Gotham Gazette

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New York City Council STATED MEETING - December 15, 2003

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 - December 15, 2003

Quote of the Day:

"Four thousand children a year are poisoned by lead and 85 percent of them are children of color.... Our mayor can be a Santa Claus or a Scrooge this holiday season. We believe he should be Santa Claus and bring a gift to the children of the 'lead belt' by signing onto this legislation." - Harlem Councilmember Bill Perkins urging Mayor Michael Bloomberg to support new lead paint legislation passed by the City Council.

Meeting Summary:

In its final meeting of the year, the New York City Council passed 14 new bills, including more stringent lead paint legislation.

The new lead paint regulation (Intro 101-A) would require landlords to clean up lead dust, not just lead paint. It also requires inspections of all apartments in a building where high lead levels in children have been found.

The lead paint legislation has faced much controversy and opposition in the past few years.

In 1999, the council under the leadership of Speaker Peter Vallone passed Local Law 38, which was a less stringent version of the bill. In July, the state Courts of Appeals struck down the law, saying that the council violated environmental law by failing to adequately study or explain the legislation's environmental or public-health impact. Then, proponents accused Speaker Gifford Miller of delaying Intro 101 and not holding a hearing for over a year.

But after much lobbying by advocates, multiple hearings, and revisions to the bill, Speaker Miller and the majority of the council backed it. It passed by a vote of 44 to 5, with one abstention. (Democrats Madeline Provenzano and Helen Sears and Republicans Dennis Gallagher, Andrew Lanza, and James Oddo all voted against the bill. Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr. abstained from the vote.)

The Bloomberg administration, the Department of Health, and real estate lobbyists oppose the bill and argue that:
- The number of cases of lead poisoning are already declining
- It would be too costly
- It would create a slew of lawsuits against the city
- It is a punitive measure for landlords
- And housing renovations across the city would be slowed down.
(Read an article criticizing the legislation.)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to veto the legislation. The council has enough votes to override the mayor's veto and then the issue may have to be decided in the court system.

"Children out there need the administration to implement this legislation so that they do not become poisoned by a toxic substance," said Speaker Miller.

By a vote of 46 to 4, the council also passed a bill (Intro 38-A) requiring the city to provide language assistance at Medicaid, food stamp, and welfare centers. Over the next five years, the city must provide translation of all documents and notices into Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. (Madeline Provenzano, Dennis Gallagher, Andrew Lanza, and James Oddo voted "no" on the measure.)

The council also passed the following bills:

Legislation (Intro 191-A) requiring construction vehicles like bulldozers and cranes to use cleaner burning diesel fuel when working on city owned sites like the World Trade Center.

A bill (Intro 107-A) requiring employers to make provisions for workers who are victims of domestic violence. For example, an employer would now be required to allow a person a day off to obtain a restraining order.

A measure (Intro 198-A) requiring the city to implement technology that would allow for electronic filing of death certificates.

A bill (Intro 90-A) increasing fines for landlords and companies that do not remove rats from properties.

Property tax exemptions (Intro 646 ) for persons with certain disabilities.

An amendment (Intro 414) to the city law relating to dry cleaning establishments.

Amendments (Intro 415-A) to the city's safety standards regarding the storage of carbon dioxide.

A bill (Intro 122-A) requiring more companies that handle hazardous chemicals to register with the Department of Environmental Protection and increasing fines (Intro 585-A) if they do not.

Changes (Intro 581-A) to the city's electrical code to keep up with new technologies.

And expansion of the boundaries of Empire Zones in East Harlem and East Brooklyn that aim to generate more economic opportunities in those neighborhoods.

The council also delayed a vote until next year on a resolution that criticizes the USA Patriot Act and calls on city police to refrain from a variety of activities including conducting surveillance on individuals not suspected of crimes.

The next stated meeting is scheduled for January 7, 2004

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




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