Gotham Gazette

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New York City Council STATED MEETING - September 9, 2004

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 9, 2004

Quote of the Day:
"Houses of worship that do not have 'fixed seats' are not required to have parking. That means that folding chairs have become very popular." - Councilmember Melinda Katz on changes in the zoning code requiring churches and synagogues to build parking lots.

Meeting Summary:
For the first time in 40 years, the New York City Council amended the city's zoning code as it relates to "community facilities," buildings such as medical and dental offices and houses of worship.

For decades, such buildings were not required to provide parking spaces for patrons. When zoning laws were first drafted, many neighborhoods had a local doctor's office that served a relatively small number of patients. Likewise, small houses of worship that had limited funds and simply set up chairs in storefronts or other buildings were not required to build parking facilities.

Over time, the council argues, these exemptions have become outdated.

Medical facilities are now often large practices with dozens of doctors. And some warehouse-style churches and synagogues have purposely used removable chairs or benches, rather then pews, in order to avoid having to build a parking lot. The result, supporters of the measure say, is that quiet neighborhoods have been overrun with traffic, and there are too few parking spaces for residents.

The new regulations (L.U. 236 and Res 586) will require that medical and dental facilities be built in commercial areas. Houses of worship will now have to build parking lots to match their building's capacity.

The Department of City Planning helped draft the legislation that some council members like Queens Councilmember Tony Avella have been pushing since 2001.

"By passing this bill... we are restoring the stability to residential communities, and we are preserving the quality of life," said Avella.

The City Council also overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg's veto of the Dignity for All Schools Act (Intro 188-A), a bill that will require that the Department of Education establish clear guidelines that prohibit harassment and bullying in schools.

The mayor said he supports the goal of the legislation, but vetoed it because he said the task of disciplining students should rest with educators.

The council needs 35 votes to override the mayor's veto; the council voted 44 to 3 to override. Republican Councilmembers James Oddo, Andrew Lanza, and Dennis Gallagher sided with the mayor.

"We are sending a back-to-school present to all of our students and all of our teachers - namely that bullying has no place in our schools," said Councilmember Alan Gerson, who drafted the bill.

The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for September 28, 2004.

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


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