of eliminating pensions for officeholders convicted of corruption. Other than the pension forfeiture move, the package is not aimed at preventing the kind of corruption that has led to dozens of state legislators removed from office over the last decade. Most of the ethics and campaign finance proposals Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined in his January State of the State address were not accomplished, including the especially high-profile issues of public campaign financing; closing the LLC loophole; and limiting legislators' outside income. [Read more.]

Meanwhile, in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration will surely be asked to react in more depth to the end of session in Albany - de Blasio put out a statement on Saturday that thanked Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for his partnership, touted the renewal of mayoral control as proof it is the right system (though said one-year extensions are no way to do it), and expressed disappointment in the limited funding allocated toward affordable and supportive housing, among other points.

While the state Legislature is now off for the rest of the year - most legislators will tend to district business and run for re-election this fall - the City Council continues its post-budget business this week with several hearings, including voting through legislation to make feminine hygiene products more available at schools, shelters, and prisons. Details of the Council's week below.

It's also crunch time in this year's New York congressional races. We are about one week from the June 28 primary election day for all of New York's seats in the House of Representatives where there are primaries. In New York City, all eyes are on the race to replace Rep. Charles Rangel. There's another debate among the candidates in the 13th Congressional District on Monday evening - see details below.  

Neither Mayor de Blasio nor Gov. Cuomo has a public event scheduled for Monday, but as always, there are many events to be aware of this week -- see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
At the City Council on Monday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Small Business will meet to discuss a bill that would help curtail harassment of small business owners and other non-residential tenants and provide a course of action for victims of this type of harassment.
  • At 11 a.m., the Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet to revisit a bill that would require single-occupant toilet rooms to be usable by persons of any gender.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Women’s Issues will meet to discuss three bills that would require feminine hygiene products to be provided in public schools, prisons and shelters.
  • At 1:30 p.m., the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will meet to propose a bill that would extend the effective date of Local Law 63, which imposes a minimum fee of five cents for plastic or paper bags at retail and grocery stores.

Starting at 2 p.m. Monday, the Rent Guidelines Board will hold a meeting to discuss proposed rent guidelines for October 1st, 2016 through September 30th, 2017. The public may submit their comments on the new rules through the RGB website, email, or by registering to speak at any meeting (there is also one Tuesday this week before the RGB votes on Monday June 27).

Monday at 4 p.m. at PS 71 in Queens, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña "will attend the opening of a play space for students with disabilities."

On Monday at 5 p.m. in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn: "On the eve of the introduction of their aggravated illegal conversion bill, Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will hold a press conference...nearby an alleged aggravated illegal conversion site. This legislation, LS 4115, co-sponsored by Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings, Council Member Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) as well as Council Member Barry Grodenchik (D-Queens), would establish the immediately hazardous DOB violation of Aggravated Illegal Conversions — defined as three or more illegal dwelling units being created within one structure."

At 7 p.m. Monday, candidates for New York’s 13th Congressional District will debate at Hostos Community College as they vie to replace retiring Rep. Charles Rangel. The debate will be televised live on NY1 and moderated by Errol Louis, with a panel of other questioners, and co-sponsored by City & State NY and Latino Leadership Institute. Participating candidates include seven Democrats - the primary vote is June 28.

Tuesday
Tuesday is the last day to postmark an absentee ballot application to vote in the June 28 Federal Primary Election (one week away!). Offices up for election on the ballot include members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Information on absentee voting is available on the Board of Elections website.

On Tuesday at 10 a.m. outside City Hall, City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, the Council's Women's Caucus, leading elected officials, women's issues advocates and students will rally in celebration of the fact that the City Council will "pass a package of legislation that will make New York City the first city in the nation to proactively guarantee access to menstrual hygiene products. The package of three menstrual equity bills will make pads and tampons free and readily available to tens of thousands of New Yorkers at public schools, homeless shelters and Department of Correction jails."

At the City Council on Tuesday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations will meet to discuss a Resolution to “establish October 9th annually as Haitian Day in recognition of the historic contributions of Haitians to the United States of America”.
  • At 10:30 a.m., the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections will continue a June 15 recessed meeting considering the appointment of Rosanna Vargas to the city Board of Elections and two new members to the Civil Service Commission.
  • At 11 a.m., the Committee on Finance will meet.
  • At 1:30 p.m., the City Council will hold a Stated Meeting. It is expected to be prefaced by the Speaker’s pre-stated press conference.

At a mid-day event on Tuesday, The Manhattan Institute will host a book forum for MI Fellow Heather Mac Donald, whose new book, "The War on Cops," is being released.

On Tuesday at 1 p.m. at City Hall, "New Yorkers Against Gun Violence will be releasing its 2016 rankings for members of the NY State Assembly and Senate. The rankings are based on the legislators' votes on gun bills since January, 2013, including the NY SAFE Act, efforts to repeal the SAFE Act, and Nicholas's Law." Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Member Jumaane Williams will participate.

At 5 p.m., the Rent Guidelines Board will hold another meeting to continue discussion on proposed rent guidelines. A final vote on the guidelines will take place on June 27 at the RGB’s last meeting of the year.

Wednesday
At 9 a.m., the NYC Food Policy Center will host “Hunts Point Terminal: The Inner Workings of NYC’s Food Supplier.” Speakers will include Myra Gordon, Executive Admin Director of Hunts Point Produce Market, and moderator Dr. Charles Platkin, professor at Hunter College and leading public health advocate.

At the City Council on Wednesday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet to discuss multiple bills that would conform the city energy code to match updated state standards.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Civil Service and Labor will meet.
  • Also at 1 p.m., the Committee on Aging will meet to discuss several resolutions amending the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program as well as a bill that would transfer administration of the program solely to the Department of Finance.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Panel for Education Policy will meet at M.S. 131. On the agenda are the “approval of proposals for significant changes in school utilization,” mainly the opening and co-location of two new charter schools, and approval of this year’s annual estimated budget allocation to support DOE operations.

Thursday
At the City Council on Thursday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Public Housing will meet on several bills that would expand employment programs offered to public housing residents and require agencies such as the New York City Housing Authority to publish annual reports on the success of these programs. [Read Gotham Gazette’s previous coverage on the bills.]
  • Also at 10 a.m., the Committee on Transportation will meet.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Land Use will hold an oversight hearing on privately owned public spaces.
  • Also at 1 p.m., the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services, jointly with the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, will hold an oversight hearing to examine court accessibility in New York City.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, the Department of Consumer Affairs will host an Open House Training series on the city’s Commuter Benefits Law. The training will ensure employers understand their responsibilities under the new Law, which took effect on January 1, 2016.

At 6 p.m., Public Advocate Letitia James will host a screening of "Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA" at Old First Reformed Church in honor of Gun Violence Awareness Month.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Brooklyn, City Council Member Rafael Espinal, the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and partners will host a Community Visioning Workshop. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and other elected officials will attend to hear ideas on the development of affordable housing and neighborhood amenities on the Dinsmore-Chesnut site.

At 7 p.m., Open Society Foundations will present “Talking About Race: Confronting the New Wave of Islamophobia.” The forum will explore the rise in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment as it coincides with this year’s elections. Amardeep Singh, program officer for the Open Society National Security and Human Rights Campaign, will act as moderator.

Friday and the weekend
Mayor de Blasio has registered for the 84th Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which begins Friday in Indianapolis. It is not immediately clear which day(s) the mayor will attend. Hillary Clinton will address the conference on Sunday afternoon.

On Saturday at 10 a.m., at the Sugar Hill Children's’ Museum, Manhattan Community Board 9 and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will present the first annual Schools and Teaching Artist Expo. The expo is designed to teach artists how to secure employment in the New York City School System. Teaching artists who attend will have the chance to present their programming before a panel of school principals and hiring agents.

On Saturday at 11 a.m., Bronx Community Board 9 and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will host their second annual Health and Wellness Fair. The event will feature free screenings and health information. 

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Amanda Sherwin and Ben Max
@GothamGazette



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