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.
On March 9, 2005, the New York City Council passed three measures aimed at protecting children and their parents.
The council overrode a veto from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and approved a bill (Intro 522-A) that requires child care centers to post signs alerting parents how to find inspection reports on city and state Web sites. The legislation also requires that child care facilities provide parents with the most recent reports of safety violations.
“I send my two year old to daycare,” said Council Speaker Gifford Miller. “And if the city of New York visits that facility and finds that there is a serious violationâ€¦ or there is some kind of condition that threatens the life of my child, then I have a right to know.”
Councilmember Melinda Katz drafted the bill after a 7-month old child named Matthew Perilli died in a Forest Hills day care facility, which had previous safety violations. Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the bill arguing that it was unnecessary. In recent months, the city has already closed 26 daycare centers for safety violations.
The council also passed legislation (Intro 408-A) that requires the Department of Homeless Services to post signs describing the kinds of behaviors that constitute child abuse and neglect. It also calls for signs describing proper infant sleeping positions to prevent suffocation. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum - who last year issued a report that found that one in three child deaths investigated by the city could have been prevented - authored the bill.
A third piece of legislation (Intro 266-A) mandates that the city change the practice of using the name of a child’s mother to track cases of abuse filed with the Administration for Children’s Services. The aim is to prevent prejudice or stigma directed at mothers who may even not be accused of abuse. Background checks for employment, housing, and other social services can often produce the names of women with protect service cases. The city said it would begin tracking cases by the name of the person accused of abuse.
In other matters, the council passed a bill (Intro 185-A) requiring that the city consider environmental, economic, and access issues when a street is closed for longer than 180 days for repair or other reasons.
The legislative body also approved a rezoning of the Port Morris section of the Bronx. The rezoning (L.U. 331 & Res. 880) allows for an 11-block industrial area in the South Bronx to be converted for retail and residential use. Officials hope to create 400 new apartments as part of the plan, but some housing activists had requested that a specific number of affordable apartments be guaranteed before the rezoning was approved.
Bronx Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who took office less than a month ago after winning a Special Election to fill the vacant seat, helped negotiate the details of the plan.
All of the measures passed by a vote of 49 to 0, with the exception of the Port Morris rezoning; Brooklyn Councilmember David Yassky voted against it.
“When we do a major rezoning, we have to guarantee affordable housing,” said Yassky. “If we don’t, we risk building for only the very wealthy.”
The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for March 23, 2005.