Gotham Gazette

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New York City Council STATED MEETING - May 14, 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 - May 14, 2003

Quote of the Day:
"We all know what happened to the last Office of Emergency Management command center at 7 World Trade. The city should not make the same mistake again." – Councilmember David Yassky voting against a new Office of Emergency Management at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Meeting Summary:
On May 14, the New York City Council approved a location for a new Office of Emergency Management command center in downtown Brooklyn.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration selected the site in Cadman Plaza, because it is close to highways, public transportation, and downtown Manhattan. The former headquarters of the Office of Emergency Management was housed in the World Trade Center and was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

Some City Council members – particularly those from Brooklyn – objected to the site, arguing that it is too close to possible terrorist targets like the Brooklyn Bridge and the U.S. Federal Courthouse, which has been the location of terrorism-related trials in the past.

"I am concerned that this location is not safe," said Councilmember Yvette Clarke.

Councilmember David Yassky, who represents the district where the new building would be located, said that he had even proposed other locations within his district, including the Brooklyn Navy Yard and an unused jail, but that the administration had rejected them for "no good reason at all."

"I'm afraid that the council has been bamboozled," said Yassky.

There are also questions about who will pay for the new building. Some officials have maintained the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay for it, but Councilmember Peter Vallone said that FEMA only agreed to pay $23 million of the total $120 million estimated cost.

However, the majority of the council members supported the plan, arguing that it was in the best interest of the whole city.

"We're not in Montana or Kansas," said Councilmember Leroy Comrie. "We can't site things 100,000 miles away from everything else."

Councilmember Melinda Katz, chair of the Land Use committee that approved the project, estimated that the building would only be used about eight times a year and would employ about 50 people. She also stressed that the building would not only be used in the event of a terrorist attack, but also for snow and heat emergencies.

The council approved the site by a vote of 38 to 11. The "no" votes were cast by Charles Barron, Tracy Boyland, Bill deBlasio, Oliver Koppell, Hiram Monserrate, Al Vann, David Yassky, Yvette Clarke, James E. Davis, Lewis Fidler, and Eric Dilan.

The council also passed two new laws.

One bill (Intro 96-A) requires employment agencies that place domestic workers in jobs to provide a written statement of the employee's rights under state law.

The measure is aimed at improving working conditions for nannies, housekeepers, cooks, and caregivers.

The contract explains issues like minimum wage, overtime, and workers compensation and must be signed by both the employer and employee. West Side Councilmember Gale Brewer, who drafted the legislation, said it was a concrete way to help bring "dignity and respect" to the city's estimated 600,000 domestic workers who are often overlooked or mistreated.

Another bill (Intro 52-A) requires the Parks Department to fly a black Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag in 800 public places. Because of the city's fiscal crisis, the council is giving the Parks Department three years to implement the plan. The POW/MIA flags will cost the city $10,000 in the first year, and the council is asking flag manufacturers for donations.

"This bill does not revolutionize the education system, nor does it cure our fiscal challenges," said Minority Leader James Oddo, who helped draft the bill in 1998. "It is a small important gesture."

Both the domestic worker bill and POW flag bill passed unanimously.

The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for May 28.


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